View Full Version : Three Questions about 600mm Lenses

12-Feb-2010, 13:57
I am considering the purchase of a Nikkor 600mm telephoto or a Fuji C 600mm for use on an 8x10 camera. I might also use the lens on a 5x7 or 4x5.

I have three questions.

First, what are the differences in image characteristics between these two lenses?

Secondly, is stability an issue only in fairly windy conditions or also under light to windless conditions?

Finally, my understanding is that the Nikkor requires 410mm of bellows draw at infinity and of course the Fuji requires 600mm. I can accomodate the Nikkor with my current 8x10 bellows (50cm+), but for the Fuji I would have to either purchase a 70cm bellows or attach two bellows, one from my 8x10 and one from my 4x5, both being Arca. I am not inclined to buy a new bellows if I can avoid it. How kludgey is the attachment solution and does it invite significant vignetting problems? In other words, does it militate in favour of the Nikkor?

A little background info that might be helpful:

In part, the lens will be used to make photographs, from a peninsula, of a community on the ocean that is about 2 km away.

I want to use a large format camera for this, preferably 8x10, rather than a medium format or 35mm camera.

I don't want to use a shorter lens with the intention of cropping. My alternative approach is to use my 4x5 with a 360mm/Copal 3 Nikkor that I have. So far, I have only used this lens in dead calm; I'm working on the premise that comments on the stability issue raised above may also apply to this lens, at least to some degree.

I am interested in the question of whether use of the 4x5 plus stitching might be attractive.

I have read this excellent thread that Kirk Gittings started called Dealing with Wind: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?t=20467&highlight=wind

Finally, I don't intend to backpack with the lens, ever.

12-Feb-2010, 14:49
It may not matter to you, but the Nikkor has an image circle of 200mm @ f/9 and 310mm @ f/22. The Fuji has an image circle of 620mm @ f/22.

The flange distance of the Fuji is 573mm per the chart on the Ebony Camera web site.

Walter Calahan
12-Feb-2010, 14:52
I'd go with the least expensive option since you clearly have one project in mind for this lens.

Any chance of borrowing or renting either of these lenses?

12-Feb-2010, 14:57
Jerome, thanks, I hadn't seen numbers on the image circle range. Useful to know.

Walter, I expect that I can rent, but note that I said in part for this project. The lens must work for these photographs, but I think that I have other uses for it.

Drew Wiley
12-Feb-2010, 15:34
If it's for 4X5 why not use a Fuji 600T. On 8x10 the 600C has a big advantage over
any telephoto - much more compact with a huge image circle. The Nikon just doesn't
seem very practical in either case. But anything with a no.3 shutter becomes dicey
with 4x5 at long extensions, unless you shoot a solid tank like a Sinar P. But in any
event, I've been quite pleased with my own 600C.

Richard Raymond
12-Feb-2010, 16:12
Wind and stability: if you plan to shoot from one location then I would set up a blind or a tent and I would shoot from that with only the lens sticking out. Given the photo you described height of camera does not appear to be an issue so a stand up blind or a 6 person tent would provide enough room and plenty of protection from the wind.

Eric Leppanen
12-Feb-2010, 16:22
I also own Arca 4x5 and 8x10 cameras and faced the same dilemma. I chose the 600mm telephoto route (in my case an APO Tele Xenar), not only because I can use the standard 8x10 bellows, but also because the shorter extension required made stabilizing the camera easier.

The Nikon 600T image circle spec is conservative: it will cover 8x10, albeit with little room to spare. Any significant movements will have to be made using the rear standard. If the 600T is kept at the center of its image circle, I doubt you'll see much difference versus the Fuji 600C in real world prints (the Fuji may have a bit more contrast).

For my longer telephotos (800 and 1200mm), I borrow the bellows from my Arca 4x5, which I attach using a supplementary intermediate standard (Arca Discovery style). I have not used a Fuji 600C in this configuration (I sold mine before I bought the Arca), but I would be concerned about the Fuji's enormous image circle causing bellows flare within the relatively small 4x5 bellows (internal reflections off the intermediate standard, even though it is painted black, could also be a problem). I would suggest contacting Rod Klukas of Photomark about this; he is probably the largest Arca LF dealer in the U.S. and I know he uses a 600C on his Arca.

With a lens as long as 600mm, stability is always an issue, not only due to wind but shutter kick as well (all these modern 600mms 8x10 lenses use Copal 3 shutters). I use a big heavy tripod equipped with a Manfrotto 3252 long lens support arm (affixed with an 85mm Arca extension bracket which connects to the Arca monorail) as a supplemental brace to dampen camera vibration. A big ol' golf umbrella is helpful too in a mild breeze. Sometimes I'll drape a beanbag over the front lens barrel to further dampen vibration.

If you don't already, you may want to keep some fast film around to keep shutter speeds short. Portra 400NC is good for color, and HP5+ has nice exposure latitude and is tolerant of pushing (I have sometimes shot this film at ISO 1600 and gotten away with it).

12-Feb-2010, 16:33
Richard, thanks. As I said in my original post, I have read Kirk Gittings's excellent thread called Dealing with Wind, which contains a pretty exhaustive discussion about the various strategies, including blinds and tents. The info is great, but I just don't want to waste your time or that of others.

12-Feb-2010, 17:00
Eric, thanks very much. Yes, one of my options is 8x10 bellows plus 25cm rail extension plus 4x5 Discovery standard and bellows :)

I shoot HP5+ at 1600 quite regularly with a Leica M3. Sometimes even 3200 :)

Don Dudenbostel
12-Feb-2010, 21:44
It may not matter to you, but the Nikkor has an image circle of 200mm @ f/9 and 310mm @ f/22. The Fuji has an image circle of 620mm @ f/22.

The flange distance of the Fuji is 573mm per the chart on the Ebony Camera web site.

I believe you're thinking about the 500mm Nikkor T. I have that set (360/500/720) and it has around 200-210mm of coverage. The 600/800/1200 are much larger physically and in a number 3 copal vs the 1 copal of the 360/500/720 set. The image circle of the 600 set is designed to cover 8x10 but with little to no movements.

Tough decision. I have the Fujinon C 600 and like it quite well but both my Deardorff and Canham can have problems with vibration at that extension. I'm thinking of using a second small tripod to support the front of the camera to reduce vibration. Some of the issues could be due to shutter vibration but I'm not certain.

As I mentioned I have the Nikkor T set for my 4x5 and love it. It's fantastic in the contrast and resolution department and requires about the same bellows as a 210mm lens apposed to my 450mm M Nikkor that takes 450mm's.

If I didn't need movements the T would be tempting.