View Full Version : Rodenstock vs. Schneider?

Ken Grooms
23-Oct-2006, 19:15
or maybe Nikkor...Who makes the best normal lens in terms of image quality (resolution, color, bokeh)? Thanks.

Frank Petronio
23-Oct-2006, 19:20
Rodenstock, no question, hands down, for sure, abso-f'ing-lutely. People are idiots if they tell you otherwise.

John Kasaian
23-Oct-2006, 19:22
IMHO, all the modern players are excellent. I also think a lot of older glass is pretty darn excellent (perhaps superior if you're seriously into that bokeh business). All you have to do is come up with a picture that'll take advantage of all that excellence---thats the hard part!


Brian Ellis
23-Oct-2006, 21:04
There's no "best" maker of LF lenses. But Schneider is the only company that seems sufficiently interested in large format to continue improving its product line. Rodenstock hasn't to my knowledge brought out a new lens in over a decade, Nikon is a digital camera company, and Fuji doesn't care enough about the U.S. market to have a U.S. distributor. So when all other things are more or less equal I buy Schneider lenses and their 150 is at least as good as any other.

23-Oct-2006, 21:17
i agree with Brian. they all make lenses that are crazy good. but Schneider's the only company that's done any innovating and investing in l.f. in recent history.

23-Oct-2006, 22:26

Leica of course!

Otherwise, I fully concur with Brian's take on this!

Schneider is the lens company I'd support... just like Ilford for film! :)


Mark Sawyer
23-Oct-2006, 23:02
The best lens is the one that does what you want it to do best. Anything modern is nearly perfect in terms of resolution, correction of aberrations, contrast, color correction... no personality... Stepford lenses...

I started making my own. They came out all screwed up and I love them for it...

Plus, you get to name your own lens!

Kirk Fry
23-Oct-2006, 23:43
Goerz 6 inch Areotar.

Ole Tjugen
24-Oct-2006, 00:12
Since discontinued lenses have already been brought into the discussion, I'll mention my two favorite 150mm lenses: Apo-Lanthar 150/4.5, and Zeiss Doppel-Amatar 150/6.8. Both offer outstanding sharpness and a very pleasing rendition, and the colour fidelity of the uncoated Amatar is surprisingly good - perhaps helped by the fact that there are only four glass/air surfaces.

24-Oct-2006, 05:29
Anything modern is nearly perfect in terms of resolution, correction of aberrations, contrast, color correction...

This is true within limitations. They come fairly close to the limits imposed by phyisics, but only near the axis, and within a certain range of magnifications and apertures. If you mostly use the lens within this sweet spot, you'll have a hard time telling the difference. If you're pushing things with movements, magnifications, or wide apertures, then you'll find there's still room for improvement. And that some lenses have been more improved than others in recent years.

The companies have also been pushing other capabilities of the lenses. Schneider especially has been investing in technologies to make the lenses lighter, smaller and wider at maximum aperture, which may or may not be important to you.

Ron Marshall
24-Oct-2006, 06:12
Modern multicoated lenses differ mainly in image circle (how much movement is possible) and maximum aperture (how easy they are to focus in low light) and weight.

Brian K
24-Oct-2006, 06:49
I own a large amount of modern view camera lenses. I test them vigorously viewing the comparison negatives under as much as 40x on a stereo microscope. I have learned a few things. First if you are shooting color and color accuracy and consistency is critical, stick with one lens line. Or at least Schneider/Rodenstock or Fuji/Nikkor. German lenses have a certain color look, Japanese lenses have a certain color look.

Now if you're shooting mainly B&W then ideally you need to pick the best at a given focal length. However there are other considerations beyond pure optical performance. There are certain heavier lenses than under high magnification, or extreme lens movements are superior than smaller lighter lens formulas. If you are purely shooting in a studio or in an application where extreme movements are required, then the mass of the larger lens is worth the performance. If you plan to hike or carry a lot of gear, then weight may be a siginificant factor.

Here are the results of some recent tests, mind you these are all lenses of high reputation, so there may not be any surprises in here:

120mm 5.6 APO Symmar L- Very sharp, best perfromance at f 16
135mm 5.6 Sironar-S- Superb lens- f 16
150mm 5.6 Sironar-S Also Superb
180mm 5.6 Sironar-S another winner again best at f16
210mm 5.6 Sironar-S great, super detail at 40x, the "s" lenses seem optimised at
200mm 8 Nikkor M Looked slightly better than the 210mm Sironar at 10x, but not
as good at 20x and larger, is this where contrast shows versus straight resolution?
240mm 9 APO Ronar- best at 16, 22 is very good
240mm 9 Fuji A indistinguishable from the APO ronar, larger yet lighter, maybe the copal
0 versus copal 1 weight difference, but much more coverage than the ronar
270mm 6.3 Nikkor Tele- seriously good for a tele design, excellent sharpness and
300mm 9 APO Ronar - great lens, small for a 300mm, f 16
300mm 8 Fuji tele- very good lens,but not quite as sharp or contrasty as the 300mm
Ronar or the 270mm tele nikkor
360mm 8 nikkor tele- very sharp, as good as 360mm APO Ronar, but with better contrast, was best at 16
500mm 11 Nikor tele- same as above except best at f22- as good as 480mm APO Ronar

The 360mm and 480mm APO Ronars did lose sharpness when shutter speeds dropped to 1/15 th to 1/2. I attribute this to the copal 3 having a far larger vibration that the copal 1. That vibration being magnified by the large focal length. These lenses are now relegated to the studio and strobe lighting. Their close up performance though will be far better than that of the tele nikkors.

The f 5.6 lenses are easier to focus, not just that they're brighter, but with the lower dof at f 5.6 they seem to pop into and out of focus more apparently. The F8 and f 9 lenses require more effort to focus as they seem in focus for a larger area yet not optimum focused. All of my focusing was done with an 8x Schneider loupe.

Jack Flesher
24-Oct-2006, 08:45
Very general rules I have gleaned from tons of testing and years of shooting: 1) ALL of the modern lenses from Fuji, Nikon, Rodenstock and Schneider are excellent performers. 2) Unless they are damaged or dirty, all are going to be sharp with excellent contrast. 3) The sharpest lenses I have tested are the Rodenstock APO Sironar S's -- but by a fairly small and IMO largely insignificant margin for most prints. 4) The best Bokeh I have found in these *MODERN* lenses are the Schneiders. 5) Fujis are smoother than Nikkors, Nikkors show more contrast. 6) Individual copies of lenses from any of the above manufacturers can vary outside this list of generalities. 7) Many old lenses perform so well they cannot be distinguished from newer ones in side-by-side prints. 8) With #7 in mind, "old" lenses are usually priced at relative bargain prices compared to the more modern popular "classic" of the same focal. 9) In the end, the best lens is the one that's on your camera when the light is perfect. 10) If you own more than three lenses, you *NEVER* have the right lens on your camera when the light is perfect.


Christopher Perez
24-Oct-2006, 08:55
"Best" in lens quality... well... when a 1940's Bausch and Lomb 183mm f/18 Protar Series V is nearly indistinguishable from a modern Nikkor 200mm M f/8 at f/22, does this mean we should all go out and get the cheaper Protar?

There are many things that go into being the "best". What are your parameters? You mention "bokeh". Does this mean you will be doing selective focus images? If so, take a close look at the shape of the aperture.

Modern Fuji lenses are "known" for their harsh "bokeh" (according to some people, that is). Some of the Copal shutters they use implement fewer aperture blades than Schneider/Nikon/Rodenstock. Therefore, the out of focus highlights are rendered in a sharper geometric pattern.

Then, remount the very same Fuji optic in a round apertured shutter. Compare the images taken in this configuration against R's Sironar-S or S's Symmar Copal shuttered lenses and you will see that Fuji looks better in the out of focus areas than either R or S mounted in Copal shutters.

Take a step further and compare the reshuttered Fuji against a Voightlander Heliar in Compound shutter and you may find that the Heliar and Fuji are nearly indistinguishable in those loose terms we think of as "bokeh".

So, back to your original question; what measure of "best" are you looking for answers to?

If you are doing color work, stick with one lens manufacturer. If you are doing selective focus work, look at the shape of the aperture. If you are looking for absolute "best" resolution, it's a really long meaningless conversation. Seriously. All modern lenses are better than most of us are as photographers.

Food for thought:
- It's far better to have a lens than not.
- The sharpest lens you will ever own is a tripod.
- MTF design data isn't as good as real world comparisons (due to manufacturing variability).
- When working with one's own artistic vision, the lens will most times _not_ be the limiting factor to creating wonderful images.

Bottom line: The best lenses in the world will not cover for a lack of vision.

Mark Sawyer
24-Oct-2006, 09:47
The companies have also been pushing other capabilities of the lenses. Schneider especially has been investing in technologies to make the lenses lighter, smaller and wider at maximum aperture, which may or may not be important to you.

I think Cooke may be the most exciting of these, with their reintroduction of the old Pinkham & Smith Visual Quality lens. But I can see where ULF folks would love the new Fine Art lenses from Schneider.

*sigh* If only we could afford them...

Ken Grooms
24-Oct-2006, 17:57
I need a 75-85mm (35mm equivalent) "portrait" lens to shoot leaves on a table top. Does that mean 250mm on a 4x5? Can I achieve this with a 210mm and bellows? Thanks. Here's the shot I want to take to start with:http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=5055800

Dan Fromm
24-Oct-2006, 18:38
Ken, I think you can do it easily if your table top is at floor level.

If you want to fill a 4x5 frame with those leaves I think -- correct me if I'm mistaken -- that you'll have to shoot at around 1:1. At 1:1 film-to-subject distance is approximately 4f. So if you use a 210 -- actually it will take a 300 to match an 85's diagonal angle of view on 35 mm -- the ground glass will be more or less 84 cm from the table top. With a 300, 120 cm from the table top. Either way, with the leaves on a normal waist-high table, you'll have to stand on a ladder to focus and compose.

The only reason not to use a shorter lens is that it will make lighting your subject more difficult.

Good luck, have fun,


Ken Grooms
24-Oct-2006, 18:49
Yes, yes - I shot this on the ground outside.

What lens length do I need for this 75mm (35mm equivalent) - 250mm for a 4x5 view camera - or can I do it with a 210mm and stretch the bellows? Thanks, Dan!

Jack Flesher
24-Oct-2006, 19:17
All of the relative focal comparisons between 35mm and LF go out the window at close distances. The reason is the amount of lens extension required to focus the longer LF lens at close distances changes the effective focal length more significantly since you are covering a larger piece of film. IOW, what requires 1:1 to fill a frame on 4x5 might only need 1:4 with an 85 in 35mm. A 210 focused at 1:1 has the same diagonal FoV as a 420 at infinity and they both have 420mm of total extension to accomplish those focuses. 420 in 4x5 is about equal to 135 in 35mm. Hence, a 150mm lens at 1:1 has the same FoV as a 300 at infinity and will behave very much like an 85mm lens at infinity on 35mm. Since you may be a little further than 1:1 much of the time, say at 1:5 or so, a lens a little longer than normal would be adequate. So to answer your question, yes you can easily get that kind of look with a 210, or even a 180, at under 1:10 magnification.


brian reed
24-Oct-2006, 19:24
Fuji doesn't care enough about the U.S. market to have a U.S. distributor.

Dosen't Badger graphics sell Fuji lenses? Or are they not considered a US distributer.
Just asking.


Ken Grooms
24-Oct-2006, 19:31
Thanks for your detailed answer, Jack - and thanks for not berating a newbie!
All the best,
P.S. Awesome galleries, BTW!

Jack Flesher
24-Oct-2006, 20:31
You are welcome Ken -- And welcome to the wonderful world of Large Format!

Greg Lockrey
24-Oct-2006, 20:45
Jack is one of the better contributers on several forums that I frequent ;) ;)

neil poulsen
25-Oct-2006, 21:39
I like the Schneiders for their wide-angles. I think this is where Schneider does very well. Plus, Schneider needs to be given credit for their experimentation. Look at the Fine Art XXL's, or the Schneider Dagors. Does Rodenstock have something to compare? Not to say that Rodenstock isn't, but I've always thought of Scheider as a "classy" organization.

I think both have their strengths. Rodenstock apparently does well with longer lenses.

Personally, I had a Rodenstock, and I sent it back. I thought the contrast was excessive. I've always appreciated the "luminosity" of the Schneider lenses. But, where I saw Rodenstock's contrast as a negative, others would see this as a strong positive and would prefer Rodenstocks for that reason.

Ken Grooms
30-Oct-2006, 22:01
I just got a cheap lens recommendation from Tim Sharkey - the Schneider G-Claron 210 f/9 - I told him I was interested in shooting moderately close (flowers ) and wanted something under $400. Although he specializes in 8x10 lenses, he sent me a lot of detailed information on a number of 4x5 lenses. He gets the Nice guy Award of the Day: :):) :) :).

Does anyone second Tim's 210 G-Claron suggestion?

Jack Flesher
31-Oct-2006, 07:04
Does anyone second Tim's 210 G-Claron suggestion?

The 210 G-Claron is a fine lens and performs especially well in the close ranges under 1:10. Its only real negative is it does tend to flare if pointed toward a bright light source.


Frank Petronio
31-Oct-2006, 07:24
Buying from Tim is wise because he will clean and adjust the shutter so it is working up to spec. The 210/9 is fine although a popular, classic 150-210 lens with a f/5.6 aperture will be brighter on the ground glass, making it easier to focus. They are the most popular lenses, so the prices are moderate. Look for a Rodenstock Sironar or a Schneider Symmar or Fujinon W, etc. They've been making them forever so get a late one on a good shutter.

Ken Lee
31-Oct-2006, 08:39
I need a 75-85mm (35mm equivalent) "portrait" lens to shoot leaves on a table top. Does that mean 250mm on a 4x5? Can I achieve this with a 210mm and bellows? Thanks. Here's the shot I want to take to start with:http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=5055800

Why do you need a 4x5 negative/slide ?