Schneider Apo-Tele 400/5.6 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Has anyone had any experience with a Schneider Apo-Tele 400/5.6 Compact Lens with Copal #3 shutter on a 4x5 wooden field camera like the Zone VI or Wisner Traditional that they would like to share? Would appreciate any comments. Thanks in advance.

-- Nick Stanislo (, February 06, 2002


Schneider does not currentlymake a 400 mm lens and to the best of my knowledge enver hs (could be wrong). They do make a 480 Apo symmar and have made a 480 Apo Artar. Are you referring to either of these lenses?

-- Ted Harris (, February 06, 2002.

Nick - I've just recently purchased the 400/5.6 Tele-Xenar Compact - have very limited experience with it. I use it on my Toyo 45AII and stability is no problem. It is a sizable lens, with the Copal #3...seems to be very sharp and contrasty - though I have not done any extensive testing. I've never used one of the wooden field cameras you mentioned, so can't say how it would perform on them. Good luck... Bill

-- Bill Stone (, February 06, 2002.

My apologies, I stand corrected. Only one further general comment, The Wisner Traditional is a sturdy beast, so is the Zoen VI (dpendign on the model) so if it presents no stability problems on a Toyo AII it should be ok on one of those.

A question for Bill though, how much bellows extenstion does the lens require when focused at infinity and at shorter working distances ... say 15 feet? Any lens starts to present problems if the mount is not solid enough when the bellows is fully or nearly fully extended. Thus, it would depend on the applications that nick is going to be using the lens for. if it is all at infinity andl like most telephoto designs, a fairly modest bellows extension is all that is needed then all should be well.

hope this is more helpful than my first response .

-- Ted Harris (, February 06, 2002.

An addendum ..... a tired night here .. you are sacrificing an awful lot in the way of coverage vs. a 360 mm Apo symmar if that is long enough. Taker a look at the specs. I am not an expert on the Wisner or the Zone VI but either one should be abel to handle the 360 mm lenses although probablynot the 480 Apo Symmar.

-- Ted Harris (, February 06, 2002.

Nick and Ted: On 4X5 you do need the very large image circle from a regular Apo Symmar 360mm, in fact it becomes an encumbrance with all that light which can reduce image contrast. Telephotos generally do not match up to the image quality from regular lenses, study the MTF for the Schneider 400 Tele and you can verify that readily. 'Relatively' it is a compact lens, but still a large heavy lens. I would rather have a Rodenstock 360mm Apo Ronar which is a smaller lens of great sharpness and lighter than the 400 Tele. You will not miss the 40mm from the tele. Some of the Zone VI I believe can take that focal length.

-- Julio Fernandez (, February 07, 2002.


Sorry to answer a question with a question, but have you considered the 450mm Fujinon C? It's a LOT smaller and lighter than APO-Tele Xenar Compact (Copal #1, 52mm filters, 270g vs. Copal #3, 82mm filters, 916g). The Fuji is also considerably cheaper ($995 vs. $1275 from one reputable source) and has more coverage (not that either lens will limit you for 4x5 use, but if you ever decide to move up to 8x10, the Fuji will cover with ease, the Tele Xenar will not).

Since you mention two wooden field cameras, I'll assume (perhaps incorrectly) that you seek to use this lens for general landscape photography. Both cameras you mention have enough bellows extension to focus the 450mm Fujinon C at infinity (ftf = 425.3mm ~ 16 3/4") - and a little closer. How much closer depends exactly on which models. Other than the early Wista made Zone VI, most Zone VI cameras have about 18" of bellows extension with the standards in the neutral positions (more by combining front base and axis tilts). I believe the Wisner Traditional has a bit more (20", if I'm not mistaken). For comparison, I've used the 450mm Fujinon C on a Canham DLC with about 20" of bellows extension and found it to be a very usable combination for general purpose landscape photography.

The benefit of a telephoto design is that it requires less bellows extension than a non-telephoto of comparable focal length. To me, the trade-off for a long lens for use with a field camera has always been: light, short bellows camera + heavy telephoto lens vs. heavy triple extension camera + lightweight non-telephoto lens. The combination you are contemplating is, IMHO the worst of both (heavy expensive camera + heavy expensive lens). If you are going to pay the extra money and lug around the extra weight of a long bellows camera (like a Zone VI or Wisner), I don't understand the motivation behind buying an expensive, heavy telephoto lens. In other words, if you have the bellows extension to use a non-telephoto design, why would you want to pay more for a heavier lens in a bigger shutter that takes bigger, more expensive filters and has less coverage and possibly inferior (but still probably quite good) performance?

Although the Wisner and some Zone VI models are resonably sturdy as far as wooden field cameras go, given the choice, I'd rather use a 9 1/2 oz. lens in a Copal #1 shutter with these cameras than subject them (and myself) to the strain of a 2 lb. beast in a Copal #3. It would be totally different if you were considering a short bellows camera with only about 12" of bellows. In that case, your ONLY option in a lens this long would be a telephoto design (but even then, but Nikon and Fuji make lighter 360mm - 400mm telephotos in Copal #1 shutters). To me, the real reason to buy a long bellows field camera is to be able to easily use long focal length lenses of standard, non-telephoto design. Coversely, the only reason to buy a telephoto lens is if your camera doesn't have enough bellows to use a non-telephoto design.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, February 07, 2002.

Kerry said it all .. the only thing I would add is that if you also use 8x10 then the non telephoto lenses give you coverage for that format as well while the telephoto designs do not.

-- Ted Harris (, February 07, 2002.

To answer Ted's question...with my Toyo 45AII, I max out with about 325mm of bellows (from memory, but I think that's about right). That'll let me focus in to about 12 feet or so with the 400 Tele- Xenar Compact - plenty for most of my landscape work. With the lens focused at infinity, it draws 285mm. That does put it out there a ways on my Toyo. I was interested in getting the longest possible lens I could use on the Toyo and, as far as I could tell, the 400 tele is probably it. The size is a bit of a concern - and I probably won't take it backpacking. I've got a much lighter Nikon 300 M that I'll use for my long glass when trying to go light. The 400 Schneider does seem like a fine lens.

regards, Bill

-- Bill Stone (, February 07, 2002.

Kerry is absolutely right, but f12.5 is f12.5. If weight, size and stablity is not a problem then f5.6 is a joy to use, especially in a long lens.

-- Pat Raymore (, February 08, 2002.

While Pat is technically correct - f12.5 is f12.5, I don't seem to have any trouble focusing and composing with my 450mm Fujinon C on 4x5, even in dim pre-dawn light. In fact, I have personally found the longer the focal length, the smaller max. aperture I can tolerate. For instance, I find my 450mm Fujinon C and my 300mm Nikkor M (and for that matter, mt 200mm f8 Nikkor M) MUCH easier to focus and compose than a 90mm f8, or even a 75mm f4.5. Plus, they are a LOT smaller and lighter than the f5.6 lenses in comparable focal lengths. I think that's why these lenses are so popular with field photographers. Just compare the filter size and weight of a 300mm f9 Nikkor M or 300mm Fujinon f8.5 C to a 300mm f5.6 APO Symmar, APO Sironar-N (or -S), Nikkor W or Fujinon CM-W sometime and you'll see what I mean. For me personally, I see no reason to buy a MUCH bigger, heavier, more expensive lens in these focal lengths (for 4x5) when I have absolutely no problem focusing or composing with the smaller, lighter, less expensive long lenses. They do, in general have less coverage than the faster, non-telephoto lenses of comparable focal length, but again, I have not found this to be an issue on 4x5 where the coverage is much more than adaquate.

Now, wide angles are a different matter. Although I still tend to prefer smaller, lighter lenses, this is one area where I definitely notice the compromise of living with a smaller max. aperture.

Just my honest opinion based on my needs. I'm a field photographer who tends to place an obsessive priority on small size and lightweight in all my gear. Please take that obsession into account when considering my response.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, February 10, 2002.

May I restate my case to be more persuasive? Like Kerry I too appreciate small light lenses. As a bonus these lenses are usually pretty sharp. But a lot depends on your predisposition and application. There are many situations where focusing with a slow lens becomes deliberate if not impossible. Such situations exist in the Slot (or slit) canyons of Arizona and Utah that I frequent. Even with (recip. resistant) Tmax exposures in these canyons range from 4 to 30 minutes (f22). (There sections in these canyons that are so dim that even after 15 minutes of struggle it is still impossible to tell if you are in focus or out of focus. In fact if you are truly in focus it is sheer luck). There comes a point where the difficulty and speed of process (example focusing) becomes more important than the size and weight of a lens. It is a trade off.

The Irony is that dim lighting conditions are not the only ones that make slow lenses difficult to use. Low contrast subjects are a nuisance. In this respect sand dunes are particular culprits. The whiter the sands and the slower the lens the more difficult it becomes. You would think that those fresnel screens help, but the don't.

Ditto for close-up work where an F5.6 lens (instead of a f9) can cut in half a 20-minute session. Just think, by the time you get to 1:1 you have lost two stops of light!

The progressive dimming of the ground glass image with shorter focal lengths that Kerry speaks of has more to do with the image's angle of incidence on the ground glass/fresnel than that of the len's aperture. Most GG/fresnel combinations are made to give their brightest image with intermediate or long focus lens. If they are optimized for shorter focal lengths (as Maxwell's screens can be) then the GG/fresnel image becomes remarkably bright. (All this has to do with the fact that a fresnel acts like a lens and to get the best performance they need to be tailored to the particular focal length range.)

To the question at hand, I can only image that the Apo Tele Xenar throws a particularly bright image on to a ground glass and if weight, size and stability is not a factor then the lens would be particular easy to use.

PS I have no connection with Schneider inc. and am not plugging their lenses in particular.

By the way Kerry, to help in the slots I just purchased that Black Zeiss Planar 135mm f3.5 T* at a wallet crunching, budget busting, $@^$&% price. Still busy doing CPR on the wallet.

-- Pat Raymore (, February 12, 2002.


I have absolutely no disagreement with anything you said. As they say, horses for courses. You prefer the APO- Tele Xenar for it's speed, I prefer the 450mm Fujinon C for it's compact size and light weight. It sure is nice to have two such wonderful lenses to choose from. And for anyone who might like something between these two extremes, there is also the 450mm f9 Nikkor M - another wonderful lens.

WRT to that 135mm f3.5 Planar T*, I think you're going to love this lens (once you get over the sticker shock). Just go easy on the front rise. The coverage is small and it vignettes with anything more than a tiny amount of front rise. It really is a fabulous lens though. Too bad it's so rare and expensive. It would be nice if someone could convince Zeiss to do another production run. Maybe they could do a 75mm f4.5 Biogon T* at the same time (we can dream, can't we).


-- Kerry Thalmann (, February 13, 2002.

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