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View Full Version : The old 'what the best lenses' question



Rudgey
19-Mar-2012, 04:07
Sorry to ask this old question, but your collective pool of wisdom will save me a lot of time and money.

After selling all my 10x8 kit a few years ago, I'm now in the process of coming back to large format (cannot keep away) this time with 5x4.
Some of you may have seen my last post deciding on what type of Ebony camera to go for, I have decided upon a new SV45TE (folding).

I'm now looking for a range of lenses from 90mm - 450mm, I understand you have to buy the new version of the Schneider Super-Angulon XL 90mm for it to fit the Ebony?
I intend to use this camera for my fine art work of which is a mixed bag from studio close-up (no more than 1-1) to landscape etc. I have around 3k ($4750) to spend, happy to buy second hand for the right lens.

If you were buying again what would you do, buy a few of the latest new (I'm sure they are not a new design however?) or more S/H? What lenses are considered the best in your view.

jp
19-Mar-2012, 06:10
"Fine art work" covers a wide scope; urinals, peppers, nudes, yosemite. A mixed bag indeed that does not narrow your choices down. More important would be the output size of your finished work.

I'm purposely buying low-midrange priced lenses as the highest prices used ones are often for collectors who will probably not use them. More less-pretty lenses means I get to try more things for a given $ amount or spend more $ on film.

For normal to longish lenses I like my uncoated Meyer Trioplan (triplet design) and my single coated tessar design lenses. They do a good job with the backgrounds. For soft stuff, the Kodak Portrait 305 is excellent as is Reinhold's wollaston meniscus. For wider things, I have a Nikkor 90/4.5 sw which I can't complain about.

Bill_1856
19-Mar-2012, 06:18
IMO, used Schneider Symmar-S Multicoated lenses generally provide the best compromise between the very latest glass and their corresponding sky-high prices.

vinny
19-Mar-2012, 07:05
Jesus.

Preston
19-Mar-2012, 07:21
Your question is pretty general. My advice is to take look at the articles at the LF Info page (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/). There is a great deal of information there about lenses. Once you have a solid idea about what you want, be sure to ask questions about specific lenses.

--P

Rudgey
19-Mar-2012, 09:01
Your question is pretty general.
--P

sorry should have been more specific. Looking for a good 90mm 150 or 210mm & 500mm

BrianShaw
19-Mar-2012, 09:21
Jesus.

Amen

Noah A
19-Mar-2012, 10:10
Your question is still general, but I'd generally recommend buying used, late-model modern lenses. This way you get great lenses for a fraction of what they cost new. And, if one doesn't work for you for whatever reason, you can sell it for pretty much what you paid.

I built my kit that way. I have a bunch of lenses, all Schneider and Rodenstock, but I could work with my 115 Grandagon-N and 210 Apo-Sironar-S and that would cover 95 percent of my needs.

The focal lengths you mentioned, at least the 90, 150 and 210, are common on the used market. I'd say you can't go wrong with late-model Super Angulons or Grandagons for the 90mm and Apo-Sironar-S or Apo-Symmars for the 150 and 210. Actually, for the 150, you might want to go with the Apo-Sironar-S since at that focal length, the extra coverage is beneficial for many photographers. The Apo-Symmar L would also give you that extra coverage, but it's more rare on the used market. For the 210, all of the plasmats have a ton of coverage so it's less critical. The Apo-Symmar 210 has always been something of a reference lens and is plentiful on the used market.

Others are going to tell you that you can get great results with 50-year-old lenses. They're right, of course, but it depends on what you're after. The fact that you mentioned a 90XL was a hint that you're after modern glass.

Any of the modern lenses from Nikon, Fuji, Rodenstock and Schneider will be very good and should be able to give you negs you can enlarge quite a bit, if that's what you're after. The main differences are image circle, color rendering, contrast and of course, price. I tend to like the look of the german lenses, but that's just a personal preference.

Rudgey
19-Mar-2012, 10:14
Amen

Guess this is not going anywhere? When I say good, which of course is subjective. What I'm looking for is: for price quality and weight I have found xxxx very good.
Thanks for the PM's from people with their view rather than wise arse remarks that help no one and even waste their time typing it.

Rudgey
19-Mar-2012, 10:21
Thanks Noah, great advice to get me looking, thanks for your time.

BrianShaw
19-Mar-2012, 10:24
I guess I should take that personally... but your question is basically unanswerable. So here is some opinion.

IF I were to do it all over again I'd buy two or three used lenses -- all Kodak Commercial Ektars: 8.5 inch, 10 inch, 12 inch. Budget would be $300 - $500 each with another $100 each to have the shutter overhauled.

IF you want newer lenses, I'd buy Schneider Symmar-S MC, as Bill suggests, in 90 (Super-Angulon, really), 150, 210, and 300 (not 500). For any needs > 300 I'd crop.

Are you happier now?

BrianShaw
19-Mar-2012, 10:29
p.s. I don't know the capabilities of the camera you are thinking about, but I've never had good experience with architecture using folding cameras -- not enough movement.

Rudgey
19-Mar-2012, 10:29
Thanks Bill, no my architectural work is done on another set up.

BrianShaw
19-Mar-2012, 10:35
(I'm Brian, not Bill.) Oh, sorry. You said that in the first post. I have the same comment about studio close-up too.

adam satushek
19-Mar-2012, 10:46
Just my 2 cents, since you stated, "Looking for a good 90mm 150 or 210mm & 500mm"

These are part of my 4x5 line-up....

90mm: Nikkor-SW f/8
150mm: Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-S f/5.6
210mm: Schneider Apo-Symmar f/5.6
450mm: Nikkor-M f/9

(Note I also throw a 120mm Nikkor-SW f/8 and a 300mm Nikkor-M f/9 in there to fill in the gaps, the 120 has tons of coverage which I find very handy)

Hope that helps...

turtle
19-Mar-2012, 11:00
OK, I think I can help. This is just an opinion:

Forget new lenses. That's a waste of money IMHO.
Forget the 90 XL. It is huge and has more coverage than you need, by far. It also it a b1tch to fit the rear element thru the lens boards of your ebony.

To make life simple, especially if you are unfamiliar, buy only lenses on modern Copal shutters with a black dial, or the silver dial. Sure there are other great shutters out there, but I think you need to keep things simple until you are more up to speed. It will also keep everything uniform.

Look at:

90 Nikkor SW f8 (biggest coverage and lightest), Schneider Super Angulon f8, Rodenstock f6.8 Grandagon. Fujinon SW ($350-500)
150 Symmar S, APO Symmar, Sironar N, APO Sironar, N, Fujinon W ($200-500)
210 same as above or a Schneider 210 G Claron. This is excellent for close up work and infinity stopped down. ($250-325)
300 Rodenstock Geronar f9, Nikkor-M f9, Fujinon-C f8.5, 305mm Schneider G Claron.($250-700)
450 Fujinon-C f12.5 (tiny lens in copal 1), Nikkor M f9 (much bigger lens in copal 3) ($850-950). Make sure you have the bellows extension for this lens on your ebony!

This is all possible within your budget. Easily in fact. If you find you needs something different, you should have the cash remaining to do so.

IMHO don't buy Schneider APO Symmar L or Rodenstock Sironar S lenses as they have a little more coverage but are a lot more expensive. If you run out of image circle with the lenses you have, you can then trade up after selling your wise purchases for what you bought them for +/-. Unless you are doing architecture, you should be OK with the coverage of the 150mm lenses listed above.

You can get bargains with Caltar lenses. A Caltar N-II is a Rodenstock APO/Sironar N, but sometimes cheaper.

All of the above lenses are absolutely superb and, with the exception of the 210 G-Claron, are multicoated. I've owned many of them and all have been better than me. My lens choices now are only related to my specific needs, but it does not sound like yours are quite clear to you yet (mine are generally about low weight for example).

Have fun!

turtle
19-Mar-2012, 13:36
PS being flexible on brand will allow you to find well priced lenses much more quickly. There are some seriously good bargains out there in the 150 and 210mm focal lengths. If shooting 5x4, almost all 210 5.6 lenses will have far more coverage than you will ever need so the ones with super coverage are a waste of money. OK, so the APO Sironar S might be a minuscule sliver of an almost invisible hair sharper than the 'N' version under lab conditions, but once translated to prints obtained in the field, it is going to make no difference whatsoever IMHO.

You might also wish to consider swapping the 150 for a 135mm, if you are not a standard lens kinda guy. I'm not and prefer to have my lenses on either side of 150 i.e. 120, 180, or 135, 210. If you do go for a 135, it is worth getting something with more coverage, like an APO Sironar S or APO Symmar L, but it will cost 2-3 times more.

rdenney
20-Mar-2012, 06:37
Jesus.

Are you suggesting prayer? Then, yes, I agree. But I am not sure divine intervention is necessary specifically for lenses.

I rather agree with the notion that best bang for the buck comes from tessar designs in the longer lenses and more modern designs in the shorter lenses, with maybe one really sharp lens in the middle for those occasions when someone is asking for a photograph to make a print measured in feet. I ended up with Super Angulons of f/5.6 design for 65 and 90, and of f/8 design for 121. I typically don't use a lens at 150 or 180, though I have a Geronar at 150 and an old Symmar Convertible at 180--these are cheapies that work pretty well stopped down, for scratching itches. At 210 I have a very fine Sinaron-W, which is an APO-Sironar-N, state of the art maybe 15 years ago. For longer lenses I have a Caltar Type Y at 240 and an Ilex-Caltar 12", both of which are good-quality tessar designs. Except for the 90/5.6, which is a multi-coated lens from around 1990 (about when I bought it), I didn't pay more than $300 for any of these, and many were $200. But my choices reflect advances in technology over the decades: More modern and sophisticated wide-field designs for short focal lengths, and longer lenses selected for their rendering as much as anything, which we've known how to do forever.

On the other hand, I'm not sure anyone returning to large-format with a new Ebony is necessarily looking for the best bang for the buck.

Rick "who also prays (for forgiveness) when expressing envy" Denney

BrianShaw
20-Mar-2012, 06:45
on the other hand, i'm not sure anyone returning to large-format with a new ebony is necessarily looking for the best bang for the buck.

lol

mortensen
20-Mar-2012, 08:41
http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?88640-FS-Rodenstock-210mm-f-5-6-Sironar-S-_-90mm-f-4-5-Grandagon-N_115mm-f-6-8-Grandagon-N

By a lot of people assumed to be among the best lenses out there in their respective focal lengths, available in LN condition from the same seller (whom I have no affiliation with). If you can afford a new Ebony, you can afford this, too. Just sayin'...

Noah A
20-Mar-2012, 08:55
I have no affiliation with the seller Mortensen mentioned, but these are fine lenses in apparently new condition at great prices. I'd buy at least the 90 and 210, and probably the 115 too since it's such a great lens and great focal length.

Lynn Jones
20-Mar-2012, 09:25
Sorry to ask this old question, but your collective pool of wisdom will save me a lot of time and money.

After selling all my 10x8 kit a few years ago, I'm now in the process of coming back to large format (cannot keep away) this time with 5x4.
Some of you may have seen my last post deciding on what type of Ebony camera to go for, I have decided upon a new SV45TE (folding).

I'm now looking for a range of lenses from 90mm - 450mm, I understand you have to buy the new version of the Schneider Super-Angulon XL 90mm for it to fit the Ebony?
I intend to use this camera for my fine art work of which is a mixed bag from studio close-up (no more than 1-1) to landscape etc. I have around 3k ($4750) to spend, happy to buy second hand for the right lens.

If you were buying again what would you do, buy a few of the latest new (I'm sure they are not a new design however?) or more S/H? What lenses are considered the best in your view.

Hi Ridgely
for you and any other interested folks, I created a paper for that kind of LF information back in the late 60's or early 70's, email me at lynn@austincc.edu
Lynn

ic-racer
20-Mar-2012, 15:56
Color? B&W? Contact? Enlargement?

If you are shooting B&W with colored filters in low contrast settings you can get exquisite sharp photographs with certain old, single coated lenses. Since it seems everyone wants a blurry look, these lenses can very inexpensive.

If you are doing color murals then you need something else.

Vaughn
20-Mar-2012, 16:26
The Calter IIN 150mm/5.6 is just a sweet little lens. I think I bought it new in the early 80's for $239 or so. It cost a little more than the Calumet/Gowland 4x5 PocketView I bought new from Calumet at the same time ($220). It was my only lens for 4x5 for many years. Have fun with LF!

Vaughn

Corran
20-Mar-2012, 16:55
Barring getting a "look" unique to some old lenses, it seems pretty simple to me, depending on how wide you want your focal lengths to span:

Schneider 47 XL, 58, 72, Nikkor 90, Schneider Symmar-S or newer APO 150, 210, maybe 135 if you like that FL, Nikkor-M 300, 450, or for teles the 360/500/720 set. Done.

I like modern glass so I guess I'm biased. Throw in a Verito and/or Heliar for special purposes maybe.

Of course I guess this'll be discussed to death, but I'm not well-versed in vintage lenses enough to comment about them. I will say a 100-year-old single-coated lens I stole from a Kodak 3C folder looked pretty much identical to a modern lens on b&w film when stopped down to f/22. So that's to say both that modern lenses don't necessarily matter and that vintage lenses don't necessarily look any different or "special." That lens might have had slightly less detail/resolution at a huge print size but that's about it.

John Kasaian
20-Mar-2012, 17:40
The Kodak 203mm f/7.7 Ektar works for me, as does a Wollensak 168mm Velostigmat series II and a 215mm Ilex Acuton. Cheap lenses, reliable shutters, great glass, I'm happy :D

Drew Bedo
20-Mar-2012, 19:10
Well I sure wouldn't look at putting together a kit of lenses as as filling out a finalized list of must-haves. You can't use every lens you have every time you shoot. Have a tentative list if you must , but I would buy the best available lens at the best price at the time, and shoot with that while waiting for another choice piece to hit the used market at a good price.

Rudgey
22-Mar-2012, 09:14
http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?88640-FS-Rodenstock-210mm-f-5-6-Sironar-S-_-90mm-f-4-5-Grandagon-N_115mm-f-6-8-Grandagon-N

By a lot of people assumed to be among the best lenses out there in their respective focal lengths, available in LN condition from the same seller (whom I have no affiliation with). If you can afford a new Ebony, you can afford this, too. Just sayin'...

Thanks Mortensen, just purchased the 90 & 210 from him!

John Kasaian
23-Mar-2012, 08:04
Answer to the "Re: The old 'what the best lenses' question
The lens thats out on your snout when the light is perfect;)

Alan Gales
23-Mar-2012, 08:45
Great choices if you can afford them. :)
Barring getting a "look" unique to some old lenses, it seems pretty simple to me, depending on how wide you want your focal lengths to span:

Schneider 47 XL, 58, 72, Nikkor 90, Schneider Symmar-S or newer APO 150, 210, maybe 135 if you like that FL, Nikkor-M 300, 450, or for teles the 360/500/720 set. Done.

I like modern glass so I guess I'm biased. Throw in a Verito and/or Heliar for special purposes maybe.

Of course I guess this'll be discussed to death, but I'm not well-versed in vintage lenses enough to comment about them. I will say a 100-year-old single-coated lens I stole from a Kodak 3C folder looked pretty much identical to a modern lens on b&w film when stopped down to f/22. So that's to say both that modern lenses don't necessarily matter and that vintage lenses don't necessarily look any different or "special." That lens might have had slightly less detail/resolution at a huge print size but that's about it.

John NYC
23-Mar-2012, 08:55
In reference to the original post... Buy any lens made since the 1970's or so from the big four (Nikon, Fuji, Rodenstock or Schneider). You won't be able to tell the difference unless you are a goofy pixel peeper like I used to be and revert to being sometimes. Sample variation will matter much more than make/model comparisons in many cases. What will matter even more in getting sharp and contrasty pictures is your own technique, your tripod, the wind conditions, etc.

Rod Klukas
27-Mar-2012, 14:37
Your question is still general, but I'd generally recommend buying used, late-model modern lenses. This way you get great lenses for a fraction of what they cost new. And, if one doesn't work for you for whatever reason, you can sell it for pretty much what you paid.

I built my kit that way. I have a bunch of lenses, all Schneider and Rodenstock, but I could work with my 115 Grandagon-N and 210 Apo-Sironar-S and that would cover 95 percent of my needs.

The focal lengths you mentioned, at least the 90, 150 and 210, are common on the used market. I'd say you can't go wrong with late-model Super Angulons or Grandagons for the 90mm and Apo-Sironar-S or Apo-Symmars for the 150 and 210. Actually, for the 150, you might want to go with the Apo-Sironar-S since at that focal length, the extra coverage is beneficial for many photographers. The Apo-Symmar L would also give you that extra coverage, but it's more rare on the used market. For the 210, all of the plasmats have a ton of coverage so it's less critical. The Apo-Symmar 210 has always been something of a reference lens and is plentiful on the used market.

Others are going to tell you that you can get great results with 50-year-old lenses. They're right, of course, but it depends on what you're after. The fact that you mentioned a 90XL was a hint that you're after modern glass.

Any of the modern lenses from Nikon, Fuji, Rodenstock and Schneider will be very good and should be able to give you negs you can enlarge quite a bit, if that's what you're after. The main differences are image circle, color rendering, contrast and of course, price. I tend to like the look of the german lenses, but that's just a personal preference.

The lenses of 135-210mm are exceptional in the newer offerings from Rodenstock, Apo-Sironar 'S', and Schneider, Apo-Symmar 'L'.
These lenses are not only excellent in 'color contrast' but have large coverage circles as well. Additionally they are excellent at 1:1 and even greater reproduction ratios, being better than anything else available except a true macro at close ups. They are also the best at infinity and low distortion. Try lensfielders.com or Lens&Repro, or Igor Camera, they had some used ones.

Rod

BondsS87
31-Mar-2012, 11:45
Thanks a lot guys for providing this useful information..

This is very informative post

Personally, I gained a lot of benefits from reading it

BondsS87
3-Apr-2012, 08:09
Thanks a lot guys for providing this useful information..

This is very informative post

Personally, I gained a lot of benefits from reading it