View Full Version : 8x10 lens help for a newbie!

5-Nov-2008, 18:32
Hey everyone, I'm a complete newbie to large format (well, I used one a couple of times 5 years ago, haha). I've recently come into a nice 8x10 Orbit (which, through my research, I believe is made by Calumet?)

Anyway, I'm in need of a lens and shutter and I have no idea where to start. I generally take portraits/landscape, with very little to no studio work (which I realize may be crazy with such a heavy camera, but I'm young, if not now, when?) I'm just looking for a normal lens...no wide-format, no telephoto.

Any recommendations? I could really use your help!

Jim Galli
5-Nov-2008, 18:50
You can't get to the classifieds as you're brand new but there are 2 chaps there who have Kodak 14" Commercial Ektar lenses for sale. You probably couldn't find a more forgiving and satisfying lens to tackle 8X10 with. A favorite of mine are most of the Schneider G-Claron's. 210 240 270 and 305mm all cover the format. There's several on Ebay this week.

John Kasaian
5-Nov-2008, 19:12
Well, there are plenty of good older lenses to be had that would likely suit your needs:

14" Kodak Commercial Ektar ( my sentimental favorite)
12" Wollensak Velostigmat (a classic, undervalued)
Wollensak Triple Convertable 1A (3 focal lengths for the price of one, undervalued)
375mm Ilex Paragon (another "standard")
Schneider Symmar double convertable (both normal and long for the price of one)
12" Goerz Dagor (the "standard")
16-1/2" Goerz APO Artar (normal/longish, probably worth every penny)

I'd consider any of these lenses a good place to start.
Have fun! :)

5-Nov-2008, 19:52
The "standard" focal length of lenses for a particular format is equal to the length of the diagonal of the film. For 8x10 this is about 12" (300mm).
For portraits you'll probably want something a little longer, say 14".
There are lots of these old lenses out there looking for a home. I'd say that any lens made after WW2 will probably be satisfactory (presuming that the glass is clean), and the real question mark is the condition of the shuitter.
I'd recommend that you get your first lens from an established dealer in used LF lenses, such as Midwest Camera.

erie patsellis
6-Nov-2008, 13:46

Depending on where you live, there may be fellow LFers nearby that can help you get a feel for what lens would work best.

6-Nov-2008, 23:37
For your first lens, find a good copal-shuttered lens (or a good working Ilex shutter lens). Avoid compounds and barrel lenses until you get some experience. A misfiring compound will cause you no end of frustration as you learn.

I'd look for a good 210 or 240 for a landscape lens, followed by a 450 Nikor or 19 inch red dot artar or the ultra tiny Fuji 450C for portraits for a little longer landscape. Wait a bit to find a "normal" at 300. Find a good 12 inch late model Dagor if you can, or good used modern copal shutter 300. Those 360's tend to be a little heavy.

Pick up some good used fidelity (elite or other). Avoid the woodies for now.

Find a good used spot meter, unless you like incident meters.
I've always liked the minolta F meters. No need for one of those old Zone-VI corrected spotmeters. Most people finally figured out they weren't really as good as the salesman said.

Next a good loupe 4x to 6x.

Good luck and welcome to 8x10.

18-Nov-2008, 13:08
Thanks everybody for the advice! You've all been very helpful. Right now I'm looking into some Kodak Ektar's and the Schneider G-Claron's as well.

Ole Tjugen
18-Nov-2008, 14:28
Even if you're young and stron, look closely at the weight of some of these lenses: I have both a 360mm f:5.6 Symmar (convertible) and a 355mm f:9 G-Claron (in Compound #3). The weight difference is dramatic - the Symmar weighs as much as my 8x10" camera!

tom thomas
19-Nov-2008, 09:33
Hi Jennie,

Here's a nice "light-weight" lens for you. A Wollensak Veritar 14 inch lens with Alphax shutter for 8X10 work. The Ikoflex next to it will give you an idea of its size.

Tom Thomas

Diane Maher
20-Nov-2008, 06:01
No one has mentioned the Fujinon-C 300 mm which Jim at Midwest Photo Exchange will most likely have in stock. It is a nice standard length, modern lens and was my first lens for 8x10.

24-Nov-2008, 12:26
Any thoughts on what's a reasonable price for these lenses? There's a couple of Kodak Ektar's I'm watching right now...buyitnow price $475 and up. Crazy? Decent?

Jan Pedersen
24-Nov-2008, 12:40
Depends on the focal lenght. Make sure it is the Commercial Ektar f6.3 and not the ealier 4.5 Ektar.
475$ is a high price even for a 14" in pristine shape.

24-Nov-2008, 12:51
Hmm I will have to keep looking then. There's a 12" f.63 I found today that's got a very low starting bid that I'll keep my eye on.

Jan Pedersen
24-Nov-2008, 14:27
For less money than what the Commercial Ektars sell for, The Calumet Caltars are lenses that have less of an Aura but performs very well. Same Tessar design as the Commercial Ektar and in same focal lenght and speed. The challenge for both is to find them in good working shutters.

Mark Sawyer
24-Nov-2008, 14:57
All the modern coated 3OOmm-ish lenses perform very well and cover 8x10. There are way to many good ones to list them all, and I can't think of a single turkey to avoid. It just depends on what deal you come across. I'd just watch for something in good shape in a good reliable Copal shutter.

On the G-Clarons, remember that those are f/9 lenses, and can be a bit dark for focusing.

Jim Fitzgerald
24-Nov-2008, 16:41
If you are the creative/builder type find some front and rear elements that someone does not want and make your own barrel lens with waterhouse stops. I made exactly that with my Walnut barreled 14" Kodak Commercial Ektar with a complete set of stops. Even goes to F-64! But then again I'm crazy! By the way the lens works so well that I would do it again in a heartbeat. Best thing is that it took time, some materials and only cost me about $40.00 to make.


MIke Sherck
24-Nov-2008, 20:01
"Normal" focal length lenses will be the least expensive, generally: longer lenses (say, 14" to 16" or more,) command a bit of a premium as they are quite popular. Ditto for lenses shorter than 240mm. Prices on all this stuff have been falling for years; at this date (based on Ebay,) I wouldn't pay more than $300 for a 12" lens (except for cult lenses, such as Goertz,) or more than $350 or so for a 14" lens. Patient shoppers can probably do a bit better than that, given the depth of the toilet the economy has slipped into, and the season (prices always seem to drift lower from November to February or so, for some reason.) Ektars are excellent lenses but on the large side. If I were buying from an established retailer such as Midwest Photo, I'd be willing to pay more because there's less risk. Perhaps add $50 to the above prices.

I expect to hear wailing and gnashing of teeth at that. Sorry what folks paid years ago for this stuff: it isn't worth that much now. I know, there are lots of folks loudly exclaiming that they won't sell for that low of a price. Most of these folks are seeing their auctions draw no bidders, their sales no inquiries. It's a different world out there; if you are patient you can get some good lenses at good prices.

My first 8x10 lens kit was a 240mm Caltar IIN (a Rodenstock in everything but name,) and a 14" Red Dot Artar, both in Copal 3 shutters. Because of the weight and size of the lenses, I decided that a 2 lens kits was fine. Keep in mind that these were not particularly large lenses; more like average. Any 8x10 lens with f/5.6 to f/6.3 apertures are going to be larger and heavier than you expect. Not unmanagable, but don't be surprised. This was a good kit and worked well at the time.

Lighter lenses, such as the G-Clarons and some of the smaller Fuji lenses, are slower and you will probably find that the slower maximum aperture (f/9 to f/11 or so,) isn't really an issue unless you habitually photograph in dark places, such as the interiors of abandoned buildings or at night. Otherwise their lighter weight and slightly smaller size (in smaller shutters,) is welcome. Because of this, their prices are, again, usually a bit higher than that of "average" lenses.

You may think that a convertible lens could be a good idea, and you might be right. One problem is that most of these are in older shutters, and often aren't terribly accurate (or reliable.) Check carefully to make sure that the glass is clean -- lenses of this sort seem to be prone to lens element separation for some reason (glue holding the lens elements together begins to detach, usually starting around the edge of the lens.) And, of course, most of them are uncoated. One exception, if you happen to be flush with funds at the moment, is currently in the for sale forum (or was yesterday, last I looked,) the only modern convertible lenses and quite rare, a Cooke, selling for the very reasonable price of $3300 or something like that. I offered to indenture my kids and the dogs but never heard back... Smart man: they all eat like food is free!

Right now my 8x10 lens kit is a Fujinon 420mm L and a Fuji 210mm which just barely covers the film, with no room for movements. I also have a 12" Ektar, which is a great lens, I just don't use it much for 8x10 (it's more of my longish 4x5 lens.) Probably 80% of my 8x10 photographs are with the 420mm Fuji; I love the perspective and have always had something of a jones for Fuji glass; whatever they do, I like it very very much. It makes lovely negatives.

Don't forget that everything for 8x10 is larger, bulkier, and heavier than you might expect. Your camera is no lightweight, to my understanding, and you need to keep weight at the top of your thoughts as you assemble your kit. I've gone so far as to collect mostly wooden film holders, as many of them are lighter than their more modern plastic counterparts; others will tell you that it's a bad idea to trust something so important to holders that old. Your mileage may very, etc.

Good luck!