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Thread: Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar: does it still stand up to today quality?

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    Marco Gilardetti's Avatar
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    Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar: does it still stand up to today quality?

    Good morning everybody.

    I usually don't go for myth-status super-expensive lenses. Although I have always desired to own a Apo-Lanthar, it demanded so much money that it was one of those dreams one basically does nothing to turn into reality. But lately a 150mm f:4,5 Linhof selected Apo-Lanthar landed right in the used camera shop down street, so I though this was indeed a message from destiny and opened the wallet. And we all know that these lenses demand the wallet to be opened WIDE.

    I took some 4x5'' pictures at a family meeting and, although I had the highest expectations from this lens and I was almost thrilled while using it, I must confess that I'm not really impressed by the results. They are good pictures but basically look like pictures taken with a good 6x7 - 6x9 medium format camera.

    The lens seems to show good contrast and no flare, which is good. Also, it doesn't loose sharpness when opened wide, which is quite impressive. But it's also my main concern: stopping down nothing "special" happens. I imagined that an apochromatic lens would become a "hair-cutting", ultra-sharp razor blade at around f:16, while it seems just to remain in the same so-and-so grey zone.

    So, no resolution targets here or any other scientific test. But can anyone who owned and used a Apo-Lanthar kindly comment on this? Was I simply expecting too much from a lens that has its age? Or it should indeed be very very sharp and I'm perhaps the "lucky" owner of a damaged unit? I'm puzzled and I really don't know what to think.

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    Re: Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar: does it still stand up to today quality?

    I say this as someone who loves and uses a number of vintage lenses. Based on your post you might be looking for something like an Rodenstock Apo Sironar S. It matches the characteristics you're looking for quite well. It's really quite spectacular. I think with many legendary vintage lenses you're mostly getting a particular look. I love my 15cm Heliar and my various Dagors for just such a particular look each produces on film. For maximum sharpness and contrast both wide open and stopped down the cheap Apo Sironar N I have beats them both.

    Really though, I think you need to live and shoot with a lens for quite a while to get to know it's characteristics.

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    Re: Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar: does it still stand up to today quality?

    I have the 450mm APO Skopar from the same factory and it is fully open f9 really good, but has not a chance against a Sironar S/Sinaron SE in terms of sharpness, but it is my Bokeh King!
    Even the Universal Heliar has no chance recarding bokeh, the Skopar has for me the most beautifull transition from sharp to unsharp and the most beautyfull Bokeh you can get!
    Sharpness is only one part of the game, Armin

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    Re: Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar: does it still stand up to today quality?

    Armin,

    The problem with the Voigtlaender Skopar is the very common issue with balsam collapsing between glued elements. It's quite common to find this wonderful lens with this issue for sale at the devil bay. BTW, this is a thread suggestion for experienced DIYers: how to repair this lens,

    Cheers,

    Renato

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    Re: Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar: does it still stand up to today quality?

    Renato, it isn't balsam, it is a synthetic cement. Rodenstock lenses of that era have the same problem. Separations. Apo-Skopars without separations are very rare.

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    Re: Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar: does it still stand up to today quality?

    The Apo-Lanthar is a Heliar made with the most expensive glass available at the time.
    Heliars aren't noted for their "super-sharp" negatives, in fact your negatives may look a little soft, but the prints should exhibit superb contrast, with beautiful OOF portions, and a uniformity of coverage and consistency across the whole field, as well as great apparent detail (which may not be measurable).
    Shoot some more with it, and you'll eventually recognize what a great lens it is.
    I've never understood how those slightly soft-appearing negatives can produce such stunning prints.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

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    Re: Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar: does it still stand up to today quality?

    As a user of both a 15cm and 21cm APO Lanthar, I think they are excellent lenses and hold up just fine. If you are looking for ultimate sharpness, firstly I would ask why, and secondly I would suggest a different lens. The contrast, slightly warm bias, and rendering of these lenses are superb. I do not hesitate to grab my 15cm Lanthar over my 150mm APO Symmar for most uses. Stopped down to f/22 and smaller for landscape work, I do usually use the Symmar simply because it easily takes my standard filter sizes (after I permanently attached a 58-67mm step-up ring to it) and the look of the Lanthar doesn't shine through at that point.

    However for wider apertures and handheld shooting, especially with color film, there's just something about the Lanthars that is really nice.
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    Re: Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar: does it still stand up to today quality?

    Corran wrote: "... However for wider apertures and handheld shooting, especially with color film, there's just something about the Lanthars that is really nice."

    Indeed, the Apo prefix for apochromatic correction - the 3 colored stripes on the lens barrel - and the Lanthar from lanthanum glass.

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    Re: Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar: does it still stand up to today quality?

    I meant that compared to my APO Symmar. So, something beyond just the APO-ness of the lens, probably the rendering and contrast, is something special.
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    Marco Gilardetti's Avatar
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    Re: Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar: does it still stand up to today quality?

    Quote Originally Posted by karl french View Post
    I think with many legendary vintage lenses you're mostly getting a particular look.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill_1856 View Post
    your negatives may look a little soft, but the prints should exhibit superb contrast, with beautiful OOF portions, and a uniformity of coverage and consistency across the whole field, as well as great apparent detail (which may not be measurable).

    I've never understood how those slightly soft-appearing negatives can produce such stunning prints.
    First of all, thanks everybody for your interesting replies and comments. Most of your words really seem to describe well what I have under my eyes. They make a lot of sense.

    To those who wrote not to judge it from the first pictures: I'm not doing that. I was just a bit puzzled (quite much puzzled, actually) by the fact that, after reading a lot of words about its unbelievable sharpness, it wasn't really the sharpness what I noted first. The small details on the negative, when greatly enlarged, look somewhat unsharp but still contain a lot of details. You see a not very sharp button of a shirt, but inside it you can see it has four holes and the sewing thread passing through them. You can see a soft skin with almost no texture, but then you can count by how many sewing threads the jacket is made. You see a so-and-so horizon line but then a huge huge huge lot of details of leaves and branches just in front of it. It sure is a lens that has character.

    So really, this wasn't at all my "final" word on the regarded Apo-Lanthar. By the way I used it with a cheap film sheet that may very well have degraded its performance. Nonetheless, I took a "panorama" picture on the way back home that left my wife open-mouthed when she saw it. So yes, I think I have to get to know it, and use it for what it can do best.

    Is there anyone that owns a 150mm Apo-Lanthar who, just for the sake of curiosity, would like to impress 2 or 3 sheets by photographing the same resolution target printed on a A4 paper at the same distance and see how the two lenses compare? I'm doing it anyway to see at which aperture it is sharpest and where diffraction kicks in. If anyone else would like to do the same, we can agree on the settings and see what comes out.

    Quote Originally Posted by RSalles View Post
    Indeed, the Apo prefix for apochromatic correction - the 3 colored stripes on the lens barrel - and the Lanthar from lanthanum glass.
    I'm not sure wether this was a humorous remark, however, personally, I think that yes: this is one of the all-times best looking lenses. The name itself is as cool as it can be. It has all of the Linhof bells and whistles, lacking just the "TECHNIKA" red writing on the front (but perfection is not of this world...), plus the ultra cool three coloured rings. And of course the super classic "synchro compur" iconic tag in its super classic iconic font. Plus the name Voigtlander, a great great name in photography if there ever was one. A true pleasure for the eyes and the mind, if you ask me.

    This, of course, has little to do with pictures' quality. But it adds a lot to the pleasure of using one's gear, which, at least in my opinion, has a significant role in the overall pleasure of classic photography.

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