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Thread: Sharpest 210-240mm lens?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Eugene, Oregon

    Sharpest 210-240mm lens?


    I currently use a 180mm Nikkor-W as my 'normal' lens. At wide open, it doesn't look very sharp on the ground glass, but stopping it down to f/22 produces acceptable results. My wide-angle lenses however, are much sharper on the ground glass and once they're stopped down, they produce incredibly sharp images (at the center at least).

    Now I'm considering a 210 or 240mm lens so I can get a little more magnification. Which are the sharpest lenses in this range? I'm a little disappointed with the 180mm Nikkor, but maybe my expectations are too high. Should I look into Schneider/Rodenstock/Caltar/Fuji lenses instead, or is this slight unsharpness normal with longer lenses? What's everyone's advice/opinion?

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Sharpest 210-240mm lens?

    Hello Emre,

    the Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-S lenses are among the best you can possibly find. I had a 180mm Apo-Sironar-S, and its sharpness was just breathtaking. How silly must I have been to sell it!

    I now have a Sironar-N 5.6/210 mm, and it is an excellent lens too. Perfect for me in any way.
    The Schneider Apo-Symmars should be equally good.
    A Caltar-II-N is the same as a Rodenstock Sironar-N, but could be a little less expensive.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Knoxville, Tennessee

    Sharpest 210-240mm lens?

    The 180 Apo Sironar-S is indeed a fine lens (which I have), as is the 240mm (which I do not). But the 240mm lens is huge, not to mention expensive. $2,000 and 86mm filters. If that isn't a problem, go for it, you'll likely not find a better performing lens.

    Most people are using an f:9 process lens in this focal length, like a G-Claron or a non-process 9-1/2" Dagor. Neither is reputed to be as crispy as the 240mm Apo Sironar-S (at least wide open) but far more manageable in weight, filters, and price.

    Also, if Kerry Thalmann still has a multicoated 240mm f:9 Docter Germinar-Ws left, that's an excellent compromise. It's a plasmat process lens like the G-Claron but multicoated. I got one from him and it is a jewel. They're in barrel but a direct fit into a Copal 1 shutter.

    If you're shooting 4x5, a f:9 10-3/4" (270mm) or 12" dialyte like an Artar, Repro Claron, or Apo Ronar may be a good choice, even lighter and very sharp. Or even better, a 300mm f:9 Docter Apo Germinar from Kerry, again, direct fit into a Copal 1. A little outside your preferred focal length is the 270mm G-Claron which is one of my favorite FL on 8x10.


  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jun 2005

    Sharpest 210-240mm lens?

    You can never see any difference between the Big Four with your eyes on the groundglass. If you see it's not sharp on the gg it has been damaged.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Baton Rouge, LA

    Sharpest 210-240mm lens?

    > I currently use a 180mm Nikkor-W as my 'normal' lens. At wide open, it doesn't look very sharp on the ground glass, but stopping it down to f/22 produces acceptable results. My wide-angle lenses however, are much sharper on the ground glass and once they're stopped down, they produce incredibly sharp images (at the center at least).

    It is an illusion caused by the extra detail that a wide lens packs into the image. Makes it look sharper.

    The Fuji 6.3 250 is very sharp, and is a good size, taking 67mm filters. You can buy a very nice used one for under $450.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    No. Virginia

    Sharpest 210-240mm lens?

    I think that gps and Ed are on to something. Testing sharpness on a groundglass is like measuring sharpness on your monitor. It just dosent happen. Are you being swayed by the sharpness of the depth of field difference between f/5.6 and f/22? And, or the depth of field between your wide angle and a long normal?

    Unless your checking a given negative on a light box with a good loupe, shot on a solid tripod with no wind at it's best f/stop and, oh yes, focussed properly on the subject you expect to be sharp, it's all just pissing into the wind.

    Unless that 180 was dropped hard or mis-mounted in the past it should be most acceptable. If it is indeed a dog I would guess that it was not tested during the mount stage.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Sharpest 210-240mm lens?

    Read Kerry Thalmann's comments on the Fuji 240mm A f9:

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Orange, CA

    Sharpest 210-240mm lens?

    I have previously owned a Fuji 240A and 240mm APO Sironar-S, and currently own a 240mm Germinar-W. I will assume that you spend at least part of your time in the field (otherwise any of the 210mm f/5.6 plasmats will be excellent for home or studio use), and don't mind using an f/9 lens to reduce bulk and weight.

    If you are shooting 4x5 or 5x7, and have no intention of adopting 8x10 in the future, then the Fuji 240A f/9 is hard to beat. It is as sharp as any lens I've owned, multi-coated (at least the newer ones), and wonderfully light and compact (Copal 0 shutter). It's only weakness IMO is flare resistance, but if you abstain from shooting directly into the sun and shade your lens properly this will not be a problem.

    If you plan to shoot 8x10, then the 240mm Germinar-W f/9 is hard to beat. Slightly larger than the Fuji, yet considerably smaller than the f/5.6 plasmats, this lens is still quite compact (Copal 1 shutter), extremely sharp (comparable to the Fuji), and offers excellent coverage (reportedly around a 400mm IC when stopped down). Like the Fuji, the Germinar has some susceptibility to flare, but again if you abstain from shooting into the sun, etc. this will not be a problem. For a good discussion of the Germinar, see Kerry Thalmann still has some for sale (although you need to be an APUG member, which entails only a nominal fee):

    The 240 APO Sironar-S (or its Sinar-labeled version, the APO Sinaron-SE) is arguably the reference standard among 240mm lenses. Extremely bright image on the ground glass, sharp to the corners, a bit better flare resistance than the f/9 lenses. Its bokeh is also reportedly quite good (see Oren Grad's posts regarding the Sironar-S line on this subject). Its main drawbacks are its bulk (Copal 3 shutter) and weight, although if you don't plan on hiking much this is probably not a big deal.

    The Fuji is fairly easy to find both new and used, and the Germinar is currently available for purchase new. The Sironar is extremely expensive new, and is difficult to find used (and costs roughly twice the Fuji or Germinar on the used market).

  9. #9
    Dave Karp
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Los Angeles, CA

    Sharpest 210-240mm lens?

    Before you go for a 210mm, find a friend with one and set your cameras up together, one with the 180 and the other with the 210. I don't think you will see enough difference to make you go for a 210 in addition to the 180. I think you will see much more difference with a 240 or 300mm.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Los Angeles

    Sharpest 210-240mm lens?

    Emre: Some good advice here. You can't judge the sharpness of a lens by looking at the ground glass unless something is grossly wrong with the lens. Negative examination under a powerful loupe works, but then so does making a print the size of your largest likely output and seeing if it looks decently sharp when viewed at a normal viewing distance. Common mistakes like not using a loupe to focus when making the negative, wind, etc. etc. can all work against getting an accurate read on lens performance. The difference between 180 and 210 is going to seem pretty minor to you, I'd jump to 240. We are all assuming (but you haven't said so) that you're shooting 4X5 and not 5X7.

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