Which 300mm lens to buy?

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I am interested in getting a 300mm lens for my 4 X 5 Arca-Swiss F-line. I have read alot of good things about the Nikon M. The other lenses I am considering are the Rodenstock Apo-Ronar and Fujinon. Can anyone share their experiences with any of these lenses? I do have a bias toward Rodentock lenses!

Thank you very much,

Ken Gewant

-- Ken Gewant (Kgewant@aol.com), May 29, 1999


I've owned a Nikkor 300 f9 M for a couple of months now and although that hasn't been long the results seem to be great. The lens is small (a very Nikon 52mm filter size and 280 grams compared to the 5.6's 1.2 kg!) very sharp and surprisingly bright. There is no doubt in my mind that it's as bright looking as my Symmar 210 f5.6. I know that f9 is f9 but I guess with the concentration of light into my eye it appears brighter.

Anyway, with the size, weight and expense I just don't know why anyone would chose the 5.6 versions for 4X5 use.

-- David Grandy (dgrandy@accesscable.net), May 30, 1999.

I have had my 300mm M-Nikkor for a couple of years. It is a great performer, huge coverage (especially for 4x5), very sharp with excellent resolution.

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), May 30, 1999.

If you plan on buying new, the APO Ronar 300 mms are no longer manufactured and are no longer available. I have a 240 mm APO Ronar which is amazingly sharp (at infinity focus as well) and the color rendition matches that of my other Rodenstock lenses. Mine is multi-coated, but it's hard on the used market to find multi-coated APO Ronars, if that matters to you.

-- Howard Slavitt (nverdesoto@earthlink.net), May 30, 1999.

All the 300mm f5.6 lenses are rather large and heavy. The smallest of the lot is probably the Fuji w but it is still rather heavy and comes in a #3 shutter. I would get a f5.6 lens only if you dont plan to carry your equipment far from car. An f5.6 lens is noticably brighter on the ground glass and may double as a 8*10 lens. If you plan to carry the lens far, then I would option for one of the slower 300mm lenses (f8-9). There is the Fujinon 300mm f8.5 C, the Nikkor300mm f9 M, both corrected for infinity where they perform well indeed. The Nikkor barely covers 8*10 but has lots of movement for 4*5. The Fujinon covers 8*10 with some movement, and is slightly lighter. They would be my first choice. Then there are process lenses. The Apo Ronar 300mm f9 and the Clarion 305mm f9. They are about as small as the previously mentioned lenses but corrected for repro work. At working apertures (f22) I dont think you would notice a difference their performance. The Apo ronars have a rather narrow angle of view so the 300mm will not cover 8*10 adequately but the 305mm clarion will. Although there are differences in "performance" with each of the lenses mentioned it is unlikely that you pick them up if you are just starting out. Many of these differences can be subtle indeed. So, whatever you choice I expect that you will be happy, at least for awhile.

-- Pat Raymore (Patrick.f.raymore@kp.org), May 30, 1999.

There is a terrific discussion of long lenses for large format photography at the hompage for this forum. Here is the URL for the discussion: http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~qtluong/photography/lf/lenses- long.html

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), May 30, 1999.


I have been using my Nikkor-M 300/f8 for about a year now. The only down side to this lens is bellows draw. I use an Arca Swiss Basic B with a 40cm rail. With the lens racked out all the way, minimum focus is about 6 feet with no movements. On the plus side, the lens is very sharp and contrasty. As mentioned in an earlier reply, It does seem brighter than an F/9. In general, I have been very happy with the lens.

Good luck! ~Ted

-- Ted Brownlee (omfbh@aol.com), June 01, 1999.

Howard, I believe you are incorrect stating the Apo-Ronar 300mm is no longer manufactured. I just received a current brochure from Rodenstock, and that lens is very much alive in their product line.

I am cashing in my Nikkor-M 300/f9 in favor of the Apo-Ronar 300/9 lens. My Nikkor-M is a tessar formula, and performs very well within its field of true sharpness.

However, unless the Nikkor's version of the Tessar formula is different than all others (I really doubt this), it suffers the same image degradation and falloff that the other Tessars do at the 60% point of the image circle. I have examined the MTF charts on numerous Tessars, and they all appear to have this problem. I believe it is simply part of the design.

The Nikkor-M has a 325mm image circle, so at 60%, only 195mm is truly sharp. This is adequate for 4x5, but not for 8x10. Since I don't use 8x10, and very little movements on 4x5 with this lens, it would fill me needs. However, I am up for a change, and want to go for the sharpest lens possible in 300mm, which I believe is the Apo-Ronar.

-- Bruce Gavin (doc@compudox.com), June 06, 2000.

Sorry Bruce,

The Apo Ronars are out of production but the brochures have not caught up to that yet. Currently there are only two 360.s left in stock

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), June 06, 2000.


Thanks for the heads-up. I contacted Robert White in Britain, and have an Apo-Ronar 300/9 on order now from them.

Is the entire Apo-Ronar line discontinued, or only specific models?

This is a drag, as this means the last of the modern Artar lenses are no longer being made. Not sure about Fuji lenses (4/4) being Artar types or not...

Anyway, I use 300mm strictly on 4x5, and am more than willing to trade extra sharpness for reduced image circle and movements. I've had an extensive email conversation with Julio Fernandez about the Apo-Ronar MTF performance data, etc, and am convinced this is right choice for my 300mm needs.

-- Bruce Gavin (doc@compudox.com), June 07, 2000.

Do be aware that the lifetime warranty on the lens and the 3 year warranty on the shutter will not apply to the lens from the UK. Warranty service, if required, will have to be done in the UK.

As I stated above the Apo Ronars are out of production.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), June 07, 2000.

Ken, there has not been an advice on the Fujinon so here is mine. I bought one a few month's ago, because it is very small (285g), is Super EBC multicoated, has the larger coverage if I wanted to use it on a 8x10 camera sometimes and can be obtained at a good price from BadgerGraphic. I am very satisfied with this lens. Otherwise, I'm sure the two other lenses you mentioned are "top class" lenses as well.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), June 08, 2000.

I forgot to mention that the Fujinon has the shortest film to flange distance, an interesting point with cameras such as the Toyo VX I use now. Specs for this lens are not as easy to get as for other lenses, so here they are: Fujinon C 8.5 300 Copal#1 / weight: 250 g! / Film to flange: 282.3 / Image circle at 22: 380 mm (66!).

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), June 08, 2000.


Since you state the Apo-Ronars are out of production, and B&H photo is unable to get them, I suppose the lifetime warranty on the lens and 3 year warranty on the shutter is not a debateable point. It would suprise me *greatly* if that warranty was transferrable to me as a second owner of a used lens. Should this prove otherwise, Rodenstock is making a serious marketing mistake by not advertising a transferrable warranty.

If I want an Apo-Ronar, I will have to find one used, or abroad. Either way, no warranty.

When I ordered the lens from Robert White in Britain, they contacted their supplier who has a 7 day availability on the lens. The suppliers is unaware of the line being out of production. There is a disconnect somewhere, and I don't really care as long as I can get one. RW has a good reputation, so if the lens optics proved to be defective, I would ship it back to them. The chances of that are pretty slim, so I will risk it. Copal shutter problems can be fixed anywhere.

Paul, the Fuji-C 300mm is my alternative choice, should the Apo-Ronar wind up not available. This lens is billed as an Apo-Tessar on one of the distributer sites, which I think is a misnomer. A 4/4 construction is no Tessar.

The short flange focus is indeed a plus, and thanks for providing it. I am unable to find specs on the C series lenses. BTW... do you have the overall length for this lens? I keep an XLS of this stuff..

-- Bruce Gavin (doc@compudox.com), June 08, 2000.

We checked with Rodenstock today. All Apo Ronars are discontinued. White got his from the UK supplier probably and not from munich who does not sell to him.

On the other hand dealers like Ken Hansen, Samys, Glazers, Bear Images, etc could all still have the 300 Apo Ronar in stock.

The warranty is the respponsibility of the importer not the factory. The factory's warranty terms are honored by the factory and not by the distributors.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), June 08, 2000.


I f you post the serial number of the 300 we can tell you when the lens was made.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), June 08, 2000.


There must be some confusion: I don't have a serial number, because I am purchasing new from RW in Britain. Yes, RW buys from his distributor/importer, who gets it directly from Germany. The distributor/importer gave RW a 7 day delivery from Germany.

I don't know the others you mention above, but I have visited Glazers as well as bought from them by mail. The price for an Apo-Ronar 300 is nearly twice what I will pay abroad. This is too stiff a fee to pay for a warranty. Typically B&H Photo beats most of the US dealers pretty handily, but even B&H is 50% higher than RW abroad, plus B&H cannot get the Apo-Ronar.

The Fuji-C in 300 clocked in $100 more than the same lens at RW. Add in $50 shipping plus 2~3% for duty, and there is no reason to buy the Fuji from RW. On the other hand, the Rodenstock lenses are all dramatically less expensive in Hong Kong and Britain, than they are anywhere here in the US.

Problem is with Fuji, there is no place to do any research on their products. Their web site has zilch for LF lenses, there is no importer, so I don't even really know where to write for a detailed spec sheet. With Rodenstock, one can get all the details to make comparisons, then an intelligent decision.

As an Internet buyer, I can mouse-click in Britain or Hong Kong, just as easily as I can mouse-click at B&H or Glazers. They have to offer me something to induce me to mouse-click with them. A 50% to 100% higher price is not an inducement. Ken Hansen, Sammy's, Bear Images, et al, don't seem to hit the search engines, nor do any of these vendors get a lot of plugs in the forum pages. Here in Sacramento, I have Pardees' Camera, which is a full service (read: full price) dealer, and they cannot compete on price at all.

But I digress.. this isn't about price directly, but about the quality of the Apo-Ronar, and how to get my hands around that quality.

-- Bruce Gavin (doc@compudox.com), June 08, 2000.

Simply ask them for the serial number or send it after you have the lens.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), June 08, 2000.


I will be happy to ask them for the serial and post it here, or will post it when it arrives.

I'm curious though... is there a suspicion you have about the lens, and wanting to verify it by serial? This sends the shivers of paranoia up and down my spine... naaa... I can't give in to that, and worry about being cheated...

I would assume the lens comes in its own box, with a matching serial number on the box, etc.

Q: Is there an optical change in the Apo-Ronar over its production life? I assume multi-coating came in somewhere, but I would think that would be many years back. It would be hard to imagine the lens not being multi-coated in current production.

-- Bruce Gavin (doc@compudox.com), June 08, 2000.

he lens is not made any longer, the factory sold its remaining inventory to a division involved in OEM sales. You might want to know when it was made under these conditions.

Lenses are always evolving. Lens cells made today will not fit into Rodensstock lenses made 10 years ago.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), June 09, 2000.

Hi, I just bot a new f9 300 mm APO Ronar from Ott&Wyss in Switzerland and am very happy with thad very sharp lens in infinity. And nobody told my its out of production in Germany thats just a rumor!

Good light, Armin

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), June 09, 2000.

:thats just a rumor! "

No it isn't.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), June 09, 2000.

I just received an order confirmation from Robert White CO. They received confirmation from the Rodenstock UK distributor about the lens being available, and on its way to the UK from Germany. It will arrive next week, then be shipped out to me.

RW will email me the serial number of the lens as soon as it is posted, and I will post it here.

Why won't Rodenstock make serial number ranges public, as does Schneider?

-- Bruce Gavin (doc@compudox.com), June 09, 2000.


A fax from Ken Hansen this morning mentioned that he has 2 300 Apo Ronars in stock at $900.00 each. I presume they are in Copal shutter at that price.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), June 09, 2000.


Too bad Ken Hansen doesn't keep his web site up to date, or I would have bought from him instead. His web site was cranking over $1250 for the Apo-Ronar 300. Ditto for the B&H site, but they have it listed as out of stock. Since you claimed that your firm has none in stock, that means none can be ordered. I think $900 for an AR 300 is fair, considering I am paying about the same for the one I am buying from RW in the UK.

One only has to peruse a web site for a brief time to figure out where the dealer is pricing himself. Adolf Gasser in San Francisco is living proof that you can overcharge the crap out of their customers, yet still remain in business for 50 years. When I find a website that is through the roof on pricing, I make a note to pass it by.

On the flip side, one of the forum readers here has voiced an interest in an AR 300, so perhaps he will contact Ken Hansen.

-- Bruce Gavin (doc@compudox.com), June 09, 2000.

Don't know how it will come out formatted, but here is a list of serial numbers.

Production Date of Rodenstock Lenses

Baujahr Serien-Nr. bis Year of Production Serial No. up to

1910 50.000 1920 200.000 1930 400.000 1935 700.000

1938 900.000 1940 950.000 1945 2.000.000

1952 2.500.000 1954 3.000.000 1957 4.000.000 1961 5.000.000

1966 6.000.000 1971 7.000.000 1973 8.000.000 1974 9.000.000 1977 9.500.000 1979 10.000.000 1984 10.500.000 1991 11.000.000

1993 11.150.000 1994 11.231.713 1995 11.294.073 1996 11.358.165 1997 11.407.513 1998 11.468.541


-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), June 10, 2000.

Ouch! Anyone wanting a better list, just mail me and mention Mac or PC.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), June 10, 2000.


My new Apo-Ronar 300 is serial number 11,387,144. It appears the lens is 1996 vintage.

Robert White called Rodenstock in Germany and was told the Apo-Ronar line in barrel was discontinued about 3 years ago, and the factory is continuing to sell out the remaining stock. He was also told it is not uncommon for the factory to ship specialty lenses with production dates 5 years old or more.

Another person contacted Rodenstock in Germany and the engineer he spoke with said the Apo-Ronars in shutter were multi-coated for the 18 years the engineer had been with Rodenstock. I figure I have a brand new Apo-Ronar 300, that has been waiting patiently these last four years for me to come along and give it a home.

-- Bruce Gavin (doc@compudox.com), June 16, 2000.


A follow-on to one of your previous posts. Today I tried Ken Hansen as you suggested for a quote on an Apo-Sironar-S 210mm in Copal. The quote came back $400 more expensive than elsewhere in the US, and more than $500 more expensive than I can get it outside the US. Rodenstock center filters are over $100 more expensive in the US than they are abroad.

Robert White in the UK shipped my Apo-Ronar 300 last Friday, and it arrived the following Monday. The shipping charges were slightly higher than domestic next-day rates. My conclusion from all this is, one can do very well buying abroad from reputable dealers. Their prices are half to two-thirds of those charged by most but not all US dealers. This seems to be a very high price to pay for a warranty.

-- Bruce Gavin (doc@compudox.com), June 20, 2000.

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