View Full Version : Sironar N and S

2-Sep-2009, 21:38
Hi all. I'm starting a project that I'll be able to use my old press (now field) camera for, at least partly. All my "good" lenses are a bit too big for easy handling on it, and they sure won't fold up in it (it's a late 1940s Busch Pressman), and so will stay with my studio kit. That leaves an old Ilex 165 and a (Caltar) Sironar-N 135, neither of which have a big image circle or are as sharp as my Rodenstock 210 plasmat, Nikor 300, Fuji 135-CMW, etc. So I'm thinking about buying a 150mm (or a little longer). My question is, in real-world use, how much sharper can I expect a Sironar-S 150 to be over a 150mm N, assuming relatively small movements and f/16 or smaller? Film will be EPN, scanned on an Imacon and printed somewhere between 20x24 and 30x40. I've also used a Schneider 150 Apo-Symmar and found it to be close in image quality to the Rodenstock N, so maybe not much improvement over making do with the 135N I already own. Other than the Sironar-S, does anyone have a recommendation for a small, very sharp 150-210? Thanks in advance!

2-Sep-2009, 22:44
the 135mm Caltar II-N that you already have would seem to me to be quite optimal for the application you describe...why not use it? I really do not believe that you or anybody could honestly tell the difference between the Sironar-S and the Sironar-N or the Fujinon CM-W for that matter by looking at prints produced in the manner you describe.

Kirk Fry
2-Sep-2009, 22:56
Your technique is likely to be way more important than the lens you use. How solid is your setup? Is your film flat in the holder? Is your ground glass in the correct place and of the correct thickness? KFry

3-Sep-2009, 08:00
Thanks for the replies. Brad, I've had three of the 135Ns since about 1995, and they all performed about the same. I've exposed over a hundred sheets with that lens and I assure you I can tell the difference between anything taken with it and my 135 Fuji with a 4x loupe in about 5 seconds. Is not that the 135Ns are bad - they're not bad at all (better than a Geronar or most older 135s I've used), they just don't have the sharpness I've grown used to with the Fuji. Same goes for comparing the 135N and my 210N. Full disclosure, though: I've only owned/used the one example of the Fuji, so maybe I got lucky and have a better-than-average example? I suppose I could just use it on the Pressman, but it's big for a 135, and I like the idea of going 150-180mm for this work.

Kirk, my setup is solid, for that camera, but it's true that the older camera is a bit less tight than my studio camera. Luckily that doesn't seem to matter much with shorter focal length lens. I do have to be careful when using my 240, though, since more bellows ext. is required. Film holders have all been checked and double-checked, and in service for at least a couple of years.

Has anyone compared the Fuji 180/9 A to the Rod. N, S or Apo-Symmars?

Eric Leppanen
3-Sep-2009, 08:51

These tests were performed using TMX, but results with color should be very close. As you can tell from these test results, sample variation is always an issue.

There are also differences between the manufacturers in terms of their "look." Fuji and Rodenstock tend to have a higher acutance look, giving the appearance of additional sharpness. Schneider tends to provide a "smooth" look. Yet in my experience, if one looks at how much detail is actually being resolved, there frequently isn't much difference.

I have never owned a Sironar-N so I cannot comment on how well this design performs. The various Sironar-S and Schneider lenses I own (several SSXL's, a 210 APO Symmar L, etc.) all resolve similarly, the difference in "look" notwithstanding. My Fuji 240A is possibly the sharpest lens I own, and is a smidge sharper than my Fuji 300A or 360A. So rather than putting a lot of stock in product family generalizations, you are probably better off empirically testing lenses until you settle on one you are happy with.

I think many folks consider the Sironar-S to be best in class among 4x5 150mm lenses, and the Fuji 180A also has many fans (some folks find its coverage a bit tight). Used LF retailers like Midwest Photo Exchange can ship you several lenses of different types for testing (I've done this several times with them, Jim Andracki is a great guy to work with).

3-Sep-2009, 09:08
Thanks for the replies. Brad, I've had three of the 135Ns since about 1995, and they all performed about the same. I've exposed over a hundred sheets with that lens and I assure you I can tell the difference between anything taken with it and my 135 Fuji with a 4x loupe in about 5 seconds.

you look at prints "printed somewhere between 20x24 and 30x40" with a 4x loupe?

Sheldon has offered his beautiful 135mm Sironar-S in the For Sale section of this site...at a nice price too. If you feel the 135mm Sironar-N isn't up to the task...go for the 'S'!

Mark Woods
3-Sep-2009, 09:37
I have the Caltar Type S 150mm and like it a lot.

Bob Salomon
3-Sep-2009, 09:40
You going to be using movements that will go towards the edges? Will you have detailed subject info at the edges or corners? That is where the S will be obvious. Then it is sharper to begin with with less flare and better color correction and less distortion.It is also corrected for optimal performance from 1:5 to infinity. Since the N is corrected for 1:10 to infinity the S will also perform better at the closer distances. A picture of a tree at midday standing in the middle of an empty field may not fully show the differences.

3-Sep-2009, 09:56
Bob: I probably won't need much in terms of movements for this work, but edge sharpness will be critical.

Brad: No, I don't look at prints with a loupe. I was, of course, referring to the processed film itself.

Eric: Great input, thanks. I've bought from Jim @ MPX in the past (good experiences). I'll check there first.

Thanks again.