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Thread: A quick comparison of three 135mm 4x5 lenses

  1. #1

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    A quick comparison of three 135mm 4x5 lenses

    I temporarily find myself with three "normal" lenses for 4x5, and I need to decide which one or ones to keep, so I took the same "brick wall" shot with all three to see if there is any first order difference. I'm linking if this is of some use to anyone else. The lenses:

    Graflex (Wollensak) Optar 135mm f4.7, circa 1953
    Schneider Xenar 135mm f4.7
    Rodenstock Sironar-N 135mm f5.6 circa 1970

    I also have a Rodenstock Sironar 240mm f5.6, so I shot the same scene with that too.

    All the lenses are pretty clean, although the Sironar-N has a fair bit of dust inside.

    All were shot at f11 at a distance of about 10 feet with flash. All were shot on Ilford Delta 100 at box speed and scanned with an Epson V750 at 2400ppi at optimal scan height. I did apply unsharp mask to each scan to help show up resolution and acuity differences, but the same amount to all. (radius 1.4, amount 250). I uploaded the full frame to my flickr account at original size.

    This quick test of course doesn't compare flare, coverage, bokeh, performance wide open or anything else. It's just a middling sort of setting and condition where I might use the lenses.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/hsandl...57679759008983
    Last edited by hsandler; 28-Apr-2017 at 05:48.

  2. #2

    Re: A quick comparison of three 135mm 4x5 lenses

    Hi Howard. I've followed you for some time on Flickr, you're awesome.

    All I can add is that the Graflex Optar 135mm to me was a big let-down. I always hung around 35mm and 6x6 people in the late 80's, when this weird guy I worked in the film lab with late at night started discussing LF with me. I didn't have a lot of money, so he sold me a Speed Graphic 4x5 he used to let me borrow very cheaply during his last few days working there.

    Anyway, I used that camera a lot, not knowing much about movements, but it was fun. I wish he had told me that Optar was crap because years later I bought a better lens (love the Schneider btw) and I felt like all my years of previous effort was pure crap because of that lens. I wish he had told me he was giving me the lens for free or whatever & at least telling me I should upgrade it asap.

    Anyway, maybe I just had a bad lens & it's not indicative of the entire series, but the astigmatism was horrible, especially more wide open.

    I'd shoot that lens with a gun before I'd shoot it with a camera ever again.

    Sent from my 0PJA2 using Tapatalk

  3. #3

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    Re: A quick comparison of three 135mm 4x5 lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by hsandler View Post
    I temporarily find myself with three "normal" lenses for 4x5, and I need to decide which one or ones to keep, so I took the same "brick wall" shot ...

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/hsandl...57679759008983

    Hello Howard,

    First, thanks for sharing this test, very interesting...

    I'd like to add that the big difference I find is exposure. Recently I learned something important from Mr Salomon: Even a brand new shutter has +/- 30% error from marked speed, an old shutter may have more. For example using 1/60 speed can deliver 1/40 or 1/80 and still fulfilling specs, and this is a full stop.

    Still a shutter can deliver very repeatable speeds, so IMHO a shutter tester is a nice tool to know how owned shutters are doing for each speed.



    IMHO there are some factors for this test.

    >> I think that EPSON V700 to 850 range devices are a very, very good choice for LF photographer, but the 2300 to 2800 dpi (depending on axis) may not show ultimate lens performance. One cannot evaluate well 50 Lp/mm lens performance with a 50 Lp/mm measuring instrument. Still it will show relative performance for your digital workflow.


    >> Film is very sharp for edges with 1:1000 contrast, but it is less sharp for 1:1.6 microcontrast textures.


    >> There are no bright points (like sun) in the scene, so flare / parasite light is not evaluated.


    I would keep both three, lenses are different and 135 is a very useful length for 4x5.

    The Sironar-N is superb, in special if it's of the multicoated type. The Xenar is single coated but perfect for portrait, you also can have narrower DOF. And the Optar it has it's own character, and at least it has an spare shutter you may need.

    Xenar and Sironar are different animals, I'd prefer having that diversity. By selling the Optar you will obtain little money at the end... If I had to keep only one I'd keep the Sironar because performance and coverage: 188 or 200 mm circle.


    Regards

  4. #4

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    212

    Re: A quick comparison of three 135mm 4x5 lenses

    It looks like the Optar is acceptably sharp. But it appears to have quite a bit of barrel distortion. It may have some interesting wide open.

    The Xenar appears excellent. I cannot tell much of a difference from the Sironar at these small magnifications.

  5. #5

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    Re: A quick comparison of three 135mm 4x5 lenses

    From what I can tell on my computer screen at the apertures you worked with, all these lenses look good.

    I stared at the pictures until I fell asleep. Upon awakening I have decided that the Xenar looks pretty decent.

    However, you should understand that my opinion in this is entirely subjective and if I fall asleep again I could be convinced to change my mind.

    The Viewfinder is the Soul of the Camera

    If you don't believe it, look into an 8x10 viewfinder!

    Dan

  6. #6

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    Re: A quick comparison of three 135mm 4x5 lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by hsandler View Post
    I temporarily find myself with three "normal" lenses for 4x5, and I need to decide which one or ones to keep, so I took the same "brick wall" shot with all three to see if there is any first order difference. I'm linking if this is of some use to anyone else. The lenses:

    Graflex (Wollensak) Optar 135mm f4.7, circa 1953
    Schneider Xenar 135mm f4.7
    Rodenstock Sironar-N 135mm f5.6 circa 1970

    I also have a Rodenstock Sironar 240mm f5.6, so I shot the same scene with that too.

    All the lenses are pretty clean, although the Sironar-N has a fair bit of dust inside.

    All were shot at f11 at a distance of about 10 feet with flash. All were shot on Ilford Delta 100 at box speed and scanned with an Epson V750 at 2400ppi at optimal scan height. I did apply unsharp mask to each scan to help show up resolution and acuity differences, but the same amount to all. (radius 1.4, amount 250). I uploaded the full frame to my flickr account at original size.

    This quick test of course doesn't compare flare, coverage, bokeh, performance wide open or anything else. It's just a middling sort of setting and condition where I might use the lenses.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/hsandl...57679759008983
    Except optimal performance is at f22. Not 11!

  7. #7

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    Re: A quick comparison of three 135mm 4x5 lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by Pere Casals View Post
    Hello Howard,

    First, thanks for sharing this test, very interesting...

    I'd like to add that the big difference I find is exposure. Recently I learned something important from Mr Salomon: Even a brand new shutter has +/- 30% error from marked speed, an old shutter may have more. For example using 1/60 speed can deliver 1/40 or 1/80 and still fulfilling specs, and this is a full stop.

    Still a shutter can deliver very repeatable speeds, so IMHO a shutter tester is a nice tool to know how owned shutters are doing for each speed.



    IMHO there are some factors for this test.

    >> I think that EPSON V700 to 850 range devices are a very, very good choice for LF photographer, but the 2300 to 2800 dpi (depending on axis) may not show ultimate lens performance. One cannot evaluate well 50 Lp/mm lens performance with a 50 Lp/mm measuring instrument. Still it will show relative performance for your digital workflow.


    >> Film is very sharp for edges with 1:1000 contrast, but it is less sharp for 1:1.6 microcontrast textures.


    >> There are no bright points (like sun) in the scene, so flare / parasite light is not evaluated.


    I would keep both three, lenses are different and 135 is a very useful length for 4x5.

    The Sironar-N is superb, in special if it's of the multicoated type. The Xenar is single coated but perfect for portrait, you also can have narrower DOF. And the Optar it has it's own character, and at least it has an spare shutter you may need.

    Xenar and Sironar are different animals, I'd prefer having that diversity. By selling the Optar you will obtain little money at the end... If I had to keep only one I'd keep the Sironar because performance and coverage: 188 or 200 mm circle.


    Regards
    Since they are all 135mm lenses at the same f stop and distance they all have the same depth of field if you are using the same magnification and circle of confusion.
    What will not be the same is the area of coverage of the lenses.

  8. #8
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    Re: A quick comparison of three 135mm 4x5 lenses

    A quick comparison of three 135mm 4x5 lenses
    What is your conclusion?

  9. #9

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    Re: A quick comparison of three 135mm 4x5 lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Salomon View Post
    Since they are all 135mm lenses at the same f stop and distance they all have the same depth of field if you are using the same magnification and circle of confusion.
    What will not be the same is the area of coverage of the lenses.
    Hello Bob,

    I was referring to the max aperture, Xenotar is f/4.7 instead 5.6, at 3m this is 45cm DOF vs 54cm, with circle of confusion of 0.1mm. But you are right... coverage is way better with the Sironar...

    Regards
    Last edited by Pere Casals; 6-May-2017 at 04:58.

  10. #10

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    Re: A quick comparison of three 135mm 4x5 lenses

    I used f11 so differences would show up, and it's an aperture I sometimes use. At f22 the chances are they would all look good in a scan at 2400 ppi.

    I decided to sell the Optar when I sell my Speed Graphic. I have some useful accessories for it, like the Wollensak sunshade that couples to the aperture lever, and a flash cable with a connector for the bipost flash terminal, which may help increase the value of the package. I hqve put the Xenar on a (new to me) Crown graphic and calibrated the rangefinder to it (oy! Took 5 hours!) but hqve not used it yet. I tried the Sironar-N 135mm on a Toyo view camera in a studio since my first post, and it worked well, although I mainly shot with the longer 240mm lens. Sample of the Sironar 135mm below at low res, shot at f11. But I don't really have the opportunity to shoot in a studio often, qnd my heart leans to Graphics, so I may end up with just one large format camera and then I will have to decide which lens to keep.


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