Author Topic: The Printing Nikkors Compared  (Read 1158 times)

Michael Erlewine

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The Printing Nikkors Compared
« on: March 25, 2018, 11:00:18 »
Iím sure this will interest few, but any is better than none. If we are looking into apochromatic (APO) lenses, then the Printing Nikkors canít be avoided as candidates because they were designed to copy motion-picture film at the highest resolutions. To do this, they had to be highly corrected or our movies would all be fringe-tainted. We canít have that.

These are largish, somewhat heavy (the 150mm), lenses that require special mounts, which are not too hard to find. Yes, these lenses are a pain in many ways, but they produce great photos, some of the best if you are looking for lenses that have really been corrected. The term APO is not a standard and has been used to label lenses that are hardly apochromatic, but the Printing Nikkors are highly corrected and they are expensive too!

One problem with obtaining the Printing Nikkors is their prices, which have been coming down as film companies abandon them in favor of all-digital projection. Still, they are said to have originally cost something like $12,000 apiece, so I have been told. Today, they sell on Ebay for much less, but still enough for my pocketbook. Anyway, we might want to know which of the Printing Nikkors (there are at least five varieties) does the most for us, so to speak, if we only buy one.

Thanks to the website CoinImaging.com, the coin-photo folks have been kind enough to compare some of these lenses and graph out the results. What I present here are some of those graphs and results, for which I thank them very much! I failed to find the name of whoever is doing all this testing, but I thank him or her. This site uses IMATEST to test out lenses, which gives us a base.

I am not going to spend time here on the history of the Printing Nikkors or their resale value, etc. You can find that on the web, if you look hard. The point of this article is to drill down on which of these lenses does what and the enclosed graphs will very much help with that. If you donít like reading graphs, here is a shortcut to the best of the points, but you really have to study the graphs. This is just the tip of the top, so to speak, a generalization.

Compared here are:

Printing Nikkor 95mm f/2.8
Printing Nikkor 105mm f/2.8
Printing Nikkor 150mm f/2.8 (150-1)
Printing Nikkor 150mm f/2.8 (150-2) [later]

[There is a 75mm Printing Nikkor, but I have never seen one, even for sale. And there is a 3rd version of the Printing Nikkor 150mm, but I donít have one, but it is a later version and I am told is similar to the later version of the 150mm, titled here ď150mm-2.Ē

QUICK RESULTS

Chromatic Aberration vs. Aperture
Note: All good, minimal, aberration, but the 95mm PN is best.

Chromatic Aberration vs. Magnification
Note: 95mm best at 0.5, 105mm best at 0.75-1.50
150-1 not so good.

Corner Resolution vs. Aperture
Note: All very good, but 95mm is outstanding.

Corner Resolution vs. Magnification
All fairly good, but the 95mm is outstanding at about 0.50

Corner Sharpness vs. Aperture
Note: All very good, but the 105 is best.

Corner Sharpness vs. Magnification
Note: The 95mm best at 0.50, but the 105mm best at around 1.0 to 1.25.

Resolving Power vs. Magnification
Note: The 150-2 mm is way better than the rest at 0.50.

Resolution vs. Aperture
Note: All good, but the 95mm is best.

Resolution vs. Effective Aperture
Note: The 150-1 is the best at f/5 to f/8. Rest also very good, with the 150-2mm only good at around f/5.6.

Resolution vs. Magnification
Note: All pretty good, but the 150-1mm is the best of the lot from 0.50 to beyond 1.5.

Sharpness vs. Aperture
Note: The 95mm is hands-down the best. All pretty good, with the 105mm the worst.

Sharpness vs. Effective Aperture
Note: All good within a particular range, with the 150-1mm the best of the lot from f/5 to f/8.

Sharpness vs. Magnification
Note: All good within their best range, but the 150-1mm the best of the lot from 0.50 through 1.25.

Working Distance and Magnification
Note: The 150.1 is the best of the lot.

TOTALS of ďBestsĒ
 
095mm = 7
150-1mm = 5
105mm = 3
150-2= 1

What this says is the 95mm is the best as an ďall-aroundĒ lens, followed by the 150-1mm. Of course, this could depend on what you are doing. For example, the 150-1mm is best for close-up work, but the 150-2 is best for macro, etc.

I hope this interests at least one other person! LOL.
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HCS

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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2018, 12:58:01 »
It does certainly interest me, Michael. Thanks for posting the comparison and providing the narrative.

It's just that these lenses are in such a different realm than the one i'm photographing in, that i wouldn't know what to comment.

Thank you anyway!
Hans Cremers

Michael Erlewine

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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2018, 15:39:39 »
It does certainly interest me, Michael. Thanks for posting the comparison and providing the narrative.

It's just that these lenses are in such a different realm than the one i'm photographing in, that i wouldn't know what to comment.

Thank you anyway!

As mentioned, it is for those very few who use this type of lenses, to help show how even they specialize in one quality over the others, and vice-versa.
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Dr Klaus Schmitt

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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2018, 20:16:27 »
Excellent comparison Michael!

And thanks of course to that great coinimaging.com site too!
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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2018, 23:27:30 »
Well, just happened that I could buy that Schneider Macro Varon 4.5/85mm, an APO lens with CA adjustment ring, optimized for mag. 0.5...2x, which resolves up to 2.5 micron .... Pretty excited to see how that one performs in comparison to the Printing Nikkors!
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2018, 23:56:45 »
Well, just happened that I coudl find that Schneider Macro Varon 4.5/85mm, an APO lens with CA adjustment ring, optimized for mag. 0.5...2x, which resolves up to 2.5 micron .... Pretty excited to see how that one performs in comparison to the Printing Nikkors!

From the graphs, the Macro Varon looks to be an all-around lens, much like the Voigtlander 125mm is an all-around lens. The Printiing Nikkors exell in various areas, but none of them have the reproduction range as wide as the Macro Varon, so the Macro Varon should become the easiest lens for the most different ranges. IMO.
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Dr Klaus Schmitt

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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2018, 11:29:21 »
From the graphs, the Macro Varon looks to be an all-around lens, much like the Voigtlander 125mm is an all-around lens. The Printiing Nikkors exell in various areas, but none of them have the reproduction range as wide as the Macro Varon, so the Macro Varon should become the easiest lens for the most different ranges. IMO.

I agree! We'll see soon, both lenses should be in transit now... :-)
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ray_parkhurst

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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2019, 02:15:02 »
As my first post on NikonGear, I decided to resurrect this almost 1-year old thread to add some comments about the Printing-Nikkors, Macro Varon, etc.

I've never had much interest in the 150mm versions, given their small-ish image circles, but I own the 105mm, 95mm, and the Macro varon. They are all members of my very exclusive "go-to" list of lenses, and I'm sure if I could find a 75mm it would be on that list as well!

I'm glad to see all the graphs from Mark Goodman's coinimaging.com website for the Printing-Nikkors pulled together in one place. Those graphs are very useful for determining applicability, but it's clear from the shapes of the graphs that only the 150mm early version could be considered an "all-around" lens, given its adjustment ring which allows use across a wide range of magnifications. The 105mm is only useful in a narrow range of magnifications around 1:1, while the 95mm is optimized around 1:2 forward, and 2:1 in reverse. Neither of these lenses could be considered for serious all-around use, yet each of them has best-in-class performance at their optimum magnifications.

The Macro Varon, like the 150mm early version Printing-Nikkor, has an adjustment ring which optimizes performance across a fairly wide magnification range. Unlike the 150mm, the Macro Varon has a very large image circle, so although the center performance is not as good, the overall performance is superior. If one "all-around" lens was to be chosen from this rarified shortlist, I believe it would be the Macro Varon.


Michael Erlewine

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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2019, 08:08:17 »
As my first post on NikonGear, I decided to resurrect this almost 1-year old thread to add some comments about the Printing-Nikkors, Macro Varon, etc.

I've never had much interest in the 150mm versions, given their small-ish image circles, but I own the 105mm, 95mm, and the Macro varon. They are all members of my very exclusive "go-to" list of lenses, and I'm sure if I could find a 75mm it would be on that list as well!

I'm glad to see all the graphs from Mark Goodman's coinimaging.com website for the Printing-Nikkors pulled together in one place. Those graphs are very useful for determining applicability, but it's clear from the shapes of the graphs that only the 150mm early version could be considered an "all-around" lens, given its adjustment ring which allows use across a wide range of magnifications. The 105mm is only useful in a narrow range of magnifications around 1:1, while the 95mm is optimized around 1:2 forward, and 2:1 in reverse. Neither of these lenses could be considered for serious all-around use, yet each of them has best-in-class performance at their optimum magnifications.

The Macro Varon, like the 150mm early version Printing-Nikkor, has an adjustment ring which optimizes performance across a fairly wide magnification range. Unlike the 150mm, the Macro Varon has a very large image circle, so although the center performance is not as good, the overall performance is superior. If one "all-around" lens was to be chosen from this rarified shortlist, I believe it would be the Macro Varon.

I have all the lenses you mention and I understand what you are saying. I have both the older and newer versions of the 150mm Printing Nikkor. I canít say that I totally agree with you, but thatís what forums like these are for, a place to differ and find our differences.

I like and use the above lenses, but I donít sum the experience up and feel that the Macro Varon is the the ďall-aroundĒ lens. I get it, but that center performance is IMO not an incidental, but a key difference. And so, for my two cents, I continue to play musical chairs with the lot of them. And to this I would also add the Hartblei Superrotator Macro 120mm F4 TS, although it has more flaws than the rest, but a good range.

For my money, and it will cost money, I am hoping that the Nikkor Noct 58mm 0.95 lens announced for the Nikon Z7 will give me what I feel (for my work) will be an ďall-aroundĒ lens. LOL..
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Dr Klaus Schmitt

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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2019, 08:11:54 »
Glad to see you also here Ray and welcome!

Excellent lenses indeed, but honestly Michael, I doubt that this newly announced Noct will play in that same game as the Printing Nikkor performances; most likely it will "just" be a better CRT Nikkor as such highest speed lenses cannot have the same high level of correction...
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2019, 08:25:09 »
Glad to see you also here Ray and welcome!

Excellent lenses indeed, but honestly Michael, I doubt that this newly announced Noct will play in that same game as the Printing Nikkor performances; most likely it will "just" be a better CRT Nikkor as such highest speed lenses cannot have the same high level of correction...

A better CRT Nikkor would be just ideal for me. To me that lens is about as sharp as there is, at least for the kind of work I do. Using the Nikkor Z7 mirrorless and some extensions for M-39 I have been able to get more range out of the CRT lens, and I like that. I see the forthcoming NOCT as giving me just enough more room to be useful. I care about the degree of sharpness of a lens wide open. Here is an image with the extended CRT Nikkon on the Z7. No, it is not killingly sharp, but it is sharp enough for what I need.
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ray_parkhurst

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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2019, 23:37:53 »
I have all the lenses you mention and I understand what you are saying. I have both the older and newer versions of the 150mm Printing Nikkor. I canít say that I totally agree with you, but thatís what forums like these are for, a place to differ and find our differences.

I like and use the above lenses, but I donít sum the experience up and feel that the Macro Varon is the the ďall-aroundĒ lens. I get it, but that center performance is IMO not an incidental, but a key difference. And so, for my two cents, I continue to play musical chairs with the lot of them. And to this I would also add the Hartblei Superrotator Macro 120mm F4 TS, although it has more flaws than the rest, but a good range.

For my money, and it will cost money, I am hoping that the Nikkor Noct 58mm 0.95 lens announced for the Nikon Z7 will give me what I feel (for my work) will be an ďall-aroundĒ lens. LOL..

I guess the "all-around" title is very application-dependent. If you are doing plant or bug or coin photography where corner sharpness is not so important, then you'd value center sharpness and the 150v1 would win. I'm swayed in judgement by my most recent work with Stack-and-Stitch, which seems to be extremely demanding , requiring broad coverage with no distortion or fall-off of sharpness at the corners in order to stitch with best results. For that work, the 95PN wins hands-down from 1.8-2.5x magnification, virtually over any other lens. I've tried a broad range of lenses, objectives, and lens combos and have not found anything better. The 85MV comes fairly close, but nothing else compares. The same can be said for the 105PN around 1x, though there is a bigger list (including the 85MV) of also-rans. But if you want to do SnS at 1.5x (and likely at 0.75x), the 85MV is the best choice, and this is what informed my opinion.

I mentioned the 75PN as I expect it would be the clear winner for SnS at 3.4x. I hope someday to find one. For now I am using the Rodenstock 105/4 Inspec.x L 3.5x for 3.1-3.7x, and it's quite the lens at this magnification range.

Glad to see you also here Ray and welcome!

Thanks Klaus! It took me a long time to join, but glad to be here.

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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2019, 11:59:23 »

I mentioned the 75PN as I expect it would be the clear winner for SnS at 3.4x. I hope someday to find one. For now I am using the Rodenstock 105/4 Inspec.x L 3.5x for 3.1-3.7x, and it's quite the lens at this magnification range.

Thanks Klaus! It took me a long time to join, but glad to be here.

I have never seen the 75PN for sale. sounds like what you need is a copy lens, which the PNs are, but kind of restricted in their range.
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ray_parkhurst

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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2019, 05:26:39 »
I have never seen the 75PN for sale. sounds like what you need is a copy lens, which the PNs are, but kind of restricted in their range.

Yes, they are very highly optimized around their nominal magnifications. If you need those magnifications, or are willing to constrain yourself to them, then they can't be beat.

My next excursion into Stack and Stitch will be at 3.5x, and I'm literally building a fixed lens panning system around the 105IXL3p5. Its 82mm image circle will allow me a lot of movement.

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Re: The Printing Nikkors Compared
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2019, 07:49:26 »
Yes, they are very highly optimized around their nominal magnifications. If you need those magnifications, or are willing to constrain yourself to them, then they can't be beat.

My next excursion into Stack and Stitch will be at 3.5x, and I'm literally building a fixed lens panning system around the 105IXL3p5. Its 82mm image circle will allow me a lot of movement.

Sorry, but I don't know what 105IXL3p5 is.
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