A Hidden Gem for Landscape Photography – Rodenstock 120 APO Macro Sironar Digital Lens
Have We Found Another Rodenstock Hidden Gem?
You may recall a few years ago at Capture integration that we discovered a hidden gem in Rodenstock’s lens lineup, a lens that we had ignored for years due to the small stated image circle (80mm). This was the Rodenstock 180 HR-S. We discovered while testing that the 80mm image circle was well understated, and extraordinarily so when mounting a short barrel version of the lens with a rear spacer. This opened up all kinds of shift, over 40mm total shift, and the performance at the edge with that amount of shift was excellent.
This week, I tested another lens, the Rodenstock 120mm APO Sironar Macro Digital Lens. I had never shot with this lens before, other than a quick test to make sure everything was working properly when a client sent it and several other newer Rodenstock HR lenses to us for conversion to X Shutter. I noted at the time that it seemed surprisingly sharp, but this was not a resolution test, this was more just an – Is everything ok (?) test.
We happened to have one in our inventory recently, and I wondered about this lens and whether lighting could strike twice, so I took this lens and the aforementioned 180 HR-S out for a bit of real world comparative testing.
Shift Latitude with LCC Captures
First off, I have to say this lens, if there is a downside to it, easily flares in all kinds of light. You absolutely have to watch for it. Now, you should know that this lens has a 150mm image circle. When produced in a Cambo WRS lenspanel, it comes with a shallow rear spacer in order to achieve infinity focus. So first I performed a quick test with a Phase One IQ3 100 digital back, and the results are below. If there was a magenta cast issue, you’d see it with that digital back, and there is very little if any obvious detectable color cast. Certainly nothing like we’ve seen with some lenses and any sensor previous to the IQ4 150. In fact, I even shifted 40mm total shift (20mm left + 20mm down), and at that point you begin to see the hard edge cutoff. No issues there, outstanding shift latitude.
Distance Sharpness – Center
This is a macro lens, so remember that often macro lenses perform very average when focused at far distances. You never really know until you test it to see how it’s going to go. So in my neighborhood, on a dreary December day, I focused about as far as practical to get a sense of some distance performance. Below result is from that same IQ3 100. I think I can say that I have no complaints about the center sharpness at this lens even when used at long distance.
Performance with Extended Shift and IQ4 150
Next, I wanted to see how this lens would perform next to that Rodenstock 180 HR-S, and specifically when shifted. For this, I used a Phase One IQ4 150 digital back, in order to up the ante and the detail, so if it is weak, we will really be able to see it.
The scene below is 50 – 70 yards away and I have produced a 3 shot pano for each lens, shifting to the 20mm maximum on the Cambo WRS 1600 tech camera. I have to say – and somewhat to my surprise – that it competes well with the 180 HR-S.
This lens does indeed seem to be a keeper for someone looking at the 120mm focal length with their tech camera setup. What makes it so? The image quality rivals 180 HR-S. It may be one of the sharpest, edge to edge 120mm tech camera lenses I’ve ever shot. The leader in that clubhouse would be the Schneider-Kreuznach 120mm ASPH Lens, but of course that lens was discontinued about 7 years ago and is a true unicorn, almost impossible to find 2nd hand. I don’t think this lens quite matches the SK 120mm APO Digitar ASPH.
I also shot this lens agains a Cambo Actar 120mm Lens. I won’t say what the origin of that lens is, but it is a good, sharp lens. However, the Rodenstock 120 APO Sironar is slightly sharper overall, and especially past 12mm shift, it easily exceeds the performance of the Actar 120. I have previously shot with Schneider 120mm APO Digitar M and N lenses, neither of which matches the 120mm APO Digitar ASPH, but they are very good quality, and I think this Rodenstock at least matches them and likely surpasses them in resolving power. So – many, many positives about this lens. The only real downside is you have to watch for flare.
I think this lens qualifies as a Rodenstock Hidden Gem, Sleeper Lens II. If I had a need for a sharp 120mm lens that can shift forever and that was very affordable, I would strongly consider this lens.
If you’re interested in seeing the raw files from the 120mm vs 180mm comparison test, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This lens is still available new, and it is by far the least expensive Rodenstock lens in their current lineup, starting at only $2,614. See below links for purchase options.