View Full Version : Sharpest 300mm lens for 5x7

daniel dumitru
8-Jan-2005, 06:50
To all,

I would appreciate any comments or opinions regarding a 300mm lens for shooting primarily landscapes in the 5x7 format with movements with the least fall off in image sharpness out to the edge of the image circle. I would also use this lens for 6x17 panoramas with movements as well. Although weight is a concern, I would be willing to lug something big around if center-to-edge sharpness was the lens' best quality.

Thank you for your comments

Ted Harris
8-Jan-2005, 07:42
I am sure you will get as many recommendations as there are 300 mm lenses available <smiles> as basically any from the 'big four' will serve you well. My presonal recommendation is the Fujinon 300 mm A. the lens is now discontinued but not tooooo difficult to find on the used market if you have a bit of patience. I and several others here swear by them.

8-Jan-2005, 08:03
I'm getting confused. 6x17 -- is that inches or cm? Is this a new format or an old one?

Gem Singer
8-Jan-2005, 08:03
Hi Daniel,

From my experience, the Nikkor 300M and the Fujinon 300C are two excellent compact lenses in that focal length. They are 4-element lenses, mounted in Copal 1 shutters. They are light weight, and they take economical 52mm. screw-in filters. They will cover 8x10 and are blazing sharp.

Robert A. Zeichner
8-Jan-2005, 08:38
I would second Eugene's recommendation and also add that you might find a good used 300mm Repro-Claron. I got and excellent one for about $300 a couple of years ago in a Copal 1 shutter and had wonderful results with it. It takes a smaller filter than 52mm, but I was able to buy a step up ring from B&W to enable using my 52mm filters. It just covered 8x10, so 5x7 and 6cm x 17cm should be a piece of cake with lots of room for movements. A very sharp lens!

Frank Petronio
8-Jan-2005, 10:10
Wouldn't a conventional 5.6 symetrical design be best at infinity for sharp and even results? Like a modern Symmar APO, Sironar-APO, Nikkor-W, etc.? Bigger but for a reason.

Donald Hutton
8-Jan-2005, 10:31
I have not used the Fuji, but use the 300M Nikkor a lot. It is outstandingly sharp and contrasty, as well as being very cheap and light! A no-brainer if ever there was such a thing. I have used it extensively on 4X5 and 6X17 and it is great. There will be a fall-off in sharpness in the image circle as you get close to the edges as it is a Tessar design, but the image circle is enormous for 5X7 so I'm sure you will never be shooting any landscapes with this portion of the image circle.

Ken Lee
8-Jan-2005, 10:45
Another vote for the Fujinon 300A. (Ted Harris turned me on to this lens). Smaller than other lenses with equivalent coverage and performance. Optimized for close range, but outstanding at all distances. It was my long lens for 4x5, and is soon to be my standard lens for 8x10, and portrait lens on 5x7.

If my scanner were better, you'd see even more detail, but this 4x5 image (http://www.kenleegallery.com/f300a.htm" target="_blank) was taken with the 300A, with a lot of rise. A small section (http://www.kenleegallery.com/f300adetail.htm" target="_blank) from the top shows plenty of detail, way off-center.

I got in touch with Jim at Midwest Photo, who was able to find me one.

Robert Skeoch
8-Jan-2005, 11:09
I have an older schnieder 300 and a new fuji 300 C. Since I work in the field I always take the Fuji because it's lighter and smaller. I haven't used the big schnieder since the fuji purchase. I use 8x10.

8-Jan-2005, 13:59
I've used several 300mm lenses, and here is my experience. However, others will have had different experiences and may strongly disagree with the following:

I found the 300mm f9 Nikkor to be great on 4x5, but poor on 8x10 outside of the central 5" or so area (when inspecting color transparencies with a magnifier of greater than 4x). I don't know how meaningful that would apply to 5x7", except that if movements are used and very large prints are desired it probably would make a difference (in comparison to the absolute sharpest results).

I found the 300m f8.5 C Fuji to be provide more uniform sharpness on 8x10 than the Nikkor, but it has what I call a 'hard' contrast look to it, on color transparencies, than other lenses, even the Nikkor. Some may like the look. I don't. However, most would consider the effect subtle, and for 8x10, I would choose the Fuji over the Nikkor. Probably the same for 5x7.

I found the very large and heavy Rodenstock 300m f5.6 Apo-Sironar S to provide better and most uniform sharpness accross the entire 8x10 image at infinity (didn't test close-up), and the most uniform illumination. If cost and weight were not a consideration, that's the best I've found. However, it may be overkill for 5x7.

I found the Schneider 305mm G-Claron, of modern vintage, to my surprise to be close to the Rodenstock. It's single coated, but shading the lens from direct sun with the film holder gave me results that were similar to the multicoated lenses. It has what I term I softer contrast than the NIkkor f9 and Fuji f8.5 lenses. The color balance is slightly warm, which I preferred. This lens did better than the Nikkor on sharpness outside the central 5" square area. I don't know how it compared in the central area however - I don't remember. However, I remember that at the time I tried it out, I preferred it overall to the other 300mm lenses given everything - color balance, illumination, sharpness across the image, weight, cost. However, they're not available neew any more.

Clayton Tume
8-Jan-2005, 15:24

can you elaborate on you comment about the Nikkor 300 M being poor outside the central 5".

I was planning on buying one for 8x10 and now having second thoughts. Originally I was tossing up between the 300M and 305 G Claron but gave the edge to the Nikkor because of it's smaller size and also many posters here had recommended it as being extremely sharp to the edge on 8x10.

I'm now wondering if they were talking contact prints and not enlargements. I plan to enlarge so my use may differ to others.


Steve Clark
8-Jan-2005, 16:16
You might want to consider an APO-Ronar. I sold my 300m Nikkor as the 300 APO-Ronar images were much more pleasing to me. The Nikkor was plenty sharp, but the Rodenstock has a much nicer "feel" to it. I use it on 5X7, with excellant results.

Ken Lee
8-Jan-2005, 16:33
I recall that the Nikon M lenses are based on a Tessar design, well known to be sharp in the center, but with degrading sharpness towards the edge. This improves with smaller f-stops, but only so much. More modern designs overcome that problem.

On the other hand, the Tessar design is quite compact. Many 1950's folding cameras have that kind of lens, allowing them to be small enough to fold right into the camera.

8-Jan-2005, 23:47
Clayton - My experience with the Nikkor 300M f9 (actually, two samples), was that the sharpness was not as good outside the central approx 5" square of an 8x10 transparency than with other 300 & 305 mm lenses I used (I tested several on the same subject, and took multiple shots). Being not as sharp as seen in my higher powered magnifiers (above 4x) that is. At 4x I could see a slight difference, but depending on how picky the viewer is, it might not be important. So if someone is making contacts it wouldn't matter. However if someone were to stick their eyes close to something like a 20x24 print, then they might be very disappointed.

I am picky, so it mattered to me. I preferred the results of all other 300mm lenses over those particular Nikkor 300mm f9 s . I don't use 300 or 305 mm lenses anymore (went down to two lenses - 240mm Rodenstock Apo-Sironar S, 450mm Nikkor M f9 - which I preferred over the Fuji F12.5C, just the reverse of the 300mm situation). If I did, I'd want to get a 305mm G-claron that was of recent vintage, or for more money and considerable weight the 300mm Rodenstock Apo-Sironar S. If I couldn't get the 305, and didn't want to hack the weight of the f5.6 plasmats, then the Fuji 300 f8.5 would be my choice. I did try a Nikkor 300mm f5.6 W, and although better than the f9M, it wasn't as good as the Rodenstock or a Schneider Apo-Symmar (but didn't compare it directly to the Fuji 300mm f8.5c). Then there are other lenses, like the Fuji 300mm F5.6 CM-W (I think that's the current designation), which might be very good, but I didn't try.

On the other hand, some others have found the 300mm f9 Nikkor plenty good for their needs, and perhaps their particular samples were better than the two I tried.

Gem Singer
9-Jan-2005, 04:31
Daniel's inquiry is about the 5X7 and 6X17 format. The Nikkor 300M and the Fujinon 300C have more than ample coverage for those two formats. Had the question been about the 8X10 format, I would have recommended any of the larger 300 f5.6 plasmats.

Ted Harris
9-Jan-2005, 08:02
Another plug for the 300mm Fuji A. In addition to its pleasing color rendition and excellent resolution it has an image circle that is comeptitive with the llarger and heavier f5.6 lenses that are being discussed above. At 420 the image circle of the Fuji A is about the same as that of the Apo Symmar; I didn;t check the Rodenstock image circle but assume it is about the same. Differences being the Fuji is lighter and in a #1 shutter. I have neither used nor owned a 300mm Apo Symmar but I used to use a 240 mm Symmar-S MC in a Prontor Pro #3 shutter and I can tell you that the lens was absolutely the heaviest lens I owned, period.

Michael Jones
9-Jan-2005, 13:20

Two lenses I use have not popped up in this list are the 12" Kodak Commercial Ektar and 12" Red Dot Artar. The Ektar will cover 8x10 and after the shutter is overhauled, itís as good as it gets, IMHO. Depending on your luck you may find it in an f4.5 or a f5.6 version. They use Acme #5 and #4 shutters respectively; make sure your camera can support it. The Artar will cover 5x7 nicely and is razor sharp. It can be found in almost any shutter (or not) and is significantly smaller and lighter. I find the local contrast and image quality of these lenses to any Japanese lens, but that is a matter of personal preference. I just did not want you to overlook them as they can be found reasonably priced, especialy when compared to some newer models.

Good luck.


David K.
10-Jan-2005, 11:28
Daniel, I have used a 300 Nikkor, owned a 305 G-Claron, and currently use a 300 Apo-Ronar.

My impression is that both the G-Claron and the Apo-Ronar are more versatile lenses, than the Nikkor, that is essentially optimised for infinity work. All will probably have sufficient coverage for what you need it for. The G-claron probably has more coverage than you can use, and is the largest and heaviest of the the 3 lenses.

My recommendation is what I currently use, the Apo-Ronar - compact, light weight, and very sharp at both infinity and close-up. The Apo-Ronar is also available both as a single coated and a multi-coated lens, dependant on what vintage you pick-up.