View Full Version : Nikkor or Schneider

Craig Tuffin
9-Dec-2008, 22:15

I need opinions on lenses for 4x5. I understand that different large format lenses serve different needs and in any one manufacturer positives and negatives exist. In saying this i'm looking for a kit that will cover what I need WELL rather than having to upgrade later. I'm debating between the Nikkor SW 90mm f4.5 and a Schneider Super-Angulon 90mm (I can't afford the XL yet I want the bigger aperture for focusing....eyes aren't terrific). Does the Schneider keep up with the Nikkor...I've read the Nikkor is amazing?

Then there's the matter of some longer focus lenses. I've read that the Nikkor W's are a terrific lens and would possibly look for them in the 150mm, 180mm, 210mm and 300mm. Is there a beautiful longer focus lens for 4x5? Should I look at Rodenstock or Schneider for the longer ones (anything over 150mm)? It's always a fight between affordability and quality.

I know this is very subjective but would love some experienced opinions.



Craig Tuffin
9-Dec-2008, 22:17
...oh, the Schneider 90mm Super-Angulon was f5.6 :-)



9-Dec-2008, 22:45
Do a search of the forum and also on APUG. You will find a variety of opinions but the consensus will be:

Any modern lens from Fujinon, Nikkor, Schneider, or Rodenstock will suffice.

If you are trying to assemble a kit from scratch, be mindful of filter sizes. You can use step-up rings to standardize on one size, but if you get a wide aperture 90mm lens with an 82mm filter size you will spend more than a lens on filters. I would suggest a 90mm f6.8 with 67mm filters. With 67mm filters you can run the gamut of good lenses from 65mm to 300 mm using step up rings. You will miss some of the Apo-Sironar S lenses and others but the selection is more than adequate.

If you are doing black and white you don;t need to stick with one brand. Mix and match to suit your preferences. For example, I have Caltar (Rodenstock) lenses for 75, 90, and 210 mm. I have Schneider for 150 mm. I have Nikkor for 300 mm. all of them are excellent.

You don't mention what camera you are using but you might have camera issues if you want 65mm on the wide end and 450 mm on the long end. Keep in mind bellows length and movements.

Also, take into account the weight of your lens kit. A 90 mm f4.5 lens plus a 300 mm f5.6 lens might weigh more than your camera.

You will get all sorts of suggestions from the Luddite mantra of "any red dot gold dot Ilex lens from < 1950 will be great" to "used lenses are so cheap that..." so make up your mind based on practical considerations. It sounds like you are just starting, so perhaps a 2-3 lens kit would be good.

For a 3 lens kit, I would suggest a 90mm f6.8-8 lens, a 135-150 mm lens, and a 180-210 mm lens. From there, see what you like and fill in the gaps based on your interests.

Baxter Bradford
9-Dec-2008, 23:56
The S-A 90mm f5.6 really ought to suffice, I had one for several years. The XL version sounds good on paper, but there are issues if intending to use with filters and also huge rear element is a struggle to get through camera aperture for some makes like Ebony. Well worth doing extra research on this before committing the cash.

Concur with Jerold's comment, about mix and match. I have Nikon (210 and 300mm) and Schneider (58, 80, 110 and 150mm) in the bag. Sometimes I swap the 210mm for my Cooke PS945. I'd happily include a Rodenstock or Fuji if I needed to replace a lens and one was available.

If brightness is an issue, consider ground glass alternatives; these enhance every lens without a weight penalty!

The limitation is invariably the skill level of ourselves, the photographer, rather than the gear....

Craig Tuffin
10-Dec-2008, 00:33
Thanks guys,

I'm using an Ebony SV45E with the universal bellows so the 65mm can work and so can the 450mm. Next I need to keep an eye on the classifieds I suppose and see what lenses come up. I'll look into those posts here and on APUG. Cheers,


Steve M Hostetter
10-Dec-2008, 01:26
Goerz Dagor

Brian Stein
10-Dec-2008, 02:55
For modern lenses differences are more based on size, weight, and coverage as well as price rather than brand. If buying new the Fuji lenses are significantly cheaper. Definitely consult the down loadable excel sheets on this website for more detail.

Like other posters I have a mix: Fuji, Rodenstock, Schneider. The only cogent argument Ive heard for sticking to one brand is for critical colour use where you want the palette to match across lenses. As a B&W dude Ive no idea if this is theory or practice.

If you want to try older lenses then you are in for much more argument!

Bjorn Nilsson
10-Dec-2008, 03:07
It's better to start up with few lenses. For most of us LF shooting doesn't compare to smaller formats when it comes to using and swapping lenses. (The fact that most of us does have lots of lenses lying around depends on something else... :) )
There are many other threads on this and similar subjects, where the consensus often seem to be: "Even though I love a 20mm lens on 35mm film, I find myself using the 150mm almost all the time in LF."
So for starters I would say that you should go for one single lens, in the 135-180mm range. There's a lot to learn and you (probably) will not miss this or that focal length. There is nothing wrong in getting a 90mm too, but unless you are into architecture all the time it will be plenty wide.
To finish off: In most practical cases there is no way of telling which lens brand was used. Any of the four major manufacturers modern (less than say 30 years that is :) ) lenses will be a very good lens for you. Unless you are very experienced in color slide shooting, the miniscule variations between brands in terms of color rendition doesn't matter either. There are some special items such as the Super Symmar XL, but the extra $500-1000 can easily be compensated for by the experience of spending that money on film etc.


10-Dec-2008, 03:13
When I bought most of my current lenses I was shooting far more E6 and consistent colour balance was critical, so it made sense to use lenses that matched, and so bought a 90mm Grandagon to match my 150mm Sironar, later I added added a 65mm Super Angulon. There is a slight difference between the SA and the Rodenstocks.

More recently testing a 1931 135mm Tessar against a 1950's 150mm coated Tessar and a 70's MC 135mm Caltar/Symmar I found there was a vast difference in the colour balance. The 50's Tessar gave a distint cold blue cast, the best was of course the newst design. But as the 50'sd Tessar is only used for B&W work it's no problem.

So yes for colour work it's better to stick to one manufacturer, and their modern Multi coated lenses.


Craig Tuffin
10-Dec-2008, 05:18
Great advice guys:)

I'll focus on the 150mm first and then go from there. I work in black and white so I appreciate the fact that working in colour will effect lens choice more. Thanks for all the tips.


10-Dec-2008, 08:33
The best bang for the buck new will be either the Rodenstocks re-labeled for sale by Calumet (ie http://www.calumetphoto.com/item/CL2210/ -- very limited range available now) or the Fujinons (see: http://www.badgergraphic.com/store/cart.php?m=product_list&c=28). The best quality for the money used may vary by what deal you find where, but in general the Caltars sell for less and are of equal quality to any maker's regular line (non-specialized) lenses. Fujinons can also be found used for good prices, as long as you're not looking for the scarcer models (ie, the 240/9). Nikkors in general aren't any better than Schneiders, Rodenstocks or Fujis but seem to sometimes command a little higher price used. They are now all discontinued, I believe. Look at a web site like Kerry Thalmann's Future Classics (http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/future.htm). There are some lenses within every maker's line that may be slightly better or more useful to you than others. I am presently using a Schneider 90, Fuji CMW 135, Caltar/Rodenstock 210 and Nikkor-M 300 weekly and they're all very sharp and produce great color chromes and negs (the Schneider is the weakest of this bunch, maybe because it has the least coverage and I'm frequently getting closer to the edge of the 216mm IC, but it's still fine). Used prices right now seem very low, so you could put together a nice 3-lens kit for under US $1K easily, and might do it for under $750. Good luck!

10-Dec-2008, 08:36
I bought a Nikkor-W 180mm lens last summer. I like it.

ps: The 67mm filter size matched 2 other lenses and I had some 67mm filters. A nice bonus.

Adam Kavalunas
10-Dec-2008, 09:45
As you will soon learn like I did, the maker of the lens isn't too important. Any of the big 4 as already mentioned here will be a great lens especially if its multicoated. I've revamped my lens line up since I started shooting 4x5, so you may do the same at some point. I do a lot of backpacking, so my issue was weight and size. I now have a Rodi 65 f4.5, Schneider Symmar-S 120 f5.6, Fuji A 180 f8, and a Nikon M 300 f9. As you can see, 1 of each major brand, and they are all at or under a 58mm filter size, all of them small and light. It will all depend on your style of shooting. I would just make sure it's a modern, multicoated lens.

Adam Kavalunas

10-Dec-2008, 09:45
You don't say what you're doing but assuming hiking I'd look at the slower long lenses. 300mm Nikon or Fuji. Or the 450mm Fuji F/12.5.The fast lenses get big and heavy the longer you go.

Gene McCluney
10-Dec-2008, 11:23
If you use a good dark-cloth to view the ground glass under, the slower lenses are not much of an issue. Slower lenses = less weight. Slower lenses do not mean less sharp lenses.

Kirk Gittings
10-Dec-2008, 11:32
Like other posters I have a mix: Fuji, Rodenstock, Schneider. The only cogent argument Ive heard for sticking to one brand is for critical colour use where you want the palette to match across lenses. As a B&W dude Ive no idea if this is theory or practice.

In architectural photography........when transparencies were our final, deliverable product, matched lenses were a very important issue and most of us payed attention to this. That meant single manufacturer from the same period for all your lenses. Since files have become the deliverable standard, it is far less important because you can tweak the color and contrast of the file to get them to match.It matters not in B&W (though wide variation in lens contrast can be a problem in terms of achieving standard developing times).

Bob Salomon
10-Dec-2008, 14:51
If you use a good dark-cloth to view the ground glass under, the slower lenses are not much of an issue. Slower lenses = less weight. Slower lenses do not mean less sharp lenses.

On the contrary. Slower wide angle lenses may not have deliver the same performance as their faster versions. Just compare the MTF, relative light fall-off, longitudinal color aberration and distortion curves of a 75 or 90mm Grandagon-N 4.5 vs the 6.8. The performance is much better with the faster lenses as is the coverage.

Walter Calahan
10-Dec-2008, 15:16
Fujinon made wonderful glass. All modern lenses will work just fine.

john borrelli
11-Dec-2008, 09:25
Craig, I think starting with a 150 is a good idea.

I did the same thing buying a used Rodenstock 150mm apo sironar n lens. Several years later I added a used Nikon 90mm f8 and a new fuji 300mm f8.5.

I think a modern 150mm f5.6 lens can produce some of the sharpest pictures of any LF lens. They are also inexpensive, another big plus.

I also feel, though it is just my opinion, that the typical modern 150 plasmat is a great viewing lens at f5.6. Not that I have ever taken a photo at this aperture, but because the lens produces at maximum aperture the best combination of a bright image, a sharp image and a low distortion/low aberation image with good DOF in comparison to any other lens I have used. This are important factors because focusing can be a difficult process at times and that is when you really need these qualities at maximum aperture.

Even with smaller formats where you view the image through the lens at maximum aperture, for example 35mm SLRs, I have often felt like the viewing image a lens produces at maximum aperture was underestimated in importance.

All the best and please continue to post this forum with any future questions you may have.