View Full Version : 215mm f6.3 Ilex Caltar versus 203mm Ektar

Scott Kathe
2-Mar-2007, 17:43
The title just about sums it up. I'm looking for an inexpensive lens for 4x5 nature/landscape photography in the 200-215mm range with B&W film and chromes. I will be doing some hiking so a lightweight lens would be a plus. Another plus would be coverage for 5x7, if I ever take that leap;) The other lens I've been thinking about is the 210mm Caltar II-E. It seems the 203mm Ektar is sharpest wide open but I'm going to have to stop down for depth of field-will that cause significant image degradation at lets say f16 or 22?


Jim Jones
2-Mar-2007, 18:18
Stopping down to f/16 or f/22 should affect the Caltar as much as the Ektar. That's still a fairly large aperture for much 4x5 and 5x7 photography. I probably use f/22 more than any other aperture with a 203mm Ektar.

David Karp
3-Mar-2007, 01:34
You might want to check out Chris Perez's website for his test of a variety of 210 'ish lenses: http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/test/BigMash210.html

Based on his findings, the Caltar II-E (Rodenstock Geronar) was plenty sharp when stopped down to f/16 or f/22, but not as sharp as the others at wider apertures.

Another lens to consider is a 210mm f/6.1 Schneider Xenar or its twin, a 210mm f/6.1 Caltar Pro (identical to the Xenar). If you are looking at the Caltar version, make sure that it was made in Germany. There was another version of the 210 Caltar Pro made in Japan, but I don't recall the max f/stop.

Chris found that the Xenar performed quite well, even in comparison to a modern 200mm Nikkor M. I recently purchased a Caltar Pro version of the Xenar, and based on my tests I would agree, although so far I have not put more than a few test sheets behind it.

Robert A. Zeichner
3-Mar-2007, 03:06
I can't speak for the Caltar, but I own 3 of the 203mm Ektars and they are all superb performers. I have made some of my best photographs with this lens. A bonus is that they are very compact and by reversing the lens board so the front faces inward, I can store this lens inside my Deardorf 45 Special. The Ektar does cover 5x7 with a little room for movements, but not much. This is generally not a problem as I mostly do rear tilts which require no coverage beyond normal. I have regularly used this lens a f22 and f32 with excellent results on prints as large as 16x20. I have done a little transparency work with this lens as well and color rendition appears satisfying to me.

To filter this lens, I have a 33mm to series 6 slip on adapter ring to which I have attached a 6 to 7 series step up ring. I machined the rim of an old 52mm filter, the glass from which was removed, to press fit into the series 7 side of the step up ring and so now have a slip on adapter that takes 52mm filters.

Jim Rhoades
3-Mar-2007, 06:34
For backpacking, meaning small and light, find a Ektar 203 in a Epsilon shutter. These will screw right into a Copal #0 if needed. Wonderful lens, so small it fits into a folded Horseman FA/HD.

Scott Kathe
3-Mar-2007, 08:31
Thanks for the comments so far-they have been very helpful. I had forgotten about the 210mm Xenar-thanks David but I can never find one when I look:( Jim, I've thought about finding the 203mm Ektar in the Epsilon shutter but I was concerned about parts for repair. What size hole does the supermatic shutter require? Is it a copal 1 or an odd size?

For those who like restoring old cameras there is a Kodak 33A View camera up for auction now that comes with a 10" Commercial Ektar. Looks like a nice project camera that doesn't require a lot of work! But I guess it has limited movements:(


David Karp
3-Mar-2007, 08:48
I had forgotten about the 210mm Xenar-thanks David but I can never find one when I look:( Scott


Consider the Caltar Pro version. When I was looking seriously, over a relatively short period of time, I saw several of these go by plus one 210 Xenar for which the seller was starting at an outrageous price.

If I had to do it over again, I would just call Jim Andracki at MPEX and ask him to find one for me. If you are interested in a Xenar or Caltar Pro, I recommend calling Jim and asking him how much one would cost. Had I done that it would have saved all kinds of E-Bay purchasing frustrations. (Don't ask.)

Jon Shiu
3-Mar-2007, 09:52
Hi, I have used the Caltar IIE 210mm and it is compact and a fine sharp lens that takes 49mm filters. Some of the older lenses are not multicoated and don't have a filter ring, eg Ilex Caltar 8 1/4 inch.