View Full Version : 75mmBiogon vs. 75mm Grandigon -N

Richard Boulware
8-Apr-2002, 19:47
Has anyone out there made a comparrison between these two lenses. I realize the Biogon is not multi coated. Been dying to find out the performance level of the Biogon comparred to the modern day Grandigon-N. No theory please, just real hand s on experience. Thanks in advance for your input.

Bob Salomon
8-Apr-2002, 20:02
Coverage for one.

The 75 Biogon covers 165mm while a 4.5 75mm Grandagon N covers 195mm.

Weight is another.

Why not just go to Denver Pro Photo. They have people familiar with both. Also Mile High and Mike's could be helpful as would S&S Optika in Englewood.

Richard Boulware
8-Apr-2002, 21:33
Bob Soloman: With all due respect...Sir. I have already purchased new 75 and 90mm Grandagon - N's upon your reccomendation and those of others.....as your warranty cards will reflect. I am delighed with the lenses. They are superb and are Marflex camed and calibrated. They are superb optical tools. My post was out of curiosity, having always wondered what a real 'user' thought of the Biogon...in comparison to the newer 4.5 Grandigon - N. As far as the Denver photo shops you mentioned...Denver Pro Photo is excellent...the others are just camera salesmen and are clueless. I've been a successful, award winning, professional for forty years, and I know a salesman from professional shooter. Just looking for some hands on experience and opinion. No offense intended. Richard Boulware ( National photographer of the year, Director, Photography Department, Colorado Institute of Art, eight gold medals (ADCD, DAF) Don Christiansen Memorial Award, and a bunch of other stuff in advertising and PJ.)

Bob Salomon
8-Apr-2002, 21:38
What does that have to do with coverage?

There are several people at those stores who can help you if you give them the opportunity.

12-Apr-2002, 07:12
Richard give it up. Bob's not even on the same planet that we are.

12-Apr-2002, 07:26
Bob - For once will you just read the question. He's asking about real-world performance, not specs.. Things like: resolution, contrast, flare level, ghosting, field curvature/distortion, image plane flatness, etc... Weight and coverage he can get anywhere.

Bob Salomon
12-Apr-2002, 07:32
The Biogon will come in 2nd in a performance contest. It's only benefit is that the CF isn;t needed due to its' design (but that is a specification again isn't it)

12-Apr-2002, 07:41
No - if it has less falloff of illumination towards the edge of the field that's performance (guess the weight serves some purpose after all).

Bob Salomon
12-Apr-2002, 18:57
"guess the weight serves some purpose after all"

Not to mention a 95mm filter size vs a 67mm filter size.

Kerry L. Thalmann
12-Apr-2002, 19:12
"Not to mention a 95mm filter size vs a 67mm filter size."

Of course, to be TRULY apples:apples you have to also include the center filter on the Rodentock side of the equation. So make that 95mm filter size vs. 86mm filter size. The Gandagon still wins on this count, but not by as large of a margin. And oh yeah, don't forget the 1 1/2 - 2 stops (don't have the specs in front of me) loss due to the center filter.

BTW, I'm just playing devil's advocate here. For my money, I'd still take the smaller, lighter, larger coverage, multicoated 75mm f4.5 Gandagon-N (or 75mm f4.5 Nikkor SW) over the Biogon. But that's just based on my personal needs and preferences. Others may very well refer the classic Biogon.


12-Apr-2002, 21:40
Kerry - Wouldn't you really rather have the 80XL? Or are we committed to 75mm here? And then there's always the 72XL.

Bob - Granted that the Biogon will have less falloff, but it also has less coverage. On balance, when the Grandagon's field of view is similarly restricted, the difference in falloff probably isn't all that great.

Kerry L. Thalmann
13-Apr-2002, 15:55

I was specifically limiting my choices to the 75mm lenses under comparison here. My first experience with the 80mm SS XL was less than impressive (well documen ted elsewhere on this forum). It certainly looks good on paper (smaller, lighte r, larger image circle than any of the current 75s), and I may give it another g o in the future. It's big brother, the 110mm SS XL is one of my all time favori te lenses.

WRT to the 72mm SA XL. It's really too big (specifically the already large filte r size, combined with an even larger center filter) for my taste. It offers mor e coverage than I really need for my 4x5 landscape work. So, it doesn't really buy me anything other than bigger, more expensive filters. I'm sure it's an exc ellent lens, and others swear by it, just not my cup 'o tea.

Since we've opened this up to other lenses in this focal length range, I'll add a couple comments on some others I've used. First, I'm not a huge user of lense s wider than 90mm. That's not to say I don't use them. I usually have a 75mm i n my kit, but it is my shortest and usually least used lens. Of the ones I've t ried, my favorite, so far, was the 75mm f4.5 Nikkor SW. It was a good compromis e of size, weight, coverage, price, max. aperture, etc. for my needs. I sold it when I ordered my 80mm SS XL (a decision I would later regret). It was my wi dest lens for many years and served me well. I used it with a Heliopan center f ilter and was pleased with the combo.

Currently, I'm back to using a 75mm f6.8 Grandagon-N. This lens is a compromise in several ways. The f6.8 max. aperture makes focusing and composing more diff icult than a lens with an f4.5 max. aperture. Also, coverage, at 187mm, is pret ty tight (I greatly preferred the 200mm IC of the 75mm Nikkor SW). That said, i t does have some advantages, too. After the 80mm SS XL, this is the smallest, l ightest 4x5 lens in this focal length range. It is also the least expensive. T he 58mm front filter size, means it takes a smaller, less expensive center filte r. I am currently using this lens with a Rodenstock center filter that is threa ded on the front for standard 77mm filters (which I happen to have on hand from my days of shooting 5x7 with a 150mm Super Symmar HM). This is actually my seco nd go 'round with this lens. My very first 75mm was also an f6.8 Grandagon-N. After using that one for a couple years, I upgraded to the 75mm Nikkor SW. At t hat time, I did not have a center filter for the 75mm Grandagon-N and was occasi onally frustrated by the lack of coverage. The Nikkor was a definite improvemen t (especially with the addition of the Heliopna center filter). I thought that once I had a "better" 75mm that I'd use it more. I didn't really - just doesn't suit my shooting style all that well. So, when I found myself back in the mark et for a 75mm about a year ago, I found it hard to justify one of the more expen sive lenses (given that this is my least used focal length). So, I picked up a very good deal on a 75mm Grandagon-N and a Rodenstock Center filter (total price less than 1/2 what one of the more expensive 75s along would cost). It's certi anly not the "best" lens in it's class, but for now, it meets my needs just fine . Once I'm confident that Schnedier has a handle on the issues surrounding the 80mm SS XL, I may give it another try. For now, I'm getting by with the little f6.8 Grandagon-N.

Given that lenses in this focal length range don't really suit my shooting style in many situations, I'm certainly not "the authority" on this subject. Others, who rely more heavily on wide and ultrawide lenses, will no doubt have differin g opinions - especially those whose shooting style and subject matter require mo re extensive movements. In any case, I'm just sharing what I've tried and what works (and doesn't work) for me personally. YMMV!


Jim Galli
13-Apr-2002, 22:23
What price legend? What price myth? The Biogons are shrouded in mythology and legend. I'm continually amazed at the prices these marques garner on Ebay and other places. I'm guilty of having a little "collecter" in me mixed up I hope with a lot more "user". So when somebody pays $2600 for one of these what portion of that fee is for pedigree. What portion of that price is just for the pure pleasure of owning something magnificent? The ROLEX of lenses. Is it really $2250 "better" in what it can do than the little 6.8 Caltars that go begging for $350 on Ebay? Can't think of many lenses that can out resolve the $350 Caltar. But then it doesn't impress anybody so all it's good for is taking pictures.

14-Apr-2002, 01:12
Add the Apo Lanthars and the Planars to that list! Along with that funny little Goerz lens with the propeller thingy!

J. P. Mose
14-Apr-2002, 09:36

That "pedigree" is selling for a lot less lately. I follow E-bay regualarly (I'm not bragging about that either!!!). There have been so many 75mm Biogons on line lately that one can be obtained for under $1,500 easily in exc. + or better condition. That is cheap compared to a few months ago. If you want one, this may be a good time to get one.

I own both the 75 Grandagon 4.5 and 75 Biogon. I agree that for practical use the Grandagon is a better choice. Lets face it...the majority of LF users are going to want perspective control. The Biogon on allows for minimal movement. If the Biogon only had more coverage I'd consider it near perfect. The Biogon performs outstanding at ALL aperatures; even illumination, very sharp and contrasty (despite lack of multi coating), great up close, and lower distortion than the Grandagon. It is also a classic, a beauty, and a Linhof/Zeiss legend which all appeal to the collector. But w/o coverage the Grandagon wins hands down. I am a big LF Zeiss fan but common sense must prevail...if I had to choose one the Grandagon would win because I'd turn to the 38mm Biogon on my Hassey for hand held use (it should be noted that the performance charactoristics of the 38mm Biogon versus 75 Biogon are very similar...only 5X larger film on the 4 X 5..WHOW). If you love hand held photography and don't mind the added weight, the Biogon would be the best choice because of the performance at wide aperatures, which also applies to the 135mm Planar and 250mm Sonnar.

J. P. Mose

14-Apr-2002, 22:24
Kerry - I find your remarks on the 80mm XL a little confusing. The results on Perez's lens test board shows the XL to pretty much whomp the other lenses as far as resolution is concerned, especially at the edges of the field (contrast will undoubtedly follow). Since Schneider has admitted that the lens should not be used at full aperture (f4.5!) what are you expecting them to fix? BTW that 150 Symmar HM that you sold me that scored so dismally in Perez's table has the highest aerial resolution of any of the lenses that I own. JGTS (Just Goes To Show) all testing should be taken with a grain of salt. Now I've got to find out if they have 5x7 Gigabit film.

Kerry L. Thalmann
15-Apr-2002, 00:17

For the complete story regarding my 80mm SS XL experiences, see:


In a nut shell, the first lens I tested was SO bad wide open that it was impossi ble to focus accurately in the field. The test results you site only go as wide as f11 and don't reflect how truly bad this lens was wide open. For the test ( indoors under controlled conditions with good lighting), I was able to adjust fo cus at the shooting aperture. By the end of my first day using this particular lens in the field, I was trying to focus at f8, and even then I felt like I was guessing at the point of best focus. Not exactly what I would expect from a len s that cost $1300. So, I returned it for a refund and was told by Schneider tha t the lens never should have left the factory - evidently they agreed with my as sessment on that particular sample.

As far as: "whomp the other lenses as far as resolution is concerned, especially at the edges of the field" Compare it to the 90mm f8 Nikkor SW and my 110mm SS XL at all tested apertures and I think it's the one getting "whomped". These t wo lenses offer the kind of performance (even wide open) that I would expect fro m a lens in the $1300 price range (and the Nikkor was less than 1/2 that when I bought it).

As I have stated over and over, the second sample I tested was MUCH better and a ppeared plenty sharp on the ground glass to focus wide open. Obviously there wa s something wrong with the first sample I received, but based on the reports by others, it was not an isolated incident. If I would have received the second sa mple (which belongs to a friend and came from the same production batch as the o ne I returned) initially, I would have kept it and been singing the praises of t his lens (and wondering why others were reporting that it was soft wide open). The difference between the two samples I tested was like night and day - clearly visible on the ground glass with the naked eye. IF I had not read reports of s imilar issues with other samples, I'd probably have ordered another by now. I p robably will eventually anyway, but for now I'll wait for the dust to settle and hopefully increase my odds of getting a "keeper".

That said, after my experience with my friend's sample, I am perfectly willing t o believe the reports of others who have nothing but praise for this lens. Give n the sample-to-sample variation I saw between the two lenses I used, it is cert ainly possible that there a a whole lot of really great 80mm SS XLs out there be ing put to good use by their happy owners.


15-Apr-2002, 07:16
Sounds as if "Industrial Disease" struck the Quality Control Department at Schneider on that one. Fortunately since I'm sticking with 5x7 I didn't dive in when the 80 hit the market. And like you my experiece with the 110 shows that they can make a good lens. Your description of the lens in question fits a 108mm Wollensak that I own. Just goes to show that the more ambitious the design, and the better that things look on paper, the harder they are to produce. They lowered their standards too far in order to get product out the door.

9-Dec-2005, 07:49
Replying to Richard Boulware's question: There are at least two, possibly three different '75mm' Biogons for LF. One has an image circle of better than 7". Feel free to contact me via e-mail for info if you like.

(I know it's an old thread, but nobody answered the question.)

Dan Fromm
9-Dec-2005, 10:05
Hey, John, I've been meaning to ask you about y'r monster 3"/4.5 Pacific Optical. I was recently given one, am going to have to stop teasing you about yours.

But, seriously, is your estimate of a > 7" circle based on on-film image quality or on how much of a ground glass your lens illuminates?


9-Dec-2005, 10:15
I wonder if the one you were given is the one I gave away. Does the rear lens have a lot of very fine abrasions?

I figure a seven-inch circle because it was designed to cover 5"x5". And it does. If you extrapolate its coverage to be proportional to the late 38mm Biogon, then 7" is about right.

I can't mount it to my Century One 8x10. Too big. So, it's up to you, Buddy! Go for it. What are you going to use for a shutter? If you got the original electric shutter, you might want to make it work. I converted mine to manual B and T because I'm stupid about electricity. (I still kinda resent having to use light bulbs in the darkroom.)

Meanwhile, I found a Metrogon of a strange focal length. Longer than 6", shorter than 12". I'll let you know what I find.

Dan Fromm
9-Dec-2005, 13:08
John, Charlie Barringer gave me his junker. Its basically ok, but has a couple of pinpricks on the front element.

It has its shutter. All the shutter is good for is inspiration and a pattern for Waterhouse stops.

Charlie gave it to me because he knows I've been wanting a nice doorstop for a while -- my house has doors -- and that I've been curious about the P.O. monstrosities. Also because he has a delusion to the effect that I'm clever and will find a way to make the thing usable. And then he'll be able to use my trick to make his good one usable.

After I got the shutter off the lens and the lens out of the cone, it hit me that your idea of mounting the lens on a pedestal was a good one. I have to find a 4x5 Speed to see if there's room for the lens' rear cell between the upper and lower rollers. If so, then the thing to do is set up the back of a Speed behind the lens and on some sort of slider for focusing. That is, use back focusing instead of front as I think you're trying to do. A crude bellows made from black felt will do just fine. If not, well, I have doors.

I asked about coverage because after I got the lens free from the cone and could manipulate it more easily I used it to project an image of a window on the wall opposite. I'd swear that the image didn't start to vignette away to nothing until the angle between the lens and the wall was around 30 degrees. In other words, the lens seems to illuminate a lot more than 90 degrees. Look at yours from behind. I think its beady little exit pupil will stare at you as you rotate the thing until it vanishes behind the rear cell's outer edge. That's a lot off-axis.

J. G. Motamedi recently bought one, has promised to hold his in front of an 8x10 GG.


9-Dec-2005, 13:40
Oh I dunno, Dan. Aren't you concerned that best is the enemy of the good, or that you are having fun during these dark, dreary, depressing Winter months?

I still have that wooden platform but not the back. What you don't see there is that the side away from the camera slides the lens back and forth to focus.

elearning.winona.edu/staff_o/jjs/tmp/2.jpg (http://elearning.winona.edu/staff_o/jjs/tmp/2.jpg)

elearning.winona.edu/staff_o/jjs/tmp/NW04.jpg (http://elearning.winona.edu/staff_o/jjs/tmp/NW04.jpg)

The second version is, of course, back focusing.

elearning.winona.edu/staff_o/jjs/tmp/standw.jpg (http://elearning.winona.edu/staff_o/jjs/tmp/standw.jpg)

And the current version is, well, all in pieces. I was trialing a focal plane shutter from a manual aerial camera. Too big!

9-Dec-2005, 13:47
Forgot the "field" version debugged (which means the lensboard doesn't fall out). :)

elearning.winona.edu/staff_o/jjs/tmp/new1.jpg (http://elearning.winona.edu/staff_o/jjs/tmp/new1.jpg)

I think you've already seen pictures taken with it.

Ole Tjugen
9-Dec-2005, 14:21
Gentlemen, let me introduce my "Lens Test Bed": A 13x18cm (5x7") wooden camera with a universal iris lens board. Takes any lens up to 95mm diameter, and not even my 500mm Aerotar is too heavy. In the picture it's fitted with a 180mm C. P. Goerz Berlin Doppel-Anastigmat Serie III Dagor. Next project for testing will be a Winter casket set, a copy of the more famous Busch Vademecum No.2. Minimum extension (without mounting the lens inside, which is also a possibility) is about 60mm.

www.bruraholo.no/Cameras/Reisekamera/DSCN0422.JPG (http://www.bruraholo.no/Cameras/Reisekamera/DSCN0422.JPG)

9-Dec-2005, 14:28


Struan Gray
9-Dec-2005, 14:29
jj, Dan while we're hijacking the thread, any idea what the 3" f2.8 Zeiss lens in the Fairchild KB-18A "Strike" cameras is? I'm guessing a Planar.

9-Dec-2005, 14:34
Ole, should we send you one of these monster 3" Biogons, too?

I have five of the darned things, and one that's pretty beat up. Bent S.K. Grimes' best lens spanner trying to get the front lens element out. (Soft metal on those tips. Watch out!)

BTW - These look like 10-element Biogons. (I did get one apart using my own spanner.)

Struan Gray
9-Dec-2005, 15:07
I was reading a book this evening which started like this:

One morning after breakfast Tom was fooling around with his chemistry set and he invented anti-sticky.

The he fooled around with anti-sticky and jam and springs and wheels and connecting-rods and he made a two-seater jam-powered frog.

My first thought was: "I know someone like that."

Dan Fromm
9-Dec-2005, 15:30
Struan, sorry, not much idea. Help me a little. Does the KB-18 shoot 70 mm film or 5"? If 70, probably a Sonnar, as on the Agiflite. Charlie has one, I've seen it. If 5", no idea.

I just recently learned that there are two very different 6"/2.8 Elcans. A little one for the F95 that covers 6x6 and not much more and a gigantic one for I'm not sure which camera that covers 4.5" x 4.5". Both are double Gauss types.

And that sparked a thought that wants confirmation/disconfirmation. The KS87 shoots 5" film and I've seen ex-KS87 6"/2.8s made by Old Delft. It seems to have been USAF's practice to buy a lens design and then put manufacture out to bid. Hence the Viewlex and Pacific Optical 3" Biogons. So I wonder if those KS87 6"/2.8s were made to the big 6"/2.8 Elcan design.

John, when I counted reflections in my little doorstop of nothing at all, I decided it conformed to Bertele's Biogon patent. 8 elements. But reflections from cemented surfaces can be hard to discern, so I could be mistaken.

John, I'm not very serious about moving up to 4x5 yet, am looking at the doorstop mainly to help Charlie organize his thoughts a little. 2x3 is capable of more than I'm getting from it. Better, I think, to improve my technique that to buy better bigger gear for taking more lousy pictures.

Back when I was shooting S8 very seriously, friends used to harass me about moving up to 16 mm. Well, yeah, no doubt about it, 16 mm gives better image quality. It blows S8 away, there's no comparison. Gear, filmstock, and processing all cost more, though. And the stuff is bigger and heavier, so I'd have ended up with more than I could easily manage myself in the field. In some respects, small really can be beautiful.

As for the better being the enemy of the good, well, sometimes. The good enough and in hand can also be the enemy of the possibly better that will cost something to check out. That's why I've stopped acquiring macro lenses. I'm sure there are better lenses than mine for what I'm not doing. But it isn't clear there's anything much better than mine for what I am doing.

Regards to both,

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
9-Dec-2005, 17:13

I received my Pacific 3" Biogonoid this afternoon, only to find much of the glass smashed to pieces by some sort of bracket which came loose in shipping. So, no testing on this one. If I put it together correctly it does look like its 10 elements...


David A. Goldfarb
9-Dec-2005, 17:17
Ouch! Well, that's one way to find out.

9-Dec-2005, 17:25
KB-18 shoot 70 mm film or 5"?

70mm perf - 250 feet of it. The camera is a rotating lens type that covers 180 degrees by about 40 degrees. It was used in fighter aircraft to (try to) report target damage. It was after my time in-service.

looking at the doorstop mainly to help Charlie organize his thoughts a little.

What do you need to know?

FWIW, here's the shutter with a Waterhouse type stop inserted. One set of shutter blades was deactivated and holds the stop in place. This shows both sides of the shutter.

elearning.winona.edu/staff_o/jjs/tmp/aper-a.jpg (http://elearning.winona.edu/staff_o/jjs/tmp/aper-a.jpg)

elearning.winona.edu/staff_o/jjs/tmp/aper-b.jpg (http://elearning.winona.edu/staff_o/jjs/tmp/aper-b.jpg)

That particular aperture was WAY too small and diffraction had profound effects. It is, of course, intended to be shot wide open.

If you want a shutter, get the one shown. You can see the part number. Others look similar but do not fit.

Dan Fromm
10-Dec-2005, 06:34
Jason, regrets, sympathy. Ouch!

Struan, the little 6"/2.8 Elcan for 6x6 is cataloged as type C138. The lenses' serial numbers are all 138-xxxx. The big 'un is a different type.

John, thanks for the further info. I'll betcha the KB-18 uses the little 6" Elcan.

And thanks especially for the news that there there's room to attach a stop to the doorstop's shutter. Mine has its shutter, in fact looking at the shutter gave me the idea of using a waterhouse stop. Its the same as yours, 7438-6015. And AFAIK Charlie's has its shutter too. For curiosity, who sells 'em?


10-Dec-2005, 09:21
For curiosity, who sells 'em?

I don't know if there are any left, but if you write good old Fred at www.surplusshed.com he will see if there are any among the things he hasn't advertised.

Struan Gray
10-Dec-2005, 14:28
The KB-18 uses 70 mm film, and has a rotating prism in front of the lens. The image on film is 9.4" by 2.25" and covers 180 in the long direction, but as far as I can tell the film is fed past a slit in synchronisation with the movement of the prism, so coverage of the lens is probably MF at best. All the listings I have seen say the lens is a 3" f2.8 by Zeiss, but the chances it is another Biogon type seem slim.

Have fun with the doorstops, and thanks for the thoughts.

Dan Fromm
12-Dec-2005, 06:30
Struan, if you're watching, the 6"/2.8 Elcan for 4.5 x 4.5 is type C180, serial numbers are probably 180-xxxx. Cataloged weight is 6.8 pounds. Another doorstop, I fear. Certainly not a lens for a backpacking 4x5 photographer.



Struan Gray
12-Dec-2005, 07:12
I once met an expedition that had employed five porters simply to carry the money to pay off the other porters once they reached their destination. A lousy seven pounds is no challenge, even to my knees.