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Which is the best 180mm lens?

Keith Tapscott , Dec 04, 2005; 08:13 a.m.

I am looking to buy a 180mm lens (Most likely second-hand) and two that I have on my list are either a Rodenstock Sironar (N or S version)and a Schneider Symmar (S or the latest L). Another lens which has been suggested is a Fujinon `A` 180mm f/9. The 180mm appeals to me as a general use standard lens that is also suitable for the 5x7 format if I wish to move up a size in format in the future. What is the best of the 180mm lenses available?

Responses

Steve Hamley , Dec 04, 2005; 09:28 a.m.

Keith,

My personal favorite is the Rodenstock 180mm Apo Sironar-S. Nice lens, optimized for a wide reproduction ration (can us it for "macro"), but it isn't the smallest thing around. The Fuji 180A is a nice choice if you backpack or take it on long hikes, but was always flare prone in my experience - so I ended up selling mine and using a 200mm Nikkor M when I wanted a light lens, but I really prefer the 180mm focal length and the Rodenstock is nearly always what I carry.

Depending on your focal length tastes, the 200mm Nikkor M should also be on your short list. BTW, this lens is also rated to cover 5x7, but will illuminate 8x10 evenly at f/22. The corners on 8x10 aren't very good, but I also haven't tried stopped further down. It also seems to do very well at moderately close distances.

Just for hoots and giggles, I also picked up a little 7" uncoated Berlin Dagor that's clear as a bell and covers 8x10 stopped down although the corners my not be quite as sharp as the center. As small as the Fuji 180A. Does a surprisingly good job controlling flare being a 6/2 construction, but I wouldn't recommend it if it's to be your only lens. In that case get the 180mm Apo Sironar-S.

Steve

Ă„nder Brepsom , Dec 04, 2005; 09:46 a.m.

Here is another vote for the Rodenstock Apo-Sironar S 5.6/180 mm. It is probably the best lens I have ever used. Just breathtaking performances. I haven't got any experience with the Sironar N 5.6/180 mm, but I suppose it should be as good as my Sironar N 5.6/150 mm, which is a very good lens.

Troy Ammons , Dec 04, 2005; 09:48 a.m.

Michael Briggs , Dec 04, 2005; 10:53 a.m.

180 mm is my most used focal length on 4x5. I don't think there is a optically better lens than the Apo-Sironar-S. But for 4x5, you probably wouldn't go wrong with any of the f5.6 models. Since this will probably be your most used lens, unless low weight is paramount, I would pick a standard f5.6 plasmat over a lighter f9 version, such as the Fuji-A.

The Apo-Sironar-S uses ED glass to reduce chromatic aberration. Rodenstock's datasheets show a improvement in longitudinal chromatic aberration over the Apo-Sironar-N, but the difference may not be importance in practice. A bigger difference is that the Apo-Sironar-S series has more coverage than the Apo-Sironar-N series. I think that for the 180 mm focal length and 4x5, few photographers will find the extra coverage useful. But the extra coverage would probably be useful for 5x7, which might be a reason for you to pick the S over the N, since you say you might use 5x7 in the future.

The Apo-Symmar-L also has the extended coverage, like the Apo-Sironar-S.

Here is a past discussion: Advice re 180mm lens requested at http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00Amlt.

Ted Harris , Dec 04, 2005; 11:37 a.m.

To further simplify the answer above .... if you stick to the current offerings (or for that matter any of the modern multicoated offerings) from the 'big 4' of large format lens manufacturing .... Rodenstock, Schneider, Fuji, Nikon ... you will not go wrong. Further, it will be difficult to impossible to tell the differences in the results one lens to another in most circumstances. If you are sure that you will also be shooting 5x7 then I would more seriously consider the Apo Sironar S, Fuji 180 A, and Apo Symmar L purely because they will give you somewhat more coverage than the others moentioned. Not important for 4x5 but it might matter if you are doing architectural work in 5x7.

Keith Tapscott , Dec 04, 2005; 01:04 p.m.

Thanks to everyone who replied. The Rodenstock APO Sironar-S will certainly be at the top of my list as a general allround lens. Cheers, Keith.

Justin Black , Dec 13, 2005; 02:25 a.m.

I love the Rodenstock 180mm Apo-Sironar-N. Like the 135mm and 150mm Rodenstock "N" lenses, it is as good as anything on the market, and is relatively cheap used (I got mine for $400). Unless you need the extreme coverage of the Sironar-S or Symmar-L, this is a superb optic.

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