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  1. #1
    chuck94022's Avatar
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    Vivitar-LU enlarger lens opinion please

    For 35mm enlarging, I've always used an old lens that I think came from my grandfather's enlarger. It was free so I've just used it.

    It is (according to the lens) a Vivitar-LU 1:3.5, 50mm lens.

    I am interested in the general opinion of this lens. Mine is in good shape, but I'm wondering where it stacks up on the quality scale in terms of performance. Since I'd like to get the best results I can from my 35mm work, is it worth investing in a "better" lens? If so, what would you recommend as a great 35mm enlarging lens, if this Vivitar isn't one?

    My goal is to keep my skill as the weak link in my image production, rather than my equipment...

  2. #2

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    The only way to know is to test it. Vivitar had all of their lens made by different manufactures, some products were very good while others were poor. I have a very good 150 vivitar that I bought at a yard sale for $15.00, it is as good my Schneider 135 componon. If it is made in the US it may be a Wollensak. I doubt that it will be as good as an El Nikkor or other high end lens.

    Paul

  3. #3
    raucousimages's Avatar
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    several manufactures built lenses for vivitar including rodenstock, the only one I had was trash but others seem to be very good. You need to test your lens against a top grade lens.
    DIGITAL IS FOR THOSE AFRAID OF THE DARK.

  4. #4

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    Chuck,
    The earlier Vivitar lenses that were packaged with their enlargers were "entry level" equipment. Probably 3 element. They did have at one time a "premium" series made by Schneider. It depends where you are in your development(pun intended) whether the quality difference is visible. Generally the better lenses are sharper & more contrasty.

  5. #5
    chuck94022's Avatar
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    What about the Nikon EL-Nikkor 1:2.8 50mm?

    (I know, test and see. I'm working on getting the Nikon to test, but am curious about the group's experience with these lenses. When I have them both I'll do some side-by-side comparisons and post my findings.)

  6. #6

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    I love my EL-Nikkor 50mm 2.8, it's a sharp lens.

    My first enlarging lens was an Omega-branded lens. It was f3.5, not too shabby construction.

    Stopped down to 5.6 it was close to my Nikkor lens at regular enlargements of 5x7 and 8x10.. The Nikkor lens just /felt/ sharper. Prints from back then look about the same except that I am a much better printer now.

    Can't go wrong with the Nikkor if you get it for a good price. I paid about $80 for mine 7 years ago I think? It was mint, LNIB. I still have the Omega lens, just never use it.

  7. #7

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    If you really want to test look for a set of test negatives. 35mm to MF are available as they are used to calibrate mimilabs. 4x5 may more difficult to find. I have a very old set that I use to keep my Omega in alinement and to check the focus of my lens. I have tested my lens for distortion and overall sharpness. Although I need to read the test prints by eye using a ruler I think you can get a very good ball park idea of one lens compars to another. Older Kodak and Wollensaks can very good performers, as are most new lens such as Nikkor, Schneider, Fuji ect. I would not test for the extream, just for your working conditions.

    Paul

  8. #8

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    Strangely enough I got a Vivitar-LU 50mm f/3.5 lens in the mail yesterday. I was suprised how sturdy the little thing felt, also suprised how smooth and how many aperture blades it had. The lens I've been using to enlarge up to now, is a decent pentax K mount 50mm f/1.7 and it has served me well, quite sharp but it is something I'd like on my camera more than my enlarger...

    I will try to do some type of comparison between my not-so-great-not-made-for-enlarging 50mm f/1.7 and the vivitar-LU I just recieved over the next few days. All I've done to this point is mount it in the lens board and focus a negative with a grain focuser, no prints yet..... But it does seem quite sharp even at this stage, I was suprised what it seems to be, and for only $15 I guess I cant go wrong!

    Also, I could do a comparison between a Nikkor enlarging lens but I dont own one and would have to use another darkroom, not my own, so that could happen sometime early next week... I am just as interested as you are in its quality, I will post my results here (granted, the lenses on my camera arent the grandest, but I am sure we can learn SOMETHING !)

    I tried searching for info on the net about this lens, if you found anything you probably found a bit of info about the actual lens I own, its serial appeared on some websites... serial #23054 but ah! thanks to apug now i know someone else has this lens! and maybe people in the future will be able to learn some stuff from this thread.
    "Where is beauty? Where I must will with my whole Will; where I will love and perish, that an image may not remain merely an image."

  9. #9
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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    As others have said Vivitar is basically a design house they then source their products from various manufacturers, keeping a very tight control on quality for their higher end products, like their Series 1 lenses. Their early roots were in the design of optical equipment for NASA. From memory one of their first consumer products was a superb 500mm Mirror lens.

    I have a 150mm Vivitar enlarger lens, it was extremely sharp and the optics were of Schnieder origin, set in an ABS barrel unique at the time, most if not all Schnieder enlarger lenese are now ABS. The lens retired due to heavy use in adverse conditions after about 15 years.

    Vivitar enlargers were not that common in the UK and I can't vouch for the lenses they supplied with them, the only separate Vivitar enlarger lenses I ever saw marketed here were all superb optically. which was why I bought one, it was much later I found out it was actually Schnieder Opticts.

    Ian

  10. #10

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    RE: Quality enlarging lenses

    Since so many people are going digital, darkroom equipment is quite reasonable. The three manufacturers of top-of the-line enlarging lenses are Nikon, Rodenstock and Schneider. Be careful what model you buy since each manufacturer made three different quality grades. I recently picked up a Rodenstock Rodagon 50mm f4 for $35. Check photo stores and classifieds in your area, and also ebay. Such companies as B&H Photo also have used departments but they will be somewhat more expensive.

    Jerry

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