View Full Version : 75mm lens choice?

Elias Butler
23-Jun-2004, 17:03
I am looking at buying a used 75mm lens for backpacking work. I am considering an older Schneider 75mm SA F/8 and one of the newer designs by Rodenstock or Nikkor like a 75mm MC F/4.5. Will I be able to get markedly different results with these lenses, as the Schneider is single-coated? Or can I expect the extra price and convenience of the extra stop+ of light for focusing to be the main difference? I produce 32x40 prints and am interested in the best possible sharpness primarily, then good saturation and contrast.

Thanks for any advice.

Frank Petronio
23-Jun-2004, 17:12
I tried this route with 90mm, and while the older, single coated Angulons are capable of good results, especially with B&W, you will see a difference when you shoot old versus new side by side. The current 75/6.8 Grandagon isn't very large (58mm filter) nor is it too expensive ($400-$450 on eBay) and should outperform the old 75/8SA enough for you to see it on your chromes.

Kerry L. Thalmann
23-Jun-2004, 17:21
As a possible compromise, you might look at the Rodenstock 75mm f6.8 Grandagon-N or Caltar II-N. About the same size as the 75mm f8 Super Angulon, but lighter (aluminum barrels instead of chrome-plated brass). It's also multicoated, in a modern Copal No. 0 shutter, has a tiny bit more coverage, and is a 1/2 stop faster. It's also the least expensive new 75. It will cost you more than a 30 - 40 year old f8 Super Angulon, but less than any of the current f4.5 or f5.6 75s. This is a good ultrawide for backpacking for those concerned with both weight and cost.

Of course, if money is no object, consider the 80mm f4.5 Super Symmar XL. It's the lightest modern lens shorter than 105mm capable of covering 4x5. It also has a generous 212mm image circle. Some very early samples were quite soft wide open, but more recent samples I've tested seem fine - and are very sharp at normal working apertures.


Ted Harris
23-Jun-2004, 17:29
Just tomix up the stew a bit.....don't ignore the Schneider SA 75mm 5.6 which is multicoated and the Fujinon 75mm SWD. I use the SA and have for several years, it replaced an older single coated Fuji f8. Here's a sample (bad scan and all that):


Jim Galli
23-Jun-2004, 20:42
Perhaps it's only me and old age gaining on me but 9 years ago I bought a 90mm f6.8 Grandagon and it has been the only lens I've ever struggled with the lack of brilliance for focus. I've got larger f9 G-Claron's and f 11.5 Artar's that are no trouble at all. So my vote is for the nicer f4.5. Spend the money now instead of getting a lens that rarely gets used for 9 years and then up-grading like I did a few months back. Also, AVOID the Compur shuttered version of the older SA. It's an 00 size, there's no parts, they're temperamental, and you can't just buy a Copal and have it re-set easily to fix it.

Dave Brown
23-Jun-2004, 21:46
If you are contemplating anything but the most minimal movements you will be disappointed with the SA 75 f8.

Armin Seeholzer
24-Jun-2004, 02:19

In thad case I would wote for the fastest lenses the Nikons or Rodenstocks f 4.5. I have also an older Superangulon f8 90 single coated wich has no chance in sharpness especially in the corners regarding my f4.5 75mm Nikon or my 90mm f 4.5 Nikon. I do not see so much improvement on longer lenses but on the shorter ones it is easy to see!!

Jean-Louis Llech
24-Jun-2004, 03:59
if you take first into account sharpness, saturation and contrast, you must consider also the Schneider SA 5,6 72 XL.

But I agree that for backpacking, if you think about light weight and light price, the 8/75 is undoubtedly better.

As I sometimes use the rangefinder of the Linhof, without groundglass focusing, the maximum aperture at 8 would not be a problem.
Nevertheless, as I couldn't buy a 5,6/72 and a 8/75, my first criterion of choice was quality (but heavy, bulky and expensive..)

Brian Ellis
24-Jun-2004, 08:11
I'll second Kerry's recommendation of the Schneider 80mm Super Symmar XL. I got tired of lugging my 90mm F5.6 Super Angulon with its 82mm filters and replaced it with the 80mm SS XL. I've had no problems focusing wide open, I'm told that was a problem only with the very first run back when the lens was introduced. It's tack sharp, quite a bit of room for movements, and best of all it's very small and light, great for backpacking. It is definitely expensive but for my purposes it's close enough to both a 90 and a 75 that I rationalized the cost by telling myself that I actually saved money because I now need only the one lens rather than two.

Elias Butler
24-Jun-2004, 12:18
Thanks for the opinions, hardly any votes for the SA F8 lens has me leaning towards either the SS 80mm or a F4.5 Nikkor or Grandagon. I have a SA 90mm F5.6 and am pleased with it but of course it is huge and is a pain to backpack with, especially in Grand Canyon which is where I spend much of my time.

I'd appreciate any links to used large format lens pages, ebay is good but I always like to get an idea of the market prices beforehand.

Thanks to everyone again. If interested, you can see my work at www.eliasbutler.com.

Elias Butler
24-Jun-2004, 12:21
Oh yes - one more question - anybody have any opinion on the quality of the Caltar II-N (as recommended by Kerry Thalmann) compared to the F4.5s or SS 80mm in regards to sharpness, contrast, saturation?

Elias Butler
24-Jun-2004, 12:25
And to keep the streak going here, how about a second opinion on the quality of the Rodenstock Grandagon 75mm 6.8 lens along with the Caltar II-N compared to the aforementioned lenses?


David Karp
24-Jun-2004, 12:50

Always check with Jim at Midwest Photo Exchange (www.mpex.com) for used lenses. I have bought a number of items from him, including a 125mm Fujinon W, and a 450mm Fujinon C, and have always been very satisfied by the price, quality, and the high quality service. Both of my lenses look brand new, as if they were never touched.

Kerry L. Thalmann
24-Jun-2004, 14:12

The 75mm f6.8 Caltar II-N and the 75mm f6.8 Grandagon-N are the same lens. Rodenstock makes the Caltar lenses for Calumet. They are made on the same assembly line, by the same people, to the same quality standards. The last Caltar lens I bought even came in a Rodenstock box. The only differences are the name on the lens, who services the warranty and the price (the Caltars are usually a little cheaper).

Comparing the 75mm f6.8 Caltar/Rodenstock to the 80mm Super Symmar XL, the most significant difference (after price) is coverage. The 80mm SS XL offers a lot more room for movements. While the 75mm f6.8 Caltar/Rodenstock covers 4x5 sufficiently, if you do much rise or shift, you will get vignetting. That's why is costs about 1/2 as much as the 80mm SS XL. In terms of sharpness, you'd be hard pressed to see an difference at f22 (or smaller stops) unless you do mural sized prints or examine the neg/transparency at high magnification. Even then, the differences will be quite small. At f16, the SS XL will probably be a little sharper in the corners.

Ultimately, if I was in the market for one of these two lenses, my decision would be based on price, coverage and then weight. Those are my personal preferences. I have used both lenses quite a bit, and find the performance (within coverage limits) to be outstanding for both lenses. Neither is perfect. The 80mm SS XL is expensive and uses a larger, more expensive center filter. The 75mm f6.8 Caltar/Rodenstock is affordably priced (and more common on the used market) and takes a smaller, less expensive center filter, but the coverage is tight on 4x5 (it makes a great 6x12 lens) and I have occasionally exceeded the coverage of this lens.

Your call.


Brian Ellis
24-Jun-2004, 17:23
Kerry mentions the need for a center filter on the 80mm SS XL. While I've only had the lens for about six months and haven't used it extensively, I haven't yet found a need for a center filter. I photograph black and white exclusively, perhaps if I photographed with transparency film I would need it, or maybe as I use the lens more I'll discover that I really do need it, but so far I haven't.

Kerry L. Thalmann
24-Jun-2004, 22:24
Kerry mentions the need for a center filter on the 80mm SS XL. While I've only had the lens for about six months and haven't used it extensively, I haven't yet found a need for a center filter.

Whether or not a center filter is needed is always a personal choice. It depends on subject matter, film used, personal preferences, etc. The Super Symmar XL series relative illumination curves closely follow the cos^4 function.

For comparison, most modern wide angle designs (Super Angulon, Grandagon, Nikkor SW, Fujinon SW) employ a tilting entrance pupil design that reduces theoretical illumination fall-off to a function of cos^3.

What this means is the 80mm Super Symmar XL has more illumination fall-off than any current 72 or 75mm wide angle. In fact, if you look at the curves on the Schneider web site you will notice relative illumination at the corners of a 4x5 negative are nearly indentical (within 1 - 2%) for the 80mm Super Symmar XL and the 65mm f5.6 Super Angulon.

Personally, this wasn't really a factor for me as I have found a center filter necessary for every lens I've ever used shorter than 90mm (on 4x5). So, even if I bought a 75, I'd still need the center filter. In this case, I preferred the smaller size, lighter weight and greater coverage of the 80mm SS XL.

Again, not everybody finds a center filter necessary, but it is something to consider when buying ultrawide lenses for large format - they aren't cheap.