With prints in those sizes which you mentioned the differnce will be so slight. Not really a bother I would say. I have only really had a problem making large prints where the image circle is near the end. There I had to burn in the edges with a harder grade. Not only were the edges lighter but also softer, lacking in contrast.
I have the same enlarger you do (LPL 4550XLG) and use my Rodenstock 150 F4 APO-N for everything up to 20x24 non-cropped. For a cropped 20x24 I use my 135 Rodagon. I find the 150 to be a good bit better in overall image quality and a ton brighter, more than a stop actually.
If I were using a 150mm 5.6 I might be less likely to be biased to a 150 over a 135 for most things. I do use the focus extension when cranking up the height.
Using a shorter FL lens to make 8x10's means the lamphouse is closer to the paper which means the exposure times are shorter, maybe too short for effective dodging and burning. I would look at a longer FL (180-190mm) and raise the lamphouse. You would also be using more of the center of the lens which will have less distortion and more even light projection.
The 150 Apo Rodagon N does have more illumination falloff than the ordinary 180 Rodagon, but less than the 135. All are excellent lenses,
but the Apo Rodagons do have an ability to render a crispness to microtonality and fine detail that certainly justifies their extra expense,
if you're lucky enough to find one.
Drew, have you compared that 150 Apo Rodagon to the non-Apo, newer-design El Nikkor 150? The newer one is the one with the aperture ring that does not have the heavy knurled design. I only have direct comparison to the older and newer non-Apo Rodagons and to the older El Nikkor.
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I have several El Nikkors, though not a 150. They are nice lenses too, but I wouldn't place them in the same league as the Apo Rodagons.
My sharpest, best corrected enlarging lenses are actually Apo Nikkors, which are f/9 process lenses, so not as fast as general enlarging lenses,
but certainly optically superior. If you want speed in that league, you'd have to acquire one of the extremely expensive Apo EL Nikkors, which
are in fact rather big and heavy and might actually deflect the mount on many typical enlargers, and are really overkill for typical applications.
I just can't see spending ten times as much for just an extra f-stop of printing speed. Normally I use the 150 Apo Rodagon for 6x7 or 6x9
film - even wide open the center part of the field is going to perform superbly with this size of film, and just a stop down, do exceptionally
well with 4x5 film, though with a bit higher contrast than a conventional enlarging lens. But I've also got a 105 Apo-Rodagon, which does a
superb job up to 6x9 (with a tad of corner burning necessary for minor illumination falloff), or as a superb 35mm option. I also have a fast 75mm f/4 ordinary El Nikkor which is a cheap lousy lens for MF, certainly compared to the better-corrected 5.6 version, but actually does very
fine work with 35mm. It cost next to nothing.
I illustrate my wife's occasional articles for several specialty magazines. After struggling many years dealing with the small objects she wanted photographed (on 4x5 transparency film), I jumped on B&H's bargain-priced final batch of discontinued, new 120mm AM Nikkor macro lenses. It was a great purchase; the first and only article with images from transparencies made by that lens looked outstanding. Then, Murphy's law controlling everything, her publishers began demanding digital files, since they could/would no longer scan film. I was faced with the choice of buying a scanner or digital camera. The easy way out was a Canon G9, which has served this purpose -- and only this purpose -- ever since.
Rather than sell the 120mm Nikkor, I wondered whether it might be a better performer than my 150mm El-Nikkor for making small enlargements (whole plate - 8x10) from 4x5 negatives. I ordered one of these
and, without needing to perform any further adaptation, placed the lens/shutter combination in one of my LPL 39mm-threaded lens boards. Results were extraordinary! I've never used an Apo-El-Nikkor, but can't imagine it being any sharper or more even than this 120mm Macro for small-magnification enlarging, especially since the macro is symmetrical (computed for 1:1 - 1:2 or thereabout) and the "common" 210mm Apo-El is optimized for 5X. I've never seen a 170mm Apo El Nikkor, which was optimized for 2X, advertised for sale. Even if one could find an affordable 170mm Apo El, it strains my imagination to think it might be any better than the (also 8-element) 120mm AM Nikkor for making 8x10s from 4x5. Another benefit of the 120, at least for me, is that it's optimized for f/16 - f/22. That's a huge advantage, permitting reasonably long exposures despite my LPL's very bright illumination, which would result in uncomfortably short times if used at either Apo-El's f/5.6 optimum.
B&H sold out those new 120mm AM Nikkors at $399. They frequently turn up used today. Sellers who bought before the clearance ask crazy prices, while those who understand what B&H did to the market typically list them at or near $400. I'd strongly suggest looking for one, buying the Schneider adapter and trying out this combination. You will not be disappointed, certainly up through 8x10 prints. I've not yet made 11x14s with the 120, but, when I get a permanent darkroom set up (someday!), will perform that comparison with my newest-design 150mm El Nikkor.
Interesting stuff Sal, I have the Nikkor 120 and love it for macro. I doubt I would use it as an enlarging lens though as the 150 Apo is just outstanding..
Unless you have your bellows cranked up near the nominal focal length of the lens for massive enlargements, the image circle of the typical six-element lens far exceeds the format.
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
There are numerous ways to control stray light bouncing around inside the bellows, including masking off everything in the carrier other than the
negative itself. Some enlargers are much better than others in this respect, as are some darkroom conditions once the light exits the lens.
My problem has sometimes been that some of my lenses have just too much contrast and resolution, exceeding the information on the film and
transmitting every little nuance of the carrier glass itself. Too much of a good thing. A lot has to do with the specific nature of the film in relation to glass types, attached silver masks, incidence angle of the light, etc etc. That why I keep on hand a variety of enlarging lenses.
I even have one deliberately off old clunker of a graphics lens just for large format portrait work, when I want a bit softer resolution. Many
lenses can be had for almost nothing. Several of my Apo Nikkors came free, and are optically the best lenses I now own.