View Full Version : Apo Nikkor Lenses

Beau Schwarz
1-Feb-1999, 23:35
I have seen several f9 and f11 Apo Nikkors in various lengths from 260mm to 890m m for sale on Ebay, Shutterbug and View Camera. For 4x5, how do they compare to the current tele. designs, ie. resolution, flare, etc? Other than installing a P ackard shutter, and dealing with the bellows extension, it would seem they would be a reasonal low cost alternative to a new Tele Nikkor. Or am I missing someth ing?

mike rosenlof
2-Feb-1999, 00:27
I'm just guessing here, but I would bet that those lenses - they all seem to be barrel mount - are process lenses. Seems like everybody is junking such cameras and going digital, so there's something of a firesale on these lenses.

If this guess is correct, the lenses are probably corrected for 1:1 or similar magnifications. They probably aren't really wide field, but probably wide enough for 4x5 and generous movements. I would expect them to work well at normal distances also.

They would probably make great enlarging lenses, but who wants a 890mm enlarging lens?@:-)

fred deaton
5-Feb-1999, 15:33
Beau, Mike's response is correct. These are process camera lenses and not suitable as normal taking lenses because they are flat field and will not be sharp in a curved field (the real world) environment.

John Hicks
5-Feb-1999, 22:03
Process lenses may be less than ideal for ordinary photography simply because th ey're usually optimized around the 1:1 range rather than ordinary-usage range. I t has nothing at all to do with them being flat-field etc.

Erik Ryberg
6-Feb-1999, 01:45
Have any of you seen a side by side comparison? If I showed you an image focussed at infinity made by several of my lenses could you tell me which was made with the process lens? I'm not saying you couldn't - I'm genuinely asking. What happens when you focus one of these lenses at infinity? The images I make with my process lenses look just fine to me. Am I missing something?

John Hicks
6-Feb-1999, 11:53
I believe you could measure decreased performance compared to ordinary lenses at infinity but assuming you're not shooting at maximum aperture real on-film diff erences would be mighty difficult to see. At least I can't see it. If you're wondering, try it for yourself. Take one shot with an ordinary 135 o r 150 lens, then another with a 135 or 150 enlarging lens (which is in effect a process lens). Or for maybe an easier comparison, take a shot with an ordinary 50mm lens on 3 5mm, then another with a macro lens.

sheldon hambrick
6-Apr-1999, 17:35
I just wanted to re-awaken this thread.

Someone out there must be using all of these APO Nikkor process lenses that are selling on Ebay each week. So, how are they working out? Will the 305mm cover 8x10? The 360mm?

Beau, did you ever buy one?


glenn holzer
10-Feb-2002, 00:29
Has anyone tried the Apo-Nikkor 260mm f10 for image circle? I also read somewhere that it is a wide field design a la Metrogon - can anyone confirm please?

Thanks, Glenn

10-Feb-2002, 03:41
I own a nikkor f10 240 process wide angle and it will cover 8x10 with movements...11x14 straight on and 12x20 in closeup.Only stops down to f32 though.Expensive to put into shutter!

30-Jul-2005, 01:31
I actually have one of these huge lenses. It's an 890mm APO Nikkor enlarging lens from a floor mounted rail enlarger. It was used to do enlargments from 9x9in film from aerial cameras. Been thinking of putting it on Ebay. It's kind of cool but no more than a conversation piece to me. If anyone has any general questions about it I can try and answer them. The above email address probably won't work but just post a reply on this board.


30-Jul-2005, 01:53
"They would probably make great enlarging lenses, but who wants a 890mm enlarging lens?@:-)"

Um. I DO!!!

I shoot 12x20 and together with Förstoringsateljén (The Enlarging Studio) here in Stockholm are building a 20x24 enlarger with a colorhead!
Anyone looking for enlargements? Give me a shout. They even do some of my developing if I am not doing it myself in Pyro.
They D&D in a special machine in specially built racks with TOTAL eveness!

Dave Moeller
30-Jul-2005, 05:26
My favorite lens for 8x10 is a Nikkor 480mm f/9 process lens. It's great at 1:1 and at infinity. I can't tell any difference in the quality of my negatives shot with this lens and those shot with a "taking" lens. I shoot it around f/22 - f/32 a lot, and the negatives just sing.

I use it with a Packard shutter on a Calumet C1 (a Green Monster). Most of my exposures are multiple-second affairs, so the Packard is just a convenience. A lens cap would work just as well. I know that the lens is optimized for close-up work, but at infinity it performs exceedingly well. I've also shot 4x5 and 8x10 with some other process lenses (JML, Eskafot Ultragon, Kowa) and have gotten great results. There are some great deals in wide-field process lenses out there; these lenses are the cheapest way to get into wide angle short of a lucky "flea market find".

The lenses that I have to compare the process lenses with are no slouches...Fujinon, Rodenstock, Schneider, and a few others. I honestly can't see any advantage for the regular taking lenses in contact prints, in enlargements made from 4x5 negatives (up to the equivalent of 32x40), or with a loupe on a light table. That's not to say that there is no difference, but for my uses there certainly isn't any visible advantage to the lenses that were designed as camera lenses over those designed as copy lenses.

If you can live without a shutter, these process lenses are a great way to expand your lens selection inexpensively. The newer lenses tend to have very nice coatings, simple designs that minimize the number of glass/air surfaces, adequate coverage (or great coverage for a true wide-field lens), and are built very well. On the down side, they are slow (f/8 seems to be the absolute fastest you can find), heavy (some of these lenses could be used as weapons in a pinch), and will cost a small fortune to mount into a shutter if you want to do that.

Given that you can pick up process lenses on eBay for a song, why not try one out to see if you like the results? If you don't, chances are you can re-sell it on eBay for close to what you paid for it...the market for these things seems to have bottomed out. I can't imagine they'll get much cheaper. But given that you can often find them for under $100, I'd say take a chance with one and see if you like the results. (Note that the f/10 wide-field Nikkors and the longer f/9 Nikkors tend to cost significantly more. The JML and Eskafot-Ultragon lenses tend to go for very low prices. I paid $31 for a JML f/8 210mm and $30 for an Eskafot-Ultragon 300mm. At those prices, what do you have to lose?)

Ken Lee
30-Jul-2005, 10:41
There is another way to pose the same question: Take 2 photos of an object at very close range, one with the process lens, the other with a "normal" lens. I think that you will see a difference there.

A while back, I compared my 180mm Fujinon A against my Rodenstock APO Sironar S at 1:1, and found that the Fujinon did a little better. But that came as no surprise, since the Fujinon A series is basically a process design. At infinity, of course, you can't beat the Rodenstock. Had I done the same test with Rodenstock's own close-up lens, a Macro-Sironar, the results would probably have been the same.

That's part of the appeal of process lenses: use them sufficiently stopped-down at infinity, and "you're golden". Hence the appeal of the G-Clarons as well.

What makes the Fujinon A series nice, is that they are also compact, because they were not designed with wide apertures. So if you can live with that limitation, they are superb performers, take small filters, and are light to carry: the best of both worlds, you might say. I only wish they were easier to come by.

Ken Lee
30-Jul-2005, 10:51
Since you mentioned Tele designs (I presume you don't just mean long lenses, but actual Telephoto), the main issue with Tele lenses, is that they sacrifice image circle diameter, for the convenience of their short bellow-draw requirements. If your camera can't extend far enough otherwise, and you are married to that camera, then Tele lenses are the only way to go (top-hat boards aside). Tele lenses are usually rather large and heavy compared to their non-tele counterparts, taking large filters and large shutters. They can be trouble to focus, since the nodal point is not where you'd expect it - but you get used to that.

The APO process lenses, on the other hand, are large and heavy - perhaps larger and heavier than the teles. As long as you don't mind buying a shutter and having someone install the lens in the shutter (a few hundred $$ each, for each of these steps) - or don't plan to use a shutter - they can serve you well.

Dan Fromm
30-Jul-2005, 11:07
Um, Ken, I have a direct comparison between an Apo Process lens and a tele lens. 305/9 Apo Nikkor and 12"/4 Taylor Hobson telephoto. The Taylor Hobson was made to be used on Vinten F95 and Agiflite cameras, mine came from an early Agiflite.

According to Nikon, the 305/9 will cover at most 250 mm at infinity. According to the Vade Mecum, the 12" Taylor Hobson tele just covers 4x5.

I've shot both on a 2x3 Speed Graphic, the Apo Nikkor front-mounted on a Copal 1. Pictures of both lenses focused to infinity on my little camera can be seen at http://photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00Cz7d

Ken Lee
30-Jul-2005, 13:13
Both of those rigs are terrific. Do you have some shots made with them ? Thanks for pointing out that the Nikkor requires only a Copal 1 shutter.

Dan Fromm
30-Jul-2005, 15:01
Ken, that's a 2x3 Graphic, not 4x5. I doubt that a 305 Apo Nikkor will cover 4x5 when front mounted on a #1 UNLESS its rear is right up against the shutter, and then it won't allow much movement. With a 40 mm tube plus some of the adapter between lens and shutter, as on my little Speed, that lens is pretty marginal for 4x5. If you're going to front mount one for 4x5, it would be best to use a larger shutter.

I've been shooting the Taylor Hobson telephoto for about 2 1/2 years. I first tried the 305/9 on my 2x3 Speed about two weeks ago. And I'm pretty non-digital. The shots of equipment I put on photo.net were taken with a borrowed Canon digital P&S.

I have only one scan of any of my 2x3 shots, that I had made for marketing purposes. I had a small pile of 38/4.5 Biogons I wanted to sell for remounting, used a trial shot taken with one I'd had remounted to show that it all worked.

I have one other set of gear photos on photo.net. You may find this http://photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00CycD interesting. The brackets came from the shop about two weeks ago. It turns out that the rig shown is a little long for the 305. This bad news was the impetus for trying the 305 on my Speed. Until then, I'd assumed it was too long for the camera.

Wrong again,

Claude Jodoin
4-Jul-2007, 19:50
Beau, Mike's response is correct. These are process camera lenses and not suitable as normal taking lenses because they are flat field and will not be sharp in a curved field (the real world) environment.

I had a Kodak Commercial Ektar for my 8x10, a 14" and very sharp. Then I got a Blue Dot Trigor process lens. Shot both at infinity on 8x10 Plus X. I used a 10x loupe to look at the results. The process lens simply blew away the Ektar, which I sold for more than what I paid for it in the early nineties. When I sold my 8x10 in 2000, the Midwest guy's eyes got real big when he saw the Blue Dot. Blue dots in shutters went for big buck.

All lenses try to be flat field, whether process lenses or not.


Armin Seeholzer
5-Jul-2007, 08:06
I'm using a APO Nikkor 610 mm and it is very contrasty and sharp of course sharper then any Telephoto lens at infinity.
All lenses are flatfield the process lenses are just higher corrected in flatness and the photo as a result will also be flat so its just the other way around used.
Don't worry be happy with the process lenses, it will never be the limiting factor for a picture it will be more you as a photographer!
Armin Seeholzer

Robert Edward McClure
5-Jul-2007, 08:16
Fred Deaton,
Check out Ron Wisner's article (Wisner.com) entitled, "The Myth of the Flat-field Lens."
You will find this interesting.
Robert McClure