View Full Version : ... this is where things get really goofy...

Christopher Perez
6-Jul-2005, 16:44

I have gone and done something rather beyond nuttiness. I took a careful look at comparing B&W prints made from a 200mm Nikkor M and a pair of Bausch and Lomb 183mm Series V Protars. Here's what I found:


Feedback? Comments?


Scott Fleming
6-Jul-2005, 17:01
Very informative and entertaining article. Might we see a pic of the Protar alongside some sort of scale reference? Thank you.

Jon Wilson
6-Jul-2005, 17:07
Thank you for being soooooo nutty! Great analysis! Your test confirms my thoughts that my non RD 6" goerz APO lens can be sharper than my 150mm G-Claron...that the quality older lens can hold a candle to modern lens. Now if I can only improve my LF skills for I find most of my Old & Modern Lens can definitely produce a superior picture despite my LF skills. I need the temperment to narrow the field of which lens I should carry and use on a constant basis. At present, I am balancing between my Red Dot APO Goerz lens, G-Clarons, and Kowas. Boy, does it make my gear a lot heavier when I carry the gambit of these lens from 150mm thru 300mm+.

Kevin Crisp
6-Jul-2005, 17:52
Chris: Thanks for the interesting article. I don't find the result particularly surprising, having compared a 20 cm protar against a 210 APO Symmar I also found slight detectable differences but only at a level of inspection which was completely beyond anything anybody would do in looking at a photograph within the size ranges my small darkroom can produce. (16X20) People throw out some outlandish comments about the grades of contrast you'll lose if you don't have multicoating, etc. and my experience has been that these assumptions often don't turn out to be true. Modern glass is great and terrific. Some older lenses can be excellent too. (And some are horrible.) Again, thanks for spending the time doing this, and writing it up, I enjoyed it.

6-Jul-2005, 18:26
I just bought a 85mm coated Protar V as a less expensive alternative to a modern WA lens for my Anba Ikeda 5x7. This lens is terrific. Even illumination, beautiful tonality, tiny size, sharp, great coverage. On Azo all the highlights and shadows are all there in spades and easy to print. It really doesnt get better than this for B&W. I'm going to find a 183mm for my 7x17 ASAP! Best Emile/www.deleon-ulf.com.

Dan Fromm
6-Jul-2005, 18:32
Um, er, ah, for one you can't use the Protars at f/9 and I bet you can use the Nikkor wide open. I realize that for many reasons we rarely shoot 180 mm lenses wide open.

For two, you can't focus and compose at f/9 with the Protars and you can with the Nikkor. This may be a worthwhile advantage. Do you think so?

For three, the Protars have 4 air-glass interfaces, so benefit little from coating. If you were to try the same experiment with aged double Gauss type wide angles you'd get different results. I recently took some trial shots with an Aldis Uno and am waiting for them to come back from the lab. The view through that lens, wide open, on the GG was respectable and I expected the shots will be too, for the same reason.

You've discovered again that with reasonably well-designed lenses diffraction swamps residual aberrations at the apertures we normally use. This is a result that you and Kerry have got over and over and over. Obvious dogs excepted, most of the lenses you two have tested do much the same from f/22 down. I'm a little surprised that you're surprised.

You've also rediscovered that starting from a relatively huge negative reduces the need for high resolution optics. I mean, a sharp-looking 16x20 made from a 4x5 neg with a good enlarging lens requires the lens to resolve no more than around 40 lp/mm on film. Most of the LF lenses you and Kerry have reported on have done that handily at f/22. This is just more of the same good news.

Finally, some lens designers just did really good work. Rudolph seems to have been one of them. Ludwig Bertele was another. H. W. Lee. G. H. Cook. So-so designers seem to do so-so work, even with the latest most best lens design software. For a nice example of that, visit the OSLO site and look for a report on a lens design competition.

But as long as we're wondering what all the investments that have been made in lens making R&D have bought us, please explain to me why so many people believe that using old lenses and old cameras (!) is the way to get "old timey" results. I've never understood the belief. I just recently tried out a pre-WWI B&L Tessar IIb. On modern films it produced modern-looking images. Oh, well.

Regards, and thanks for sharing your results,

John Berry ( Roadkill )
6-Jul-2005, 23:33
Very good read, thanks for sharing.

Jim Galli
7-Jul-2005, 08:31
Hi Chris. Thanks for sharing. You know I'm a nut about all this kind of stuff. Some thoughts though......... Is 4X5 a fair test? Apples / Oranges? ie. the Nikkor was designed for 4X5 and we can expect it to do a fantastic job as it will always be well within it's center "sweet spot" in almost any situation. Pressed to the far reaches of 5X7 we'd expect to see some mtf fall-off. The 183 on 4X5 is most certainly in it's sweetest spot. The middle 165mm of a 500mm circle. For that type use you should have a serious shade blocking as much as possible of the large un-used circle for even better contrast. But if we buy them to cover a 7X17 or 11X14, that's another matter entirely. The more legitimate question would be how compromised are important details in the far corners of the ULF plates and whether we can live with them or not. Again, a great read and lots of fun to actually press these older cheaper lenses into meaningful use. Recently I put a Protar VII 7" in competition with a late coated Kodak 170mm f7.7 lens. Smaller brother to the more famous 203 f7.7. I was biased right from the start toward the jazzier Protar. In that case there were actually noticeable differences in sharpness and contrast. The $66 Kodak won.

Jorge Gasteazoro
7-Jul-2005, 17:15
Jim makes some very good comments, but I have to admit that until about a year ago I thought there was no way an old lens could be as good as a modenr coated lens. Since I could not afford a super symmar XL, and mostly see no reason to spend $2000 for a lens I took a chance with a little 165 angulon for my 8x10. I was surprised at how good this little lens was...since then Jim has sold me a Wolly 159 that I am itching to use, but gotta wait for more film to get here.....any how here is an example of the Angulon made in the 1940s if I read the serial number right.


Ron Mc
7-Jul-2005, 18:23
I don't want to hijack this thread, but Jorge what is the structure in your image?

Jorge Gasteazoro
7-Jul-2005, 18:28
These are silver ovens dating back to the 1500s, at least this is what I was told by people living there. Why they needed ovens? I have no idea....... :-)

Ernest Purdum
7-Jul-2005, 19:13
Thius forum is educational, but sometimes I wind up with questions.

Chris, Are the Protars mounted with a cell in front and one in back, or are both cells in front of the shutter?

Dan, tryng to find "the OSLO site", I keep winding up in Norway. Help!

Jim, a 170mm coated f7.7 is interesting. Can you tell us more about it? Shutter, if any - whether identified as a K.A. or an Ektar - original application, if known, etc. I'm not surprised that you found it a good performer.

David A. Goldfarb
7-Jul-2005, 19:26
(I'm guessing they used the ovens to smelt the ore.)

Christopher Perez
7-Jul-2005, 20:17

Protars are two cemented doublets. One element pair in front of the shutter, the other mounted behind. Early on, these were widely used as convertable optics. In any event, the cell pairs look to be symmetrical.

As others have ably pointed out, old lenses are wonderful. I for years followed the marketing blather into believing the new lenses were superior. I'm sure that they are. But for 4x5 enlargements up to 16x20 (and most likely beyond), Protar V's are great. Schneider Angulons are too (I'll be writting about the comparison I did between a 1950's Angulon and a very recent hugely expensive 110 Schneider Super Symmar XL). In fact, the list of wonderful old optics is quite long.

Jim Galli found out that his 170mm f/7.7 optic is great. Yet its easy to forget or not even know (particularly if a person is suseptable to marketing blather) that Kodak was the class of the world during the 1950's. Their materials were consistant in quality and have easily stood the test of time.

The 165mm Angulon image above tickles my funny bone to the core. That old optic isn't supposed to cover 8x10, yet here is a fine example of how, in the right hands, these old lenses can help produce some wonderful images.

Jorge Gasteazoro
7-Jul-2005, 20:28
(I'm guessing they used the ovens to smelt the ore.)

LOL...kinda obvious uh?.......

Thank you Christopher, I did not know the lens was not supposed to cover 8x10, it certainly has enough movement, but I am hoping the Wolly even with the single coat will be less flare prone, which I guess this is the only clear advantage modern lenses have.

Jim Galli
7-Jul-2005, 23:36
These were charcoal ovens to produce the charcoal for the smelting me thinks. We have them locally here in Nevada as well. Not from 1500's but the technology and architecture are similar. Gorgeous shot as always J.

Chris, my Bausch & Lomb catalog says of the series IV and V; "An unsymmetrical lens and hence can only be used as a doublet." Also says it will cover 12X15 in a pinch. That's remarkable.

Ernest, the little Kodak is all metric and was in a balky Prontor shutter which leads me to believe it likely began life in Europe or was sold on a European folder of some sort. I remounted it in a Copal. I went out to the garage to see if it was Anastigmat or Ektar and couldn't find it! :( Pretty sure it said anastigmat. Got me worried now. Where'd the little booger go.

Dan Fromm
8-Jul-2005, 05:05
Ernest, go to http://www.sinopt.com/


Glenn Thoreson
11-Jul-2005, 22:10
The Kodak 7.7 should be an Anastigmat. I have a Bausch & Lomb Rapid Rectilinear from the 1890's that I particularly like. For general photography, there are some really good oldies out there, if you're not into the high tech, high priced "miracles" on the market today. I just recently recieved what I consider a real treasure. A tiny Meyer 4 inch f:6 Detectiv Aplanat ca 1901. I put it on a baby Speed Graphic to check it out. It shows an amazingly sharp, crisp image on the ground glass. Can't wait to try it.