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Thread: Nikkor 200M vs Fuji 180A, more data - Long Post

  1. #1

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    Nikkor 200M vs Fuji 180A, more data - Long Post

    Folks,

    I’ve had the chance to compare the 180 mm Fujinon A with the 200mm Nikkor M, on a 8x10 camera and though people might be interested in my impressions. I did not try to shoot a resolution chart as I assume Chris Perez did, since these are generally shot fairly close, but did a groundglass inspection wide open and at f/16, then shot both lenses focused at infinity on 8x10 E100G transparency film. The camera is a modern wooden field camera with fresnel. My target was distant ridgelines with trees providing detail, and even more distant ridges that provided even tones. I’m in the Smokies so I have a lot of these handy. The sun was about 30 degrees above and to the right, out of the frame, and behind thin clouds. Neither lens was shaded. The Fujinon 180mm is EBC multicoated in “coarse tooth” chrome Copal, and the Nikkor is a new one in the black Copal.

    Chris Perez’ tests show the resolution to be about equal, in center and off-axis.


    http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/testing.html#180mm_thru_270mm


    The Groundglass:

    Both lenses illuminated the entire groundglass! I expected very dark or vignetted corners and the Fuji had noticeably more falloff than the Nikkor, getting darker in the corners, but it is 10% shorter in focal length. The Nikkor illumination was more even than I anticipated. Both seemed to go to mush 5cm from the long edge (10”) of the groundglass, giving both about a 6” circle of “sharpness” wide open. I expected the Fuji to be sharper further out wide open since it is a plasmat, but it wasn’t discernibly so. The Nikkor had visibly higher contrast or saturation, especially noticeable in the distant even-toned “blue” ridges. My Fuji 240 is prone to flare in situations like this (sun out of frame by a couple of tens of degrees) and a friend sold a single-coated Fuji 180 because of flare. ???

    I’m sure I could not quantitatively assess comparative sharpness on the groundglass at f/16, but the Nikkor appeared to gain either contrast/saturation or sharpness a little further from center, but did not seem to affect the last 5cm on the 10” side. I couldn’t discern much of a difference in the Fuji. These results seem reasonably consistent with their designs and the product literature of the Nikkor (166mm at max aperture and 210mm at f/22, gaining 10 degrees of sharp coverage going from f/8 to f/22). So it does indeed look like the Nikkor covers 5x7 w/o movements at f/22 as the manufacturer claims, which isn’t surprising. The next test is to see if you can get contact-printable B&W neg at f/64!

    In summary, on the groundglass, both illuminated the ‘glass wide open with the Fuji having noticeable falloff, sharpness not discernibly different, with the Nikkor being visibly more even and more contrasty. At f/16, the Nikkor appears to improve a little while the Fuji changed little or none. IMO, the Nikkor edges the Fuji, based on contrast and even illumination.

    The film:

    The Fuji vignetted very slightly, about 3/16 – ¼ inch in the corners, which I might have seen if I had bothered to look through the clipped corners of the groundglass. There’s still some detail there, but it’s plain that the corners aren’t “seeing” the whole aperture. The Nikkor was even over the entire transparency. Both were still mush at the edges. The Nikkor suffered a slight handicap in that changing light led to about 1/3 stop more exposure and subsequent reduced saturation and contrast. On the light table using two different loupes, the Nikkor appeared to hold a little more sharpness further out, although it was close. I also had a “blind tester”, an employee of the camera store look at sections of the transparencies I designated at about 1”, 1-1/2”, and 2” from the edge of the 10” side. He did not know what the lenses were, and I did not tell him my impressions. In all the tests he picked the Nikkor, although he admitted it was very close.

    In summary, the Fuji vignetted slightly and has more falloff, the Nikkor is surprisingly uniform, both mush within 1” of the 10” edge and improving to equal sharpness about 2” from the 10” edge.

    Enlarged scans:

    Sections were scanned on an ArtixScan 1800f. Results were mixed; initial results showed the Fuji quite a bit sharper than the Nikkor, so much so I doubted the scan and rescanned. The rescanned Nikkor section visibly beat the Fuji, but at this point I have no confidence and will try a different scanner f I can mooch the Scitex at work.

    I don’t think the tests I’ve done are conclusive by any means, but at least it means there’s more data. I believe if I had to choose at this point, I’d give the nod to the Nikkor, focal length notwithstanding.

    Steve

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    Nikkor 200M vs Fuji 180A, more data - Long Post

    Hi Steve,

    After mulling it over in my mind overnight, I began to realize that your comparison between these two lenses is similar to comparing apples and oranges. The only thing that both of them have in common, is that they were manufactured in Japan. Your Fuji 180A, in the chrome Copal 0 shutter, is an older model. Probably dates back to the late 1980's or early 1990's. The newer models were mounted in all black Copal 0 shutters. The entire 'A" series was discontinued in the late 1990's. Your Nikkor 200M, in the all black Copal 0 shutter, is a much newer lens and is still being manufactured today.

    The Fuji "A" series are 6 element, process lens-type formulations. The Nikkor "M" series are 4 element Tessar-type lens formulations. A fairer comparison would have been between a Fujinon lens in the "A" series and a Schneider lens in the "G-Claron" series. Or, a Nikkor lens in the "M" series with a Fujinon lens in the "C" series. I would think that the Nikkor 200M is closer, in comparison, to the Schneider 210 G-Claron than it is to the Fujinon 180A. The Fuji 180A is the smallest, lightest weight lens available in that focal length. It is an ideal lens for backpacking.

    Finally, lenses are like bottles of fine wine. They have individual characteristics. Two bottles of wine from the same vintage can have slightly different tastes. It depends on how they were stored and cared for from the time they were created.

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    Nikkor 200M vs Fuji 180A, more data - Long Post

    Eugene,

    You are correct, although I'd have to disagree that the single coated plasmat G-Claron is any closer to the 200M than the multicoated Fuji A, except in terms of 10mm in focal length. Also, the 200M is 10g lighter than the 180A and also in a Copal 0, so it would seem to be as good a backpacking lens provided you considered the focal lengths appropriate.

    The reason I posted this rather long winded result is in response to previous threads inquiring about the comparison of these two specific lenses, and a previously posted question about whether the coverage/illumination of the 200M was larger than stated as implied with the 450M (which I don't have).

    My apologies if the reason for the post was confusing.

    Steve

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    Nikkor 200M vs Fuji 180A, more data - Long Post

    Thanks for the explaination, Steve. No need to apologize for the post. I thought your tests were very well done and your descriptions were easy to understand.

    Please excuse my "senior moment" I was referring to the similarities between the Fuji "A" series and the Schneider "G-Claron" series. Both are process lens formulations, designed to be used for "flat surface", close-up photography. I meant to refer to the comparison between the
    the Schneider 210 G-Claron and the Fujinon 240A. The Fujinon 180A is in a class by itself.

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    Nikkor 200M vs Fuji 180A, more data - Long Post

    Steve,

    How about posting some side-by-side images from your test? I believe that real worldo tests like this can be useful but your verbal descriptions of the differences don't help a lot. We need to SEE what you are describing, see it for ourselves and draw our own conclusions.

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    Nikkor 200M vs Fuji 180A, more data - Long Post

    P.S. Steve,

    FYI, the Fujinon 180A is 10gms lighter in weight than the Nikkor 200M, not the other way around.

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    Nikkor 200M vs Fuji 180A, more data - Long Post

    Eugene,

    I got the numbers from Kerry's page, which shows the Nikkor at 180g and the Fuji at 190g - where'd you get your weights?


    http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/mid-rang.htm


    Ted, I'd like to do that. The next step is to get some good sectional scans.

    Steve

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    Nikkor 200M vs Fuji 180A, more data - Long Post

    Steve,

    I got my information from Mike Davis' specks for large format lenses, right here on this website. Click on Large Format Photography Home Page, above. Next, click on Lenses-Comparison Charts. Look at the chart for 4x5 lenses: www.largeformatphotography.info/lenses/lf4x5in.html. It shows everything you want to know about most contemporary lenses that will cover the 4x5 format. There are also charts for several of the other formats.

  9. #9

    Nikkor 200M vs Fuji 180A, more data - Long Post

    I got the numbers from Kerry's page, which shows the Nikkor at 180g and the Fuji at 190g - where'd you get your weights?

    Steve,

    Eugene is referring to the manufacturers' published weights for these lenses. The weights I posted were actual weights of the lenses we tested (without lens caps). In all cases, the lenses were weighed on the same scale (a small postal scale accurate to +/- 2.5g). I have weighed at least 5 different 180mm Fujinon A lenses (including one in the current all-black Copal shutter) and three 200mm Nikkor Ms. Every one of the 180 As came in at 190g and all three Nikkor Ms were 180g.

    Based on my experience weighing a LOT of lenses, Fujinon lenses tend to weigh slightly more (10 - 25g) than speced. In addition to the 180 A (170g spec, 190g actual), the 210 L (320g spec, 340 actual), 240 As (225g spec, 245g actual), 360 As (465g spec, 475g actual), 450 Cs (270g spec, 285g actual), and 600mm C (575g spec, 590g actual) I've weighed have all been heavier than speced. The one exception I've encountered with the Fujinon lenses is the 300 A (410 spec, 400 actual).

    There are a few obvious errors in the Fujinon literature that sometimes get propagated in the online forums. One example is the 125mm Fujinon W that is listed with a weight of 123g in many Fujinon brochures. For an example, see:


    http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/ws-nws.htm


    Not only is this impossible (the Copal No. 0 shutter alone weighs 115g), it makes no sense that it would weigh over 60g less than it's smaller, lighter 105mm sibling.

    It has been my experience that most Nikkor large format lenses also weigh slightly more (10 - 20g) than speced. The exception here is the M series. I've weighed a LOT of 300mm Nikkor Ms (everyone I know who shoots LF seems to have one) and they all came in at 270g - 20g less than the 290g spec. I've only weighed a couple of the200mm Nikkor Ms, but they both came in right at the 180g specified weight. I don't have numbers handy on the 450 Nikkor M, but I seem to recall the one I weighed being slighty less than the published spec.

    One lightweight lens I've never had the opportunity to weigh is the 300mm Fujinon C. With a spec weight of 250g, it appears on paper to be significantly lighter than the 300mm Nikkor M. However, given the 270g actual weight of the 300mm Nikkor M, and the tendancy of the other C series Fujinons to weigh about 15g more than speced, I'd be surprised if the actual weight of the 300mm Fujinon C was more than about 5g less than the actual weight of the 300mm Nikkor M.

    My experience with the German manufacturers (Schneider and Rodenstock) is that they are generally accurate to slightly conservative. Most the the Rodenstock and Schneider lenses I've weighed have been within -15g to +5 of the published weights. One exception here is the 150g Glaron, which has an actual weight (165g in Copal shutter) that is significantly less than the 230g spec.

    Concerning Eugene's applesranges comparison, he's correct in some ways, but I still think this is a valid comparison. While the Fujinon A is a slightly older design (dating back to the early 1970s for the single coated version), I don't really think the difference is significant. The 200mm Nikkor M was introduced in the early 1980s, within a year or two of the introduction of the multicoated version of the 180mm Fujinon M. The technology available at the time these two lenses were designed was comparable. Perhaps manufacturing technlogy improved between the time the two specimens Steve tested were actually built. That is certainly a possibility (as is sample-to-sample variation). However, Fuji has always had excellent quality control (I've yet to test a large format Fujinon that was a "dog"). I have personally noticed no differences between older chrome-ringed Copal shuttered 180mm Fujinon As I've tested and a newer sample in an all-black Copal shutter (but again, this represents a very limited sample size).

    While the two lenses have different designs (6/4 proces plasmat for the 180mm A and 4/3 tessar-type for the 200mm M), I do think Steve's comparison is valid for someone looking for a lightweight backingpacking lens in this focal length range. From a design standpoint, comparing the 210mm Fujinon L (a 4/3 tessar-type) to the 200mm M would be more accurate. However, the 210mm L is single coated, in a larger Copal No. 1 shutter and weighs nearly twice as much (34og actual weight vs. 180g). The G Claron series is similar in design (6/4 process plasmat) to the Fujinon A series, but the G Claron is single coated and there are no G Clarons between 150mm and 210mm to compare to the 180mm Fujinon A. When it comes to truly lighweight, recent lenses between 150mm and 210mm, the 180mm Fujinon A and 200mm Nikkor are really the only two choices - which is why Steve's comparison makes sense and the results are of interest.

    All this talk of weights has lead this discussion down a tangent. I agree that it would be nice if Steve could add some example photos (if he can get some good scans) and submit the article to Tuan for inclusion in the static pages of this site.

    And FWIW, I rarely use the 180mm Fujinon A when backpacking. It just doesn't fit in well with my other focal lengths (which are usually either 90mm, 135m, 200m and 300mm; or 90mm, 150mm and 240mm). I do use the 180mm Fujinon A, combined with a 75mm f6.8 Grandagon-N and a 120mm APO Symmar for shooting 6x12 with a Crown Graphic. It works quite well for this application (small enough to close inside the Crown, and excellent sharpness to the corners of 6x12). I have been using the little 200mm Nikkor M as a backpacking lens for years and find it excellent for this purpose. As Eugene points out, this lens is still available new (as is the 180mm Fujinon A - in spite of the fact that is was "officially" discontinued in 1998). Ironically, the 200 Nikkor M seems to be much less common on the used market than the 180mm Fujinon A. I'm not sure why that's the case. It's less expensive new ($595 vs. $725 for the Fujinon A). It hasn't been on the market as long (although, it was introduced on a year or two after the EBC multicoated version of teh 180mm Fujinon A). So, that might partially explain why it isn't very common on the used market. Also, multicoated 210mm f5.6 plasmats of recent vintage are always plentiful on the used market at bargain prices. So, many users will opt for the larger coverage and brighter ground glass when shopping for a lens in this focal length range. For whatever reason, I don't think the 200mm Nikkor M has ever been a big seller and is a real sleeper IMHO. Kind of surprising given the popularity of the longer M series Nikkors.

    Kerry

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    Nikkor 200M vs Fuji 180A, more data - Long Post

    Kerry,

    Thanks for coming to my rescue again. I have to admit, I was beginning to get in over my head. I sold my Fuji 180A and 240A lenses a few months ago. Nothing against them. I just prefer plasmats. Since I no longer do any backpack hiking, the weight of my lenses has no relevance to me anymore. The two "A"s were just sitting in my closet gathering dust.

    As you know, I collect Fujinon lenses. So far, I have owned, and used sixteen of them (most of them are newer style, previously owned lenses). So far, I have sold off five, but still have eleven lenses that I use on my 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10 Tachihara cameras. I believe Fuji lenses are a good investment. At least I didn't loose any money when I sold them. Can't say the same for the Nikkors I used to own, however.

    How would you rate a set of backpacking lenses, for the 4x5 format, consisting of a Fuji 180A, 240A. and 300A? A friend of mine is interested in that set of lenses. It sounds ideal in, every way, to me.

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