Nikon SW 90 F8 - why not? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Given that the Nikon SW 90 F8 offers 15-20 mm more coverage than the competing 90 F8 offerings from Schneider and Rodenstock, with quite similiar pricing and weights why would the Nikon not be a better choice? Previous threads reveal that Nikon is a little "warmer", and the Rodenstock more "contrasty". Is there any downside to this apparent free gain in coverage?

-- Michael Mahoney (, April 20, 2001


i have used the nikon sw90/8 for several years for HABS/HAER work. it is an excellent lens. the schneider and rodenstock are also excellent lenses. you cannot go wrong with any of them. at this level of optical science, "warmer" and "contrasty" are probably a little more subjective than objective.

-- jnorman (, April 20, 2001.


To be accurate, the Rodenstock (and it's identical twin - the Caltar) has a max. aperture of 6.8, not f8 like the Nikkor, Fuji and Schneider.

The Nikkor is smaller, lighter and has more coverage than any of the other slow 90s. It is also an absolutely wonderful performer. The only drawback is focusing in low light at f8, but that's a given with any slow 90. The Rodenstock/Caltar is 1/2 stop faster, but it is heavier and has less coverage. For field photography, given the lighter weight and larger coverage, for me the f8 Nikkor SW is a "no brainer" in this focal length.

For more of my opinions on this lens, see my Future Classics page at:


-- Kerry Thalmann (, April 20, 2001.

There are probably enough people who want all their lenses to be from the same brand or country, so they will choose one of the other slow 90's. Also, Nikon doesn't bother to advertise their lenses, especially here in Europe,where everyone seems to buy Schneider or Rodenstock. I asked and got a Nikon LF lens brochure from the Belgian importer, but that's all the advertising I've ever seen over here. It's a good start to have an excellent product,but if people don't know about it, it isn't going to sell much.

-- Stefan Geysen (, April 21, 2001.

Bear in mind that you only have the manufacturers claim for the size of the image circle. Is the point at which the quality of the image drops off arrived at using a calculation common to all manufactures, as far as I know this in not the case. In my experience Schneider for example have a tendency to be conservative in their published lens specification. The capabilities of my 90XL never cease to amaze me. The best indication as to the real capabilities of a lens is usually the cost.

-- Matt Sampson (, April 21, 2001.

Matt wrote:

"The best indication as to the real capabilities of a lens is usually the cost."

While that may be the case with relative prices within a particular brand for a specific location (i.e. the 90mm f8 Schneider Super Angulon vs. the 90mm f5.6 Schneider Super Angulon XL at B&H in New York, NY USA), when comparing brands, you have to take into consideration exchange rates and distributor mark-ups. In such cases, your generalization does not hold.

For example, the 90mm f8 Nikkor SW sells for $839.95 at B&H and the 90mm f8 Super Angulon is $949.95. If price alone were the measure of quality, this would indicate that the Super Angulon is superior. However, if you check prices at Robert White in Great Britain, the 90mm f8 Nikkor SW is 494 UK Pounds (~$713) and the 90mm f8 Super Angulon is 445 UK Pounds (~$642). So, now the relative prices are swapped, but the relative performance remains the same. The big difference here is the mark-ups charged by the distributors. Schneider USA takes a hefty mark-up on the 90mm Super Angulon sold by B&H.

Another example is the 90mm f6.8 Rodenstock Grandagon-N/Calumet Caltar-IIN twins. These are the exact same lenses made by in the exact same factory. There is NO difference in quality. The difference is in who distributes the lens and services the warranty. The price for the Caltar version is $789.95 and the Rodenstock (at Calumet) is $877.95 (just so you don't think Calumet is charging more for the Grandagon to sell more Caltars, the Grandagon is $919 at B&H). So, identical performance, but different prices.

In general, more money buys you a faster lens and/or more coverage. I don't dispute that the 90mm f5.6 Super Angulon XL is a "better" lens than the 90mm f8 Super Angulon. However, the original poster was asking specifically about "slow" 90s from the various manufacturers. In this case, price (both relative and absolute) is more dependent on where you buy it, than the relative quality of the different brands.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, April 21, 2001.

Kerry - thank you for your responses and direction to your website - very informative. As to pricing, I'll agree it varies considerably, depending where and when you purchase, not only on lenses, but all other items as well. I'm taking your (and others) advice on the Nikon being at least equal to the other manufacturers offerings.

-- Michael Mahoney (, April 21, 2001.

I just came across some Nikon lens data on the 90 F8, and according to Nikon, the image circle at F8 is a rather small 154mm, barely covering 4X5 wide open, where the Schneider offers 187 at F8. May present problems at focussing apertures? OTOH, Nikon offers a larger circle at F22 - 235 vs. 216. E-mail me for the Nikon data link if interested.

-- Mike Mahoney (, April 22, 2001.

Hi Micheal

I don`t believe thad the Rodenstock is more contrasty then the Nikon it is just the other way! And thies is not only my opinion, but it is anyway subjective! But I just used 2 days ago my Nikon 75mm f4.5 and later the Schneider Superangulon 90mm f8 in not really low light conditions in a concerthall with full light on but I had really troubles to focus the Schneider f8 on the groundglass. It worked good with the lupe, but I prever to do the composition without a lupe but it was`nt easy at all, because I did see allmost nothing! And they have about 600 lux on the stage! So my conclusion is my next 90mm will be at least f6.8 but much more f4.5 so have a look on that! If you only work in daylight just take the f8! Good light!

-- Armin Seeholzer (, April 23, 2001.

Mike Mahoney's response re image circles tallies with the data on my website (lifted from a Nikon brochure). See the page at

As a Nikkor SW90/8 owner and user, I can confirm that the image circle is more than adequate for focussing purposes when wide open. But I've never had occasion to use significant movements with the lens wide open so can't really comment whether coverage is adequate in those circumstances.

Otherwise, it's a GREAT lens.

-- Carey Bird (, April 24, 2001.

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