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Thread: Lens Reputations- Are We Kidding Ourselves?

  1. #1
    Is that a Hassleblad? Brian Vuillemenot's Avatar
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    Lens Reputations- Are We Kidding Ourselves?

    Frank Petronio's post of earlier today about not being able to get even the value of the Copal #3 shutter that his 240 Caltar-IIN came attached to on E-Bay got me thinking. I just received a beautiful mint 210 Caltar-IIN lens, also from the aution site, for a mere $205. The same lens, if it had the words "Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-N" on it and was new, would have sold for more than 4 times as much ($964.95 from B&H). The 210 Apo-Sironar-S would have set me back six times as much!

    Since I've been watching this forum, I've seen several lens lines become legendary, most notably the Apo-Sironar-S and Super-Symmar-XL series. However, it seems like no one on here can ever come to any definitive conclusion whether or not these lenses are worth the sustantial premiums under real world (key words) shooting conditions. Don't get me wrong, I frequently use and love several lenses from these series, but I'm beginning to wonder how much of the reputation is real and how much is just a combination of techno-geekery, OCD, paranoia, and "keeping up with the Jonses". I mean, if I had paid over $1200 for an Apo-Sironar-S as opposed to the $200 for the Caltar-IIN, would the difference be worth the extra thousand dollars? Any thought, comments, or observations?
    Brian Vuillemenot
    Images of Enchantment
    http://www.imagesofenchantment.com

  2. #2

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    Re: Lens Reputations- Are We Kidding Ourselves?

    FWIW, I'd prefer to be known for taking legendary photographs rather than for using legendary lenses.

    I know for a fact that I can take some pretty miserable photographs with some well respected lenses!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.

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    Re: Lens Reputations- Are We Kidding Ourselves?

    In many ways we probably are kidding ourselves. I like the way John expressed it.

    Another way some folks kid themselves is thinking that old (or not so old, even) photographic equipment is worth the sum of the total value of the parts.

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    Ted Harris's Avatar
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    Re: Lens Reputations- Are We Kidding Ourselves?

    OK, call it BS becaue it is not something I can quantify but I do know that there is a certain snap/feeling/aura ... call it what you will to the images from the 110XL, same from the 135 Sironar S and the 150 W ... I can't put a finger on it, I can't quantify it and it happened with the very first images from these lenses. Not to say that every exposure I have made with them was spectacular because that isn't the case for sure. I suspect though that if I went throigh the keepers shot for myself as opposed to for a client over the past 5-6 years when I have owned these lenses a preponderance of them would have been made with those three and the Fujinon 300A.

    And all forgive me for opening the Pandora's Box of mythical lens discussions. That is not my intent but there are differences in optics.

  5. #5

    Re: Lens Reputations- Are We Kidding Ourselves?

    Brian, I use a 210 Apo-Sironar-S as my normal for 6.5x8.5, and routinely crank the front standard of my Eastman up to the limit of its coverage.

    So yes, for me it's definitively worth every penny compared to the N, under real world shooting conditions.

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    Re: Lens Reputations- Are We Kidding Ourselves?

    One thing I've learned is that you can spend $2000 on a beautiful Leica Summilux ASPH and still have the 35mm image quality be blown away by a $100 6x6 Seagull.

    Or the 4x5 from your precious 110XL blown away by that ratty old 8x10 brassy...

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    Re: Lens Reputations- Are We Kidding Ourselves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Vuillemenot View Post
    Don't get me wrong, I frequently use and love several lenses from these series, but I'm beginning to wonder how much of the reputation is real and how much is just a combination of techno-geekery, OCD, paranoia, and "keeping up with the Jonses". I mean, if I had paid over $1200 for an Apo-Sironar-S as opposed to the $200 for the Caltar-IIN, would the difference be worth the extra thousand dollars? Any thought, comments, or observations?
    Absolutely. Satisfaction is priceless. Provided, of course, that money is not an issue.

    But for those of us who have to ask the question, the answer is already there.

    If you're still in doubt, make two identical pictures, one with rented high end lens and the other with the "budget" lens. Make everything identical, including the final prints. Annotate the prints on the back with the lens model and put them away for a week. Then take them out without looking at the annotations and try to guess which one is which.

    And don't forget to let the Jonses take their guess too. It's them you're doing all this for anyway, because you already know the answer, don't you?

  8. #8
    Is that a Hassleblad? Brian Vuillemenot's Avatar
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    Re: Lens Reputations- Are We Kidding Ourselves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    Brian, I use a 210 Apo-Sironar-S as my normal for 6.5x8.5, and routinely crank the front standard of my Eastman up to the limit of its coverage.

    So yes, for me it's definitively worth every penny compared to the N, under real world shooting conditions.
    Yes, of course it is worth it if the other lens won't cover your format. But if the coverage is sufficient between the two, as is the case for 4X5, is it worth the $1000 difference?
    Brian Vuillemenot
    Images of Enchantment
    http://www.imagesofenchantment.com

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    Is that a Hassleblad? Brian Vuillemenot's Avatar
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    Re: Lens Reputations- Are We Kidding Ourselves?

    "If you're still in doubt, make two identical pictures, one with rented high end lens and the other with the "budget" lens. Make everything identical, including the final prints. Annotate the prints on the back with the lens model and put them away for a week. Then take them out without looking at the annotations and try to guess which one is which."

    Hi Marko,

    I'm not talking about a "budget" lens here, except for the price. When the topic comes up, most of the posters on this forum claim that there is no real-world difference between the Apo-Sironar-S and -N lenses when used on 4X5 under almost all conditions. And the $1000 saved will buy a lot of quickloads...
    Brian Vuillemenot
    Images of Enchantment
    http://www.imagesofenchantment.com

  10. #10
    naturephoto1's Avatar
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    Re: Lens Reputations- Are We Kidding Ourselves?

    Certainly the need, usage ultimate print size, image usage, and budget are of prime consideration. For certain applications including landscape, travel, hiking a distance from a vehicle the size, weight, portability are all of prime consideration for lens selection. Obviously lenses used in the studio for product photography, architecture, portraiture have different requirements.

    Rich
    Richard A. Nelridge

    http://www.nelridge.com

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