Which enlarger lens for 35mm monochrome?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Mervyn, Nov 29, 2007.

  1. Mervyn

    Mervyn Member

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    A longtime ago - back in the 1950s - I used a very basic enlarger and a Wray Supar 11 lens. They were the best I could then afford! The results were moderate.

    I have kept intending to take up monochrome processing and enlarging again, and now retired, I hope to do so quite soon. Over the years, I have acquired two Focomat 1cs, both with the Focotar (original) lenses. So far as I know, they are both ok, but until I come to use them, I will not know!

    I know that the Focotars have a very good reputation with some particularly attractive attributes. However, with a maximum aperture of f4.5, I think an f2.8 lens (6 element) would probably be an advantage in focussing terms for my "old" eyes. Such a lens might also be better for larger prints?

    The question is, which one? I suspect that I might get an answer that any of the 6 element lenses from the major manufacturers will do a good job - eg Nikon, Rodenstock, Schneider, but it would be helpful to have views on particular lenses, and I am sure other members will be able to oblige. I gather that the Minolta CEs also have a good reputation, and the Vivitar VHEs (that are probably Schneider anyway).

    I do not intend to do colour work.

    My thanks in anticipation.

    Mervyn
     
  2. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    your correct, a nikon or schneider especially the high end versions will do the job. on the other hand i have an apo rodenstock 2.8 that was made for color , but i use for black and white all the time. These are much cheaper these days then years ago w hen they were very expensive.
     
  3. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Mervyn, I had the pleasure many years ago of using a friend's Focomat with pretty good results, compared to what I had myself.

    I borrowed a Schneider Componon S 2.8 50mm lens and noted that there was a reasonable difference in contrast and perceived clarity, that I liked compared to the lens attached to the Focomat. Also it was IIRC a faster lens, so it could have been the same as what you have.

    Eventually I upgraded to a Schneider Componon S 2.8 which I found to be excellent for two particular reasons.

    Firstly it's reputation (at the time) for apparent sharpness wasn't just apparent, it was quite real. That was the best point.

    The second best point is the lever which allows you to work at a single click stopped, full or half aperture. At any point in time, you just grab the lever and swing it around and you have full aperture for composing or focusing etcetera. Then you simply swing the lever back and you will be at the exact f stop from where you started.

    If you are really fine tuning your aperture stops and find you wish to go somewhere inbetween any of the click stops you simply switch to seemless, adjust the aperture ring exactly where you wish and you're away. The lever in this mode comes into it's own here as you can simply swing it back for a full aperture to once again compose or whatever, then you simply just swing the lever back and you are exactly where you were before.

    I have found as my eyes become increasingly bad in low light, that I have great difficulty in seeing the f stop, even though it is backlit. I count the clicks to the aperture I wish for and leave it there. With this lever, I don't have to count (or miscount) the f stops for printing.

    When I bought my Componon S 2.8 it was reasonably expensive and reasonably good. It is still good but I now know it isn't as good as an Apo enlarging lens. I have no desire to change as none of the Apo enlarging lenses I have seen, have the lever attached like the Componon S range of Schneider enlarging lenses.

    Mick.
     
  4. titrisol

    titrisol Member

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    Given your choices i think there is not a bad lens in your list.

    Nikon 50mm EL, Schneider Componon, and the Fuji 50mm lenses I can vouch for.
     
  5. davetravis

    davetravis Member

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    Mervyn,
    Welcome to Apug!
    For 35mm b&w you can get some really good deals on the bay. I used a nikkor 50mm 2.8 and was very pleased.
    Later on I got the schneider componon and only saw a small difference in sharpness when i tried to print 16x20, which was a mistake anyway from 35mm!
    Up to 11x14 I saw no practicle difference. Get the one you can afford.
    DT
     
  6. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    I assume you are using a grain focuser and not just your eyes. In that respect, I don't think that the maximum aperture will make much difference. For the acutal printing in B&W, you will stop the lens down also.

    I have a Schneider Apo-Componon lens (? 45 mm) for 35 mm film. It seems like a very good lens but it is hard to imagine that a Leica lens is a real slouch.

    In any case, you could buy a used Rodenstock/Schneider/Nikkor lens on Ebay for $20 and do a comparison.
     
  7. patrickjames

    patrickjames Member

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    A few years back I tested a few lenses (Nikon, Rodenstock, Schneider) and came to a few conclusions that might help you out. The Nikkor had the most micro contrast but tonality was harsher than the other two. The Schneider had beautiful smooth tones and the grain wasn't nearly as pronounced as the Nikon. The Rodenstock lens fell in between the other two and it was the best all around I feel.

    Good luck and have fun!

    Patrick
     
  8. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Patrick's assessment corresponds pretty well with my own experience of these lenses.

    50mm Apo-Rodagons and Apo-Componons are going for a fraction of their former price (typically around $200 used, last I noticed), so if you're looking for a really excellent lens, there isn't much reason not to go for one of the best apo lenses right now (the legendary APO-EL Nikkors, however, are still very expensive rarities). I have 50 and 90 mm Apo-Rodagons and a 150mm Apo-Componon, and I like the Schneider best of the three, but there is probably more sample variation than variation in quality across brands at that level.
     
  9. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    I agree with all of the former statements and would just like to add that I have some experience with Kodak Ektar enlarging lenses. The 4.5/75 Ektar I have is every bit as good as my 4/80 Componon. Stay away from the Componars as they are vastly inferior to the Componons. I saw a 4.5/50 Ektar go on ebay for $10. I think I paid about the same amount for my 4.5/75 Ektar.
     
  10. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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  11. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    I have an original Focotar 5cm f/4.5 that came with a Valoy. The lens gives a good look to prints and is fully usable at f/4.5 but mine is old and somewhat foggy. I was given a rather old El Nikkor 50/2.8 that I used for several years but realized it was past its prime when I bought a new grain focuser. I then found a "like new" Rodenstock Rodagon 50/2.8 for a very reasonable price. A truly excellent lens with no readily discernible faults. But those old Focotar's might be just fine. Combined with with the Leitz Focomat light source, they can produce some formidable prints.
     
  12. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I'll add that I've read, from several sources, that sample-to-sample variability in enlarger lenses of any given quality level (for instance, any of the 6-element lenses being discussed here) is greater than the model-to-model variability. This can make it very hard to pick the "best" lens, particularly if you're looking for overall performance rather than specific features or characteristics. If you're buying used, add to this the variability induced by the use or abuse of any given lens and it becomes impossible to make blanket statements about the quality of particular lenses. Therefore, if you're buying used I suggest you buy from a trusted source or look for a bargain, but be prepared to buy a second lens if the first one doesn't work out. Given the price of used lenses on eBay today, you can buy several for less than the price of a single new lens.
     
  13. Harrigan

    Harrigan Member

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    After printing with practically every lens you can think of in labs I prefer to use a Computar or a Fujinon EX enlarger lens for bw or color. The Computar is a pretty sophisticated design (6 element double gauss I think as I was told by the lens designer?) and the Fuji is 6 element air spaced (not sure on specifics). Personally at home I have a Computar 50mm and Fujinon EX 105mm for 35mm and medium format respectively. I have used the apo schneider and apo rodenctocks and they are also nice. Since these good optics are so cheap now I would pass over all the other options. If you do chance onto the scarce Computar make sure to look it over well as the rear elements tend to separate due to what I suspect was a manufacturing defect.
     
  14. Mervyn

    Mervyn Member

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    I am very grateful for the helpful and very informative advice provided by members.

    Mervyn
     
  15. Fred Aspen

    Fred Aspen Member

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    I want to thank Patrick and David for the 'character' assessment of the different enlarger lens manufacturers.

    I have come to a similar conclusion about the respective qualities of each mfr. and have encountered the sample to sample variance mentioned.

    I have been picking up a few great lenses for 'nickels' from the auction site. I do get quite a few mediocre to bad ones for the occasional winner but at these prices one can definitely afford to shop until a gem is found. The dogs go into the trash bin!

    I prefer the character of an old Beseler HD lens which is a knock off of the Rodagon 2.8. I agree that the 2.8 Nikkor tends to be a bit harsh.

    One of these days I will have to put a few back on the auction block!

    Fred