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Thread: age of enlarging lenses

  1. #1

    age of enlarging lenses

    I have aRodenstock 135mm Rodagon which Bob Salomon tells me is about 25 years old. I asked if there have been significant changes in these lenses since that time and his answer was that they are constantly evolving, that the glass from mine will not fit in the current model (I hadn't thought of trying that particular trick!). I do know Nikon greatly improved their El Nikkor (it became N) around 1980 They changed both the mount and the glass, and ar least the 50mm went from mediocre to excellent.

    What I am leading up to is, when purchasing used, does anyone have any ideas as to the vintage of various enlarging lenses vis a vis their quality. I know to avoid the old Nikkors, even though they may be 'mint'. But what about Rodenstock and Schneider. I also have noticed Schneider changed their mount a while back, but what about the glass?

    Camera lenses seem an altogether different proposition. There is a lot of information out there. But does anyone have any ideas regarding enlarging lenses?

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 2002

    age of enlarging lenses

    No information on designs, but it seems to me I read an article by Ctein who was comparing various brands and focal lengths where said that the darkroom environment was hard on lenses. He suggested that fumes, etc. take their toll on glass surfaces, etc. I don't know -- it could be true.

  3. #3

    age of enlarging lenses

    Barry Thornton experience a great variation in quality that was not tied to age. THat very unpopular answer rears its head again: you'll have to test it. It goes along with these ideas that you should feel fine about buying a couple of lenses and seeing what you like. Don't worry too much about buying right the first time. To encourage you I will tell you that I have done quite a bit of testing of enlarger lenses and some of the lense not fetching a lot of money are very good lenses. The Comparon is underrated (note the spelling) and Kodak lenses are very good. I own an older El-NIkkor and though I don't push it past 5X it is great in that range. And I will say that if I had it to do over, I would not have spent $500 on a new APO. So go buy some used stuff and have fun trying it out!


  4. #4

    age of enlarging lenses

    The only real information I have found is Ctein's book "Post Exposure". It is excellent but doesn't get into changes with time. Bob Salomon seems reluctant to give any information (assuming he has any). Ctein (personal communication) told me the older (pre-N) Nikkors were not wonderful at the edges. I am too old and energy challenged to undertake buying a bunch of used lenses to try to find a 'better' one. It would be nice to know if the "constant evolution" Bob Salomon mentions (true for Schneider and Nikon?) has resulted in something significant enough to be worth paying for - i.e did Rodenstock "evolve" into something in 2001 that it would pay to look for? Even cars do change over time - I don't think I want a 1980 model even if it is 'mint'!

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Buford, GA

    age of enlarging lenses


    I am not reluctant to answer your question. It just seems that my answer didn't satisfy you.

    Yes newer Rodenstock enlarging lenses will outperform older ones. And - if the absolute finest results over the widest range of magnifications, using the widest range of optimal apertures is your goal then nothing will equal or outperform the Apo Rodagon N series.

    But like all enlarging lenses, for all formats, this presupposes an optimal quality original, a print within the optimal magnification range of the lens printed within the optimal aperture range of the lens, properly processed and done on a properly aligned enlarger and with a glass carrier.

    Miss any of these requirements and you simply won't obtain the best results that any enlarger lens can deliver.

  6. #6

    Re: age of enlarging lenses

    Shine a penlight thru both ends while observing thru the opposite. If not clear, take a pass. Most camera lenses can be cleaned. Darkroom lenses are sometimes full of uncleanable crud.

    I got a free one once that was in the Chicago Tribune darkroom. A nice sample of my favorite one, but very dirty inside. I sent it to my favorite repair person for cleaning after he told me thay do not always clean up. One internal surface came back still with crud on it, but the rest cleaned. Having but $50 in the cleaning, I disassembled it and cleaned the inside of the front. It was crusty haze and required more scrubbing than Don would have attempted. It cleaned up and I`m using it to this day.

    Comparons, again note spelling, are nice in 135 and 150. I use one of each. Comparons are for prints 2x to 6x reguardless of format so they are fine for 4x5 and making small prints from smaller negs.Componars are junk. Componons were top line lenses 25 /35 years ago. They will make you happy. Rodagons are also ok. I would try to find a Componon S in 150mm today for 4x5 work.
    Last edited by ronald moravec; 25-May-2006 at 04:36.

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