View Full Version : Shorter enlarging lenses for macro - are there any "sleepers"

Anupam Basu
08-10-2006, 10:26 PM
I have been using an el-Nikkor 50/2.8 lately and I am delighted with the lens - a huge step up from the generic lens that came with my enlarger. It's great on the enlarger but truly sings when reversed on my F3 for 3x life size magnifications. And this gem cost me all of $20!

So, I am wondering if there are any shorter enlarging lenses out there that are of similar high quality and go for cheap (I assume that very few people are using the odd smaller than 35mm film formats). I would love to put them to use for some even higher magnifications.


PS: Even though I don't plan to use this lens for enlarging, I hope it's okay to post this question on this forum.

Anupam Basu
08-11-2006, 01:06 AM
A little searching on EBay brought up this Schneider 28/4 lens (http://cgi.ebay.com/Schneider-Kreuznach-Componon-1-4-28-lens_W0QQitemZ180013430198QQihZ008QQcategoryZ29986 QQssPageNameZWD1VQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem). Any comments on its quality would be appreciated. Does anyone know the front filter thread size of this lens? (Since I am looking to reverse mount it)


df cardwell
08-11-2006, 07:48 AM
On the one hand, we all want to spend as little as possible. On the other, we all pull our hair when we ought to be getting results we want. In normal picture taking, this isn't an issue ... but you you're approaching a threshold.

What do you want to accomplish with a shorter lens ?

( OK.... I mean a whole lot with this question: I was a trained photomacroscopist in another life )

Depending on your intentions, the 28 Componon will do fine, or be a miserable failure.

There is a good availability of REAL macro lenses ( Nikkor, Olympus, Canon, Leitz, Zeiss... older B&L ) that are generally cheap ( so, maybe not the Zeiss ) and wonderful.

When we get down to 28, focus accuracy is SO important we're beginning to exceeed the performance of a 35mm camera and bellows ... even the Nikon. But for some work you can use it just fine. So.... as my mother-in-law once asked me, "What are your Intentions ?".

Chan Tran
08-11-2006, 07:55 AM
I have a nikon pb-6 using it on the f3 with several enlarging lenses. I have lenses from 135mm down to 35mm. I found the longer focal length lenses are more useful. With even the 50mm, I found that I have to get too close to the subject. Also my 35mm lens was designed for 126 negative and thus there is minor light vignetting at the corners. I think the 28mm would cause even more vignetting.

Claire Senft
08-11-2006, 10:37 AM
I have no experience in this technique: Kodak used to advise people to get movie camera lenses for macro work.

df cardwell
08-11-2006, 11:05 AM
Reversed cine lenses are fine for some things, and the revesed Componon will be fine for some things. But using such short lenses give you both short working distances AND high magnifications.

In this realm, a plain focus screen ( which is essential for 1x - 3x work ) stops discriminating between the focussed world and entropy. You need a clear glass with a reticle AND and 6x finder so you can see the reticle clearly.

Unless you just want to fool around, and that's fine too.

But just as a 28mm changes magnification with the smallest movement,
it magnifies camera motion, focus error and all those little nightmare issues, as well.

As a result, enlarging the film to gain greater magnification becomes more effective than using a higher magnification.

08-11-2006, 12:02 PM
Russian Vega 11U 50mm/2,8. Often US$5-$10 in newish condition. 5 elements, and really mean.

Anupam Basu
08-11-2006, 12:37 PM
Thanks for the responses so far.

First off, even though I am still learning the ropes of macro photography, I mostly know what I am doing and the diffficulties involved.

So, to address some of the concerns expressed:

1> DF, I am already using the 6x finder with the M screen and using arial focussing.

2> I am aware of stability, focussing and working distance issues. I am focussing using a rail and I use tubes instead of bellows because I find it easier in the field.

3> Claire, I have a couple of cine lenses and use them reversed. I have gone upto 10x with them.

4> Chan, longer lenses aren't necessarily better at above life size because you would need enormous extension to gain magnification. I have the standard barrage of 35mm lenses from a 24mm to a 180mm that I use for most macro work around life size but I can't find an easy way to use a 100mm-ish lens at 5x. And with a reversed lens the working distance is always around the film-to-flange distance so I don't think a longer lens is going to gain me much.

So, even though I could use the 12.5mm cine lens to get 10x, I am hoping that a flat field 28mm would give me very sharp results just like the el-Nikkor. I know that it will be diffraction limited to about 5x life size (after which effective aperture will go beyond f22) and that working distance will be less than 2 inches. Given all these clarifications, I would appreciate any advice/opinions on this lens.

Many thanks,

df cardwell
08-11-2006, 03:20 PM
Sounds like you've found most of the traps. The 28 Componon came ( I think ) in two versions. Mine is black with the painted aperture mark ( the Schneider 'disc' ). It's filter size is larger than 40.5, smaller than 46. best I could do.

It is the same design as the 50 Componon, which is - for all intents and purposes identical to your El Nikkor - and is designed for a range of 2x to 20 x. it was intended to project an 18x24 field. Mine is optimal for enlarging at f/6.3, which I suspect is typical.

It should be fine. Small advantages in definition could be gained by a 'real macro lens', but the overall demands of field photography usually buffer lab performance. And since the 28 Componon should be just about free, it should turn out to be a real bargain.

By all means start hunting around the dark corners of Madison for FAX-Nikkors, 'printing nikkors', and so on. You might even turn up a a de-accessioned Microphot/Aristophot etc.

Your work is quite fine: good luck !


Anupam Basu
08-11-2006, 04:15 PM
Sounds like you've found most of the traps. The 28 Componon came ( I think ) in two versions. Mine is black with the painted aperture mark ( the Schneider 'disc' ). It's filter size is larger than 40.5, smaller than 46. best I could do.


Thanks for the reply. B&H photo lists this lens (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=46342&is=REG&addedTroughType=categoryNavigation) but it seems to be a different make from the one you have because the filter size is 30.5. Do you know about this version?

By all means start hunting around the dark corners of Madison for FAX-Nikkors, 'printing nikkors', and so on. You might even turn up a a de-accessioned Microphot/Aristophot etc.

The problem with a small university town like Madison is that there aren't that many dark corners left:(. I have checked out the few camera shops but they are happy to serve the coolpix crowd - I guess they need to survive.

If you have any tips about rummaging for such exotica I'd love to know. I suspect that the way some academic departments misuse grant money, they might be throwing away some great stuff but don't know where I might find these. Just the other day a gentleman bragged on photo.net how in his lab everyone laughed at a $4000 Nikkor and trashed it because they had just upgraded to Zeiss glass! Now, I am at the university of Wisconsin and would be willing to do a fair bit of rummaging through these trash cans since the NSF doesn't fund my hobby :) but I just don't know where to look.

Also, I hadn't heard of FAX-Nikkors before and although I knew about 'printing', macro and ultra-micro ones I can find little organized information on them apart from scattered mentions on the web. There is of course this quaint site (http://homepage2.nifty.com/akiyanroom/redbook-e/) with haikus and odes written to these lenses. But if you know of any books or other resources for such stuff, I'd appreciate the information.

Many thanks for the help,

Claire Senft
08-11-2006, 06:09 PM
Anyone who lacks the guts to keep on using a camera because others make fun of it is rather weak kneed I beleive.

I have a brother-in-law who is an MD..now retired. In the late 70's he bought a brand new Lincoln Continental. White with maroon upolsterly, it was a gorgeous car..just stunningly beautiful. When I saw him 3 months later the Lincoln had been replaced by a Mercedes. I asked him why he had rid himself of the Lincoln. He answered because the other doctors laughed at it.


df cardwell
08-11-2006, 06:35 PM
:cool: Ah, RED BOOK NIKKOR !

The home of lens envy, a bizarre but strangely moving website.

And who am I to cast stones ?

Anyway, look out for auctions, sales, scrap parts- rummage sales. About all you can do. And ANY deaprtment is likely to have neat stuff gathering dust. Classics profs often collect ancient coins: a prof of mine had a full Nikon Multiphot in his office !

Any place that uses optical gadgets for some purpose... or did.. is a possibility.

The guy on photo.net sounds too bizarre for words. The Department Chairman is usually entitled to evicerate anybody who would do such a thing... if true, I hope the perpetrator is removed from the gene pool.

Nikon is a good example ( Zeiss and Leitz being others ), renowned for photo gear, but whose real expertise is in the Scientific area. Taking pictures of scenery is laughably easy compared to doing scientific imaging. When you are balancing diffraction, motion, and depth of field to make the image --- and controlling the results by adjusting the wavetength of light -- THAT'S technical photography.

Anyhow, for sane field photography, almost any well made special lens will suffice. I've never believed that Zeiss, for instance, makes special optics that are kept secret. The best gear that is made is made to be sold. But sometimes we can pick up something that will suffice... it is bizarre to think that a super rare objective might turn up for the takingm, but these are funny times.

By all means, don't become afflicted by lens obsession.... but keep your eyes open as you walk the halls of your building ;)

For more information about thses old objectives, Red Book & 1001 Nikon are good places.... as well as local leica / zeiss / nikon reps ( for the scientific market ).

Best of luck


Anupam Basu
08-11-2006, 07:29 PM
For more information about thses old objectives, Red Book & 1001 Nikon are good places....

What's 1001 Nikon?


df cardwell
08-11-2006, 09:47 PM
Sorry--- incoherent !


ESPECIALLY: http://www.nikon.co.jp/main/eng/portfolio/about/history/nikkor/n25_e.htm


David H. Bebbington
08-12-2006, 12:46 AM
I found a set of Tominon macro lenses on e-bay a year or so ago for 50 - these were 135, 105, 50, 35 and 17 mm and have a fine 40 mm thread that fits right into a #1 shutter. They were made for use with the Polaroid MP3 and MP4 cameras. Can't say how they compare with macro lenses from Leica or Zeiss, etc., but can't complain about the price!

08-12-2006, 01:20 AM
My recommendation past 5x would be - YES - a microscope objective! Olympus S-Planar objectives are quite nice. As are the Leitz (Wild-Heerbrugg) and Nikon designs. Screw the shutter though. Why would you need it? Any ambient light shots could easily be dealt with by a lenscap - (you're probably looking at 10 plus seconds even in sunlight) or if you're using a strobe - well - I don't need to tell you.

David H. Bebbington
08-12-2006, 01:44 AM
... Screw the shutter though. Why would you need it? ...
For one thing, it saves shoe leather, and it's good for people with short arms! It's a long way from the front to the back of a view camera when you're doing macro!



08-12-2006, 05:48 AM
True enough. Though I'm usually only behind when composing.