EL Nikkor, EL Omegar, & Wollensak

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by ChristopherCoy, May 10, 2013.

  1. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Member

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    I just scored an El Nikkor 50mm f/4, an El Omegar 75mm f/3.5, and a Wollensak Raptar 90mm f/4.5 on eBay, all for $23.99.

    I'm familiar with the first two, but the Wollensak I am not. I've read that they varied in quality from lens to lens. I'm not going to sweat it because at $8 a lens, what's the point?

    But I wondered how many of you have used one, and how do they perform?
     
  2. Noble

    Noble Member

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    To be honest with you I wouldn't use any of those lenses. There are a lot of things you can cut corners on but the lens on your camera and the lens or your enlarger are not one of them. You've got a few issues. First of all updated lenses are available. I purchased a mint El Nikkor 2.8 (latest model) for about $40 shipped. I paid about twice that for a Schieder 80mm f/4 Componon-S. Again it was a mint copy. If you are patient these things pop up at similar prices often enough.

    What I find with older lenses besides outdated lens design is they either have fungus from humidity or haze from long term exposure to dark room chemicals. The person who sold me one of my enlargers told me what a great deal he was giving me and how I could sell each of the lenses on ebay for $50 a pop. Total nonsense. Often buying an enlarge is the inexpensive first step. Getting all the lenses, carriers, filters, easels, etc quickly runs up the cost. It is still relatively cheap but that free enlarger you got and the $8 lens will not produce the sharpest prints. It's better to invest a little more money and have something you don't have to wonder about. $40 for a 50mm 2.8 El Nikkor is very reasonable.
     
  3. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Member

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    Fair enough.

    But that's not the information I'm looking for. I realize all of these are cheaper lenses, and since I've been printing I've used a 75mm El Omegar lens with satisfactory results. I'm not printing for gallery exhibitions yet.

    I was wondering how the Wollensak performs, and now I'm wondering if ill even be able to use it, since it seems to be a 41mm thread.
     
  4. Noble

    Noble Member

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    Sorry I can't specifically answer your question. My enlarger came with a Wollensak along with two or three other lenses. They were not in any kind of condition that I would use so I just got the El Nikkor and the Schneider. If it was a mint copy I would have given it a try just for fun. OCD though would have forced me to at least try and do a head to head comparison with a late model Schneider.
     
  5. NB23

    NB23 Member

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    I had one. Was hazy so we'll never really know its true quality. But I didn't care...
    Like Noble says, buy a Componon for a few extra peanuts and never look back.
     
  6. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Contact Rick A. He uses Wollensak I think.
     
  7. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    I'd say the main thing to look for is and possibility of light falloff from center to edges. That's the most objectionable flaw of all, IMO.
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The Wollensak is a 90mm lens, so it is likely that it is ideal for 6x7.

    90mm lenses are a little harder to find so I would be sure to test it out before getting rid of it.

    The other two are more easily replaced.
     
  9. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Member

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    I intend to test it, but do older lenses like this ever have swirling or blurriness on the edges at all?

    It's a 90mm so considering that I can even get it mounted on a lens board, I should theoretically have enough room to play if using it for 6x6, right?
     
  10. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Member

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    It was actually $14.99 for all three....the shipping was an extra $9.
     
  11. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Enlarging lenses shouldn't add any blur or swirl.

    Older lenses may or may not be corrected for colour.

    A 90mm lens will make slightly smaller enlargements than the 80mm lenses which are optimized for 6x6.

    On the other hand, a 90mm lens will have a bit more coverage than an 80mm lens, so you will be using more of the lens' "sweet spot" and less of the lens' corners when you are enlarging 6x6.
     
  12. Noble

    Noble Member

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    I use an 80mm for 6x6. A 90mm will cover 6x6 fine. Matt is right 90mm are a lot rarer.

    You should read a section out of Ctein's book Post Exposure 2nd edition. It is currently a free PDF. Don't let "free" fool you. It's a good book.

    You should read the section starting on page 77 of the book (89 in my PDF). It is called "The best enlarging lenses in the world." It is not about unattainable $3,000 lenses. Well he does mention one or two of those. He talks about a bunch of stuff that can be acquired for less than $100 and sometimes less than $50.

    Makes you curious doesn't it?

    I know you said these prints aren't for a gallery but considering the cost of paper it makes no sense to print a bunch of stuff now and then upgrade your lens later and print it again.
     
  13. jjphoto

    jjphoto Member

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    Is it a PRO Raptar or just the Raptar, as described above?

    My understanding is that the PRO Raptar is a different design and better corrected with more elements. I have the 90/4.5 PRO Raptar, but not the normal one, so I can't really compare them but unfortunately I don't even have the retaining ring for the PRO Raptar so I haven't been able to test it either. Damn. Maybe if I didn't waste so much time on forums I'd have had it done by now. There's an idea!

    I suspect the 90/4.5 Raptar is only mediocre but that's NOT based on personal experience so take it for whatever its worth. If you can find a temporary way to mount the Raptar then you can really just test it yourself, but I wouldn't spend too much money or effort on it. If you have the retaining ring then that's half the battle.

    By the way, the 50/4 is commonly used as a macro and doesn't need to be reverse mounted for high magnifications, due to it's symmetrical design.
     
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  15. Ian C

    Ian C Member

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  16. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi christopher ...

    how about just trying the lenses on one negative and one print
    same paper, same developer &c and seeing how you like them ?

    there aren't a lot of variables ... they are all good performers if stopped down maybe 4-5 stops.

    to be honest a lot of lenses that people hold grudges against and suggest are crap lenses are just fine.
    this is true for taking as well as flat field/enlarging lenses. my guess is that unless you are enlarging wide-open
    or making mural sized enlargements you probably won't be able to tell the difference ...
    i often times use a meniscus lens as an enlarging lens ... probably a lens that people would tell me is a piece of crap
    and not worth the little metal barrel it is mounted in, but it works just fine.

    have fun with your tests!
    john
     
  17. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    I had and used a 90mm Wollensak for years. Try it. It may well be fine for your needs, and if not, you're out a few bucks - no big deal.
     
  18. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Indeed I do use a Wollensak 90 enlarging Raptar with coated elements. It was designed to cover 6x9 and is slightly wide angle for the format. These were state of the art in their day. I have a 75mm el-Omegar that is basic 4 element that I never use, and prefer the Wolly to everything else. I shoot 6x6 and 6x9 so the Wolly covers everything I do in medium format, and I even use it for 35mm to make enlargments up to 8x10. BTW, I actually have two of them, holding a NIB unit for back-up.
    Here's a print made using the Wolly:
    http://www.apug.org/forums/members/...m-arista-edu-ultra-100-8x8-fotokemika-km.html
     
  19. Noble

    Noble Member

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    I wouldn't do that with good enlarger lenses. I believe something like the Nikkor 50mm 2.8 N is sharpest at f/4-f/5.6.

    I don't think anyone in this thread has a "grudge" against any enlarger lens. To be honest with you my enlarger lens was the one piece of equipment I gave very little thought to. That's the whole point of most of the responses in this thread. They are so cheap why even think about it? My first box of paper cost more than my "premium" mint 50mm lens. I agree with the people that say he should just try it out. Everyone's standards are different. You are simply not going to get a large enough sample of opinions for such a rare piece of equipment to formulate a meaningful answer.

    Another issue with trying out the lens is you need some kind of gold standard to compare it to. I scanned for a long time before I set up a darkroom and started printing. I regret that. A lot of negatives that looked fine scanned were too contrasty when it came to enlarging. They are not unprintable but a simple tweak of my processing routine would have corrected everything. I would just hate to see someone spend years printing and realize after all that time they wished they had spent $30 extra dollars and gotten a late model mint lens. That's all I'm saying.
     
  20. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Member

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    I've been using El Omegar lenses that came with the Omega enlarger kit that I'm currently selling. I've used both the 50mm and the 75mm, both stopped down to about f/11 or f/16. I've not noticed an issue, but then again my eye is still quite untrained.
     
  21. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi noble

    i wasn't saying you in particular but there are always people
    who dislike companies or lenes or cameras or paper, or chemistry for whatever
    reasons they have ... i can't stand tmax developer ( for example ) it ruined my film
    and kodak left me hanging ... and i still hold a grudge against it ( since it was introduced in 1991/2! )
    but others LOVE it ... and make great work with it ... to each their own ....

    i am sure most people can't tell an image from one lens to another whether it was used at the "optimized" fstop or
    1/2 a stop or 2 stops less .. there are plenty of examples of that in my own portfolio.
    printed with a 20$ filter or with a 20¢ piece of cel-o-phane in the end
    what matters is if the person making the prints made with xyz camera, xyz film, xyz chemistry + paper
    likes the results.

    personally, i couldn't care less about "internet opinion" ...
    it seems that all websites like this (and others) that are always linked to, or books or whatever ...
    all they do is give opinion and for every opinion there is always a contradictory one ...

    that's why i suggested christopher make enlargements and look for himself so he can make his own opinion and not just go by what faceless internet forum suggests is right or wrong good/ bad.
    i'm also reminded that there are always people on internet fora who say, but don't do ... in otherwords
    they just post and repost and post other people's opinion and never do any of the things that they are actually
    claiming to be experts in ...

    a few years ago i was involved in a long conversation ( thread ) with someone who claimed to be an expert in something he
    really had just begun to learn about. i applauded his enthusiasm but he knew about as much about what he was dispensing knowledge about as the person who posted the first lines of the thread ....

    as with everything your actual mileage may vary from the company spec sheet ...
    ===

    have fun printing christopher!
    i hope you post your results and show us how the lenses worked ( or not ) for you ..
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2013
  22. Noble

    Noble Member

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    I will just say three things.

    The book I linked to was written by Ctein. Ctein is not only a photographer he has a physics degree from Cal Tech. His partner for the enlarger lens section of the book is a photographer with an Ivy League physics degree. There are opinions and then there are opinions. There are books and then there are books. I couldn't do my day job unless I relied on opinions and books. As with any serious endeavor in life you have to be able to evaluate sources. You can't just lump in all opinions and books into one category. I personally have never seen such an extensive evaluation of enlarger lenses from other sources and I have never seen anyone reputable debunk their findings. And if there was an opposing opinion I certainly would want to read it. I have no loyalties or biases. I go where the findings take me.

    I agree with the method of trying it out and seeing if it meets your standards. The problem is if you are working from a position of total ignorance as I have on many occasions there is no way to know whether something really does satisfy you unless you have something to compare it to. As I said I scanned my negatives for a long time and only when I actually compared my workflow to the gold standard darkroom workflow did I realize there was an issue. If years ago someone said you can spend $30 extra dollars and get a definitive answer on day one I would have taken the option. I am trying to save people some pain.

    I must emphasize that the only reason this conversation is even happening is you can get one of the best enlarging lenses for 35mm film for $40 or less in mint condition. I approach photography the way I approach the rest of my life. Once the sum of money that is being discussed gets so small I just pay my money and expend my energy worrying about more complicated issues. The converse is also true. Once the sum of money gets so large there is no way I am going to part with that amount I just keep it in my pocket and use whatever "inferior" device I currently own. Everyone has their cut offs. I personally never got involved in the APO wars because a single used APO lens costs more than my entire darkroom setup with two enlargers and two lenses... Well the Zonemaster II broke the budget... but other than that late addition. LOL.
     
  23. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    The problem with tests (such as Ctein's) is they don't have any bearing in creating an expressive print. While they may give you a measured standard of sharpness (or any other lens attribute), it's entirely possible that a "lesser" lens will give you a better print. If, for example, you shoot Holga/Diana, a softer, less contrasty lens may enhance the look you're after. Chris (the OP) has posted work using Holgas, and Brownies, so the lens may be a good match for his purposes, with those cameras.
    State of the art has it's place but, the truth is, most of us don't have the skills to fully utilize the equipment to it's fullest. To dismiss a piece of equipment because there is better available disregards this fact.
    Noble mentioned that you'd want to go back and reprint old negatives, once you have a better lens. I disagree. I occasionally revisit old negatives, but it's not because I have better equipment. I revisit because I'm a better printer than I was the first time I worked with certain negatives.
     
  24. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Member

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    This seems to be a topic you are fairly passionate about, so just to put your curiosity to rest... I have an El Nikkor 2.8 coming with a 67S Dichro enlarger that I'm purchasing. I'll plan on testing the f/4 against the f/2.8, and advise my findings.

    I bought this group of three specifically for the 90mm and the 75mm because I mostly do 6x6 and I was familiar with the El Omegar.

    But again, the point if my original post was to inquire about the 90mm Wollensak's performance, as I am not familiar with them.
     
  25. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Member

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    Nice observation, and entirely correct.
     
  26. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Chris- I once had a Wollensak enlarging lens. It was probably close to 40 years ago, so my memory of it may be a bit hazy. If memory serves, however, I found it to be a little less contrasty than my "good" lenses. I gave it away, but wish I hadn't. Since rediscovering my plastic cameras, a few years ago, I'd like to see how it would work with those negatives.