View Full Version : Any bad modern lenses?

JK Stone
12-Aug-2004, 07:42
Greetings, I have been reading through the great many posts and comments here. A frequent question seems to be "is this lens any good". I thought I would ask it in a different direction:

Are there any bad modern lenses? Of the big four; Nikon, Fuji, Rodenstock, or Schneider are they producing any bad glass?

Certainly based on some of the articles on this site (like future classics) all the modern lenses seem pretty darn good. True some stand out as being better( the Schneider 110 XL and Rodenstock 150/5.6 S to name two).

Do any stand out as being worse?

Or is it really a question of what focal lengths people prefer? Everytime someone asks about a lens there is always at least one comment like I find that too long/too short/too much of a "tweener". Really more comments about themselves than the lens. I know I "see" in wide angle but others do not. Then again I struggle with a normal view and others shine there.

Or is it a question of fast vs. slow lenses? And are the slow lenses really any worse?

If you were out looking for a new modern lens from the big four what (if any) would you avoid?

Edward (Halifax,NS)
12-Aug-2004, 08:35
Schneider is just awful.. kidding. :) All modern lenses from the BIG 4 are sharp - definately sharp enough for big enlargements. The differences in price are speed of the lens and image circle. If you can focus an f/9 lens and it covers your format with enough movements for you, buy one and be happy. If not, look into an f/5.6. What are enough movements? That varies from person to person. I have never run out of room with my 127mm Ysaron while others complain that 150mm Sironar N is too limiting. The closest I can come to a "bad" modern lens is the 150mm 6.3 Geronar. It's 180mm image circle is the smallest of the modern 150mm lenses.

Kirk Keyes
12-Aug-2004, 10:23
Avoid any lens that was dropped by the previous owner!


Ernest Purdum
12-Aug-2004, 10:24
Lens selection is a very personal matter. This is particularly true if you are limited by either finances or how much you intend to carry. You are off to a good start by realizing that you "see" in wide angle. The next question is probably how much use of movements you want. Getting both a wide angle of view plus excess coverage to permit liberal use of movements is expensive. Fortunately, few other than architectural specialists often find themselves in this situation. Landscape people rarely use much more than a little front rise. Since good modern lenses are costly pieces of glass, I think the extra versatility of reducing backs, fearless cropping, or both, can help get your money's worth from them.

Regarding fast versus slow, many relatively slow lenses are excellent, cost less and are lighter and more compact than faster lenses of the same focal length. Perhaps you are thinking of the first generation of "Super" wides, the f8 versions. While it's true that the later, most of which, but not all are faster, versions are better, this doesn't mean that the early ones are bad. In other than huge enlargements you probably wouldn't notice the difference.

Kerry Thalmann, who often contributes to this forum, has written a fine series of articles for View Camera magazine that provide very practical comments on the pluses and minuses of many lenses. Looking these up in a library or by ordering back issues could be very helpful to you.

John Cook
12-Aug-2004, 10:31
Only bad modern lens I ever saw was one which had been dropped.

One day in the late 1960's I had a job interview with Peter James Samerjian, one of the big dogs in the Hollywood advertising photography scene at the time. It was just after the enormous 40mm Hasselblad lens had been introduced.

Peter had the first one in Hollywood. It was sitting on his desk and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I almost fainted when he snuffed out his cigarette right in the middle of the front element of that lens.

The story, I later learned, was that his former assistant had dropped the lens, ruining it. So after his insurance company had paid his claim, Peter decided to use it for an ashtray.

The man had style.

12-Aug-2004, 10:32
Ten years ago, when it came time to spend more money than I had on lenses, I spent (wasted?) an incredible amount of time studying optics and comparing MTF curves. This narrowed things down to Schneider and Rodenstock, simply because Nikon didn't publish any data at the time. I found the lenses to be almost identical on paper. What sold me on Schneider was that their lenses seemed to be optimized at infinity, which suited me, while Rodenstock's were optimized at 1:10 or 1:20 ... I forget which. The difference was slight, but they seemed better suited to the studio.

Anyway, in real use, I found that only ocasionally did I make negatives that even came close to using the full potential of the lenses. Issues of depth of field, wind blowing, etc., always made a much bigger difference than the optical quality. I now believe that if you gave me a magic lens that's twice as good as the ones I have, I'd only see the difference on one out of ten or so negatives. Too often factors in the real world conspire to degrade the image to well below the maximum ability of modern lenses. So it would be amazing if there was a visible, real world difference in quality between mine and the Rodenstocks I didn't buy.

I also noticed that my friend's negs, made with Nikon optics, looked subjectively every bit as good as mine.

So ... I'd say whichever one will work for you (coverage, max aperture, etc), especially if you can get a deal.

Incidentally, I have found a significant difference between modern lenses and older lenses, particularly single- and uncoated lenses. Others in these forums have said otherwise, but I long ago ditched the old ektars and daggors and the like.

Bob Salomon
12-Aug-2004, 11:26
"The story, I later learned, was that his former assistant had dropped the lens, ruining it. So after his insurance company had paid his claim, Peter decided to use it for an ashtray."

Frequently when an insurance company pays a claim they own the damaged item. The policy holder may have made an offer to purchase the damaged item back from the insurance carrier.

Ted Harris
12-Aug-2004, 11:27
To follow on .... I currently have 4 Schneider lenses, 3 Rodenstocks, 2 Fuji's, 1 Nikkor and 1 Docter. Ask me in six months and the mix could easily be different. The decisions were in each instance based on a lot of factors (availability being way up there) and, for the most part, choosing among the big 4 was not the largest factor.

Bob Salomon
12-Aug-2004, 11:31
"their lenses seemed to be optimized at infinity"

And what image ratio is infinity?

Rodenstock Apo Sironar N lenses are optimized for 1:20 and that means perform to design spec from 1/10th lifesize to infinity. The Apo Sironar S lenses are corrected for 1:10 and perform to design spec from 1/5th lifesize to infinity. Thos specs include infinity.

Check and you will see Schneider lenses are also corrected for the smae ratios unless you are looking at macro or process lenses.

We have sold a lot of lenses for the Aero Technik and the Aerotronica which were specially corrected for infinity but they were made for aerial cameras where closeer ratios were not possible to use.

JK Stone
12-Aug-2004, 11:50
So, nobody can say avoid any particular new modern lens?

It really is a personal choice cost, weight, speed, filter size, etc. for your needs.

Donald Brewster
12-Aug-2004, 15:23
I think all of the big 4 LF lenses are pretty good -- you'd have a hard time saying any of them are bad. I don't think I'd "avoid" any of them, so yes it really does come down to personal choice, etc. The only "debate" I've seen on differences between these lenses concerned their Bokeh. And it doesn't get much more esoteric or YMMV than that. See http://www.largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/227677.html

12-Aug-2004, 20:05
I assisted in NYC in the mid 90's. The photographer I worked for purchased a new Nikon 150mm for 8x10...sorry forgot the specs. It was a dog! The worse chromatic aberration.

jonathan smith
13-Aug-2004, 02:36
I have done some casual comparing of my lenses for sharpness, out of curiosity, and all are very good, but one that was noticeably different was a French Boyer process lens. When I focused in on the typography on a sign across the street, you could see the letters were slightly distorted - not true with the Nikons.

However, a normal photo still looks sharp through it, and I agree that things like wind, film, etc. make more of a difference.

Some of my lenses appear to me to have different character than others, and I'm not talking about the focal length. This could be a matter of contrast than sharpness, but to me the G Claron gives a slightly softer quality than the Nikons.

Kirk Gittings
13-Aug-2004, 23:42
Avoid any lenses previously owned by me. They have been dropped or they wouldn't be for sale.

Mark Sawyer
24-Jun-2007, 11:31
Perhaps slightly off-topic, but I have noticed some people putting cheap filters in front of very nice lenses. The optical system is only as good as the worst piece of glass in it, and there are some horrendous filters out there, especially on ebay...

24-Jun-2007, 13:39
Avoid any lenses previously owned by me. They have been dropped or they wouldn't be for sale.

Thanks for the warning! What's your eBay username??

Richard Kelham
24-Jun-2007, 14:15
I have not come across any modern lenses from the big4 that were anything but excellent. There was a time way back when Schneider had a few QC problems, but they were soon sorted.

Essentially the decision is down to max aperture, coverage, filter size etc....though there is apparently a very slight difference in colour rendition between the various manufacturers: if colour matching is critical for you, stick to one maker.

Me? I've got 4 Schneider, 2 Nikon and 2 Rodenstock and mix them happily!

Ron Marshall
24-Jun-2007, 14:57
I have modern multicoated lenses from all of the "big four". Other than bokeh, I have not noticed any difference in image quality.