Which 135mm and 300mm Enlarging Lenses For BIG Prints?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Old-N-Feeble, Jan 30, 2013.

  1. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Member

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    I'm thinking of getting back into the B&W wet process printing but I only want to do very large prints at least 56x84 and 56x112 inches. I'll be shooting 6x12cm and 8x10" film. I'm not "currently" seeking any advice other than choice of enlarging lenses. I've done the calculations and lenses of "normal" focal length will provide the image sizes I seek, in the space I have, with a little room to spare. I want the highest center-to-corner resolution possible without going bankrupt... film grain be damned. From what I've been reading the latest/best Apo lenses are the optimal choice. However, I'm not a wealthy man... just a spoiled brat.

    8x10in: If I'm processing the information I'm finding correctly the best bang-for-buck option in the 300mm range might be an old 305mm Apo Nikkor process lens. Please remember, I'm never going to make small or medium-sized prints... only very large ones. So these lenses need to perform very well at high magnification. I don't think the f/9 maximum aperture is going to bother me. Opinions??

    6x12cm: I have an all-metal 135mm El Nikkor and a brand new Fujinon EX (still sealed in the factory cellophane). My reading is leading me to believe the Fujinon EX "may" perform slightly better at high magnification. I'd consider an Apo Nikkor for this format too but the shortest one I've seen is 180mm and that "might" limit my print size to just under my target of at least 112 inches wide. However, with the little bit of play I have with may calculations the 180mm "might" just do the trick. Opinions??
     
  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I have neither facts or opinions. I just wanted to say, that sounds like FUN! I'd love to print THAT big!
     
  3. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Member

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    Yes, it will be fun, I'm sure... and quite frustrating at times too, I'm sure.:smile:
     
  4. Katie

    Katie Subscriber

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    Whatcha printing? :smile:

    Don't know many that have printed that large, but I have a 135 that I've used (EL nikkor) and it was great... I used it to print a strip of 35mm onto 11x14 strips - like large contact prints.
     
  5. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Member

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    I'm not printing anything... yet. I will be soon but strictly B&W.:smile:

    I like your idea of making giant "contact prints". That would make a great display.
     
  6. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    A friend of my who once had the biggest pro lab in this area (now retired) swore by the Apo Nikkors for
    mural sized work. I routinely use the 305 and 360 for 8x10 film, though I never print quite as big as you
    are planning. These are wonderful lenses for both b&w and color work. If I need more speed I use the ordinary 360 EL Nikkor (a much bigger lens, needing a special mount).
     
  7. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    8.5x enlargement is kind of borderline. The 'usual' 300mm lenses like the Rodagon 300mm are recommended for 2x to 8x and the high-magnification Rodagon-G 300mm is recommended for 8x to 30x enlargements. In my experience, a 300mm process lens would be best for low magnification like 1x to 2x.
     
  8. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Member

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    I didn't realize the Rodagon-G was rated for such high magnification. I'll have a look at them.
     
  9. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Rodagon-G, or maybe a process lens like Apo-Ronar. At such high magnifications you're kind of out of the realm of enlarger lenses and more into objective lenses so you may well be better off getting something designed as an objective lens (Apo-Symmar?) as it will be better corrected for those magnifications.
     
  10. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Member

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    I researched using Fujinon-C lenses as enlarging lenses for oversize prints but found nothing. Maybe I should have done the same search with Artar and Ronar. I searched for the Fujinon-C because I already have those.

    I priced a handful of Rodagon-G lenses and those are selling for more than I really want to spend. I'll shell out the cash if I must but surely there are cheaper alternatives that perform nearly as well. I am picky and spoiled rotten... I do want excellent quality. But if prints from a $200 lens are nearly indistinguishable from those from a $800 lens I'll buy the cheaper one.

    I hadn't thought of an Apo Symmar or similar. Maybe a 300mm Apo Sironar or Computar would do the job? If one of the latter two are viable solutions that would be optimal because I'm looking for a 300mm lens for 8x10 with excessive coverage.
     
  11. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    They would be excellent solutions. You'd be pretty much in their design sweet-spot, probably moreso than for a classic enlarger lens.

    I wouldn't want to not have a normal enlarger lens available for doing smaller test prints though.
     
  12. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Member

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    I won't be making small prints. Any images I make not worthy of going big won't be printed at all. That'll be most of them. Heck, I may never make a print...

    I've been looking for an affordable 305 Computar or 300 Apo Sironar so, essentially, my enlarging lens will cost nothing. The great thing about this is it appeals to both my greedy brat little boy inside and the practical adult cheapskate I also am. I love it when things work out.

    I just realized... my enlarging lens for 6x12cm will be free too. My 4x5 kit has a 135mm Apo Symmar.

    Anyone in the market for a very nice non-N all-black 135mm El Nikkor or brand new 135mm Fujinon EX?
     
  13. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    You're kidding yourself if you think you're going to be doing dodge+burn setup/experiments at 56"; it's madness. You'd setup a print at 8x10" or 16x20" or whatever and run through a handful of different dodge/burn schemes to find a tonal balance that you like and THEN scale the print up to final size using a spot of arithmetic and then a bunch of testing because your paper reciprocity failure will be noticeable. Most people seem to typically produce 3 to 5 work prints for a complex final print and the cost of those at your final size is immense, not to mention the time and unwieldiness of processing 5 sheets at that epic size.

    Have you even handled a piece of paper as large as you're proposing? You're probably going to need a crane (wooden bar with clips on a couple of strings) to transport sheets gently from roll to enlarger to developer without inducing crinkles. 16x20 is difficult enough by hand.
     
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  15. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Member

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    Nope... no manual dodging/burning. Ain't gonna happen. I'm too lazy and have lost my agility anyway. And I ain't quite THAT crazy. I'll be making dodging masks on an inkjet printer to sandwich with the negs. The film will be on the print side of the glass and the mask on the light-source side. I probably won't do split contrast for two reasons: 1. I don't like the hue shift, 2. They don't tone evenly. If I can find high quality graded paper in 56" wide rolls I'll use that. I won't be using full-size sheets of paper for testing. I'll be selecting important areas (highlights, mid-tones, shadows, main subject) to test with small pieces of paper torn off of a full sheet and processing those together. These smaller bits will be laid out like a jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing. After I determine what needs to be done at the extremes I can interpolate fairly well what needs to be done in the other areas. It's true that I may waist a few sheets even after I create the initial mask but once the final mask is done each subsequent print will be pretty close... not that I'll ever need to make more than one print of anything because that insinuates selling some work... probably won't happen.

    I've printed 16x20 but nothing larger. I'm aware of the handling challenges. I can learn from the best who've done it for years and can emulate their workflows. I may need to hired a buddy to help... paid in beer and BS-talk. My inclination though is to build one large tray on a pivot for draining and with pumps to facilitate quick filling and emptying and with built-in washing capability. If I develop for five minutes and use a water rinse before the stop bath I think this will be a relatively easy and viable solution. Regarding filling the tray; It may be better to pour the solution in from a bucket.

    ADDED: Getting the exposed paper to the tray will be fairly easy... just roll it up, lay it at one end and unroll it. If I use a one-tray method that eliminates wet handling of prints until it comes time to dry. I'm assuming I won't have chemical contamination issues. Perhaps I'll need to add a second tray for toning and a third for a final wash. I don't know yet. I'll be using roll paper cut a bit too long so any damage I do to the ends will be trimmed off. Now that I give it more thought I'm thinking of making a long thin clamp that tightens evenly across one end of the paper so I can use it like a hanger.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 31, 2013
  16. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    You might find Clyde Butcher's work interesting. http://clydebutcher.com/technical-info.cfm
    I had the opportunity to visit his darkroom a couple of years ago and found it quite amazing. His website doesn't list what lenses etc. he uses, but I do recall reading that info somewhere.
    Cheers, and good luck.
    Tom
     
  17. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Member

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    Oh yeah... I do like Butcher's work.:smile:
     
  18. EdSawyer

    EdSawyer Member

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    Apo El-nikkors will be the best choice, for these prints, however the cost and availability make them nearly impossible to find/afford.

    -Ed
     
  19. darkroom_rookie

    darkroom_rookie Member

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  20. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    There's no real advantage to an Apo-El in this case over a regular Apo Nikkor other than one stop of speed. Besides, the last 300 for 8x10 I recall ever being sold went for something like ten grand. 305
    regular apos go for a tenth of that. The Rodagon G is the only conventional enlarging lens made for
    mural-sized magnification with medium format film. There are numerous ways to make dodging/burning masks to register to the original. You can simply use frosted mylar and smudged pencil, or more neatly, layer up dilute red creocin dye, just like it was done for decades. Generally way
    faster to do it the old way than scanning and Fauxtoshopping.
     
  21. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Member

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    I just sent them funds via PayPal. Even if it doesn't do what I need (I'm SURE it will though) I can always get my money back.

    THANK YOU for the heads-up!!
     
  22. darkroom_rookie

    darkroom_rookie Member

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    You're welcome. Hope you got the G lens, that will do the trick. I have a 105 G and a 210 G, and had a 150 G which I sadly had to let go. All are fantastic for murals. Post some pics of paper processing adventures when you get to that step, that's where the real fun is - tie with cutting big sheets from rolls.
     
  23. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Member

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    Yes, the 300 Rodagon-G looks just about perfect. Hopefully, I bought it before someone else did. Now... I need (I mean "want") a 150-G.:D
     
  24. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Member

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    Can someone correct me if I'm wrong with my calculations?

    The calculation I'm using to determine necessary lens focal length to achieve a minimum of 112 inches print length is Lp=Dp/Fl * Lf, where Lp is "Length of print", Dp is "Distance from film to print", Fl is lens Focal length and Lf is Length of the film. I have at least 4270mm distance from film plane to easel... a tiny bit more really.

    Here's how I calculated for 56x112mm film...

    Lp = 4270mm/135mm * 112mm
    Lp = 3543mm or 139 inches

    And for 8x10" film...

    Lp = 4270mm/300mm * 244mm
    Lp = 3473mm or 137 inches

    I realize this formula isn't absolutely precise but it's close enough, right? That extra 20 inches print length is a bit of built-in fudge-factor or, better yet, ability to crop a bit if necessary.
     
  25. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Wow. That is a good price on a 300G. But since this is going to be used with 8x10 film and is engineered for 20x magnification, that's a sixteen-foot wide print. I don't know what the low end of
    the G is per recommended magnification ratio. Would be easy to find out, but is probably suitable for your use, much more so than any taking lens if that focal length. But you'll need some elbow room!
     
  26. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Member

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