LF Lenses - Old vs New
Up until now, my LF lens colelction has consisted of coated lenses such as the Optar 90 and 135, Ektar 127, Kodak Anastigmat 203 (coated) and an uncoated 150mm Unofokal and 135mm Tessar. I just picked up a Crown Graphic that came with Nikkor-W 150mm f5.6 and Nikkor-SW 90mm f8. Issue of crisp accurate shutters aside, will the multi-coated (I assume) glass really buy me that much when shooting B&W? WIll they be much sharper than the vintage lenses (the 203 is pretty sharp) Will contrast be much better? Or are these just slight advantages unless I shoot color film? It would be nice to just keep them both (not to mention the top-RF Crown) but something's got to go to pay for it all. Yes, I could start shooting through film trying to figure it out for myself but something's got to go sooner rather than later (and the longer I hold onto it the harder it is to let it go). SO, those of you who've been at this a while, what do you think?
I have been into LF for the past 30 years or so.
First you want all everything sharp and contrasty and then after some odd years or even verry much longer you start hearing about lenses you had never heard before: Dragors, Persifals and other seemingly exotic stuff that has diferent properties like swirly DOF and a softness that gives you more shadow detail.
At that moment you realize that the old lenses you sold because they were old were valuable in their own way.......
My point is: if the money allows you keep what you have and start photographing with it, develop yourself in LF and you will find out, bit by bit what suits you best and later on you will "rediscover" those old hidden treasures of your past and start enjoying them again.
I think that for your own work, you really have to shoot with different lenses and print some prints, then see what looks best for your work, for you. I know many times I might love the look someone else achieves, only to find that I need something different for my own.
Last edited by jmcd; 03-09-2009 at 08:37 PM. Click to view previous post history.
all things being equal, I doubt you would see any real difference with a Crown Graphic. The Nikkors will have larger coverage than the Optars but the Crown has limited movement and they do also sell for more $$.
You will definite see a difference between uncoated Tessar's and similar compared to modern coated/multi-coated lenses from the 50's/60's onwards.
I was shooting with a hand-held Crown Graphic and a 1930's 135mm Tessar and edge & corner sharpness only starts to become acceptable at f16 and good at f22, (for the type of images I'm making). The lack of coating results in a noticeable drop in micro-contrast within an image when compared to a similar shot with a more modern lens.
The degree of loss of sharpness & micro contrast depends on the condition and design of the lens, a 1950's coated Tessar is better than the 30's version, the single coated Xenars from the 60's/70's are good too but they still suffer from poor edge/corner sharpness until stopped down to f16 and preferably f22. A similar aged 6 element coated Symmar/Sironar/Nikon etc gives far better edge/corner sharpness at wider apertures, as well as far better coverage for lens movements.
Multi-coated 6 element lenses will obviously be better still but the difference compared to a good single coated lens is only really noticeable in extreme lighting situations.
I've stopped shooting with my uncoated Tessar on my Crown Graphic simply because the drop in quality is too great with B&W films and the images will be used alongside others shot with my Wista & 6x17 canera amd modern lenses. I've replaced it with a 135mm Caltar (Symmar).
But try the uncoated lenses, my Tessar would be great for portraits, figure studies etc. I've found all my early Compur shutters to be remarkably accurate for their ges, both the dial-set & rimset versions, even at slow speeds.
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The Nikkor-SW 90 mm f8 is a legendary lens in that it weighs a lot less than its f4.5 counterparts, but covers the same field of view. This is not the case for the Nikkor-SW 75 mm f8 or the Nikkor-SW 120 mm f8; those two have a smaller image circle than their faster siblings at the same focal lengths. Additionally, your 90 is supposed to be sharper than the Nikkor-SW 90mm f4.5. How much this will get you shooting B&W - I don't know. But if you don't want the Nikkors, I'll take them off your hands if the price is OK (like you, I can't just buy any lens I fancy, ....) But in the catalog of modern lenses from Nikkor, your 90 mm is one of the sweet spots. Do you have a camera that can take advantage of the larger image circle?
Either way, the only wrong decisions are to hide all them in a closet, or give them all away (unless it's to me, ....)
I don't remember where I saw this; "Getting better in photography is by practice not by purchase." Don't get me wrong, upgrading lenses and such is a good thing if you have the $$ and desire, but it doesn't replace making mistakes and having successes, while building a body of work.
I use both modern glass and older uncoated lenses. The modern glass does have a higher contrast, which is most noticable when flare comes into play. But the older glass is more "fun" to use, for some reason which is hard to explain. I kind of like the "softer sharpness". Also from time to time there is that glow, which seem harder to get with the modern glass. (But at other times there is only flare ) It's kind of strange, but I found myself on several occations out somewhere, having decided to use only my 150mm Symmar-S, but after a few shots I have my hands in my backpack while uttering something like "my precious" in a strange voice. (It's a Heliar I'm looking for...)
Anyhow, if you've calibrated your development for the single-coated lenses, you could deduct maybe 5% of the dev.time for starters to get somewhat similar results. There shouldn't be much difference. And also do set the meter at 1/3 stop lower than before. (The lack of flare lowers the film sensitivity a bit.)
Oh those mythical Dragors and Parsifals. Lets also not forget the Waldensocks and the Bush & Limbs. The Fruties and the Knickers from Japan are also highly regarded. Zice are Nice also.
Whatever you do don't run a test between your Optar 90 and the Nikon SW-90. As said the Nikon SW 90 F8 is highly thought of lens and has the most value of all your equipment. It would probably sell for 5 times as much as the Optar. As long as you are happy with the Optar and need the money selling the Nikon is the way to go.