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Thread: lens question

  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2014
    Cote d'Azur France

    lens question

    Hello. I am new to LF and looking to purchase a 240mm lens, I have been offered a 240mm f9 APO Ronar Rodenstock in a Copal 1 shutter, used. I am interested in some close work, portraits and landscape - can anyone advise if this lens is suited to this type of work, or should I consider another design?

    Thank you for any suggestions


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Sarnia, Ontario, Canada

    Re: lens question


    First welcome to the asylum, where the inmates are in charge...

    You will find that you can get a great deal of advice and opinion here, as we seem to be an opinionated group.

    You could greatly help yourself out by providing more information, both in the title and in describing what you need.

    The Apo-Ronars are excellent lenses and I have and use a few myself. The problem they do have is a relatively small IC (image circle) relative to other lenses for their focal length, so coverage at infinity can be a problem depending upon the format you intend on using it for, bearing in mind that with close up work that constraint becomes less of an issue.

    According to some information I have, my 480mm f9 Apo-Ronar covers about 48 degrees, resulting in an IC of about 396mm. Presumably a 240mm would cover about half that or around 200mm (198mm if you do the math), which should be ample for 4x5 (163mm diagonal) with some movement, but likely insufficient for 5x7.

    Hope that is helpful and again welcome,


    P.S. You might want to include your location as there may be other forum members in your area.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Besanšon, France

    Re: lens question, apo ronar 240

    Hi !

    You can't go wrong with any apo ronar provided that the lens is clean, fungus-free and that the shutter operates perfectly.

    At the origin the apo-ronar was used for repro and copying work. It is a 4 element lens, perfectly symmetrical and its correction is the best in principle at the 1:1 ratio. Some apo-ronars however were designed for a specific repro benches and were at their best at 1:5 or 1:10 ratio, but you do not have to care for this.
    The lens is so good when stopped down to its operating f/number of 22 that you can use it at any distance even at infinity.
    The only limitations of the apo ronar are
    - it covers only 42░ of field angle at infinity, the focal length of 240 mm will allow you to cover the 5x7" format (diagonal 210 mm).
    - its maximum aperture is only f/9, hence you should care for parasitic light falling from behind when focusing on the ground glass. But the contrast of the image is so good that if you have no parasitic light it is not difficult to achieve the best focusing visually with a loupe.
    - bellows draw at infinity is close to the focal length, this is not a telephoto design. So for landscape use in terms of bellows draw you'll require a minimum of one focal length plus a 10% margin, this makes about 270 mm, slightly more that 10 inches.

    The advantage of a lens design like the apo ronar with no cemented doublet is that even older lenses of this kind will never suffer from lens separation or balsam failure!

    Among vintage lenses, the apo ronar is one that easily outperforms many other more recent lenses, provided that you accept the minimum f-number of f/9 and require only 42░ of angle.

    Regarding portrait use, the focal length has no influence on perspective rendition, only on the actual framing for a given lens to sujet distance. Lens to subject distance is the only parameter that determines perspective rendition. Hence for a classical portrait, it is recommended not to be too close to the subject.
    The 240 mm focal length will be perfectly OK for portrait work in 4x5" or even in 5x7", depending on how tight your portraits are.

    To give you an idea of the required bellows draw and space for a portrait session with a 240 mm on the 4x5" format, here are a few examples

    Framing a 20" by 25" (50 by 60 cm) subject on a 4x5" film corresponds to the 1:5 magnification ratio, the total bellows draw will be (1+0.2) x f = 1.2 x 240 mm = about 290 mm close to 12". The lens to subject distance will be (1 + 5) x 240 = 1.4 metre close to 5 feet this is OK for a classical portrait.
    Framing a 20" by 25" (50 by 60 cm) subject on a 5x7" film corresponds to approx 1:4 magnification ratio, the total bellows draw will be (1+0.25) x f = 1.25 x 240 mm = 300 mm = 12". The lens to subject distance will be (1 + 4) x 240 = 1.2 metre close to 4 feet this is probably the limit (too close) for a classical portrait.
    Framing a tight portrait of subject size 8x10" (20x25 cm) on a 4x5" film corresponds to the 1:2 magnification ratio, the total bellows draw will be (1 + 0.5) x 240 = 360 mm = about 1 foot 2 inches. The lens to subject distance will be (1 + 2) x 240 = 0.72 metre close to 2 feet 4 inches, this is usually considered as much too close for a "non-distorted" classical portrait.

    And regarding close-up, the apo-ronar was designed for this but beware of the bellows draw that you'll need!
    At 1:1 ratio on the 4x5" film format you'll cover ... an object of 4x5" size and your bellows draw will be 240x2 = 480 mm close to 19" !
    At 1:1 ratio the image circle will be about 2x the image circle at infinity. Hence you'll even be able to cover the 8x10" film format from a 8x10" object. This, in principle: macro work in LF requires to be very careful about vibrations, since the camera + bellows becomes a huge "flexible" machine prone to vibrations.
    At 1:1 ratio the depth of field is shallow but does not depend on the focal length.

    Good luck!

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Aug 2013

    Re: lens question

    I wonder if the apo-Ronar is similar to my Apo-Raptar, 10" f/10. . . . anyway, that was an aside.

    The reason I'm posting it that I got the Apo-Raptar was for critical archiving work in the studio, specifically shooting pictures of violins for a violin shop. In that context, in the darkness of the studio, it was just OK--I never had problems with the relatively small aperture, except that there was more depth of focus going along with the darkness, which ultimately resulted in me never quite knowing where focus was being placed, precisely. . . but I never actually missed; I was just always uncertain.

    The other problem was that much of the work was at about 1:1 - 1:2 on 4x5, and the resulting bellows draw was possible, but inconvenient, and it was a relatively shaky setup, which wasn't helpful for focusing, either. Since I was using strobes, the vibration wasn't a liability otherwise, but certainly would have been with hot lights and longer exposures.

    Ultimately I replaced that lens with a 210mm Sironar for the longer shots and a 150mm Sironar for the close work, and was MUCH happier, both from a focus standpoint and stability with the lesser bellows draw. Changing lenses was worth the working comfort. For instance, in closeups I had to do much more tripod-shifting with the 10" lens than the 150mm because with the longer lens there wasn't much extra room on the rail to move everything in and out via moving the standards on the rail (the things you don't think about until you have to do them!) Sharpness with either setup was adequate.

    Bottom line being, you can do it and it will work, but I didn't prefer it to the alternative. 240mm is too long for close work on 4x5, in my opinion. For head and shoulder portraits, the traditional formula is film length + width, or 9" for 4x5, however 210mm is fine for that. For landscapes you'd have to know what type of landscape vision you have. For me, that would be as wide of a lens as possible, then wider than that. 240mm seems a bit longish for most everything normal as I would envision it, in short.

    What format do you usually shoot, and what's your favorite lens for that? That might be a good place to start for LF.
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format:
    Mostly 35mm:
    You want digital, color, etc?:

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Tucson AZ

    Re: lens question

    Apo Ronars are wonderful - for a lot of things but probably not what I would use for a portrait as the lens is so sharp that every skin blemish/defect will be accurately recorded,

    But wonderful for crisp landscapes!

    I think at last count I had three of them and I love them for appropriate subjects.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    May 2010
    St. Louis, Mo.

    Re: lens question

    If you buy it and want to use it for portraiture put a soft filter in front of it. Get the lowest level of softness and it should be just enough to knock off the edge. The focal length is fine unless you want to shoot head and shoulder or head shots Then you may want a 300mm lens. Notice that I said may. Everyone has their opinion and some (not me) find 300mm too compressing.

    As far as landscape I think it's a very nice focal length but I tend to like longer lenses for landscape to isolate things. I live in Missouri where we have hills and trees. Out west in the wide open spaces wide angle lenses are pretty nice to use. A lot depends upon where you live and how you see.

    It's hard to find a lens that excels at everything. Don't they call that a magic bullet?

  7. #7
    Angus Parker angusparker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    San Francisco, USA

    Re: lens question

    As mention above, APO Ronars are great lenses for both portrait or landscape. On 4x5 which I assume you will be using this lens you may find the focal length too long for anything but faces, 210mm or 180mm might be better for torso sized shots. In a studio setting or with good natural light f9 max aperture for focusing is fine but you may want to look for wider max apertures. But what you will find is most process lenses are f9. If you want to consider an alternative, or a complimentary lens since the focal length is different enough, you might want to get a Fujinon A 180 f9 - it's also a process lens but good until infinity. Very small and good for packing.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    May 2014
    Cote d'Azur France

    Re: lens question

    Dear Everybody above, I thank you all very much for your valid input - which I am digesting... Emmanual (merci) for the information on framing and bellows extension!

    I am located in the Cote d'Azur in the south eastern corner of France, and blessed with wounderful land and sea scapes and light. I am using a 4x5 field camera (max 400mm bellows extension) and work with Tri X - which I have used for years on 6x6 and 35mm.


  9. #9

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Massachusetts USA

    Re: lens question

    Quote Originally Posted by angusparker View Post
    you might want to get a Fujinon A 180 f9 - it's also a process lens...
    Most process lenses are f/9 and offer limited coverage in exchange for low distortion and very good color correction. Those are the requirements for making reproductions of flat objects in "process" cameras for lithography. These include APO Ronar, APO Nikkor, APO Artar etc. the classic symmetrical design which holds good correction at all distances.

    Those "classic" process lenses are reputed to be very sharp (too sharp for portraits for example), but in my experience and tests I've seen they are no sharper than other fine lenses of other designs and similar length. They are small and light of course, which makes them an attractive option where portability is more important that wide coverage.

    Small and light like classic process lenses, Fujinon A lenses open to f/9 - but they are plasmats with wider coverage than typical process lenses like Ronars, Nikkors and Artars. In that sense Fujinon A lenses are more like Symmars, Sironars, Nikkors and even other Fujinon plasmats which open to f/5.6.

    Adding to the confusion, Fujinon A lenses are corrected for 1:5 (unlike other general-purpose plasmats which are corrected for 1:10 or 1:20). This makes them (reputedly) better-suited to close work than other plasmats.

    The result is a small and light lens which takes small filters, but functions well at a wide range of magnifications and gives wide coverage: not as wide as "wide" designs, but as wide as other general-purpose plasmats at a fraction of their size and weight.

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