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Enlarging lens comparisons

Discussion in 'Everything Film' started by huwevans, May 16, 2006.

  1. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    I'm just testing the waters here, but I'd like to know if there would be much interest in a large comparison test of many different enlarging lenses (conducted by me), and whether also anyone would be willing to cooperate with the loan of lenses?

    For a while now I've been taking advantage of the rock-bottom prices of darkroom gear on the secondhand market, and buying up high quality enlarging lenses. I don't really need most of them, but optics is my first love (even before photography) so I'm indulging myself a little. :)

    Anyway, as I now have a number of lenses of different makes in each of a few different focal lengths I thought I would set about actually comparing them to see if any useful conclusions could be drawn about the various marques, or whether there isn't really much of a difference at the top.

    I currently have a good number each of Componons, Rodagons, and EL Nikkors, to cover formats from half-frame up to 5x4, with a couple of one-offs from other manufacturers. But there are some notable absentees from the ranks of my collection, like Rokkors, for instance, or Neonons, and so on. And of course, there's always the possibility of sample variation, so even if I already have a 50mm f/2.8 EL Nikkor, for instance, it could still be useful to have access to another in order to strengthen the results.

    So, I was wondering, if I were to forge ahead with a large scale comparison test, would any owners of other lenses be willing to lend them for a few days at a time so they could be included? The test wouldn't stand or fall on that - I think I have enough lenses of my own to make it worthwhile doing something - but it would be nice to cast the net wider if possible. So, anyone think they might be willing to let me have a lens on loan at some point?

    If it make any difference, this isn't going to happen in the next few weeks - I envisage probably completing the initial phase sometime in the next six months, maybe. After that other lenses could be added to the database as and when they become available.
  2. Iloca

    Iloca Well-Known Member

    Hi Huw,

    I'd be interested in seeing how cheaper lenses such as Meopta compare with the likes of Rodenstock, Schneider, Nikkor etc.
    I'd also be interested in how much difference there would be between a visibly good example and a poorer example.

    I don't have much to offer but what I have is available for testing, (not to destruction of course :D)

  3. pilliwinks

    pilliwinks Well-Known Member

    I assume you've read Ctein's "Post Exposure" on the topic of enlarging lenses.

    I for one would be very interested in the variations withing marques, and would be willing to loan my lenses. Since my accident has still left me unable to carry out certain manipulative tasks, I haven't used my darkroom (or a camera) since November. I won't miss the lenses at the moment.

    I have a couple of Rodagon 135s, a Schneider Componon-S 5.6/100 and a CE-Rokkor 2.8/50. I don't think I have any others, although I think I have misplaced a Wray from the 1950s somewhere...
  4. taxor

    taxor Well-Known Member

    I think this is a good idea. You can lend my Durst Neonon 50mm f2.8 for a couple of days, but I was just thinking about something. The results you are going to get, whilst undoubtedly of interest to some of us here, would also be of great interest to the APUG forum. How about sharing your findings with them? Regards, TAXOR
  5. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    Morning Richard,

    I've got a couple of Schneider's four-element lenses myself, so I was going to include pretty much anything I could get my hands on, so I'd be more than happy to have a Meopta lens to test. And I assure you - I love optics far too much to test anything to destruction! :)

    Of course that does bring up the subject of taking responsibility for other people's property and security in transit, and that sort of thing - obviously I'll take due care with anything lent to me, but still accidents can happen. I'll sort out details of things like insurance on P&P, and a suitable commitment to honour any repair bills or replacement costs when I get down to the details of organising the whole project.

    So anyway, thanks - I'll put you down on the list of interested parties. :)
  6. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    I haven't read Ctein's book, as it happens, Stephen.

    That list of lenses is definitely of interest - I have a couple of 135mm lenses - EL Nikkor and Tominon - but not Rodagons. I also have 100/5.6 Componon-S that I've never been completely bowled over with, so I'd be particularly interested to see if there's a sample variation issue there, and the Rokkor would certainly be of interest too. If you could find that Wray that would be great too - vintage lenses would add another interesting dimension to the project.

    Okay then, I'll put you down on the list too - thanks. :)
  7. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    Thanks Taxor, I'll look forward to putting a Neonon through its paces.

    I am thinking of flagging this up at APUG in due course, but for the time being, since I'm looking to borrow lenses I thought I'd just start with a forum where a) I'm well-known, and b) members are mostly in the UK.

    This is all very much just at the planning stage, and back-of-an-envelope planning at that, so if it all comes together, then I'll begin to look further afield. Hopefully what will happen is I'll get the work done on my own lenses first, put together the results on a website, and then start to bring in the loaner lenses from people here. From there I can maybe begin to cast the net wider.

    I also don't want to go too far too soon because in truth the test won't be as ideal as I would like it to be - in particular I'll be using a diffusion enlarger, whereas I would prefer for this sort of project to have been using a condenser. But 5x4 enlargers are big beasts and I've no room for another one in my already cramped darkroom, so diffusion will have to do. But any data is better than no data, provided you understand its limitations, and in these days of multigrade papers I'd guess that diffusion enlargers are what most people have, so it should still be interesting.
  8. AJUK

    AJUK Well-Known Member

    Would be great to see a test like that in AP.
  9. jkphoto

    jkphoto Well-Known Member

    I have 2 enlargers, a Leitz V35 complete with matched 40mm/F2.8 and a LPL7700 Which I use with a Nikon 50mm/F2.8 and a Rodagon 80mm/F5.6. Have nothing to compare the Rodagon with in my present lens arsenal, but the Leitz and Nikon 35mm Enlarging lenses are just about inseparable in quality. I have used the Nikon on the V35 and manually focussed it and the inage was sharp corner to corner. (up to 10x12) The same lens on the LPL in a glassless carrier shows focus drift at the corners. As does the Leitz Lens, but again is sharp corner to corner on the V35 for which it is intended.

    I also have a Ross Resolux 105mm F4 lens (Circa 1960) which I use on an adapted set of Pentax bellows and it is a stunning Macro lens. but very low contrast and soft(ish) for enlarging

    The Rodagon is as good a medium format les that I have used.

    In the past I have used a Nikon 80mm F5.6, Minolta 50mm/2.8 and 80mm.5.6, Durst Neonon 50/2.8 and a few others besides.
    For general work they were all competant performers but for the optimum work, the 3 lenses I have at present are just about the best you will be able to get in the present climate of darkroom abandonment.
  10. RonM

    RonM Alpha Napper


    I have at the moment a 50mm /2.8 Componon-s and if things go well I will be getting my hands on a 50mm /4.5 Leitz Focotar so if either of these would be of interest in your test, let me know.
  11. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    Thanks Ron - yes, they will definitely be of interest. I'm some way off from starting to work in loaner lenses, but I'll keep a note of it. I'll be reporting back here on my first set of results before that next stage.
  12. RonM

    RonM Alpha Napper

    I'll update you on the Focotar if and when it arrives
  13. RonM

    RonM Alpha Napper

    The Focotar has arrived :D and appears to be functioning as one would hope :cool:, now all I need to do is gut the Darkroom :( :) to find out how good it really is, although I reckon that you'll be able to do a far superior job Huw
  14. BigWill

    BigWill Gorgeous oversensitive Nikon-loving cream puff

    "The Focotar has arrived".............................ere you, we'll have no swearing on this forum! :D ;)

  15. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    Well I don't know about that, Ron, but it will be fascinating to see how Leitz, Rodenstock, Schneider, Nikon, etc. all stack up together. I'm looking forward to it, but my darkroom also needs major tidying up work before I can begin. And I think I'll be leaving it until the words heat and wave are only a memory again. :)
  16. RonM

    RonM Alpha Napper

    You should be saying it in terms of Awe! especially if they are as good as many say they are, for long enough I've been trying to get my hands on one for reasonable money, but, even though S/H darkroom gear has been going for really cheap prices Focotars especially have been selling for good prices.
    OK the one I've got hold of is most definetly not Mint I'd put it at E-minus it's cosmetically not its best but the glass looks to be free of any fungus, which can be an issue with Focotars as with other lenses.
  17. Simon E.

    Simon E. Well-Known Member

    My 'like new' El-Nikkor 50/4 is available if you like. I have a secondhand f2.8 too, but I'm sure that one is not in optical top form (spidery patterns on an internal element). I still use it, though.
  18. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    Thanks Simon - I'll definitely give the 50/4 a try, if I may. I'll skip the f/2.8 though, because I'm paranoid about lens fungus. :)
  19. hi, your proposed comparison sounds very interesting. I'm not in a position to loan my lens (E-Rokkor 50/4.5) as it's my only lens and I'm planning to use it quite heavily over the next few months. However, is there any other way I can contribute ? I don't know how you intend to do the comparison, but I was thinking that if you were to shoot a roll of 36 identical test shots (of a resolution chart, or whatever it is they're called), and post them to volunteers - we could make prints from them and post back to you for comparison. I know this introduces the variables of our own printing chemistry and papers etc, but it might be interesting, and would not require any lenses to be posted around.
  20. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    I appreciate the offer, but it's necessary for all factors involved in the process (of which the neg is only one) to be completely controlled and as far as possible kept constant, in order to get any valid results. That means the only practical way to do it is to do all the tests myself. That way any differences due, for example, to different enlargers, different chemistry, different darkroom technicians, and so on, can be either eliminated, or at least minimized.

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