50mm Leitz Elmar as Enlarger Lens

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by ben_hutcherson, Nov 7, 2017.

  1. Since I mostly do MF work, I've been getting by with a 75mm lens for everything on my Besseler 23C. It works in a pinch for me for 35mm since I don't tend to take it beyond 8x10.

    With that said, I have a 50mm El-Nikkor somewhere, but its location eludes me and I'd really like a 50mm for 35mm work.

    Since LTM boards are readily available, the thought occurred to me to use a lens I already have on hand and use for photography-a 1940s collapsible 5cm 3.5 Leitz Elmar.

    Some research indicates that this lens was once a popular choice as a "dual duty" lens, and I'm wondering about using it in place of buying another El-Nikkor or some other 50mm lens.

    Any thoughts on this? I know I should probably just buy a proper enlarger lens, but at the same time I know this is an excellent lens for photography.
  2. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    I'd say, use the EL Nikkor. I have one for the day I get my own darkroom again (next year sometime). I bought it because I read nothing but good about them.

    Hmm... I have two... one
    for each eye...
  3. AJG


    Since good enlarging lenses are available for so little money, I'd go for another used enlarging lens. I suspect a side by side test would show much better results from an El Nikkor, Schnieder Companion S or Rodenstock Rodagon than from a vintage Elmar.
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

  5. SCL


    Sure you can use it, but you'll get better results with a lens designed for enlarger use. Try a Leitz Focotar sometime.
  6. Specifically, camera lenses are normally designed for objects not so close.

    The exceptions are lenses designed for macro work. (Not necessarily all that have macro in the name.)

    If the EL Nikkor 50/2.8 is too much, there is also a 50/4.0.

    Today's enlarging papers are fast enough, that more often than not the problem is getting less light.

    But it is probably easier to focus wide open with the 50/2.8.

    Then again, you should get a focus aid, in which case the 50/4.0 should do fine.
  7. Point taken-thanks guys.

    Enlarger lenses are indeed cheap enough these days that I don't really have any excuse for not buying a good lens, whether an El-Nikkor or something else.
  8. I do remember my first enlarger, a Christmas present when I was about 10.

    It was Vivitar, likely with a Vivitar LTM lens. But the lens fit up into the focus ring enough, that a LTM camera lens wouldn't fit.

    I did find it interesting that they used the same thread, though.

    And without a focus ring, there is no use in using LTM enlarger lenses on LTM cameras.
    Well, maybe with bellows, but I never had one of those.
  9. I'm not overly impressed with El-Nikkors, plus they tend to command an exaggerated price. A 50mm f/2.8 Rodagon would be a better choice IMO, and probably be a bit cheaper.

    I've used 6 element enlarging lenses from Komura, Schneider, Hoya, Rodenstock and Minolta. All were excellent, and go for relative peanuts used. No 4 element lens came close, and I suspect this goes for an Elmar as well.

    Glen, the Leica 39mm x 26TPI thread is pretty much the industry standard for enlarging lenses.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
  10. The main criteria for an enlarging lens, it must have a flat field. Stated differently, a camera lens images objects at different lens-to-object distances and projects that image on the flat surface of film/digital sensor. An enlarger lens images a flat negative/slide and projects an image on flat photo paper/film i.e. flat to flat. A lens with an “unsymmetrical” design tends to show considerable curvature of field. For this reason most camera lenses with a focal ration (f-number) above f/4.5 are not well suited for use as an enlarger lens. However these camera suitable lenses will work just fine in the range of f/8 to f/11.

    We generally mount an enlarger lens based on the corner to corner measure of the format. For the 35mm format we generally mount a 50mm. For the 6x6 cm format, we mount a 75mm. You can mount a longer lens, that's OK provided you can obtain the needed magnification. Shorter focal lengths provide more magnification. When the enlarger is working near the top of the column, we switch to a shorter lens.

    Generally we want a bright image so we can easily focus and compose. We work with f5.6 lenses for this reason. We focus wide-open and then close for the exposure. A non-enlarging lens tends to shift focus when we stop down.

    You pay for what you get!
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  11. Back in the day, when everything was very expensive and people were poor, people did use Leitz camera lenses for enlarging.

    As they all pretty much have said, actual enlarging lenses are available for little cash, and they do work reasonably well for macro work on a bellows too if double use is a must :cool:
  12. Any of the good enlarging lenses go for a pittance these days. IMO, an old design lens on a camera can give very pleasing results. A bit of flare can be nice. When you put it on an enlarger, the effect is reversed from light to dark, the field may not be flat, the resolution might suffer and I don't think it's a benefit.That said, it's a small thing and the end results are mostly you, not the lens. BTW, the f/4 Nikkon is often looked down on, but it can do a fine job if in good shape. Always use the penlight test on enlarging lenses!
  13. Just found this. Even Leica suggested the economy of using the camera lens for enlarging, back in the day:
    Popular Photography Leica ad 1939-03
    Focomat lenses trans.jpg
  14. A lot has changed since 1939 JDM. Notably, lens coatings have been introduced, and elements are no longer cemented with Canada balsam.

    A few years back I saw a 50mm El-Nikkor that had had its rear AR coating burned away through (very) prolonged continuous use under a tungsten lamp house.

    I've also seen reports of cemented elements coming apart due to enlarger heat.

    I'm not sure I'd want to expose (pun duly noted) a nice Elmar to any risk like that.
  15. Well, I went into the local shop to pick up an El-Nikkor.

    I came out with a 50mm 2.8 Nikkor...mounted on a Leitz Focomat 35V(with a color head) along with a very nice easel, grain focuser, timer, along with bunches of reels and a couple of tanks. Oh, I should mention that the lens had a nice little Nippon Kogakua cap. The whole mess was $150.

    I understand that auto focus only works with the correct 40mm Leitz lens, but that's okay. At least I'll be able to leave my Besseler set up for MF.
  16. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    How did you buy a Leitz Focomat V35 enlarger for under $400!!!, or did you mean you'll use the EL Nikkor you bought on a V35 you already own? I'd like to visit that camera store if you did indeed buy the enlarger too LOL.
  17. I was initially offered the enlarger for $100. I negotiated the timer, easel, and tanks that came in with it for the extra $50.

    Apparently the store owner bought the enlarger earlier today and the manager was complaining about not having any place to put it...I walked in at the right time :)

    BTW, come to Louisville and I'll let you in on the secret honey hole of a camera store :) .

  18. You have caught my interest with your posting.

    Over the past few years, I've managed to buy three Focomat Ic's for well under $400. Two are entirely capable users, both are currently in use. Neither has a filter drawer; I use the filter holder beneath the lens for my Polycontrast filters. It was $100 or so for each of these, one of which arrived with an original Focotar and the other with a late model camera-grade/red dial Elmar 3.5 (coated) in place (now on a Leica IIf and out in the field) as well as a fossil wasp nest in the enlarger head. The third Focomat set me back $40 and is a useful source of parts; the bellows was/were beyond salvaging; however in that one there was a negative carrier. The wasp nest is long gone now.

    It was an eBay purchase in each case for me.

    I fitted a 6 element El-Nikkor to one of the Focomats; no difficulty calibrating things to the precision of a good focusing microscope and this is the 35mm negative enlarger that I use most often. I check focus weekly with the microscope and it is always on the money.

    I left the old Focotar on the other Focomat but I think now that I'll set that one up with a 50mm Componon-S; the charms, should there be any, of the elderly Focotar continue to escape me.

    Now, back to the past.

    In 1965, when I, about to be a college freshman, bought a really clean Leica IIc with a 50mm Summar from a shop in NYC near Willoughby's, from among many then offered "any on this shelf", my new jewel was $25. When I asked why the camera had a Summar f2 rather than the slower Elmar f3.5, the shop owner told me that he could get at least $25 for an Elmar f3.5 from people using then as enlarging lenses. Rather later in that year I won $25 in a college photography contest with a shot I took with the IIc, clearly confirming my judgment. Six years later I returned to the shop to buy a IIIf (I needed flash then); I again was treated but well sadly that shop is long gone now.

    Please read; Elmar 50mm/3.5 lenses were once, at least in less than prehistoric times, thought useful as enlarging lenses.

    I now mention that at times I make 24x36 inch (metric users choose the units which you prefer) prints using a Beseler 23/condenser source. My preferred lens for this is the Voigtlander Skopar 35mm f2.5 when printing on the base board. The Russia Jupiter 35mm/f2.8 isn't bad, but its ergonomics with the recessed f-stop ring are more than a little bit tedious.

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