View Full Version : Apo Lanthar Lenses - Why Are They Desirable?

neil poulsen
4-Oct-2014, 05:04
I'm curious. Whenever I see an Apo Lanthar lens listed, it's always for a high price. Why are they desirable? What sets them apart from other lenses of similar focal lengths?

Dagors, Commercial Ektars, or WF Ektars, even Protars I sort of understand. But, not Apo Lanthars.

Ken Lee
4-Oct-2014, 06:47
Here's an earlier discussion (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?783-Lanthar-lenses).

Note the last post by Arne Croell, who links to his article on Voigtländer lenses (http://www.arnecroell.com/voigtlaender.pdf), which contains a section on Lanthars.

5-Oct-2014, 12:08
I like mine a lot!
Some things that I especially like about it:

- Very small and lightweight, perfect for handholding on my Technika
- Slight discoloration from the lanthanum glass gives me a free warming filter
- Out of focus rendering is excellent (it is, after all, a modified Heliar)
- It's faster than a standard f/5.6 Plasmat by 2/3 of a stop
- It's exceedingly sharp
- The image circle is large enough to use some movements if needed

I have 3 150mm lenses - the Lanthar, an f/2.8 Xenotar, and an APO Symmar. Generally I use the Symmar for landscape/tripod stuff, because I stop down to f/22 or farther anyway, and I have a permanent 58-67mm step-up ring on it for my 67mm filters that all my landscape lenses use. The Lanthar/Xenotar are used handheld on my Technika mostly. The Xenotar is like 3 times larger/heavier, but 1 1/3 stops faster. However, it has spherical aberrations (a bit of glow) unless stopped to f/4 anyway, so unless I need the speed, the Lanthar trumps it.

Honestly if I were to sell everything but one camera and lens, it might be a Technika and the Lanthar...

Plus, how can you not love the racing stripes?? :)

5-Oct-2014, 16:00

when I was going to camera shows/swaps back in the late 80's... there used to be a ton of Japanese buyers who would ask for two things

Zunlow - to which I would shake my head... and Apo Lanthar..also to which I would shake my head

took me a couple years to figure out just what they were asking about... and a couple more just to spot an Apo Lanthar on someones table so I could get a look at it

have never run into a Zunlow however

6-Oct-2014, 08:06
Lanthanum makes for stellar telescopic eyepieces also: http://www.vixenoptics.com/acc/lvw_eyepieces.html


Drew Wiley
6-Oct-2014, 08:40
Regarding price, I suspect that this is just a case where something acquired a reputation for exceptional performance way back when, but then got superseded by any
number of more modern lenses which did many things even better, like having a bigger image circle with comparable sharpness. I'm not saying older lenses are not interesting with special qualities of their own, but that to an older generation they might have a perceived financial value way out of proportion among the pack of many high quality options. I feel the same way about dagors and other "cult" lenses - ridiculous asking prices these days in relation to what they actually do. Seems
that some of these things sit around a long long time before they actually sell, however.

6-Oct-2014, 10:08
They are certainly among some items that sellers on eBay try to sell for outrageous sums. Like the 150mm Xenotar on eBay for $10,000. Sure buddy, good luck!
But they do sell for much less than the average eBay BIN price if you are patient.

DrTang, I assume you mean Zunow. I've seen a few of those for ridiculous prices. The 50mm f/1.1 for Nikon/Leica rangefinders would be one example that sells for crazy money.

Drew Wiley
6-Oct-2014, 10:38
Lanthanum glass was one of those early "miracle" ingredients that established a precedent as well as the reputation of this particular series of lenses. After that, rare
earth glasses of numerous types came into use, along with a variety of other improvements. Just because the names of these special glass types aren't on the label doesn't mean they're not there. Once in awhile something does make it into the marketing statement, like ED glass, or fluorite glass, or aspheric construction. But otherwise, the specifics of these things are largely mum. I doubt there are many LF lens collectors still alive who give a damn. Most of us are just interested in optical performance, practicality, and maybe some special "look" in image renditions, and not in bragging rights to who owns the most expensive bookend!

Jim Jones
6-Oct-2014, 13:18
. . . DrTang, I assume you mean Zunow. I've seen a few of those for ridiculous prices. The 50mm f/1.1 for Nikon/Leica rangefinders would be one example that sells for crazy money.

In 1968 I passed one up in the Yokosuka Navy Base Ship's Store because it was in perhaps an Exacta mount. Apparently no one else wanted it; they were dumping it for $5!

6-Oct-2014, 15:24
On my previous life of mostly using Leica M, my motto is "get the best that I can afford." I can't afford Leica now, and now moving to LF world, all these siren songs about APO Lathar, APO Sironar S (Modern Classics!) have a draw. But then I look at the 17x22 prints using pedestrian Fujinon and Nikkor Plasmat and found that the equipments definitely already far exceed my ability to push them. I did trade a bunch of lens to get a Cooke PS945, but that's a special case.

Anyway, I doubt any APO Lathar would be any better than a $200 Fujinon, but lens collecting can be fun too.

6-Oct-2014, 15:37
I doubt it would be either at f/22. But, it definitely will render differently, and I'd wager it would be sharper at near max apertures.

It's not a magic bullet, but it is a tool, and one that is different than other tools. Personally mine didn't cost anymore than a typical APO Plasmat, and it came cammed to my Linhof, so, I got a deal. My rule has always been to buy cool stuff that I find under market value, and actually test it out. Sell back what I don't want.