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  1. #1

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    Comparison results of enlarging lenses

    I decided to compare two very different enlarging lenses with the same negative. Lens 1 is the 80mm f.4 Rodenstock Rodagon - APO; about a six year old lens. Lens 2 is the 135mm f. 5.6 El-Nikkor (with the silver knurled aperture ring), my guess is its about 20 years old. I bought it on e-bay for $65.00

    The negative is a 6x7cm APX100 portrait of a man, taken outside in filtered sunlight. The paper is Agfa Classic Multicontrast. The enlarger is a Fujimoto 450 VC (diffusion, variable contrast head). Ilford Universal developer. Both lenses are stopped down during printing 2-3 stops. The print size was equal; 9 x 11 inches. Of course, enlarger was raised higher with the 135mm lens. The exposure times were probably within 20 percent of each other, about 20 secs.

    The results: These prints were indistiguishable to me. I refer to image clarity, sharpness, contrast, gradation, tonality, and every other fancy word you can think of. I am not a scientist or a very technical darkroom dude. I don't do tables and graphs and densitometers. I've only been printing steadily for about 35 years.

    It took me a couple of hours to do this, and frankly I'm not sure what lesson I've learned. But at least it helps me sleep a bit better knowing that my normal enlarging lens (the Rodenstock) is just fine for the job. Any thoughts??

  2. #2
    rbarker's Avatar
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    I'm not familiar enough with either lens to comment about their construction or optical qualities. But, it sounds like your test didn't make either lens work very hard. Sort of like asking two sprinters to compete by putting on their shoes.

    You might get the lenses to breath a little harder by doing comparisons of 5x and 10x enlargements of a small area of the negative.
    [COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]

    Ralph Barker
    Rio Rancho, NM

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarker
    I'm not familiar enough with either lens to comment about their construction or optical qualities. But, it sounds like your test didn't make either lens work very hard. Sort of like asking two sprinters to compete by putting on their shoes.

    You might get the lenses to breath a little harder by doing comparisons of 5x and 10x enlargements of a small area of the negative.
    Whilst I agree to an extent, what people use them for is all that matters. A 5-10x enlargement of a small section might represent a huge print. I would suggest a 20x16 print, which is likely to be the very upper limit off 6x7, but personally, I would rarely stray much past the size mentioned for the test. A 10x enlargement off the whole neg is a whopping 70 cm print! To me, this test confirms what most people (who know) know, that as you say, most lenses are not stretched in the darkroom by 99% of photographers and therefore perform very well indeed.

  4. #4

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    I don't think you have a fair comparison here.

    The 80mm lens is designed to cover medium format, and the 135 is for 4x5. So try this test, enlarge a 4x5 neg with the 135mm, and then enlarge the same neg with the 80 mm. I suspect you'll see a big difference in the prints then, regardless of the print size...

  5. #5

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    Clarification of my original post

    This was NOT meant to be any sort of a definitive test of these enlarging lenses. This was ONLY meant to be a test of these lenses in the way that I customarily work. I do not ever enlarge larger than 9 x 11 or 9 x 9. I do not enlarge small portions of the negative and make them very large. I do not shoot 4 x 5. I was simply curious what I would find when I printed the same negative with two different length, era, and possibly quality lenses, in the way that I customarily print.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Keyes
    I don't think you have a fair comparison here.

    The 80mm lens is designed to cover medium format, and the 135 is for 4x5. So try this test, enlarge a 4x5 neg with the 135mm, and then enlarge the same neg with the 80 mm. I suspect you'll see a big difference in the prints then, regardless of the print size...
    That's not a fair test. How can you expect the 80mm. lens, designed to cover a negatve of no more than 6x7 cm. at best, to cover a 4x5 in. negative without severe problems out towards the edges?

  7. #7

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    Gary, I've done a similar comparision (Schneider 80/4, Fujinon 90/5.6 and no-name Astron 75/3.5) I paid a lot of money for the Schneider, I got the Fuji with a couple of enlargers and the Astron with another enlarger. I did a similar real world test and needed a loupe to split the Schneider and Fujinon (I rated the Fujinon slightly better with the 8x loupe but use the Schneider as it's nicer to use in practice). What was surprising was the dunger Astron wasn't near as bad as I'd thought and took close inspection (by eye) to pick differences.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Keyes
    I don't think you have a fair comparison here.

    The 80mm lens is designed to cover medium format, and the 135 is for 4x5. So try this test, enlarge a 4x5 neg with the 135mm, and then enlarge the same neg with the 80 mm. I suspect you'll see a big difference in the prints then, regardless of the print size...
    Kirk: I don't understand why one would do that. That's like saying:

    "Take a Ferrari and use it for off-roading. Then take a Range Rover and race in the Indy 500."

    Two totally different tasks, using tools that are suited for one specific tasks.

    My philosophy was always to use, if possible, one focal length longer than the design. In other words, for 35mm negs, I would use a 75mm or 80mm lens, for medium format, a 135mm, and for 4x5 a 150mm. That way, I knew the coverage was enough to eliminate any fall-off, i.e, I wasn't pushing the limits. This required some other adjustments in my workflow (height of enlarger head, etc.,) but it worked for me. I used the same principle in my 4x5 shooting. I considered a 150mm a "normal" lens, rather than the theoretical normal of 135mm. Even at 150mm, I often wished I had a 210 or so, and a 135 for slightly wide. My 90mm was so much wider than the 150, I needed something in between. When I start shooting with the 4x5 again, I'll plug the gap. BTW, all my enlarging and LF glass Fujinon. 35mm is Zuiko.

    As Gary and Tom implied, it's what works in practice, not in some paper-based specs, that is important.

    Earl
    Honey, I promise no more searching eBay for cameras.

  9. #9

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    Enlarging lenses are designed to work best within certain magnification ranges. 8x10 is 8x from each lens, but 8x is ok for the Rodenstock 80, but 135`s are usually designed for less.

    Therefore you will most likely run out of design limitation on the 135 first even if you don`t run out of column height.

    I love using a 135 or 150 for small prints from 35mm . The bigger the print , the shorter the lens I use.

    I bought an old Wallensak, and it worked fine as a enlarging or close focus taking lens, but would not even come close to focus at 10 feet. The image would go from very fuzzy to fuzzy, to very fuzzy never hitting a sharp point as the camera was focused .

    Old enlarging lenses are really not that bad. I have a 80 Rodagon from the 60`s that was hardly used and it is a very fine lens compared to any of the Leica or Schneider lenses I have. We bought it new then, but the Hassy was sold and the lens sat without use. The key is condition.

  10. #10
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    Enlarging lens test

    I did a similiar comparsion a few years back when I shot 6x6cm exclusively(i've since moved to 4x5 and beyond). I compared a new(at the time 1991)80mm rodagon against the 75mm enlarging ektar that came with my enlarger. prints were 10x13" using the same neg etc,etc. To my unaided eye there just wasn't any descernable difference. These were about 5x enlargements so they hardly streched the limits of the lens. If I were doing color I think it would be a different story especially when comparing an APO to regular lens. In B&W at modest enlargements say up to 5 or 6x I don't think one will find much difference between good quality enlarging lenses. I'll be the first to agree however if you are making a 16x20 from a 35mm negative you 'd better have the best lens money can buy.
    No escaping it!
    I must step on fallen leaves
    to take this path

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