Difference in Enlarger Lenses
I have a very nice Beseler 45MCRX enlarger and, up to now, I have worked with a Beseler 50mm lens, mostly for my 35mm negatives. However, I want to be able to begin enlarging different size negatives (6x6 up to 4x5) and I have been shopping for lenses. I notice that Nikkors and Schneiders demand a much higher premium than other brands on flea bay. What is the primary difference and are they really worth 3 and 4 times as much?
I have been enlarging only to 8x10 so far but am looking at going larger than that with my 6x6 and 4x5 negatives. I want to get a nice lens (or lenses), and am not afraid to spend a little extra money for quality. But, I am not a rich man and I am living on a limited income. I am an amateur and I love what my hobby, but I am certainly not entertaining any thoughts of doing this for a living. Any thoughts on quality vs price for a dedicated, but poor, amateur?
I have been using an EL-Nikkor 75mm for 6x6 and a Schneider Componon-S 135mm with a tub for 4x5 on my Omega D2 for many years with excellent results. I can easily enlarge to 16x20. I would think you could find them at a reasonable price. You might check with local labs or pros who have gone digital and have what you are looking for laying around and not bothering with the bay.
That is a really good question! I was hoping that someone had an answer for you. I own a total of six enlarging lenses, the El Nikkors 50mm, 240mm and 300mm, also the Schneider 135mm and 80mm Componons as well as a 120mm Rodenstock, and for the life of me I can't tell the difference in quality between any of them. They are all great lenses! I'm not familiar with the Beseler lenses, although I once owned a 45MCRX mtself. More importantly is the alignment of your enlarger? That is crucial. All three stages of the enlarger must be completely parrallel to each other, the negative stage, the lens stage and the baseboard. There is available a lazer alignment tool for optical enlargers which you could probably rent. It is somewhat expensive to purchase, and normally you need only use the tool once.
Nikkors and Schneiders are good lenses but there are others, like Rodenstocks, that are very good as well. Certainly some enlarging lenses are mediocre at best but these are simple optics and it is not hard to make a fairly decent one.
Jim MacKenzie - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
A bunch of Nikons; Feds, Zorkis and a Kiev; Pentax 67-II (inherited from my deceased father-in-law); Bronica SQ-A; and a nice Shen Hao 4x5 field camera with 3 decent lenses that needs to be taken outside more. Oh, and as of mid-2012, one of those bodies we don't talk about here.
Favourite film: do I need to pick only one?
I used to use an old 35mm camera with 50/1,4 lens, two SS bowls one with a hole in it and a work light on a make shift stand for enlarging and I really couldn't tell you what lenses do any better than what I was able to do. Being on a budget doesn't mean that your work will suffer if you take the time to do the best you can with what you have.
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Of the bawbles that it may.
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Nikkor/Schneider/Rodenstock seem to be the most reputable brands. I've stuck with Nikkor and Schneider ; if you are patient, they are available cheap on ebay or craigslist or classifieds here or lfinfo.
The Schneider componon-s differ from the Nikkor in that they have a lever to go between wide open and the set aperture. This is good for focusing/composing bright and then stopping back down to the previous exposure setting, especially handy if you are printing a bunch of negatives of similar exposure the same size. The componon-s also can switch between continous aperture and click-stops (such as 1/2 stop); this is apparently of interest to some people who use a meter for exposure and aren't altering time. The componon-s also has an illuminated f-stop dial, illuminated by light going through the lens; kinda nice to see what the aperture is while in the dark.
I have a 50 El-nikkor which I used to use for 35mm with great results, then I got a 80mm componon-s for both 35mm and 120 (6x6) use. For 4x5 I started with a 162mmish wollensak that was free with the enlarger but was kinda low contrast, hazy, and without click stops. I replaced this with a 135mm el-Nikkor because I got a good deal on it and I knew from my experience with the 50 that the el-nikkors were good.
Is your lens a "Beseler", or a "Beslar"?
If it is a "Beseler HD" or the earlier (I think) "Beseler Color Pro" than it is a high quality six element lens - most likely a re-badged Rodenstock Rodagon.
If it is a "Beslar" lens it is a lower quality four element lens.
A high quality lens does make a difference - but there is some sample variation, so a four element lens in top shape can compete well against a poor quality example of a six element lens.
In addition, enlarging lenses tend to have a variety of features which can contribute to ease of use (e.g. illuminated apertures), as well as a certain "character". Even when two different brand's versions of the same focal length are of similar quality, one may appear to give results that are different to the other.
There are also some "sleeper" brands like Minolta and Fujinon that aren't as well known, but have high quality versions.
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Thank you all for taking the time to respond to my question. You have provided some great information for me to consider.
My lens is a Beslar, not a Beseler, so it is a simple, 4 element lens, but it does seem to perform decently, I doubt I will get rid of it anytime soon.
I will keep my eyes open for some type of 90mm lens since that seems to be a sweet spot for my 6x6 and 6x9 negs. I'll watch the classifieds to see what pops up.
Again, you have all been very helpful with your ideas. Thank you very much.
This list of 6 element lenses for 6x6 enlarging is not that long. Just keep searching ebay keh and the for-sale ads here and LF forum until one comes up at a reasonable price.
LIST(exact wording/spelling is important):
Nikkor 80mm f5.6
Schneider Componon (-/+ "S") 80mm f4 or f5.6
Rodenstock Rodagon 80mm f4 or f5.6
Fujinon EP or EX 80mm f 5.6
Koumaron S 75mm f5.6
Another to consider is the Vivitar VHE. The German made ones were Componons.