View Full Version : Graflex 10" Tele-Optar questions

MultiFormat Shooter
25-Jan-2016, 13:28
How sharp is the Graflex 10" Tele-Optar lens? I have heard some people say it is sharp and others say it is somewhat soft. I have used the Ilex-Calumet Caltar 165 mm f/6.3, the Schneider Xenar 210 mm f/6.1 and Schneider Xenar 135 mm f/4.7 in 4" x 5" format and the Graflex Optar 101 mm f/4.5 in 2.25" x 3.25" format. How does the Graflex 10" Tele-Optar compare to these lenses, in terms of color, sharpness and contrast? I have also heard the bellows draw is about 165 mm, is this true?

I searched the forms before posting but couldn't find any definitive answers about the sharpness of this lens.


Dan Fromm
25-Jan-2016, 14:26
See http://www.cameraeccentric.com/html/info/wollensak_5.html for what Wollensak says about draw.

I had one years ago, hated it, never got a sharp shot with it. Other folks have said good things about theirs. What I do know is that tele lenses are, in general, not as sharp as non-teles of the same focal lengths. I also know that the 210/6.1 Xenar and 165/6.3 Ilex-Calumet are among the best tessar types ever, should both be sharper than the 10"/5.6 Wolly tele. I can't speak to the 101/4.5 Raptar/Optar, I've never used one. There are happy users, also credible reports that it is at least one stop behind the 101/4.5 Ektar for sharpness, i.e., as sharp at f/22 as the Ektar is at f/16, and so on.

If I were shopping for a 10" or so tele I'd look for a 240/5.5 Tele-Arton. The version in #1 will cover 2x3 but not 4x5, the version in #2 will just cover 4x5. The 270/5.5 (flange-focal distance 152 mm) might be a better choice.

MultiFormat Shooter
25-Jan-2016, 14:46
Thank you very much! It looks like bellows draw is a little less than 165mm. Are you familiar with the Nikon Nikkor T ED 270mm f/6.3? Some on the internet say it will cover a 4" x 5" image area. However, others say it is really for 6x9 cm and won't cover 4" x 5" wide-open at infinity. I have no personal experience with it.

Again, thank you very much! I want a good portrait lens that I can use with the rangefinder of a handheld Speed Graphic and am trying to "Do it right the first time."

Carsten Wolff
25-Jan-2016, 14:50
I have the 15" f5.6 version; 'love it to bits. My go-to portrait and general short tele lens on 5x7". But Dan is probably right; those other lenses are killers; it is easy to get a bad copy, too, and the 10" is not that famous.... (10" Wolly Teles came in f5.6 and 4.5 versions and under various names, by the way).

Carsten Wolff
25-Jan-2016, 14:50
I'd normally get a Fuji 250 f6.3.... but you are bellows limited there.

Dan Fromm
25-Jan-2016, 14:54
LF Nikkor catalogs here: http://1drv.ms/12OF8Si The Nikkor you asked about is a very modern tele lens, much superior to old style ones like the Wollies. Also more expensive. The Schneiders I suggested are, um, early modern.

You should go to www.graflex.org and look around to find out the range of focal lengths (a) for which the Kalart RF can be made to work and (b) for which there are cams for Graflex' own top RFs.

Which size Graphic are you using?

MultiFormat Shooter
25-Jan-2016, 15:15
Sorry, I'm using a 4" x 5" Graphic. I can have a cam custom-cut to match the lens to the rangefinder. I wasn't sure the Nikkor would cover the 4" x 5" film. With a 114mm image circle at f/6.3, it doesn't look like it will do it.

What is the bellows draw on the 15" Tele-Optar? Can you still use the rangefinder? Does the 15" version tend to be sharper than the 10" version?

Carsten Wolff
25-Jan-2016, 15:18
never used my 15" with a rangefinder; it'd become a hit'n-miss affair at that length anyway. Bellows is about 225mm at infinity. Mine is sharp; have no 10" tele to compare it with.

MultiFormat Shooter
25-Jan-2016, 15:47
Thanks! Two hundred twenty-five millimeters would be getting to the end of rangefinder's ability to "mesh" with lens, at close distances.

26-Jan-2016, 10:39
I have crown/speed graphics and the Nikkor-T 270mm. It covers 4x5 fine, even wide open, especially at portrait distances. Nikon is conservative with their ratings.

MultiFormat Shooter
26-Jan-2016, 12:29
Thanks! Will it (Nikkor-T 270 mm) cover 4" x 5" when focused at infinity and wide-open? I would use it for portraits, but would also like to be able to use it for other, far-away subjects (distant landscapes, boats, etc.).

26-Jan-2016, 12:52
One of my favorite lenses. Easily covers 5x7. Sharp and contrasty. #2 Wollensak shutter.

MultiFormat Shooter
26-Jan-2016, 15:46
One of my favorite lenses. Easily covers 5x7. Sharp and contrasty. #2 Wollensak shutter.

Thanks, Bill! How does it compare to the Optar 101mm f/4.5 for the Century Graphic? That's the only other Optar lens I have experience using.

Dan Fromm
26-Jan-2016, 16:35
MFS, Optar is a Graflex Inc. trade name, not a lens design type. Most Optars were made by Wollensak, who sold the 101/4.5 as a Raptar and the 10"/5.6 tele as a TeleRaptar.

You can't conclude anything about how Wollensak's tessars perform from how a Wolly telephoto lens performs. They're different design types. All the two have in common is Wollensak.

An old-style tele like a TeleRaptar will have lower resolution, more distortion and less coverage than a tessar type of the same focal length and maximum aperture.

I have the very strong impression you're trying to avoid making a bad mistake. Give it up, you're doomed. You're looking at used lenses with different histories of abuse (or good care) from a maker whose quality control was so-so. The only way to know whether a Wollensak lens you're offered is good or bad is to try it out. f/5.6 Pro Raptars might have been more consistent when new than other Wolly lenses but nowadays they're all used too.

MultiFormat Shooter
26-Jan-2016, 17:27
I have the very strong impression you're trying to avoid making a bad mistake....The only way to know whether a Wollensak lens you're offered is good or bad is to try it out.

I am definitely trying to avoid a mistake, hence all the "stupid" questions. My rationale for the comparison of the 101mm f/4.5 to the 10" Tele-Optar was that if Wollensak had good quality control, you might be able to get a general idea of the performance of their lenses, even though they are different styles (i.e. if their Tessars are great/poor, then their telephotos should great/poor, etc.) I have came to the conclusion that, like you said, I would just have to try one out, and see what it does.

At any rate, I really appreciate all the advice and information from everyone in the thread!

26-Jan-2016, 18:45
Many, or even most, of us, including me, have had consistently good results will Wollensak lenses, and the teles. I think they're highly underrated, thanks to the criticism they get, not due to their performance. I don't have the 10" lens, but I have four of the 15", two in shutters, two barrel, and they are great. I have long suspected that old + American + lens is a trigger for negativity from a lot of people that simply needs to be ignored.

26-Jan-2016, 18:48
MFS: just be sure that you have return privileges on any used lens you buy (and plan on eating the postage, which is only fair).
Dan, I agree completely, except I don't think that Wolly had so-so QC -- they just weren't Zeiss, Eastman, or Goerz -- more like Schneider.