Try another enlarging lens?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by images39, Dec 28, 2005.

  1. images39

    images39 Member

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    I've been printing with an EL Nikkor 50mm 2.8 lens, and have been happy with it, but have been wondering if another lens would give a different "look." There are a couple of Rodenstock lenses in the local shop for reasonable prices, and I've been tempted to try one, but was wondering if there would be any real difference in terms of sharpness, contrast or otherwise. Can anyone more experienced offer insight?

    Thanks,
    Dale
     
  2. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    I've heard many say how this lens or that lens is better or worse than the next.

    I've got an El Rodagon 50 mm f/3.5 for which I paid $10 plus shipping. At f/8, it'll print Tri-X grain cleanly over the full expanse of an 8x10 -- corner of the frame, grain is just as crisp and sharp as the center. I don't see how any lens could be significantly better than that, unless it was on MUCH larger prints. And my printing times are nice and comfy, in the range of 25-45 seconds at f/8 with each of my two filters (split filter printing) when printing to 8x10, so I don't see much to be gained by opening the lens wider (which is where the difference, if any, in optical quality would be most apparent).

    OTOH, if you can get a Rodenstock for a good price, why not? If nothing else, you'll have a spare in case you drop your El Nikkor...
     
  3. Mongo

    Mongo Member

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    Given the dirt cheap prices for enlarging lenses these days, it won't hurt you to buy another. Just don't fall into the trap of buying one of everything...the low prices add up if you buy enough low priced items. The EL-Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 is a darned good lens, but it never hurts to have a backup.
     
  4. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    So true. I think if you're serious about printing with consistency, it's better to have a backup in case something happens. And sometimes it's cheaper to get a replacement rather than fxing the one that's broken.

    Auctions are almost like bargain sales right now, and that seems to have affected the average price setting in the camera stores greatly. So, you can go to either one and do some digging.
     
  5. Daniel Lawton

    Daniel Lawton Member

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    I haven't come across any substantial proof that shows any of the Nikkors, Rodenstocks or Schneiders as being head and shoulders above the other so I think you would be hard pressed to find any improvement in image quality by switching brands. Nikon is a top-notch lens manufacturer so if you're happy with yours why mess with sucess?
     
  6. fotod69

    fotod69 Member

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    Hi Dale,
    I've printed for over 27 years with Rodenstock enlarging lenses trying others and I believe the Apo Rodagons are incredible. The Rodagons are fine as well. Others printer who have used Rodenstocks have had similar comments. What I like about the Apo lens is that they perform at their optimum at 1-2 stops down from wide open. I print Cibachromes with masking at that allows me to keep exposure times more reasonable. Good luck.
    Dennis
     
  7. Tach

    Tach Member

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    Don't discard some other less well-known lenses. I have an El-Nikkor 50 f/2.8, a Minolta CE 50mm 2.8 and a Fujinon EP 50mm, and I'm hard pressed to find differences between them, even at 12x16 prints.
     
  8. images39

    images39 Member

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    Thanks for the info, everyone. It sounds like they are both quality lenses, but I was mainly wondering if they make prints with a different "look," like how different camera lenses might do. And the advice on having a backup lens makes perfect sense to me.

    Dale
     
  9. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    FWIW, I've managed to collect five 50mm enlarging lenses in a fairly short period of time: a Nikon el Nikkor f/2.8, a Nikon el Nikkor f/4, a Durst Neotaron f/2.8, a Vega-11U f/2.8, and an Industar-96U f/3.5. (These last two are Russian lenses; I was curious about them, and they were dirt cheap on eBay, even shipped from Russia. Actually, I've got three of the Industars; if anybody's curious, I'd be willing to part with one or both of my spares.) I've done some side-by-side tests of these. I raised my enlarger's head to the top of its column, projecting an image that was probably roughly 12x18, although I didn't measure it. I then made 3.5x5 enlargements from the center and one corner, using a negative I'd shot of a test scene that included text of varying sizes in both the center and one corner. I focused using a grain focuser and green light. (I've got a Philips PCS130/150 enlarger with an RGB additive color head.) I evaluated sharpness by judging how legible the text was in the final enlargement. I grant this isn't a scientifically rigorous test, but it was as rigorous as I cared to do.

    My conclusion is that my lenses fall in three categories of quality. The el Nikkor f/2.8 is head and shoulders above the others in edge sharpness but not significantly better than the second group in the center. The second group is the Neotaron f/2.8, Vega-11U f/2.8, and Industar-96U f/3.5, all of which are sharp in the center but not quite as sharp in the periphery. In different tests, the ordering within this group has differed, so I'm not sure that there's really a significant difference between these lenses. Dead last is the el Nikkor f/4, which is slightly blurrier than the others in the center, but about the same as the second group in the periphery.

    Oddly enough, the sharpness under the grain focuser wasn't a perfect indicator of sharpness in the enlargements. Under my grain focuser, the el Nikkor f/2.8 and Vega-11U are dead even and well ahead of the others, followed by the Industar-96U, closely followed by the Neotaron, with the el Nikkor f/4 trailing badly. In fact, the el Nikkor f/4 was so blurry under the grain focuser that it was difficult to focus; it's possible it suffered a bit in the print results because of this problem. At 8x10 print sizes, these differences are pretty subtle, although the differences between prints made with the two el Nikkors are pretty apparent.

    I did tests at both f/5.6 and f/8. All the lenses were sharper at f/8 than at f/5.6, but the difference was greater the further down the list you go (least for the el Nikkor f/2.8, greatest for the el Nikkor f/4). I also noticed some differences in effective brightness. The Vega-11U required shorter exposures than the others, the Industar-96U required longer exposures, and the remaining lenses were pretty consistent between themselves. I don't know if this is just sloppy Russian quality control with respect to aperture markings or if there are differences in how much light the glass lets through.

    I also used a light meter to check light falloff from the center to the corner. This varied greatly depending on the aperture. At f/5.6 to f/8, the Industar-96U did the best, with only about a 1/3 stop falloff; most of the others (including the el Nikkor f/2.8) had about a 1/2 stop falloff. At smaller apertures, the el Nikkor f/4 did best, with almost no falloff. At wider apertures, the Neotaron was best, with about 2/3 to one stop falloff (vs. 1-1.5 stop falloff for the others).

    One big caveat is that most of my lenses (all but the Vega-11U) are used, and none have been checked for correct assembly, etc. It's possible that one or more lenses is in bad enough shape that a better sample would perform better. Going the other way, if you buy one used it could be in bad enough shape that it won't perform as well as my sample.

    As to lens "character," I can't really say, aside from my earlier comment about effective lens brightness and center/edge falloff.

    Given the sharpness issues, I'm now using the el Nikkor f/2.8 as my normal enlarging lens. If it ever starts giving me problems, I'll pull out one of the others from the second group. I don't intend to buy more 50mm enlarging lenses, but as they're getting as cheap as popcorn on eBay, it might be hard to resist adding another to my collection. I've seen people wax poetic about Fuji EX and Rodagon lenses. :wink:
     
  10. Daniel Lawton

    Daniel Lawton Member

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    FWIW I have both the f2.8 and f/4 El-Nikkors and am hard pressed to see a difference in sharpness when both lenses are used 2 stops down from maximum aperture. I use the 2.8 because its brighter and easier to focus. The thing with buying used is you never know what happened to it before you aquired it. I buy used because the price is too hard to pass up but for all you know the thing saw service in a community darkroom and was dropped on concrete once a week. Even new lenses of the same make and model can vary in quality. I've heard of people buying Rodenstocks and continually returning them until they got a "good one."
     
  11. 127

    127 Member

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    Somewhere in the articles section I posted a test of my three lenses: a Nikon, Schneider and a Minolta.

    The results show that the lens DOES make a difference, you CAN'T rely on brand names, and if you're buying used, the individual lens' history probably matters more than it's brand or design...

    The conclusion was that at least in terms of sharpness and contrast MY Minolta totally blew away MY Nikon, while MY Schneider was to old and nasty to be worth using for anything.

    Give it a go if the price is right...

    Ian
     
  12. Mongo

    Mongo Member

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    Ian-

    There's a lot of information pointing to variations in the same lens actually being greater than variations between brands of lenses. I read your article (extremely well written and presented, by the way) but I wasn't surprised by the results. Any company that makes a good lens can make a great lens...it's the deviation between samples that tends to throw many of us off.

    As a case in point, there are about six Nikkor 50mm lenses (camera, not enlarger) in my family. My 50mm f/2 blows the others away. Is the design that much better than the deisgns of the other lenses? Probably not. I probably just got a good sample of that one particular lens (and may have bad samples of other lenses at my disposal).

    Your comment that you cannot rely on brand names is absolutely true. Even if you purchase a very high end lens...one in which every sample was QC'd before it left the factory...all you know is that the lens was good when it was QC'd. Who knows how the people packaging the lens treated it, or the loading dock crew, the shipping company, the retailer, and (probably most importantly) the previous owner. One good knock can turn a good lens into a bad lens...but at least we can test what we get and find out if it'll work for us.

    Thanks for reminding us about your article. It's a great read for anyone considering upgrading a lens.

    Be well.
    Dave
     
  13. Randy Stewart

    Randy Stewart Member

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    The idea of a different "look" is pretty subjective, implying lens aberasions when used for taking lenses. In terms of sharpness and contrast, the best Rodenstock lenses are not likely to provide a noticable improvement over your El Nikkor 50mm 2.8. With the exception of the 50mm 4.0 and 75mm 4.0, Nikon has never built "2nd string" enlarging lenses intented to market at lower prices to a less demanding user. Rodenstock and Schneider have marketed 2 tiers of such lenses over the years, so if you are looking at Rodenstock enlarging lenses, you really have to know exectly what model you are buying to avoid a lens which will be a disappointment compared to what you have now. If you want an exceptional lens for 35mm enlarging, and you can stand the lower magnification of the longer focal length, consider the El Nikkor 63mm 2.8N
     
  14. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Yes, the 63mm Nikkor is just a wonderful lens, though its plastic part is not. It gives a slightly different touch to the image compared to the 50mm.

    If you really want a different lens to try, go for a 50mm Fujinon. It's the opposite of the Nikkor lens type in terms of the contrast, the texture, and the resolution. The Fujinon gives more solid black and brings up more details without much grain.

    To me the choice is between these two types. When the picture is shot well to normal, the Nikkor does the excellent job. If the shot is poor, I use the Fujinon to match the quality.