View Full Version : Is there a Book on selecting a VIew Camera Lens?

5-Dec-2003, 13:26
There has been a lot of questions as of late that concern certain types of lenses. I have asked a lot of those. So I do not keep asking these questions-I am sure there will be more becuase a Raise is on the way WOOOHOOOO-Is there a book out there about view camera lenses. An idiots guide to View camera lenses would be great, but I am sure one does not exist. Anything would be helpful. I am looking especially for something that lists the type of lens, the benefits or drawbacks of such a lens and maybe manufaturer information.

QT Luong
5-Dec-2003, 13:37
Mark, if you go to the static part of this site largeformatphotography.info (click on "Large Format Photography Home Page"), you'll see an "introduction to large format lenses" written by David Karp, and many other articles, including a chart of all new lenses available. Also View Camera recently ran a series of articles by Kerry Thalmann on each of the major lens manufacturers. Those two sources of information would be your best bet.

5-Dec-2003, 14:10
I looked at those and they did not give me a really clear idea of say the benefits of the ektar design or the angulon design, what a flat field lens is best for etc. I thought there might be a book around that people who respond to my questions could be looking in for info. Or this just info people pick up as they go?

Mike Troxell
5-Dec-2003, 14:39

There are several books that talk about and recommend view camera lens. But whenever I want to find out what real poeple who use a certain lens think about it, how it has worked out for them, what its strengths are and any weaknesses it has, I do a search of the forum here or I just do a google search. Peoples opinions who use the lens are normally what you want in order to evaluate a lens instead of what a book says about it.

Michael S. Briggs
5-Dec-2003, 15:00
You might like the book "A History of the Photographic Lens" by Rudolf Kingslake. It will teach you a lot about lenses and optics. Much of this info you really don't need know to make photographs, and the book doesn't answer questions like which brand is better. It describes the development of lenses and the classic designs. This is still practical information because many of the current lenses are classic designs or closely based on classic designs -- this is much more true of LF lenses then 35 mm lenses.

N Dhananjay
5-Dec-2003, 15:05
I don't know if there is a book exactly like the one you are looking for. A good starting point, especially if you are looking at older lenses, is to read Rudolph Kingslake's excellent books on the history of lens design - "A History of Photographic Lenses" by Rudolph Kingslake published by Academic Press. The book covers the evolution of lens designs and does talk about the merits of various designs and product lines. Cheers, DJ

David Karp
5-Dec-2003, 15:10

Stone's "A User's Guide to the View Camera" has a couple of chapters on lenses, including descriptions of various lens designs and their characteristics (i.e., Plasmat, Celor, Triplet, Tessar, etc.). This information is not very detailed or what you would find in a book on optics, but you might find these chapters helpful.

Ernest Purdum
5-Dec-2003, 15:33
I echo the recommendations fo Dr. Kingslake's books, particularly the history. "Photographic Optics" by Cox shows the construction of many lenses. The "Lens Collector's Vade Mecum" is a CD, available on eBay, which contains an enormous amount of information, though in a format which can be a little frustrating.

Kigslake and Cox are a little hard to find, but here is a booklet on the subject which is easy. If you send me your address, I'll send you one.

Dan Fromm
5-Dec-2003, 18:21
Um, er, ah, I think you (Mark, who asked the question) are out of your mind. I have too many lenses, of many designs. These include tessar-type, biogon (yes!), super angulon-type, wide angle 4 element double gauss, plasmat, opic (= planar), g h cook's air-spaced variation on lee's distortionless tele, 4 element tele, and an odd 'un (symmetrical, 6/6). And then there are the macro lenses, which include some triplets. I use most of them.

Unlike many of the people here, I use old press cameras so am not concerned about movements. Most of my lenses were intended for formats larger than the one I shoot, so for them coverage (= poor sharpness in the corners) isn't an issue. Coverage is a big issue for the people who use real view cameras and for lenses used on the format they were intended for.

My good lenses take good pictures, the bad ones don't. Design has nothing to do with it. I have a very nice 4 element double gauss w/a, had a much worse lens of the same design. I have tessar types that work well, others that work worse.

Don't go off into never-never land dreaming of optical formulas and subtle imaging qualities -- the notorious overcorrected spherical aberration, for example. Instead, decide what you want to accomplish (= which angles of view suit the way you see things) and then look for lenses that cover the angles, fit your budget (woohoo!), and are reported to perform well. If you have other needs, like good performance wide open or light weight, look for news about them. Don't decide that, say, Dagors are it and shop for Dagors of the right focal lengths to the exclusion of everything else. If you search around on usenet and here, you'll find information about some designs that have notorious, um, quirks. Like Dagors. Focus shift on stopping down. More modern designs are pretty quirk-free, and I'm sure someone will correct me with the news that some Dagors don't have the quirk.

Point is, don't obsess about lens design in the abstract, do investigate how well actual lenses that see the world as you do and fit your budget perform.



Wayne Crider
6-Dec-2003, 14:01
I totally agree with Dan. If anything read Kerry's site and pick one of his rec's; than go out and shoot. Many of the guys here and elsewhere know about certain older lenses so well because they bought one and shot with it. If it was crap they ditched it and bought another. Examples varied to some degree and you could get a good one or bad one. Nowadays computers and manufacturing techniques have brought most lenses to the point of being so close in performance that all that matters is how much it cost, what the image circle is, how much it weighs and what filters it takes. There might be a little color rendition stuff going on but big deal; It's making the picture that it's all about. If you can't get off the old bum and make pictures, having a great lens means nadda. May as well buy good beer and sausage.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
7-Dec-2003, 08:02
There is somebody how sells such a guide on eBay in the LF lens section. Perhaps he is active on this or the other LF forum?

Dan Fromm
7-Dec-2003, 09:05
Jason, I think you're referring to Dan Colucci, who is selling the Lens Collector's Vade Mecum. The Vade Mecum is idiosyncratic, inconsistent, incomplete, sometimes incorrect, often infuriating, and in need of help from a good copy editor. In spite of all that it is a very useful guide to, mainly, older lenses from, mainly, european makers. Since I'm in the US, Europe includes the UK. It is terrible on US-made lenses and weak on modern ones. It reflects its author's interests as a collector and what was on offer when he went shopping.

I like the Vade Mecum, refer to it often. But I don't think it is a good guide to what's ok and what isn't. Not that judgements in it about lenses' performance are incorrect, but that they are so few.



John Kasaian
8-Dec-2003, 08:32

You've got lots of great advice. Steve Simmon's Using the View Camera has good basic advice on older lenses one is likely to encounter. My advice is if you have one good lens you are happy with, stick with it and only add another if you really(I mean REALLY) have to(spend your money on things that will really make a difference, like more film or a workshop). OTOH, if you are aleady reading Kingslake you're probably too far gone. If you don't want to try out each design you read about, you soon will. Abandon all hope! Get out the plastic and E-bay on---last years winter coats can be made to still fit your kids with the creative application of gaffer's tape! And who needs fresh meat and vegetables when there are so many ways to enjoy wonderful nutritious spam? And if you can get another three years out of your automobile's tires you will have easily saved enough coin for a 19" f7.7 Dagor!


Jim Galli
8-Dec-2003, 11:41
"Don't go off into never-never land dreaming..." ahh, but Dan, it's nice in la-la land. Kidding aside, you won't do better than Kerry Thalmann's very excellent web site. jg

Ernest Purdum
8-Dec-2003, 12:29
Jason, if you were referring to the forty page booklet on choosing a view camera lens, that's the one I sent to Mark. There won't be any more for awhile, though, since that printing has run out.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
8-Dec-2003, 17:21
Indeed, I think I was referring to Ernest's booklet, I would hardly call the Vade Mecum an idiots guide... What happened to the booklet? How about publishing it on Tuan's site?

8-Dec-2003, 18:48
Thanks a lot folks. I have learned a lot.