EL-Nikor Enlarger lens--Difference between

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by RichardH, Aug 4, 2012.

  1. RichardH

    RichardH Member

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    I have 4 EL-Nikor enlarging lenses that I have a question about. All are 50mm but 2 are 2.8 and the rest are f4. Would either be any better than the other without making a bunch of test. The 2.8 has a lot of glass, the f4's small amount of glass. I guess my question is, would the 2.8 be the better since it has a large amount of glass???
    I don't have any knowledge of what makes one better than the other.

    Any ideas on this?

    Richard
     
  2. Stephen Prunier

    Stephen Prunier Subscriber

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    By no means am I an expert on this as I'm fairly new to the darkroom myself. Knowing that, I would think that the 2.8 would help you to make focusing easier. Being a faster lens it will allow more light when set at 2.8. After you finish focusing, close down the lens a couple of stops. At that point I don't think one will differ from the other because 5.6/8 will be the same on either lens.
     
  3. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    On EL-Nikkors, 50mm f/2.8 is a 6 element lens where as f/4 is a 4 element lens.

    f/2.8 version is better corrected for edge-to-edge sharpness and is considered a better lens. There's a debate on APUG how much difference there actually are between those two.

    I only use the f/2.8 kind so I can't tell you personally.
     
  4. RichardH

    RichardH Member

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    I didn't think there would be that much difference when stopped down but no harm in asking. I think I should worry more about negative buckling than what lens I am using.

    Thanks for the replies

    Richard
     
  5. outwest

    outwest Subscriber

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    Some years ago one of the photography magazines tested enlarging lenses. They tested the EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 (a plasmat) and a whole slew of f/3.5, f/4 (but not the Nikkor), and f/4.5 lenses (Tessars) including Schneider, Rodenstock, and Leitz. At f/5.6 the Nikkor resolved 80 and 65 (center and edge) line pairs/mm whereas the best of the others at f/5.6 was 50 and 40 (the Leitz - most were 45 and 35 or 40.) Test the two f/2.8s against each other and keep the best one if there is a difference. You will have the best 50mm you can get and then you can forget about the lens and work on the other big problems - the parallel alignment between the neg carrier, lens board, and easel and the flatness of your neg. An easy way to get a flat neg is to take a glass (preferably the anti-Newton one) out of a Gepe slide mount and glue it to the top half of your neg holder.
     
  6. RichardH

    RichardH Member

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    Hey outwest
    I am going to do some testing today and see if there is any difference that I can see.
    I have a 6x9 glass negative carrier and I have masked the top glass. I am going to test that also with one that is glassless.
    I'll post what I find with my eyes looking at each print.

    Thanks
    Richard
     
  7. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    I've used old versions of both f/4 and f/2.8 El-Nikkors. The F/4 version is better than many of the other brand f/3.5 or f/4 three or four element lenses, but the f/2.8 version is better yet. Wide open it provides quick and precise focusing. Stopped down to f/4 it performs well from corner to corner. It might be at its best at f/5.6. When stopped down below f/8, the effects of diffraction become visible on the sharpness of grain. The effect in the center of the image when stopping down can conveniently be seen with a strong focusing aid. Some focusing aids permit this even at the corners of the image.

    Decades ago I did a quick, but critical, test of about 35 camera and enlarging lenses. Four were better than any others: an El-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8, a Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5, a Leitz Elmar 50mm f/2.8, and a GN-Nikkor 45mm f/2.8. Other 50mm lenses from Nikon and Leica lagged slightly behind those four. The Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 of 1967 was one of the sharpest in the center of the field, but much less so near the edges.
     
  8. RichardH

    RichardH Member

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    Hey Jim
    Could you actually see the difference on the print or was it from the focusing aid? I have 3 focusing aids and I will check this also today.
    I also have a couple of Rodenstock 50mm's and I want to check them also. I am not sure if my old eyes will be able to tell a big difference though.
    All I am doing is making sure I have the best image I can get and box up the ones I don't want to use.
    This will be a fun test to do just for my knowledge and information.
    I have never done a lens test and it will be interesting to find out some questions that are in my mind.

    I have questioned in my mind also how accurate the focusing aids are. Of the three I have, they seem to focus a bit different from one to the other. From the distance from the mirror to the view finder is what bothers me on this.
    When they are made, I often wonder how accurate they are in relation to what is actually printed. The distance between the mirror and the base is what will make the difference. I am not sure I can relate what I am thinking but between the three, there is a small difference in adjusting for sharpness. Maybe I don't have a good enough focusing aid???

    I am not very critical on what I print but I would like to know if there needs to be an improvement in the quality.

    I have a hard time explaining what I am thinking but I hope you understand what I am looking for.

    I have downsized from 4x5 and med. format to 35mm and with that small of negative, I need to know if everthing is in order as far a image quality goes.

    Thanks
    Richard
     
  9. semi-ambivalent

    semi-ambivalent Subscriber

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    Richard,

    I have used the 'opposing mirrors' method (search APUG, it's here) to align my Beseler 23CII. Having never used any fancy alignment tools I can't speak to the job they do but if you factor in the cost the homemade mirror tester is wonderful and should be tried first. I bought a 12" x 12" mirror tile from the local hardware bigbox and I had a glass cutter already. The glass in the tile was cheap so the reflected images had a green cast (iron in the glass I think) but it worked well and helped. A lot. I also bought a glass negative carrier (no $regrets, and 'four surface dust' has not been an issue), but the trick of using the glass out of a slide mount is something I wish I had thought of. I have a box of Agfa mounts somewhere...

    Good luck, the results are worth the effort.

    s-a
     
  10. RichardH

    RichardH Member

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    Hey s-a
    I have a slide negative carrier and maybe I will do something with that.
    If you find the glass neg. holders, keep me in mind. I would be glad to buy one from you. :D :whistling:


    I spent the day ( between a nap ) working on the enlarger adjusting it for level and correctness.
    It wasn't that far off for being square with the baseboard. I did use the glass carrier and tried one without. What a difference!!!!!!!! I couldn't tell any buckling but I know the neg. wasn't flat when I tried the glassless one.
    I think I could have printed it at 2.8 and it would be sharp with the glass carrier..

    Thanks
    Richard
     
  11. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Richard -- While a slight loss in grain edge sharpness is noticable in many focusing aids in the center of the image when stopping an El-Nikkor from f/5.6 to f/8, it isn't conspicuous in prints.

    There often is a difference between the focus plane in focusing aids. Perhaps some aids are designed to be used on the bare easel while others are intended to be used on a piece of paper the thickness of the photo paper. The difference is inperceptible to many of us. Sloppy manufacturing and user maladjustment can also cause errors.

    The purpose of aligning enlargers is to make the image on the easel as sharp as possible from corner to corner. Several methods of checking this alignment use indirect and artifical ways of achieving this. It doesn't matter if the film, lens board, and easel are perfectly parallel as long as the image is sharp from corner to corner! To check this in a condenser enlarger, I lightly abrade one surface of a piece of clear film with both coarse and fine sandpaper. With the lens aperture wide open, all corners of the image should simultaneously become sharp as you focus. If so, enarger alighment is O.K. If not, some enlargers have adjustments to correct the problem. Also, the negative carrier can be shimmed with tape to fine tune the alignment. When all four corners of the image are sharp, the alignment is good and the center should also be sharp. If the center is unsharp, it may be due to film buckling. Your glass carrier will solve this problem. Some cheap lenses do not form a perfectly flat image. In this case, stopping down may let them be used.
     
  12. Steve Roberts

    Steve Roberts Member

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    I have both the f2.8 and f4 Nikkors and apart from the fact that the f2.8 is clearly brighter for focussing, I'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between them at the kind of enlargements I do (up to 11" x 14"). I only ever use a glass neg carrier for 2 1/4" square by necessity and find it a right pain. All those extra surfaces to collect dust and the occasional print that shows Newton's rings (despite the glass manufacturer's insistence that this is "anti-Newton's ring glass") leave me doing my utmost to avoid complicating matters even more by using glass for 35mm printing!
    Steve
     
  13. RichardH

    RichardH Member

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    Hey Steve
    I made some test with the different lenses and couldn't tell anything different with my enlarger. I have been playing with the glass carriers and I did find that without glass my edges were fuzzy from the center sharp with out glass. This was wide open on the lens though. I am going to stay with the glass for the time being. I did see some dust spots but that is normal for my setup anyway. I haven't come across the rings yet but will deal with that when and if it happens.

    Thanks for your info.

    Richard
     
  14. Steve Roberts

    Steve Roberts Member

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    Hi Richard,

    Unfortunately, on the occasions that the rings appear I don't usually notice them until the otherwise perfect prints (yeah! - right!) are dry. They don't show up very much in darkroom light and when the prints are wet. I normally aim to print at about f8 and any small amount of curvature on a 35mm neg isn't a problem (though the subject matter often is!)

    Cheers,

    Steve
     
  15. RichardH

    RichardH Member

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    Thanks Jim and Steve for the info.
    Now that everything is plumb and square and flat, it's time to make the perfect print. :laugh: I print both B+W and color with the color head. I am going to try the C-41 B+W film that I have never tried or used. All the jars and storage bottles are taking over my darkroom. Seems I can't move without bumping into a bottle on the floor. So, I want to downsize my storage space and just keep a few chemicals for processing. I don't have much room in the darkroom ( converted spare bathroom ) and it has gotten so tight with space, I can't move for the bottles in the way.
    In the 80's, I had a pro color lab and had plenty of room. Roller transport, Durst roll paper printers, 1 enlarger. Seperate color and B+W darkrooms.
    Tray processing color is a totally new experience now.
    I bought a bunch of Pentax Spotmatics' and am having fun going through them also. I like manual cameras and have all ways liked being the one to blame if it didn't turn out right. The new cameras have taken the fun out of shooting. Auto this and auto that.
    I tried digital recently and didn't like it at all.


    Enough rambling. Thanks for the info sent.


    Richard
     
  16. Richard Jepsen

    Richard Jepsen Member

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    Last year I bought used metal El-Nikkor F/4 lenses to replace community DR crap 3 element and some F/3.5 optics. I found the F/4 had better contrast than older (somewhat dirty) Leitz F/4.5 optics. In my judgement (no testing data) the Nikkor F/4 performs as well at F/8 as the faster El Nikkor. If enlarging past 8X all bets are off since the F/2.8 is multicoated and 6 elements. The F/2.8 should be better to the corners on a wider range of apertures. The bottom line is the El Nikkor (Tesser) F/4 is a very good lens if used in it's sweet spot.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 24, 2012
  17. Smudger

    Smudger Member

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    I used the ,almost universally derided ,F/4 Nikkor 50 for years,before I traded up to the 50/2.8,then the 63/2.8.
    I have grain-sharp,corner to corner enlargements from all of these lenses.Rumor has it the 63/3.5 was the pick of the litter.
    It is a tradeoff between sample variation,and alignment IMHO.And the 2.8F lenses are all great at 4-5.6,and increasingly poor at F8 & below.