Best Enlarging Lens?

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

  1. I think you probably didn't bother to understand what I was saying before your knee started jerking.

    I do not see how all of these things can be true:
    • The prints were very sharp
    • They'll all resolve the grain on a medium speed film without difficulty
    • the Rodagon made the grain disappear
    One of them is not like the others.
    I have no idea what that is supposed to mean, but I am guessing it's intended to be some sort of ad hominem. Not sure, either, what warranted that kind of response, but there you go (again).
  2. Old post, but better late then never I suppose...

    C.I. is 'Chasseur d'Images' a french photo magasine/forum, so the article is referring to the lenses review score from them. CI also maintain an 'argus' (used price list) which is presumably the source of the prices given.
  3. OK. Let's see who can pick the Apo-Rodagon out of these 3 (without peeking at the filename):
    1. From colour negative showing extremely bright reds that even wet-printing paper has difficulty handling -
    2. From a transparency with very dense shadows - Apo-Rodagon-pos.jpg
    3. From FP4 plus in Rodinal, deliberately 'printed' flat to show the shadow detail -
    The other two lenses were a Componon-S and a Durst Neonon simply marked 'Made in Japan'.

    If you're looking at these on a reasonable size monitor, I estimate you're looking at the equivalent of examining a 10" x 8" print through a 6 or 8x loupe.
    All images were given identical post-processing in PhotoShop and any difference, IMO, is purely due to a slight exposure variation between the apertures of the lenses. All set at f/4 BTW.

    Personally, I see no "night & day" standout quality from the Apo-Rodagon, but then I suppose if you've paid a small fortune for a lens, it's natural to expect (and want) it to outperform cheaper models.

    Also, FWIW, the Apo-Rodagon is a recent model in mint condition, while the Componon-S is at least 30 years old and has a couple of dings where I dropped it. The Neonon is of unknown age, but in good/used condition.
  4. I like a fancy lens as much as the next person, but I've done a lot of printing with the much-maligned EL-Nikkor 50 mm f/4 and never had a complaint about how it resolved grain. It's more important to have negative pop under control, a glass carrier if necessary, wait for the enlarger to stop shaking and not to stop down into the diffraction region. OTOH, you can also make sub-optimal prints with even the most expensive lens!
    rodeo_joe|1 likes this.
  5. I was put off the f/4 50mm El-Nikkor as a student. I printed the same negative with one that belonged to the college, and with my own humble Minolta 50mm f/4.5 E-Rokkor - all I could afford at the time. The E-Rokkor print had much better micro-contrast and more 'bite'. Even though the grain was still perfectly resolved by both lenses.

    I showed the two prints to our technical lecturer, and he reluctantly agreed that the cheap E-Rokkor print was better.

    Looking back, I have no idea how many careless student fingerprints had been wiped off that well-used El-Nikkor. So maybe I was falsely maligning it as well. I don't know. But that experience stuck with me and I've never had any hankering to own an El-Nikkor since.

    I also noticed a distinct lack of El-Nikkors in the commercial darkrooms I've worked in or visited, with the majority using Rodenstock or Schneider lenses. Just my observation. I'm sure the 6 element El-Nikkors can compete with the best.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
  6. Strictly on the basis of those images, I would have to wonder why anyone would prefer the Rodagon over the Neonon.

    I have a question, though: Does this mean you have switched horses and are now using the Neonon instead of the Rodagon?
  7. Nope. But the Rodagon I normally use for film copying is a regular plain-vanilla 80mm f/5.6 one. The 50mm f/2.8 Apo-Rodagon I used for that comparison is too short in focal length.

    All the lenses used in the above comparison were used reversed on the bellows and at a much higher magnification than I would normally use for copying. (Only a 9mm x 6mm section of film was copied above). This was to simulate the same conditions as enlarger use.

    The idea wasn't to show how good those lenses were for copying, but to show that the previously claimed 'magical' tonal properties of the Apo-Rodagon just aren't apparent to mere mortals.

    All lenses compared were 50mm f/2.8 models BTW. And I wish I'd had an El-Nikkor to throw into the mix.
  8. The thing about shots like those, though, is that they are of limited value. It's a bit like visiting an exotic tropical paradise and returning home with only macro shots of the beach sand.

    If I were to summarize the important characteristics of an enlarging lens based solely on my understanding of the points you have outlined above, they would be these:

    1. Can be adapted to fit on a digital camera
    2. Has been dropped not more than once
    3. Is not marked "Made in Japan"
  9. But having more value than totally un-illustrated anecdotal reports of how a lens performs.
    Could we make that "..based solely on my deliberate misunderstanding"?

    OK, so show us your comparative tests, and then we can rip your methodology to shreds and list ridiculous summaries.

    And I presume you still can't tell at a glance which copies were made with the Apo-Rodagon?
  10. Very interesting. I have to agree with Rodeo that is hard to tell differences between lenses, so time ago I performed my own tests.
    I have found some of that prints; sadly I used to use "useless" prints to focus while printing, so I lost some of them. Anyway, I can show what I have (I think I have posted this images in a previos thread).
    The prints were made on a perfectly laser (Versalab) aligned Durst, onto an Ahel easel (modified to be adjustable for alignment).
    Same paper (Ilford MG RC, 8x10"), same exposure (RH timer), all processed at the same time. Focused using a Peak or a Magnasight (or both, very likely).
    The scan has been made at 1200ppi, straight from the scanner in JPEG.
    First, the full image:
  11. So I printed the same image using several lenses (Apo Rodagon N 50/2.8, Schneider Componar C 50/2.8 and Rodenstock Trinar 50/4), just changing the lens on the lensboard and re-checking focus. Exposure times were modified for the f4 lenses. (Another interesting lens on the test was a small ringed Schneider Componon 50, amongst others, but I don't find that print).
    Here are center crops, first the Apo Rodagon N, then the Componar C and then the Trinar:


  12. Now, an off center crop, same order (Apo Rodagon N, Componar C, Trinar):


    rodeo_joe|1 likes this.
  13. I don`t want to bore with loads of images, just one more to compare vignetting and contrast (same order, Apo Rodagon N on top, Componar C in the middle, Trinar at the bottom. The three prints scanned in the same pass):


    Sadly I don't have the small ringed Componon print, which was surprisingly good, although -I try to remember- with a big fall off at the corners.
    I also keep some prints with longer lenses (85 and 105, -looking for the benefit of the "sweet spot"-), but I had to change exposure, so there are noticeable variables on them ... since then, I'm less prone to use longer lenses with small negatives. Maybe the 85, but only to have better working space.
  14. The Apo Rodagon N is a seven(?) element lens (I think my 85 and 105 are 8 element lenses, not sure), my reference lens.
    The Componar C and Trinar are cheap triplets.
    The Componon is a 6 element lens.
    All the images focused wide open and printed at f8.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
  15. Those results are exactly what I would expect; with poorer edge/corner definition from the cheap 3 or 4 element lenses.
    What's noticeable though, is that there's almost no difference at all in the tonal quality, and that the central crops are almost indistinguishable from one another.

    Interestingly, the vignetting test appears to show the Componar better than the Apo-Rodagon in this respect.

    FWIW, the Apo Rodagon N is listed everywhere as having a 6 element construction, while I believe the Componar C has 4 elements. The Trinar, as its name suggests, has only 3 elements.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2020
  16. Oops, lapsus mentis. You are right, I have just checked the original literature; 6 elements for the 50 and 7 for the longer Apo Rodagon N lenses.
    Yes, I had to check several times the fall off issue, I was surprised, too.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2020

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