View Full Version : Nikkor 200M vs Fuji 180A, more data - Long Post

Steve Hamley
27-Dec-2004, 18:12

I’ve had the chance to compare the 180 mm Fujinon A with the 200mm Nikkor M, on a 8x10 camera and though people might be interested in my impressions. I did not try to shoot a resolution chart as I assume Chris Perez did, since these are generally shot fairly close, but did a groundglass inspection wide open and at f/16, then shot both lenses focused at infinity on 8x10 E100G transparency film. The camera is a modern wooden field camera with fresnel. My target was distant ridgelines with trees providing detail, and even more distant ridges that provided even tones. I’m in the Smokies so I have a lot of these handy. The sun was about 30 degrees above and to the right, out of the frame, and behind thin clouds. Neither lens was shaded. The Fujinon 180mm is EBC multicoated in “coarse tooth” chrome Copal, and the Nikkor is a new one in the black Copal.

Chris Perez’ tests show the resolution to be about equal, in center and off-axis.

http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/testing.html#180mm_thru_270mm (http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/testing.html#180mm_thru_270mm)

The Groundglass:

Both lenses illuminated the entire groundglass! I expected very dark or vignetted corners and the Fuji had noticeably more falloff than the Nikkor, getting darker in the corners, but it is 10% shorter in focal length. The Nikkor illumination was more even than I anticipated. Both seemed to go to mush 5cm from the long edge (10”) of the groundglass, giving both about a 6” circle of “sharpness” wide open. I expected the Fuji to be sharper further out wide open since it is a plasmat, but it wasn’t discernibly so. The Nikkor had visibly higher contrast or saturation, especially noticeable in the distant even-toned “blue” ridges. My Fuji 240 is prone to flare in situations like this (sun out of frame by a couple of tens of degrees) and a friend sold a single-coated Fuji 180 because of flare. ???

I’m sure I could not quantitatively assess comparative sharpness on the groundglass at f/16, but the Nikkor appeared to gain either contrast/saturation or sharpness a little further from center, but did not seem to affect the last 5cm on the 10” side. I couldn’t discern much of a difference in the Fuji. These results seem reasonably consistent with their designs and the product literature of the Nikkor (166mm at max aperture and 210mm at f/22, gaining 10 degrees of sharp coverage going from f/8 to f/22). So it does indeed look like the Nikkor covers 5x7 w/o movements at f/22 as the manufacturer claims, which isn’t surprising. The next test is to see if you can get contact-printable B&W neg at f/64!

In summary, on the groundglass, both illuminated the ‘glass wide open with the Fuji having noticeable falloff, sharpness not discernibly different, with the Nikkor being visibly more even and more contrasty. At f/16, the Nikkor appears to improve a little while the Fuji changed little or none. IMO, the Nikkor edges the Fuji, based on contrast and even illumination.

The film:

The Fuji vignetted very slightly, about 3/16 – ¼ inch in the corners, which I might have seen if I had bothered to look through the clipped corners of the groundglass. There’s still some detail there, but it’s plain that the corners aren’t “seeing” the whole aperture. The Nikkor was even over the entire transparency. Both were still mush at the edges. The Nikkor suffered a slight handicap in that changing light led to about 1/3 stop more exposure and subsequent reduced saturation and contrast. On the light table using two different loupes, the Nikkor appeared to hold a little more sharpness further out, although it was close. I also had a “blind tester”, an employee of the camera store look at sections of the transparencies I designated at about 1”, 1-1/2”, and 2” from the edge of the 10” side. He did not know what the lenses were, and I did not tell him my impressions. In all the tests he picked the Nikkor, although he admitted it was very close.

In summary, the Fuji vignetted slightly and has more falloff, the Nikkor is surprisingly uniform, both mush within 1” of the 10” edge and improving to equal sharpness about 2” from the 10” edge.

Enlarged scans:

Sections were scanned on an ArtixScan 1800f. Results were mixed; initial results showed the Fuji quite a bit sharper than the Nikkor, so much so I doubted the scan and rescanned. The rescanned Nikkor section visibly beat the Fuji, but at this point I have no confidence and will try a different scanner f I can mooch the Scitex at work.

I don’t think the tests I’ve done are conclusive by any means, but at least it means there’s more data. I believe if I had to choose at this point, I’d give the nod to the Nikkor, focal length notwithstanding.


Gem Singer
28-Dec-2004, 07:13
Hi Steve,

After mulling it over in my mind overnight, I began to realize that your comparison between these two lenses is similar to comparing apples and oranges. The only thing that both of them have in common, is that they were manufactured in Japan. Your Fuji 180A, in the chrome Copal 0 shutter, is an older model. Probably dates back to the late 1980's or early 1990's. The newer models were mounted in all black Copal 0 shutters. The entire 'A" series was discontinued in the late 1990's. Your Nikkor 200M, in the all black Copal 0 shutter, is a much newer lens and is still being manufactured today.

The Fuji "A" series are 6 element, process lens-type formulations. The Nikkor "M" series are 4 element Tessar-type lens formulations. A fairer comparison would have been between a Fujinon lens in the "A" series and a Schneider lens in the "G-Claron" series. Or, a Nikkor lens in the "M" series with a Fujinon lens in the "C" series. I would think that the Nikkor 200M is closer, in comparison, to the Schneider 210 G-Claron than it is to the Fujinon 180A. The Fuji 180A is the smallest, lightest weight lens available in that focal length. It is an ideal lens for backpacking.

Finally, lenses are like bottles of fine wine. They have individual characteristics. Two bottles of wine from the same vintage can have slightly different tastes. It depends on how they were stored and cared for from the time they were created.

Steve Hamley
28-Dec-2004, 07:38

You are correct, although I'd have to disagree that the single coated plasmat G-Claron is any closer to the 200M than the multicoated Fuji A, except in terms of 10mm in focal length. Also, the 200M is 10g lighter than the 180A and also in a Copal 0, so it would seem to be as good a backpacking lens provided you considered the focal lengths appropriate.

The reason I posted this rather long winded result is in response to previous threads inquiring about the comparison of these two specific lenses, and a previously posted question about whether the coverage/illumination of the 200M was larger than stated as implied with the 450M (which I don't have).

My apologies if the reason for the post was confusing.


Gem Singer
28-Dec-2004, 08:51
Thanks for the explaination, Steve. No need to apologize for the post. I thought your tests were very well done and your descriptions were easy to understand.

Please excuse my "senior moment" I was referring to the similarities between the Fuji "A" series and the Schneider "G-Claron" series. Both are process lens formulations, designed to be used for "flat surface", close-up photography. I meant to refer to the comparison between the
the Schneider 210 G-Claron and the Fujinon 240A. The Fujinon 180A is in a class by itself.

Ted Harris
28-Dec-2004, 08:52

How about posting some side-by-side images from your test? I believe that real worldo tests like this can be useful but your verbal descriptions of the differences don't help a lot. We need to SEE what you are describing, see it for ourselves and draw our own conclusions.

Gem Singer
28-Dec-2004, 08:55
P.S. Steve,

FYI, the Fujinon 180A is 10gms lighter in weight than the Nikkor 200M, not the other way around.

Steve Hamley
28-Dec-2004, 11:33

I got the numbers from Kerry's page, which shows the Nikkor at 180g and the Fuji at 190g - where'd you get your weights?

http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/mid-rang.htm (http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/mid-rang.htm)

Ted, I'd like to do that. The next step is to get some good sectional scans.


Gem Singer
28-Dec-2004, 12:25

I got my information from Mike Davis' specks for large format lenses, right here on this website. Click on Large Format Photography Home Page, above. Next, click on Lenses-Comparison Charts. Look at the chart for 4x5 lenses: www.largeformatphotography.info/lenses/lf4x5in.html. It shows everything you want to know about most contemporary lenses that will cover the 4x5 format. There are also charts for several of the other formats.

Kerry L. Thalmann
28-Dec-2004, 13:21
I got the numbers from Kerry's page, which shows the Nikkor at 180g and the Fuji at 190g - where'd you get your weights?


Eugene is referring to the manufacturers' published weights for these lenses. The weights I posted were actual weights of the lenses we tested (without lens caps). In all cases, the lenses were weighed on the same scale (a small postal scale accurate to +/- 2.5g). I have weighed at least 5 different 180mm Fujinon A lenses (including one in the current all-black Copal shutter) and three 200mm Nikkor Ms. Every one of the 180 As came in at 190g and all three Nikkor Ms were 180g.

Based on my experience weighing a LOT of lenses, Fujinon lenses tend to weigh slightly more (10 - 25g) than speced. In addition to the 180 A (170g spec, 190g actual), the 210 L (320g spec, 340 actual), 240 As (225g spec, 245g actual), 360 As (465g spec, 475g actual), 450 Cs (270g spec, 285g actual), and 600mm C (575g spec, 590g actual) I've weighed have all been heavier than speced. The one exception I've encountered with the Fujinon lenses is the 300 A (410 spec, 400 actual).

There are a few obvious errors in the Fujinon literature that sometimes get propagated in the online forums. One example is the 125mm Fujinon W that is listed with a weight of 123g in many Fujinon brochures. For an example, see:

http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/ws-nws.htm (http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/ws-nws.htm)

Not only is this impossible (the Copal No. 0 shutter alone weighs 115g), it makes no sense that it would weigh over 60g less than it's smaller, lighter 105mm sibling.

It has been my experience that most Nikkor large format lenses also weigh slightly more (10 - 20g) than speced. The exception here is the M series. I've weighed a LOT of 300mm Nikkor Ms (everyone I know who shoots LF seems to have one) and they all came in at 270g - 20g less than the 290g spec. I've only weighed a couple of the200mm Nikkor Ms, but they both came in right at the 180g specified weight. I don't have numbers handy on the 450 Nikkor M, but I seem to recall the one I weighed being slighty less than the published spec.

One lightweight lens I've never had the opportunity to weigh is the 300mm Fujinon C. With a spec weight of 250g, it appears on paper to be significantly lighter than the 300mm Nikkor M. However, given the 270g actual weight of the 300mm Nikkor M, and the tendancy of the other C series Fujinons to weigh about 15g more than speced, I'd be surprised if the actual weight of the 300mm Fujinon C was more than about 5g less than the actual weight of the 300mm Nikkor M.

My experience with the German manufacturers (Schneider and Rodenstock) is that they are generally accurate to slightly conservative. Most the the Rodenstock and Schneider lenses I've weighed have been within -15g to +5 of the published weights. One exception here is the 150g Glaron, which has an actual weight (165g in Copal shutter) that is significantly less than the 230g spec.

Concerning Eugene's apples:oranges comparison, he's correct in some ways, but I still think this is a valid comparison. While the Fujinon A is a slightly older design (dating back to the early 1970s for the single coated version), I don't really think the difference is significant. The 200mm Nikkor M was introduced in the early 1980s, within a year or two of the introduction of the multicoated version of the 180mm Fujinon M. The technology available at the time these two lenses were designed was comparable. Perhaps manufacturing technlogy improved between the time the two specimens Steve tested were actually built. That is certainly a possibility (as is sample-to-sample variation). However, Fuji has always had excellent quality control (I've yet to test a large format Fujinon that was a "dog"). I have personally noticed no differences between older chrome-ringed Copal shuttered 180mm Fujinon As I've tested and a newer sample in an all-black Copal shutter (but again, this represents a very limited sample size).

While the two lenses have different designs (6/4 proces plasmat for the 180mm A and 4/3 tessar-type for the 200mm M), I do think Steve's comparison is valid for someone looking for a lightweight backingpacking lens in this focal length range. From a design standpoint, comparing the 210mm Fujinon L (a 4/3 tessar-type) to the 200mm M would be more accurate. However, the 210mm L is single coated, in a larger Copal No. 1 shutter and weighs nearly twice as much (34og actual weight vs. 180g). The G Claron series is similar in design (6/4 process plasmat) to the Fujinon A series, but the G Claron is single coated and there are no G Clarons between 150mm and 210mm to compare to the 180mm Fujinon A. When it comes to truly lighweight, recent lenses between 150mm and 210mm, the 180mm Fujinon A and 200mm Nikkor are really the only two choices - which is why Steve's comparison makes sense and the results are of interest.

All this talk of weights has lead this discussion down a tangent. I agree that it would be nice if Steve could add some example photos (if he can get some good scans) and submit the article to Tuan for inclusion in the static pages of this site.

And FWIW, I rarely use the 180mm Fujinon A when backpacking. It just doesn't fit in well with my other focal lengths (which are usually either 90mm, 135m, 200m and 300mm; or 90mm, 150mm and 240mm). I do use the 180mm Fujinon A, combined with a 75mm f6.8 Grandagon-N and a 120mm APO Symmar for shooting 6x12 with a Crown Graphic. It works quite well for this application (small enough to close inside the Crown, and excellent sharpness to the corners of 6x12). I have been using the little 200mm Nikkor M as a backpacking lens for years and find it excellent for this purpose. As Eugene points out, this lens is still available new (as is the 180mm Fujinon A - in spite of the fact that is was "officially" discontinued in 1998). Ironically, the 200 Nikkor M seems to be much less common on the used market than the 180mm Fujinon A. I'm not sure why that's the case. It's less expensive new ($595 vs. $725 for the Fujinon A). It hasn't been on the market as long (although, it was introduced on a year or two after the EBC multicoated version of teh 180mm Fujinon A). So, that might partially explain why it isn't very common on the used market. Also, multicoated 210mm f5.6 plasmats of recent vintage are always plentiful on the used market at bargain prices. So, many users will opt for the larger coverage and brighter ground glass when shopping for a lens in this focal length range. For whatever reason, I don't think the 200mm Nikkor M has ever been a big seller and is a real sleeper IMHO. Kind of surprising given the popularity of the longer M series Nikkors.


Gem Singer
28-Dec-2004, 15:43

Thanks for coming to my rescue again. I have to admit, I was beginning to get in over my head. I sold my Fuji 180A and 240A lenses a few months ago. Nothing against them. I just prefer plasmats. Since I no longer do any backpack hiking, the weight of my lenses has no relevance to me anymore. The two "A"s were just sitting in my closet gathering dust.

As you know, I collect Fujinon lenses. So far, I have owned, and used sixteen of them (most of them are newer style, previously owned lenses). So far, I have sold off five, but still have eleven lenses that I use on my 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10 Tachihara cameras. I believe Fuji lenses are a good investment. At least I didn't loose any money when I sold them. Can't say the same for the Nikkors I used to own, however.

How would you rate a set of backpacking lenses, for the 4x5 format, consisting of a Fuji 180A, 240A. and 300A? A friend of mine is interested in that set of lenses. It sounds ideal in, every way, to me.

Steve Hamley
28-Dec-2004, 16:26
Eugene and Kerry,

Eugene's weight post tweaked my interest, so I got out the beam scale.

Actual weights with retaining ring and w/o caps (my fuji 180 had non-original caps so I took them all off):

Fujinon 180A: 190.7 g

Nikkor 200M: 178.8 g

I suspect the caps would add 8-10 grams

And (drum roll) very good Kerry!

Fujinon 300C: 272.2 g with caps, 263 g w/o



Eric Wagner
28-Dec-2004, 17:32
Making a photograph on 8x10 film is a very useful and pragmatic way to test a lens that is to be used on 4x5 film because it allows you to identify the area where the image deteriorates to the point of no longer being useful. I like to make a 3X enlargement of a 4x5 section of the film near the edge of the field and evaluate the image for sharpness at normal viewing distance. It is interesting to draw the circle of useful sharpness on the contact print with a compass and compare the diameter with the image circle listed by the manufacturer. My tests with several Nikkor W lenses show that they cover as much as the manufacturer claims, so I would expect the 200mm Nikon M to be sharp to 55 degrees at f22 just as Nikon claims. My experience indicates that Fuji was very optimistic about coverage with its W and A lines. My 180A and 240A are only sharp to about 55 degrees at f22. I like to judge sharpness by looking at a distant chain link fence and bare tree limbs. Based on my experience, I expect you will find that the 180A and 200M are both excellent 55 degree lenses.

Steve Hamley
28-Dec-2004, 17:43

Thanks, I am using bare tree limbs! At a mile or two.

I inspected the transparencies under a Pentax 5.5 x loupe today and the Nikkor is sharper, but not by much. Another long time LF photographer (Nye Simmons) inspected the transparencies and also chose the Nikkor.

http://www.simmonsphotoarts.com/ (http://www.simmonsphotoarts.com/)

If I had to sum it up (so far) in one sentence, it would be "My tests are reasonably consistent with Chris Perez' tests, and the only real surprise is the even illumination of the 8x10 GG by the Nikkor". If I only had to have one at this point, my nod's to the Nikkor. It is a sleeper.


Kerry L. Thalmann
28-Dec-2004, 22:22
How would you rate a set of backpacking lenses, for the 4x5 format, consisting of a Fuji 180A, 240A. and 300A? A friend of mine is interested in that set of lenses. It sounds ideal in, every way, to me.


Sounds a little long and a little too close together to me. Focal length preference is a personal thing, but I know I wouldn't be happy without something shorter than a 180mm. In fact, I always carry at least two lenses shorter than 180 when backpacking (either 90mm and 135mm or 90mm and 150mm).

WRT to spacing, I generally like to space my focal lengths at about 1.5x intervals. My typical backpacking kit (90mm, 135mm, 200mm, 300mm) is about as close as you can get to an even 1.5x spacing. When I want to go REALLY light, I space the lenses a bit further apart - 90mm, 150mm, 240mm works out to about a 1.6x spacing. For my general purpose kit, I space the lenses a little closer together in the mid-range, which is my personal "sweet spot". In this case, I go with 110mm, 150mm, and 210mm (~1.4x spacing) in the middle focal lengths. Even for general purpose use the spacing of 180mm, 240mm and 300mm (~1.3x) seems a bit tight to me.

I'd personally also replace the 300mm Fujinon A (400g) with the 300mm Nikkor M (270g). The 300 A is a fine lens, but I don't see it having any advantage over the 300mm Nikkor M on the 4x5 format. The 300 M is available new, cheaper and more plentiful on the used market, significantly lighter, more compact and takes smaller filters than the 300 A - and it has more than enough coverge for any 4x5 application.


Kerry L. Thalmann
28-Dec-2004, 23:08
I believe Fuji lenses are a good investment. At least I didn't loose any money when I sold them. Can't say the same for the Nikkors I used to own, however.

It all depends on when you bought them. At one time back in the early 1990s, ALL my large format lenses from 75mm - 720mm were Nikkors. This included 75mm f4.5 SW, 90mm f8, 120mm SW (for 4x10), 135mm W, 200mm M (for backpacking), 210mm W, 300mm M (for backpacking), 360/500/720 T-ED and 450mm M (for 4x10). I remember at one point when I was itemizing items for my insurance policy (full replacement value), the replacement cost was nearly 2x what I'd paid for my Nikkors. This was mostly due to flucuating exchange rates, but also reflected general price inflation and high resale value.

At the time I bought my Nikkors, the Japanese Yen was very weak against the US dollar and German Mark. New Nikkor lenses were generally 30 - 40% less expensive than comparable Schneider and Rodenstock lenses at that time. Back then, the Nikkors were also the newest state-of-the-art designs. Schneider was still selling Super Angulons that had been designed in the 1950s and the Symmar-S was their standard product line. Rodenstock's comparable offererings were the Grandagon-N and Sironar-N lines. Schneider and Rodenstock had introduced the 80 degreee Super Symmar HM and APO-Sironar lines, but they were priced 2 - 3x as much as the Nikkor W series. Back then, there weren't any Super Symmar XL or APO-Sironar-S options to chose from. And even though the exchange rate made most Japanese products great bargains, Fujinon lenses were actually the most expensive of the Big Four - and by far the hardest to get. This was after DO Industries had dropped distribution of the Fujinon LF lenses, and before internet/mail order companies like Badger Graphic began importing them. I remember a time when you couldn't get a USED 450mm Fujinon C for less than $1000 (believe me, I tried). People who bought Fujinon lenses at that time most likely LOST money on their investment. This was also in the days before eBay and rec.photo.marketplace made it possible for sellers and buyers around the world to deal directly without the overhead of an intermediary.

Over the years, I've gradually replaced most of my Nikkors with newer (usually smaller, lighter) lenses from the other major manufacturers - things like the 80mm and 110mm Super Symmar XLs, the 150mm APO-Sironar-S and the 450mm Fujinon C that were either not yet available, or very hard and expensive to get. I don't recall losing money on any of the Nikkors I sold. Again, that's more a function of flucuating exchange rates and inflation than any wise investment strategy on my part.

Ironically, even though the US dollar is VERY weak these days on the world market, many of the Nikkor lenses are once again outstanding bargains. The 90mm f8 SW is the least expensive lens less than 100mm from any of the big four and still has coverage significantly exceeded only by the much larger more expensive 90mm f5.6 Super Angulon XL. The 210mm W, at $635 is by a very wide margin the least expensive new 210mm f5.6 plasmat. Of course, many of the Nikkor lenses are no longer state-of-the-art. Fujinon, Rodenstock and Schneider have all introduced newer standard product lines since the Nikkor W debuted back in the 1980s (and Schneider has done so twice). And, Rodenstock and Schneider have introduced wider lenses with more coverage (APO-Grandagon and Super Angulon XL), but some of the Nikkors are still VERY appealing. The Nikkor M series, for outstanding performance in small, compact affordable packages is still a favorite with many photographers. For my money, the 90mm f8 SW is still the best combination of price, performance, coverage and size/weight of any lens in the popular 90mm focal length. And, the Nikkor T-ED line is still by far the most extensive line of telephotos from any manufacturer.

This is starting to sound like a commercial for Nikkor large format lenses. It's not meant to be. I use lenses from all four major manufacturers. Ultimately, they were all selected for their unique characteristics. While it's nice to get a good deal, I bought them to use, not as an investment. We are truly blessed, at a time when so many are (prematurely and unnecessarily) proclaiming the death of film at the hands of digital, to have SO many different lens (and camera) options to chose from. I'm personally thrilled to have so many choices available.


Gem Singer
29-Dec-2004, 07:37

Thanks for the lengthy and thoughtful answer to my inquiry. I forgot to add that my friend also has a 110XL. I was thinking about the look and color balance of the three Fuji "A"s as a matched set of lenses more than the focal length spread. His backpacking lenses would be: Schneider 110XL; Fuji 180A; Fuji 240A; and a Fuji 300A. He already has all of those lenses, except the 180A, in his kit.

You made a good point about the prices. At the time that I purchased my Nikkors, I didn't take advantage of the exchange rate between the Yen and the Dollar. I didn't know better. Therefore, I paid premium prices for the Nikkors. When I sold them off, I lost money on all seven of them. Jim, at Midwest, made me aware of this, and with his help, I have been able to come out ahead with the Fujinon lenses.