View Full Version : 180 Symmar or 210 Geronar

8-Sep-2011, 11:25
I suspect I know the answer to the question but will ask for opinions anyways.

I know the Schneider Symmars appear to have a reasonably good reputation for quality, and that Rodenstock Gernoar's are reputed to be lower cost "beginner's lenses" but have reasonable quality if stopped down....

Sometime ago I picked up a Schneider Symmar 180 f5.6 for a reasonable cost ($145 including shipping). It seems to be in an older copal 1 shutter. When the lens arrived I realized it was a situation where someone had "repurposed" the shutter because the markings showed the aperture to start at f6.3. The glass is clean and the shutter works well and since the cost was reasonable I decided to keep it. As a point of interest the front cell was screwed in with 4 spacers, which suggests to me someone took care to make sure the lens had the correct spacings. I haven't shot with the lens yet because I haven't gotten around to recalibrating/remarking the aperture settings.

Several weeks ago I was sucessful in buying some clean front and rear cells for a Rodenstock Geronar lens. Again the glass is clean and the price was reasonable ($55 with shipping). What attracted me was that this is an f6.3 lens that would fit into the aformentioned copal 1 f6.3 shutter. I had also heard that the Geronars are lighter smaller lenses which are convenient for backpacking which attracted me.

I do recognize that if I want to go to the bother of swapping that I can use the same shutter for both focal lengths (once I create a conversion table for the 180).

My question is to those who are familiar with one of both of these lenses, how much better is the Schneider 180 versus the Geronar 210?

Thanks for your feedback.

Mark Stahlke
8-Sep-2011, 11:55
First of all, the 210mm Geronar is an f/6.8 lens not f/6.3.

Second, without knowing the focal length your f/6.3 aperture scale was calibrated for, it might not be accurate for either the 180mm or the 210mm.

Third, I have both an APO-Symmar 180/5.6 and a Geronar 210/6.8. Both are excellent lenses. Don't be fooled by the Geronar's reputation as a low cost beginner's lens. When I put my Geronar lens cells in a shutter and tried it out, I was stunned by its performance. The 210mm Geronar quickly became one of my favorite lenses - nice and bright on the ground glass but still compact and light weight for backpacking.

Finally, it's not difficult to make correct aperture scales. Do a search on these forums for instructions on measuring the aperture. But there's an easier way. If you ask nicely, I'd be happy to post some shots of both aperture scales laid out next to a ruler.

8-Sep-2011, 12:43
Mark, thanks for the advice, those are the type of issues I was hoping to some feedback on. I know the Symmars came in various different models. I suspect mine is not the more expensive APO model, I should have noted that it is the convertible 180/315 model.

It would be much appreciated if you could post the shots of the aperture scales (coach me on how I can ask more nicely, pretty please….).

The Geronar lens did come with the actual scales which presumably could be exchanged with the scales on another similar copal 1 shutter, however mine is a different (probably earlier) copal 1 model.

While we are on the subject of calibration, let me repeat a calibration technique that I thought I had read about on this forum. The approach is to focus the lens on a light bulb (ie fixed intensity), and the put a light meter on the surface of the ground glass and measure the readings at the various apertures. You then compare the readings to the similar measurements you have taken from a "known" lens. This approach seems to make sense to me because what you are trying to determine is the amount of light hitting the gg at a particular aperture. Am I out to lunch regarding this approach.

Mark Stahlke
8-Sep-2011, 13:53
It would be much appreciated if you could post the shots of the aperture scales (coach me on how I can ask more nicely, pretty please….). How could I say no? :D

Here are the aperture scales for the 180mm f/5.6 and the 210mm f/6.8.

9-Sep-2011, 05:53
The Symmar is a 6-element plasmat and the Geronar is a triplet. Being a triplet, it will have fewer air surfaces and will provide a bit more contrast, especially if the Symmar is only single-coated. That may or may not be an advantage. Being a triplet also makes it more compact and light. It is plenty sharp if stopped down, but in this case that means waaaay stopped down. I found that my 150mm Geronar worked best at f/32.

Is the Symmar old enough to be a convertible? If it just says "Symmar" and not "Symmar-S" or has APO in the name, then it's a convertible, and will provide a 315mm triplet with the front cell removed.

Of course, you have two lenses and one shutter. The issue is not which lens to keep. The issue is how to buy the correct shutter for one or the other. It will be easier to make an aperture scale for the Geronar, if you want the Symmar to have both its 180mm and 315mm scales. Then you can go on a search for a 180 Symmar Convertible with broken glass.

Rick "sell something? Anathema!" Denney

9-Sep-2011, 09:36
Mark and Rick thanks again for the feedback

any comments on my previous question/observations on how one goes about determining the aperture of the shutter when one is using a non calibrated shutter would also be greatly appreciated

Chauncey Walden
9-Sep-2011, 13:27
Frank, just measure the diameter of the aperture when viewed through the front of the lens and divide into the focal length. It would probably be easier to work it out ahead of time, dividing the focal length by the common f/stop progression, and then mark the shutter when the proper opening is reached.