Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2001/03/20

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Enlarging lenses for B&W Photography
From: Kip Babington <>
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2001 16:52:17 -0600
References: <>

I can't claim to have made technically comprehensive comparisons, but I've used
a Leitz Focotar (50/4.5) enlarging lens since I bought it new in about 1970.
Over the years I've tried several other brands and models, most recently the
Schneider Componon-S 50/2.8 and the Rodenstock APO Rodagon 50/2.8.  I've not yet
tried a lens that beat the Leitz, and only these most recent two seem to equal

Frankly, I can't tell the difference in the end results with any of these 3
lenses, enlarging 35mm negatives up to about 10x (linear), at apertures 5.6 and
8.  Now my comparisons have been made using HP5 negatives exposed at 800, taken
during a theatrical production, so they are relatively high contrast and
relatively grainy.  But I saw no difference in the rendering of subtle highlight
detail (in white dresses under spotlights, for example) among prints made with
all 3 lenses at about the same exposure.  In years past, when I compared the
Focotar to older design Componon and Rodagon lenses the Focotar almost always
required 40-60% less exposure to produce the same density on paper, using the
same aperture (usually 5.6 or 8.)  I used to think that this was just a
difference in how these makers calibrated their aperture rings, but since the
Componon-S and APO Rodagon usually produce the same density as the Focotar using
the same aperture setting, I'm beginning to wonder if the Leitz glass simply
transmitted more light than the older lenses.

Anyway, if I were looking for a new B&W enlarging lens today, I'd take whichever
of these three 50mm lenses (Focotar, APO-Rodagon or Componon-S) turned out to be
available in the best shape at the best price.  The Rodagon and Componon offer
illuminated aperture scales, which can be convenient, and either a quick action
aperture lever (Schneider) or clickless apertures with or without a preset stop
(Rodenstock), although on my Beseler 4x5 enlarger the lenses sit so far up into
a recessed lensboard that it's almost impossible to read the illuminated
apertures, the Schneider lever interferes with the lensboard and so has to be
removed (on advice of Schneider - only one screw) and the Rodenstock
click/clickless selector switch is unreachable.

So apart from the larger maximum aperture there isn't a lot to choose between
these lenses.  (BTW, I've found the Focotar to be quite useable at f/5.6 and
even at f/4.5 - its glass is quite a bit larger than 4.5, but the aperture
blades only open up that far - so the extra stop and a half of the other two
lenses really is useful only for focusing with dense negatives.)

Hope this helps.


"Mose, J P" wrote, in part:

> I also need advice on the purchase of an enlarging lens that will match the
> quality of
> Leica.

In reply to: Message from "Mose, J P" <> ([Leica] Enlarging lenses for B&W Photography)