75mm f/4 EL-Nikkor - Opinions from experienced users?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by aldevo, Jul 7, 2009.

  1. aldevo

    aldevo Member

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    I purchased an enlarger outfit from Zeff Photo's eBay store back in 2007 that included a 75mm f/4 EL-Nikkor enlarging lens.

    The lens seems to be almost universally berated on the web; yet nobody offers much in the way of details as to why.

    I'd be using said lens to enlarge 6x6 negatives to sizes up to 11x14 inches. Yes, I realize that's not a large size for 6x6, but I haven't really got the space to print larger and I assure you I'm damned picky about print quality.

    How do folks with actual experience using this lens regard it? Is it noticeably better/worse than, say, an 80mm Componon-S?

    Thanks
     
  2. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    It is a four element lens, compared to the six element Componon S. I would think it could do okay with an 11X14 enlargement, but at the same time a better lens is pretty cheap nowadays, so I personally have chosen to go that route. The ones that you will see recommend most of the time are the 80mm NIkkor, the Componon S or the Rodagon.
     
  3. Fred De Van

    Fred De Van Member

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    It is not necessarily either better or worse but it could be either. In enlarging lenses the level of magnification is the biggest factor as to "better/worse/the same" (you left out the most likely, "the same or neither") at a 11x14 magnification, depending on what criteria you are using there could/should be little, if any, noticeable difference. What can be measured is often impossible to see.

    6 or more element lenses are in no way by deffinition "better" (a subjective term) than 4 element lenses of any kind except extream wide angles and most zooms. The number of elements are the guarantee of nothing.

    In the world of very, very, fine lenses, one of the finest from almost every possible criteria is the Rodenstock apo-Ronor an 4 element design. Especially in the 480mm focal length. It is not just the sharpness, which is stupendous, It's the color and the amazing visual quality the lens delivers. Same for the Voightlander Apo-Lanthars, the are visual hi-fi in 3D in the hands of the very few who know how to extract the most from them. There are no slouches among the 6 element crowd that comprise the other choices. Fuji, Schnieder, Rodenstock, Kodak, and even Ilex (all of which I know) and I am sure Nikor (which I have not used) and a couple of Zeiss (which I own) lenses will all make hair stand up on your neck, and demand their owner to proclaim any one of them, the best lens in the world. (unless, like me, he is exposed to most or all of them). Some exemplary lenses are simply stunning in certain specific uses.

    In most all cases, "better" or "best" is defined not by the lens or its construction, but by what it is you are doing with it. Even Schnieder or Rodenstock will tell you that in many cases a 4 element Componar of Rogonar is designed for making a 8x10 or 11x14 from 6x6, and may out perform or at least equal the more costly 6 or even 7 element designs at that magnification. The more costly lenses are intended to perform "best" at 10x magnification. This is probably true for Nikon also.

    "Better" in all cases in reguard to lenses is dependent on what you are using it for. Don't let anyone tell you that a lens is by definition "better" because of how many pieces of glass are used to make it. Often they have more elements because it is easier or cheaper to make a great 6 element optic than a superb 4 element.

    I own many lenses and many, many similar enlarging lenses and the is no such thing as a general rule which applies universally.

    I know nobody who uses and makes images with the finest the view camera world has to offer who would reject any 50 year old 4 element Ektar, Lanthar or Ronar as necessarily inferior to any of the latest mega buck apo wiz bangs from anybody. The numbers, measurements, and MTF stuff is meaningless, it is the image you are able to make with any lens that matters. Nothing else. They are at best simple and non definitive guidelines.

    When it comes to enlarging lenses, the working aperture, magnification, diffraction, enlarger alignment and quality of the light source have a greater effect on the subjective "better" than who made the lens or how many elements it has.

    Enjoy your 75mm El-Nikkor, for your use it is almost perfect, just like any other choice. Compared to 80mm Componon-S (of which I own 3 and a couple of 5.6 Componons too) it is "better/worse/the same". It is cheap enough to own both.

    To be totally honest with you, I have long wondered what is the bias against the 75mm Nikkor, just like you. Then I realized that there is a huge community who reject certain Leitz Leica lenses based on what country they were made in. That is simply crazy, and makes no sense whatsoever. As a long time Leica user, I know empirically, NOTHING is more madcap than that.

    Fred
     
  4. fotch

    fotch Member

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    I have a 75mm Nikon, and the 6 element 80mm. Pretty much the same however, if you want to get real nit picky, and use a magnifying glass, you might be able to tell on some larger enlargements.

    I have to laugh at those who buy expensive gear and cheap film. Anyway, you will do fine. Get some extra money someday, you can upgrade. I would then go for a 105mm Nikon, or comparable lens. Covers medium format better.

    Good Luck
     
  5. Seabird

    Seabird Member

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    I have the 4 element 75mm f4N that I picked up new a few years ago. I have been using it to enlarge mono MF negs (645 & 6x6) to no bigger than 12x16. I have never had any problems with it.

    Like you, I have read the bias against the 75mm lens, and all the recommendations to go with the 6 element 80mm f5.6N instead. Well, prices being as low as they currently are, I recently decided to pick up a second-hand 80mm from ebay. Its in exemplary condition. I've been using the 80mm recently (again printing no larger than 12x16) and to be honest, I can see no discernible difference between prints made with either lens.

    My conclusion: For my requirements (and your requirements *might* be different) either lens will do the job nicely. That is, I now have two great lenses for MF !

    Regards

    Carey Bird
     
  6. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    I have has problems with a 150mm Enlarging Lens from a well known German manufacturer (I won't say who - it seems to upset some people)

    In terms of sharpness it was great

    However, while testing for something else I discovered it suffered very badly from flare.

    I have subsequently studied the Lens for any tell tales signs that would help explain the flaw but failed miserably.

    What I would suggest is that if you know another analogue user, ask to borrow their enlarging lens and use them both to make the same print using the same settings (seconds/f-stop/paper grade....)

    You probably need to do it for only 2 or 3 prints which are typical of your favourite subject matter and its better if you just make straight prints – less possible variation

    If you compare prints from the two Lenses and they look identical - then you are good to go

    I have retired my original Lens to Paper Weight Duty – which it performs admirably

    Martin
     
  7. Fred Aspen

    Fred Aspen Member

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    I wholeheartedly agree with Fred on this one. I went to the trouble of digging up the specifications for my enlarger lenses and found that most 6 el. lenses are optimized for 10x to 15x and most 4 el. are optimized for 4x to 8x. These lenses have a usable range of 2x-20x and 2x-10x respectively.

    I also believe I read in "Post Exposure" that it makes a noticeable difference in the quality of the print if the usage is not matched to the capabilities, i.e., not matching the optimized lens to the print size you prefer.

    For example, I have several 4 el. lenses that do better than my 6 el. lenses with 5x7 to 8x10 enlargements in 35mm. I wouldn't consider using my 4 el. lenses to print a 16x20 because I know that beyond 8x10 the 4 el. lenses are no longer in that 'sweet spot,' but the 6 el. are just starting to come into their sweet spots.

    And my 4 el. 75/80mm lenses for my Hassy negs do just fine up to 11x14 because they are in that optimization range of 4-5x.

    Fred's right, how you match lenses to print size makes a noticeable difference.

    And fewer elements makes for higher contrast and less flare - the light reflecting between elements.

    I have a favorite 4 el. lens that was once touted by Thornton and I have to say, that up to 8x10 for 35mm, it is a sharp, contrasty, sweetheart of a lens.

    Just my .02,

    -F.

    PS. I also have a 75mm Nikkor f/4.0 for 6x6 that looks as good, if not better, under magnification as my Comp-s 80 for 8x10 prints.

    I also remember Ctein saying that brand to brand differences are smaller than sample to sample differences within a brand. So it really is kind of a crap shoot, even with the 6 el. primo lenses. It all has to do with centering/decentering of the lens elements which is determined in the mfg. process.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 8, 2009
  8. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've owned this lens. Purchased it new. It had excellent contrast and was pretty sharp. Some people on the 'net dismiss it out of hand, because it is a 4-element Tessar type, as opposed to a 6-element lens, but most of them haven't tried one.

    Eventually I replaced it with a 90mm Apo-Rodagon, because almost all darkroom equipment has dropped drastically in price, and the Apo-Rodagon that was once a "dream lens" is a sharper lens from corner to corner, and being 90mm, I can use it for formats up to 6x9 for most of the prints I make, and Apo lenses are generally optimized for use stopped down one stop, so it makes more options available. If you can spend around $200 for an Apo-Componon or Apo-Rodagon for medium format, I'd say it's a worthwhile investment since all your prints are going through that lens, but in the meanwhile, there's nothing wrong with the 75/4 EL-Nikkor.
     
  9. aldevo

    aldevo Member

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    Interesting...

    It's been my experience with camera lenses that the sample-to-sample variation among lenses of the same model often exceeds the differences in quality between "typical" samples of lenses belonging to different models.

    Perhaps this is also true for enlarger lenses.
     
  10. fotch

    fotch Member

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    I never tried doing this as I have been happy with the lens I have. However, I like the idea of the test because I would be interested to know if one is better than another. Interesting.
     
  11. hoojammyflip

    hoojammyflip Subscriber

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    I know this is an old thread which I am resurrecting, but I read this and had to comment. It strikes me as completely illogical internet folklore. If the variance between lenses within a set from a single manufacturer is x, to suggest that the variance between those very same lenses, randomly sampled, and another manufacturers lenses is less than x is just total tosh. The variance MUST be greater than equal to x, unless the second group of lenses has some magical variance reduction powers which reduce the variance of the first group of lenses in this special world of imaginary physics vs the second set of lenses by somehow tracking the sharpness characteristics in each paired off sample. What surprises me even more is that Ctein is apparently from UCLA or somewhere. Maybe the US is not so hot for physics. I also studied physics, but in the UK. Another thing I note in Ctein's analysis is that its not clear what the results are for lenses which are not listed in his fabled lens testing.

    Folks, its a myth that the variance between two brands is less than the variance between brands. It has to be greater or equal to. The only way to know which lens is best for your needs is to take two lenses and then compare yourself. The internet is rammed full of nonsense. This post included possibly.:confused:
     
  12. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    I only used it's six-element cousin the 80mmf/5.6 EL Nikkor which is excellent.After testing the Schneider lenses ,I found them a bit overrated and ,I like the click stops on the Nikons much better:smile:
     
  13. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    As far as I can tell from reading "Post Exposure" by Ctein the statement is not supported in the book.
     
  14. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    I use a 74/4 for 35mm only, an application where it does better than a typical 50mm enlarging lens because only the center of the field is used. It has focus shift between f/4 and f/5.6, so has to be slightly refocused at the smaller aperture. And there is some loss in corner resolution if used for actual medium format applications. For that kind of thing I am currently working with a 105 Apo Rodagon N, which has
    much better tonal rendition than either of the Nikkors, though I really prefer to use my 150 Apo Rodagon N for 6x7 and 6x9 negs whenever
    the spacing between lens and baseboard is not annoyingly distant. Just depends what you are doing. I've never discussed this specific topic
    with Ctein, but it was a determination made quite some time ago. Modern enlarging lenses from the big four probably exhibit very good
    quality control lens to lens, though low-priced versions like the 75/4 might not. Last time I talked to him he was coveting a 105 Apo El Nikkor, which would have been ridiculous overkill for the size of enlargements he was making anyway. The problem with those gems (and
    they do cost like gems) is that they're very heavy and would actually deflect the lensmounts of most typical home enlargers. If you want
    that level of optical performance and can tolerate just one stop less speed, select from the Apo Nikkor line of process lenses, though these
    aren't available in short focal lengths. But to get to the truth behind of any of these rumors you'd have to buy a helluva lot of lenses and
    do comprehensive statistical sampling on multiples of every example. No need. Basically, you get what you pay for (at least comparing new to new pricing). I have all kinds of enlarging lenses, though I've sold off any old Componons, Componon-S etc. If you need a good lens
    for 6x6, buy an El Nikkor 80/5.6. If you want a great lens, buy a Apo Rodagon N, preferably 90 or 105. If you want bragging rights to the
    sharpest possible prints of your personal Rolls Royce, buy an Apo El Nikkor. If you don't need to brag, but want an outstanding print, try
    an Apo Nikkor, which with a bit of luck you'll probably get for free.
     
  15. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Your right.