View Full Version : APOCHROMATIC ? Close-up work

zack kl
30-Jul-2008, 12:03
Hello, I'm getting ready to take the plunge to 4x5. I've read much on this and other sights and Steve Simmon's, "Using the View Camera". I still have not yet decided on a field or monorail camera as I want to do landscapes but also studio work, including close ups, occasionally 1:1.
A) From my (limited) understanding no matter what lens I use - except a MACRO$$-to get very close the bellows must be twice as long as the focal length of the lens. Most field cameras i.e. Tachihara and Shen-Hao are usable up to +- 320mm which would allow for a 150mm lens .(Both Tachihara and Shen-Hao offer the " 150mm Rodenstock APO-Sironar-N/5.6" with their "kit".) So if I wanted to use a 210mm lens I would have to get monorail. Is this correct?
B) In Steve Simmons" book he mentions "APOCHROMATIC" lens in relation to close up work but it is unclear to me if an "APO" is neccessary and they seem not to be as pleniful on the used market as others.
C) I know eventually that I might end up with a field and monorail but would rather keep it simple if I can.
D) Back to the basics of close ups. Is APO needed? Are there other reasonably priced lens that do a good job with landscape and close up and extreme close up or am I asking too much.
Thanks to everybody on this sight for their time and sharing their experience, any advice will be very appreciated.

Dan Fromm
30-Jul-2008, 13:20
Buy a book on technique before you buy a lens. Lester Lefkowitz' The Manual Of Closeup Photography might do for you. If you don't know much about photography -- hard to tell from your post -- A. A. Blaker's Field Photography is a good introduction to thinking like a photographer.

Learn to use your camera before trying something harder than shooting landscapes. "Which view camera should I buy?" is asked here very often. Most of the people who move from asking to buying seem to replace their first camera within a year of purchase. I have the very strong impression that the only way to learn which features/limitations/ergonomics matter is by using a camera. Accept that you'll buy the wrong camera.

You wrote "From my (limited) understanding no matter what lens I use - except a MACRO$$-to get very close the bellows must be twice as long as the focal length of the lens." Close, but not quite right. For all lenses, the relationship between magnification and the distance from the film plane to the lens' rear nodal plane is e = f*(1 +m) where f is the lens focal length and m is the magnification.

How well a lens is corrected for color has nothing to do with the distance at which it gives best image quality. Nothing. A lens can be optimized for only one pair of conjugates (distance from film plane to lens' rear node, distance from lens' front node to subject). Lenses intended for general use are usually corrected for a distant subject. "macro" lenses are corrected for a near subject. How near varies from lens to lens, I have some that are optimized for magnifications > 10:1, others that are optimized for 1:1, ...

This means that no lens that's very good at distance can be very good closeup too. Some process lenses, especially dialyte types, e.g., Apo Ronars, hold their corrections well at all distances but real macro lenses are better closeup and modern teles are better at distance.

The general rule is that the higher the magnification desired, the shorter the lens used. This because getting and managing a lot of extension can be difficult, not because a short lens is inherently better than a long one.

Two widely-used ways of getting a relatively inexpensive lens for use "closeup:" An enlarging lens, put in a shutter or mounted in front of one. A Tominon lens (the set includes 17, 35, 50, 75, 105, and 135 mm lenses) made for the Polaroid MP-4 camera and an ex-MP-4 Copal #1 Press shutter. The lenses are inexpensive; the 17, 35, and 50 are fairly good, the longer ones, at least in my experience, so-so. The shutters are quite inexpensive because they don't have a diaphragm so aren't very useful.

Good luck, have fun,


Joshua Dunn
30-Jul-2008, 16:50
A great contribution by Dan and I agree hole heartedly. I would add only one thing. I don’t know what you mean by MACRO$$ in that all of our perceptions are different, not only with photography, but what is or is not a lot of money to spend on a lens. I will spend quite a bit on a good piece of glass, whereas some people’s budget may top out at a couple hundred dollars.

Again I agree with Dan, learn some basics before you complicate your life with 1:1. But when and if you do get a short (120mm range) macro lens and have some fun. Nikkor makes great 120mm macro lens that usually goes for a “reasonable” price.

30-Jul-2008, 18:39
For learning, and particularly if you think that close-ups and 1:1 work will be important to you, I would suggest you strongly consider a monorail camera. It is difficult for a field camera to achieve the stability of a even an inexpensive monorail, and there are a lot of inexpensive monorails out there. Consider Cambos, Calumets, Horsemans, Toyos or even a Linhof or Sinars if you see one attractively priced.

Consider mounting your lenses on Linhof Technika compatible lens boards and adapting your camera to take that board. Technika type boards are inexpensive and many field cameras are designed to use them natively (should you later decide that you desire a field camera.) A smaller number of larger field cameras use Sinar/Horseman boards. Technika board adapters are available either off-the-shelf or cobbled-together-in-someone's-garage for many cameras.

An enlarging lens makes a great close-up lens. You often find Schneider Componons for sale mounted in a shutter. I would look for a 135mm enlarging lens so that it will cover the 4x5 format if you get close to a normal reproduction ratio, and so that it will not necessarily require more bellows than you have, to get to 1:1 or larger.

Do not worry about finding an Apochromatic lens. Mr. Simon may have been referring to a process lens like an Apo-Artar (or a Red Dot Artar) or a Apo-Ronar or comparable lenses from the likes of Schneider, Nikon and others. These were made in great numbers for the graphic arts industry before that work was transitioned to computerized processes. As such there are a lot of them now on the market, but not so many are mounted in a shutter. Some are easy and inexpensive to mount in a shutter, some are absolutely not. These process lenses are typically optimized for 1:1, but can be used from there to infinity if stopped down. Many provide coverage for only smaller formats compared to normal lenses of the same focal length, so care must be taken when using them at infinity. If you find one 20 - 25% longer than your negative diagonal, for a good price, in a usable shutter, It should give great performance at infinity. Of course if it is that long, you may not be able to get it to 1:1 on your field, or your monorail camera.

The word "Apo" is now used a little differently by Schneider and Rodenstock to describe the very high level of color correction achieved by their latest and most expensive lenses designed for normal distances such as the Rodenstock Apo-Sironar N or Schneider Apo Symmar. When I see Apo used in this way I read it as literally "latest and most expensive" and move on to search for something that promises to be "affordable and offering great performance" like a multicoated Schneider Symmar-S instead.

Great luck to you.

Bernice Loui
30-Jul-2008, 20:17
Field camera or monorail, the basics of using a view camera is pretty similar, the controls and feel of the camera would be different, but not in the way a view camera is used. IMO, it is better to focus on getting to know how to use any view camera well enough to where little thought is required to create the image desired. Be patient, it takes years and a lot of film before using a view camera can become "second nature", it all takes practice. So, get something not too expensive, not too glitzy and use the camera, make mistakes, it's all part of the learning process. And, a field camera works fine in a studio and same for a monorail camera except lugging around a heavy monorail camera on a hike might not be fun.

APO, apochromatic lenses (Process lens) historically referred to lenses that were used to make color separation (RGB) negatives used in the color printing process. It was critical that the image size of the individual Red, Green, Blue negatives are of near identical size or the color registration will not render printed colors properly in the finished printing. Since then the APO designation has been used as a marketing term as few companies who claim APO actually specify how much lateral color shift is allowed for the various wavelengths of red, green and blue. Honestly, for the majority of LF images, it's not worth worrying about. Kodak Commercial Ektars were used on color separation cameras, but the lenses were never marked as APO.

Typically symmetrical lenses (ie, Sironar, Symmar, Dagor, Artar, Ronar & etc)tend to work just fine at 1:1 or "life size" magnification. Going beyond that level of magnification, a reversed mounted enlarging lens would work better than one might suspect and a shorter focal length could be used. Think of this as an enlarger working in reverse. Magnifications beyond say, 10x is not so easy to do. There are numerous problems such as depth of focus, set-up stability, lighting and etc.. as always, there are ways to solve a good number of these problems depending on the subject at hand.

I still have not yet decided on a field or monorail camera as I want to do landscapes but also studio work, including close ups, occasionally 1:1.

Back to the basics of close ups. Is APO needed? Are there other reasonably priced lens that do a good job with landscape and close up and extreme close up or am I asking too much

31-Jul-2008, 03:13
In practice, you don't often need to get thing bigger on film than in real life. You may not even want to, because of focus and bellows-factor. However, you do need to be at a reasonable distance from the subject because it has to be lit somehow without the camera getting in the way. So my own choice on 4x5 has always been the reversible Macro-Sironar-N 210mm. (though I never need to reverse it). My normal Ebony stretches enough for macro (the Ebony SW doesn't). The lens also doubles for head-shots.

Ole Tjugen
31-Jul-2008, 04:32
... Typically symmetrical lenses (ie, Sironar, Symmar, Dagor, Artar, Ronar & etc)tend to work just fine at 1:1 or "life size" magnification. ...

"Typically symmetrical" lenses are typically not symmetrical - they have front and rear cells of the same construction but different strength.

Most of them are optimised for around 1:10. The exception is the Symmar, which is optimised for 1:3 and works well up to 1:1. If you go beyond 1:1, a reversed Symmar is among the best lenses, far better than enlarger lenses. Symmar 105mm and 130mm come in #0 shutters with the same thread on both sides, making these two perfect for beyond-lifesize macro. :)

Dan Fromm
31-Jul-2008, 04:54
Ole, as usual y'r post is interesting and thought-provoking.

Which Symmar were you referring to? The original "dagor type," the later convertible plasmat, or one (which) the the plasmats with suffix, e.g., -S?

And why do you think any Symmar was optimized for 1:3? I ask because enlarging Symmars (Componons) are supposed to be optimized for 1:10 and it seems odd that the taking version would be optimized for closer subjects than the enlarging version.

Could you have meant Comparon? 105/4.5 and 150/5.6 both go in #0, are optimized for 1:4 or so IIRC.

Could you have meant the G-Claron? I ask because 1:3 seems about right for their optimization and because the three 240/9 dagor type G-Claron's I tried out before selling all shot very well from 1:1 to far, far away. But AFAIK the shortest G-Claron was 150 mm.

Also, did you mean 135 mm, not 130? I ask because I've seen 135 Symmars cataloged, even have one, but haven't seen 130 mm in the lists.



Ole Tjugen
31-Jul-2008, 07:06
Dan, I meant all Symmars without suffix - both the first Dagor-types and the later convertible Plasmats. I don't know about the later "suffixed" ones, though.

The optimisation for 1:3 of the (plasmat) Symmars is from Schneiders literature i think, but I can't find it now. The reasoning was that the plasmat construction allowed a lens optimised for 1:3 to give acceptable quality all the way to 1:1 without the infinity quality suffering noticeably, while an optimisation for 1:10 would give much poorer performance at 1:1 without really gaining anything measurable at infinity.

The 130mm was a typo for 135mm, and the 105mm was a typo for 100mm. Just a case of jumping fives. I ought to know - I have both. ;)

Dan Fromm
31-Jul-2008, 07:49
Ole, thanks for the answer. It deserves two questions in reply.

If Symmars are so good, why are there Componons too?

Componons are optimized for 1:10, per Schneider. Why is my 105/5.6 Componon lousy at infinity? It isn't bad at all at 1:10.



Ole Tjugen
31-Jul-2008, 08:23
Taking lenses and enlarger lenses have different design criteria, and repro lenses are different again. So there was a need for not only Symmars and Componons, but G-Clarons, D-Clarons and Repro-Clarons too.

There are Comparons too, optimised for 4x enlargements to supplement the Componons which are optimised for 10x.

Dan Fromm
31-Jul-2008, 12:58
Ole, you're right that the performance minimums for repro lenses are more stringent than those for taking lenses. Repro lenses need less distortion, better field flatness, and better color correction than taking lenses. Which, as we both know, is why most of them have smaller maximum apertures than taking lenses of similar focal length and why many repro lenses came with stern injunctions to use at f/22.

But I don't understand how one lens optimized for 1:10 can be worse at infinity than another lens in the same design family and with the same maximum aperture that was optimized for 1:3. I also don't understand why, if 1:10 is as good as infinity, Modern Photography shot their tests of lenses for 35mm cameras at 1:49 instead of 1:10, especially since the target they used was made to fit the 35 mm frame at 1:10. I mean, if 1:10 is close enough to infinity, why use a lower magnification?

I'd really appreciate a reference to jes' plain Symmars' optimization at 1:3. If you're away from your library, no problem, I can wait.

About Comparons. I have two, was very surprised when I visited Schneider's archives and saw that they were recommended over Componons for small enlargements. I mean, we all know that plasmats are better than tessars.



Boy, this thread is drifting. I don't believe the Original Poster has commented on any of the replies we gave him. OP, do you have any questions?

Ole Tjugen
1-Aug-2008, 03:13
Dan, what I wrote - or at least whet I tried to write - is not that a lens optimised for 1:10 is poorer at infinity than one optimised for 1:3, but that the difference (with the 1:10 one being best) in so small that Schneider at one time judged it irrelevant and devided to improve the close performance instead by optimising the Symmars for 1:3.

Now LF lenses and 35mm lenses are different beasts. Since the 35mm is so much smaller, it makes sense to optimise those lenses for a smaller scale - like 1:49 instead of 1:10. Just think of a fairly tight portrait in portrait orientation - width of field about one foot (12"): With 35mm that's about 1:13; with 4x5" it's about 1:3, and with 12x16" it's 1:1. You should even have about the same lens-to-subject distance for all three, which means you need a whopping long bellows on the 12x16"!

I've got a Comparon and a Componon 150mm, but haven't got around to comparing them at small enlargements. Yes, Plasmats are better than Tessars, but not necessarily for everything. At small magnifications you use less of the image angle, so the increased FoV of the Plasmat is irrelevant. Tessars tend to be flat-field out to some angle and then go quickly to mush, but at small magnifications you sre only using the central "sweet spot".

Peter K
1-Aug-2008, 07:48
About Comparons. I have two, was very surprised when I visited Schneider's archives and saw that they were recommended over Componons for small enlargements. I mean, we all know that plasmats are better than tessars.
The Luminar 25mm is a modified Tessar and the longer Luminar's are Triplets only :rolleyes:


Peter K

Dan Fromm
1-Aug-2008, 12:42
Peter, I was being sarcastic. I apologize to all for not having set the sarcasm indicator on.

Funny you should mention the 25/3.5 Luminar, which makes the point. I've shot my 25 Luminar, also a couple of the same borrowed from Charlie Barringer, against my 25/2.8 Summar (the fixed-aperture one made for the YELUU projection microscope attachment for some Prado projectors) and the Summar is better. No differences among the Luminars, Zeiss-Winkel quality control is good.

Funny you should mention the longer Luminars. I've shot Charlie's 100/6.3 against my 100/6.3 Neupolar, a reversed tessar (cemented doublet in front of the diaphragm, pair of singlets behind), and my, now his, 90/6.3 CZJ Mikrotar, also a reversed tessar. The ranking is Neupolar beats Mikrotar beats Luminar.

From which <sarcasm on> we can safely conclude that 6/4 double Gauss lenses are better than tessars and tessars are better than triplets <sarcasm off>.

Original poster, these days all of these lenses are priced out of your range. If you want an ~ 100 mm lens to use closeup, a 105/4.5 Comparon will do for you.



Peter K
1-Aug-2008, 12:57
Dan, you shouldn't do this. You're destroing the faith of all "lens counters".


Peter K

Ole Tjugen
1-Aug-2008, 13:03
Original poster, these days all of these lenses are priced out of your range. If you want an ~ 100 mm lens to use closeup, a 105/4.5 Comparon will do for you.



Or a 100mm Symmar...


Dan Fromm
1-Aug-2008, 14:38
Ole, are you sure? Please, oh please, find the reference.

I ask because there's no mention of "good at all distances" or anything like optimization in the early plasmat type Symmar (jes' plain Symmars with no suffix) brochures in Schneider's archives. I know this proves nothing, also that the archive site doesn't have every piece of propaganda or information Schneider ever published.

Were you thinking of Makro- (or is it Macro-? I've seen both spellings) Symmars? Schneider's site (not the archive) has considerable propaganda about them, also with no mention of "good at all distances" but with cross sections that make the point that Symmar is just another trade name, not another way of spelling plasmat.



Peter K
1-Aug-2008, 15:10
Dan, in a brochure from the early sixties, IV 64 (?), one can read: "The Schneider Symmar 1:5.6 is build nearly symmetrically, so it permits to take perfect images also at short taking distances up to the image scale of 1:1. For shorter taking distances the lens has to be turned around. The part with the engraving has to face always the longer distance to subject resp. image."

Peter K

zack kl
1-Aug-2008, 15:45
Hi and thanks to all for for your input. I have continued my research and am taking to heart that I am not going to get it right the first time and probably will end up with inexpensive monorail to start.
I have a follow up question to Dan if I may. In the formula e=f(1+m) I understand e and f but in what form is magnifacation plugged in. Could you give an example? Also what is "Plasmat".
Thanks again and I look forward to some day way in the future when I might have something of value to offer on these pages, Zack

Dan Fromm
1-Aug-2008, 16:21
Zack, plasmat refers to a family of lens designs. Plasmats are roughly symmetrical, each cell consists of a cemented doublet (outside) with glasses like this: outside () )( inside and a singlet (inside) like this: outside (( inside. Outside faces what's outside of the lens (subject in front, film behind), inside faces the diaphragm. Plasmat was originally a Meyer trade name, is now applied to all lenses of that type.

Magnification is measured as (size of image on film)/(size of subject). If the image is half the subject's size, magnification is 0.5. If twice as large, 2.0. And so on.

Peter, thank you very much. Its gratifying to see that Schneider's advertising puffery hasn't changed. I'm afraid that you're quoting a marketer, not a lens designer. The message is "buy a Symmar NOW!"

Zack, our discussion about whether old Symmars (a Schneider trade name, not a design) are good close-up is academic for those with small budgets. Even ancient Symmars that are universally believed to be less good than more modern ones cost considerably more than decent enlarging lenses. Its a question of supply and demand. There are lots of enlarging lenses around, and few people want them. Symmars, on the other hand, are still seen as useful taking lenses.

Per the Vade Mecum, the "convertible" Symmar, the first plasmat type Symmar, isn't much better than the original Symmar, a dagor type. The VM says that the big improvement in lens performance came with the Symmar-S, which replaced the convertible, and that after that improvements were marginal. I believe, with no experience to support the belief, that the latest non-plasmat Symmars are usefully better than the -S.



Ernest Purdum
2-Aug-2008, 08:58
I'm glad to hear that you are going to go with an inexpensive monorail. They are great teaching devices. My fvorite is the old Calumet cc-400 series. They have been used in classes for many years, partly because they are rugged. Their major limitation is their back, which won't take most rollfilm or instant film holders. The Grsphic View II with a Graflok back is better in this respect, but in my experience less likely to be found in good condition.

The nice thing about starting with one of these is that you can very likely sell it for a price in the same area as what you paid for it should you eventually decide you want something else. By that time it will have taught you a lot about what you like and dislike in a camera.