View Full Version : Dagors (in the heart)

John D Gerndt
3-Oct-2004, 08:48
After my last post I hope to get both emotional and empirical data about Dagors for use in LF and ULF from people who know and love this lens.

I would like to own and use one of these lenses of legend, I am throwing in my hat; I am in the market. What advice can be offered?

I shoot B&W, 8x10 and will probably build a 7x17 this winter. I read someone's comment that the G-Clarons are like the Dagors in their "look". I have a couple of uncoated Heliars that have a "look" to them and one Emil Busch Rapid Aplanat that I love. I am not against lens coating, just making it clear that it is not always necessary. Can anyone offer a comparisons or advice?

Cheers again!

John Kasaian
3-Oct-2004, 12:50

I have an old (1908 I think) 12" Dagor purchased from none other than Dagor 77! The only other 12" lens I have to compare it with is a 300mm Nikkor M which I've used for aerials. This sounds wierd, but if I could only have one 12" lens and I wasn't "married" to an aerial camera, I think I'd be quite happy with just the old Dagor, however if mine shifted focus(as some dagors are known to do) when stopping down I'd go with the Nikkor, G-Claron or maybe a Commercial Ektar(because I'm a sucker for old glass!) FWIW I ended up with an ancient brass Gennart 270mm lens for cheap which I purchased for the Compound shutter and its a peach of a lens making me suspect that its really a dagor.

Happy hunting!

N Dhananjay
3-Oct-2004, 13:38
The appeal of Dagors come from many directions. One part of it is historic - the Dagors (along with the Protars) were the first anastigmats. Compare their image quality with rapid rectilinears and the difference is quite significant. So, in the evolution of lens designs, they are an important point of progress. Second, for a long time, they really were among the best designs around and that means many famous photographers used them and contributed to the Dagor mystique.

Finally, they do perform remarkably well, even compared to modern glass. As you probably know, they consist of two pairs of cemented triplets. This means four glass-glass interfaces and four air-glass interfaces. This makes for good contrast even in uncoated versions (as compared with dialyte designs which have eight air-glass interfaces, or plasmat designs - single coatings do make a difference on those designs). The Dagors offer good coverage and are often used as modest wide angles - you can count on coverage of more than 80-85 degrees at small stops. Another advantage comes from the simplicity of the design - getting three elements centered is eminently doable. More complex designs demand better quality control - the Protar has four elements, and while the extra element allows correction for coma in the individual elements and better use as a convertible, it does require that four elements be centered. The problems cited with Turner Reich's - essentially a Dagor/Protar form lens but with five elements per cell - are often due to centering problems. The focus shift problem with Dagors is pronounced when using single elements (i.e., using it as a convertible) and is less of an issue when using the full lens.

I do think there is something to the idea that Dagors have a 'look' to them. First, I thought it was just that the uncoated glass allowed somewhat better shadow detail. But I think there is more to it than that. I wonder if the design basically allows some 'nice ratio' of local to overall contrast that just looks really good. That, however, is just speculation on my part. Dagors will, however, be great for your stated purpose - use on large or banquet formats, if for no reaosn other than the fact that they are one line available in long focal lengths - 19" and longer. Most modern designs stop at about 14".

Cheers, DJ

Jim Galli
3-Oct-2004, 15:46
Intersting topics. I can only add some very un-imperical seat of the pants response. I have 2 Dagor's that are better than the "other" Dagor's. I have a bunch of them. Uncoated, coated, ying and yang. All of them are excellent performers. But....my 14" gold dot Schneider / Kern dagor is head and shoulders above the others. It does this thing with local contrast that is pretty spectacular. Kind of a sparkle that I don't see with other lenses. My other spectacular "dagor" isn't a dagor. But it is. Seems Schneider needed to fill a gap about 1967, or so and come up with a process lens that had a wider field than the usual artar's. Enter G-Claron. But the first group up until about late 1970 were actually dagor type. The later more common ones are plasmat. So a few months ago one showed up on ebay but it's a mess. The front is a 240 and the back is a 210. Nobody wants it. But I think to myself, Schneider did that anyway about 1952. Some of the Symmar's are triple convertible dagors. Front group is different than the back. So why not. So $48 bucks later my lens comes and I put it in a shutter, and sure enough it's 225mm! But it sees about 90 degrees and has the identical Kapow of the $1200 Gold Dot. I'm looking at a shot of a bristlecone tree where the individual needles are lit on one side and black on the other. All you can do is try this stuff. I'm still at that stage where I'm trying everything and keeping the best. There is something to the myth though. I'm a believer. And I have a feeling the reason that the plasmat lives and the dagor is gone was a financial one. Think about lens evolution. Pre WWII there were fabulous designs like artar and double gauss wide field that were un-useable for the most part because of losses in air glass. Every interface costs 4%. That means a Celor was losing 32% of image forming light to flare. So Dagor and Protar were king. Harder and more expensive to produce, but king none the less. Then by the end of WWII coatings and automatic transmissions were perfected. So now the lens companies can do stuff they could never do before. Like Kodak's Wide Field Ektars. Very cheap to make compared to a Dagor. So the death of most of the classic designs was cost driven I think. I don't have any modern plasmat, good as they are, that has a better look to local contrast than the Dagors'.

John D Gerndt
3-Oct-2004, 18:05
Thanks Jim, that is some highly benificial insight about G-Claron construction. I will try my luck if the chance is cheap enough.

I have noted that the Kern Dagors fetch top dollar. I guess the word is out on that one. The tag is way out of alignment with my income, but everyone has got to have a dream.

Cheers indeed!

3-Oct-2004, 18:22
As you may know, Michael A.Smith and Paula Chamlee use Dagors whenever possible, and Artars otherwise. Their prints are like engravings. On the other hand, Dr. Tito Sobrinho has had many Dagors, and swears AT, not by, the 14" Schneider Golden Dagor. (Personally, I'd sure like to try one.)

Dan Fromm
4-Oct-2004, 10:03
Hey, Jim, is it ok with you if I quote your comments on 6/2 G-Clarons when I list my 240/9s on eBay?



Jim Galli
4-Oct-2004, 10:42
Dan, Ususally quoting me is a liability. jg