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So, what are the top notch LF lenses?
Old 05-29-2012   #1
Vickko
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So, what are the top notch LF lenses?

So, what are the top notch LF lenses?

Let's stoke some LF GAS



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Old 05-29-2012   #2
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I'd like to listen to this conversation too. Thanks Vikko for starting this.
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Old 05-29-2012   #3
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Rodenstock 150mm APO-Sironar S.
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Old 05-29-2012   #4
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Yep, APO-Sironar-S. Now hard to find and expensive.

Oh, I am re-familiarizing myself with this: http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/future.htm

" ... Oh lord, won't you send me a 135mm f3.5 Planar T* .... "
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Old 05-29-2012   #5
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I really enjoyed the 150mm f4.5 Schneider. Great lens.
Also had great results from the 90mm Nikkor.
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Old 05-29-2012   #6
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It is such a different world, as super speed is really not a practical option.
Any Schneider APO Symmar
Any late Fuji LF lens
Any Nikon W or SW lens
Any Rodenstock Apo Sironar . . . the list goes on. They are like chocolate and vanilla milkshakes: each is rich and creamy, but they have different flavors. Others I love:

203 Ektar
127 Ektar . . . these are like the DR 50's of the LF world. Lower in contrast than their bleeding edge cousins, but great performers.
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Old 05-29-2012   #7
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Benjamin said it all for me.
I own a 180mm Nikkor-W, 125mm & 250mm Fujinon-W and the 127mm Ektar. No complaints ever.
Then we go to the ancient optics.
5"-6", give or take, Brownie Hawkeye lens in working shutter from the 1930s. A garage sale present from Mrs. Wayne. Slips right on a Copal 0 lens board.
The early 1900s Voigtlander Collinear II of about 8" and f/5.4. A delight.

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Old 05-30-2012   #8
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One of the simple facts is that all the LF lenses, at least since they quite making LF roll film cameras, were designed and intended for professional photography. Unless a lens is damaged it is unlikely that you will find a bad one. Most of the stories you hear about bad lenses, are just that stories.

For example, this is a crop from the edge of a 16x20 300ppi image taken with a Graflex Optar 135/4.7 at f/16. You can read hundreds of posts on the web saying that the lens will not cover any movements, but this shot is with 35mm of drop and 5 degrees of swing.



I will leave it to you to decide whether that indicates you can not use movements with that lens or not.
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Old 05-30-2012   #9
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This is such a open ended question. What is best for you? More coverage? bokeh? size and weight? Heres two i like

Schneider 110mm Super Symmar XL (Huge coverage and ridiculously sharp)

Doctor Optic 150mm Germinar W (if you can find one this is crazy sharp and about the size of a small RF lens)
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Old 05-30-2012   #10
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I rather like my Fuji EBC SW 90 f8. Beautiful build, and sharp as a razor
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Old 04-16-2013   #11
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I have been using a Schneider Angulon 120mm f6.8. It is moderately wide, light weight, a fair amount of coverage, and usually priced well. Resolution seems fine as well. Even most press cameras can handle this focal length.

Basically I agree with Tom above--just about all LF lenses work great. The only time you may need a lens with lots of movements is for architecture and some product photography. Although I have used my 120 Angulon for archi photos with good results even when some say it does not have enough coverage.
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Old 04-16-2013   #12
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What this thread needs is more pictures!
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Old 04-16-2013   #13
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9-1/2" Dagor on 8x10 or 5x7. Luscious.
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Old 04-16-2013   #14
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What do you mean by "top-notch?" Some folks will pay a premium for the vintage brass lenses with tons of character and not much contrast... Others will want the clinical modern lenses with insane sharpness.

The lenses that no one seems to want are the workaday lenses of the 60s and 70s—they're cheap and very sharp!
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Old 04-16-2013   #15
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58 grandagon on my little graflex XL is damned sharp, and the 135 Symmar-S schneider lens was pretty good too! My next lens for LF will likely be an 80mm Super Symmar XL. That's a lens that can be modified to lots of different mounts and it is stupid sharp. Like wow sharp.
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Old 04-16-2013   #16
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The Zeiss 135mm f/3.5 Planar. One is listed on a local auction, but the price has gone quite high, even though the auction won't end for another 5 days.
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Old 04-16-2013   #17
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Kodaks 127 and 203 fit into the Busch Pressman D when closed and are capable of
producing such an image on Provia 100f as to leave me memorized , anything more would
leave me without cash for film (and those Ektars aren't all that cheap)
It's probably best not to show pictures taken with 4x5's, there'd be a flood of 35mm camera sales,no?
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Old 04-16-2013   #18
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My $250 Nikkor-W 150mm 5.6 is all I need. I've used the APO-sironar S, didn't notice much of a difference. My teacher has the 90/5.6 SA XL, which is a huge and impressive lens, but optically I don't see a huge advantage over a cheap lens like the the 90/8 SA (neither does he). If I were wealthy, I would buy the 110mm Super Symmar XL in a heartbeat. But honestly, any modern multicoated lens from Nikon, Schneider, Rodenstock, or Fujinon will perform well enough that it isn't worth the crazy price discrepancies to buy an expensive one. Color 4x5 film is already $4 a shot, 8x10 is $13. I don't feel the need to buy a metal Linhof and a huge heavy lens when I can buy a cheap 80's japanese wood field camera and a cheap lens and get basically the same results. At least, that's how my art student brain justifies it.
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Old 04-16-2013   #19
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For 4x5 these two lenses are perfect for me - Nikon 90/8 SW and Rodenstock 135/5.6 Apo Sironar S. I shoot a lot of old buildings so need tons of image circle and these two delivers. Having gotten caught up with the classic lens phase with the Leicas I don't want to do that with LF. Just choose a few lenses and shoot. The criteria in choosing a lens should be focal length, image circle and filter size since the big four manufacturers are pretty comparable in performance. Also you will be stopping down these bad boys to f/45 or smaller anyway.
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Old 04-16-2013   #20
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I won't spend the cash but this is what I think is the BEST large format lens, period. Smooth yet sharp, the Cooke PS945 229/4.5: http://www.cookeoptics.com/cooke.nsf...rgeformat.html

These picks are all over the place but if your criteria is sharpness, then the later-newer the better, i.e. Rodenstock Sironar-S or the Schneider APO Symmar-L. But you can save some money with the previous generation Sironar-N and APO Symmar (sans L), they are 99.99999% as sharp with a few degrees less image circle. There are some older lenses that are incredibly sharp too, like the 135 Kodak Wide-Field Ektar which has a great reputation.

For portraiture and expressiveness, I like the Schneider Xenars and Eastman Kodak Commercial Ektars, especially the 14" on 8x10. But even a sharp Symmar can look good for portraits if you simply shoot with it wide-open with a round aperture and shallow depth of field. I've had the classic Brass portrait lenses too, including an expensive Verito, but I think they are only good for making mush.

The fast lenses I've had are the Aero-Ektar and 135/3.5 Xenotar and I was ambivalent, a lot of hassle or expense for not much of a gain, as well as somewhat flat/mushy and difficult to focus with such shallow depth of field. Good way to waste film....

I also consider the shutters. While Copals are predominate on most later lenses, the last of the all black Compurs were probably the finest shutters ever made. If you shop on German eBay quite a few lenses in Compurs still show up but they are rare elsewhere.

Something to watch out for is an older lens in a newer shutter or vice-versa. While it can work just fine, unless you know the history there is a chance that the aperture scales are wrong or the lens may not have the correct spacing between the front and rear.

The American-made shutters that you will find on old Crown and Speed Graphics are all very reliable and well built, much simpler and cruder than the Compurs but almost bulletproof. Making something good that isn't expensive is harder to do than it is to make something good that's expensive....
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Old 04-17-2013   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frankd View Post
I have been using a Schneider Angulon 120mm f6.8. It is moderately wide, light weight, a fair amount of coverage, and usually priced well. Resolution seems fine as well. ...
I used a 90mm Angulon for years and have the same opinion. It was a great companion for the feather-light wooden field camera I used. Angulons don't have quite the coverage that the Super Angulons have (~5 degrees less) but they don't suffer from the rather significant light falloff that plagues the SAs. I also was extremely pleased with the results from my 180 f/5.6 Nikkor-W.

A word of warning about buy and Angulon, though. The Angulons were made for a very very long time. Many, perhaps most, were uncoated and can date from the first quarter of the 20th century. The one I used was a very late sample from probably the late '50s, coated and in a modern Compur shutter. If you get one be sure to get a modern sample.
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Old 04-17-2013   #22
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My only lens is a Schneider convertible lens.
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Old 04-17-2013   #23
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Used to use 90mm and 65mm Super Angulons on 4x5 for architectural stuff with great results. If I remember correctly the 65mm coverage didn't quite extend all the way to the corners, but maybe I'm thinking of 5x7.
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Old 04-18-2013   #24
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There are so many different lenses for so many different purposes that it's impossible to say. In 300mm lenses alone ('standard' on 8x10), there's an immense difference between my f/3.5 Tessar and my f/9 Nikkor, but they both have their uses. My favourite lens for portraiture on 8x10 is a 21 inch (533mm) f/7.7 Ross. And so forth.

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Old 04-18-2013   #25
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Every LF lens I tried was wonderful, even thought I prefer more gentle color rendering of German lenses to Japanese ones. I have a Fujinon-C 300/8.5 and love it, but my ultimate lens is 120mm Super Symmar HM. Also have a Grandagon-N 75/6.8 on the shelf, which I didn't have time to try yet. Chamonix 45N-1 takes anything from 75 to 300mm on standard bellows.
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Old 04-18-2013   #26
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I personally like the pre Civil War Petzval lenses, but also shoot lenses up until the 1940s on LF. Here was a recent haul I got:



The thing about LF is each lens has very distinct effects; they're all different. But for a great, sharp, contrasty lens that can be found in shutters (I shoot a lot of wetplate and don't need shutters), look at the Goerz Dagors. I have about 6 and love them. I also like the exotic soft focus lenses, the Wollensak Verito is about the easiest to find, and is a very fine lens. (Mostly) Dagors in Volute shutters:

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Old 04-18-2013   #27
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Glad that I'm not the only one here getting GAS attacks from LF lenses (hahaha).
I actually like the result from my Gundlach Radar 304.6mm f/4.5 that came with my 8x10 B&J.

I just need to use it more.
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Old 04-18-2013   #28
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The current crop of Rodenstock glass, both the Digaron, as well as the updated Apo Grandagon/N and Apo Sironar S glass, is really stunning.

I have many lenses I like for a particular look, but for sheer performance, they are just blowing me away. Especially if anyone mixes digital backs in with their film work.
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Old 04-18-2013   #29
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The Fuji "A" series are the most underrated and greatest bang for the buck LF lenses available IMHO.

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Old 04-18-2013   #30
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I have the complete set of lenses that were offered by Sinar for their Norma cameras. The Schneider Angulons, Super Angulons, Rodenstock Apo-Ronars, Rodenstock Imagons (soft focus), Schneider Symmars, and a few Swiss Kern Arau Process lenses.

For my Plaubel Makiflexes, I have a complete set of Schneider Xenars, Tele-Xenars, and Rodenstock Imagons.

All these lenses are 1950's-1970's vintage. All are great performers.
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Old 04-18-2013   #31
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I have the complete set of lenses that were offered by Sinar for their Norma cameras. The Schneider Angulons, Super Angulons, Rodenstock Apo-Ronars, Rodenstock Imagons (soft focus), Schneider Symmars, and a few Swiss Kern Arau Process lenses.

For my Plaubel Makiflexes, I have a complete set of Schneider Xenars, Tele-Xenars, and Rodenstock Imagons.

All these lenses are 1950's-1970's vintage. All are great performers.
Good grief? How many are there? Do you use them all?

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Old 04-18-2013   #32
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Quote:
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The current crop of Rodenstock glass, both the Digaron, as well as the updated Apo Grandagon/N and Apo Sironar S glass, is really stunning.

I have many lenses I like for a particular look, but for sheer performance, they are just blowing me away. ...
I bet they are very contrasty and nice. But I've found ALL large format blows away 35mm and "tiny format", even when I shoot 100 year old lenses, an 8x10 contact print is amazing. 35mm is basically nowhere near the quality, tone, etc., but it's nice to have a roll of 36 shots inside the camera, instead of all the holders and junk for LF!
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Old 04-22-2013   #33
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My only lens is a Schneider convertible lens.
How do you find it. I have one that I haven't used yet.
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Old 04-22-2013   #34
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I bet they are very contrasty and nice. But I've found ALL large format blows away 35mm and "tiny format", even when I shoot 100 year old lenses, an 8x10 contact print is amazing.
On film, certainly. And I agree re:35mm... Digital MF and LF backs are harsh critics of those old lenses though - I love them too (Some old Goertz Dagors and Red dot artars, in the mix of what I use), but they are not the right match for large format digital. So if we're talking pure performance (what I assumed the OP was after), I have to give the nod to these more current designs.
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Old 04-22-2013   #35
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On film, certainly. And I agree re:35mm... Digital MF and LF backs are harsh critics of those old lenses though - I love them too (Some old Goertz Dagors and Red dot artars, in the mix of what I use), but they are not the right match for large format digital. So if we're talking pure performance (what I assumed the OP was after), I have to give the nod to these more current designs.
Why would anyone shoot "large format digital?" Aren't the backs still many thousands of dollars? The lenses, cameras, movements, printing paper, everything about the process was made for one thing only - Film. And the results on film are outstanding. LF film tonality, dynamic range, and antique lenses give all the performance I need.

I leave the digital for the small cameras, but even the pro DSLRs would be cheaper than trying to make a digital camera out of a 75 year old wooden 8x10 camera. Right? Antique LF lenses do things on film that you cannot replicate with the latest, greatest, contrastyest modern lenses and digital sensors. To me, trying to combine them is like taking a beautiful 1939 Ford coupe, and chopping it and putting a Corvette engine in it. It's done....but it's not for me.
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Old 04-22-2013   #36
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Here's an 8x10 contact print on FP-4 done with a 60 year old Dagor. On the print you can count individual blades of grass out in the little clearing slightly left of center. But I usually shoot soft focus, petzvals, and other "affects" lenses, I'm not into pixel peeping.

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Old 04-22-2013   #37
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3 of my 4 LF lenses are in my opinion 'top notch':

- Fujinon 125/5.6 CM-W (the latest generation from Fujinon) - a rather rare lens, but very sharp and with good coverage.
- Fujinon A 240/9 (tiny and SHARP). Coverage is 'unlimited' on 4x5
- Grandagon-N 75/4.5 - this lens is incredibly sharp, no ghosts and no distortion. Allows for quite some movements. I would advice to use center-filter with E6 films - in particular when using shift movements.
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Old 04-22-2013   #38
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While I am not well versed on vintage LF lenses, you cannoy\t go wrong with either Schneider or Rodenstock lenses. Nikon glass is nothing to scoff at, either.
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Old 04-22-2013   #39
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Quote:
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3 of my 4 LF lenses are in my opinion 'top notch':

- Fujinon 125/5.6 CM-W (the latest generation from Fujinon) - a rather rare lens, but very sharp and with good coverage.
- Fujinon A 240/9 (tiny and SHARP). Coverage is 'unlimited' on 4x5
- Grandagon-N 75/4.5 - this lens is incredibly sharp, no ghosts and no distortion. Allows for quite some movements. I would advice to use center-filter with E6 films - in particular when using shift movements.
God that Fuji 240A and 75mm grandagon are incredible. I totally agree with you
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Old 04-22-2013   #40
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Why would anyone shoot "large format digital?" Aren't the backs still many thousands of dollars? The lenses, cameras, movements, printing paper, everything about the process was made for one thing only - Film. And the results on film are outstanding. LF film tonality, dynamic range, and antique lenses give all the performance I need.
Everyone's needs are different. That you don't see a need for it, doesn't mean someone else will not. Architectural photographers, in particular, utilize this for a very technically demanding clientele. It is expensive, more expensive than my clients will currently support, and so I shoot mostly film, or rent when I need a digital solution. But the need is there, and those vintage lenses, as great as they are, are not "top notch LF lenses" by the technical standards demanded for that work.

I still love them, but for personal work only.
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