300mm lens choice for 8x10

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I'm shooting 4x5 now, but going to 8x10, mostly for landscapes - color transparencies and color neg. I'm looking for an xlnt 300mm lens -and I'm very picky (I'm not going up in format with the huge weight and expense increase, just to get a lens that can 'cover' and produce an xlnt contact print or 2x; otherwise I should stick with 4x5). I tried a Nikkor 300mm M f9 which a lot of people rave about; it's xlnt for 4x5, but my experience with 8x10 is not good enough for me (not very sharp other than the central area of the image - using 8x magifier - I'd do better enlarging a 4x5 image done with that lens perhaps).

I suppose the best lenses are the big 5.6 guys like the Apo Symmar and Sironar S, maybe the Fuji 5.6. I've heard from someone that the Fuji 8.5C is sharper than the Nikkor f9 M accross the full 8x10 image. The question is how the 8.5C compares to the 5.6 lenses. I'm aware that out in the field a heavy 2.5 lb lens is more of a chore than a .6lb lens, but I'm just concerned with image quality in my asking for help here. For landscapes there's not much in the way of excess coverage needed (maybe an inch or so of rise mostly for what I tend to do), but I am looking for truly xlnt image quality across the full 8x10 image. Obviously, if there's just small small difference in sharpness, illumination, color saturation, etc. between the large 5.6 lenses and the 8.5C then there's no point in getting the large lenses. But if that's the case, then why are those large lenses sold at all - just to cover more for product and architectural shots? (Also, I've eliminated the G-clarons from consideration because they are not multicoated (and I don't want to get in bellows lens hoods, etc.) I notice Richard Misrach uses a 300mm f5.6 Fuji (with his Deardorff), and he hardly uses any movements. I wonder why he uses such a large lens. Maybe just because it's brighter to view with? Thanks. Dan

-- Dan Benjamin (photoart88@att.net), July 08, 2001


I don't think the F 5.6 lenses are necessarily the "best" lenses in terms of detail and tonal range. They usually have a larger image circle and that's the main reason they're used. While some people carry them in the field, they're made primarily for studio work I believe. Who knows why Richard Misrach uses one - maybe he occasionally needs the larger image circle or maybe his mother gave it to him and he's reluctant to offend her by using another lens. I use three lenses for 8x10 contact printing, the 300mm Nikon M, a 210 mm G Claron, and an old Wollensak triple convertible. All produce stunning contact prints.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis60@earthlink.net), July 08, 2001.

I salute you Dan! You are rare. You are someone who actually wants to move up to 8x10 for the increase in resolution - the right and only logical reason.

I say this becuase I just don't why so many 8x10 shooters use junk lenses and shoot at f32, f45 and smaller. At those apertures, diffraction as you know limits all resolution. Why not just stick with 4x5? They carry this enormous extra weight for no reason! If they want contact prints, then enlarge the 4x5 by 2x!

Now for the lenses. There are two types. The f9's as you say and the f5.6's. The first lot are "process" lenses. They include the Nikkor M, the G-Clarons and Apo-Ronars. They are optimized for 1:1 use and so really are macro lenses.

The second ones are the Apo-Symmars and Apo-Sironars. These are optimized for infinty or close to infinity. The performace difference between the two is significant. There is no way a process lens will perform like a modern lens optimized for infinity IF shooting at 1:5 and lower magnification ratios.

Now someone will come in and say "no way" and "I love my G-Claron or Apo-Ronar". But they are the ones which probably shoot at f32 or smaller and they are right! At those small apertures it makes no differnce which lens you use! You could use a magnifying glass!

So yes, get the f5.6 ones, but remember shoot at f16 or f22 and no smaller. Be prepared to focus very critically! Get a VERY rigid camera. Realize the lack of any depth of field. And also film flatness comes into effect too! Consider the Sinar Adhesive Film Holders seriously.

Then be prepared to be blown away with the results! Enlarge to 40" x 50" and be stunned!

Good luck.

-- John Bowers (johnb3488@aol.com), July 08, 2001.

"Now for the lenses. There are two types. The f9's as you say and the f5.6's. The first lot are "process" lenses. They include the Nikkor M, the G-Clarons and Apo-Ronars. They are optimized for 1:1 use and so really are macro lenses."

Not true - at least not for the Nikkor M. It is a tessar type (4/3) optimized for infinity. Coverage is tight on 8x10, but I use one on 4x5 and 5x7 and it is great for distant subjects (yes, even at f16 and f22). I also wouldn't dismiss the APO Ronars out of hand just because they are a "process" lens. Look at the MTF curves sometime (or better yet, shoot with one). Of course, in the 300mm focal length, the APO Ronar won't cover 8x10...

WRT to Dan's question about the 300mm f5.6 Fuji. I used to own one of these, and although it's a 300mm f5.6 plasmat in a Copal #3 shutter, it's considerably smaller than the other modern, multicoated 300mm f5.6 lenses. It takes 77mm filters (all the others are in the 86mm - 105mm range) - yet the Fujinon still has a 420mm image circle (plenty for 8x10). Perhaps that's why Misrach preferred it (or perhaps not, best to ask him).


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), July 08, 2001.

Dan, the Fujinon C300/8.5 and also 450/12.5 are extremely sharp lense. You won't be desappointed. Remember that at apertures of f32-f45 or more required for obtaining DOF on 8x10, the sharpness of the lens is considerably blunted anyway. Go for a 5,6 lens if you need more movements than average.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), July 09, 2001.

Sounds like you're moving up to 10x8 for all the wrong reasons to me. I can't believe that many people enlarge to 40"x50" on a regular basis, and then scrutinise the print from 12" away. There's much more to image quality than pure resolution.
Anyhow, Rodenstock's Apo-Gerogon lens is virtually the same as a G-Claron in coverage, but is available multi-coated. (As if it makes any real difference).

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), July 09, 2001.

Dan, you might take a look at Chris Perez' home page for comparative lens tests. Here's the address


good shooting

-- Kevin (kkemner@tatesnyderkimsey.com), July 09, 2001.

I own and use both the Fuji 300C 8.5 and 450C 12.5 lenses, and I can state without reservation that they are among the sharpest lenses I have ever used on my 8x10. At both the center and the edges. I use them for landscape and portraits, usually stopped down to F22-32.

The pair of lenses cost me (new) about what one 360 5.6 plasmat would have cost, also new.

One other factor not really mentioned in previous responses, is the matter of filters. Both the above lenses use 52mm filters. I use B- W filters, which list for 18.75 at B&H for 52mm. One 82mm B+W lists for $61.75 (for standard #22, 40, 60, 61, etc.). The set of four I routinely use costs a litte more than one larger filter and weighs about as much as two of the larger filters.

Unless you need the extreme coverage of the plasmats in a studio environment, save the money and weight and go with the smaller tessars and dialytes.

-- Rick Moore (rickm@gethen.com), July 09, 2001.

Kerry: Sorry, since the Nikkor M's are so similar optically to the G- Clarons and Apo-Ronars I thought that they too were process lenses.

Paul: You say you need to stop down to f32-f45 for 8x10 for a 300mm lens. So why not stop down to f16-f22 on a 150mm lens and shoot 4x5 instead???

-- John Bowers (johnb3488@aol.com), July 09, 2001.

"Paul: You say you need to stop down to f32-f45 for 8x10 for a 300mm lens. So why not stop down to f16-f22 on a 150mm lens and shoot 4x5 instead???"

John, yes, why not? It's what I am doing in any case. Had I read your first thread a bit more carefully, I would not have repeated what you had already said! But as some suggested, there is a lot more about 8x10 than mere sharpness. I am not a convert, but I think someone who likes to drive a big car would not feel good in a small car, even it's speed is the same! ;-) By the way, I had shot a few samples to compare the sharpness of those lenses at f22 and at f32 and f45. Passed f22, the degradation is drastic and at f45, the 8x10 size will hardly compensate for the loss in details. But the richer tonal range remains and it's what makes 8x10 slightly superior. Still there are many subjects who do not require such DOF and can be shot at f22 even on 8x10. There, I'd be blown up!

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), July 09, 2001.


But the 300mm Nikkor is NOT similar optically to the G Claron or the APO Ronar. In fact, all three are very different designs. As I stated earlier the 300mm Nikkor M is a 4 element - 3 group tessar type optimized for distant subjects. The angle of coverage is 57 degrees at f22 (pretty standard for a tessar). It is intended for general purpose photography and not designed specifically for close-up work. It is multicoated.

The G Claron is a 6 element 4 group process plasmat. Schneider rates the coverage at 64 degrees at f22 (but others claim it covers a lot more, up to as much as 80 degrees at small stops). It is single coated.

The APO Ronar is a 4 element 4 group dialyte that is very similar in design and performance to the classic Goerz APO "Red Dot" Artar. Like the Artar, it has a narrow field of coverage (48 degrees at f22). So, it will not cover 8x10 at infinity in the 300mm focal length. It's been around a long time. Older samples are single coated, more recent ones are multicoated.

Perhaps you are confusing the Nikkor M series with the older APO Nikkor. The APO Nikkors were 4 element - 4 group process lenses similar in design to the APO Ronars and Artars. I believe the coverage was also similar. They were single coated and mostly sold in barrel mount. Totally different design, with a different intended application, than the Nikkor M.

Now, that said, a lot of people use these so called "process lenses" for general purpose landscape work and are ver pleased wih the results. Personally, I have a few process lenses that I use for landscape work on 4x5 and they are some of the sharpest lenses I own. For example, I have a 240mm f9 Fujinon A that is a 6 element - 4 group process plasmat similar (but not identical) to the G Claron. The Fuji also happens to be multicoated and one of the sharpest lenses I own - even for distant subjects (compares favorably to my 210 APO Symmar at f16 and beats it at f22 - in terms of resolution at 20:1). Often, what you give up with the slower "process" lenses is not sharpness, but speed and in some cases coverage. What you gain is lower cost, less weight and smaller filter sizes. I'm personally a fan of small, lightweight lenses (as long as they are excellent performers), but then that's based on my own personal needs. Plus, I'm not shooting anything bigger than 5x7 these days - so that is also a consideration when reading my comments. I'm sure Dan (and you and everybody else) has his own set of priorities. I don't find focusing a longer than normal lens difficult at f9, but for wide angles it can be a problem. I also don't need the coverage of a 300mm APO Sironar-S (if I did, that's what I'd use). I do love the APO Sironar-S in the shorter focal lengths, but for MY needs I greatly prefer the 300mm Nikkor M, due to it's small size and weight. YMMV. It might not be the best choice for you, or Dan, but it works for me.


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), July 09, 2001.

Dan: The Wollensak triple convertible Brian Ellis mentions is probably the Series Ia (right Brian?). It's a super lens -- 13", 20", 25". Having said that, you can EASILY tell the difference between the resolution of this lens and that of the best of the best lenses mentioned in the other responses: Enlarge to about 24x30 and stick a 20X loupe in your eye. Otherwise, forget it. -jb

-- Jeff Buckels (jeffbuck@swcp.com), July 09, 2001.

About a year ago I tested several 300mm lenses for 4x5 use. Since I shoot architecture, the quality of the image at the extreme of the image circle mattered to me. I tried the Fujinon 300C, and was very disappointed beyond around 250ish mm of image circle. If I was contact printing, I would probably have felt the results were OK, but not good, great or stunning. Maybe I had a bad sample? If I were shooting 4x5 landscapes, I would have been very happy with the lens as the image quality in the center is great!

-- Larry Huppert (lnh62nospam@hotmail.com), July 09, 2001.

You can try the Voigtlander Collinear. I had one use for many years on my Deardorff 8x10 and it provides a lot of movement. From the information I have the lens will cover 11x14 at F22.

-- Edward Chung (zhonge@netvigator.com), July 11, 2001.

Sorry, I forgot to mention the lens should be a Voigtlander Collinear 310mm F6.3.

-- Edward Chung (zhonge@netvigator.com), July 11, 2001.

Surprised myself a few weeks ago. For whatever reason (forgotten now) I made identical afternoon exposures on Velvia in the desert southwest at high altitude (7500' ghost town of Belmont NV.) within 5 minutes of each other, one with my 305 G-Claron, and one with my 240 Fuji f9a, same setup, same subject, just swapped lenses. The Claron is NOT as sharp, as expected, but in that situation where there is a 3+ stop difference between sunlit areas and shadows, the Claron produced beautifully illuminated shadow detail that was down in Zone 2 with the Fuji, while sunlit areas of the chromes were equal. Sometimes single coating ain't so bad. Even though the 240 is sharper looking through a 40X microscope, either would print nicely at 20X24 from 4X5, so what's the big deal.

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@sierra.net), July 11, 2001.

Kerry, I have been considering the Fuji 240A and was intrigued by your comment that at F22 it beat the 210 Schneider. How does it compare (the Fuji 240) at infinity to your Nikon 300M as far as resolution and contrast ?

-- Don Hall (dhall5662@cs.com), July 11, 2001.


Compared to the 210mm APO Symmar, my 240mm Fujinon A is ever so slightly sharper at f22 (probably not enough to even notice in actual use - I'm referring to shots of a test target). At f16, the APO Symmar is shrper in the corners, but the Fuji is sharper in the center. Again, these differences are very small and unless you're shooting a test chart, probably not noticeable. Also, please note, my experience with these lenses is primariily on 4x5 and a little 5x7. I believe Don is asking about these lenses for 4x5 use (not 8x10, as Dan was in his original question).

Compared to the 300mm Nikkor M - it's a tough call. I REALLY like both lenses. See:





for more info on these two lenses.

I terms of resolution, the Fuji 240 is slightly better, but I think the Nikkor has slightly better contrast (probably due to a simpler design with fewer air:glass interfaces). In both cases the differences are very small and the net sum is that both lenses are outstanding. In real world use, I think you'd be quite pleased with either lens.

The Fuji does have one advantage. It's also an outstanding lens for close-up shooting. And, if you have about 480mm of bellows draw, you can shoot with it at 1:1. Of course, for more distant subjects, the Nikkor has the advantage of longer focal length. Guess that's why I have both, and use them both often. I think if I had to choose one or the other, it would simply come down to how they fit in with my other lenses (in terms of focal length) and not have anything to do with image quality (they are both outstanding).


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), July 13, 2001.

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