View Full Version : macro symmar 120 HM reviews?

19-Aug-2010, 13:15
Does anyone here use this lens with any regularity? Comments? Sample images of the kinds of things you use it for?

Thanks in advance for any input.

Dr Klaus Schmitt
19-Aug-2010, 14:11
excellent but no images handy.

19-Aug-2010, 14:54
Let me throw another one in here, the Nikkor 120 AM-ED.

Dan Fromm
19-Aug-2010, 15:32
h2oman, I think you're trolling.

The lenses you asked about are known to perform as advertised. No one will slander them as macro lenses. Digitized images as posted on web sites and looked at on computer screens are known to be pretty uninformative in two ways. Inherently not sharp enough and, contradictory as it sounds, subject to cheating by digital post-processing. The best that can be said is that you asked the wrong question.

If you're contemplating buying one, buy it and try it. If you want to know whether one will do what you want it to do before buying, ask that question directly. Tell us what you want to accomplish.

So you'll know my prejudices, I don't have either. I use other lenses for macro on 2x3 (not 4x5, I don't shoot 4x5). 100/6.3 Neupolar, which in my tests came out a little better than a known good 100/6.3 Luminar. Klaus has both, has tested them, might be willing to report. And a 4"/5.6 Enlarging Pro Raptar that matches the Luminar, isn't quite as good as the Neupolar but is much easier to use. I don't recall whether Klaus has one, he very well could.

I hope Klaus will respond. Its been ages since he and I have discussed test protocols. When we did we didn't agree completely. My views on the questions to ask and how to ask them haven't changed much since then, I'm curious to know whether his have. If it isn't clear to you, back then each of us thought he was right. If we were putting different questions to our lenses we could well have been.

I use these lenses at magnifications from 1:5 or so to 2:1 or so. My results aren't always great, but this is due more to the difficulty of what I'm trying to do than to the lenses' lack of quality. When the subject isn't well immobilized, subject motion is a terrible problem; not motion blur, which I eliminate well enough by using electronic flash, but movement of the plane of best focus between the time I've focused and composed and the time I take the exposure. Out-of-doors wind is a killer. Lack of depth of field. This is insuperable, end of that discussion.

If it isn't clear to you, when working closeup technique is at least as important as the optics. The handiest guide to technique and to thinking about the problems of shooting closeup is Lester Lefkowitz' book The Manual of Closeup Photography. Buy a copy and study it well before you buy a lens.

Don't anyone tell me that stopping down will solve DoF problems above 1:1 without having done the calculations and taken test shots to check that the calculations really work. My calculations may be wrong, my test shots may have been botched, but they agree and the news they give is all bad.



19-Aug-2010, 16:02
Ignorant, yes :D; asking the wrong question, probably :o; trolling, no :mad:!

I'd like to do some close-up photography. Not macro in the sense of bees and things, just stuff like leaves and rocks. things like this:


Most recently I tried this with my 150mm lens, but my camera (Wista SP) maxes out at 300mm or less of bellows, which presents some problems with that lens. I'm trying to figure out what I might need to get in the way of a lens to do more of this type of photography.

I did not ask for images to examine them for quality, but just to see the kinds of things people used these specialized lenses for.

I'm now wondering if I'd be better off just getting something like the Fuji CM-W 125 that would require less bellows draw, but would also be useful for nonclose-up work as well.

Steve Hamley
19-Aug-2010, 16:49
For what it's worth, Adams and a lot of his peers had no macro lenses in the sense that we do, and I find that many of the close up shots were done with Tessars like Zeiss Tessars or Kodak Anastigmats.

Also, an image similar to the image in question, if shot on 4x5 (which is why I assume you're asking about the 120mm) may not be in the true macro range depending on the size of the leaf.

In particular, I found the 120mm lens a bit too short at least for outdoors work. Frequently I was so close to the subject the camera blocked the light or I couldn't get the composition I wanted. Try a regular short lens of about 120mm to see how close you have to get to get a similar composition. I had a Nikkor 120mm macro and traded it for a 180mm Apo Macro Sironar, which is a good compromise (and I also have a 5x7 camera).

The Apo Macro Sironar has a good range of optimization and is good for image sizes 1:5 to 2:1. Add Apo-Sironar-S lenses which are optimized for image sizes 1:5 to infinity, and you have a lot of latitude. I use a regular 180mm Apo-Sironar-S for those "sort of close up" shots on 4x5 and it's always given superb results.

Cheers, Steve

Dan Fromm
19-Aug-2010, 17:02
Thanks for the reply.

What you really need to do is think through what you want to do a little more -- in particular, the range of magnifications at which you want to work -- and then your constraint -- max. flange-to-film distance -- will tell you the longest focal length you can use. After you've done that you can start thinking about lenses.

The key relationship is that extension -- here interpreted as rear node to film distance -- = f * (1 + m). f is focal length, m is magnification. We all wrangle about where our lenses' rear nodes are, for most non-telephoto non-retrofocus lenses "at the diaphragm" is a good enough approximation.

It is possible to use any lens at any magnification. Thing is, a lens can be optimized for just one pair of conjugates. This means for one film-to-subject distance; at all magnifications but 1:1, where rear node-to-film = front node-to-subject, this means two magnifications and two pairs of distances; small front, large behind and large front, small behind. Lenses meant to be used for shooting distant subjects are optimized for a subjects a long distance away, lenses made to be used for shooting closeup are optimized for that. Although some design types -- just listen to those of us who swear by our process dialytes, e.g., Apo-Artars, Apo-Ronars, dialyte type Apo-Nikkors, ... -- hold their corrections well at all distances, in general you can't count on a "general purpose" lens such as the Fuji you mentioned working well closeup.

If you want to play around and the focal length will fit your needs, 105/4.5 Comparons are fairly common and often very inexpensive. They're also not bad for magnifications in the range 1:6 to 6:1. Since the cells are direct fits in a #0 shutter, reversing the lens for work above 1:1, if that's what you want to do, is easy. All this is true of the 150/5.6 Comparon too. Reversing a lens that's in a #1 isn't fun. There are better lenses, and I have some, but if I were forced to use my 105 Comparon I wouldn't feel terribly deprived.

There are other enlarging lenses that will do the job too but Comparons are cheaper than nice 6 element ones because they're just Xenars (Tessars! Yuck!) tweaked for enlarging. They're not bad at all and many of the sechs linsers are optimized for large enlargements (or higher magnifications in taking). I know that 100 Componon-S/105 Componon cells go into a #0 too, and that the 105/5.6 El-Nikkor's cells won't, don't know about any other enlarging lenses.

Now go think. And get the Lefkowitz book, its a very good guide.

20-Aug-2010, 10:56
If you're looking seriously for a lens to use on 4X5 outdoors for closeup, a true macro probably won't be the "right" choice, especially not a short true macro. They can't focus to infinity and are really designed to start working at 1:1. Adam's leaf, glacier bay image is not shot at 1:1, or at least it wouldn't be 1:1 on 4X5.

Also, when you're working with a true macro lens in close focus, your subject better be flat, because there is VERY limited depth of field and stopping down only helps a little bit. I learned this real quick after shooting with my Tominon 75.

At f32, nothing in this image is sharp up close (looks OK on the web but its really mush). But its more like 2:1 than 1:1.

Its a little better at 1:1, but its not great. Diffraction really hits these lenses hard as the effective aperture of f32 at 1:1 is now f128.

In all seriousness, for what you want to do, I'd either look at a Fuji 125-NW or the Symmar 120 HM (not the macro) or if you can manage the draw, I'd look at a longer lens like a 180 or 210 to provide more working distance.

20-Aug-2010, 11:05
And in relevance to the 125, the last photo on page 84 of the "Flowers Anyone" thread was shot by me with a Fuji 125-NW at 1:1 or VERY close to 1:1. The alpine forget-me-nots in that shot are extremely small flowering plants (they happen to be my wife's favorite flower, which is why I went to this trouble at 12,000ft).


Bob Salomon
20-Aug-2010, 11:43
"but my camera (Wista SP) maxes out at 300mm or less of bellows,"

No it doesn't. The stock camera does but Wista makes extension beds and bellows out to 900mm for it as well as extended lens boards. The Extended lensboard 214571 comes with two extension rings, one 33mm long and the other 28mm long and extra 28 and 33mm long extentions are available as add-on accessories for more extention. Of course, your camera can not be closed with any of the above attached.

20-Aug-2010, 15:19
"Of course, your camera can not be closed with any of the above attached."

That made my day, Bob - pretty funny! A bit ironic, since this morning I was showing a guy how the rear micro-swing works and somehow I got the little center pivot thing, where the back fits into the rear standard, out of its hole and it took me an hour to figure out how to fix that!

Thanks everyone for your replies. I'm doing some serious re-thinking of what I really want to do and what I'd need to do it.

Ken Lee
20-Aug-2010, 16:42
Another option is to simply reverse any normal lens in its shutter.

Those mounted in Copal 0 shutters can be reversed easily, because the front and rear elements are equidistant from the shutter. I have done this with a 150mm APO Sironar S and gotten nice results.

Dan Fromm
21-Aug-2010, 06:11
Ken, spacing has nothing to do with it. The shutter has to be symmetrical.

According to information on Benoit Suadeau's site (http://www.suaudeau.eu/memo/pratique/Les_obturateurs_centraux.html) most shutters are symmetrical, i.e., have the same inner diameter and thread pitch front and rear, but #1s don't. So the cells of lenses in most shutters can be swapped front to rear. But not if the lens is in a #1.

Asymmetrical lenses have to be reversed when shooting above 1:1 to get the best corrections. Note that many lenses that we think of as symmetrical, for example your Apo Sironar S, aren't exactly symmetrical ...



Ken Lee
21-Aug-2010, 07:02
"...most shutters are symmetrical, i.e., have the same inner diameter and thread pitch front and rear, but #1s don't. So the cells of lenses in most shutters can be swapped front to rear. But not if the lens is in a #1."

Excellent - Thanks !