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Thread: The Lens Ravings of a Quarantined Large Format Mind...

  1. #1
    Jeffery Dale Welker
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    The Lens Ravings of a Quarantined Large Format Mind...

    The Nikkor 300mm f/9 lens is currently the longest focal length in my 4x5 kit. Out of boredom, but with genuine interest, I’ve been doing some research on the Fujinon C 300mm f/8.5 lens. I note that on eBay the Fuji regularly fetches $200 to $300 more than its cousin, the Nikkor M 300mm f/9. I’ve wondered why? If folks pay more money for the Fuji, it must be better - right?

    Besides the negligible .5 wider aperture, the most noticeable difference is that the Fuji appears to cover 380mm compared to the Nikkor’s 325mm. While this isn’t much of an issue for a 4x5 user like myself, I suspect it is a big deal for 8x10 shooters. It is my understanding that the Nikkor barely covers 8x10 without any movements, while the Fuji covers 8x10 with movements. I suspect this is why the Fuji fetches more $$$ than the Nikkor. Both are diminutive compared to their burly f/5.6 counterparts. I must admit to wondering why 8x10 users worry about the size/weight of their optics? The darn camera weighs a ton all by themselves. I guess every ounce counts - especially when backpacking? I currently subscribe to Edward Weston's belief that; “Anything more than 500 yards from the car just isn’t photogenic.”

    As I researched this issue further, I started to notice online comments from large format photographers regarding a variety of "older" lens designs (i.e. Fuji, Nikkor, Zeiss, Goerz, etc) that have maximum apertures in the f/8, f/9, etc range. Lots of comments about these lenses having wonderful contrast and being razor sharp. While some of these lenses have multi-coating (Nikkor M), many are only single coated lenses. The f/5.6 lenses (Nikkor, Rodenstock, Schneider, etc) appear to have six elements and multi coating. The Nikkor M and Fuji A or C lenses typically have four elements and often single coating. As noted above, Nikkor M’s are multi-coated. While the f/5.6 six element multi-coated lenses are wonderful, they are also larger and heavier. At the moment, size and weight isn’t an issue for me. Maybe that will change?

    Here is the $64 question; is it possible that these older design four element lenses have better contrast and are sharper than their more modern f/5.6 brethren? While multi-coating certainly helps with flare, how truly important is that if single or non-coated lenses truly have better contrast and acutance? I assume there are no perfect lenses and that all optical designs have compromises. Is it possible that more lens elements and more coating can impact contrast and/or sharpness?

    Clearly a hair-splitting thought process. Please feel free to slap me around and educate me properly

    PS - The negatives I’ve made with my Nikkor M 300mm f/9 have shown wonderful contrast and acutance.

    PSS - I shoot black and white film exclusively. Maybe if I shot color film and/or transparencies, the advantages of the more modern lens designs would be apparent.
    "I have this feeling of walking around for days with the wind knocked out of me." - Jim Harrison

  2. #2

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    Re: The Lens Ravings of a Quarantined Large Format Mind...

    I won't attempt ot answer most of your questions but I can definitely tell you that as you age weight of equipment will be a problem which increases in significance. I began noticing this at 80 and it gradually increased as I passed 90. Enjoy photography and life while you can, and stay healthy.

  3. #3
    Foamer
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    Re: The Lens Ravings of a Quarantined Large Format Mind...

    I use 4x5, 8x10, and some 5x7. Coverage is a big deal with 8x10. I have the Nikon 300M and like it enough that I don't want to spend the money for the Fuji. The Fuji would also be trickier to use lens tilt with. The f5.6 lenses offer more speed and better correction. I tend to buy either historical lenses or modern lenses. I prefer multicoated modern lenses.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  4. #4

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    Re: The Lens Ravings of a Quarantined Large Format Mind...

    I think you will find the biggest difference when working in tabletop sizes around 1:3 or 1:2. The larger f5.6 will come handy. Also if you find f8 is the right aperture . I had a 210mm apo symmar for 4x5" once, sold it and was surprised to find the 240mm Symmar for 8x10" to be just as sharp in the middle at max aperture.

    Sent fra min SM-G975F via Tapatalk

  5. #5

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    Re: The Lens Ravings of a Quarantined Large Format Mind...

    Real question is what are your print image goals?

    Would be skeptical moving from the Nikor 300M to a Fuji 300C would make much if any significant or any difference in the finished print between these two on 4x5. Their taking apertures would be f16 and smaller. Rendering them both far more similar than different. The difference happens at 8x10 where the larger image circle is needed. On 4x5 the larger image circle is often a dis-advantage as the larger image circle sprays more stray light on to the bellows causing more internal flare light. This is one of the reasons why a larger lens image circle is not always better.

    I'm not a fan of modern multi coated lenses like the Nikor 300M or Fujinon 300C in these focal lengths. Really more a preference than absolute. The 300mm / 12" lensed are divided into APO process like APO artar / APO ronar then wider aperture Tessar like Kodak Ektar or Commercial Ektar or Schneider Xenar. Taking aperture and image goals decide which lens type to use. All are in barrel used with Sinar shutter.

    Suggest, don't get caught up in this splitting what lens is "best" stuff.


    Bernice

  6. #6
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: The Lens Ravings of a Quarantined Large Format Mind...

    For B&W use, I don't think there is much difference between single coating and multicoating. Uncoated is a big difference that makes complex lenses impractical. A simple 3 element (or less) lens that's not coated is not a deal breaker.

  7. #7
    Jeffery Dale Welker
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    Re: The Lens Ravings of a Quarantined Large Format Mind...

    I'm not trying to engage in a "best lens" debate and apologize if my initial post left that impression. My normal tendencies are to acquire the most modern large format lenses I can afford. As a professional shooter, my father was constantly upgrading with the belief it best served his clients. Some of that rubbed-off on me. However, as an amateur fine art photographer who is only seeking to please myself, I like to explore lens options (both old and new) that will give me excellent acutance and contrast.
    "I have this feeling of walking around for days with the wind knocked out of me." - Jim Harrison

  8. #8

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    Re: The Lens Ravings of a Quarantined Large Format Mind...

    Look at the mtf test done by Thalmann and Co. https://web.hevanet.com/cperez/testi...0mm_and_longer
    All lenses are useful except the bad ones (damaged) and the ones used outside its limitations (6x9cm)

    Sent fra min SM-G975F via Tapatalk

  9. #9

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    Re: The Lens Ravings of a Quarantined Large Format Mind...

    IMO, newer is not always "Better".. this is precisely why ending up with non-multi coated older lenses became the way.

    Only way to know what meets your needs is to acquire several samples of the lens in question, test the ~Wee~ out of all (been there done this), then decide on what to keep based on you individual judgment of the lens results. All else is minced words and conjecture.



    Bernice


    Quote Originally Posted by Salmo22 View Post
    I'm not trying to engage in a "best lens" debate and apologize if my initial post left that impression. My normal tendencies are to acquire the most modern large format lenses I can afford. As a professional shooter, my father was constantly upgrading with the belief it best served his clients. Some of that rubbed-off on me. However, as an amateur fine art photographer who is only seeking to please myself, I like to explore lens options (both old and new) that will give me excellent acutance and contrast.

  10. #10
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: The Lens Ravings of a Quarantined Large Format Mind...

    The Fuji C 300 is just a bit less common than the Nikkor M, and that seems to dictate the difference in asking price. And it has a slightly larger image circle if 8x10 usage is contemplated, but is still not particularly generous in that respect. Both series of lenses are superb in my opinion, and I use examples of each in various focal lengths. The older single-coated version of the Nikkor tessar is the Q series, and the equivalent single-coated Fuji's are their L series, which a heavier thick-element tessar design. The newer multi-coated lenses will have slightly higher contrast, and are perhaps a miniscule amount sharper, but the minor difference in that respect is almost a non-issue in large format usage. Fuji L's are reputed to have a gentler rendering prized by portrait photographer, which does not imply a lack of sharpness, but a somewhat different personality of rendering which seems less harsh or clinical. But Kent is wrong if he thinks these lenses are not as well corrected as general purpose 5.6 plasmats. F/9 lenses tend to be better corrected because a compromise doesn't have to be made for a larger viewing aperture. But they're plenty bright for outdoor usage. And there's a lot of mythology about older "cult" lenses. The reason to use some of them is if you want the distinctive look that their optics and multi-bladed apertures provide. Some give a very nice out of focus rendition, some do not. In other cases, the image circle decides the choice; but that needs to be factored with tilts and so forth, tangentially, and not just head-on like the spec sheets tell you. The only complete answer is to buy one of everything, and then spend so much time dusting them off that you have no time left for photography itself, and voila, you have your own lens museum. As usual, overthinking this topic is counterproductive.

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