View Full Version : what do all the wierd terms attached to lenses mea

dan otranto
1-Mar-2005, 10:10
what do things like "Apo Sironar-S" and "super angulon" "SW", "SWD", "grandagon" "Super-SymmarH M", "w", etc.. mean?

im lookin for a very sharp 135mm

Edward (Halifax,NS)
1-Mar-2005, 10:29
Grandagon is Rodenstock's designation for wide angle lenses. Sironar is their designation for mid to long lenses. Sironars are currently made in two lines; the S and N. The S line will likely be slightly sharper and have a larger image circle.


In Kerry Thalmann's future classics site he recommends the APO Sironar-S in the 135mm focal length.

Ellis Vener
1-Mar-2005, 10:37
mostly this is just the manufacturer's name forthe lens and may sort of describe the type of basic lens design being usedas well. "Apo" is short for apochromatic , which means thatthe lens design is corrected to focus all visible light on the same plane. I don't know how much you know aboutthe physical properties of light, but different colors of light are essentially forms of energy that have slightly different wave lengths. For a betterexpalanation find a copy of Richard Feynmann's "Q.E.D." and read the first two or three chapters.

Basically any modern 135mm lens is going to be very , very sharp. "sharpness' is bascially a combination of two measurable attributes; resolution and contrast. Just looking at these, You would be hard pressed to see any difference between a Nikon, Rodenstock or Schneider large format lens but you'll see a difference in other areas. it starts to become a personal preference. I prefer the "look' of images made with Rodenstock and Nikon large format lenses.

Emmanuel BIGLER
1-Mar-2005, 10:55
May be we could add some linguistic notes.
W means "wide" and SW "super wide" this is English although German uses 'Weitwinkle' for wide angle, so W is very German as well.
In German optical products, "S" like in S-planar® or Apo-Sironar-S® is often used to denote something special. "Spezial" exist in German but S might more likely mean Sonder. Sondermodell, a special model.
Symmar® is a strange registered brand name. I'm pretty sure that Summar® was already registered by somebody else than Schneider (guess which company, no, not in LF ;-). In German the "y" is pronounced like the umlaut-u "ü" or like the French "u" (not : iou ;-) If you add that "S" before a wovel is pronounced like 'Z' in German, you get someting... yes, really Veird ;-);-)

Gem Singer
1-Mar-2005, 11:39

I think that part of your confusion is caused by the fact that some manufacturers make a lens in the same focal length in both a standard formulation and a wide angle formulation. For example, the wide angle 120 Schneider Super Angulon and the 120 Super Symmar HM.

You would be hard- pressed to be able to tell the difference between images made with any of the standard 135's from the major manufacturers. Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikon, Fuji all make excellent sharp lenses in the 135 focal length. My suggestion is to look for the best deal you can get on the latest model 135 that fits your budget, and don't be confused by the letter designation.

1-Mar-2005, 13:07
i think of a lot of the model names (symmar, sironar, grandagon, angulon, etc.) like car model names: mustang, eldorado, civic, corolla, etc..

they're brand names owned by a company, and the company chooses to recycle the name over the years, even though the products themselves change. the names only mean something when you get familiar with the company's products. the word "corolla" doesn't tell you much by itself, but if you've ever had one, you'll be pretty sure that the 2006 corolla won't be a monster truck. for example.

Jim Rhoades
1-Mar-2005, 15:53
Because I'm an iconoclast I'll break down the brand/model / letter system for you:

Brand name: $500.00
Model name: $250.00
Each letter : $250.00

Check it out in any magazine ad.

Michael S. Briggs
1-Mar-2005, 16:04
When you buy a small format lens, say from Nikon for a Nikon 35 mm camera, the only parameters that matter are the focal length and the maximum aperture. (OK, it has gotten more complicated recently with various kinds of manual versus several types of autofocus lenses). Naturally you will have no concern about whether the lens is suitable for 35 mm film.

Things are more complicated in the LF world since there are several formats and the cameras are made by different companies than the lenses. To know whether a lens will work with your format (e.g., 4x5, 5x7, 8x10, ...), you have to know the coverage of the lens -- the diameter of the circle of quality image that the lens makes. Different designs have different coverages. One design type might work well for a 150 mm lens for 4x5, but have insufficient coverage for 8x10. Another 150 mm of a different design type will have enough coverage for 8x10. This second type will also work for 4x5, but would generally not be used because of the higher weight and cost compared to the first design type.

Understanding the design types is helpful in selecting your lenses. For normal and longer focal length lenses, normal coverage, called "wide" coverage, lenses will work well. For short focal lengths for your format, a "super-wide" coverage lens will either be needed or allow more movements. Hence the common symbols "W" and "SW".

The several manufacturers have brand names that they apply to lenses of the same design type, regardless of focal length.

The plasmat design has "wide" coverage. These types include the Nikkor-W, Fuji-W and Fuji-CMW, the various Rodenstock Sironars, and most of the Schneider Symmar types (Symmar, Symmar-S, Apo-Symmar). To confuse things, Schneider has started using the Symmar name for some other designs: Super-Symmar-HM and Super-Symmar-XL. The have wider coverage than the non-Super Symmars.

The most common super-wide coverage lens type is made as the Nikkor-SW, Fuji-SW and Fuji-SWD, Rodenstock Grandagon types, and Schneider Super-Angulon types.

The Tessar (Zeiss trademark) design is made as the Nikkor-M and Schneider Xenar. These have normal (i.e., less than wide) coverage and work best in longer than normal focal lengths. They can be used as normal lenses (for a particular format) but will not support as extensive of movements such as front rise as the plasmat designs.

With some understanding of the common lens designs, the series names can help you understand the best uses of a lens.

The book "A History of the Photographic Lens" by Rudolf Kingslake is an excellent for a basic understanding of the popular lens designs.

You don't have to understand all of this to be a good LF photography. Browsing the archives or asking questions can get you recommendations of which lenses are best choices for a particular purposes, e.g., for a 135 mm lens for 4x5.

If you are sure that you want 135 mm, then your choice should be one of the plasmats. I don't know of any Super-Wide types in this focal length, though such exist in similar focal lengths such as 120 mm. The Tessar designs will have at best borderline coverage. As Eugene says, all of the plasmat types from the major manufacturers will be sharp. However, the latest plasmat designs have a bit more coverage than the older ones. This will be useful for 135 mm since a 135 mm plasmat design won't have lots of excess coverage for 4x5. So you might want to look for the latest versions, which would be the Apo-Sironar-S and the Apo-Symmar-L.

Oren Grad
1-Mar-2005, 17:23
Michael - Great post! Only one minor correction, on your very last point - there is no 135 in the Apo-Symmar-L line. Schneider stopped offering that focal length when it phased out the Apo-Symmars. The only 135 with 75 degree coverage is the Apo-Sironar-S.

Ernest Purdum
1-Mar-2005, 20:31
As an historical note, many of the older lens tradanames were based on Greek roots. "Tessar" suggests a lens with four elements. "Hypergon" is a lens with excessive angle. "Planar" is a flat field lens. "Artar" implies perfection. "Heliar" is named after the sun. This continues in lenses which have "gon" (for angle) in their name.

Guy Tal
2-Mar-2005, 08:31
If you think that's a challenge, try making sense of something like:

Nikkor G AF-S VR ED IF 80-400/4.5-5.6 D
(not picking on Nikon, there's similar stuff in other lines)

Sorry, it just cracks me up. You could probably save 10% of your pack weight by scraping off the lettering.

Scenic Wild Photography (http://www.scenicwild.com)

dan otranto
2-Mar-2005, 20:47
ok, here are some possibilities

Fujinon-W 135/5.6, Copal, retaining ring, caps, Mint-

Nikkor-W 135/5.6, MC, Copal, retaining ring, Mint-

Linhof Symmar 135/5.6 convertible (235/12), Linhof Compur shutter, Ex

135 f5.6 Nikkor W NIKON

135 f5.6 Nikkor-W GRAFLEX

135 f5.6 ApoSironar-S RODENSTOCK new

135 f5.6 Symmar-SSCHNEIDER

these range from 200 to almost 900 bucks, am i better off with the rodenstock cuz its more money or what? (cheaper tend to be used, new for like 500 though)

Michael S. Briggs
3-Mar-2005, 00:17
The coverage figures that I give are from the manufacturers. They may not be exactly comparable if the manufactueres don't measure/calculate usable coverage in exactly the same way.

These are all plasmat designs. With one exception, they are made from 6 glass elements, with two pairs glued together to make 4 groups of glass.

The Symmar is the oldest lens on your list. It will be single coated. If you remove the front component, it will function as a longer focal length lens, hence the designation "convertible", but don't expect stellar performance in the converted mode. Schneider specified the coverage as 70 degrees / 190 mm.

The Symmar-S is probably the second oldest len on your list. It is an improvement on the plain (or convertible) Symmar. (Since then there have been the Apo-Symmar, and the current Apo-Symmar-L.) Depending on its age, it might be single or multicoated. If multicoated, it will be labeled "MC". Schneider stated the same coverage as the plain Symmar.

Nikon's LF lenses were introduced sufficiently late that they are all multicoated. (A possible exception is some Nikkor-Q versions that appear rarely on ebay.) I have no idea why someone listed "Graflex" after one of the Nikkors -- perhaps the lensboard that it is on? Nikon specs the 135 mm Nikkor-W to have 73 degrees / 200 mm diameter of coverage.

Used Fuji lenses are tricky because Fuji changed the names of some of their lenses, but didn't change what they wrote on the lens itself. The full name of the later Fuji-W was Fuji-NWS. This lens only says Fuji-W on the lens. The way to distinguish it from the earlier version is that the lettering is on outside of the barrel, on the cylindrical surface. The earlier version had the lettering on the bezel around the front glass. The Fuji-NWS is multicoated, and Fuji used that excellent coating to design a lens that was all airspaced, with 6 elements in 6 groups. This allowed Fuji to extend the coverage to 76 degrees / 206 mm.

The Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-S is the newest lens design on your list. It's advanced technology is the use of ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) glass, which allowed Rodenstock to extend the coverage to 75 degrees / 208 mm diameter.
(Fuji or Rodenstock have made a slight rounding error to get a larger diameter from 75 degreees than from 76 degrees. I calculate 207 mm for 75 degrees, and 211 mm for 76 degrees. Also, perhaps the actual focal lengths are slightly different from 135 mm.) These lenses are multicoated.

If the price is reasonable, I would pick a multicoated lens, which rules out the Symmar, and may rule out the Symmar-S. The Symmar is old enough that its shutter might require a CLA (Clean, Lube, Adjust), which is another drawback.

In the 135 mm focal length, these lenses don't have huge reserves of coverage for 4x5. That would incline me to pick one of the lenses with the most coverage. That would be either the Fuji-W (if it is the NWS) or the Apo-Sironar-S. Since the Fuji-W is used, it should be much cheaper than the new Apo-Sironar-S. I suggest the Fuji.

Fuji makes very fine lenses. I have used a longer focal length Fuji-NWS, the 180 mm. Kerry Thalmann has an excellent webpage on the Fuji LF lenses at www.thalmann.com/largeformat/fujinon.htm (http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/fujinon.htm).