I will just say three things.
The book I linked to was written by Ctein. Ctein is not only a photographer he has a physics degree from Cal Tech. His partner for the enlarger lens section of the book is a photographer with an Ivy League physics degree. There are opinions and then there are opinions. There are books and then there are books. I couldn't do my day job unless I relied on opinions and books. As with any serious endeavor in life you have to be able to evaluate sources. You can't just lump in all opinions and books into one category. I personally have never seen such an extensive evaluation of enlarger lenses from other sources and I have never seen anyone reputable debunk their findings. And if there was an opposing opinion I certainly would want to read it. I have no loyalties or biases. I go where the findings take me.
I agree with the method of trying it out and seeing if it meets your standards. The problem is if you are working from a position of total ignorance as I have on many occasions there is no way to know whether something really does satisfy you unless you have something to compare it to. As I said I scanned my negatives for a long time and only when I actually compared my workflow to the gold standard darkroom workflow did I realize there was an issue. If years ago someone said you can spend $30 extra dollars and get a definitive answer on day one I would have taken the option. I am trying to save people some pain.
I must emphasize that the only reason this conversation is even happening is you can get one of the best enlarging lenses for 35mm film for $40 or less in mint condition. I approach photography the way I approach the rest of my life. Once the sum of money that is being discussed gets so small I just pay my money and expend my energy worrying about more complicated issues. The converse is also true. Once the sum of money gets so large there is no way I am going to part with that amount I just keep it in my pocket and use whatever "inferior" device I currently own. Everyone has their cut offs. I personally never got involved in the APO wars because a single used APO lens costs more than my entire darkroom setup with two enlargers and two lenses... Well the Zonemaster II broke the budget... but other than that late addition. LOL.
The problem with tests (such as Ctein's) is they don't have any bearing in creating an expressive print. While they may give you a measured standard of sharpness (or any other lens attribute), it's entirely possible that a "lesser" lens will give you a better print. If, for example, you shoot Holga/Diana, a softer, less contrasty lens may enhance the look you're after. Chris (the OP) has posted work using Holgas, and Brownies, so the lens may be a good match for his purposes, with those cameras.
State of the art has it's place but, the truth is, most of us don't have the skills to fully utilize the equipment to it's fullest. To dismiss a piece of equipment because there is better available disregards this fact.
Noble mentioned that you'd want to go back and reprint old negatives, once you have a better lens. I disagree. I occasionally revisit old negatives, but it's not because I have better equipment. I revisit because I'm a better printer than I was the first time I worked with certain negatives.
Originally Posted by Noble
This seems to be a topic you are fairly passionate about, so just to put your curiosity to rest... I have an El Nikkor 2.8 coming with a 67S Dichro enlarger that I'm purchasing. I'll plan on testing the f/4 against the f/2.8, and advise my findings.
I bought this group of three specifically for the 90mm and the 75mm because I mostly do 6x6 and I was familiar with the El Omegar.
But again, the point if my original post was to inquire about the 90mm Wollensak's performance, as I am not familiar with them.
Originally Posted by eddie
Nice observation, and entirely correct.
Chris- I once had a Wollensak enlarging lens. It was probably close to 40 years ago, so my memory of it may be a bit hazy. If memory serves, however, I found it to be a little less contrasty than my "good" lenses. I gave it away, but wish I hadn't. Since rediscovering my plastic cameras, a few years ago, I'd like to see how it would work with those negatives.
I'm not really "passionate" about this topic. It's simply a matter of logic. Your camera lens and your enlarger lens are your two most important pieces of equipment. They will leave their mark on every image you take and print. Having said that on the 35mm end the no nonsense new mint leave-no-doubt-in-my-mind lens costs $40 typically... and can be had for $5 rarely. So the question is why even think about it? If you want to see "passionate" start a thread asking whether APO lenses are "worth it." Bring an asbestos suit though!
Originally Posted by ChristopherCoy
The lens I was referring to is the El Nikkor 50mm 2.8 N. That is the latest model I'm aware of... I stopped looking after I got mine. There is an older non "N" version.
In addition to lens design other things such as fungus, dust, and haze (from dark room vapor etching) can degrade lenses with time. That's another reason I went for a late model lens. Although even the N version has been around for quite some time.
As they say, opinions are like arse holes, everyone has one and every one else's stinks.
Originally Posted by jnanian
There's a difference between an 'opinion' and an actual test comparison in controlled conditions. Such comparisons are very useful and are really all we've got aside from our own personal experience. If find comparisons, rather than objective tests (even with their graphs, facts and figures), to be far more useful however there will always be an element of sample variation to factor into any findings.
Thanks, I started that thread. And yesterday, after posting here and then turning off the computer, I finally 'bodgied' up a way to 'test' (as a taking lens, not as an enlarging lens) the PRO Raptar that I mentioned. I'm very happy with it. Yes, that's just an opinion.
Originally Posted by Ian C
someone else's comparisons, their studies in controlled conditions &c &c don't really matter because in the end
Originally Posted by jjphoto
it is the person who makes the photograph and who uses the lens that makes the decisions what lens to use.
just like it is their decision to use a vintage uncoated lens or lo-fi camera when so much "better" equipment is out there.
it is just like iso/asa ...
in controlled lab conditions with a specific developer &c iso is determined ..
one never has those exact conditions in "real life" that is why one should do his/her own tests
to determine what iso/asa sHe needs to expose his/her film ...
all the lab experiments and controlled tests in the world won't tell me much, other than in xyz conditions this is what abc lens ( or film or paper &c ) will perform like ...
I use a 165mm Wolly Enlarging Raptar on my 5x7 enlarger. If I enlarge a portion of a negative with it to the same size as with my 150m Apo Nikkor, I have found no one who can see a difference.
I have a 90mm f/4.5 Wollensak, complete with fine scratches on the front element. I did a side-by-side comparison test, the Wollensak versus an 80mm f/5.6 Componon. I printed the same negative, in a glass carrier, with lith film used to mask the rebate, and I adjusted the enlarger height to get the same size image for both prints.
Originally Posted by eddie
AFAIR, the Wollensak had slightly lower contrast, and seemed to be about the same as the Componon in terms of resolution. The degree of enlargement was low, a 2-1/4 x 2-1/4 negative enlarged to about 7-1/2 x 7-1/2 inches, so it may not have been a fair test. I'll try and remember to have a look at the test prints tonight.