View Full Version : Modern Japanese vs German optics

27-Sep-2004, 07:15
How would you compare the Nikkor SW’s or other LF Nikkors to the German equivalents regarding colour cast and contrast? Would you say Nikkors are colder or “neutral” in colour rendition than the German competitors? Schneiders tend to be warm but don’t have that special “look” of Hasselblad Carl Zeiss lenses with T-star coating while the Rodenstocks are said to be neutral looking.

Gem Singer
27-Sep-2004, 08:17
Hello again Ramin,

After using Schneider lenses exclusively for many years, in the early 1980's I had the opportunity to try a new Nikon 210W. I immediately noticed that the image on the groundglass seemed to snap into sharp focus, unlike the older Schneider 210 I had been using. When I asked the salesman, he said that these new Nikkors appeared sharper and showed more contrast, probably due to their superior coating. From that point on, I changed over to Nikon lenses and was very pleased with them. Approximately two years ago, I had the opportunity to try a new Fujinon lens with EBC coating. Needless to say, I sold all of my Nikon lenses and am now only using new Fuji lenses.

Since I only use B&W film with my large format cameras, I cannot comment on the differences in color rendition between German LF optics and Japanese LF optics. However, it seems to me that your choice of the type of color film you will be using is much more important than the nationality of the manufacturer of your lens.

Glenn Kroeger
27-Sep-2004, 08:54

This varies alot between lens series.

I find:

1. The Nikkor M series is exceptional, very high resolution and capable of very subtle tonal rendition

2. I don't like the Nikkor W series as much as either Schneider Apo-Symmar or Rodenstock Apo-Sironar. Just don't seem to have as much contrast.

3. Fujinons, across the board, are very contrasty. I compared a Fujinon 300C to a Nikkor 300M. Fuji was contrastier, but I liked the fine detail rendition of the Nikkor better. Also compared a Schneider 120mm Super-Symmar HM to the new Fujinon 125mm CM. Fujinon was contrastier and both were tack sharp.

4. Both the Nikkor SW and the Rodenstock Grandagon-N series are very similar, but I really like the Rodenstocks. I find the Nikkor multicoating hard to keep clean.

I have a mix of manufacturers lenses, and don't find the color variation to be enough to worry about. If I were doing color sensitive studio work, I might care.

Michael Kadillak
27-Sep-2004, 09:15
Assuming that the exposure is optimal, there is not a hill of beans difference between any of the offerings from the major manufacturers. They all produce wonderful images. The reasons that you should consider a specific lens ie. size and shutter, coverage, filter size and my favorite - cost are the real substantive issues. I find Nikon the winner in performance, size and compatibility (filters) and hands down the lowest cost option and as a result, it dominates my optics selections.

Over the years this issue continues to come up again and again. At the end of the day I would take a marvelous composition with any lens versus a so so composition with one that cost an arm and a leg and was the product of a months worth of research. Allocate your resources to what is important and the rest will follow.


27-Sep-2004, 10:03
Shouldn't this be posted on the Leica Forum?

Brian Ellis
27-Sep-2004, 10:15
I have at least one modern, top-of-the-line lens made by Schneider, Rodenstock, and Nikon. I used to own a Fuji lens but don't at the moment. With black and white I see no consistent difference among any of them, they are all excellent. I don't know about color but with black and white IMHO there are more differences attributable to manufacturing tolerances within the lenses of a single manufacturer than there are consistent differences among the modern lenses of the same design from the four major manufacturers. If there are any differences at all I think they are more than offset by other things such as film flatness, minor focusing errors, minor errors in shutter speeds, slight subject movement, slight camera movement, front and back standards not perfectly parallel, etc. etc. Just my highly opinionated opinion of course.

David Karp
27-Sep-2004, 10:17
I have a friend, an excellent professional photographer for many, many years, who feels (1) that Schneider lenses are cold in color rendition, (2) Rodenstock lenses are warmer in color rendition, (3) Nikons look more like Schneiders in terms of color rendition, and (4) has never used a Fujinon so has no opinion. From this, yours, and the other posts it appears that (1) warm vs. cool is a very personal evaluation, and (2) there is not really a consensus on this issue.

Glenn Kroeger
27-Sep-2004, 10:40
Michael is correct, and in deference to Bill, I will perform penance by participating in a Hasselblad/Contax/Rollei "My Zeiss is better than your Zeiss" thread on ph*t*.net.

My real point, is that like Canon vs. Nikon, each manufacturer has some interesting and special lenses, but all of them make great images.

27-Sep-2004, 11:15
Modern lenses from all the top companies are so close to each other in quality that I'd challenge anyone to tell the difference looking at prints made from photographic subjects. The exception might be if a certain lens design from a certain company has a distinguishing strength, like sharpness wide open, or far off axis at wider apertures (which might come at the expense of another strength, or at the expense of ... expense).

A Schneider tech rep who I was friends with a couple of years ago pointed to one very subtle but consistent difference in color balance between European and Japanese lenses. He said it's physiologically based: that asians actually see color differently from westerners, so in the quest for neutral color balance, they make lenses that are balanced more towards blue/green. European lenses are balanced more towards red. But he said the differences are so subtle that they would only be visible under very controlled conditions, and that for all practical purposes modern multicoated optics can be considered neutral.

Personally, I picked lenses after spending (wasting?) a lot of time comparing MTF charts from Schneider and Rodenstock. Once I really learned to read the charts, it became clear that their competing designs were within a few percent of each other, with no consistent winner. The Schneiders appeared optimized at infinity, so I chose them for my work; Rodenstocks appeared to be optimized at 1:10. But whatever ... I would say that about one of my images out of twenty is able to take full advantage of the powers of my lenses. The rest of the time vibration, wind shaking the camera, wind shaking the leaves, and simple inability to get more than one slice of the world in focus means that much of that optical potential remains unused.

By the way, I had a chance to compare a lot of my negs with a friend's who uses Nikon lenses. Close comparison gave no reason to think one was better than the other. As the Schneider rep told me, the days of one lens company having any trade secrets are long behind us ... they're all using the same technology and have been stealing each other's ideas for decades now. All the inovation these days seems to be the areas of wider apertures, greater coverage, and lighter weight--mostly luxury consideration for most people. Seems like its been a while since anyone's been able to make a lens that performs better on axis at normal apertures.

28-Sep-2004, 12:29
"As for lens characteristics... aren't up to date comparisons a bit misleading in some ways since Rodenstock & Schneider have new glass & the Nikkor lenses are all around 15-20 years old?"

Possibly misleading, but I doubt by much ... I don't see any evidence that Schneider's or Rodenstock's imorovements over the last fifteen years have had much if any effect on image quality. Even looking at Schneider's own MTF charts, the differences between today's apo symmar L and the plain old symmar S from the early 80s is really small.

They've made huge strides in angle of coverage, light weight, maximum aperture (with some designs), and of course, increased price. But this is all stuff you can learn from the catalogs and has little to do with what your pictures look like most of the time.

Gem Singer
28-Sep-2004, 12:36

It has been closer to twenty-five years since Nikon introduced a new, upgraded lens. Fuji introduced their CM-W series of lenses about ten years ago. The CM-W series is an upgraded version of Fuji's W lens series. By designing their lenses so that they have fewer cemented elements, Fuji has been able to make some outstanding improvements and a couple of unusual lenses. For example, the new125CM-W lens has a 204mm. image circle, and, as far as I know, Fuji is the only manufacturer making a 105mm. wide angle lens. Their 450C is mounted in a Copal 1 shutter. Because these lens designs have fewer cemented elements, they have more reflective surfaces. Fuji claims that their EBC (electron beam) coating is able to eliminate the reflections that cause internal lens flare. From what I can see, it certainly seems to work.

Kerry L. Thalmann
29-Sep-2004, 00:40
It has been closer to twenty-five years since Nikon introduced a new, upgraded lens.

Actually, it hasn't been THAT long. Nikon didn't really even start making general purpose large format taking lenses until the late 1970's (about 26 - 27 years ago). The last lenses they indroduced were in the mid-1980s (about 18 - 20 years ago). I'd have to double check my literature collection, but I believe the "newest" LF Nikkors were the Nikkor-AM macro lenses, and some of the longer telephotos. Also, the 200mm Nikkor-M was added sometime in the early 1980s. Nikon entered the LF market with a huge flourish and introduced all the products in their current line-up within a period that spanned about 8 years. Unfortunatey, they haven't introduced anything since.

Fuji introduced their CM-W series of lenses about ten years ago. The CM-W series is an upgraded version of Fuji's W lens series.

Some of the CM-W models were introduced in Spring of 1995, the rest in Spring 1996. This makes them second only to Schneider among the big four (and Cooke, now as well) in terms of recent product introductions.

For completeness, Rodenstock introduced the APO-Sironar-S line in Sept, 1992 and the 55mm APO Grandagon in September 1994. All of their their new products since that time have been targeted at digital or roll film use with none capable of covering large format sheet film sizes.

And, of course, Schneider continues to support us with new products every two years with a new announcement at Photokina.

To get back to the original poster's question, I use lenses from all four major manufacturers, as well as Docter Optics, Congo, Kowa, Carl Zeiss VEB, Goertz, Kodak, Wollensak, etc. They are all "special" in their own way. When I'm in the market for a new lens for a specific need, the last thing I usually consider is the name of the manufacturer.


Andre Noble
30-Sep-2004, 12:07
The one negative 'Brand Thing' that does get my attention is "Schneideritis" which purportedly effects quality and longevity on some of that particular brand's lenses.

I love to get a 72XL one day to add to my Nikon lenses, but "Schneideritis" is a concern.

Frank Petronio
30-Sep-2004, 13:54
I'll admit to being a snob. By being patient on eBay I've managed to acquire all late-model Sinarons (expensive Rodenstocks). I have never done any testing between lenses, but I am comforted in knowing that these are probably the best modern glass out available.

John Kasaian
30-Sep-2004, 17:47
Of course you could avoid this dilemma entirely by buying a Wollensak!