Help choosing older/cheaper 210 lens : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm trying to complete my 4x5 setup before heading to Canada next month. I've decided to get a 90/8 Super Angulon, and something around a 210. I typically shoot landscapes and architecture. I've been shooting with the community college's 135 and like it, but several times wanted something longer or wider. Although I like shooting landscapes, I'm probably not going to have the time to take extended backpacking trips with this, so weight isn't as big of an issue.

My choices are

203/7.7 Ektar 210/6.8 Caltar/Geronar (multicoated) 210/5.6 Sironar N (multicoated) 210/5.6 Symmar-S (multicoated)

The Ektar and Geronar are the cheapest, and that appeals to my grad student budget, but I also intend to use these lenses a long time without upgrading, so I'm willing to shell out a few extra bucks up front for something that will prove worth it over the next several years.

Does anyone have any compelling, evidence-based reasons for selecting one over another?

Thanks for your time.


-- Dave Willis (, July 20, 2001


I don't have any compelling, evidence based reasons for one or the other but have owned both the 203 7.7 and a 210 6.8 Caltar (I'm not sure why you have it labelled Geronar). I don't have my info at hand as I'm overseas, but the Caltar is identical to the equivalent lens from Rodenstock and Schneider - depending on when the Caltar was manufactured. Its the same lens with a different labelling.

I sold the 203 and kept the 210. I own a number of LF lenses but use the 210 on nearly all of my landscape shots. I have also used it for some portraits with ease, as well as still life with lights. I did not find the 203 all that impressive (which I admit may have been due to ME and not the lens. I found myself never using it or needing it.

If I dropped or smashed my Caltar 210 6.8 today, I'd look for the same lens to replace it. I'm not sure I feel that way about any other lens, either MF or LF, I've owned except my Protar. I've had the Caltar a year or two and haven't given a single thought to replacing it.

Cheers, Richard

-- Richard Rankin (, July 20, 2001.

I have both an f7.7 Ektar and a Schneider Symmar-S. I haven't done any extensive comparison, but I will tell you I find the f7.7 quite sharp and very convenient in that I can leave it mounted on my Wisner and fold it up for easy transport. That lens is a real sleeper. It has near apochromatic performance and lots of coverage for 4x5. Just make certain the shutter is in good shape and maybe even have tested so you can be assured of the actual speed. None of them are dead on, but if they're consistant and you know the speed, you'll be in good shape. Series 6 filters are a good deal cheaper as well and plentiful at used camera shows. You'll need a 33mm slip on series 6 adapter, also available at those shows. Good luck.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (, July 20, 2001.


Another sleeper lens you might consider is a 210 f6.3 Commercial Komura. I bought it when my budget was significantly more restricted and I still have it while I've replaced most of my other lenses. It is an excellent BW lens, probably needs a polarizer for color. I see them occasionally for around $300.

-- Kevin Kemner (, July 20, 2001.

The Ektar is an excellent lens, and performs very well. The Geronar is a budget 3 element lens, but will work well also. The two newer lenses should also perform very well, and probably have more coverage than the Ektar or Geronar, as well as having a newer (and possibly more reliable) shutter. If you can afford the Sironar or Symmar, I would recommend one of them. If you are on a strick budget, I would recommend the Ektar.

-- Ron Shaw (, July 20, 2001.

Any of the lenses you mentioned would be ok, but I'd recommend the later lenses partly because they're in newer shutters.

The Caltar/Geronar is a Tessar type and has less coverage than the Sironar or Symmar but otoh it's quite a bit smaller and less expensive.

BTW, before you buy that Super Angulon, the 90 f8 Nikkor has somewhat more coverage, pretty close to the 90 f5.6 and f4.5 lenses. Unless the Super Angulon you're looking at is a really good deal I'd suggest seriously considering the Nikkor even if it's a bit more expensive.

Of the tradeoffs, I'd prefer a 90 with more coverage and a 210 Caltar/Geronar to the f8 Super Angulon and one of the more expensive 210s.

-- John Hicks (, July 20, 2001.

Hi Dave

I would take the Sironar N or the Symmar S. Its a buy for your livetime!

Good luck

-- Armin Seeholzer (, July 20, 2001.

I'll put my 2 cents in with everyone else. Any one of these are going to be a good performer. The Symar-S or the Sironar are excellent performers. I have heard others say that the 210mms are the sharpest in both lines. {I know someone is going to disagree even though I said heard} I would personally want a more modern lens {less than 20- 30 years old} less worry of seperation or fungus and the shutters usually do not need to be repaired. My personal favorite was an uncoated Symar-S. This may sound stupid but your choice should be based on which you perfer. If you buy something because someone else says it is great: A. if you do not like working with it you will never be happy and will probably convince yourself that it is a bad performer, and second alot of people get wraped up in numbers,spec sheets, lpm, apo, abs, and whatever unless you are doing an extreem enlargement or using a 20x lupe to view yourtransparencies it's going to be hard to tell the difference. However for best results go with a modern lens, forget about the debate and shoot.

-- john (, July 20, 2001.

Just a word on lens utility overall: My first lens was a 210 Symmar S. I used it exclusively for several years and it is a great lens and a good focal length for general use. My second lens was a 120 Super Angulon. I've found this is the most useful lens I own now (and by now I have a few others, as well). I like the broader perspective and it forces you to get closer. For my two cents today, I'd buy a 120 and use it exclusively if I was starting out.

-- J. Wolfe (, July 20, 2001.

i've been shooting for 10 years with a Nikkor W 210 that i bought used for $400. totally awesome lens-- highly recommended.


-- chris jordan (, July 20, 2001.

I still have the first large format lens that came with my used Cambo outfit I started with. As luck would have it, it is a Calter S II Multicoated f5.6 210mm. I was at the mercy of some guy in a camera show and that was what I got. I found out later that lens resolves in the 70 line pair world. It saddens me to see them go for just over $300 on E-Bay. I've had a bunch of others come and go in the meantime, but that one is a benchmark. I have a Nikkor W210 f5.6 out at work that I think is probably just as sharp. Schneider made the Caltar S II series for Calumet in the mid 80's when the multicoating technology got really good. Another sleeper is the G-Claron 210 f9. It'll cover 8X10 handily in spite of what the Schneider official stats say. I used a 6.1 Xenar (there was a Caltar version of this too) for a while and it was nice and small, but typical of Tessar's, has sharpness falloff out in the edges. Best of luck. I love 210 in 4X5. You can tie the bellows in a knot and almost never find the edge. Jim

-- Jim Galli (, July 21, 2001.

I agree with the G-claron 210mm post above. I owned a Sironar S 210mm, and I liked it. But for me, the G-claron I currently own (I sold the Sironar S) does just as good a job, is light, cheap ($400 from Robert White), is great for macro, and even works on 8x10 (which the Sironar N 210mm can't).

-- William Marderness (, July 21, 2001.

With your 90mm SA you may want to budget for a center filter. See archives for light falloff issues on this and other WA lenses.

-- Michael Mahoney (, July 22, 2001.

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