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View Full Version : "Best" Lens - 203 Ektar, 210 Symmar, 8" Dallmyer Pentac



DKirk
31-Mar-2012, 14:45
Hi and thanks for all the help so far.
This is a bit of a subjective question, but I have the oppertunity to purchase one of these lenses to shoot art nude images. Does anyone have first hand experience using these lenses; 203mm f7.7 Ektar, the convertable 210 f5.6 Symmar, or possibly the 8" f2.9 Dallmyer Pentac ex-Air Ministry lens. Just looking for some hints and tips, I've got a Speed graphic with the focal plane shutter so the barrel mount of the Pentac is not a problem, I also have an MPP MK7 so it has a fair bit of bellows extension avaliable, but not quite enough for the converted symmar (370mm?). Any hints or tips would be appreciated, bear in mind that its out of this trio I have the chance to buy.

Mark Sawyer
31-Mar-2012, 15:21
The Symmar is probably the sharpest of the three, but the Pentac can go way-fast with way-shallow depth of field. If uncoated, it may be a bit soft in contrast, but that can be compenseted for in processing, if you so desire. The Kodak 203mm would be my last choice, but still probably not a horrible lens.

I'd personally go with the Pentac, but that's just me. It all depends on your vision for your images, but you knew that.

DKirk
31-Mar-2012, 15:54
Cheers Mark, so far that's the way I'm thinking too. Hoping the auction will go largely un-noticed and I'll be able to get the Pentac for £50 or less, already in the midst of storyboarding some image concepts. Finding the pressure of having an exhibition coming up at the Pittenweem Art Fair inspiring, and I want to add some traditional darkroom prints to it.

Mark Sawyer
31-Mar-2012, 15:59
Good luck with trhe auction. Pentac's are becoming a bit of a cult lens, as an alternative to the Aero Ektar, so if it's well-listed on a big auction site, I wouldn't count on it. If it's at a small auction, go for it!

DKirk
31-Mar-2012, 16:12
I do have a larger budget avaliable, but If I can luck out and get the Pentac cheap-ish, I should have enough for the Symmar. Best of both worlds, Fingers crossed. . .

John Berry
2-Apr-2012, 00:53
Get the 203

IanG
2-Apr-2012, 01:18
If it's the Pentac I'm thinking of I'd only buy it if the price stayed quite low as it's not in the best condition.

I use both a Symmar 210 (although a later MC version) and also a 203mm f7.7 Ektar and they are both excellent lenses, but a Symmar in a modern Copal or late Synchro Compur is much faster to use. The 203mm Ektars (British made) are usually in an Epsilon or Prontor SVS shutter with no preview lever but they are Copal/Compur #0 fit so could be put in a more modern shutter.

Best of both worlds is a Symmar and the Pentac if cheap as you say.

Ian

rjmeyer314
2-Apr-2012, 07:12
I have a 210 Symmar convertible, and use it on my 5x7 view camera, and also sometimes on my 4x5 Calumet. My 5x7 doesn't have a long enough bellows to use the conversion, so it mainly is used as a 210mm. I have made 20x24 inch enlargements from those negatives that are very sharp. I wouldn't part with this lens for anything. I also have the 8" Pentac, and use it on one of my Speed Graphics. At most distances the narrow depth of focus tends to give a strange look to photos. There's no question in my mind, the 210 Symmar is by far the most practical and useful of those two lenses.

Jody_S
2-Apr-2012, 08:09
There are a lot of bad 8" Pentacs out there. I have one sitting on a shelf beside me. Still, for what you're doing, it might be ideal. My convertible Symmar was good, though I didn't have the bellows to use it at 370, at the time. I haven't tried my 203 Ektar yet.

Chauncey Walden
2-Apr-2012, 08:46
The 203 Ektar is probably too sharp and contrasty for portraiture, unless you really like to see the nitty gritty details;-)

Lachlan 717
2-Apr-2012, 10:48
There are a lot of bad 8" Pentacs out there.

Care to elaborate?

Lynn Jones
3-Apr-2012, 13:11
The "convertible Symmars" of the 1960's were certainly not the best that Schneider ever made, I'd go for the 203 Ektar, not a great deal of swing and tilt but incredibly sharp. You can soften a sharp lens but the reverse you cannot do! The Pentac was pretty good but I'm still going for the 203 Ektar.

Lynn

DKirk
3-Apr-2012, 15:43
Thanks for the help so far, still tempted by the Pentac, if I can get it cheaply (though last one went for £240, from a starting bid of £9. . . ).

Hugo Zhang
3-Apr-2012, 15:51
My 8" Pentac does not have Dallmeyer name on it and it is quite soft at wide open. But it is very sharp at smaller apertures.

Lachlan 717
3-Apr-2012, 15:53
Thanks for the help so far, still tempted by the Pentac, if I can get it cheaply (though last one went for £240, from a starting bid of £9. . . ).

I'd suggest also searching by the Pentac's specifications (perhaps use the "Dallmeyer" and "f2.9" info), as these were occasionally not branded "Pentac". I have seen these badged as MOD lenses, as well as other military's nomenclature (there was an Australian Defence Force one for sale recently).

DKirk
3-Apr-2012, 16:02
My 8" Pentac does not have Dallmeyer name on it and it is quite soft at wide open. But it is very sharp at smaller apertures.

You've just sold the lens even more to me for the subject matter in mind. Already planning a few shots now. . . Could be a bad thing I just got a letter informing me my credit limit has increased. . .

DKirk
3-Apr-2012, 16:03
I'd suggest also searching by the Pentac's specifications (perhaps use the "Dallmeyer" and "f2.9" info), as these were occasionally not branded "Pentac". I have seen these badged as MOD lenses, as well as other military's nomenclature (there was an Australian Defence Force one for sale recently).

And a thank you to you too sir, I had neglected that point, and have increased what I can watch with baited breath.

IanG
3-Apr-2012, 16:14
The "convertible Symmars" of the 1960's were certainly not the best that Schneider ever made, I'd go for the 203 Ektar, not a great deal of swing and tilt but incredibly sharp. You can soften a sharp lens but the reverse you cannot do! The Pentac was pretty good but I'm still going for the 203 Ektar.

Lynn

The 1960's early 70's convertible Symmar lenses that I used were all superb lenses, they were the mainstay of top professional studios here in the UK. What they weren;t was good convertible lenses that's another story but then Schnieder sold the Angulons as Triple convertibles at one time.

Ian

DKirk
3-Apr-2012, 16:27
Cheers Ian, given the available bellows extension and what I intend on shooting the longest lens I'd be using would be about 240mm. Unless I move up to 10x8. . .

Lachlan 717
3-Apr-2012, 16:41
Just in case you haven't seen what the Pentac's like wide open, here's a shot from a few years ago of my Dad (an old Sea-dog, made to look somewhat Hemingway-esk…)

71353

E. von Hoegh
4-Apr-2012, 08:00
The 1960's early 70's convertible Symmar lenses that I used were all superb lenses, they were the mainstay of top professional studios here in the UK. What they weren;t was good convertible lenses that's another story but then Schnieder sold the Angulons as Triple convertibles at one time.

Ian

Correct. The 150 convertible that I use is an excellent 150, and a useful 265 portrait lens.

DKirk
4-Apr-2012, 14:08
Just in case you haven't seen what the Pentac's like wide open, here's a shot from a few years ago of my Dad (an old Sea-dog, made to look somewhat Hemingway-esk…)

71353

Cheers Lachlan, that's pretty much the look I was aiming for.

CP Goerz
4-Apr-2012, 14:34
I've used all three, the 203 is the sharpest followed by the Symmar. The Pentac is useful for portraits if you want the shallow depth look but beyond that 'look' its average once stopped down. They are three very different lenses for three different purposes so its a bit like oranges/tangerines and satsumas :-)

Jody_S
4-Apr-2012, 14:47
There are a lot of bad 8" Pentacs out there.
Care to elaborate?


You can't just buy a Pentac off fleabay and expect to get a usable lens. A lot of them are in terrible shape, and I understand optical quality is hit-and-miss as well, as many were contracted out to various manufacturers during war-time, and not all of these had good quality control in place. But that's hearsay, the only issues I have personally had with the lenses I've seen have been: scratched-to-hell outer lens surfaces, internal haze, and stuck aluminum retaining rings that prevent servicing. However, taken together, those factors suggest that you shouldn't buy one of these from disreputable or unknown sellers.

The one I have now is passable, very soft wide open, mild internal haze and prone to bad flare. Again, this might be ideal for the op's purpose.

DKirk
4-Apr-2012, 15:12
You can't just buy a Pentac off fleabay and expect to get a usable lens. A lot of them are in terrible shape, and I understand optical quality is hit-and-miss as well, as many were contracted out to various manufacturers during war-time, and not all of these had good quality control in place. But that's hearsay, the only issues I have personally had with the lenses I've seen have been: scratched-to-hell outer lens surfaces, internal haze, and stuck aluminum retaining rings that prevent servicing. However, taken together, those factors suggest that you shouldn't buy one of these from disreputable or unknown sellers.

The one I have now is passable, very soft wide open, mild internal haze and prone to bad flare. Again, this might be ideal for the op's purpose.

Yep, that's the plan. Plus If I win it for a reasonable sum (I'm thinking a maximum of £150-£200, looking at the current going rate), that seems optically decent. If I don't like it I can strip it down, give the metalwork a re-spray paint job, re-assemble and recoup most, if not more of the money back :)

Mark Sawyer
4-Apr-2012, 15:36
Cheers Lachlan, that's pretty much the look I was aiming for.

Mind you, that would be a wonderful portrait with any of the three lenses mentioned.

DKirk
12-Apr-2012, 12:01
Well it finally arrived, got myself the 8" Pentac, optically it looks great, only a few minor scratches to the front element, minor haze (which is slowly responding to gentle buffing). Cosmetically it is, and this is being generous, so ugly it makes the ugly sisters look like super models. Mechanically it's great too.

Now all I need is to get the lens board built :)

Lachlan 717
12-Apr-2012, 16:09
Looking forward to seeing some results!