long lens for landscape

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Which lens is better for landscapes: Nikkor M 300 f/9 or the Nikkor tele - ED 360mm ? What are also the performance differences in these two lenses?

-- John Dorio (john.dorio@ericsson.com), August 24, 1999


Unless you shoot in very windy conditions or you don't have enough bellows draw, it wouldn't make much sense to consider the telephoto which comes with numerous disadvantages.

-- Carlos Co (co@che.udel.edu), August 24, 1999.

Both are great lenses. If you are going to choose between one or the other rather than owning both your decision will probably be based on how you intend to use the lens.

If you will be using it primarily while backpacking then it's a no- brainer..the 300 is considerably smaller and lighter.

The 300 has a considerably larger image circle, therefore allowing for more movements. It is also much less expensive.

The 360 because of its' "T" design requires less bellows draw than the 300. The rear lens component is interchangeable between the 360, 500, and 720 so there is more versatility with this lens depending on the bellows draw capabilities of the camera you're using.

Both lenses are extremely sharp.

Start with the lens you think is more suitable to you shooting style and circumstances and get the other one later.

-- Mark Windom (mwphoto@nwlink.com), August 24, 1999.

I own the Nikkor 300 f9 M and would happily reccomend it. The advantages of the M are its small size (52mm filter size) and weight, huge image circle, and low cost. Both the 300M and the 360 are extremely sharp lenses so in that regard there's a tie, but when you consider the 360's large size, much greater cost and tiny image circle then there is not much debate.

The other concern with the 360 is that telephoto lenses don't work like regular LF lenses for bellows extention calculations as well as when you need tilt. The 300M is conventional in all these areas and that may be important to you.

-- David Grandy (dgrandy@accesscable.net), August 24, 1999.

There are several things you might consider when selecting a telephoto formula lens. The whole purpose of such a lens is to allow use of longer focal lengths on cameras with insufficient bellows draw. As an example, if you had a Horseman 45FA with something like 10-1/4" of draw, you'll never get a 300mm lens to focus at infinity. You would need at least 12" of draw plus some if you wanted to focus at objects nearer than infinity. The telephoto lenses have a flange focal depth (FFD) of about 60% of the focal length of the lens. A 300 tele would need only 180mm of draw (about 6-7 inches). The disadvantages are manageable if your application is field work with only mild corrective movements. Problem 1. Exit pupil factor - if you focus on an object at close range and the image of that object on the ground glass is greater than one tenth of it's actual size, you must increase the exposure to compensate for the extreme magnification. Problem 2. Displacement of nodal point - The primary nodal point (optical center of the lens) lies in front of the front element. This creates a little more difficulty in establishing a Scheimpflug relationship with the front tilt control. It's not impossible to do, just a bit trickier. Problem 3. Coverage - Not plentiful on telephotos. If you can do your tilting and swinging at the rear of the camera, it's no big deal. Severe shifts will often result in vignetting. Problem 4. Weight/size - They are bigger and heavier. My best advise is get a standard long lens if you have the bellows draw to spare. I got a terrific f9 Repro-Claron 305mm for less than $300. Sharpest lens I own!

-- Robert A. Zeichner (razeichner@ameritech.net), August 24, 1999.

John, As implied in several of the previous responses, your choice may be limited by your bellows extension or the weight that you can tolerate. Your choice may also be dictated by the other lenses that you already own. I wouldn't purchase the 300 mm if you already own a 210 mm lens because they are too similar.

If extension and weight are not issues, you may also wish to consider a Schneider 360 f8 APO Artar (single coated), a Schneider 355 f8 Gold Dot Daggor (MC), or a Georz 360 f8(?) Red Dot Artar (MC, I think). These are all very sharp prime lenses with their primary drawback being that they use a Copal #3 shutter, which is a bit heavy. Fuji makes a 360 mm f10 A lens which uses a Copal #1 shutter. It solves the weight problem, but the one that I tried was not as sharp as the Schneider lenses. I don't know how much variation there is among lenses, and so it is possible that I had a somewhat worse than average specimen. By the way, Fuji also makes a 400 mm telephoto.

One consideration not mentioned earlier regarding the Nikon 360T is that it's sharpness drops off markedly when you get close to your subject. I used to have one, and did not feel that I obtained acceptably sharp images when the image was more than about 1/10 lifesize.

One last issue: the weight of the 360 mm primary lenses and their required bellows extension carry another penalty - camera shake. When your bellows is extended and you have a heavy lens on the front standard, it takes very little wind to shake the camera. Even passing vehicles can shake the camera. So you need a good tripod head and tripod to at least minimize that problem.

Sorry that there isn't an easy choice.


-- Bruce M. Herman (bherman@gci.net), August 25, 1999.

If your reason for considering a telephoto is limited bellows extension, and if cost of the Nikon T is a concern, you might consider the Fuji 400 telephoto. I bought mine through The F Stops Here for about $1,100 as I recall (more than the 300 mm Nikon M but less than the 360 Nikon T). It worked very well on my Tachihara with a 13" draw. As a bonus, you get an extra 40 mm compared to the Nikon T. With landscape work I found no significant differences between using this telephoto lens and using a "normal" lens.

-- Brian Ellis (beellis@gte.net), August 28, 1999.

I have a Nikkor-M 450/9 that I use on my Sinar F. This thing is huge, heavy, and fabulously sharp. It is substantially larger than the 300/9, which I also own. I have to install an intermediate standard on the Sinar with a second bellows to get sufficient draw with this lens. My mistake, as this lens is great in the studio, but a bummer in the field. So much so, I am going to part with it.

-- Bruce Gavin (doc@compudox.com), August 31, 1999.

I recently bought an old Apo-Ronar f9/360. I am amazed with the sharpness it delivers, despite being designed for repro work at first. Of course it requires a 40 cm extension bellow.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@vtx.ch), September 01, 1999.

I agree with much of what has been said in the previous commentary. There are a couple of additional disadvantages to teles that may affect your choice. Tele lenses tend to vignette especially at wide apertures. Even at working apertures there can be significant light fall off when you start to swing and tilt. A polarizer may exacerbate the fall off under certain conditions.

Another potential problem is the practical use of a compendium hood. Teles really need to be hooded since they are predisposed to flare, but because of the long front cell using a compendium hood is a difficult preposition. I have both the Fuji 400T and the Nikon 360 T and the fuji is the more difficult to use with the compendium hood. Unfortunately it is the tele that needs it most. Worse yet, when you do use the hood it increases the weight of an already heavy lens hanging out there on the end of your rails.

If you have the bellows draw stick with the Nikon 300 M. If you dont have the bellows draw then it is a choice of teles Vs extension boards.

-- Pat Raymore (patrick.f.raymore@kp.org), September 05, 1999.

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