Damaged Super Angulon or new Caltar II-N / what is acceptable lens damage?

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I have acquired a slighly damaged single coated Super Angulon 90mm f/8 in black housing for $360. The lens probably has been dropped causing a small chunk along the edge of the smaller rear element to break off. There are also a few barely noticeble spots along the rim indicating separation between the lenses (or groups). Otherwise it is in great condition: no scratches, no spots. The copal shutter seems to work well.

At this point I have yet to run film through it (camera's in the mail) and of course that tell me better than anything whether the lens is usable or not. But even if my initial tests don't reveal any problems, I wonder whether the risk involved -- either the risk of problems developing later on or the risk of me missing something during my initial testing -- is worth the bargain? Maybe I would be better off coughing up another $250 and instead getting a new 75mm Caltar II-N from Calumet while its on sale? I am not terribly concerned with the resale value of the lens I get, I just want to make sure that my first 4x5 lens does not give me too many headaches.

I guess, a more reasonable question would be: have you ever used lenses with some kind of damage and were happy with results?


-- Dmitrii Zagorodnov (dz@iname.com), August 25, 2001


Dimitry, don't make your life more difficult than it should be, get the Caltar.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (jorgegm@worldnet.att.net), August 25, 2001.

Sounds like it got dropped onto concrete; I wouldn't be surprised if the barrel and/or shutter flange is bent too. And $360 doesn't sound like much of a bargain.

I'd strongly suggest a different lens.

-- John Hicks (jbh@magicnet.net), August 25, 2001.

Do you have to either keep it or return it before you'll have a chance to test it? If so, then I'd agree with others and say that returning it will probably be worth the cost in peace of mind. I am, however, curious about why you would now buy a 75 mm lens. You presumably wanted a 90 mm lens or you wouldn't have bought the one you have. A 75 mm is a lot wider than 90 mm, may require a recessed lens board, may require a center filter, so your additional cost may be a lot more than you're thinking. If you can test it before deciding whether to return it or not then the obvious solution is to test it. Don't worry about losing significant photos while you're testing it, just test with things you don't care about. It shouldn't take many photos to test it, I'd mainly do several in backlit situations where the potential for flare is high. If these come out o.k. then you should be home free. I also agree with whoever said that the price you paid is not an exceptional bargain for a damaged F 8 single coated 90 mm lens so I wouldn't lose any sleep over returning it.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis60@earthlink.net), August 26, 2001.

D, I would definately pass up this lens. It probably is now misaligned . There are better bargains out there for that kind of money. Find something else. And a 75mm isn't something a beginner or even amateur would start out with. Go for a 150 or 210. Tha ey are a more normal lens to work with. The 75mm wouldn't be as wide as you think anyway. Just get something you can use most of the time. James

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), August 26, 2001.

Dmitrii: I would not consider buying a lens with a damaged rear element, especially if the lens has been dropped. Also, the seperation of the elements will not get any better, only worse. A lens can still make good images with minor damage to the front element, but usually not with rear element damage. In my opinion, which isn't worth a whole lot, I would find another lens. You can do better for less money.


-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), August 26, 2001.

Thanks to everyone for replying. The strong consensus among forum participants convinced me that I should return the damaged lens. I can take up to two weeks evaluating it before returning, but that introduces some logistical complications (I'll be out of town part of the time, etc.) that are probably not worth bothering with.

As to why 75mm? Because from my 35mm experience I tend to always want to go wider, because the 75mm Caltar II-N is slightly less expensive than the 90mm, I believe my Tachihara 4x5 will not require a recessed lensboard to use it (not sure about the center filter), and I figured I can always crop away the excess. To be honest, I am not that set on 75 or 90, I just would like to start out with something wide, in the range 75mm-110mm, and looking at the new lenses on the market those Caltars on sale at Calumet seem like a good deal.

I have looked over a few archived threads on this topic of "first (landscape) lens" and a number of people seem to be happy with 150mm as a compromise both in terms of coverage (breadth vs. detail) and in terms of cost. And then others prefer a combo of a wider lens (90 or 110) and a moderate telephoto such as 210. I guess I decided to go the combo route and start with the wide end.

-- Dmitrii Zagorodnov (dz@iname.com), August 26, 2001.


Based on your last post, it appears you are considering either a new Caltar II-N - either 75mm f6.8 or 90 f6.8. Between these two lenese I'd DEFINITELY recommend the 90mm.

Here's why... (keep in mind that I'm not a huge user of wide angle lenses, 75mm has been the widest I generally use, and if I'm carrying 6 lenses, the 75mm will likely be my least used focal length - but when you need wide, you need wide).

With wide angle lenses, in general, the wider the lens the dimmer the image will appear on the ground glass making focusing and composing a chore. Also, the wider the lens, the more likely you'll need a center filter. Those comments are true for any wide angle lens and not specific to any particular brand. WRT the 75mm f6.8 Caltar, I used to own a 75mm f6.8 Rodenstock Grandagon-N (same thing) and did not care for it at all. It is reasonably small, light and inexpensive. However, I found the image difficult to see on the ground glass, coverage was VERY limited and fall-off was a problem. I sold it and bought a 75mm f4.5 Nikkor SW which was much brighter on the ground glass and had more generous coverage. For my needs, I found both lenses needed a center filter.

This is subjective, but I have personally found ANY lens shorter than 90mm on 4x5 (for the way I shoot and my personal sensibilities) requires a center filter. Others will disagree and say they shoot all the time with a 65mm (insert random brand name here) and NEVER need a center filter. Others will claim to need a center filter with a 90mm. The laws of physics don't favor one brand over another - the fall-off of all these modern wide angles will be virtually identical. The differences of opinion stem from the materials being used (higher contrast color transparency film tends to really show the light fall-off more than color negative or black and white materials), the subject, lighting and of course, personal preference.

In any case, a 75mm is a tough lens to use, especially a slow 75mm with limited coverage. It will tax your camera's ability and yours as well, and quite possibly carry the additional expense of a center filter.

So, I recommend the 90mm f6.8 Caltar II-N instead. It has a much larger image circle, will be easier for both you and your camera to handle and won't likely require an expensive center filter.

If you really have your heart set on a 75mm, I'd recommend one of the f4.5 models (I like the Nikkor, but I'm sure the Caltar/Rodenstock is also fine). Look for used (but not damaged) samples at reasonable prices, or spend a little more and buy the 75mm f4.5 Caltar II-N on sale (but there is still the strong possibility you will need to buy an expensive center filter).

Good luck.


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), August 26, 2001.

On the other hand...

When I first got a 4x5 some time back I wanted a wide angle lens & got a 90 for use with the old Calumet I bought. Not wide enough. Then I found out David Muench used a 75 heavily & when I got a Technica I also got a 75. I really liked it and have had one in the years since. After the initial familiarity runs I found I used it often and have enjoyed it. If I had nothing but money to spend I wouldn't get a 75 but would opt for the 72XL for 4x5. I do have a 90 but use that more for 5x7 than 4x5 and a nice 120 for 8x10. If you like wide angle lenses there is no reason to keep from trying what you think you want at the start. Even if you decide to sell it you won't lose much on the deal & if you really like it you are starting with good glass from the beginning and have a good warranty & lens board to go with it.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), August 26, 2001.

A couple of thoughts about using a 75 lens on the little Tachihara...

Although I don't think a recessed lensboard is required, I think it's pretty essential in order to not have the bellows quite so mashed so at least some limited movements are possible. I used to use a Linhof recessed board I obtained somewhere or other.

One thing to be careful of, especially if you're considering one of the f4.5 75 lenses, is the size of the rear element; it may be so big that you just can't get any useful front rise or fall with the Tachihara.

The point of all this is that using a 75 lens on a Tachihara can be a real headache and I sure wouldn't recommend it as a first lens.

-- John Hicks (jbh@magicnet.net), August 27, 2001.

Dmitrii Just as a matter of interest, I tried a 75mm (Nikon) as I ma a wide angle fan. BUT I was very surprised as to how wide this lens was on 5x4 with landscapes - there were huge expanses of "wasted" space. I tried the 110XL - exactly right, it seems wider than I thought it would. I would be inclined to go for a 90mm rather than a 75mm as there is a real big difference between the 2 lenses despite being only 15mm apart!! Regards Paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), August 27, 2001.

Hi Dmitrii.
I wouldn't dismiss that SA as a write-off yet. The spots are probably just due to a bit of loosened edge blacking paint. Element separation usually looks more like a large misty or silver puddle within the glass itself.
Chipped glass should be treated by inking or painting the broken surface black. This helps to prevent reflected and scattered light from lowering the image contrast. A black 'magic marker' felt-tip pen is ideal for the job.
Blacken the chipped area, and then give the lens a fair trial. You might find that it performs perfectly well.
Good luck!

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), August 28, 2001.

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