View Full Version : 90mm Optar

22-Jan-2009, 13:43
I've noticed a few 90mm optars up on ebay lately.
At what price point do these things figure to be bargains?

How do they compare with the schneider 90mm f8s?


22-Jan-2009, 14:23
I got one for about $50 recently. It's not the world's sharpest lens but it does work pretty well. It's *very very small*, which is the most important factor for my use. I've got a 90mm grandagon which is a much sharper lens with tons of coverage, but it doesn't fit inside my speed graphic like the optar. I think that's the only major selling point of the optar (besides low price).

Kevin Crisp
22-Jan-2009, 14:35
I've tried a number of these and have been disappointed every time with the fall off in resolution on the edges even when used with no movements. In my testing none of them appeared to do as well as even the older versions (serial numbers in the 5's) of the Schneider Angulons they were competing with. Some people have said they have good ones, and they probably do. But I wouldn't pay much for one and would go with an Angulon with a higher serial number if that's in the budget.

To answer your question, a wide angle that is fuzzy on the edges isn't a bargain at any price unless you're using the shutter for something else. But you might get a sharp one....

22-Jan-2009, 14:45
I kinda figured this.
I think I'll avoid them.


Kevin Crisp
22-Jan-2009, 14:51
They are great shutters. There is a little uncoated Wollensak that's a 110mm (labeled 5X7, 4 3/16th" max aperture f:12.5) that is a great lens for 4X5. A bit soft on the edges for 5X7 but sharp and contrasty and a good performer on 4X5. It is often in a little Betax shutter which is very reliable.

23-Jan-2009, 02:14
Here are the only two readily available (ie., scanned) examples from mine. The first is handheld at something stupid like 1/40th with the speed graphic focal plane shutter, the second less than ideal for other reasons (it's a simulated cyanotype to decide whether I wanted to use cyanotypes of the negative for my christmas card this year).



Kevin Crisp
23-Jan-2009, 06:42
I wonder why the right side of the first one looks so much worse than the left side?

23-Jan-2009, 07:53
I kinda figured this.
I think I'll avoid them.

A reasonable conclusion. Like you I've looked into them over the years and followed the discussions. for old-fashioned press work I suppose they will be OK, but I have no intentions of printing with coarse screen on crummy paper. Not long ago i found a good deal on a 5.6/90 Super Angulon and am very, very happy with it. The only thing I'm not happy about is the lack of time to use it!

Michael Graves
23-Jan-2009, 08:02
I discovered when looking for a 90mm that there were actually two version of the 90mm Optar. One was originally designed as a "normal" lens for 2.25 x 3.25 cameras and the other a W/A for 4x5. The former almost, but not quite reaches edge of a 4x5 negative, albeit with abysmal resolution and contrast at the corners. The latter fills the 4x5 with acceptable sharpness, but with not a lot of room for movements. Shooting straight on with one, I got nice images. I finally broke down and bought a 6.8 Angulon for the Speed Graphic that nearly covers 5x7 and a little later stumbled onto a phenomenal deal on a 90mm f8 Caltar II that covers 5x7 with a millimeter or two to spare.

23-Jan-2009, 08:04
I discovered when looking for a 90mm that there were actually two version of the 90mm Optar. One was originally designed as a "normal" lens for 2.25 x 3.25 cameras and the other a W/A for 4x5.

Very interesting... how does one tell the difference?

23-Jan-2009, 19:24
At a guess 90mm f4.5 -- Tessar I have seen the 90mm f4.5 version on eBay once or twice.

90mm f6.8 -- Not certain of the configuration, but it is not a Tessar.

23-Jan-2009, 20:07
I have a 90mm Graflex Optar, f 6.8, shutter speeds T,B, 1- 1/400 sec. This is a coated version, the glass is near perfect, serial #647183N, but I have no idea when it was made.
Nice and small and light, so its' great for backpacking, it fits nicely on my Speed Graphic.
Sharpness is subjective, but I will say that it is not my best lens. It would be acceptable for some, but not for others. I paid about $100. for it a couple years ago or so.

23-Jan-2009, 22:21
I wonder why the right side of the first one looks so much worse than the left side?

You know, I was just peeking through the ground glass corners at it today and I noticed two things. First, I think my mount is off or else there's something funky with my speed graphic, because it's definitely not centered properly (more below).

Second, if you look through the ground glass corners and stop down until the aperture is no longer blocked by the barrel you need to get to f/22 on the left lower corner and f/32 for the right lower corner. (Thus my realization that it's not centered properly, explaining the asymmetrical vignette & softness in the image I showed). In other words, vignette is guaranteed anywhere below f/22 (or f/32, depending on which corner - ie, something is not centered properly, probably just the hole in my home-made lens board). And this lens is definitely *not* designed to cover 4x5 properly.

On the other hand, I kind of like vignette, so I'm keeping it! I also don't mind stopping down to f/32.

And finally, mine is the W.A. designed version. So this is as good as the 90 gets.

As I think I mentioned I do have a 90mm f/6.8 Grandagon-N which is bleeding-edge sharp and has lots of image circle, and of course it's a world apart from this lens in image quality.... but... it serves a different purpose. The raptar is for my (relatively small) shoulder-bag speed graphic kit. The grandagon is practically the size of a beer can (not convenient for stowing in a speed graphic) so it goes with my 30+lb shen hao backpack :)

Kevin Crisp
24-Jan-2009, 07:37
I thought maybe the film wasn't flat if you were scanning from a negative, but if the lens is barely able to cover 4X5 and is mounted laterally off center that would explain it. I thought it looked reasonably sharp (on a monitor) then went rather mushy on the right.

Having drilled, hacked and gouged my share of off center holes in lens boards, I can relate.