View Full Version : Testing 135mm lenses

Steve Goldstein
8-Jan-2009, 17:30
For what it's worth, I offer this up to the ether. It wasn't a very scientific effort, and is certainly not up to Chris Perez's standards with 20x enlargements and stuff, but it was an interesting and instructional thing to do on a sunny afternoon. Since it's winter here in New England there were lots of nice leafless tree branches against a bright sky, etc. Plus it afforded me the opportunity to use up 6 sheets of FP4+ dated September 2001 that has been deep-frozen since purchase and performed like new.

Here's what I had to play with: Apo-Sironar-S, Fujinon-W (single coated, inside lettering), Wide-Field Ektar, Symmar Convertible, and a Raptar, all 135mm, plus a single-coated 125mm Fujinon-W with inside lettering. All were tested on a Canham MQC I had carefully squared up and centered so the lens axis would be almost dead-center on the film. The aperture was set to f/22 or close to it, slight variation was needed because of the speeds available on the older shutters. I refocused for each lens, but did not otherwise move the camera. Exposures were all made within a span of under 10 minutes. I tray-developed the six sheets together. My very subjective judgements are based on examining negatives pairwise on a lightbox using a 7x Docter lupe.

#1 - APO-Sironar-S

I had assumed this would be the gold standard, and it was. It was sharp and contrasty right out to the corners. I could resolve individual pine needles on trees nearly 100 feet away. Well, maybe not all the way to the corners, but darn close. What a lovely lens!

#2 - Fujinon-W, Wide-Field Ektar

These were difficult to rank, and were not all that far behind the APO-Sironar-S. The corners were not quite as sharp as the Sironar, but don't forget that these were 5x7 negatives. Central sharpness was very, and I mean very, slightly lower. If I had to choose one, it would be the Fujinon, but the differences between these two samples were really minor. Maybe I should compare contact prints, there could be an image-quality difference that would tip the scales.

#3 - Symmar Convertible

This is clearly a lens for use on a 4x5; the corners on the 5x7 negative were mushy. However, over the 4x5 format area this was nearly as good as the Fujinon and the Ektar. It will be perfect on my Busch Pressman.

#4 - Raptar

This is the lens that came on my Pressman and got me thinking about this comparison in the first place. Its coverage was slightly worse than the Symmar, though still adequate for 4x5. Sharpness and contrast were the worst of the lot. Given my other options (Symmar Convertible), I won't be using it to make images. It's not bad, except in the corners of the 5x7 negative, but it is easy to see that it's worse than any of the others.

Extra credit - 125mm Fujinon-W

I didn't expect this to cover 5x7 at infinity, even straight on, and it didn't, although it came close. Away from the corners it was quite comparable to the 135mm Fujinon and the Wide Field Ektar. It's certainly a fine little lens for 4x5 and would support reasonable movements, possibly more than the Convertible Symmar. For you hikers, it's also a darn sight smaller and lighter than that 120mm Super-Symmar-HM you've been coveting. I suppose I ought to compare it to a 120mm APO-Symmar, I know where I can borrow one...

Anyway, there you have it, my contribution, however slight, to the sum total of human photographic knowledge.

David Karp
8-Jan-2009, 20:38

Matches my experience with the 125mm EBC coated Fujinon W. My favorite 4x5 lens.

8-Jan-2009, 23:51
Thanks for doing the experiment and posting your findings. This is valuable stuff.