View Full Version : Kodak Ektar 203mm f7.7

Paul Cocklin
22-May-2005, 17:56
So I was searching for some info on here and found some related topics, but I was wondering if someone would like to help a newbie a little more thoroughly than what I could find. Here's the story:

A few months ago I got into LF with my first purchase; a Calumet monorail 4x5. Since then I've had a blast with the 150mm Rodenstock I picked up on ebay. In fact, I've had so much fun on ebay, I've become somewhat of a camera and accessories dealer, buying polaroid holders and other accessories cheap and hoping to get more for them than I paid.

Yesterday, I bought another Calumet 4x5 monorail with lens, for a little over $200. The lens was what I wanted, I figured I can get $150 or more for relisting and selling the camera and the lens will have only cost me around $80. The lens? A Kodak Ektar 203mm f7.7 in a Flash Supermatic shutter.

I was wondering if anyone can tell me what kind of color performance I might expect (allowing for individual variances of lenses and condition). I've read that this lense covers 5x7, so movements I'm not worried about; Sharpness would be my main concern, as most of what I shoot are landscapes. Does anyone know of any adverse sharpness issues when stopped all the way down to f45? Also, I assume since the shutter is called a 'flash' supermatic that it has flash sync. I think (remember, I'm new at this) that the two little posts sticking up are for flash. but how on earth do I hook up my SB-28 to that? :-) Sorry if any of this is redundant.

Any information, opinions or suggestions would be much appreciated. I love this forum, it has renewed not only my faith in people, but given a boost to my enjoyment of life itself. Dramatic words, but true none the less.

Thanks all, Paul

Robert A. Zeichner
22-May-2005, 18:38
I think you will be very pleased with the results you achieve with this lens. I have several and they are all sharp. I do mostly B&W, but have made a number of transparancies with it as well and was suitably impressed. A lens expert friend (now deceased) claimed that this lens has near apochromatic performance. I couldn't dispute this given my personal experience, but who knows. The flash supermatic was designed for flash bulbs. I was fortunate to have picked up a 203 in a Graflex Compur shutter last year and it has a PC flash socket. So, I don;t think your Nikon electronic flash will do you much good. Is this lens the equivalent of a modern 210mm Apo-whatever? Probably not. But, it's compact and often can be folded up into a wooden field camera. It is sharp and in all other respects makes pleasant images for me. Keep it. Use it. You'll like it. Forget about it being older than you are.

Dan Fromm
22-May-2005, 18:43
Paramount -- search for them, or just try MPEX -- makes a bipost (that's what the two pins are called)-to-PC cable.

About stopping down, opinions about how far stopped down is too far are all over the map. Shoot some film and find out your limit for yourself.

Why are you concerned about color rendition? In my limited experience, it is closely tied to exposure. That is, when I shoot EPP and underexpose just a little the sky comes out a much deeper blue than when I get exposure right. This with the same lens. So I believe that many of the claims that different lenses render color differently mistakenly attribute the consequences of slight differences in exposure because of differences in shutter speeds to the lenses used.

I shoot the lenses I front mount on the same shutter. Only one of them has ever produced transparencies with a color cast that I could blame on the lens. It was a radioactive TTH Copying Lens whose rear cell was distinctly yellow. Bleaching it by treatment with UV light removed the color cast.



Robert A. Zeichner
22-May-2005, 19:26
The lack of a PC connector is only part of the problem and easily solved with the aforementioned adapter. The big problem though, is that the shutter is designed for M or F sync (for flashbulbs) and not X sync (for electronic flash). The sychronization is different for flashbulbs because different types of bulbs reach their maximum output at different points during ignition. Electronic flash is a lot quicker and I suspect that you might have inconsistent or just plain unusable results if you try to use your Nikon SB-28. I'm sure there are some flashbulb experts on the forum who can provide a more thorough explanation and who might even suggest circumstances under which this might work for you.

22-May-2005, 20:19
There are test results for the 203mm lens on this page:


Two are in the table (Ektar and Anastigmat) and another at the very bottom of the page (Ektar).

Paul Coy
23-May-2005, 01:16
I have the 203 Ektar with Flash Supermatic and it fires a strobe fine. Just don't set the shutter to "M" or "F. "M" sync is for bulbs like Press 22, #5, M-3's etc that have a medium peak. "F" was for SF or SM bulbs only which are fast peak (around 5ms). Get a cord from Paramount Bipost to PC and you should be set. Have fun and try and shoot some bulbs with this lens too. I do quite regularly.

Paul Coy
23-May-2005, 01:19
Oh, and I forgot. The 203 Ektar is sharpest wide-open.

Philippe Bedfert
23-May-2005, 03:10
Dear Paul,
I used to shoot with the 203 Ektar. I have owned 3 of this lens. I liked them very much because they were small, light and had a good reputation of sharpness. They were pretty good for B&W but I was disappointing when I shot 4x5 slides. They all seemed to lack color separation and contrast. At this time, 6 months ago, I could try a 210mm geronar. The Geronar is a triplet made with new generation glasses. I think it is a mono coated lens, but the result in color slide is evident. More definition, more contrast. I try also a 210mm Congo. A tessar formula. Sharper than the Geronar and the Kodak. I have bought a brand new Congo lens with the money I have earned from the sales of the Kodak lenses. IMHO I you want to shoot color slides, forget the “old“ lenses. They are also overevaluated. You can buy newer lens for the same money at the auction site. The color film have made a lot of progress since the 50's and you cannot hope to have the same results with an Ektar or a Commercial Ektar and a Symmar, a Sironar or even a Congo.

Dan Fromm
23-May-2005, 04:58
Philippe, I can't disagree with you more strongly.

I've always got lovely results in color from my little uncoated 101/4.5 Ektar, made in 1946. Also from my coated 80/6.3 Wide Field Ektar made in 1948. I have a variety of newer lenses, all single coated, that don't give better color, so I don't think I'm satisfied with what I have and don't know better.

Is it possible that the old lenses you've used needed cleaning or that the shutters they were in ran somewhat slow?

Philippe Bedfert
23-May-2005, 13:04
Hello Dan,
Unfortunatly these lenses were CLA'd. And it is not only with the 203mm Ektar, but also with my 135mm wide field Ektar and 8.5", 10" and 12" Commercial Ektar. All of these lenses are good in B&W but are out of the standard incolor slide. It is only my opinion ! And it is not only for Ektar lenses. I have shot with old symmar and get the same results : the quality is good but not top. And they are too expensive compared with new lenses. You can find a 203mm Ektar around $150-$200 on *bay. You can also spend around $200-$250 for a 210mm Sironar N. It is a nonsense !

23-May-2005, 14:59
I agree with Philippe. My first lens for 4x5 was an ektar of this vintage. It was capable of some nice looking results under some circumstances, but was just not remotely up to the standards of modern lenses for contrast and sharpness. If you wanted a soft, glowing, old lens look, it was perfect. but i sold it and saved my pennies for a modern multicoated lens.

Dan Fromm
23-May-2005, 18:03
paulr, Philippe, I believe every word you write. I must not be as discriminating or sensitive to fine differences as you.

But I have got somewhat variable color rendition with the same lens, subject, emulsion, and session. My best explanation is slight variations in exposure, as in, sun came out from behind a cloud after I'd metered and before I shot, sun went behind a cloud, I knew I was over-/under-exposing a little but was stuck, ...

And EKCo certainly stressed the idea that their coated lenses were ideally suited for color work. I know advertisers sometimes, um, go a bit beyond the real, but I have a certain amount of faith in R. Kingslake, who I'd swear reported the same.



Roger Rouch
23-May-2005, 18:59
A couple of onths ago I sold my Ektar 203 on Ebay for slightly over $100. It wasn't the finest example, but the glass was perfect and it had been CLA'd with in the last couple of years. I was able to include the CLA receipt to the buyer. So maybe there are some deals out there. I wasn't too disappointed in the color redition. Colors was just a tad on the pastel compared with my modern multi coated lenses. Some might even consider this desirable, and in low light with no opprotunities for flare, I'll bet you couldn't tell the difference between the Ektar and a modern coated lens. And sharpness was never an issue. The thing about the older lenses that I've owned is that half or more did not have accurate shutter speeds at the slower end of the range. Unless you can have it tested to verify, you're probably in for some experimentation to determine how well it will do, and then a decent chance it will required CLA at maybe $50 to $100 to get going right.

Glenn Thoreson
25-May-2005, 23:13
To get proper sync for your electonic flash, do not cock the flash timer on the Flash Supermatic. That will give you the zero delay needed for your SB-28.

1-Apr-2018, 20:36
Oh, and I forgot. The 203 Ektar is sharpest wide-open.

And the Kodak Anastigmat 203/7.7 is even sharper than the Ektar wide open. In fact at f11 they are the sharpest, winning the Anastigmat. This is with the Anastigmat:

https://farm1.staticflickr.com/792/27127937738_eaede62d32_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/HkcLLs)Naturaleza Muerta con Hibiscus (https://flic.kr/p/HkcLLs) by Palenquero Photography (https://www.flickr.com/photos/palenquero/), on Flickr