Comparison of Copal #1 300mm Lenses

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I am trying to decide on a 300mm lens that will primarily be used for 4x5 portrait work (strobes and existing light) with some occasional backpacking and landscapes. I have decided to forgo potentially better coverage for 8x10 as that is not something in my immediate plans and I do not want the extra weight and size of the Copal #3 lenses.

My choices are:

Rodenstock APO-Ronar 300/9 Nikkor M 300/9 Fuji-C 300/8.5 Schneider G-Claron 305/9

I have scoured all of the threads here, Q Tuan Long's excellent site, Kerry's lens tests, Wulff's ratings, and anything else I could find.

I have read a lot of interesting opinions about all of these lenses:

- The APO-Ronar has less coverage according to the specs but in practice its circle of sharpness is similar to the others.

- Lots of people love the Nikkor and the Fuji for sharpness and contrast but no one has any compelling evidence of one over the other.

- Some people feel the G-Claron is not as good at infinity but some (including Schneider literature) say it is just as good as the others at F22+ and it has more coverage.

I know that any of these lenses will do the job well but the one thing I would like to know is if anyone has done some side-by-side testing of these lenses (particularly for portrait work). Has anyone shot some TMAX 100, Provia, or Astia on two or more of these lenses and can say definitively that one has a significant advantage over the others? I am not looking for theory and MTF data real world subjective opinion is more interesting at this point.

Thanks.

-- Peter Shier (pshier@mindspring.com), May 01, 2001

Answers

I, too, am in the same boat as you are. After doing some research, I have decided that the Nikkor M 300/9 is the best fit for *me*. It seems that the Nikkor is a huge favorite with the backpacking crowd. Not too large, but has a fairly decent coverage for 4x5.

$.02

-- Andy Biggs (abiggs@tvmcapital.com), May 01, 2001.


I have shot the 300mm Nikon M and the 450 Fuji C side by side on T- Max 100 film and have found both lenses have considerable sharpness. I would give the slight contrast edge to the Fuji, but that is just my opinion. Based upon individual optimizations of these lenses at each manufacturer, I found myself splitting hairs on this issue. Compactness was a big issue for me. I find Nikon lenses to be the best value on the market today and would have purchased their 450 M if it was in a Copal #1 shutter. The 450 Fuji in the #1 shutter works great for both 5x7 and 8x10 and it is light as a feather with coverage to spare. But when it comes to reaching for the wallet, I would go with the 300 Nikon. Fuji lenses are not nearly as readily available and the price is reflective of that condition. I doubt that you could justify the increased cost on actual improvement in images between the two.

Good Luck

-- Michael Kadillak (m.kadillak@home.com), May 01, 2001.


Thanks for the good info Michael. Did you not find that the Fuji had larger effective coverage?

-- Peter Shier (pshier@mindspring.com), May 01, 2001.

If 8x10 is in your future, get the Fuji for its greater coverage. It is readily available at Badger Graphic, and my sense is that their prices are very competitive---much better than The F Stops Here, for example. (Of course, it's undoubtedly cheaper to do business in rural Wisconsin than in Santa Barbara.)

-- Stewart Ethier (s_ethier@parkcity.net), May 01, 2001.

Hi Peter

What your asking for is to subjectiv! But in my case a have 2 Apo Ronars 300 mm a newest version and an older only single coated one and they are deadly sharp. To be honestly for portraits I almost take one of my MF cameras or my Nikon F5! But if I take my next portaits with LF then I`m using my Symmar 210mm only with the front elements gives my about 370mm at f 5.6 for composition and f 16-22 for shooting and the pictures will not be as sharp as with the Ronars but still sharp enough! So which lens you take is not so important, more important is the good lighting and the right moment for the "click"!

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), May 01, 2001.



Peter:

I have shot the 300M Nikkor and the 300C Fujinon, but unfortunately, not at the same time on the same subject and only on color transparency film. Both lenses were very sharp. In looking at the images, my impression is that the Fuji is slightly contrastier, but not sharper in terms of resolution. The Nikkor images have a certain smoothness of tonality that is wonderful. If I were going to do portraits, and 8x10 were not an issue, I would choose the Nikkor for that slightly lower contrast and wonderful tonality. (BTW, I shoot mostly 6x9 now and use an Apo-Ronar 240 which is razor sharp, but I have not used the 300 Apo-Ronar.)

Glenn

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (gkroeger@trinity.edu), May 01, 2001.


To answer Pete's question about coverage of the 450 Fuji, it is very impressive. I have movements to spare on 8x10 and I bet this lens would cover 11x14. Finding a camera in 5x7 that would allow me the bellows to use the 450 Fuji was was one of the reasons that I decided to go with the metal Canham 5x7. I agree with the previous posting on the Nikon having smooth tonality, but when you want to shoot the outdoors, the small compact shutters from either manufacturer just simply can't be beat. I woud also include Robert White in England for price comparison. He did me proud on a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod and a Arca Swiss B1 ball head.

-- Michael Kadillak (m.kadillak@home.com), May 01, 2001.

I'm a sharpness nut with top-end MF and LF glass. I also have the 300/9 M, my only non-German lens, and it just doesn't compare in sharpness to my 150/5.6 super symmar XL and 210/ 5.6 apo symmar. If the 300/5.6 apo-symmar and apo-sironar S are as sharp as the 210/5.6's, they'll blow the Nikkor away. The penalty, of course, is carrying the huge 300/5.6 not to mention 4x the price. The 90XL isn't as sharp as the 150XL or 210AS, but still easily beats the 300/9 Nikkor. If you look at the chromes taken by the 300/9 (I use velvia for landscapes/architecture), they look sharp by themselves, but compared side-by-side to shots taken w/ the big plasmats and you'll easily see the difference. My sharpest LF lenses rival my MF lenses while the Nikkor can't come close. Bottom line is you get what you pay for. With the 300/5.6's, the MTF's are very high at the center of the image circle, and if you're shooting 4x5, you're using only the sweet spot of the lens. I haven't seen any MTF's for the Nikkor M. Still, I use the Nikkor 300/9 due to its diminutive size. If there were a 300mm lens the size of a 210/5.6 apo-symmar and equally as sharp, I'd buy it, even if it were 3x the money.

-- James Chow (dr_jchow@yahoo.com), May 02, 2001.

I have been using a 305/9 G-Claron for 8 years now shooting T-MAX 100 and the results are superb. Contrast, definition, resolusion, etc. can't be reproached. Before I got that lens I used a 270/9 G-Claron and it too was excellent. I shoot primarily landscapes and occasionally architecture and I am involved in all steps in the process(processing and printing); I print up to 20x24 and even crop so effective print sizes are even larger than that so I can vouch for the quality of the lenses. These lenses are excellent for infinity work through closeup shooting.

-- Jeffrey Scott (jscot@datavoice.net), May 03, 2001.

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