View Full Version : 150mm 4x5 Best Lens

Charlie Snedaker
24-Nov-2005, 23:38
I am looking to buy a 150mm lens for landscape and architectural 4x5 color photography. I have seen some glowing comments about the Rodenstock APO Sironar-S f/5.6 but is there a better lens? For instance, the new Schneider APO Symmar L f/5.6 costs about the same price. Do they have essentially the same performance? I would like to keep it reasonably light for backpacking but like the idea of a decent amount of light for focusing from an f/5.6 lens.

Eric Leppanen
25-Nov-2005, 00:15
The APO Sironar-S and APO Symmar-L have the largest coverage specs of the 150mm plasmats, so these would be your best bets for architecture. There are very subtle differences in terms of color temperature, contrast vs. resolution, and bokeh (rendering of out of focus areas), but for most folks these differences are inconsequential. The APO Sironar-S has been on the market for many years, and is frequently available used. The APO Symmar-L is a new design (the previous APO Symmar "non-L" had a smaller image circle spec) and rarely shows up on the used market.

25-Nov-2005, 05:52
The APO SIRONAR S is a wonderful little lens. Smaller and, in my opinion, sharper then Symmars.
Both lenses will surely make you happy. But I would go with the Rodenstock.
I would not trade mt 150 S with any other lens on the market.-

Dan V
25-Nov-2005, 06:43
I have experience with the Rodenstock only and find it to be very sharp. Its small size makes it ideal for backpacking. I wouldn't trade it for anything but a new Ebony.

Ken Lee
25-Nov-2005, 07:47
Speaking of the Rodenstock APO Sironar-S, here is a sample image and an enlarged sample portion. 4x5 TMax 100, developed in D-76 (before I discovered PyrocatHD) scanned at 2500 ppi. Moderate sharpening.

Full frame (http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/tech/KitsBarn.html)

Detail Section (http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/tech/rodenstock150detail.html)

Colin Graham
25-Nov-2005, 09:04
another vote for the sironar-s.

Jack Flesher
25-Nov-2005, 09:40
I can answer this one from a bit of experience...

First, keep in mind that performance of individual lenses of the same type from the same manufacturer can vary significantly in performance; there are good ones and bad and you simply have to be willing to buy, test and sell until you get a winner...

I had a Rodenstock APO N. My friend had a Schneider APO Symmar pre-L, but his was the hand-picked anniversary version with the gold-anodised front barrel. His APO Symmar was sharper than my APO N by a little bit.

Of course this bothered me... So I bought a regular pre-L APO Symmar. It was notably less sharp than my APO N that I had already sold -- Yes I know, how STUPID was that!

So just a few weeks ago I bought a Rodenstock APO S. We just re-tested these two lenses last week and my new APO S is equal to my friend's anniversary APO Symmar.


Two side notes:

1) Conventional wisdom seems to be that the newer 150's and 135's will be the sharpest lenses in your bag. I have NOT found this to be true in actual testing! In the recent test above, my Fujinon 240 A outperformed both of the 150's mentioned above. And before anybody claims it was the effect of the longer focal length and image magnification, we were shooting the Edmund USAF test target and used the proper formula which mitigates image magnification: (Target Distance - Lens focal / Lens Focal) * Target LPMM. The 150's achieved just under 60 LPmm while the Fuji 240 made 72 LPmm.

2) This test also confirmed that most APO lenses are indeed NOT true APO, making slightly different resolutions on the different colors, though I suspect they fall into some range that qualifies them under a loose definition. The exception was my friend's Schneider red-dot APO Artar 300, which is very nearly perfectly APO -- and nearly as sharp as the Fuji 240.


John Berry ( Roadkill )
25-Nov-2005, 10:47
Jack, Thanks for the info. Do you think the variables would be cut down by going with a siranon or a linhof select? Thanks, John

Jack Flesher
25-Nov-2005, 11:30
>>Do you think the variables would be cut down by going with a siranon or a linhof select?<<

Hi John,

I honestly don't know as I've never personally owned or tested a Linhoff or Sinar badged lens. If the hand-select process Linhoff or Sinar went through to pick the lenses badged for them was as stringent as those used by Schneider, then one would think so. Personally I have my doubts about the veracity of the rumors surrounding the higher quality of the so called hand-picked Sinar and Linhoff lenses. Makes one wonder who got the rejects... Calumet?

25-Nov-2005, 12:26
My guess is that what Linhof actually tested for wasn't sharpness, but focus stability when stopped down (no focus shift). That would be very important when rangefinder focusing, much less so for striaght GG focusing.

Frank Petronio
25-Nov-2005, 12:31
I've owned Caltars and Sinarons but I haven't tested them side by side. But regardless, I always treasured my beautiful Sinarons more than my crappy Caltars. And, given that they must do some sort of QC at the factory, it does make sense that Calumet would get the left side of the bell curve while the German manufacturers would get the right.

But I really think the biggest difference between the rebranded lenses is ~20% plus or minus in resale value.

QT Luong
25-Nov-2005, 12:45
Rather than buying one lens, testing it with absolute measurements, and selling if you are not pleased, may I suggest that you always buy at least two lenses at a time, and return the lesser one ? This way, you have a sound comparison to make, and you incur only maybe $10 of shipping. I always found evaluating the results too tedius, but how with Imatest (imatest.com), I can automate the process and remove the subjectivity.

Brian Ellis
26-Nov-2005, 06:16
"My guess is that what Linhof actually tested for wasn't sharpness, but focus stability when stopped down (no focus shift). "

Here's what Linhof says they do (or did):

"Before they find their way to photographers all over the world all lenses are thoroughly examined and checked to make sure they correspond to the most critical tolerances and to guarantee their perfect functioning with the corresponding Linhof camera. These tests cover the optical performance of the lens as well as the mechanical and electronic functioning of the shutters and only if a lens has passed will it be engraved with the Linhof name and transferred to the other production departments for final assembly, mounting, and rangefinder coupling." Linhof Report - The Complete System of Linhof Photography.

Based on that description I'd question the wisdom of paying a premium for a "Linhof Select" lens on the used market. Much of what was done involved matching the lens to a particular camera, a benefit that's obviously lost once the lens and camera are separated. Also, with an older lens and shutter it seems to me that sheer age and usage would have a greater effect on the lens' current performance than their specs and condition when they left the factory.

26-Nov-2005, 07:18
How about a nice 15 cm f:2.8 Planar or Xenotar? Isn't that supposed to be the "BEST" lens?

26-Nov-2005, 13:13
What happened to Super Symar XL 150?
I own it, and the Fuji 240A, and although I have not done target test, the XL is every bit as sharp as the 240A. Of course, of the 13 LF lenses I use, I have no others that measure up to these two for sharpness, as well as contrast.

Donald Hutton
26-Nov-2005, 13:40
"I would like to keep it reasonably light for backpacking"

I'd guess that is why no-one mentioned the SS150XL...

J. P. Mose
26-Nov-2005, 14:43
"How about a nice 15 cm f:2.8 Planar or Xenotar? Isn't that supposed to be the "BEST" lens?"

There has never been a 150mm Planar for large format.

26-Nov-2005, 16:07
"I would like to keep it reasonably light for backpacking"

Aw what's a few ounces! Seriously! Leave your pocket change at home, diet a couple pounds and be happy.

Eric Leppanen
26-Nov-2005, 16:56
The SS150XL is also in a separate price class ($1,895 new at Badger, versus $795 for either the Rodenstock or Fuji discussed above). I too own the SS150XL, and it's a stunning lens.....on 8x10! If you already are shooting a larger format, then it's certainly an attractive option if you don't mind the weight; if you're shooting only 4x5, one of the smaller plasmats will most likely be sufficient.