Schneider or Rodenstock's lens : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have read your article published at forum of greeenspun website. I think that you must be a skillful camerist. It is difficulty for me to choose large format lens. In the field of large format photography, the brand of Schneider and Rodenstock's lens are famous for its high quality. Could you tell me what difference or character between them ,compare with similier structure and same focal length.

-- lj (, April 03, 2001


Although each of the four major brands (Fuji, Nikkor, Rodenstock, and Schneider) has its partisans, most photographers agree that it's difficult to generalize about entire brands. The differences are certainly there, but they're more often between different lenses within one company's lineup ("their 150 is better than their 120"), or between companies for different focal lengths (one company may have the "best" 90mm lens and another company the "best" 150mm), or between individual samples (your 180 Rodenstock may be sharper than my 180 Rodenstock).

I'd venture to guess that--unless they are affiliated with a lens company--very few LF photographers who own more than three lenses have stuck with only one brand, whether it be R or S or F or N. One of the beauties of LF photography compared to smaller formats is that you can mix and match among brands; if for one focal length you like the Nikkor best and for another focal length you like Schneider, you don't have to choose. As soon as you can afford them, you can buy them both.

So which lens to buy? Depends on your needs and your budget. If you backpack and shoot landscapes you may like small, compact, lightweight lenses, which tend to be slower but cheaper, while if you shoot architecture you may want faster lenses that offer large image circles but are often heavier, larger, and cost more. Either way, you won't go wrong buying from any of the "Big Four" lens compan

-- Simon (, April 03, 2001.

I agree with Simon. The differences in your choice of film will be far greater than the differences in modern lenses. Its rare to find a LF lens that isnt 'sharp enough', even with older vintage lenses.

-- Ron Shaw (, April 03, 2001.

I will not reply straight to your question, but this is how I bought my lenses: I considered the peculiar performances of each specific lens in a particular focal length rather than the name of the maker. When I say performances, this includes size, weight, shutter size, price, and overall optical performances. That's how I ended up with lenses from Schneider, Fuji, Nikon and Rodenstock. I think there is not something such as a best brand but there are lenses best suited and this depends on what your applications and needs are.

-- Paul Schilliger (, April 03, 2001.

Hi Lou

It`s not at all possible to tell you what you would prever! But I can tell you some points and also a mail adress were you find more dates from a other photographer to. My expierence is the following: It is more important to buy a newer lens then to buy a older one, wich brand is not a big difference. For example my old Schneider 90mm f 8 from 1950 has no chance against my Nikon 75 mm f 4.5 from 1999 but for landscapes is it ok and I have to stop the Schneider down to f32-45 then it is quite ok for enlargements op to 16x20 inch. I personally prever in the wide section the nikkors for example I only can talk about the 75mm and the 90mm because I can they use without a center filter. For the rest I prever Rodenstock I have the 135mm 150mm Apo Sironar and at 300 mm Apo Ronar. I only have a Schneider Symmar 210 mm from 1970 it is only single coated but it is also a very good lens but has not the quality of the newest computer designed lenses but it is better then the Schneider 90mm. For what you need the lenses actually? Re. character etc. can tell you only thad every photographer thinks different and some say Schneider are more warmer and others say the same from Rodenstock. And I`m quite sure nowbody can tell you if a pictures was shoot with a R , S or N if you show him an enlargment! Hope it helps! See olso the following homepages:

Tell me what you desided and if you are happy with it!

Good light!

-- Armin Seeholzer (, April 03, 2001.

There is certainly variation among lens types from a given manufacturer (e.g., Apo-Symmars are quite different from G-Clarons), but if you compare type for type across vendors - say, Apo-Symmar vs. Apo-Sironar-N or -S - Schneider and Rodenstock lenses do look different. They both have a nice balance of contrast and resolution at the plane of focus, but they render out-of-focus parts of the image in different ways, though the differences are sometimes subtle. Speaking specifically of these modern plasmat types, I happen to prefer the Rodenstock look myself, but I could live with Schneider if I had to. OTOH, the corresponding Nikkors and Fujinons are distinctly different - they tend to have a "harder" look at the plane of focus, and are much more prone to do nasty things to OOF backgrounds. Blech! (IMO, at least - your tastes, of course, may be different.)

-- Oren Grad (, April 05, 2001.

I have always wanted to line up MTF graphs with images to see how the objective translates to the subjective. I am sure anyone to do this would get the largest turn out of largeformat photographers ever at his or her show. The real truth is there is no truth. Each lens is a set of characteristics. Each film and developer is. The happy reality is that almost all large format lenses do something pleasing. Myself, I don't shy away from vintage and bargin lenses but I would recommend you buy at least one focal length in a modern multicoated style. Stick to one film. Get used to the rendering of each lens. This way you can do the previsualization that leads to improved photographs.


-- john d gerndt (, April 07, 2001.

Oren, it's the first time I hear about the differences in OOF zones between manufacturers (is this what some call the "bokeh"?). I know differences can be visible if the the diaphragm are made with fewer ore more blades but that's mainly the case with small format lenses. The LF lenses all use the same shutters so would you explain more on what you have noticed, especially what the "nasty effects" of the japanes lenses are? Thanks.

-- Paul Schilliger (, April 08, 2001.

"I have always wanted to line up MTF graphs with images to see how the objective translates to the subjective." Of course the curves produced would only apply to those particular lenses that were tested. Maybe a random sampling of say 50 lenses of each type & focal length from each and every manufacturer pulled off the production line at random times of the year would give you the information you think is relevant . Perhaps every individual lens should come with it's own charts and test images. How much would you be willing to pay for this feature?

-- Ellis Vener (, April 08, 2001.

Paul -

Yes, the OOF character is referred to by the Japanese term "bokeh". For anyone here who's not familiar, see the set of articles by John Kennerdell, Harold Merklinger and I which appeared in the May/June '97 issue of PHOTO Techniques. The shape of the diaphragm is part of it, but as you point out, that alone can't account for differences between lenses using the same modern Copal shutters. Putting words to this stuff is treacherous, so a big caveat not to take this too literally. For my taste, Nikkors tend to produce backgrounds that are harsh and frizzy. See Harold M's technical analysis of the behavior of the 180 Nikkor-W in his PT article for more insight into what's going on. The Fujinon look is a little harder to explain, but to my eye Fujinons tend to render distant OOF backgrounds with a "mealy" look which I find really obnoxious. Interestingly, the Fujinons do produce a reasonably smooth look when the backgrounds are confined to close range, as in an indoor snapshot. By comparison, my favorites, the Apo-Sironar-N and -S, are pretty smooth under most circumstances and positively exquisite when focused at medium range and stopped down a bit. In addition to being pretty in its own right, well-controlled bokeh sometimes produces an illusion of DOF being greater than it really is, because the coherence of the OOF image preserves overall forms. One point you should be aware of, which Harold M discusses in his article, is that most of the time there's a tradeoff between a smooth look behind the plane of focus and a smooth look in front. The Apo-Sironar-N and -S, for example, don't render OOF stuff quite so nicely in front of the plane of focus. Also, the subjective effect of all this may be somewhat different in color than in B&W, because there's so much else going on in the image. As an example, some of the effects of a Fujinon that I find completely intolerable in B&W I merely dislike in color. Hope this helps...

-- Oren Grad (, April 08, 2001.

Oops, that should have been "by John Kennerdell, Harold Merklinger and me". Apologies to the grammar police...

-- Oren Grad (, April 08, 2001.

Oren, thank you for your interesting comments on the OOF issue. I wish I knew more or could see this in images. I might not be able to access the article in Photo Technique, but will try to make shots between my lenses to see how they compare. Nevertheless, I guess this issue applies primarely to product and portrait photography, landscapes being in general sharp on the whole image.

-- Paul Schilliger (, April 09, 2001.

Paul -

The issue applies very much to landscape photography. Almost everything I shoot is at middle range, which means no matter how far I stop down, the images are almost never anywhere near pan-focus. The character of the OOF image - indeed, just how it slides out of focus as it hits the edge of the conventionally-calculated depth-of- field and beyond - is critical for my purposes.



-- Oren Grad (, April 10, 2001.

Hi Oren

Sounds for me very mystically your comments on the OOF. I`m sure nobody can tell me if a pictures is shoot with a Nikon or Schneider or Rodenstock or Fuji. They guys who tell thad are maybe get sells bonusses from the companies they prever, or a bigger AD for the next number! I`m sure the difference is much bigger throu the different focal lenghs and the f stops thad can be really seen!

-- Armin Seeholzer (, April 10, 2001.

I don't think you can tell the difference between the big four. Maybe there is some slight difference between an older lens. I shoot with vintage Goerz because they were my Grandfather's. But if I have to stop down another stop, that's no big deal for me. Where as the price for me would be the biggest choice in buying a new lens. Any one would probably be a good choice. If you want high quality & want to spend less I'd try looking for a late Goerz w/ multicoating in very good condition. You'll be getting an excellent lens for much less money than a new one. Stephen Jensen

-- Stephen Jensen (, June 01, 2001.

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