View Full Version : first lens advice needed

23-Dec-2007, 21:27
I think I will be a LF photographer soon. I will probably buy a new Tachihara, as I plan to start simple (and inexpensive) and I will be hiking for lanscape photos. I think I will probably start with a 90mm lens, since I like wide-angle near-far shots but don't want anything too wide at first and I'm concerned about bellows issues. Will probably also get a 210 soon for my second lens, and will probably stick with those for quite some time.

I will likely buy the lenses used, and have been looking on e-bay quite a bit to see what's out there. I'm inclined not to skimp too much on lenses, but also can't rationalize $1500-2000 for new super-angulons and such. I will also most likely buy from an e-bay store as I am willing to spend a little bit more to avoid spending the time I might fooling around with bidding. So my specific questions are these:

1. Any favorites any of you have? Comments on my proposed choices?

2. Any e-bay stores that any of you have had good luck with?

3. It seems I can save a bit of money and weight by going f8 instead of f5.6 or faster. Any comments?

4. I live in a place where I will have almost no support (or none) in terms of shops and mentors, and I'm concerned about shutter calibration. I suspect I could ship a lens off somewhere to have that done? Would it be better to just shoot some film first and see how it comes out? Any suggestions?

5. Anything else anyone wants to tell me would be fine by me!


23-Dec-2007, 21:38
Subscribe to the For Sale area right here and get instant emails on anything listed. On any given day there are lenses on your shopping list for sale here. Much more reliable and probably fairer prices than ebay. Be prepaired to buy the 210 first if a good one comes along.

ps: Be prepared to act fast. The good stuff goes FAST!

John Kasaian
23-Dec-2007, 22:03
1. I like Ektars. The 100mm WF or the 125 mm WF are nice wides as is a 90mm Ilex WA copy of the Super Angulon. For long(er) lenses, the 203mm Ektar or Optar and the 215mm Ilex rock. The 210 G-Claron is also extremely desireable. The older convertible Symmars are also well worth checking out.

2. Midwest Photo, Equinox Photo and Igor's aren't ebay stores that I am aware of, but IMHO are good bricks and mortar places to check for gear. Often the stock prices will be less than what you'll find on ebay. If you do go the ebay route, Jim Galli and Dagor 77 are "square shooters" I'd trust. Another good ebay guy is Rod Anger in Canada although I haven't seen any of his stuff lately on the 'bay.

3. Depends.

4. I'd shoot film first unless it is a 'beater.'. If you need a cla Flutot's has exceptional service and very fair prices.

5. Don't stress about equipment, Shoot with whatever you have or comes your way. Buy stuff you can afford, have fun and most importantly shoot film. The is the best way to learn and improve. What you'll eventually wind up with may or may not be what you've started with (this applies to cameras, lenses, etc...) but the only way to know what your "kit" needs to have in it is to go out and shoot---experience will tell you.

23-Dec-2007, 22:10
Some random thoughts that served me will when I started in LF:

If you shot a lot of 35mm, what was your favorite lens? Mine was a 80mm and I found the 210 to be my favorite with the 4X5. I next added the 90.

I purchased my lens kit with a desire to standardize on a 67mm filter size or smaller. This greatly simplified the number and cost of filters and I found a great selection of lenses to choose from.

If you are going to be shooting landscape - you will probably be covering some distances. Watch your lens weight.

I currently carry a Nikkor 300m, Rodenstock Sironar-n 210, Rodenstock Sironar-S 150, Nikkor 90 SW f/8 and a Nikkor-SW 65 f/4.5. I am very pleased with the flexibility and versitility of this kit.

By the way, the 210 still makes the majority of my "keepers."

Good Luck

24-Dec-2007, 09:42
One more thought, ok 2 more thoughts.

You can probably buy your camera in the For Sale part of this Forum also. Place a WTB wish list and folks will come to you.

Add www.keh.com to the list of sources for gear. Their stuff is good, conservatively rated and they offer a 15 day return period.

Good luck!

David Karp
24-Dec-2007, 10:18
Another great source for cameras and lenses is Midwest Photo Exchange (www.mpex.com). If you contact them, ask for Jim Andracki. He is the LF guy. Very helpful and reliable. Also a very nice guy. All of the used stuff I bought from Jim looks like it was never used. He sells Tachiharas and lenses of all types, new and used.

My recommendation for great values on modern multicoated LF lenses is the Fujinon NW series. These will say "Fujinon W" on the barrel and will have the Fuji Electron Beam Coating. The lettering will be on the outside of the barrel (as opposed to the inside front). Another great option are lenses labeled Caltar II-N. These are manufactured for Calumet Photographic by Rodenstock and are equal in quality to the equivalent Rodenstock lenses (APO-Sironar-N and Grandagon-N). Both of these tend to go for lower prices than the Rodenstock, Schneider, and Nikon branded lenses, but they give up nothing in quality.

steve simmons
24-Dec-2007, 11:34
Before you buy any equipment may I suggest some reading.

Go to the Free Articles section of


There are several articles there that will be helpful yo you.

Read one or more of the following

Large Format Nature Photography by Jack Dykinga
Using the View Camera that i wrote
User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone

check your local library

Check the archives here.

Try and find a class or a workshop in large format.

All of the places listed here are good bets for used equipment.

steve simmons

24-Dec-2007, 11:43
Not sure at the moment but Mpex and I think Igor have had Ebay presences in the past.

I'd just go to their websites direct. I'd also add www.keh.com to the list.

Depending on your budget check and see if B&H has any new Nikons left. The prices weren't much if any higher then the nicer used lenses.

Other then that? I'd start with the 210mm. Get used to the whole camera thing then get the 90mm.

David Karp
24-Dec-2007, 11:49
The MPEX website is good, but in my experience they have trouble keeping it current. Things go in and out so fast you never know what you are missing unless you call Jim. Always worth a call. Always enjoyable.

24-Dec-2007, 12:02
Thanks everyone for the advice, and I'll ask for more in a second. Steve, I have your book, and read quite a bit of it a week or two ago. It was the first piece of large format equipment I bought, and was quite quite helpful. I have a copy of Adams' "The Camera" that seemed pretty useless to me until I thought about moving into large format! I also have Jack Dykinga's book on order, and have been reading the large format page and lurking in this forum.

Here are my latest thoughts and questions:

1. I'll go for a 210 first and just use it for a bit before getting another lens (or ditching the whole LF thing altogether!)

2. I went to the keh site and found a huge selection of lenses. One thing that I wonder about is this - many of the descriptions said "copal bulb, time (4x5)(42 mount)." I'm guessing that this all means that the shutter has both bulb and timed settings(?) and that "42 mount" has something to do with the size of the hole in the lensboard, maybe 42 mm?

3. I use ND filters for much of my SLR work, so will probably buy a set of Lee ND grads right away. What are the issues with filter holders and adaptor rings that I should be aware of in trying to be able to use the same filters with multiple lenses?

4. One reason I was leaning towards just buying a new Tachihara is that Badger Graphics has them listed for $599, not much more than I am seeing for a number of used field cameras. I'll check out the used options a bit more though.

Thanks again for all the help!

24-Dec-2007, 12:17
One thing is certain: You live in a great part of the world to put a LF camera and lenses to good advantage!

24-Dec-2007, 12:27
When I look in the classifieds for this forum, I keep seeing PM sent. What does that mean?!?


That's what I'm thinking! I love landscape photography, and have reasonable access to the coast, lush forests and waterfalls, mountains and high desert. Here's what I've been doing with my DSLR for the past year:


For whatever it is worth, my total sales of images so far has totalled about $70. Fortunately I have a "real" job. (Actually, I teach at a college, which some of my friends are not convinced is a real job! It gives me some time to get outside...)

24-Dec-2007, 16:42
PM sent: Send a Personal Message (another feature of these forums) to confirm interest in purchase. Click on a persons name beside a thread and one of the options is sending a personal message. First come, first served. The good stuff at good prices goes in minutes. Like single digit minutes.

Oh, to have a college teachers sechedule! I would have killed for that schedule ages ago. I'd kill for it now.

25-Dec-2007, 14:32
Well I'll go the other way, I recently brought a Shen Hao and a Rodenstock 90mm f8 lens, my favorite 35mm lens was a 24mm so the rough 28ish of the 90mm suites me fine. I must admit it took a little to get used to the shortish lens but I have already played around with a 150mm for a while. Good thing with the wide is you really don't need a great deal of movements to get everything sharp and with the Shen Hao a standard lens board is fine.

My next lens will be a 210 then 150 then 300 then 75mm. I'm glad I went the 90 first as it's wide vistas I like best

28-Dec-2007, 11:31
I'm along the same lines as Keith. In 35mm format my favorite focal lengths are 24 to 60mm with my personal favorites being around 40-50mm. The 150 fits right in here. The only reason I have a S-A 65/8 is that it came with the camera I bought. I would never have made this a priority purchase. With landscape photography, you can't always backup or step closer, so I'll need a variety of focal lengths.

Right now I've already got a 150 and a 65. I plan to also have a 135 and 210 soon, and then a 90 and 180 a little ways down the road. I'll keep the 65, but I see no reason to venture down the path of 47, 72, 80 or 240, 300, etc because I wouldn't use them as much as the 90-210 range. That is just my style.

And of course when I'm out hiking or backpacking, I'm going to be really selective as to which ones I'll carry, so that will come into play also. Unless there is a specific need for a lens, I always limit myself to 2 lenses.

And as to f5.6 versus f8, its easier to focus the 5.6 lenses, but the f8 weight savings are nice. You might find that the f6.8 lenses are a good compromise in some lengths (like 90mm).