View Full Version : Macro shootout: Symmar-S 240/5.6 vs Gerogon 240/9

Matt Blaze
9-Feb-2008, 17:35
We all know that general purpose lenses do not perform as well as purpose-designed macro lenses at macro reproduction ratios. I was curious how pronounced the difference is in practice, and so tonight decided put my 240mm/5.6 APO-Symmar up against my recently acquired 240mm/9 APO-Gerogon in an unscientific quick test.

I didn't want to just resolution charts or other measurement contrivances, but rather reasonably plausible subjects to get an idea of how the lenses would perform in practice. So I set up a quick arrangement on the shooting table with a silk map and some dice. Camera was a a 4x5 Sinar P and the film a BetterLight scanning back at 6000x8000. (Yes, digital. So sue me. I wanted as few optical variables between the tested lenses and the screen as possible, and besides, it was quick to do.)

The focus was along the red road from Ryazan to Moscow in front of the dice. I took care to focus and set the swing carefully for each shot. Note that the perspective changes slightly between the two lenses because the two lenses locate their nodal points in different places w.r.t. the lensboard. The reproduction ratio is about 1:1 at the middle of the image.

Here's the full image (downsized to 650x488) for the Symmar:

... and for the Gerogon:

Obviously not much difference visible in these small images, but full resolution crops tell a rather different story. Here's a detail from middle of the Symmar shot:

...and from the Gerogon shot (the winner to my eye):

So, in this case, the macro/enlarger/process lens is indeed sharper, although I think the Symmar did respectably well. Not a scientific or controlled test by any means (and the perspective here tells us little about distortion, etc) but perhaps someone will find the comparison useful.


9-Feb-2008, 17:44
very cool.

thanks for sharing.

Matt Blaze
10-Feb-2008, 16:21
Just a small correction: for some reason I typed "APO-Symmar" in one place above. The subject line is correct; the lens I compared against the Gerogon 240mm/9 was a Symmar-S 240mm/5.6. Both shots were at f/22.

Sorry for any confusion.


Ted Harris
10-Feb-2008, 17:02
The only problem with the comparison is that the Gerogon is not a macro lens. There is a difference between process lenses such as the APO-Gerogon you tested and true macro lenses like the Apo Macro Sironars and Apo Macro Symmars and the Nikkor macro lenses.

Process lenses are designed to do their best with flat objects. Try the test again at ratios of 1:1 or better and the true macro lenses will do even better that the process lenses.

Matt Blaze
10-Feb-2008, 17:13
Yes, I understand that the Gerogon isn't designed as a macro lens per se. However, since I do a great deal of photography at about 1:1 (as this shot was) and have both a 240mm general purpose lens and and 240mm process/enlarger lens, I figured some might find actual examples useful given that the question of whether there's a difference in practice in real photography seems to come up a lot. These are just examples, not intended to be definitive and the results were not surprising. I think both lenses did well, but the Gerogon's performance was quite impressive, especially given how inexpensively they can be had.

I also have a 120mm Super Angulon and a 120mm Nikkor macro, which I will eventually get around to directly comparing at a higher magnification.


Ted Harris
10-Feb-2008, 17:48
Matt, when you do your comparison of the 120 Nikkor AM ED make sure you do the comparison at 1:1 or greater, that is where the macro lenses start to shine. You might alos want to search the archives here for the many threads on these lenses like this one http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?t=8216.

Matt Blaze
10-Feb-2008, 20:12

It wasn't really my intention to compare two lenses to show off the performance of one under the ideal conditions for which it was optimized. Rather, I wanted to compare them for the kinds of shooting I actually do (and, perhaps, the kind of shooting others here do as well), which, in this case, is on the margins of the designs of both lenses. This is why I didn't shoot a flat field, etc, with the Gerogon.

If sharing the results of such informal and non-idealized tests inappropriate for this forum, I apologize.



Ted Harris
10-Feb-2008, 20:15
No, it's cool. Just pointing to some other things that may be of interest.

11-Feb-2008, 10:23
Matt, if you ever get tired of being hounded for using the (digital) better light back I can take it off your hands for a few weeks while you get some R&R :)

Joerg Krusche
12-Feb-2008, 11:00
Process lenses are designed to do their best with flat objects. Try the test again at ratios of 1:1 or better and the true macro lenses will do even better that the process lenses.[/QUOTE]


I assumed until today that lenses that reproduce flat objects just flat on the film are close to the ideal lens i.e. without distortion, field curvature etc. .. if you want them to reproduce less flat objects you just stop down.. where is my problem ?.

I agree that Apo Gerogons are sleepers.