Whats the skinny on old US enlarger lenses?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by John Kasaian, Nov 16, 2007.

  1. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    I've always regarded Schnieder Companon and El Nikon to be the gold standard, but since getting into LF I've become curious about the offerings of Kodak, Ilex and Wollensak. How to the late models of these manufacturers stand up when compared to Schnieder Companons for B&W work?
     
  2. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Member

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    I can only remark on one, an Ektanon 105 I just got. I've done a few prints with it and remain unimpressed - when comparing it with those "gold standards" you mention. More careful comparisons are necessary before I declare it a waste of money, but for now, in every format other than 6x9, I think I'll stick with the Companons.
     
  3. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    I have a Wollensak Raptor 135. It's way better than the "Schneideritus"-challenged Componon that is part of my biggest bad ebay deal to date.
    I just got an El-Nikkor 135 and for casual comparisons the Wollensak is fine. I've not made a really critical comparison between the two though.

    In prior discussions in here it's been pointed out that a lot depends on how big you are printing.
    In my case, for 4x5 enlarged to 8x10 the Wollensack and Nikkor are barely distingushable, if at all, in the printing I've done so far with the Nikkor.

    Anybody want a nice Schneider "portrait" lens?:sad:
     
  4. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    162mm Wollys are cheap and plentiful, and I would think they'd have a bigger sweet spot than a high quality 135 or 150, but (assuming theres enough column to make equal sized prints) would the performance of the longer wolly be an advantage or would the overall quality be a disadvantage? Perhaps the later ones might challenge the 'golden ones' for performance---or would they?

    I have a 135mm Omegaron (OK, so its not the latest Rodenstock product) on the D-II and I'd like to try something longer someday. A 150 Companon or Nikor would be spiffy but the 162 Wolly has me thinking...I wonder if I'd have to get a longer lens cone to use one?

    I do have an Ilex Copy Paragon on my 8x10 enlarger---absolutely stunning but it is short (229mm) for 8x10 work, I've been thinking of reserving it for
    5x7s. Sometimes I think of replacing it with a 300 or 360 Companon (a wee bit too expensive for me) but perhaps I can find a Ilex/Wolly/Kodak equivalent of the copy paragon.

    Is anyone else using old stuff? Any more opinions? Any funky LF enlarging lens 'sleepers?' Maybe a dagor series IV??
     
  5. JLP

    JLP Subscriber

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    Have a 7.5" Ektanon in the drawer that i need to compare to a 210 El Nikkor with a little bit of haze and a coming 210 Rodagon. Need a Lapla for my 138S so i can mount it.


    jan
     
  6. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    Do you find it to be an advantage using a 210mm lens for 4x5 enlarging over a 150mm or 135mm?
     
  7. Captain_joe6

    Captain_joe6 Member

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    I started with a Wollensak 50mm f/4.5 and, and it produced some very nice prints at 5x7, but when I moved to 8x10, things just fell apart. When I upgraded to a Nikon 50mm f/2.8, it was like night and day. My 5x7's were were as sharp as I could ever hope for, my 8x10s were very nice, and the few 11x14's I've made have been quite agreeable as well.
     
  8. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    The DeJur 135mm lens on my 50-year-old DeJur enlarger seems about as good as the 135mm EL-Nikkor that replaced it. Perhaps there is a difference above 11x14 prints, but I haven't tried that.
     
  9. JLP

    JLP Subscriber

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    John, I use a 135mm Componon S for 4x5 not the 210 The 210 only for 5x7 When i find a lens board for the 7.5" Ektanon i will try it on 5x7


    jan
     
  10. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    Try an ektar. I have a 4.5/75 that is every bit as good as my 80/5.6 Componon. I paid $5 for the Ektar.
     
  11. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    I think the "main" problem with vintage enlarging lenses are the abuse they have received over the years. Scratched coatings can degrade sharpness, and almost all lenses develop internal haze, which can be cleaned out with disassembly, but you gotta do that first before trying comparison. Enlarging lenses are not in the whole "cutting edge optical technology".
     
  12. analogfotog

    analogfotog Member

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    Wollensak 3-1/2 inch lens

    I have a 3-1/2 inch (90mm) Wollensak lens on my (venerable!) Omega B-22XL enlarger. It is crosshatched with small, fine scratches in the coating, probably due to overly aggressive cleaning by one of its previous owners. Yet it delivers fine prints, at least up to 8x8-inches, from my 2-1/4 negs. It seems to be tad "flatter" than the 105mm Componon I have on my D-6, but there are so many variables to consider when comparing lenses, that there is no way to be certain.

    Since I have no way of mounting the Wollensak on my D-6, nor the Componon on my B-22XL, printing the same negative on the two enlargers is more of a system test, but it would serve to provide a partial comparison of the two lenses. Frankly, I've never bothered, and enlargements from both negatives are sharp to the corners. If using the Wollensak requires a half-grade or a full grade more filtration, does it really matter that much?

    Unless you are more interested in spending your darkroom time making tests, which in many cases are a dead-end proposition, leading to no useful information at all, just print with the lens at hand, and scope the results. In my case, I bought the Componon, and the Wollensak was a gift. I wouldn't have payed big bucks for it, but I was raised to not look a gift horse in the mouth (or a gift lens in the barrel...).

    Some thirty years ago, I was a student at a large university, which offered a program of studies, leading to a bachelor's degree in one of the various photo disciplines. I had a part time job at the school, working in the department which issued equipment, including access to the darkrooms, to the students. The lens and carrier kits for the B&W darkrooms has three lenses in them, usually a 50mm, a 75- or 80mm and a 135- or 150mm lens, plus three negative carriers.

    In some of the kits, the 50mm was replaced with a 2-inch Kodak Ektar, and some had the 75- or 80mm lenses replaced with a 3-inch Kodak Ektar. I do wish I had a dollar for every time one of the students, "in the know," sniffed at the Ektars and demanded one of the Componon lenses. Kodak made some of the finest lenses in the world under the Ektar brand name, the Commercial Ektars for large format as one example. I own, and still use, a single-coated 8-inch Ektar, mounted in a Supermatic shutter. This lens was manufactured in 1951, and I used it to make 4x5-inch colour transparencies, from which I cropped and made 11x14 dye transfer prints!

    So don't let anybody jazz you; just because the "in" crowd doesn't use a lens, just because a lens was manufactured in the USA, that isn't the photo kiss of death. These people who promote such codswallop display their appalling lack of knowledge in not only photography and optics, but of history as well!

    Here endeth the rant...
     
  13. MarkS

    MarkS Member

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    John, my experience was that the Wollensak enlarging lenses are not very good. We replaced them with El-Nikkors at work c.1987 and the improvement was easily visible. When I set up my own darkroom I bought EL-Nikkors and have never regretted it. The Kodak Ektars seem to have a good reputation; the people I know who have direct experience of them say that they have lower contrast than a "modern" lens. Of course Kodak didn't make them in what is now the standard 39mm mount. With the prices of enlarging lenses nosediving these days, I wouldn't waste any time or paper on a Wollensak, and that's coming from a Rochester-lens aficionado.