View Full Version : Comparison of 200mm Grandagon and 210mm Super Symmar XL

Richard K.
11-Nov-2011, 14:19
I was lucky enough to acquire a pristine, beautiful 200mm MC Grandagon almost a year ago and was amazed by its sharpness and even coverage (on 10x12 with extreme movements). It IS heavy though! Well, as it happens I have access to a minty 210 SSXL at a decent but not cheap price and so I recently listed the Grandagon for sale here and elsewhere thinking that a new SSXL was bound to be quite a bit lighter if not better than the old Grandagon. Since then I was contacted by a couple of buyers basically questioning why would I sell such a fantastic lens. I would prefer to not have to handle the weight but it seems that the Grandagon may be as good as the SSXL in terms of sharpness but with better more even coverage (as I already believed); i.e. other than weight, as good if not better than the 210 SSXL. So my question is - should I keep it and not arrange to buy the (more expensive) SSXL? Those that have used both, could you please compare sharpness and illumination? I confusedly but profusely thank you! :)

Noah A
11-Nov-2011, 16:11
I've never used the lenses you mention, but I have used the 110SSXL and the 115 Grandagon (on 4x5) as well as the 150 SSXL and 155 Grandagon (on 8x10).

In both cases I came to the same conclusion: The SSXL was smaller, the Grandagon had much less falloff, and the lenses were very similar in sharpness.

In both cases I went with the Grandagon, since even illumination is much more important to me than size.

Any way you can shoot a few test sheets with the 210SSXL just to find out for sure which is better for you?

Richard K.
11-Nov-2011, 19:27
Any way you can shoot a few test sheets with the 210SSXL just to find out for sure which is better for you?

The lens is 2500 miles away but maybe...

Eric Leppanen
11-Nov-2011, 20:14
I have owned both lenses but not at the same time, so I was never able to perform a performance shootout between them. I think Schneider would probably claim that the SSXL is sharper, but my sense was that at common 8x10 enlargement ratios there was little difference in sharpness. I have not shot anything larger than 8x10 format.

The SSXL is smaller and lighter, and due to its small rear element it can be mounted on a relatively small Technika-style lens board (the small rear element makes the SSXL top heavy, though, and care is needed to make sure the lens doesn't topple forward while focusing). The SSXL is also slightly brighter during focusing (f/5.6 versus f/6.8). The trade-off is light falloff as movements are applied, and since one typically owns such large lenses in order to apply significant movements, this is a big deal. I shot primarily chrome for several years with my SSXL and had to regularly use the enormous Schneider center filter to keep the fall off under control, which was a huge hassle. Neg film was better but falloff was still an issue on certain types of shots.

I personally preferred the Grandagon since each lens was too huge and heavy for long hikes, and as a "close to the car" lens the Grandagon simplified life by largely eliminating fall off concerns.

I believe we do have one or more forum members who hike extensively with the SSXL, and for them the weight and bulk savings is worthwhile. It just wasn't for me.

Both are absolutely magnificent lenses.

Noah A
11-Nov-2011, 20:17
The lens is 2500 miles away but maybe...

That is a problem. But really the only way you'll know for sure is to try it out.

Personally I'm not a big fan of the SSXL lenses because of the falloff but lots of people swear by them. Can you borrow or rent one locally to try?

How big are you enlarging your negs? Because unless it's a lot, I doubt you'll see any difference in sharpness. I don't know if this comparison is even useful, but my 115 Grandagon looks just as sharp as my 110 SSXL in a 40x50" print from a 4x5 color negative.

The main differences between the SSXL and traditional wideangle designs are size, weight and falloff.

Richard K.
11-Nov-2011, 21:18
Thanks for all the feedback, everybody. Much appreciated!

But really the only way you'll know for sure is to try it out.

I just may buy it and try both out and then sell one. I think I won't be out by much more than a typical week's rental since my friend is offering it at a good price and that way I'll know for sure how they stack up in my various applications. Without trying and comparing with the 210 SSXL, I must say I am surprised by how sharp and evenly illuminated the Grandagon is (and right across the field on maxed out 10x12 (full front rise)).