View Full Version : Sharpest 210-240mm lens?

Emre Yildirim
14-Mar-2006, 00:38

I currently use a 180mm Nikkor-W as my 'normal' lens. At wide open, it doesn't look very sharp on the ground glass, but stopping it down to f/22 produces acceptable results. My wide-angle lenses however, are much sharper on the ground glass and once they're stopped down, they produce incredibly sharp images (at the center at least).

Now I'm considering a 210 or 240mm lens so I can get a little more magnification. Which are the sharpest lenses in this range? I'm a little disappointed with the 180mm Nikkor, but maybe my expectations are too high. Should I look into Schneider/Rodenstock/Caltar/Fuji lenses instead, or is this slight unsharpness normal with longer lenses? What's everyone's advice/opinion?

Aender Brepsom
14-Mar-2006, 02:57
Hello Emre,

the Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-S lenses are among the best you can possibly find. I had a 180mm Apo-Sironar-S, and its sharpness was just breathtaking. How silly must I have been to sell it!

I now have a Sironar-N 5.6/210 mm, and it is an excellent lens too. Perfect for me in any way.
The Schneider Apo-Symmars should be equally good.
A Caltar-II-N is the same as a Rodenstock Sironar-N, but could be a little less expensive.

Steve Hamley
14-Mar-2006, 03:59
The 180 Apo Sironar-S is indeed a fine lens (which I have), as is the 240mm (which I do not). But the 240mm lens is huge, not to mention expensive. $2,000 and 86mm filters. If that isn't a problem, go for it, you'll likely not find a better performing lens.

Most people are using an f:9 process lens in this focal length, like a G-Claron or a non-process 9-1/2" Dagor. Neither is reputed to be as crispy as the 240mm Apo Sironar-S (at least wide open) but far more manageable in weight, filters, and price.

Also, if Kerry Thalmann still has a multicoated 240mm f:9 Docter Germinar-Ws left, that's an excellent compromise. It's a plasmat process lens like the G-Claron but multicoated. I got one from him and it is a jewel. They're in barrel but a direct fit into a Copal 1 shutter.

If you're shooting 4x5, a f:9 10-3/4" (270mm) or 12" dialyte like an Artar, Repro Claron, or Apo Ronar may be a good choice, even lighter and very sharp. Or even better, a 300mm f:9 Docter Apo Germinar from Kerry, again, direct fit into a Copal 1. A little outside your preferred focal length is the 270mm G-Claron which is one of my favorite FL on 8x10.


14-Mar-2006, 04:51
You can never see any difference between the Big Four with your eyes on the groundglass. If you see it's not sharp on the gg it has been damaged.

Ed Richards
14-Mar-2006, 05:29
> I currently use a 180mm Nikkor-W as my 'normal' lens. At wide open, it doesn't look very sharp on the ground glass, but stopping it down to f/22 produces acceptable results. My wide-angle lenses however, are much sharper on the ground glass and once they're stopped down, they produce incredibly sharp images (at the center at least).

It is an illusion caused by the extra detail that a wide lens packs into the image. Makes it look sharper.

The Fuji 6.3 250 is very sharp, and is a good size, taking 67mm filters. You can buy a very nice used one for under $450.

Jim Rhoades
14-Mar-2006, 06:18
I think that gps and Ed are on to something. Testing sharpness on a groundglass is like measuring sharpness on your monitor. It just dosent happen. Are you being swayed by the sharpness of the depth of field difference between f/5.6 and f/22? And, or the depth of field between your wide angle and a long normal?

Unless your checking a given negative on a light box with a good loupe, shot on a solid tripod with no wind at it's best f/stop and, oh yes, focussed properly on the subject you expect to be sharp, it's all just pissing into the wind.

Unless that 180 was dropped hard or mis-mounted in the past it should be most acceptable. If it is indeed a dog I would guess that it was not tested during the mount stage.

Ron Marshall
14-Mar-2006, 08:17
Read Kerry Thalmann's comments on the Fuji 240mm A f9:


Eric Leppanen
14-Mar-2006, 08:55
I have previously owned a Fuji 240A and 240mm APO Sironar-S, and currently own a 240mm Germinar-W. I will assume that you spend at least part of your time in the field (otherwise any of the 210mm f/5.6 plasmats will be excellent for home or studio use), and don't mind using an f/9 lens to reduce bulk and weight.

If you are shooting 4x5 or 5x7, and have no intention of adopting 8x10 in the future, then the Fuji 240A f/9 is hard to beat. It is as sharp as any lens I've owned, multi-coated (at least the newer ones), and wonderfully light and compact (Copal 0 shutter). It's only weakness IMO is flare resistance, but if you abstain from shooting directly into the sun and shade your lens properly this will not be a problem.

If you plan to shoot 8x10, then the 240mm Germinar-W f/9 is hard to beat. Slightly larger than the Fuji, yet considerably smaller than the f/5.6 plasmats, this lens is still quite compact (Copal 1 shutter), extremely sharp (comparable to the Fuji), and offers excellent coverage (reportedly around a 400mm IC when stopped down). Like the Fuji, the Germinar has some susceptibility to flare, but again if you abstain from shooting into the sun, etc. this will not be a problem. For a good discussion of the Germinar, see www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=22085 (http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=22085). Kerry Thalmann still has some for sale (although you need to be an APUG member, which entails only a nominal fee): www.apug.org/classifieds/showproduct.php?product=757&sort=1&cat=2&page=10 (http://www.apug.org/classifieds/showproduct.php?product=757&sort=1&cat=2&page=10).

The 240 APO Sironar-S (or its Sinar-labeled version, the APO Sinaron-SE) is arguably the reference standard among 240mm lenses. Extremely bright image on the ground glass, sharp to the corners, a bit better flare resistance than the f/9 lenses. Its bokeh is also reportedly quite good (see Oren Grad's posts regarding the Sironar-S line on this subject). Its main drawbacks are its bulk (Copal 3 shutter) and weight, although if you don't plan on hiking much this is probably not a big deal.

The Fuji is fairly easy to find both new and used, and the Germinar is currently available for purchase new. The Sironar is extremely expensive new, and is difficult to find used (and costs roughly twice the Fuji or Germinar on the used market).

David Karp
14-Mar-2006, 08:56
Before you go for a 210mm, find a friend with one and set your cameras up together, one with the 180 and the other with the 210. I don't think you will see enough difference to make you go for a 210 in addition to the 180. I think you will see much more difference with a 240 or 300mm.

Kevin Crisp
14-Mar-2006, 09:18
Emre: Some good advice here. You can't judge the sharpness of a lens by looking at the ground glass unless something is grossly wrong with the lens. Negative examination under a powerful loupe works, but then so does making a print the size of your largest likely output and seeing if it looks decently sharp when viewed at a normal viewing distance. Common mistakes like not using a loupe to focus when making the negative, wind, etc. etc. can all work against getting an accurate read on lens performance. The difference between 180 and 210 is going to seem pretty minor to you, I'd jump to 240. We are all assuming (but you haven't said so) that you're shooting 4X5 and not 5X7.

14-Mar-2006, 09:54
I'm happy with my Nikkor 180W. Except for the coverage. If you find fault with it, most likely it or the camera is broken. Or possibly user error.

You might want to *replace* your 180 with a 210, for any number of reasons, but I agree with the majority that there is little need to have both. A G-Claron 240 or even 305 would be a good addition to the 180, IMHO.

Steve Sample
14-Mar-2006, 09:57
I recently purchased a new fujinon 240 A, f9 from Badger Graphics at a good price. It is just great! I highly recommend it.

Emre Yildirim
14-Mar-2006, 10:10
I think I may have been a little unfair to the 180W. I use a 10x Schneider loupe that I put to the ground glass while focusing. The image I get from my 105mm Nikkor is much sharper (on the ground glass) than from my 180W. Maybe it's just normal with longer lenses. The sharpness on the negative is fairly good.

I think a 240 or 300 would be a good choice too, but I'm afraid of the weight and cost. How hard is focusing with those f/9 lenses? All my lenses are 5.6 and 4.5 so I've been a little spoiled.

Ron Marshall
14-Mar-2006, 11:11
I occaionally shoot in very low light: deep canyons at sunset. I have a 180 5.6 and a 300 8.5. In those conditions the 300 takes a bit longer to compose with and focus than the 180, but I have never missed a shot because my 300 is f8.5 as opposed to f5.6. If weight and cost and bulk were not factors then certainly I would prefer the greater ease of use of a 300 f5.6. The trade-offs for me are worthwhile.

Scott Rosenberg
14-Mar-2006, 11:37
How hard is focusing with those f/9 lenses? All my lenses are 5.6 and 4.5 so I've been a little spoiled.

why not just stop one of your lenses down to ~f/9 and try it? a good darkcloth or viewer really helps with slower lenses.

Ted Harris
14-Mar-2006, 11:37
What others are saying and I will addmy personal experiences. For many years I had a 210 in my kit and it languished, got very little use. Just didn;t quite fit with my visionof the world. Came across a good deal on an 180 some 5 years ago and wht do you know? The 180 has become a mainstay and gets reasonable use. OTOH I have used a Fujinon 240A for many years and it is one of my go everywhere 'must have' lenses. My keep it simple travel kit with two lenses includes a 135 Sironar S and the 240 Fujinon A. In additional to being a sharp lens with lots of contrast it is the smallest and lightest lens I own. 240mm and it covers 8x10, you can't ask for better.

tor kviljo
14-Mar-2006, 13:36
Juuuust outside Your range, but I have to tell that my Fuji 250mm 6.3 (newer version, but with smaller image circle than the 6,7 I belive) is about the sharpest lens I have ever had, producing extremely high resolution images on velvia on 5x7 Norma. It's multicoated (but they don't write that on the barrel) and thrives in a No1 shutter. I know many favors the 6,7 version, which I have never tried, but I find the pictures from the Fuji to have the same qualities in resolution & contrast on same film as the pictures from my Rollei 6008's planar lens, thus no need to go any further in my opinion...

14-Mar-2006, 13:52
Nikkor W 180mm = 380g

G-Claron 240mm = 285g

Fujinon A 240mm = 225g

So you could *save* weight (and bulk) by going longer.

Check out the Lens Comparison Charts from the homepage of this website for basic lens specs:


Emre Yildirim
14-Mar-2006, 14:23
What about the 250mm f/6.3 Fujinon-W? These seem to be pretty cheap used. Does anyone know how this lens performs? I don't own any Fujinons, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Emre Yildirim
14-Mar-2006, 14:27
Oops, I didn't see the post by tor kviljo. I think I might purchase this lens...I never seem to hear anything bad about the Fujinon lenses.

William Mortensen
14-Mar-2006, 14:58
As noted above, any decent modern undamaged lens should be very, very sharp. I'd base my decision largely on coverage, sharpness at the periphery, price, size/weight, and whether the filter size matched what I already own and carry for other lenses.

Harley Goldman
14-Mar-2006, 16:33
I have the Fujinon 240A. It is the sharpest lens in my kit. I have the Sironar S 150mm, which is a very fine lens, but for some reason images taken with the 240mm just jump off the light table. I love that lens. It is small and despite being a f/9 , is very easy to focus in low light. I could not ask for anything better.

Ed Richards
14-Mar-2006, 18:57
I second the comments on the 250mm f/6.3 Fujinon-W. The only advantage of the older 6.7 version is that it covers 8x10.

Makes a nice kit - I have the 90 6.8 Rodenstock, 250 and 400 Fuji and they all take 67mm filters. My 150 is an old Linhof Symmar, which I keep thinking I should replace with a modern lens, until I put the 20x loupe on the negatives and remind myself that it is as sharp as the other lenses.

Oguz Oezkan
15-Mar-2006, 01:20
Hi Emre,

i have the Apo Ronar MC 9/240 and it is as sharp as my Apo Sironar-S 5,6/150 and Super Symmar XL 5,6/110. I can not see any differences at infinity and f/22. The Lens is small and light, only the IC - 216 mm - is sometimes littel, but for Landscape and using 4x5 ok.