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Thread: Wide Angle starter lens for landscape 75? 90? 105? 125? 135?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jun 2004

    Wide Angle starter lens for landscape 75? 90? 105? 125? 135?

    Large Fromat wanna-be. Looking for a first lens for color landscape usage with chromes. In medium format and small format I prefer wides with about 3/4 of my shots done that way. Would like to start with a wider lens in 4x5 too rather than a normal 150. Reviewing the work of Dykinga and Meunch, I see a lot of pics done with a 75mm and I really like the look that gives. However after having read a lot of posts here, I am concerned about the difficulty of focusing a wide angle. I have looked through a 90 f/8 and found it really hard to see into the corners; and that was in the middle of the day with a dark cloth, lens open to f/8 and a fresnel. Cannot imagine how hard that would be 15 minutes before sunrise. Makes me want to avoid f/8 lenses alltogether in favor of faster glass.

    Now I wonder if a 75mm like the f/4.5 Nikon would be harder to focus than a 90 f/8?

    Is 75 too wide for a first lens?

    I see the most commonly suggested starter lens is a 150 or 210, however, I would really rather have something wider. What about something in the 105-135 range? I have seen a few comments on the 135s and then the Schnieder 110 XL, but next to nothing on a 105 or 125. The 110 looks real nice, but I am not sure if I want to put that much into a first lens. A 105 or 125 Fuji seems like more of a moderate wide and fairly cheap. I know a couple have "smaller" image circles, but in landscape do you need that much?

    What would you like and why?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Frisco, Texas

    Wide Angle starter lens for landscape 75? 90? 105? 125? 135?

    Hi Ag,

    A good starter lens in the focal length you describe is the Fujinon f5.6 125 CM-W. It is a relatively small, light weight lens with a 204mm. image circle. It will cover the 4X5 format, with some movement capability . It is not a true wide angle lens, but the 125mm focal length is moderately wide for the 4X5 format. I find it plenty bright for focusing, even under dim lighting conditions. A new 125 CM-W can be purchased for less than a good used 75 or 90 wide angle lens.

    As usual, I recommend contacting Jim, at Midwest Photo Exchange ( for the best price on a new, or previously owned Fuji lens.

  3. #3
    austin granger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Portland, Oregon

    Wide Angle starter lens for landscape 75? 90? 105? 125? 135?


    I'm sure you'll receive a great diversity of responses to your question. But as far as adding my own two cents, I own the Nikkor 90 f8 lens, and while it's a great lens as far as sharpness, etc. goes, I do have difficulty focusing it in low light situations (and at 33, my eyes are still pretty good). Anyway, if I could do it all over, I think I'd get the f4.5 version.

    Finally, if you like the "wide look" (Dykinga, Meunch) I'm not sure 135 or 125 is going to be wide enough for you...

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    San Francisco

    Wide Angle starter lens for landscape 75? 90? 105? 125? 135?

    I vote for a 90mm. Nothing will be ideal 100% of the time, but 90's are a tried and true and popular and easily found size.

    Focusability is not the only problem with shorter lenses; coverage declines, and movements become restricted or even impossible. I have a 65mm that vignettes if I am not careful about aligning it straight on -- movements are out of the question.

    When you are ready to go a little less wide, add a 210 to the 90 and you will be all set.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Calgary, AB Canada

    Wide Angle starter lens for landscape 75? 90? 105? 125? 135?

    Forget those weenies suggesting 90mm. If you want wide, GO WIDE! I use a 65mm for my WA work. But that's only for situations where I can't get back far enough. I bet when you start to get into the LF stuff you will find that using a 125mm or a 110mm will be all you need to get the feel you are looking for. Just by tilting the back you can exaggerate the forground for that 35mm WA look.
    Eric Rose

    I don't play the piano, I don't have a beard and I listen to AC/DC in the darkroom. I have no hope as a photographer.

  6. #6
    Scott Rosenberg's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    The Incredible Pacific Northwest

    Wide Angle starter lens for landscape 75? 90? 105? 125? 135?

    hi ag...

    you failed to mention what your budget is, but if you are concerned about the difficulty of focusing one of the smaller lenses, i would give strong consideration to the Schneider 110 XL. i challenge you to find one person who has used this lens and does not consider it the sharpest in their bag. it's bright, has a very large image circle, and is unbelievably sharp. this focal length is also a good one to build on, as it's not too much of an 'in-betweener'. you could make it the wide in a 110 - 180 - 300 field kit.

    they are a bit pricy when new, but call jim at midwest photo to see if he has any newish ones available.

    good luck, scott

  7. #7
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Rio Rancho, NM

    Wide Angle starter lens for landscape 75? 90? 105? 125? 135?

    There are several ways to approach the decision, Ag, including budget-based vs. functionality-based. There are several lens comparison charts linked from the home page of this site, including this one for 4x5s. Pay particular attention to the image circle specs (bigger is better), along with the filter size and weight. You'll see that most of the 75mm lenses have small-ish, but adequate image circles for fairly straight work with some movements. Traditional designs in the "slightly-wide" category tend to be tighter, image- circle-wise, as they are typically designed for medium-format sizes.

    The alternative to the budget-oriented "starter-lens" approach is to do more research and buy smart, buy once. ;-) For a moderately-wide lens, I'd now try to find a way to afford the 110mm Super Symmar instead of a 90mm lens. (I went the painful route, buying a 90mm/f8 to start years ago, then a 90mm/f5.6 (for ease of focussing), and finally the 110mm Super Symmar to get more useful coverage.)

    Oh, and don't forget to factor in the cost of a center filter, since you're concentrating on chromes. The wider lenses will have enough light fall-off toward the corners that you probably won't like the results on chromes without the center filter.

  8. #8

    Wide Angle starter lens for landscape 75? 90? 105? 125? 135?

    In the FWIW department I offer this bit. Photographs with wide-angle lenses can be stunning. And I, too, both enjoy and employ wide-angle lenses if the subject matter is willing. However, I find that composing with a wide-angle lens (I didn't say anything about focusing) is more tedious than with a longer lens. Since the field of view is wider with more compositional elements, I often find too many distracting elements in the composition. Moving closer to the subject (if that's an alternative) may not give me a satisfactory perspective. By using a slightly less wide lens I can compose more effectively. I first noticed this during a trip to Yosemite when there was just way too much on the ground glass. I found that a longer focal length allowed me to better isolate the important elements. Yosemite is a photographically rich environment anyway. But other landscape venues respond well to very wide lenses. If the work of the photographers you mention speaks to you, then following their lead would make sense.

    My basic 4x5 kit is an 8 1/4" Dagor and a 120mm Angulon. If you're just getting into large format, something in the 120mm range may work well. I'm afraid you might find a 75mm lens just a bit too esoteric. However, that's just my own experience. As usual, other people have their own preferences and you, too, will find yours.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    Wide Angle starter lens for landscape 75? 90? 105? 125? 135?

    A larger image circle is nice with a wide lens for landscape because most people will use rise.

    If cost is a concern I suggest you start with an inexpensive 135 or 150 and then decide how wide you want to go. The cost/performance in this range is better than wider lenses. If you buy the 110 first and decide it isn't wide enough then you own an expensive lens.

    Also look at the widest and longest lens your camera can use and think about how you lens selection will fit into that range.


  10. #10

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    Wide Angle starter lens for landscape 75? 90? 105? 125? 135?

    I agree with William Whitaker.

    Every time I have tried to photograph the Rocky Mountains from a motel parking lot with a wide lens the resulting negative is 1% mountains and 99% parking lot. I have also done interiors with an acre of blank carpeting in the foreground and little tiny dollhouse furniture lined up along the walls in the background. Optical foreshortening seems to increase with large format.

    My recommendation is to shoot multiple-framed panoramas with a 180 or 210 lens. If you don't want to stitch them together digitally, make and frame separate prints and hang them side by side.

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