Rodenstock Sironar S 210 vs.Schneider Apo-Symmar 210 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

At the risk of resurrecting a well-trodden debate, I would like to open the floor to anybody who has used both the Rodenstock Sironar S AND the Schneider Apo-Symmar IN THE SPECIFIC FOCAL LENTH OF 210MM,and ask: which of these two lenses in this particular focal lenth--if disernable--has superior resolution and sharpness? I am making 20x b/w enlargements, so it's not an insignificant question.

I have been told that the Sironar S is, across the board, a superlative lens line, but have also read that Schneider's Apo-Symmar in 210mm has been singled out as unusually fine, even in an already excellent lens family, to the point of attaining minor cult status in certain circles (in the same way I have read about Rodenstock's Sironar S being so characterized in the focal length of 150mm). MTF data would be welcome, and--possibly--one approach... Can anybody help me?

-- NIck Rowan (, December 11, 2000


The sensible answer would be that since both are at a pinnacle of design and technological achievement any significant differences would be due to normal manufacturing variables that both are subject to. That is unless someone out there believes that either Schneider or Rodenstock is privy to some special "Fairy Dust" that the other cannot obtain. In other words sample to sample differences within either lens line are probably greater than the design differences between them.

-- Wayne DeWitt (, December 11, 2000.

I continue to be astounded by the superlative quality of B&W prints made from negs shot with my Rodenstock Sironar S 210 mm (as well as the 135 mm). The proof is in the final print, not the MTF curves. I think that both Rodenstock as well as Schneider make superlative 210 mm lenses, and you would probably not see any difference in the final prints made from negs shot with both lenses.

There are so many other variables in play between the taking of the picture and the making of the final print that any subtle differences in the MTF curves between these two excellent optics becomes truly meaningless. Stop losing sleep over this decision and start exposing film, and lots of it. Enjoy!

-- Mark Nowaczynski (, December 11, 2000.

I'd stop worrying about the taking lens, and start worrying about eliminating all camera vibrations and about the darkroom side if I were you. Making 20 times prints from LF is no small feat.
Besides which, depth of field is geared to final print size, and this means you'll need to use a small taking aperture, where almost any lens will be diffraction limited anyway.

All the mural sized prints that I've seen, from whatever format, look soft close up, but it doesn't bother the average viewer; they simply step back until they get the impact of the whole image.

-- Pete Andrews (, December 12, 2000.

Well, since you asked, I looked at the MTF curves (theoretical) for both lenses at f/22 and a 1:10 reproduction ratio. They are nearly identical. The Rodenstock has slightly higher on axis values (65% vs 60% at 20 lp/mm) but this could be due to the coarser graphs on Schneider's web site. I would go with Wayne and Pete... sample variation is going to be larger than the theoretical differences in the lenses... and other factors like vibration are going to matter more in the final image. If you have other lenses in either series, I would stay with one series for color consistency... or buy which ever you can get cheaper and easier.

-- Glenn Kroeger (, December 12, 2000.

A while ago I was contemplating trading my 210 Apo-Symmar for a 210 Nikkor or Fuji in order to bring uniformity to my lenses filter size (most of them 67mm). Both Chris Perez and Kerry Thalmann insisted that I keep the Apo-Symmar. I don't think they got the Sironar S in 210 to test, though.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, December 12, 2000.

To add a little bit to what Pete said (and didn't say). Once you get past 16x20 whatever size you print to has to take into account the space in which it will be hung. Even a 16x20 cannot be viewed properly from less than 5' away - extrapolate that out to a 20x print and you can see the distance requirements that I'm alluding to. Apparent sharpness will be the same regardless as to print size (excluding technical problems for the moment) if the print is viewed from the proper distance. I once went to an exhibit of Ansel Adams's prints which were at least 6' in the longer dimension - they looked horrible. They were hung in a space which was too small and the viewer was forced to be too close to them, you had to actively scan them in order to see the entire frame (THEY WEREN'T EVEN CLOSE TO BEING SHARP). Another point is that you will need to use a larger aperture than you can get away with with smaller prints (due to the inevitability of people being too close to the prints). While you can get away with f/32 or f/45 for a 16x20 you will find that diffraction is so severe that detail in larger print sizes will suffer (aerial resolution plummets after f/16). Also you might want to look into using a vacuum back for the camera (film being out of the plane of focus is a killer of sharpness). Don't forget a good lens hood, sturdy tripod and head, high resolution film (Tech Pan), good weather and a willing and cooperative subject (preferably 2-dimensional). Have fun.

-- Wayne DeWitt (, December 13, 2000.

Mark's statement the the proof of quality of a lens is on the prints bears some analysis. If the prints are good, yes the lens is good. If the prints are bad there could be a good many reasons other than a bad lens. If you take a fairly complete set of data from a reputable manufacturer which would include MTF, lateral colour aberration, distortion and light fall off, multicoating, etc. and assuming the the lens is new and was not dropped or subjected to damaging conditions or that exceptional anomalies apply, which can occur, you would, I propose, have a far more accurate description of the lens's performance than can be otherwise obtained by the photographer. Let's face it, on the photographer's side the evaluation techniques are rudimentary and primitive in comparison with the latest scientific instruments used by the best manufacturers. I'd personally be more leery of the worn to a rag marketing superlatives which some manufacturers feed customers, (and which some customers have an insatiable apetite for) to the exclusion of technical data, or more leery of a badly calibrated ground glass, or film curl, or uncertain focusing and camera alignements, than with the technical data provided by the best manufacturers. Furthermore, if even with the latest scientific instruments are incapable of properly evaluating a lens, the great lenses today available would not be have been possible in the first place. As to Nick's original question, I'd suggest he study and evaluate the available data carefully. (Schneider's site provides a fairly good white paper on MTF) There may be differences between the two lenses you mentioned, but then, the question is whether those differences will make a difference significant enough to tip the choice. The picture indeed remains the best criteria by which our photography can be judged, but not, I think, the best criteria for evaluating our equipment. Of course, if we are talking about second hand equipment, we have no other option.

-- Julio Fernandez (, December 14, 2000.

I have actually owned both lenses, a 210 Apo-Symmar and a 210 Apo- Sironar-S. I currently use the Apo-Sironar-S. I routinely enlarge to 16x20 and have numerous 16x20 prints from both lenses. I would regard the lenses as being equally sharp and contrasty (and both are very sharp indeed). The Apo-Sironar-S does have considerably larger coverage, which I have found advantageous on occasion. I would regard the 210 Apo-Sironar-S as the finest lens I have ever owned, but the 210 Apo-Symmar is very close.

-- Dick Deimel (, December 20, 2000.

Rodenstock's response to statements about how MTF is done.

"calcuted. The reality is when you measure MTF curves on the MTF machine with a lens it could have a tolerance of -10 % at the most. In other words there is a difference when you measure the MTF together with the lens."

In other words:

Rodenstock's MTF curves are computed from a production lens and the MTF can vary up to -10% on any specific lens purchased at retail.

-- Bob Salomon (, February 07, 2001.

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