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  1. #11

    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Van Buren, Arkansas
    Shooter
    Large Format
    Posts
    2,412
    Images
    101
    I think the "main" problem with vintage enlarging lenses are the abuse they have received over the years. Scratched coatings can degrade sharpness, and almost all lenses develop internal haze, which can be cleaned out with disassembly, but you gotta do that first before trying comparison. Enlarging lenses are not in the whole "cutting edge optical technology".

  2. #12

    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    (Frigid) Ottawa, Ontario
    Shooter
    35mm
    Posts
    52

    Wollensak 3-1/2 inch lens

    I have a 3-1/2 inch (90mm) Wollensak lens on my (venerable!) Omega B-22XL enlarger. It is crosshatched with small, fine scratches in the coating, probably due to overly aggressive cleaning by one of its previous owners. Yet it delivers fine prints, at least up to 8x8-inches, from my 2-1/4 negs. It seems to be tad "flatter" than the 105mm Componon I have on my D-6, but there are so many variables to consider when comparing lenses, that there is no way to be certain.

    Since I have no way of mounting the Wollensak on my D-6, nor the Componon on my B-22XL, printing the same negative on the two enlargers is more of a system test, but it would serve to provide a partial comparison of the two lenses. Frankly, I've never bothered, and enlargements from both negatives are sharp to the corners. If using the Wollensak requires a half-grade or a full grade more filtration, does it really matter that much?

    Unless you are more interested in spending your darkroom time making tests, which in many cases are a dead-end proposition, leading to no useful information at all, just print with the lens at hand, and scope the results. In my case, I bought the Componon, and the Wollensak was a gift. I wouldn't have payed big bucks for it, but I was raised to not look a gift horse in the mouth (or a gift lens in the barrel...).

    Some thirty years ago, I was a student at a large university, which offered a program of studies, leading to a bachelor's degree in one of the various photo disciplines. I had a part time job at the school, working in the department which issued equipment, including access to the darkrooms, to the students. The lens and carrier kits for the B&W darkrooms has three lenses in them, usually a 50mm, a 75- or 80mm and a 135- or 150mm lens, plus three negative carriers.

    In some of the kits, the 50mm was replaced with a 2-inch Kodak Ektar, and some had the 75- or 80mm lenses replaced with a 3-inch Kodak Ektar. I do wish I had a dollar for every time one of the students, "in the know," sniffed at the Ektars and demanded one of the Componon lenses. Kodak made some of the finest lenses in the world under the Ektar brand name, the Commercial Ektars for large format as one example. I own, and still use, a single-coated 8-inch Ektar, mounted in a Supermatic shutter. This lens was manufactured in 1951, and I used it to make 4x5-inch colour transparencies, from which I cropped and made 11x14 dye transfer prints!

    So don't let anybody jazz you; just because the "in" crowd doesn't use a lens, just because a lens was manufactured in the USA, that isn't the photo kiss of death. These people who promote such codswallop display their appalling lack of knowledge in not only photography and optics, but of history as well!

    Here endeth the rant...

  3. #13

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    73
    John, my experience was that the Wollensak enlarging lenses are not very good. We replaced them with El-Nikkors at work c.1987 and the improvement was easily visible. When I set up my own darkroom I bought EL-Nikkors and have never regretted it. The Kodak Ektars seem to have a good reputation; the people I know who have direct experience of them say that they have lower contrast than a "modern" lens. Of course Kodak didn't make them in what is now the standard 39mm mount. With the prices of enlarging lenses nosediving these days, I wouldn't waste any time or paper on a Wollensak, and that's coming from a Rochester-lens aficionado.

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