View Full Version : Caltar-II 210 F6.8 MC versus Nikkor-W 210 1:5.6

Nitish Kanabar
5-Oct-2005, 22:32
I've recently been offered the opportunity to buy one of the following lenses:

1) Caltar-II 210mm F6.8

2) Nikkor-W 210 mm 1:5.6

I'd love to try both out and keep the one I like, but sadly I don't have return privileges. I'm attracted by the larger aperture of the Nikkor, but I'd like your opinion and advice about these lenses with respect to sharpness, contrast and overall performance.

Thank you in advance.


Per Madsen
6-Oct-2005, 04:06
I have the Nikkor W 210/5.6. It is very good and multicoated (NIC).

It is also quite heavy (around 500 G with lens board).

After my opinion it is a very sharp lens with good "Bookeh"

6-Oct-2005, 05:11
The 6.8 Caltar is an "economy" lens. The Nikkor will have better coverage and probably better performance on the edges. In the middle the Caltar will be about the same. The Caltar is smaller and should be cheaper. I would think it should sell for under $200. If you can afford the price and don't mind the added weight I would go straight to the Nikkor. If you stick with large format you will probably eventually upgrade the Caltar.

Mike Butler
6-Oct-2005, 07:23
The Calter 11 5.6 would be more comparable to the Nikkor. I have it and like it; it's essentially a rodenstock lens.

The 6.8 210 is a compact, I think. It has fewer lens elements, 3-3 as opposed to 6-4, and a smaller image circle but will still cover 5x7. I'd have to agree with Chuck that the Nikkor would be a better choice.

Hope that helps.

6-Oct-2005, 09:33
I've used both. The Caltar is smaller and lighter, has a 49mm filter and just about covered my 8x10 without any movements (so did the Nikkor). It's a good lens. Most folks would be hard pressed to see any quality difference in your prints, esp under 11x14. If weight is not an issue than it's a matter of price. Buy the Caltar and use the money left over for film and paper, you can always sell it on eBay.

fred arnold
8-Oct-2005, 09:46
Just a minor point: that aperture difference is a whopping 1/2 stop. You'll never notice it in the field.

You don't say what type of photography you prefer, or camera you'll hang it on, so my generic comment would be to take the weight and build of your camera into consideration when picking one of them. My first non-borrowed 4x5 was a Bender, which is marvelously light in the field, but which would vibrate a touch when I used an old, heavy, Wollensak 12" in self-cocking shutter. It was rigid and fine with the much lighter Ektar 203 or Symmar 135 which I preferred. That Wolly is now mounted, rather firmly, on a B&J 5x7 which doesn't vibrate, but which is much heavier to carry.

According to http://www.graflex.org/lenses/lens-spec.html, your Caltar is probably a Caltar-HR (based on the 6.8 aperture), 3-3 construction (as Mike Butler said), with an image circle of 230mm. The Nikkor-W 5.6 is a 6-4 with a 295mm image circle. If you're doing studio work, or 5x7 with heavy movements, then the Nikkor is the better choice. In the field, with only light movements, then the Caltar will be just fine, especially once stopped down to working aperture. As others have said, it's doubtful you'll be able to tell the difference at normal enlargements. Unfortunately, the weights aren't listed, but with weight comes size, and more careful packing.

No real advice, other than if there's a big difference in price and you've already worked out the rest of the questions as moot, get the Caltar and more film.

David Karp
8-Oct-2005, 23:12
If you are talking about a Caltar II-E 210mm f/6.8, then it is a triplet. Yes, three elements in three groups, multicoated. It is eqivalent to a Rodenstock Geronar.

Although many are put off by its simplicity, it is a nice lens. very sharp in the center. Big enough image circle to cover 5x7 I believe, but not as big a circle as the Nikkor. It is also much smaller and lighter than the Nikkor.

I have a Caltar II-E that I use because it is small and light and easy to carry around in the field. Some of my favorites were taken with this lens. I guess if I had to pick a different lens in this focal length, it might be a 200mm Nikkor M, which is a Tessar formula (4 elements, 3 groups), a derivation of the triplet design. I don't think that I would go for one of the bigger, heavier designs like the f/5.6 Nikkor.

However, If I needed more image circle, then I would go for one of the larger lenses with a more complex design.