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Thread: Architecture: Recommend Three Focal Lengths

  1. #1
    Beverly Hills, California
    Join Date
    Feb 2000
    Beverly Hills, CA

    Architecture: Recommend Three Focal Lengths

    I decided to get serious about large format architectural shooting, and have begun to completely revamp my line-up. I now own just 1 lens - a 150mm. My goals are:

    1) Avoid Nikon LF glass, if possible (long personal history with).

    2) My 'vision' is of a wide angle one.

    3) Sharpness across image circle is of paramount importance.

    4) Large, quality image circle paramount for rise, which I use extensively.

    5) Shooting mainly on 4x5 format, also some 6x9 and 6x12 roll film.

    6) If covers 5x7 with movements, it's a bonus.

    7) I am fortunate to own one lens already- the wonderful Rodenstock Apo-Sironar.

    8) I fancy Rodenstock glass.

    9) Prefer lens that's available brand new, (New is easier to return if it's dog, etc.).

    10) Larger aperture and smaller filter size when possible.

    11) I have set a budget to limit myself to just 3 more lenses.

    Thanks in advance for any tidbits, especially amongst our experienced fine art or professional
    architectural shooters out there.

  2. #2

    Architecture: Recommend Three Focal Lengths

    Consider the Schneider XL in 58, 80, 110, and the 150 you have.

    I would not go that short if not for the roll backs

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Forest Grove, Ore.

    Architecture: Recommend Three Focal Lengths

    Schneider is very strong on wide-angle glass:

    75mm Super Angulon f5.6 (less expensive) or
    72mm XL

    90mm f5.6 Super Angulon (less expensive) or
    90mm XL

    120mm f8 Super Angulon (less expensive) or
    110mm Super Symmar

    These would mesh well with your 150mm. Just about all you work could be done with this glass.

    I don't know as much about Rodenstock, so won't comment. On wide angles, get the largest f-stop available. They have a larger image circle than the smaller aperture versions. For example, you would never want to get an f8 S.A. in Schneider for architecture. (Except for the 120mm or 121mm S.A. This is the only f-stop available for these S.A.'s. Due to their longer focal lengths for wide angles, they have plenty of image circle.)

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2001

    Architecture: Recommend Three Focal Lengths

    47 mm Schneider XL, 72mm Schneider XL, 90 or 110mm could be Schneider or Rodenstock on the 90 but only Schneider on the 110mm

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Nov 2003

    Architecture: Recommend Three Focal Lengths

    Architectural photography, mainly houses and smaller buildings, was one of my main interests when I moved to 4 x 5 about five years ago. I started with a 150 mm f/5.6 Rodenstock Apo Sironar-S and a 90 mm f/6.8 Rodenstock Grandagon-N. These lenses suffice for the great majority of what I do, and I am happy with their performance. Originally, I found myself using the 90 mm most of the time, but more recently I find I prefer a longer perspective and use the 150 mm if I can manage it. Later I acquired a 300 mm lens which I don't use too often for architecture, and a 75 mm f/4.5 Rodenstock Grandagon-N. I got the 75 mm because I felt I needed a shorter focal length lens, but in fact I rarely use it. I'm happy to have it because there are certainly situations where the 90 mm won't suffice.

    The problem for architectural photography with very short focal length lenses is that even with rises, you often end up with a quite large foreground. If there is something you can incorporate in the foreground for an Adams near-far composition, that may work, but often there isn't anything like that available. One problem with the 75 mm is that is has a relatively small image circle, so I can't rise much more than 20 mm. In retrospect, I would have been better off with the 72 mm Schneider Super Angulon XL because of its relatively large image circle. But another disincentive to using very large rises in architectural photography is the "perspective distortion" you get at the limts of the field, so I'm not sure I'm not better off with the lens I have which keeps me out of dangerous territory.

    Note. In case someone objects to my use of the term " perspective distortion", let me remind one and all that while perspective is of course determined by the position of the camera, when you view the final image, how it looks depends on where your eye is placed. For images produced from wide angle lenses, your eye is typically well back of the center of perspective, and that is what produces these "distortions".

  6. #6
    Ted Harris's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    New Hampshire

    Architecture: Recommend Three Focal Lengths

    Don't ignore the 45-55-65-75 mm Apo Grandagon's and Grandagon N's from Rodenstock. You will find there is no difference in Schneider and Rodenstock in terms of sharpness and contrast but you may prefer one to the other in terms of very subtle differences, mainly in the way they handle color. People use word slike warm and cool and saturation but none of these verbal terms really describe the subtle differnces. I know that for many years I preferred Schneider lens, my eye liked them better. However, I have found over the past decade whenever I make a decision to replace an existing lens or fill in a new focal length I find that more oftne than not I am replacing Schneider glass with Rodenstock glass .... with the exception of the Super Symmar XL 110 which may be come my all time favorite lens.

    In the wide angle arena though you should give a serious look at the Rodenstock offerings. You can't do an exact apples to apples comparison because, in the shortest focal lengths the comparable Rodenstocks are a few milimeters shorter than the Schneiders. The Rodenstocks are also a bit faster but they also have slightly smaller image circles. Just a note that Schneider and Nikon are not your only choices in the shortest focal lengths. In 75 and 90 mm you also have Fujinons.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    SF Bay Area

    Architecture: Recommend Three Focal Lengths

    It is important to know if the architectural work you propose will be for youself or for a client such as an architect. If for the latter, you must select lenses that will produce the minimal amount of distortion.

    For many years I did architectural work, the majority being for architects. En masse they are a critical group and abhor distortion in photographs of their projects. Of course, this is sometimes unavoidable. My rule of thumb was to always use the longest lens possible.

    For 4x5 my workhorse lens was a 90mm SA followed by a 150mm. You will need something shorter than a 90mm on some occasions and a 72mm would be a good choice. Personally, I would not go any shorter but others will surely disagree. Another lens that I found useful was a 250mm. You might consider something in a long focal length. If you want to stay short, then a 120mm would be a good choice.

  8. #8

    Architecture: Recommend Three Focal Lengths

    Unless you are going to do high volume work, have a lab next door that can only do roll film and not sheet film or some other practical reason I suggest you ditch the roll film backs. They do nothing for you you can't do on sheet film and you'll want wider lenses for roll film and end up compromising your lens kit for 4x5. Same lenses with bigger film always wins on quality considerations.

    Everything written above is outstanding advice and covers pretty much every lens available. The 58, 80, 110 Schneider is a great combination using the same center filter - I like mine. I'd be equally happy to have the 72 and 90 XLs instead.

  9. #9

    Architecture: Recommend Three Focal Lengths


    I am curious about your experience with Nikon LF lenses. I have used the 300M and been very please (in fact tested it against Apo-Ronar and found the Nikkor at least as sharp with nicer color). I haven't used any normal or wide Nikkors but was considering one of their 90's based on comments by others.


  10. #10
    lazy retired bum
    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Lake Oswego, Oregon

    Architecture: Recommend Three Focal Lengths

    I too am curious about your issue with LF Nikkors. Do you have some specific lens that was a problem? I would argue that no one can routinely tell the difference between images made by any of the major players in LF lenses, including Schneider, Rodenstock, Fuji, and Nikon.

    While I respect those capable photographers with strong opinions about lens brands, the discussions remind me of the audio wars where self appointed gurus argued they could tell the differences between brands of speaker wire and wrote eloquently about it.

    When one thinks about all the things that happen to a piece of sheet film between exposure and the final print, the differences between top notch professional quality lenses seem to me to be trivial.

    Others have ably answered the basic question. Schneider, Rodenstock, or Fuji... or the "evil" Nikkor will fulfill your needs.

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