View Full Version : New Lens Fever - HELP!

Bill Brady
13-Feb-2006, 06:58
I need some advice. I have a few bucks from my tax refund and I have lens fever. I read some really glowing reports on the Apo Sironar-S 150mm. Problem is, I already have 2 150mm lenses, an Apo Symmar and a Caltar II S. Now, I also have 2 90mm, an Angulon and a Super Angulon (the medium sized one - F6.8 ?).

So, I am thinking about buying the 135mm Apo Sironar-S. 120mm would be a better fit with my kit but they don't make a 120mm Sironar-S. There is a 120mm Macro, the APO Macro-S but I generally use MF for macro projects. Would the 120mm macro be suitable for general subjects? (specs say it's optimized for 1:1 - 1:5 - 2:1.)

I could go the other way and get the 180mm Apo Sironar-S, which is a better fit in my kit, it falls right between my 150mm and my 210mm.

So; should I buy:

The 150mm

The 135mm

The 180mm or

The 120mm macro???


-- --Wm. "Bill" Brady, Harwood MD 3851'30"N 7641'00"W

Ron Marshall
13-Feb-2006, 07:26
Bill, you favor a closer focal length spacing than I do. I have a 75mm, 110, 180 and 300. I can use all of these with both 4x5 and 5x7 (no movement on the 75). On 4x5 the 180 is my most used, followed by the 110. I have just gotten the 5x7 so I can only speculate that the 180 and the 300 will be my most used there, since I have found both the 110 and the 180 to be just a little too wide on 4x5. I think my ideal kit for 4x5 (not considering coverage) would be: 90, 135, 200, 300. But I always thought of 5x7 coverage when I bought a 4x5 lens, because I wanted to have that option.

Steve Hamley
13-Feb-2006, 07:27

The 150mm Caltar-II S and Apo Symmar are probably the same lens, so I'd keep the one with the latest/best shutter everything else equal. The Apo Symmar will probably have a little more value having the Schneider name.

The lenses I have in this range work very well for me. They are the 110mm Schneider SS XL, the 135mm Apo Sironar-S, and the 180mm Apo Sironar-S. If I want light weight, it's a 120 Apo Symmar, a 150mm Germinar-W I got from Kerry Thalmann, and a 200mm Nikkor M - but I rarely carry a 150mm - only when I know I'll need it or I'm really scrimping on weight.

The Apo Sironar-S series works well for close ups as do process lenses like the Germinar-W, so no need for the 120 Macro which reportedly won't cover at infinity - unless you specialize in true macro. The only complaint I have about the Apo Sironar-S series is that at least the 135mm produces a fairly bad iris ghost pointed into the sun; otherwise they are superb in every aspect.


Kevin Crisp
13-Feb-2006, 07:32
Bill: Probably unwise of me to say anything since I have no idea what you photograph, but a few comments which may or may not be helpful. (1) You have lenses that are only slightly different than ones you have and in some cases, lenses which do exactly the same thing as ones you have. Either of your two current 150's would be fine, they are excellent, get rid of one. I'd keep the APO version, assuming both are in good shape and the shutters run well. (2) Get rid of the Angulon unless you really need the reduced weight for packing long distances. (3) A 135 is really close to a 150, enough so that I'd go with a 120 instead. The 120 Symar is a very small lens, quite reasonably priced, with more coverage than you'd expect looking at the charts. (4) A 180 isn't much longer than a 150, I would get a 210 or a 240, then a 300 with the money you made off selling the duplicate 90 and the extra 150. In general, I try to avoid lenses which will really do what I can do with my feet (i.e., get a little closer or back up) but, again, I don't know what you take pictures of. As with all lens questions, you will get many different answers.

Ted Harris
13-Feb-2006, 07:39
Bill, as the others have already said you are talking some very close spacing there. You might want to think about reaching farther in either direction. Either a 75 or a 240. BTW as far as your 150's go the Caltar II-S is the same lens as a Symmar S, the Apo Symmar is a slightly later design. I have owned both the Apo symmar 150 and the 135 Sironar-S, also a 180 Sironar N. I prefer the images from the Sironar S and that is the lens I kept out of the 150/135 batch. My spacking goes 135-180-240. For years I used a 210 and jus tnever liked. Muchhappier with 180 but that is personal.

If you do decide to go with a macro it will work fine at infinity but the image circle may not be as large as that of a normal design lens of the same focal length.

Terence McDonagh
13-Feb-2006, 07:51
I agree with the above. Drop one of the 150mm's, and the 90mm Angulon (unless you do a lot of backpacking, etc), and get a 240mm. G Claron's are a great deal and have HUGE coverage for a 4x5. If you're positive you don't want to "go long", go shorter with a 75mm. I was a 110mm and 150mm guy until I tried a longer length and now it is my most used lens. I think you'll find that almost anything between a 90 and 150mm to be too similar to what you already have. 135mm feel barely wider than 150mm and have less coverage. Similarly the 180mm feels only slightly longer.

John Kasaian
13-Feb-2006, 08:34

Take two aspirin and have your wife handcuff you to the bed post until you get over this.

Unless you're a collector, simply having the $$ isn't a good enough reason to buy new glass----that your 'list' is all over the place in terms of focal lengths says that you don't know what you want and that is something you'll need to know before parting wth your tax refund.
Have you ecer been out shooting and found an actual need for a lens in a focal length you don't have? <aybe that is the lens you should be looking to add.
Good luck!

13-Feb-2006, 08:43
If you're just "filling out your kit" then you're wasting your money. If, on the other hand, you shoot mostly with the 150mm and often find that you need just a little wider or longer lens, then the 135 or 180 would be a great idea.

Donald Hutton
13-Feb-2006, 09:06
Sounds like throwing $500 at a favorite charity is a good solution.

Bill Brady
13-Feb-2006, 09:13
You guys have given me much to think about.

My inclination is to get rid of both 150s and get a 135 or 120 and a 180mm.

I should have mentioned that I do mostly field work. Not what I would consider to be landscapes so much but old buildings, forts (especially when the re-enacters are there), machinery, and boats (I live near the Chesapeake Bay).

I should have mentioned that my last aquisition was a Fujinon 300mm compact. So I now have: 90-90-150-150-210-300.

I like the 150mm Caltar II S better than the Apo Symmar 150, so I'd have no problem selling the Symmar. I do find, however, that the 150s give me problems with some of my close work when inside a building and the 90mm is just too wide. Especially when a person (re-enacter) is in the scene.

Back in the '80s I had a Toyo 45G which was too heavy and bulky for the work I found wanting myself to do. I recall that my most used lens was a 135mm Schneider, I had a junker 210mm and a 90mm Angulon. I sold everything but the Angulon.

I think I'll get a 120 or 125 (I like Fujinons now a days) and put both 150s on eBay.

Jack Flesher
13-Feb-2006, 10:16
Couple of thoughts:

1) I am pretty sure the Caltar IIS is an APO N, not an APO S. The APO S lenses have larger IC's and use rare-earth (UD, ULD) glass where the APO N's do not.

2) My Rodenstock 150 APO S is one of the sharpest lenses I have ever used, and have heard the 135 APO S and 180 APO S are the same. (I had a 135 APO N a while back and it was very good too.)

3) The small Schneider 120APO Symmar is also very sharp, but has limited movement for 4x5 -- about 25mm before you run out of IC. The macro would probably not be as good at normal shooting distances.

3a) Standard 120's are pretty large, as is the Rodenstock Grandagon 115, however the Schneider SS XL 110 is pretty compact -- and sharp.

4) I had a Fuji 125 and was not impressed.

5) I agree that 135 is not significantly different from 150 on 4x5 -- IMO not worth the trouble to switch.

6) Finally, if you carry your gear any distance, the 150 APO S is in a Copal 0 shutter but the 180 APO S is in a Copal 1 so it is quite a bit heavier for the slightly longer view.

7) The Nikkor 200 M is tiny and pretty darn good. A Schneioder G-Claron is pretty small too, and while a copy lens optimized for 1:2-ish magnifications, it works well at infinity if stopped down to f16 or 22. BUT it is not as sharp as an APO S.

8) So while we're at it, my ideal outfit not considering weight: 80 SSXL, 110SSXL, 150 APO S, 210 G-Claron (for close), 300 Nikkor M. If I wanted to go ultra trim, then probably then the 80, 150 and 300.

8a) The 80, 110, 180, 300 quartet would be great too, though heavier. The 180 in place of the 150 as it is a better "tweener", but I'm not sure even a gear-hound like me can justify the need to own it and the 150... Well, maybe if I sold my G-Claron ;)


Brian Vuillemenot
13-Feb-2006, 10:55
Buy the 150 Apo Sironar S, and, while you're at it, pick up a 150 Super Symmar XL just in case you run out of image circle with your other 3 150's.

13-Feb-2006, 10:59
I bring up MHO only because it is significantly different than everybody else's.

For final prints 16x20 or smaller, I've never used a lens I didn't find of adequate quality. If you stick to relatively new stuff, I don't think the difference between makes and designs is that significant. What is significant, in descending order: focal length, bulk/weight, and price.

There will come a time when shoe-leather zoom just won't work -- when you can't get close enough to, or far enough away from, your subject. That's when you need a really short/long lens. Likewise will come a time when you want the nice flat look of a long lens, or the exploded distorted look of a short lens. So get the shortest lens you can stand and your bellows can accommodate (58-75mm?), and the longest your bellows will focus on infinity (300-400mm?). After you've got the full range, you can split any bothersome gaps with subsequent acquisitions.

For reference, with 4x5 I carry 90/180/240/450, with optional 'tweeners 159 & 355, and never-used 65. For superwide I get better results with MF or swinglens.

Michael Kadillak
13-Feb-2006, 11:40
You have gone over the edge in acquiring lenses and you do need help. Here is what I would suggest. Sell your redundant lenses and use the proceeds to purchase film, paper or chemistry. Put your $500 (and hopefully another good chunk of change with it) into an IRA for retirement because that is where you need it the most. Want is a terrible thing and gets people in big trouble when it goes unchecked. If you were set for retirement, then you would not be in such a pickle over what to do with $500. Another lens will not make you a better photographer, it will only make you feel better.

Case in point - William Corey is a marvelous 8x20 color photographer and he only has one lens in his bag. An old Kodak repro lens that most folks would not consider adequate for the task. Yet he sees marvelously with it. To many choices creates visual confusion. Learn to see with only one for a whole month and you will see dramatic improvement in your images.

If you want to get the look of a 180 mm and you only have a 150mm, the solution is to simply take three steps forward.

Nobody is going to take care of you better than you. If you think I am full of it, I understand completely. But at the end of the day remember that "People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan."


Ralph Barker
13-Feb-2006, 11:51
Decisions, decisions. ;-)

Although there have been plenty of good thoughts posted so far, I'll add mine to the mix anyway - for grins if nothing else..

When I looked for a "somewhat-wide" lens to compliment the 90mm/8 Super Angulon and 150mm/5.6 APO Symmar spread a few years back, the 125mm Fuji SW caught my eye, as it has an IC of around 280mm, compared to ICs around 200mm on the modern 135s. Nothing popped up on eBay, however, so I went with the 110mm Super Symmar XL, with which I've been as pleased as punch. It also filled the need for the 90.

After that, I added an 8x10 field camera to the mix, and fell for the siren song of the 150mm Super Symmar XL. Beautiful lens. So, when I gave an old 4x5 monorail to some friends so they could get started in LF, I tossed in the 150 APO Symmar and the 90, thinking the 150mm SS XL would do when I needed that length on the 4x5. Turned out it was just too much lens hanging off the end of my 4x5, though. So, when I spotted a 150/9 Docter Optics Germinar W in barrel in the APUG classifieds recently, I went for it. It's very compact, fitting in a Copal 0, and barely extending from the front of the shutter I purchased separately. Sometimes, opportunities pop up that are tough to resist.

Daniel Schmidt
13-Feb-2006, 12:24
If you want more money to spend on lenses next year just claim more dependents on your W4 forms. That way the government will hold on to even more of your money for a year.

Walt Calahan
13-Feb-2006, 12:42
Hey Bill

You can aways send the tax refund to me if you simply don't know how you want to spend it. HA!

I'm over here in Westminster, MD, drop it off if y0u don't want to mail it. GRIN!

Me, I'd buy something wide wide wide or long long long, since I like more spacing between focal length. See why I'm no good for advice.

Happy shopping!

Ole Tjugen
13-Feb-2006, 13:08
You're almost as bad as I am...

I currently use 90, 90, 105, 120, 121, 121, 135, 150, 150, 150, 6", 165, 180, 210, 240, 300,360, 420, 500. Note that these are the ones I'm likely to use with any regularity, I have more. Admittedly not all lenses are used all the time: I shoot 6.5x9cm, 9x12cm, 4x5", 5x7", 18x24cm and 30x40cm...

My suggestion for you would be to pick up a cheap old moderately wide - a 120mm or so. Most 135mm's have limited coverage, 90 and 110 is sometimes too wide. Old 120mm Angulon or 121mm Leitmeyr Weitwinkel-Anastigmat, or whatever) have lots of coverage for moderately tight situations, and are cheap enough that you can start planning your next lens right away. Or maybe a larger camera?

Dave Rodenbaugh
13-Feb-2006, 13:14
Hi Bill,

Having both a 120 (Nikkor SW) and a 150 (Caltar II-N), I have found that I use the 150 far more now than the 120, although I love both lenses. My 120 stays with me because I use it on my 8x10 as a super-wide.

Sell the redundant lenses and save your money for something else. Your lens kit seems adequate, considering that you are asking to buy a lens but without any specific reason to do so. Gear is not an end to itself, it should serve a purpose to your endeavors.

My $0.02,

Brian Ellis
14-Feb-2006, 17:13
From a purely rational standpoint I wouldn't buy any of the lenses you list. IMHO there's no rational reason to have lenses as close to your existing 150s as 120, 135, or 180 would be for general purpose photography (as opposed to needing a specific focal length for a specific project or narrow purpose). However, there's nothing wrong with just liking lenses and buying them for the sake of buying them when you have the money, as you obviously do (I didn't realize the government would actually give money back, they always want more from me, but good for you). So if you just want to buy a lens for the sake of buying a lens, as it sounds like you do, I'd probably go for the 120. At least you don't already have a macro lens.

Bill Brady
15-Feb-2006, 06:42
Hey LFers,

I want to thank everyone who responded to my quandry. I have decided to hold off on any new lenses until I sell several that I currently have.

You folks replies forced me to give much thought to the question. I find that I had lost sight of the fact that I just do not like "normal" lenses. I am not sure why, perhaps it's modeling. In the past I have always shot with the longest lenses possible, using shorter lenses only when forced to. Recalling my many years of using a Mamiya C330 6x6cm, I had rejected the "standard" 80mm in favor of a 105mm. I did all my portraits with the 180mm and used a 55mm just a few times.

For those who criticised my selections as too close, I have a Mamiya RZ67 with 110, 140, 150 and 180mm. The 110 came with the camera and the 140 and 180 are special use but still, the spacing is too close, I need to get rid of the 150.

Thanks again.

15-Feb-2006, 10:46
Ole, you win the redundant lens prize! So long as Kerry doesn't contribute...

Ole Tjugen
16-Feb-2006, 04:45
Thanks for the "redundant lens prize"...

Even if I had forgotten one 210mm lens I use once in a while, the redundance isn't as great as it may look: a 90 Angulon and a 90 Super-Angulon have different uses - I'm much more likely to use the Super on 5x7" and the Angulon on 4x5". Same with the two 121mm's - one is a Leitmeyr Weitwinkel-Anastigmat, an Angulon "clone". The other is a Super-Angulon, which again is used on larger films (5x7 and 18x24cm). Some of the 150's and 135's are on old folding plate cameras, and are unlikely to be used on other cameras. The others include a 135mm f:3.5 Planar and a 150mm f:4.5 Apo-Lanthar, none of which I'm likely to get rid of. One 210 is a Xenar - covers 5x7" but not much more. The other one is a pre-WWII Angulon, which covers 30x40cm (12x16")...