View Full Version : Specific lens advice needed

Rick Russell
15-Jan-2005, 11:45
I need advice regarding the purchase of a 180mm lens. I intend to use the lens primarily for landscape work, and shoot both color and black and white. I own a Schneider XL 110mm, and intend to ultimately purchase a wide angle (72, 75 or 80mm) as well as a Nikon 300mm.

My dilemna is as follows: The relative merits of modern lenses in the 180mm length is not addressed often. I have located a demo 180mm Caltar II for a little over $400, which apparently has not been used. I have also located 2 mint Apo-Symmar 180mm which can each be purchased for just under $700. Another retailer has an Apo-Sironar S 180mm for about $750. Finally, I can simply purchase a new Apo-Symmar L or Apo-Sironar S, for just under $1000 and $1050, respectively.

I intend to use the 180mm as my normal lens, along with the SS XL 110mm. Because I shoot color, I prefer lenses of similar color temperature, which is why I am not considering a Nikon or Fuji. Lens sharpness is of paramount concern.

Your advice and thoughts?

Eric Woodbury
15-Jan-2005, 12:19
Rick, which format are you using? I have a 57 for which I have a 72, 110, 150, 210, 300 etc. I have found that I don't use the 300 much, so now I have dropped out the 210 and 300 and carry a 250. I don' t know if this is going to work out, as I like the 210. The 150 is very nice and I would never leave it home. (It is a Rodenstock Apo Sironar-W, discontinued, but they are still around and cover 57 well.)

I think that you will find all the modern glass to be excellent. I don't shoot color, but have heard that the Japan and German coatings render color with slight differences. It would seem this could be corrected easily, but what do I know.?

chris jordan
15-Jan-2005, 12:22
Rick, don't worry about the color temperature of different lenses. There may be some measurable difference if you use the right high-tech instruments, but anyone who says they can perceive a visible color difference between photographs taken with Japanese versus German lenses is full of hooey. Color temperature of different lens manufacturers is one of those nerdy things that equipment freaks talk about and working photographers pay no attention to. The Nikon and Fuji lenses are top-quality beautifully-made lenses, as are the Sironars; you will be happy with any of them. If you want the sharpest possible images, then according to most people the Sironar-S series is superior to any other line of lenses on the market. They are quite a bit bigger and heavier than some of the Nikkors and Fuji's though, if weight is a concern. I just bought two big fat Sironar-S's myself (a 240mm anda 360mm) and they are amaaaaaaazing.

Good luck,


Gem Singer
15-Jan-2005, 12:34
Hi Rick,

As far as sharpness is concerned, all of the 180mm. lenses from the major lens manufacturers are equally sharp. Since you already have a Schneider 110XL, you might as well stay with Schneider for color matching.

I recommend that you contact Jim, at Midwest Photo Exchange (jim@mpex.com). He has a like new 180 Apo-Symmar listed on his website for under $700. He can obtain just about any make 180 lens, either new or previously owned, for you at an extremely reasonable price.

I am not connected with Midwest in any way. Merely a satisfied customer. Among other pieces of equipment, I have purchased seventeen LF lenses from Jim, both new and used. It's hard to beat his quality on used lenses, his reliability, and his price.

Ted Harris
15-Jan-2005, 14:33

I totally agree with Eugene in terms of talking with Jima at Midwest (I AM closely connected with them .... that is is my credit cards are <smile>) you will not go wrong with anything from there. OTOH a Caltar II N (assumign you are talking about the current IIN) is a rebadged Apo Sironar N. I have run side-by-side tests of the Apo Symmar and Apo Sironar N in 150 and 210 and fould no descerinable difference in term sof a real life subject viewed by the human eye. My guess is that the 180's will be the same. I would snap up the 180 Caltar IIN but be advised that while it is a good price it is just a bit under normal used retail for a 180 Caltar as opposed to a screaming bargain.

As for performance of the lens it is superb, you will be satisfied. I use a Caltar IIN as my 'normal' lens for 4x5. I hate that term normal as I really don;t think it applies to LF. In my case it gets used a reasonable amount but my 110 SS XL gets more use as does my 240 Fuji A and my 75 SA. From my perspective, given that either the 110 or a 135 are the lenses I reach for most frequently, I would definitely opt for the Caltar IIN. I see no reason to spend 700 when yuo can get the same performance for 400 and if your experience is like that of a lot of other landscape shooters you will find that thelens is not used as much as you might think. If you are thinking larger than 4x5 it will cover 5x7 but if you are thinking 5x7 you might want the extra wiggle room you get from the Sironar-S.


John D Gerndt
15-Jan-2005, 14:35
I can attest to the Caltar II N's color and sharpness. Don't be afraid to save $300.


Frank Petronio
15-Jan-2005, 15:09
I'd go for 180 Sinaron-SE or Sironar-S. I have the N and it is excellent, but since the 180 is going to be the least expensive lens in your high-end arrsenel, why not go for the extra coverage?

Donald Hutton
15-Jan-2005, 15:40

With a 180mm lens on 4X5, just when have you ever needed more coverage than the Sironar N offers???? Do you honestly think that the 14mm of image circle with that much surplus makes a real difference? The image circle of the "N" allows for 70mm of front rise (yes obviously less with tilts etc): how many cameras can accomodate that without massive indirect rise? In my experience, I have never needed anything like that from a 180mm lens. Shooting skyscrapers with a 90mm - yes.

Scott Fleming
15-Jan-2005, 17:15
Does anybody actually believe the 'L' of the newest Apo Symmars means anything at all as regards image quality? I'm very skeptical that it bears any function other than a sop to the enviromental movement. I even suspect the 'old' evil glass might have been better. As far as caring for the earth goes I bet the billions of batteries going into the landfills these days are a true menace. A few hundred pounds of inert glass that might trickle into the landfills in a hundred years seems not too significant to me.

Frank Petronio
15-Jan-2005, 17:55
Yes but all those stupid people who live in Schott, DDR or Corning, NY might argue with you. But maybe not, as they are kinda slow...

Seriously, it is the smelting of leaded crystal that increases ambiant lead in their communities. Fixing the problem isn't too hard, although Schneider is one of the companies that tries to disguise its responsibility as a "new and improved product." (Many Hasselblad SWC users seem to feel that their older, heavy metal lenses are better than the newer eco-sound lenses, and Zeiss even admits that the new version has slightly less performance.) I don't like fanatic eco-nuts either, but if you want to believe in free market solutions, then the company needs to fix its own mistakes.

Don - well, I only have Ns, but geez, the guy has quite a high end shopping list and I'm really good at spending other people's money ;-)

Jim Rice
15-Jan-2005, 18:31
I adore my two Ns. When I finally spring for a 135 the choice will be really difficult between the S and N. Twice the money for just a smidge of coverage seems a little......extravagant.

Scott Fleming
15-Jan-2005, 18:37
Thanks Frank ... I didn't think about the smelting end of things. Surely there are scrubbers or something.

So who are you pulling for? The Falcons opened hot but it looks like the Rams are out for blood as well.

Donald Hutton
15-Jan-2005, 19:00

While I don't own one of the new APO Symmar-L lenses (yet...), they are a significantly different from the old in design - most notaby, most have significantly bigger image circles. In fact, the quoted image circle of the latest L version 150mm is bigger than than APO Sironar S everyone gets so excited about. They also have quite a neat feature - the front and rear filter threads are the same on each lens... So the difference would seem to be at least as great as the difference between the APO Sironar N and S range.

Michael S. Briggs
15-Jan-2005, 20:38
Both the Apo-Symmar-L and Apo-Sironar-S are specified by their makers as having 75 degrees of coverage for most focal lengths. For the 150 mm focal length, Schneider says 233 mm and Rodenstock 231 mm -- with the accuracy that coverage can be defined, these values aren't really different. Do Rodenstock and Schneider calculate or measure coverage in exactly the same way? What are the manufacturing varations? Concluding that one lens is better than the other because of 2 out of 230 mm would be silly.

Donald Hutton
15-Jan-2005, 22:21
I think you missed my point Michael - which was not about 2mm of coverage - it was actually that the new Apo Symmar-L is a different design to the old plain APO-Symmar: in the same way that the Sironar-S and Ns are different designs - it's not just "Eco-marketing". As I mentioned, I have never shot with the newer L-lenses (and certainly haven't shot test charts, which is honestly the only way you will ever discern a 5-10ln/mm difference in resolution if it in fact exists) so my statements are based on manufacturer's specifications only and are obviously not my personal experience in the field (which for what it's worth, is that all modern plasmats are exactly the same on any size print).