Rodenstock or Schneider Considerations : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I recently purchase a Graflex Super Graphic so that I can continue my passion for black & white solely landscape photography. I am considering picking a few lenses to complete my starter package. Compared to 35mm and medium format there are relatively few objective non mtf or other chart evaluations of large format lenses available on the Internet. Most of the responses to question like this tend to get responses that say look at the charts or comment that any of the big 4 lense companies give good results or the question get responses on lenses that were not asked to be evaluated. There also tends to be responses that say that the lense worked great for them without a critical comparison to other lenses which indicates that their experience is limited to that specific lense in a vacumn. It would really be helpful to have real world objective responses related to the lense pairs below. For those of you that have a history with the lenses from both companies at a certain focal length, I would like to get your critical observations on the picture quality. If you have used both lenses in the combinations below, please, please give me your objective input. As an aside, if you really think that other lenses critically outperform those listed below, please respond. I am specifically looking for responses on:

Rodenstock Grandagon 90mm F6.8 vs Schneider Super Angulon 90mm F8 Rodenstock Sironar-n/s 150mm f5.6 vs Schneider APO-Symmar 150 f5.6 Rodenstock Sironar-n/s 210mm vs Schneider AP0-Symmar 210mm

-- Roger Haynes (, August 21, 2000

Answers Frankly, IMHO all the currently produced lenses by the big four are so good that one can pick them on the basis of their advertised specifications: weight, size, coverage, price. It doesn't take the latest, greatest, most expensive lens to make a great picture. "Moonrise" was made with the single element of a Turner-Reich triple convertible. Pepper #30 with a Rapid Rectilinear. A vacuum back would probably be far more important in obtaining the sharpest possible negative, than choosing between lenses. There are differences, of course, but these are better described by critical observations from actual users than test results, Bokeh for example. Sorry to rattle-on -- I'm personally partial to Dagors and Tessars.

-- Bill Mitchell (, August 21, 2000.

Roger, I wish you luck. Even if you CAN find someone who has used any pair of lenses you ask about, the chances are extremely slim that they ran scientific tests (i.e., simultaneous testing--they didn't sell one first, then buy the other--under identical lighting, with calibrated film flatness, using serious test targets, etc.). Furthermore, even if they DID find one brand superior to the other, it only proves that that one example was superior to the one example of the other brand. (I asked about sample variances among lenses within a given lens line in a thread last January called "Sample variances among LF lenses of same model", which can be found under "Lenses, brand independent" in the "Older Messages" archive on this site.) In other words, unless someone--you?--has tested, scientifically and carefully, the two actual lenses (i.e., not the same model, the actual lenses) that you are considering buying in each focal length, any "comparable comparisons" are worthless. Not that LF lens tests wouldn't be helpful as a baseline; they probably would be some guide, especially if, say, three examples of each brand/lens/focal length could be tested. Barring that, though (and it's highly unlikely, in light of the small LF market), I agree with Bill Mitchell; other factors are probably more determinative of the quality you

-- Simon (, August 21, 2000.

I guess I shouldn't have said "comparable comparisons would be worthless"--not when in the next sentence I said that real tests might have at least some value. But I was responding to your implied frustration over worthless comments like "my lens is as sharp as a tack" and "I had a similar lens, which I liked, but I never tried anything comparable." I shared this frustration over such vagueness, until I realized that compared to 35mm, most LF gear (and testing procedures for same) is simply a few decades behind--which is just part of the bargain. . . .

Some real LF buffs would say that trying to "objectively test" LF lenses would be like "objectively testing" concert violins, and in fact in that thread last January one or two contributors say they compare several examples of a given model before buying . . . just like concert musicians do!

-- Simon (, August 21, 2000.

I have a brand new Apo Sironar-S 210 running on my Crown Graphic, and am amazed at the results. My working apertures are f16 ~ f32, and the results are razor sharp. The side mounted Kalart RF won't quite calibrate with this length lens, but this won't be a problem with a Super Graphic. There are a couple RF cams available that nearly match the 210mm lens. Contact Fred Lustig in Reno about obtaining one.

The Sironar-S is about the biggest lens I would want to mount on a Graphic. My only complaint is the 72mm filter thread, when nearly all my other LF lenses are 67mm (including the Nikkor 210 lens). If this is the price I pay for superb optical performance, so be it.

I also run my Nikkor-SW 75mm on this camera with the bed in dropped position. Works great, RF is not coupled, just using ground glass.

A 210mm tessar will still be critically sharp across the entire negative if no movements are used. The optical falloff at 60% of IC begins beyond the diagonal of the 4x5 film.

-- Bruce Gavin (, August 22, 2000.

Your statement that there are few MTF tests on LF lenses on the Internet is true as far as Rodenstock is concerned, however, they do publish ample performance specs that are available from them or their distributors. Schneider lenses are also backed up by ample performance specifications available at their web site I would suggest you study that data first as it will be far more objective, technically sound and meaningful.

-- Julio Fernandez (, August 22, 2000.

Hi Roger,

If evaluating lenses is your cup of tea, by all means visit Chris Perez's web site Chris was pretty much like the rest of us, tierd of all the hype and nonsense. So he set out to sort out the hype from the nonsense and he accomplished it with flying colors!! He'll even break down cost/resolution(cost of one line per mm of resolution).

I'll give you an example, the Schneider 110 XL measured in at 80 l/mm and he approximates the cost at 2300 new or 28.75 / line/mm. The Rodenstock 150 mm APO Sironar S on the other hand is approx 750 new, and measures 85 l/mm, bringing the cost of lines/mm to 8.80.

Aside from the fact that the focal lengths are different, Chris's numbers would indicate that the Rodenstock is 1/3 the price of the Schneider but yields an extra 5 l/mm, I'll let you be the judge.

I'll give you an idea of what your up against. I've been shooting with my Toyo 4x5 for about a year now. During that year, my results were for the most part mixed. So I bought a Rodenstock depth of field calculator so I could better judge where I should be focusing and what aperature to use. Rodestock claims I should place my focus point at half the extension, your basically splitting the difference between your near and far focused points, so I did as I was told. The results were for the most part rather soft, I didn't get involved in large format photography to get softly focused images. So I tried a third of the way in, I've read this in dozens of publications and articles, the results were even worse!!

Frustrated, I grabbed my camera and headed for a football field. I set three objects on the field. One at ten feet, the second at 50ft, and the third was an object approximately 200ft away. My Rodenstock calculator gave me an f stop of 22, so I set it for 32 so there would be no question in my mind that I was running out of depth of field. When I focused at ten feet, the object at 50ft was soft and the object and 200ft was out of focus. Focusing at 50ft yielded very little change at ten but greatly improved the objects at 50 and 200. Focusing at 2/3 of the way in yielded very little change to the object at 10ft but the objects at 50 and 200 dialed in really nice.

On a recent trip to Utah most of my images were of objects as close as 20ft and the furthest at infinity. All of the shots I took were focused at infinity or the furthest point I could possibly see on the the ground glass. They are to date, the best pictures I've taken Where is all this going? Had I gone to the football field much earlier, I would have avoided the crappy pictures I took over the course of a year. Before you consider laying out an outrageous amount of money for hype stop by Chris Perez's site, then visit Harold Merklingers site at for really inovatitive techniques on focusing. Harold site alone will yield results that will far surpass any differences you'll ever see on film between lenses. If I've saved you half the hassles I've been through, then this letter will have not been in vain. Good luck to you, and remember to do your own testing. There are camera rental places that will rent you Rodenstock and Schneider lenses if your still in doubt, and by all means test them for yourself.


-- Albert Martinez (, August 22, 2000.

Simple would the world be if lenses could be appraised solely by their l/mm. Lenses can be very sharp, yet have poor dynamic range or tonality due to low contrast; this will not show in l/mm measurements. Light fall off, distortion, do not show either in l/mm. If all about a lens comes down to l/mm please let lens manufacturers like Zeiss, Rodenstock and Schneider know. They are simply wasting lots of money and time on sophisticated equipment and do not know what they are doing.

-- Julio Fernandez (, August 23, 2000.

" If all about a lens comes down to l/mm please let lens manufacturers like Zeiss, Rodenstock and Schneider know. They are simply wasting lots of money and time on sophisticated equipment and do not know what they are doing. "

And you could make better lenses? Or do it better?

-- Bob Salomon (, August 23, 2000.


I think you misread Julio's point.

He is saying there is more to designing a lens than just l/mm. The manufacturer's do consider many other lens parametera and so should the customer.

-- Marc Bergman (, August 23, 2000.

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