Difference in Enlarger Lenses

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Pioneer, Jul 3, 2011.

  1. Pioneer

    Pioneer Member

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    I have a very nice Beseler 45MCRX enlarger and, up to now, I have worked with a Beseler 50mm lens, mostly for my 35mm negatives. However, I want to be able to begin enlarging different size negatives (6x6 up to 4x5) and I have been shopping for lenses. I notice that Nikkors and Schneiders demand a much higher premium than other brands on flea bay. What is the primary difference and are they really worth 3 and 4 times as much?

    I have been enlarging only to 8x10 so far but am looking at going larger than that with my 6x6 and 4x5 negatives. I want to get a nice lens (or lenses), and am not afraid to spend a little extra money for quality. But, I am not a rich man and I am living on a limited income. I am an amateur and I love what my hobby, but I am certainly not entertaining any thoughts of doing this for a living. Any thoughts on quality vs price for a dedicated, but poor, amateur?
     
  2. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    I have been using an EL-Nikkor 75mm for 6x6 and a Schneider Componon-S 135mm with a tub for 4x5 on my Omega D2 for many years with excellent results. I can easily enlarge to 16x20. I would think you could find them at a reasonable price. You might check with local labs or pros who have gone digital and have what you are looking for laying around and not bothering with the bay.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser .com/
     
  3. M Stat

    M Stat Member

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    That is a really good question! I was hoping that someone had an answer for you. I own a total of six enlarging lenses, the El Nikkors 50mm, 240mm and 300mm, also the Schneider 135mm and 80mm Componons as well as a 120mm Rodenstock, and for the life of me I can't tell the difference in quality between any of them. They are all great lenses! I'm not familiar with the Beseler lenses, although I once owned a 45MCRX mtself. More importantly is the alignment of your enlarger? That is crucial. All three stages of the enlarger must be completely parrallel to each other, the negative stage, the lens stage and the baseboard. There is available a lazer alignment tool for optical enlargers which you could probably rent. It is somewhat expensive to purchase, and normally you need only use the tool once.
     
  4. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    Nikkors and Schneiders are good lenses but there are others, like Rodenstocks, that are very good as well. Certainly some enlarging lenses are mediocre at best but these are simple optics and it is not hard to make a fairly decent one.
     
  5. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    I used to use an old 35mm camera with 50/1,4 lens, two SS bowls one with a hole in it and a work light on a make shift stand for enlarging and I really couldn't tell you what lenses do any better than what I was able to do. Being on a budget doesn't mean that your work will suffer if you take the time to do the best you can with what you have.
     
  6. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    It is not different than the camera lenses. If you can compare results of Hasselblad to Mamiya , you will be able to do the same for enlarging lenses.
    As told , dont believe e bay prices , you can buy excellent enlarging lenses from APUG.
    Few months ago , couple of times , someone sold lots of enlarging lenses , especially Fujis.
    Look at APUG buying selling threads and you will be sure about the quality and best prices.
     
  7. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    Nikkor/Schneider/Rodenstock seem to be the most reputable brands. I've stuck with Nikkor and Schneider ; if you are patient, they are available cheap on ebay or craigslist or classifieds here or lfinfo.

    The Schneider componon-s differ from the Nikkor in that they have a lever to go between wide open and the set aperture. This is good for focusing/composing bright and then stopping back down to the previous exposure setting, especially handy if you are printing a bunch of negatives of similar exposure the same size. The componon-s also can switch between continous aperture and click-stops (such as 1/2 stop); this is apparently of interest to some people who use a meter for exposure and aren't altering time. The componon-s also has an illuminated f-stop dial, illuminated by light going through the lens; kinda nice to see what the aperture is while in the dark.

    I have a 50 El-nikkor which I used to use for 35mm with great results, then I got a 80mm componon-s for both 35mm and 120 (6x6) use. For 4x5 I started with a 162mmish wollensak that was free with the enlarger but was kinda low contrast, hazy, and without click stops. I replaced this with a 135mm el-Nikkor because I got a good deal on it and I knew from my experience with the 50 that the el-nikkors were good.
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Is your lens a "Beseler", or a "Beslar"?

    If it is a "Beseler HD" or the earlier (I think) "Beseler Color Pro" than it is a high quality six element lens - most likely a re-badged Rodenstock Rodagon.

    If it is a "Beslar" lens it is a lower quality four element lens.

    A high quality lens does make a difference - but there is some sample variation, so a four element lens in top shape can compete well against a poor quality example of a six element lens.

    In addition, enlarging lenses tend to have a variety of features which can contribute to ease of use (e.g. illuminated apertures), as well as a certain "character". Even when two different brand's versions of the same focal length are of similar quality, one may appear to give results that are different to the other.

    There are also some "sleeper" brands like Minolta and Fujinon that aren't as well known, but have high quality versions.
     
  9. Pioneer

    Pioneer Member

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    Thank you

    Thank you all for taking the time to respond to my question. You have provided some great information for me to consider.

    My lens is a Beslar, not a Beseler, so it is a simple, 4 element lens, but it does seem to perform decently, I doubt I will get rid of it anytime soon.

    I will keep my eyes open for some type of 90mm lens since that seems to be a sweet spot for my 6x6 and 6x9 negs. I'll watch the classifieds to see what pops up.

    Again, you have all been very helpful with your ideas. Thank you very much.
     
  10. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    This list of 6 element lenses for 6x6 enlarging is not that long. Just keep searching ebay keh and the for-sale ads here and LF forum until one comes up at a reasonable price.

    LIST(exact wording/spelling is important):
    Nikkor 80mm f5.6
    Schneider Componon (-/+ "S") 80mm f4 or f5.6
    Rodenstock Rodagon 80mm f4 or f5.6
    Fujinon EP or EX 80mm f 5.6
    Koumaron S 75mm f5.6
     
  11. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Another to consider is the Vivitar VHE. The German made ones were Componons.
     
  12. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I have a Schneider Comparon 75mm f/4.5 that you can have if you are in US and willing to pay for shipping. It's not in perfect shape but certainly usable and gives fine results. I have used it for 645 negs. Can someone confirm/deny if this will do 6x6?
     
  13. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    That is the perfect price for that lens. I'd grab that and start printing now while looking for a 6 element lens. It sould work fine for 6x6 and should give good results at f11 at moderate enlargement ratios.
     
  14. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I actually had some fine results printing 35mm and 645 to 11x14 equivalent. (cropping were involved) I recall using f/5.6 and f/8. I almost never go as high as f/11 and higher.

    Anyway, if OP wants it, it's available.

    Do you know how many element this thing have?? It's a pretty well made small lens....
     
  15. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    I tested my Beslar 50mm lens against my El-Nikkor 50 when I first got the Nikon, on a 35mm negative printed to 11x14. I couldn't see any great difference beyond slightly different contrast and exposure due to probably slightly different aperture calibrations. I still use the Nikon, but I would never have paid full price for it.
     
  16. GeorgesGiralt

    GeorgesGiralt Member

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    Hi !
    Enlarger lenses design is no more rocket science since the advent of computer calculation.
    so any decent and willing maker should produce excellent lenses of standard design. (i.e. not wide angle nor zoom).
    Of course the variation from serial number to serial number has something to do with quality control, workers skills...
    IMHO, buy any 6 lenses design and you should have a very fine lens.
    In Europe, behind the iron curtain, the Czech Meopta has produced very god to excellent+ lenses. They are often sold as paper weight now.
    Minolta had a decent line too as does Fuji.
    The main advantage of Nikon, Rodenstock and Schneider is that they had the whole range of focal availlable. So if you plan to enlarge negatives from 135 to large format for one exhibition, having the very same lens makes all the prints look the same. But it is a very marginal advantage.
     
  17. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Even the leading lens makers usually often offer different grades of enlarging lenses. An EL-Nikkor 50mm f/4 is a decent four element design, while my old six element EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 offers easier focusing and better performance at large apertures. I've encountered two Omega lenses that were original to their enlargers, and were real dogs. A tiny 50mm f/6.3 on a Russian enlarger was quite sharp, but difficult to focus. I replaced the original lens on an ancient 4x5 deJur enlarger, expecting a significant improvement in contrast and perhaps sharpness. There was little difference.
     
  18. Chris Johnson

    Chris Johnson Member

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    I have some extra lenses

    Hello, this is Chris Johnson. I have just finished building myself a new darkroom and have an extra 135 mm Schneider (possibly misspelled) It has some slight marks on it, nothing that would affect functionality. Would be happy to send it to you as a
    gift, would be around next weekend, Saturday morning before it would be sent.
    Just trying to help a fellow darkroom person.
    If you are interested, reply to my regular e-mail address:

    Fyrwnrdy at yahoo dot com
    best wishes,
    Chris
     
  19. Ian C

    Ian C Member

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  20. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    Some years ago I standardized on Schneider Apo-Componon enlarging lenses for all focal lengths. I print 35mm through 4x5.

    If you print color slides (Cibachrome), it's nice to have lenses that are corrected at all three wavelengths, as apos are.

    Apo correction has no real advantage for B&W, which uses only blue light (for graded papers) or green and blue (for variable-contrast papers).

    - Leigh
     
  21. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    Last year I replaced my Wallensak 50mm and 90mm with Fuji 50 and 80 mms. The only differnce I find is easy of focus as the Fuji 50mm is 2.8, and although the Fuji and Wallensak 80s are both rated at 5.6 the Fuji seems brighter. At working F stops of F 8 or 11, I find the Wallensaks to be just as sharp. I have not printed color in years, but I think the Fuji's will much better in color work. Kodak enlarging extars are also very good.