View Full Version : Process/APO-Nikkors vs APO-Ronar, G-Claron, Fuji A

Tony Karnezis
9-Nov-2004, 16:53
Hi everyone. I recently started shooting 8x10 to contact print on Azo. I own a 300/9 Nikkor M and just acquired a 19" APO red dot artar that I have not yet used. Assuming my 210/5.6 Symmar-S will barely cover 8x10, I've been reading the threads on the apparently incredible sharpness and amazing coverage of the process (f/10) Nikkor lenses. Ignore issues of lens size, weight, and the cost of putting these lenses into a shutter. Purely from an aesthetic perspective, is there a NOTICEABLE, SIGNIFICANT difference in the sharpness of a process Nikkor (180/210/240/260mm, f/10) or APO-Nikkor (f/9, longer focal lengths) in a contact print versus an equivalent, more widely available APO-Ronar, G-Claron, or Fuji A series lens (or other Goerz lenses that I don't know anything about)? Stated differently, is the print quality using a process Nikkor that much different that it would make me want to buy one over one of the other lenses?

As a matter of my perspective, this isn't a case of 'chasing the magic bullet.' I understand that sharpness is only one technical factor in the success of a print. I'm inquiring because in light of how many people seem obsessed with sharpness, it seems odd that more people aren't using process or APO-Nikkors. If not, why not? Cost of putting them into a shutter? Availability? Weight? Contrast? To avoid speculation, I specifically ask for replies from those who have experience with prints made from shots taken with the lenses in question. Why would YOU choose one over the other? And to throw one more variable into the equation, if I would also use the lenses with color transparency film for enlargement, would that influence your recommendation?

9-Nov-2004, 17:16
The Ronar and Claron are both process lenses. At least some of them. Just like the Nikkor. I'm going to be suprised that a randomly selected Nikkor will be any sharper then a randomly selected process lens from somebody else. Throw in diffraction at small stops and I'm not sure you'll see big differences between the vast majority of modern lenses.

Okay I have G-Clarons and one F/9 Nikkor. The Clarons are in shutters and lighter. They are also in focal lengths I need more. So I'd choose the Clarons. The Clarons have more coverage. OTOH I think the longer Nikkor are more common and cheaper. But they're cheaper because of the lower coverage and the pain of fitting a shutter.

Steve Hamley
9-Nov-2004, 18:01
IIRC, the G-Clarons and Fuji As are 6/4 plasmats, the Apo-Ronar is a 4/4 dialyte, and the wide angle Apo-Nikkors to which Tony refers are gauss designs like the Wide Field Ektar. So I would not necessarily expect a randomly selected example of one to perform similarly to a randomly selected example of another, especially with respect to coverage. I would expect similar sharpness inside the manufacturer's recommended coverage which varies extremely with the lenses noted. For example the shortest Red Dot Apo-Artar Goerz recommended for 8x10 is 16-1/2 inches.

Another consideration is that reportedly the shorter focal length f/10 wide angle Nikkors will not take filters because the elements protrude further than the lens barrel (?), but this isn't true of the 360mm f/9 WA Apo-Nikkor. I've got the 360mm f/9 WA, but it was bought for future projects and hasn't been used yet, so I can't report on that.


Bruce Watson
9-Nov-2004, 18:05
...is there a NOTICEABLE, SIGNIFICANT difference in the sharpness of a process Nikkor (180/210/240/260mm, f/10) or APO-Nikkor (f/9, longer focal lengths) in a contact print versus an equivalent, more widely available APO-Ronar, G-Claron, or Fuji A series lens (or other Goerz lenses that I don't know anything about)?

For your application, IMHO, no. I think you'll have to make some pretty big enlargements before you'll really see the differences. But YMMV.

And don't forget the Goerz Artars. No so hard to find, and razor sharp.

Kevin Crisp
9-Nov-2004, 18:05
Tony: I think you will find that your Symmar will not cover at infinity. Great lens for 5X7 or 4X5, though. I have used all the G Clarons and loved them, and did try two different APO Nikkors. They are, as a class, all sharp lenses. You will NEVER notice a difference in a contact print, if there is a difference in sharpness, which is certainly not something I noticed. The G Clarons are relatively small, light, easy to fit in (or already in) shutters, excellent performers, and have great coverage. Except for a lack of speed (this never bothered me with any of them) I don't know what more anybody can ask from lenses. Sadly, they have been discontinued. So if size, weight, expense etc. don't really matter to you, as you say, then I can't recommend one over the other. A lack of sharpness on a scale far beyond any conceivable sample to sample differences in such lenses won't stop a great picture from being great. (If you look at a real print of Immigrant Mother, you will notice the mother is definitely out of focus and the mother's collar is razor sharp. If you look at a real print of the vertical aspens photo in AA's "Examples" you will notice that the large, closest tree inthe center is out of focus.) If your goal is just saving money, then the APO Nikkors are cheap and you can try using your hat as a shutter. I have used the G Clarons with color film and been perfectly happy with the color rendition, I never used the APO Nikkors with color film, so can't comment on the differences, if any.

Jim Galli
9-Nov-2004, 22:42
I would chose any of the process Plasmat's over the Double Gauss. I've used both. That said, I'm finding I would chose a coated Dagor type over most of the Plasmats. Want a cheap sharp barrel lens? Consider the JML 8 1/4" f9 lens. Very sharp. Or the Konica Hexanon GRII. Same. But the cheap sharp ones are cheap because they don't go into a shutter easily. The Computar, Kyvytar, Graphic Kowa 210 f9 is the darling because it not only covers more than the G-Claron, it also fits easily into a Copal 1 shutter. 210 G-Claron is nothing to sneeze at. Covers 810 good enough for a lot of us and is available and relatively inexpensive. Image quality is excellent.

Scott Soper
10-Nov-2004, 04:56

The Symmar-S will (just) cover at infinity. I have an APO-Nikkor 9/480: a fine lens, but a pain to use IMHO. I've done some church interiors with it, but generally use a Fuji 450C instead due to size, shutter (as mentioned above).

Terence McDonagh
10-Nov-2004, 05:30
I can vouch for the 210mm G-Claron (bought from Jim Galli, no less). I use it for landscape and some semi-macro close-up work. I can get a little front tilt (for landscape) or about an 1" of front rise (for architecture) on 8x10 at infinity and f/16 or better. The more you stop down the better the coverage, unlike some lenses. For subjects closer than infinity you can get gobs of coverage. And it is sharp. Almost too sharp. The only portrait I tried with 5x7 you could count split ends of hair. Had to find a nice old, uncoated lens for such situations.

Never had a problem outdoors even on cloudy days, but the f/9 can be a bit of a drag for low light indoors. When I need to shoot interiors, etc I use an LED headlamp from Campmor mounted to the front standard to help focus. It's bright, cheap, lightweight and I have yet to change the battery in 9 months.

Michael Kadillak
10-Nov-2004, 07:59
Do yourself a favor. Take what you have heard about the Nikkor lenses you mentioned above and set it aside for a while.

Get your 19" Artar and make as many photographs as you can for a month or more. Look at the results you are getting and then try to be as objective as possible concerning contrast, sharpness and visual presence.

After following this forum for a long time, I have arrived at the conclusion that the average LF shooter has limited financial resources. How these resources are prioritized toward the end objective (the print) is the key. I know folks that shoot with equipment that looks like it was pulled behind a truck on a gravel road with ancient optics that was used hard and put away wet (in 1959) and their images glow. Personally, I would emphasize your priorities on your darkroom, Azo, film and chemistry. If equipment is your thing, by all means go for it.


Tony Karnezis
10-Nov-2004, 11:50
I was leaning towards a 210 G-Claron for cost/weight/shutter considerations. To Michael Kadillak, I wrote this thread in part based on your preference for the 450 Nikkor M over the 450 Fujinon A. I just wanted to see if people have similar preferences within this focal length range or whether, as with most equipment choices, it comes down to 'pick a product and stick with it.' After seeing many Edward and Brett Weston prints and attending Michael and Paula's workshop with you, I really intend on focusing on the rest of the process more than quibbling over which top notch lens I should buy. It's just nice to learn about all this stuff. Thanks for all your comments everyone, and for those to come. -Tony

30-Nov-2004, 12:26
I use a G-Claron 210 f9 all the time for 4x5, in colour (neg & trannie) and b&w through pyro. I love it, itīs light, sharp and the colours are great. You can see the results on www.dshed.net/digitised/reveal