Best macro lens for 35mm film?

Discussion in 'Modern Film Cameras' started by sethbaldwin, Aug 20, 2021.

  1. What's the sharpest / zero distortion / zero aberration macro lens money can buy. I had a look at Zeiss options like the Zeiss Makro-Planar 100mm F2 but that also had aberration. I plan to use whatever the lens will be in a controlled environment.

    So as long as it's clinically sharp, has great dynamic range, no distortion and aberration, I'd like to know about it regardless of budget or what brand it is.

  2. SCL


    There ain't no such meeting all of your criteria - every lens has aberrations - it is the physics of lens designs. You need to get real and realize that there are tradeoffs on every lens and there are many which will do a fine job in your application.
  3. Many or none, depending on your needs. What distance? Are you willing to work at the optimum aperture or do you need DOF, or to stop action? Color or black and white? If black and white, can you narrow band the application? If the requirements are at the limits of the 35mm format, have you considered a larger format? Is any focal length OK, or are there distance limitations?
  4. Printing-Nikkor?

    If you can adapt it to fit...
  5. Back in the day when there were plenty of camera shops the thing to do would be to visit and try the display model of lenses you were considering on your own camera (loaded with slide film). "Try before you buy" is almost extinct today unless you go through the trouble of returning merchandise. As others have said, no single lens will tick all the boxes so study reviews of the lenses you're considering and pick one that you feel comes closest to delivering what you like.
  6. Rodenstock made a lens specifically for 1:1 reproduction, where "typical applications are transparency duplication,...etc." in this specific application I think that you would be very hard pressed to exceed the optical quality. See the Apo-Rodagon-D 75 mm f/4 lens.

    There's a pdf spec sheet available at this site: Rodenstock Apo Rodagon D 75mm f4 ( 1x)

    Note the graph showing near zero distortion at exactly 1x mag, whereas at 0.8x or 1.25x it is climbing slightly (~ 0.2 % at full image height, 6x6 cm).
  7. What about the Zeiss 120 Makro-Planar CF/CFi for Hasselblad V, with an adapter for your favourite 35mm camera? Mine is extremely sharp, and I've noticed no aberrations. Since it's designed to cover 6cm x 6cm, you'd be using only the centre "sweet spot" of the lens on 35mm. And if you're using it for macro, with a tripod, etc., it shouldn't be too awkward employed that way. It'd give you a bit of extra working distance, too, over a 100mm lens, and the Hasselblad extension tubes aren't terribly expensive to get you to 1:1.
  8. and the others.

    For example:
    What are you going to do with this "sharp" lens?

    There's no truly rational answer to your question, not even if you were to give a lot more information on your goals, needs, and desires.

    Don't let the "perfect" be the enemy of the "good" - said in effect by Confucius to Voltaire to even me.....
  9. The 105/2.8 micro Nikkor is razor sharp shooting macro and an excellent portrait lens as well.

    Rick H.
  10. My old 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor has shown itself capable of resolving over 200 lppmm, with no visible colour fringing - on a pixel-shifted 60 megapixel digital camera. On 100 ISO B&W 35mm film I'm pushed to get 100 lppmm cleanly resolved.

    So you're worried about sharpness and aberrations.... and yet you're planning to use crappy 35mm film!?

    A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
  11. If you ascribe to the rule of thumb that the resolving power of a system is related to the individual components such that the inverse of the system resolution is equal to the sum of the inverses of each component, then several things become clear. 1) if film resolution is the limiting component then it is desirable to have the lens resolution be much higher than the film. Several times higher, if possible. And 2) the weak link of a chain analogy isn't very good. If a chain followed the imaging rule of thumb then a chain with two equal-strength links would only be half as strong as either one of the links.

    I could see this. Using a lens for 1:1 macro generally means that the lens is extended by one focal length past its infinity-focus position. So the f/3.5 setting effectively functions as though it were f/7. Another rule of thumb is that all lenses are diffraction limited to roughly 1800/f-number lines per mm. Since 1800/7 = 260 lines per mm I can see a high-quality lens achieving 200 lines per mm when used in a macro situation.

    Now, on the film you referred to, where you achieved 100 lines per mm, this suggests that the film, alone, is capable of 200 lines per mm. (This is because 1/100 = 1/200 + 1/200, where both the film and lens are individually capable of 200 lines per mm.)

    So if the OP wanted to get significantly beyond the ~100 lines per mm that you achieved on your film, there seem to be two options: either a significantly "better" film, or a significantly better lens. Because of diffraction it would be necessary to have a "faster" lens aperture. An f/2.8 lens would seem to be limited to producing around 125 lines per mm on this film. Anyway, the apparent conclusion is that the OP should really go for the best lens he can manage.

    I'm curious as to how you determined 200 lppmm from your lens. I don't see any obvious way to do it short of having an extremely high-resolution material on one side of the lens. Or perhaps use a microscope on one side to examine an aerial image introduced on the other side?
  12. That's assuming a linear relationship between the resolutions of lens and medium. It could be geometric or weighted. I see no firm evidence for the linear relationship, apart from film-biased publications that simply say so.

    But even assuming an equal and linear contribution; upping the lens resolution to 300 lppmm only gets a combined resolution of 120 lppmm. Law of diminishing returns. Plus that would require using a diffraction-limited and aberration-free f/2.8 lens wide open at 1:1 - and that ain't gonna happen!

    And here's the evidence for > 200 lppmm (again).
    200 lppmm.jpg
    The 'obvious' way to do it is with a digital camera capable of an effective pixel count of 240 million, with a consequent resolution of 263 lppmm - a Sony A7R4 for example.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2021
  13. Ok, I appreciate how you did it (and I sort of recall seeing your prior post).

    I have to throw out a lot of the details of what I said, cuz, I had mistakenly got the idea that the OP was looking for a lens to make 1:1 copy photos of 35mm.

    [Update; I see that the OP had a companion post asking about the 1:1 copy situation. I thought that's what I'm responding to. Not so, my mistake. ]

    Ok, when I asked I was under the mistaken impression that you were specifically talking about a 1:1 situation, and that you had somehow determined 200 lppmm in the macro situation. THIS is the situation where I could not see an obvious way to measure resolution. But again, wrong situation, Sorry, my mistake. I'm in the wrong thread. Two similar threads, I sorta crossed them up.

    Ps I see that I even put my lens rec, the Apo-Rodagon D, here, in the wrong thread. Gotta be more careful.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2021
  14. Well, I'm sure that the Apo-Rodagon D would make an excellent macro lens - if you can find and afford one. Never set eyes on one myself.
    And as long as Rodenstock's claims aren't as exaggerated as those for the plain vanilla Apo-Rodagon, which is almost verging on a 'con trick' IMO.
  15. I don't know if they're still made but I bought one about 20 years back for a special project, as a relay lens. Expensive, yes, but not out of line with other such lenses at the time. No complaints, but I really don't know how one would quantify its performance. Without having a very high resolution plate on at least one side. THIS is the question I was asking you before, when I THOUGHT that you were quoting measured resolution in a 1:1 configuration.

    Regarding the exaggerated claims, perhaps you will clue me in on this.
  16. Well, I was lucky enough to get a 50mm f/2.8 Apo-Rodagon N in mint condition for a very affordable price. Try as I might, I just can't find any parameter where it betters a Schneider Componon-S or even a humble Durst Neonon of the same specs. Not even in colour correction, where the Neonon equals it. (The Componon-S is slightly behind in this respect, but only by a very narrow margin - no night & day difference.)

    Also, Rodenstock seem very coy and reluctant to publish a data sheet for the Apo-Rodagon N. Their catalogue simply duplicates the cheap Rogonar charts and figures where the Apo Rodagon N should be. I've tried searching older archives, only to come up with the same 'error' going some years back.

    I smell fish!
  17. I've never found that much difference between 50 mm enlarging lenses and have made good prints with everything from a $7 Printz on up. Mostly I've used the f/2.8 Nikkor "N". I have the Apo-Rodagon but have never had a chance to use it. Also, the Componon-S. Ctein made claims about a Computar(?) that had an additional ring to adjust for distance/magnification, but I've never seen one in the wild. If you can't hold the film flat and focus accurately, any lens will give about the same results!
    stuart_pratt likes this.
  18. Hmmmm... I've never gone on a serious online search for that sort of thing. But the link that I gave earlier - actually a slightly different starting point - seems to have a variety of Rodenstock spec sheets. I'll just link a few of the 50mm lenses separately.

    Rodenstock Apo-Rodagon-N 50mm f2.8
    Rodenstock Rogonar- S 1:2,8/ 50 mm

    So these include Rogonar-S, the standard Rodagon, and the Apo-Rodagon-N. Just a brief look at the MTF curves, wide open, specifically looking at the 40 lp/mm set, the Apo lens seems clearly superior to the others, holding a flat 60% MTF almost to the corners of a 35mm negative. The standard Rodagon started out closer to 50%, falling off to less than 40% near the long ends of the frame, and the Rogonar-S (4-elements) looks relatively miserable, mostly under 40% and dipping to 30% at a certain distance off-center.

    Now, I don't know, in practical terms, how visible this really is on a print (the spec sheets were looking at a 10X magnification). But to put it in perspective 40 lp/mm at the negative would be 1/10 that on the print, meaning about 4 lp/mm on the print. This puts each line pair width spanning roughly the same distance as the thickness of a business card.

    I've never seriously tried pitting enlarging lenses against each other but my instinct is that you won't be very far off on this.
  19. Thanks for the links Bill. I didn't find the Apo-Rodagon N specific PDF last time I looked.

    However, I think everyone knows that those MTF graphs are computer-generated synthesised design parameters, not actual measured graphs.

    Anyway, the proof of the pudding... etc.
    So here are my head-to-head comparisons between the Apo-Rodagon N, a Componon-S and a Durst Neonon. I defy anyone to tell them apart without looking at the file names.

    From an Ektachrome slide:
    Apo-Rodagon-pos.jpg Componon-pos.jpg

    And from a B&W neg:
    Componon-BW.jpg Neonon-BW.jpg Apo-Rodagon-BW.jpg

    I see no colour fringing (apart from what exists in the original slide) in any of them.

    The samples were shot directly onto a 24 Mp APS digital camera at an optical magnification of about 4x. Lenses were all reversed to simulate enlarger conditions - i.e 'back' of lens facing film.
    So what you see on screen would be like examining a dead-sharp 12" x 18" print with a powerful loupe. The marked aperture used was f/5.6, as per Rodenstock's recommendation to use the lens one or two stops down from maximum.

    I have samples from a section of colour negative too, but they're also indistinguishable from one another.

    There's also this thread on Photrio that more-or-less comes to the same conclusion.
  20. If I remember correctly the Kern Macro Switar made for Alpa cameras was considered to be one of the best.

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