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Thread: Quality of Caltar lenses?

  1. #1

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    Quality of Caltar lenses?

    Since the 1980s, I have been using a 508mm f/7 Caltar lens on my 11x14. I have consistently been amazed at the quality and contrast of the negatives I have shot with it. It blows away the front 18 7/8 cell of my f/7.7 BL Protar V11 in contrast and sharpness.

    I've used several (borrowed) shorter focal length Caltars on my 4x5 over the years, but was never impressed by their images when compared to comparable Schneider optics.

    Have repeatably read that Caltars were made by Rodenstock which I believe is true. Also read that Caltars were the Rodenstock optics that Rodenstock rejected to put their name brand on... who's to believe what....

    So is my 508mm Caltar an anomaly?
    Are Caltar lenses underrated?

    Interested in other opinions on the Caltar line of lenses.

    thanks...

  2. #2

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    Feb 2001
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    Re: Quality of Caltar lenses?

    The later ones were either Rodenstock or Schneiders so you shouldn't be surprised. They weren't seconds.

  3. #3

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    Re: Quality of Caltar lenses?

    Ilex made the 508/7 Caltar. See http://www.galerie-photo.com/ilex-lenses.html

  4. #4

    Join Date
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    Re: Quality of Caltar lenses?

    Many -- perhaps most -- Caltar and Caltar II lenses were made by Rodenstock. And, of course, some people are going to suggest that they were Rodenstock rejects -- especially those who paid more for the same lens with the Rodenstock name on it. Back in the 70's, Minolta designed and made a great 80-200mm f4.5 zoom lens -- and sold it for $400. Leica liked it so much, they bought it, slapped on a Leica nameplate and mount, and sold it for $1,200. What do you think the Leica owners of the same lens had to say? "My Leica lens is better than the Minolta lens!", of course. Minolta made lots of Leica's lenses -- SLR and rangefinder.

    It's pretty easy to tell if a Caltar is a Rodenstock, by comparing the lens specs -- filter thread, weight, coverage, etc. Or just look at a picture of the lenses.

  5. #5

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    Re: Quality of Caltar lenses?

    Topcon also made Caltar lenses at one time. Some Caltar lenses are marked HR for Horseman. I read that Topcon made both the Horseman and Caltar HR lenses.

    Clear as mud, right?

  6. #6

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    Re: Quality of Caltar lenses?

    Calumet, being an OEM purchaser, sold what the manufacturers made available for private-label sales at any given time. Ilex, Topcon, Schneider, and Rodenstock, from the '60s through, I guess, the '00's. I suppose most of the Caltars you see these days were made by Rodenstock, as that relationship lasted the longest.
    The Ilex-Caltar 14" lens I used at Kodak, (which was made in the '70s) was of very high quality. Remember that they were selling these lenses to a demanding professional market. Never heard yet of anyone complaining about their Caltar lenses, even on this forum, until now.

  7. #7

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    858

    Re: Quality of Caltar lenses?

    Yamasaki also made lenses for calumet (Caltar-Y).

    -Ed

  8. #8
    Joel Edmondson
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    Dec 2008
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    Re: Quality of Caltar lenses?

    I used a 20" Caltar for a lot of years with the same results... no complaints. Also used a 90mm, 150mm, 165mm and a 210mm - all with no complaints.

    Joel

  9. #9

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    Tonopah, Nevada, USA
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    Re: Quality of Caltar lenses?

    Never had a Caltar I didn't like. I started in LF with an "SII" 210mm which was a Symmar S and it was fantastic. A benchmark I've only beaten rarely. I've read that the early 508mm Caltar's were iffy but they fixed it. Forgot where I read that. But a coated triplet on 11X14 contact printed should be pretty sweet.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
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    10,313

    Re: Quality of Caltar lenses?

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg View Post
    Since the 1980s, I have been using a 508mm f/7 Caltar lens on my 11x14. I have consistently been amazed at the quality and contrast of the negatives I have shot with it. It blows away the front 18 7/8” cell of my f/7.7 BL Protar V11 in contrast and sharpness.

    I've used several (borrowed) shorter focal length Caltars on my 4x5 over the years, but was never impressed by their images when compared to comparable Schneider optics.

    Have repeatably read that Caltars were made by Rodenstock which I believe is true. Also read that Caltars were the Rodenstock optics that Rodenstock rejected to put their name brand on... who's to believe what....

    So is my 508mm Caltar an anomaly?
    Are Caltar lenses underrated?

    Interested in other opinions on the Caltar line of lenses.

    thanks...
    There were two major companies that private labeled Rodenstock lenses, Calumet with their Caltar versions and Sinar with their Sinaron versions. None were seconds. It is also important to note that a third company, Alpa has and currently is, selling private labeled Rodenstock lenses.
    Last edited by Bob Salomon; 5-Sep-2017 at 21:55.

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