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Author Topic: The Wild-West World of Industrial Lenses  (Read 879 times)

Michael Erlewine

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The Wild-West World of Industrial Lenses
« on: March 31, 2015, 05:10:12 am »

We are not quite at the point of dumpster diving for exotic lenses, but real close. Those of us into still-photography probably have at least heard about the virtues of the legendary Nikon’s 58mm f/1.2 Noct-Nikkor or the Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar that has cult status. These lenses often go for thousands of dollars each on Ebay, now that their secret is out. I wish I had known about them when they cost next to nothing. There is one genre of great lenses that are still in their heyday, price-wise, meaning you can find a bargain for very little cash, and that is among the field of industrial lenses.

They don’t often go to infinity, but there are literally hundreds of models of industrial lenses of very high quality that almost no one knows about, including me. Take the large high-end flatbed scanners, We are still in the days of the Wild West when it comes to the great lenses to be found in them. Yes, the industrial lenses we have already found and tested turn up on Ebay for high dollars, but you can also find them in used or junked scanners of the right brand and models. One thing we do know is that in order to scan and copy something like 35mm motion-picture film or high-end art, the lens has to be very flat and highly-corrected, in other words, apochromatic. And it has to be super-sharp. To me that sounds like a recipe for a premium lens.

For decades there have been many high-end copy scanners made and each one of them has one or more lenses in it. I realize that not everyone is interested in specialized close-up and macro lenses, but those of us who are would do well to pay attention to what’s available in the industrial lens market. I have been writing here recently about some of the “found” and better known industrial lenses, but there are probably dozens of exquisite industrials waiting out there for someone to find and test. I will mention just one that I wager few of you know about, one of the earlier Scitex scanners, a company later bought by Creo, and still later picked up by Kodak. These were high-end flatbed scanners that had inside them three Rodenstock lenses with a very high degree of apochromatic correction:

Rodenstock Scitex S-3 89mm f/5.0
Rodenstock Scitex S-3 67mm f/4.9
Rodenstock Scitex S-3 110mm f/5.0

I have one of the above lenses, the Rodenstock Scitex 89-S3. This lens was designed for the CREO (formerly Scitex) high-end film scanners, in particular the “CREO Supreme II,” with over 5000 ppi resolution, which cost around $45,000 dollars. Resolution and color were of paramount importance for the scanner, so every effort was made to meet APO specs. This lens is not only rare, but it apparently is a true apochromatic. The full-metal handcrafted barrel is fully round, with a fixed aperture, no aperture blades, and a rear mount that will take a M39x1 adapter to Nikon F-mount.

My personal sojourn into exotic lenses started with the brilliant work of Bjørn Rørslett, some of which can be found here:

In recent years, I have been helped and guided into the “industrials” world by Dr. Klaus Schmitt and his incredible “The Macrolens Collection Database,” which can be found here.

However, as mentioned above, there is nothing stopping us from doing a little research into high-end scanners and searching Craig’s List or even a junkyard for old scanners and copy machines. Make sure the lenses have not been stripped out of them.

I include a picture of one of the CREO Eversmart Supreme II flatbed scanners, the Rodenstock 89-S3, and an example photo taken yesterday with this lens. The Rodenstock is mounted on a Nikon PB-4 bellows, and happens to have a small heliocoid on it, here just used for extension. The rig is the Nikon D810, with a Zacuto Z-Finder viewer on the back so that I can better see to focus in Live View. All this sits on the Swiss-Arca C1 Cube geared-head and one of the Series-3 RRS tripods. It is still dark out when I took this photo, but you can see a ¾-Stop diffuser behind, and a piece of black velvet to your left.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2015, 05:42:58 am by Michael Erlewine »
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