Best Enlarging Lens?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by arthur_gottschalk, Apr 24, 2018.

  1. I would take that French magazine 'test' with a big pinch of salt.

    As with any lenses, sample variation can be far greater than any design performance, as can operator error.

    The bar graphs shown do not reflect what's stated in the text. For example; of the 80mm Componon it's stated 'distortion is not measurable (less than 0.1%)' and gets a score of 5, while of the Rodagon 80mm it says 'the distortion is at the limit of measurable with 0.05% cushion', and only gets a score of 4.
    So, what is their limit of measurability? 0.1% or 0.05%?

    Another lens with 0.1% cushion distortion only scores 3, the same as one with 0.25%.

    There are similar discrepancies and inconsistencies between text and score throughout the article.

    I know that if I was offered a Rodagon or a Meogon for the same price, I wouldn't be taking the Meogon.
    Vincent Peri likes this.
  2. Apart from the individual deviations of the lenses where Meopta has more individual deviations then Schneider or Rodenstock in a serie production. But if you are lucky you can have a very good one.
  3. As I speak French very badly, I can only state that in the introduction distortion of between 0.1 or 0.2 is considered the limit of measurement. My own opinion is that variances in quality between the same lenses are probably as great as those between some different lenses. If I were offered a Rodagon or Meogon, I'd try them both to see, but I doubt whether I'd be able to see much difference.
  4. I understand the first three standards on the graph, but what does "Cote D'amour C.I." represent?
  5. I've got no idea. I'm not sure if it's some value for money ranking. However, even the discontinued lens with no price scored, so that can't be it. Google doesn't differentiate between "cote" and "côte":(
  6. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    google translator?
  7. That gives the rather unhelpful "love rating".
  8. Since writing about the Meogon, I have noticed on Photo Cornucopia that it is in fact a wide angle 6x6 cm lens rather than a standard 35mm lens. That may have something to do with the excellent results obtained using it for the smaller format.
  9. It would be useful to the rest of us (me at least) if those offering opinions/anecdotes regarding lens performance would certify that their enlarger optics were properly aligned (with a bit of comment about how the alignment was done) and how the illumination system was properly centered.
    AJG and Vincent Peri like this.
  10. I use an Opemus 6, which has no adjustments for aligning either the optics, negative stage or the illumination. All I can do is check that the projected image is square on the baseboard.
  11. You might try using a level to see if your negative stage is parallel to the baseboard (check in both dimensions).
  12. I'm fairly happy with the alignment and I'm not posting my test results, but merely pointing out results published on a French website. Strangely enough a google search for the lens gives many French pages and very few English ones.
    My own 35 mm enlarging lens is a Minolta 50 mm f2.8, which seems good enough for me.
  13. Arthur,
    To simply answer your question, yes, some enlarging lenses are sharper than others, and some are less sharp than others.

    But you have to look at the entire environment from the film used, film development, to the printing process, as there are MANY variables which will affect the sharpness of the printed image.
    Film and development
    • IOW, can you even compare the negatives?
    • What film is/are being compared?
    • What is the scene and its light range?
    • How was it exposed?
    • Is the film and developer process the same?
      • That was the Microdol vs D76 vs HC110 discussion
    • etc.
    Enlarger and printing
    • Condenser or diffusion enlarger?
    • Are the negative, lens and baseboard in alignment in both X and Y axis?
    • Is the negative being held FLAT?
      • This gets into the glass vs. glassless negative carrier discussion.
    • How accurately is the lens being focused?
      • IOW, are you using a good grain focuser, and using it properly.
    • Is there any light leak from the head, that could cause minute fogging of the paper?
    • Are the using a harder/higher grade MC filter than you, and printing to a higher contrast?
    • Are the paper used the same?
    • Enlarger movement?
    • What is the image magnification?
    • etc.
    • How far from the print are you standing?
    • How much light is on the print?
    • What time of day? Some peoples eyes get tired and do not focus as well at the end of the day.
    If this is one person with one lens and a different person with the other lens, that is not a valid comparison, because as you can see above, there are too many variables that can change.

    To do the compare properly, you need to use the SAME negative in the SAME enlarger.
    The only thing to change is the enlarging lens.
    And the prints have to be viewed side-by-side, in identical lighting.
  14. IMO, almost nobody extracts maximum performance from their enlarging lens. You need perfect alignment and zero negative motion. Certainly zero vibration if you have a fan. I used to balance fans for cooling astro cameras and factory balance is almost never good enough. Even the lowly and much maligned 50 mm f/4 EL-Nikkor can manage an excellent print if it's not too large. Most lenses have an optimum magnification. Ctein had a very high opinion of a certain Computar that had an extra ring to adjust the correction to a specific distance, but I've never seen one in the wild. There's an alignment trick that works well. Get two long mirrors and drill a hole in one. Put a tape target on the other size. Put the plain mirror on the baseboard. Put the drilled mirror in the carrier slot. Look through the hole and align until the multiple fun-house images collapse. Then hole the drilled mirror on the enlarging lens front ring for the same check. Or buy the laser tool. Also, get a good focuser and make sure the focus agrees with the actual focus.
  15. The number of people that swear by brand x, y or z would lead me to believe that there is no best enlarging lens. This may be due to several reasons, starting from there probably being some degree of quality variation among lenses of the same manufacturer, different levels of care of the lens, subjective opinions about what is good, enlarger set up etc.I'd hazard a guess that, as a general rule, most 3-4 element lenses are not as finely corrected as 5,6 or more element ones, though those of us who only enlarge to 8"x10" from 35mm would need a loupe to notice any difference if any. For those doing, say, 15-20x enlargements, the difference is probably noticeable.
    Gary Naka likes this.
  16. In 1970 I bought a Leitz Focomat enlarger, and for an enlarging lens used a Summicron f/2.0 50mm. It unscrews and the lens part together with a Leitz adapter goes into the enlarger. I do remember years later some expert advising against using a camera lens as an enlarging lens as the heat of the lamp will damage the adhesives joining the lens elements together. "Except for Leitz lenses, they don't have that problem."
    I would comment that that lens gave excellent results. F/2 for a nice bright image for framing etc. I usually used f/4 when exposing as the wider aperture gave exposure times too short to expose accurately, not because of lack of definition.
    After 50 years it is still a very good enlarger, though I confess to being more digital these days.
  17. I know I have.

    When I actually had a darkroom. I did use some EL-Nikkors, but mostly I've been using them for macro/copy lenses on bellows where they work well.
  18. Two years on and enlarging lens prices have pretty much doubled or tripled from their all-time low. More for popular focal lengths and famous brands. However, in the great scheme of things they're still a bargain as macro lenses used in conjunction with a bellows.

    Do check the condition if you're shopping for one though. Darkrooms don't tend to be the friendliest environments for high quality optics, and I've recently seen a few samples with chemical-induced haze inside, or that have suffered from over-zealous cleaning (with what looks like emery paper in some cases!).

    Glad I stocked up on them a few years back.
  19. Luckily I did also.
    But unluckily, the darkroom is still a LONG way from completion.

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