View Full Version : Experiences with a Caltar II-N 240mm MC f/5.6?

1-Oct-2010, 19:52
Does anyone have much experience with this lens? I'm looking for a longer lens to accompany my 180mm Symmar. Well documented on this forum are my problems with that lens with trying portraits like this:

I'd like to get something that allows me to be in about that close, but not have the issues with proportions that I'm getting with the 180.

Obviously image quality is hugely important to me too.

Any reason I wouldn't be happy with this lens?


Ron Marshall
1-Oct-2010, 19:55
240 would be fine, but for 1/2 body on 4x5 I prefer a 300.

1-Oct-2010, 19:59
It's a Rodenstock Sironar-N, and no, there's no reason in the world why you wouldn't be happy with that lens, if it's the right focal length for your needs.

It will use a Copal No. 3, which is a large shutter that requires a lens board with a 65mm hole. You'll be limited to 1/125 with that shutter. If that is a problem, there are alternatives, but all the f/5.6 plasmats at that focal length will require the larger shutter.

Rick "happy to by Calumet-branded lenses" Denney

Frank Petronio
1-Oct-2010, 20:09
It's a nice lens, you just need a solid camera to handle a #3 shutter. No wooden toys.

1-Oct-2010, 20:17
I'm looking for a focal length something like these Irving Penn pictures:


I see them as being intimate without being distorted. Any thoughts about what focal length you'd think they'd be?

apropos of nothing, this is a great image, I've never seen this before:

1-Oct-2010, 20:19
Frank, are you talking specifically about my Kodak? I have no idea how it would handle a big shutter. Probably going to be my camera for at least a little while longer.

That photo I linked to sort of reminds me of something you might do. If you could find a midget french wrestler. Nice job in VC magazine, btw. I finally saw it, in a little bookstore in Maine.

John Kasaian
1-Oct-2010, 21:26
A 215mm Ilex or Ilex/Caltar might fill the bill.

Frank Petronio
1-Oct-2010, 21:45
Penn used an 80mm "normal" on a 6x6 Rollei, look at the man's hand how it is XXXL ;-) I think he also had a few Tele-Rolleis with 135mm lenses for portraiture and fashion. But I'd bet the ranch that those were done with the 80mm.

I use a 180 on 5x7 and shoot people too, and a wonderful Italian photographer and forum member named Christopher Broadbent does likewise. Shooting portraits with a wider than normal lens (about like a 40mm on a 35mm I guess) is more challenging that simply using the common, traditional long lens to isolate and compliment your subjects. With the wider lens you'll fail more, but your successes will be stronger too.

The shot you fucked up with the fat violin was fine other than you didn't notice or anticipate what would happen at the edges of the frame. So what? I screw up more than I succeed too. Just keep shooting and push through, you'll figure it out.

Don't be a pussy and get into the long soft-focus crap like all the other guys, your pictures will just be generic mush.

Having said that, a fun second lens might be an old 50s 270mm Tele-Raptar or Tele-Xenar meant for 4x5. It would vignette a bit on 5x7 and for centered traditional head/torso shots it would probably be nice and creamy (a little haze won't hurt). The nice thing is they are in smaller #2 shutters and fairly cheap. If you're going to cop out and "buy a look" they are a lot nicer value than the vintage brass swirly portrait lenses that are now going for megabucks thanks to the trendiness.

I'd buy one myself but I am too lazy to change lenses. Really.

Ken Lee
2-Oct-2010, 02:50
According to the Rodenstock MTF chart (http://www.kenleegallery.com/pdf/RodenstockApoSironarN.pdf), the Sironar N line is quite good. The Sironar S lenses offer a little wider coverage, but how much more, is not dramatic - especially when you come in closer than infinity.

At 1:1, lenses give 200% of their infinity coverage. For portraits on 5x7, which is around 1:2 or 1:3, the coverage of a 240 should be... huge.

A 240 on 5x7, is like a 180 on 4x5, or a 60mm lens on 35mm film: just a bit longer than normal. You won't see any foreshortening or exaggeration of perspective. It sounds perfect for what you want to do.

If you want to see how such pictures will look, use your 180 but stand 1/3 further away, and crop your images by 1/3. You'll have the same perspective. The only obvious difference, is that you won't be filling the frame. In other words, crop to 4x5 and you've got the same basic effect.

I have read that Paul Strand used only 1 lens, but 2 cameras: a 300mm Dagor lens, an 8x10, and a 5x7 camera (masked to 5x6). On 8x10, it was a standard lens. On his 5x7 (masked to 5x6), it was a longer lens. You could do something similar with your 180mm lens, only on 5x7 and 4x5. Even more simply, you could get a 4x5 back for the 5x7, instead of having 2 cameras.

2-Oct-2010, 08:28
I'd buy one myself but I am too lazy to change lenses. Really.

Heh, I finally broke down & bought a 2nd lens (210mm) for my 4x5 Graflex. I'm finding even thinking about two possible focal lengths is distracting. I'm also in the normal or slightly wide portrait camp -- just been looking at HCB portraits, which I think were all done with a normal lens.

In any case, I think the solution is to have a separate camera for each lens and that I need a 5x7 now :-)

3-Oct-2010, 10:24
I'm sure the Caltar-II is a good lens, but if you're concerned about weight, and don't mind losing 1/3 of a stop, the Fuji 250/6.3 is an excellent lens. By going from 5.6 to 6.3, Fuji fit it into a #1 shutter instead of needing a #3. You gain 10mm, you lose a wee bit of light, a trade-off I was happy to make. They're also generally a bit cheaper than the 240/5.6 lenses. The Fuji 250/6.7 covers 8x10, so is more desirable, so more expensive. If you will only shoot 4x5 or 5x7, save money with the 6.3.


3-Oct-2010, 13:15
I'm sure the Caltar-II is a good lens, but if you're concerned about weight, and don't mind losing 1/3 of a stop, the Fuji 250/6.3 is an excellent lens. By going from 5.6 to 6.3, Fuji fit it into a #1 shutter instead of needing a #3.

The Caltar Y 240/6.3 is a similar example. It is also mounted in a No. 1 shutter, and is lighter and smaller than a typical f/5.6 plasmat like the rebadged Sironar. The Y is a Rodenstock Ysar-something, and is an excellent tessar design. At this focal length, it has more than enough movements for 4x5.

Rick "who paid not much for his" Denney