Opinions on enlarging lens behaviors?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by craigclu, Aug 15, 2009.

  1. craigclu

    craigclu Subscriber

    Sep 8, 2002
    Rice Lake, Wisconsin
    Multi Format
    After coming into a large number of decent enlarging lenses, I finally did some very basic comparisons. I was doing some 645 work and needed to make some rather extreme crops to print a portion of negative to 8X10. I used a 90 Schneider APO for a large number of prints until I got to a few "project" prints that required my head to be higher than my ceiling allows and switched to a Rodagon 60 WA. I was surprised at how well it printed and held up well to the well-regarded Schneider. I then decided to do a test print using a 35mm negative and 4 lenses (Schneider 45 APO, Rodagon 50 APO, Nikkor 63mm and the 60 WA mentioned above). I used an aperture of 6.3 as is usual for me on the APO's and ƒ8 on the other 2. I metered with a Wallner 500 rig for exposure on the same spot of the test negative. All of the lenses seem pristene with no haze, by the way and I cropped to identical print sizing.

    What stirred me to ask opinions was the fact that the prints ended up looking so different. The 2 APO's were pretty interchangeable and very sharp. The negative contained an old lighthouse with slotted walkways, rivets and details that helped to discern detail rendition. It was actually a culled negative that was nothing really special and happened to be behind something on my workstand. What caught my attention was how differently the sky was rendered by the various glass. The 60WA was decently sharp and without the APO prints to directly compare to, most people would be very pleased with the general sharpness. The overcast skies rendered much more texture and subtle tones than the APO's. The Nikkor was easily not as sharp as the others and was somewhere in between in the rendering of subtle sky tones. I actually had never used the Nikkor before and have no idea if it reflects general behavior expected from this glass and have no history of printing with it.

    I realize that this was extremely limited and incomplete but the metered shadow areas looked the same and registered almost the same blackness on the densitometer. The balance of tone fell into different tones to a much greater variation than my instinct would have predicted. Perhaps this isn't very surprising to more seasoned darkroom workers but I found it much more extreme than I would have expected. It makes me wonder if I'm missing some gradations in the denser parts of negatives with the APO's?
  2. phfitz

    phfitz Member

    Dec 26, 2004
    Large Format
    " It makes me wonder if I'm missing some gradations in the denser parts of negatives with the APO's?"

    Yes, if you are printing to maximum black. Higher contrast lens = shorter scale print from black to white. Yes, you can change exposure and printing grade to adjust BUT it will still change the gray-scale and the 'look' of the print. You could try out older single coated Ektar or Raptar lenses for a larger difference OR really old uncoated Velostigmat, Heliar or Dagor lenses for a really large difference.