View Full Version : Mike Johnston's column today
John W. Randall
Mike Johnston's column, "Sunday Morning", which he publishes most Sundays within the Luminous Landscape forum, today addresses the 'newbie' question "Which lens should I get?" with his always-rewarding POV and refreshing style. A good, if short, read.
Best regards, John Randall
So, of those who have read Mike's article, how many concur?
The perceived wisdom of the late Fred Picker was that the entire planet could be sufficiently well covered with just a 120mm and a 210mm. As one with a case holding 15 lenses it would follow that I do not necessarily agree. Although having said that the majority of my lens inventory is to address the specialist needs of my commercial pursuits in architecture and life-style photography plus there are lenses that seem to get decanted into bags for different formats from 6x9 to 8x10. At some time or other, however, they ALL get a run on 4x5 (6x12) - from 35mm to 450mm
The format I am least well served in is 8x10. I have a 155mm, a 300mm and a 450mm along with a seldom aired 180mm Makro and I must confess that is I were restricted to only ONE lens I would opt for the 450mm. In 4x5 terms - near enough to the 210mm/240mm debate. In my personal 4x5 work I do use the 210mm quite a lot. I also changed my 120mm for the 110mm SS-XL a couple of years back but find I more often reach for the 90mm or even the 72mm (which nearly equates with the 155mm on 8x10).
As a starter lens a 135mm might suffice for a while but, and here I diverge from Mike's view, after a while I am sure the image circle restrictions and the 'Schneider-dis-nor-dat' field-of-view factor would instigate a search for something either a little more expansive or with a little more 'reach'. Portraits with a 135mm would have to almost always be environmental portraits I feel ... and we do like going fossicking for pores and follicles with super sharp large format portraits when we're new to the medium, don't we?
Anyway, they are just my views and they are certainly not intended as a criticism - especially of Mike and his 'Almost Every Sunday Photographer' feature - they are merely a musing triggered by his article. I also read Mike in the UK magazine Black & White Photography and with his pat efforts with other publications he is a journalistic treasure for those of us who like to read about our craft..
I disagree with the idea of selecting equipment with a target print size of 16x20 in mind. It might be true that most of your prints will be 16x20, but the *possibility* of making huge prints is, in my opinion, one of the main attraction of LF. I also find that being restricted by a small image circle is not nice.
David A. Goldfarb
So the ideal setup for a beginner would be a 16x20" camera and a lens of about 500-600mm. Sounds reasonable to me.
Alot depends on how you see the world and want to picture it. When I used to shoot a lot of 35mm and medium format I usually opted for wider angle than "normal". The more I shoot large format and wind up cropping the images to get to the essence of the picture, I tend to shoot initially with a longer lens than normal.The most common problem I see in the APUG critique gallery are images that should be cropped. It's as if the photographer thinks that if the picture is some place in the frame, the viewer will forget about the extraneous elements...
Dear Lord, Walter, I've never owned 15 lenses at once in my entire LIFE. <g>
I've gotten some very mixed feedback to yesterday's column. One guy thought it was arrogant and conceited (?) of me to assume that my audience would have any interest in LF; another guy said he was totally into Canon digital but thought LF would be the perfect complement to it. I actually got a pair of "elemental" replies--one saying I "sucked," the other saying I "rocked." Ya love it when it comes down to the single-word judgments.
I've been assigned to write a review of an Ebony for _B&WP_, so I've been thinking more about LF again recently.
Also, thanks to all for the various kind words about my little almost-weekly column--although I don't get paid for writing it, I can't seem to bring myself to stop writing it, either. You know what they say: oh well!
Funny, I am a Canon digital user just taking the leap into LF (but not the writer). The article seemed quite relevent to me, even though a week too late and I probably wouldn't have listened anyway :) I got an 80 and a 210 and will fill the gap sometime later. The 80 is really wide, I know, but the woods of Ontario have very little working room.
Yesterday I went to an exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada where they have a Group of Seven exhibit. They had several prints from 1887-1889, originals. A couple of them were stunning. Some were a little faded but at least a couple had tonality intact. These were maybe 11x14 or so? Anyway, they used incredibly primitive equipment, lenses which would go for $50 (outside of their collector value) and god knows what. Yet they exceeded -- in artistic value -- much of what is produced today. Sure they probably wouldn't blow up to 40x60 (like the recent, also stunning Burtenski exhibit I went to) but I would have been very happy to say I took it.
It is easy to get caught up in technical issues and forget many of the masters struggled with equipment that would be considered junk by many modern users.
Doh! That is BURTYNSKY. My mistake. Anyway, stunning LF work (4x5 user, I believe). I seen the Manufactured Landscapes exhibit, but I digress....the point was, lens quality does not ultimately determine the value of your work (unless you are doing copy work, I suppose)
I just read the article and I certainly agree with starting out with one lens. As for the length of the lens, the article provides a nice jumping off point. Certainly a moderate wide is a useful lens, but that depends on how a photographer "sees." I think one of the biggest problems in starting out with large format is the concept of previsualization. A normal lens, slightly wider or longer that comes close to duplicating the normal field of vision is a good place to start, adding another horse to the stable only when a need presents itself to go wider or longer. As for using older lenses, I'm in complete agreement. My money is better spent on film, chemicals and paper. When I can produce a print that rivals the Masters who hung the likes of WF Ektars and Dagors out in front, then maybe I'll look into what the 21st Century Lensmakers have to sell. I'd say it is a good primer on lens selection.
I'd like to express my delight that Mike saw fit to add his comment here.
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