View Full Version : SHARP short lenses?

Jack Flesher
24-Nov-2005, 09:49
Need some advice here. I am in the process of rebuilding my LF outfit and need some feedback for the short end lens selection.

I am wanting to add something in the 75mm range for wide work. I shoot mostly landscape, but do on occasion shoot architecture so want enough image circle to use (some) movements when needed. My current staples are the 110 XL, the 150 APO S and the 240 Fuji A. I had a Nikkor 90/8 and liked it a lot, but I feel it is not quite far enough from the 110, hence the desire to go wider. Within reason, I would prefer sharper over lighter-weight and sharper over more coverage. Would also prefer not to have excessive falloff

My short list is the 75 Grandagon 4.5 (I hear it is sharper than the 6.8 and the extra coverage is a reasonable trade for the added weight), 75 Nikkor or the 80 XL. (The 72 XL is too large/heavy.)

I would consider a 65 if it's performance is better than the 75's, but I will also probably be adding a hyper-wide, either the 55 APO Grandagon or 58XL (or maybe even the 47 XL) at some point in the future, hence my desire for the 75/80 spacing. Comments on the hyperwide selction are appreciated as well.

Thanks in advance!

Eric Leppanen
24-Nov-2005, 10:13
My SS80XL is extremely sharp at working aperture. It is a non tilted pupil design, so it is more likely to require a center filter, particularly with chrome film, than the Nikkor or Grandagon. But I can't imagine it being any less sharp.

Even though the APO Grandagon 55 reportedly has slightly better MTF performance than the SA58XL, I elected to go SA58XL, SS80XL, and SS110XL for wide angle since all these lenses share the same center filter. I have been very happy with this selection, for both landscapes and architecture.

Donald Hutton
24-Nov-2005, 10:23
I'd second Eric's suggestion of the 80mm SSXL - it's a great lens. If you can find a good sample, the 75mm f5.6 SA is also a fabulous lens - I sold mine to buy the 80mm and I've never been convinced about the "upgrade". The 80 is very small and compact which means that I carry it more often and as a result, use it more....

Frank Petronio
24-Nov-2005, 10:41
I'm a brand loyalist and prefer Rodenstocks, but I'd stick with the nice Schneider system of 58-80-110 lenses by virtue of them all having the same filter size and excellent resale when you finally get the Phase One system you're waiting for ;-0 For that matter Schneider also makes some great teles that would challenge your 240/9.

Slightly off topic but in reference to your recent reconversion, unless you commit to a Better Light scanning back, I doubt you're going to see a field camera system (battery powered) for 4x5 that will surpass the medium format digitals. And I'd also venture that they won't be developing much higher res devices because of the extremely small market that needs more than 100mb clean digital file. So get nice and comfy with your 4x5 film system because I doubt you'll be able to beat it... ever.

Jack Flesher
24-Nov-2005, 12:31
Hi Eric: When you say the 80 XL is more likely to need the center filter, are you implying you use one at all times?

Hi Don: When you say you're not convinced the 80 XL was a worthwhile upgrade over the 75 SA, are you implying it isn't as sharp or versitile, or simply that it dis not show a significant improvement over the 75 SA?

Hey Frank -- long time! AFAIK, the 75 4.5 Grandagon, 75 Nikkor and 80 XL all use the same 67mm filter sizes, so not a huge issue there, though your point on center filters being the same is a noteworthy consideration. However, I suspect that for my uses the Rodenstock or Schneider CF for the 55/75/80 XL are all close enough for me ;)

As far as any Tele challenging the Fuji 240 A, I have my doubts. In a recent lens test, that lens out resolved everything else I compared it to, including my Nikkor 300 M and Rodenstock 150 APO S!

As for digital backs, I agree that MF digital is going to be the mainstay, though I am impressed by my friend's BL scans! However, by using a digital back on my view cam, I will have the added benefit of movemnts that no current MF SLR platform offers. This is one of the reasons I chose to go with the Toyo VX125 with its rather limited 325mm bellows extension for now -- I rarely need/use more than 300mm in the field on 4x5 and I liked the flexibility of being able to use a 55 on a flat board with the standard bellows. I have no problem investing in the Rodensotck or Schneider Digital/Digitar lenses for optimal performance when the need arises -- in fact I already own one in anticipation. When/if I get a digital back, if needed I will convert the Toyo over to a bag bellows. Heck, if absolutely necessary, I'll buy a different view cam altogether, like an Arca 6x9 f-line metric with Orbix. But for the time being, I like the ability to shoot 4x5 film and be able to use both my 300 and 55 ( that I don't own yet!) on flat boards without changing bellows ;)

Henry Ambrose
24-Nov-2005, 12:33
I'm another happy 58/80/110 user - all three are fine lenses.

Doug Dolde
24-Nov-2005, 13:03
I have been wondering if, in anticipation of a medium format digital back purchase, it might be better to build a system like the Arca Swiss 6x9 with all Digitar lenses and shoot roll film for the time being.

I'm using an Arca Swiss 4x5 and 4x5 film now but know that the Digitar lenses will resolve many more lines/mm than the large format lenses I am now using. Transparency film is certainly capable of resolving more than these lenses do.

Does anyone know how many lines/mm the Digitar lenses resolve?

David A. Goldfarb
24-Nov-2005, 13:12
I'm very pleased with the 75/4.5 Grandagon-N. I've been using it with a Schneider III CF and so far so good. I'm using more than I expected when I first got it. It also covers 6x17cm and is usable with the Chinese 617 backs that can fit on a 4x5" camera. Here are some sample 4x5" shots--



And if you're an APUG subscriber, here's another in my APUG gallery--

www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=6268&cat=500&ppuser=60 (http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=6268&cat=500&ppuser=60)

Also I posted some 6x17 test shots in this thread on APUG (you don't need to be a subscriber to see them)--

www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=15483 (http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=15483)

Donald Hutton
24-Nov-2005, 14:22

The 75mm I had was one of the more modern multicoated 75s - it was a great lens - in terms of sharpness and contrast, the equal of the 80mm SS. It has a slightly smaller image circle, but probably still plenty for most 4x5 work. I used it with the same Schneider IIIb center filter I had for my 110 and 58 and was 100% happy with the results. If you had to use either lens without a center filter (you may get away with it on B&W depending on subject), the 75mm definitely would be the choice. I never use the 80 without.... I also have a VX125 which I use for architecture - what an outstanding piece of gear!

Eric Leppanen
24-Nov-2005, 14:39
Hi Jack,

Regarding the need for a center filter on the SS80XL:

When using chrome film, I use the center filter on every shot.

When using B&W or color neg film, I usually don't need the center filter, unless I have used movements and the image is near the edge of the image circle.

paul owen
24-Nov-2005, 16:25
Although a great chunk of glass, the 72XL is SUPER sharp! Might be worth considering too?

Donald Hutton
24-Nov-2005, 18:13

Unless Jack intends shooting tall buildings in restricted areas, that lens is of no real advantage to the 80mm. I bought a 72XL for a project shooting building facades in downtown Detroit.I never came close to running out of coverage. It is capable of so much movement that images which require that sort of movement tend to look extremely unnatural and unappealing (you will certainly find out very quickly about "ship's prow" effects). It's no sharper than the 80 or 75 and to be honest, the filter ring size creates problems with filters. Once you have the center filter in place, you need huge expensive filters. I sold mine about 6 months ago and have not missed it once! Another issues is that very few cameras can actually accomodate movements to the extremes of the image circle of this lens (although this is not an issue with Jack's VX125 - that camera certainly can).

Jack Flesher
24-Nov-2005, 22:04
Thanks for all the great information and images so far! (And please continue!)

It sounds like I will be okay with any of the good 75's or the 80 XL, so I guess it boils down to whichever I find the best deal on soonest ;)

And yes, the 72 XL is simply too big a beast for my uses -- I actually carry my LF gear on my back and lenses like the 72 XL do not fit into that category very comfortably.

As for the VX 125, yes, it certainly IS an outstanding piece of equipment -- what a dream to use in the field! Fast to set up and zero (extremely so by LF standards), infinity focuses a 55 and a 300 on flat boards with the stock bellows, allows for more than ample movements at all focals, is quite rigid and has quick, easy adjustments. What more could we ask for? Plus all that comes in a 6.5 pound package which my aging back likes -- a lot.

As for resolution of Digital lenses, I hope to test a recently acquired Schneider 90 Digitar next week. I'll be sure to post my findings here.


Armin Seeholzer
25-Nov-2005, 04:49

And in the future fore the short end take the 47 XL because I prefer it over my APO Grandagon 55mm. Because you always can crop but newer extend the image frame.
I love the 47XL very much it is very sharp and was really a solution in small spaces!

Good luck!

25-Nov-2005, 08:58
When i have acquired and used my Schnedier 110XL, it is so horribly sharp. After i have acquired 210mm, i then thought to purchase a wide angle. One day i spot a schneider 65mm f5.6 at 2nd hand shop and then i got it to use. I decide to buy it because my Linhof master does not allow for much shift movement when the lens is housed inside the case and so i don't care of its lack of movement than 72 or 75mm. i don't like 58mm or wider because they will be barely cover 4x5. So far this lens has produced really very astonishingly sharp and nice image for me and the colour tone and texture just like a punch on the head. i ve never used any center filter on it and so far so good with slide film but i use to shoot at f11 or f16. Have a thought on this though it has stopped production anymore.