LF Lens - the Good Ones

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photomc

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Have noticed several threads recently about LF lens, which ones are really good, etc..You know the ones Cooke, G Clarons, Dagors, Red Dot, Gold Dot, etc. As someone new to LF (4x5 and 5x7 and someday maybe 8x10) is there a good source to find which lens are really good for a given format? You can't really tell from ebay, because when some article or web site states it is good the values seem to go out the roof. And since many of us do not have the resources to drop the $ for some of the prime lens, was just hoping to here what those with more experience have to say. A big plus, would like to avoid overpaying for a lens that is not quite as good as the price.

I know there are resources out there, but my head starts to spin when I hear you folks start talking about Protars (I think), Tessar, Xenars etc.

Thanks,
 

Nick Zentena

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http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/results.html

Depending on your goals any lens from a pinhole to a big buck newest of the new will be a good lens. It all depends. What are you looking for? Plenty of the older cheaper lenses will work just fine if they aren't damaged some how.

Remember guys like Weston and Adams didn't have those new Fine art lenses. But I bet thier worst trash wasn't trash because of the lenses.
 

Nick Zentena

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Tessars and Xenars are the same lens design. Different factories.

If you want to save money look for the second run names that the snobs turn up thier noses at. B&L lenses will often sell for a lot less then similar vintage Zeiss lenses. Even if B&L made them under license from Zeiss. Those Calumet lenses that are rebranded can sell for less.
 

colrehogan

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photomc said:
I know there are resources out there, but my head starts to spin when I hear you folks start talking about Protars (I think), Tessar, Xenars etc.

Thanks,

Mike,
I had a thread with a similar question recently. I feel the same way about that.

(there was a url link here which no longer exists)
 

Ole

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There's my article here on APUG...

Basically they're all good enough. Even scratched lenses are generally good enough, at lower price than the shutter alone would bring. The main difference between lenses are in coverage, not sharpness. Tessar (=Xenar and several others) lenses generally have less coverage than many other constructions, such as Plasmat types (e.g. Symmar).

Old uncoated lenses have more flare and less contrast than coated ones, but the difference between coated and multicoated is miniscule.
 

jimgalli

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photomc

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Thank You Very Much Everyone...

jimgalli said:
Personally I've found the Schneider G-Claron series of lenses consistently give more bang for the buck than many of the others.

Thanks Jim, based on talks with Lee, I had thought the same thing..they just seem to be all over the place price wise right now. Will keep my eyes open for something in 210-270 range - that way can be used with the 4x5 and 5x7.

Ole, Thanks..don't know how I missed your article, but found it very interesting and useful.

Diane, had not seen you post or would have just added to it..we both must be thinking along the same lines..it is still confusing, but slowly - who knew that LF could be so different.

Nick, have read several post that refereed to Kerry's page on lens, but had never found it and when I searched all I found was his home page which did not link to the lens page. Good info there.

Well, looks like I have a great deal of homework to do....One other question for those in the know what is the difference between a Tussar and Plasmat. From the posted comments, I gather that the Plasmids have more coverage, just wondering.

Final thoughts, since I picked up a Caltar 150 when the Optar 135 had a problem, have noticed how nice it is to us the Copal shutter. What are the chances of having a Copal on a lens..seems like the shutter new cost almost as much as a lens. The Alphax on the Wally I have works quite differently and would just like to be able to keep the same habits when shooting.
 

mikewhi

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Ole said:
There's my article here on APUG...

Basically they're all good enough. Even scratched lenses are generally good enough, at lower price than the shutter alone would bring. The main difference between lenses are in coverage, not sharpness. Tessar (=Xenar and several others) lenses generally have less coverage than many other constructions, such as Plasmat types (e.g. Symmar).

Old uncoated lenses have more flare and less contrast than coated ones, but the difference between coated and multicoated is miniscule.
I have certainly found 'stinkers' though so I wouldn't go out and just buy any lens, think the only difference is voerage and speed.

I had a Schneider Super-Anglon 90mm in what I recall was a Japanese shutter(?), and it was awful. I could not get a shapr picture with that lens under any situations. It was the only LF lens that I was ever glad to sell. I'm just saying there are 'bad' lenses out there, bo I wou'd not buy just anything.

-Mike
 

rbarker

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What's "good" in LF lenses, Mike, is a zen thing, I believe. The choices are certainly mind-boggling in the beginning. The trick, I think, is to absorb the opinions of those with broad experience until you have a "feel" for the various types of lenses and the images they produce.

There are several articles about "classic" lenses on the Large Format Photography Info site that you may find helpful. Unfortunately, coverage specs for the older, "off-brand" lenses is hard to come by, whereas more modern lenses are well-documented in the comparison charts available on the LF site.

Then, there are the trade-offs encountered with the older lenses. Many old Wollensak and B&L lenses produce great images, for example, but come in older, marginal shutters. There is good info on the older shutters available on the S.K. Grimes site. Similarly, some "process" lenses (those used for pre-press and graphic arts shops of old), available only in barrel (no shutter), can be combined with more modern shutters at considerable expense, or used with rudimentary shutters like the Packard. What works depends on how you work. Having X sync for electronic flash may be critical if you're working in a studio, for example, but may not be important if you're doing multi-second exposures out in the field.

For specifics, I, too, like the G-Clarons as an economical LF lens. Well, at least the 240mm G-Claron I have - very sharp and will cover 8x10 (see the lily 8x10 Polaroid in my gallery here). The Commercial Ektars and Red Dot Artars are also sharp, but often a bit more pricey, due to more wide-spread reputation. Ilex shutters, while large, seem to be pretty robust, and can usually be serviced reasonably by skilled craftspersons.

The approach I've taken with older lenses is to arrive at a list of "ideal" candidates, and then watch the market for one popping up at the right price and in the right condition.
 
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photomc said:
Will keep my eyes open for something in 210-270 range - that way can be used with the 4x5 and 5x7.

One other question for those in the know what is the difference between a Tussar and Plasmat. From the posted comments, I gather that the Plasmids have more coverage, just wondering.

My 2c worth - a good lens for the case you describe would be a Schneider Symmar 240 mm, quite commonly available and offering good coverage even for 5x7". The identifying feature of this particular model is its twin aperture scales, "half" the lens can be used on its own as a long-focus lens. This is a "plasmat"-type lens, otherwise known as double-Gauss, with 6 coated elements, and is somewhat newer than the Schneider f4.5 Xenar series, which is of "Tessar" type, 4 elements and getting hard to find in good condition. Double-Gauss lenses have more coverage and also IMO give better sharpness with close-ups at about life size and bigger.

Uncoated lenses (which means essentially pre-war) are good for many purposes if in good condition as long as you are not shooting against the light or in the studio with a light background. They will generally be disappointing with colour. Many pre-war lenses will be found in "barrel" form (without shutters), but separate shutters such as Packard can be used. I have a shutter called a "Day" shutter, it is controlled only by squeezing a rubber bulb, will give speeds up to about 1/50 and has X flash synchronization.
 

Mongo

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In the 250mm length, I'm a big fan of the Fujinon 250mm f/6.3 lens. It has plenty of coverage for 4x5 and 5x7, and you can find it cheaper than the Fujinon 250mm f/6.7 because the latter covers 8x10 with room to spare and is therefore a more popular lens.

Although Fuji officially lists the f/6.3 lens as having either 312 or 320mm circle of coverage (depending on which version of the lens you're looking at), mine easily covers 8x10 with about 10mm of sharp image to spare. (I originally bought it for 4x5, and got lucky when I moved up to 8x10.)

The lens is very sharp, flare resistant (with Fuji's EBC multicoating), and has been a workhorse for me in 4x5.
 
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I've owned quite a few lenses, from dagors, protars, paragons to super symmars. Most of them could be made to give good images. However, I prefer modern copal shutters. Even if CLA'd by a very good shop (I used S.K. Grimes) Illex, Wollensack, Alpha (and most other older shutters) are simply not as accurate or reliable as Copals.

As such, I recommend modern (early '70s) and later lenses unless you're an expert looking for a specific look. Schneider Symmar-S lenses are very good, as are similar aged Rodenstocks, Fujis, and Nikons. You give up very little with regard to current lenses, except perhaps in the wide angle department. (I love my 110mm Super Symmar.) There is some variation in quality from one lens to another, and generally the newer lenses have better quality control.

My current lineup is a 110 Super Symmar XL, a 210 Fuji W, a 210 Kowa Graphic (for 8x10), a 240mm G-claron, a 300 Fuji C, a 300 Kowa Graphic (for 8x10), a Fuji 420L, an 18" Wollensak Verito, and a Fuji 600c. I suppose I'd eventually like something in the 75-80mm range.

Whatever you choose, do some investigating. Check the prices at www.mpex.com and at KEH. Both are very reliable dealers. Never pay prices on ebay that equal the prices from reputable dealers. Also check out Ebay's completed auctions to get a feel for what the lens that you have in mind is going for. Always ask seller if there are cleaning marks, oil on the aperture blades, element separation, or fungus. I've bought a couple of lenses in "excellent" condition that had separation or fungus.

Peter
www.desmidt.net
 

John Kasaian

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If you're shooting 4x5, 5x7 looking at 8x10 you ought to have a 240 or 270 G-Claron in your battery. It does a heck of a nice job in all three formats and very very affordable. Thats what I'd call good!
 
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photomc

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More good input...hope this all helps someone else, because it is very good info.

You have all helped either made me rethink or confirmed some of the thoughts I had on the next lens purchase. BTW, sorry did not mention that the primary use of the lens will be for landscape, urban landscapes or architecture so with the 5x7 would need more than a little movement.
 

Ole

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mikewhi said:
I had a Schneider Super-Anglon 90mm in what I recall was a Japanese shutter(?), and it was awful. I could not get a shapr picture with that lens under any situations. It was the only LF lens that I was ever glad to sell. I'm just saying there are 'bad' lenses out there, bo I wou'd not buy just anything.

-Mike

That lens could have been mounted with the wrong cell spacing - I certainly don't believe Schneider would use a Japanese shutter?

I have one "dog" - an old Eurynar 135/4.5. But that is 1)uncoated, 2)cracked, and 3)mounted on a 9x12 plate camera I bought cheap just to get the holders which I needed for another camera. But it still forms an image, and is surprisingly sharp for a cracked lens!
 
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