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Thread: Can bellows "stretch" lens?

  1. #1

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    Can bellows "stretch" lens?

    I'm looking for a 75mm (35mm equivalent) lens for a 4x5 view camera. Does that mean I have to get a 250mm lens or can I get by with a 210mm + bellows? Thanks.
    Ken

  2. #2
    よろしくお願いします! Andrew O'Neill's Avatar
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    Re: Can bellows "stretch" lens?

    I don't understand your question...

  3. #3

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    Re: Can bellows "stretch" lens?

    Based on your questions, you really should read a basic book about large format photography. I'd like to think that there are no dumb questions in this classroom but if you're asking clueless questions like this, people are not going to respond very nicely after the fifth or sixth one...

    Oh, and get Rodenstock lenses. They are the best. Don't listen to those other bozos.

  4. #4

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    Re: Can bellows "stretch" lens?

    I want to take this picture with a 4x5 view camera:

    I used a 75mm (35mm film equivalent) lens. What lens do I need - 250mm?

  5. #5
    Donald Qualls's Avatar
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    Re: Can bellows "stretch" lens?

    Seriously -- read a book about large format.

    That photo could be taken with any lens that will focus close enough on the available bellows, on most 4x5 cameras -- but you'd be focusing to around 1:2 (film image half the size of subject), which, with limited bellows travel, is easier with a short focal length lens than a long one. With my lenses and the limited bellows of my Speed Graphic, I'd reach for the 135 mm or 105 mm for a shot like that, rather than using the 150 mm or its 265 mm converted length, because I wouldn't be able to focus closely enough with the longer lenses (well, probably still could with the 150 mm).

    In an image where perspective is important, a 225 mm would be the nearest equivalent of a 75 mm on 24x36, but for this image, perspective doesn't really enter into the equation, since there's no real depth and you don't have to worry about (for instance) making someone's nose look huge by getting too close with a short lens.
    If a contact print at arm's length is too small to see, you need a bigger camera. :D

  6. #6

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    Re: Can bellows "stretch" lens?

    Looks like you're ahead of the curve, Frank - this is only my third question! BTW, I ordered a couple of books, but they won't arrive until Thursday. I need to order the equipment by the weekend or early next week to shoot the foliage. Thanks.
    Ken

  7. #7

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    Re: Can bellows "stretch" lens?

    Perfect - thanks. I just ordered two books. I want to get the equipment ordered by next week, or else I risk missing my maple tree!

  8. #8
    Louie Powell's Avatar
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    Re: Can bellows "stretch" lens?

    Ken -

    The problem is a bit more complicated that merely choosing the lens.

    There are two challenges involved in photographing a subject like this with a view camera. The first is that you need to be able to focus rather closely. As you are probably aware from your 35mm experience, to focus closely, you need to move the lens further away from the film plane. In 35mm, that is often done using extension tubes, or perhaps closeup bellows. Or you can use a 'macro lens' which is a lens that has a helicoid mount that enables the lens elements to be racked further away from the film plane than standard lenses. Remember that to create an image on the film that is the exact size of the subject, you need to extend the lens by its focal length. Hence, if you are using a 75mm lens (in 35mm) you need to have 75mm of extension to be able to focus down to 1:1.

    Same principle appies in large format. The difference is that the extension comes from the camera bellows, and the longer the focal length of the lens, the longer the bellows must extend to enable you to focus down to 1:1.

    Second concern is working distance. To put the problem in perspective, most macro work in the 35mm format is done using slightly longer than normal focal length lenses. The reason for this is that if you have a shorter lens, the camera will be physically closer to the subject when you focus at 1:1. In your example, you mentioned that you used a 75mm lens to enable you to focus closely without having the camera and lens actually in the subject - a 'slightly long' lens in the 35mm format where 'normal' is 50mm.

    Again, the same principle applies in LF. You definitely DON'T want to use a "wide angle" lens because if you did, the lens would be right on top of the subject when you rack out the bellows to achieve the 1:1 (or whatever) macro focus you are looking for. Instead, you would want a lens that is at least "normal" for the 4x5 format (assuming you are using a 4x5 camera), or perhaps slightly longer.

    Normal in 4x5 is about 150mm. You didn't mention which camera you are using. LF cameras are designed for specific bellows - and bellows are generally not interchangeable. If you chooose a camera with a longer bellows (such as a Zone VI Lightweight), you will be able to use a longer focal length lens to focus on a small subject in the 1:1 macro range. A suitable lens might be 210mm - long enough and yet less expensive that the less common 240 or 250mm lens.

    By contrast, other cameras are designed for shorter bellows. For those, you might want to choose a shorter lens (185mm perhaps) so that you can focus closer with the limited bellows on the camera.

    In either case, you could probably frame down to 1:1, but the camera with the longer bellows and longer focal length lens will do so with more space between the lens and the subject, and that gives you maneuvering room to deal with lighting and other framing factors.

    So you see that if you are looking to do close focus work, the choice of lens is highly dependent on which camera you plan to use it with, or more exactly, on the bellows length that is available with that camera.

  9. #9

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    Re: Can bellows "stretch" lens?

    Wow - great explanation, Louie - thanks!

    Can you recommend a camera for a 150mm lens to shoot a close-up of leaves? Someone suggested a heavy monorail like a Sinar F.

  10. #10

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    Re: Can bellows "stretch" lens?

    Kem, I don't mean to discourage you at all, and people here are generous (or crazy) enough to expound thousands of words on the most mudane subjects. But if this is indicative of your current knowledge of large format, then you most likely have jillion other equally "out of the blue" questions. People are patient here and it gives them something to write about I guess... but buying Steve Simmons' or Jim Stone's book will fast track you compared to the pace of asking one question at a time.

    FWIW though, since I am a geek, the reply about the camera's bellows being fixed is tru if you are talking about many of the small folding 4x5 cameras -- Crown Graphics, Wista Fields, most of the wooden and "field" cameras, etc. But most of the monorails are "system" cameras that allow you to interchange bellows and monorails (and many other parts) to build the type of camera you need for whatever shot and lens you want to do.

    And, if you impatient, you could recreate your leaf photo with a "heavy" Sinar F with the normal 12-inch bellows and a "normal" 150mm "big-brand" (Schneider, Fuji, Nikon, and yes, Rodenstock!) lens. The Sinar F isn't that heavy, but it is bulkier than a little field camera. However it is more solid and expandable. There are literally hundreds of threads discussing the trade-offs between cameras, but if you can't wait and find a nice deal on an outfit -- with film holders and all the goodies -- then just get one and start experimenting as you read your books.

    Open the film box in the DARK!

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