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Thread: Lenses for 8x10 (again)

  1. #1
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    Unhappy Lenses for 8x10 (again)

    Senior members of this forum must get tired of hearing this topic hashed over and over again, but the fact remains that noobs continue to succumb to the siren song of the 8x10 format. I guess I'm one, although in some ways not quite a noob. Nevertheless, it has been thirty years since I did much with large format, and even then it was mostly 4x5; I only ever exposed just a few sheets of 8x10 cutfilm before life's sweeping little changes took me in other directions. Now in my dotage I find myself going back to things I didn't get anough of 'way back when, and LF is one of them. And despite the warnings in the "no, I mustn't" thread, I gone and done it -- I bought a second-hand 8x10 Toyo. Now I'm brooding over the question of optics for the beast. Funny, it just isn't that hard a decision in 4x5, where it all seems logical, easy even. But somehow in 8x10 the stakes are higher (and not only the stakes, but other things like the prices and the weight).

    Guys, I just watched a 240mm f9 Schneider G-Claron knocked down on eBay for USD664, which I believe is more than the darned things sold for brand new. I see what they mean about a "cult lens." Standard listings indicate an image circle of 298mm for that focal length, a bit skimpy for 8x10's 325mm image diagonal; yet one hears claims that it will "cover 11x14" --well, maybe it will (at 1:1?). And yes, I've read all the hooha about the "biting sharpness" and the "rendering" et patati et patata. Definitely some signs of true-believerism here and there; cult lens, yeah.

    Well, I didn't bid on it. I think I know hype when I smell it, and I can definitely spot a bidding war in the making when the thunderheads gather on eBay. But darn it all, the choices here are neither easy nor satisfactory. I don't think a 240/9 G-Claron would be a sensible choice for 8x10 if I could only afford one or two lenses for the format. And at the prices these chunky optics with 300+ image circles command, you have to be rather well off to consider MORE than that.

    If I want something wide-angle-ish, the main contender is the Schneider Super-Angulon 165/8 with its 390-395mm image circle, assuming you want to use any movements at all. It cost $2400-3300 when it was new a decade or two ago (no, I haven't dared look at the new price today, I don't want to stress my heart like that). And there's a late-model example going right now that's already bid up to USD985 with 22 hours yet to run on the auction. Ouch.

    For a "normal" there are just two choices of focal length generally available: 300mm and 360. The better 300's cover a 400-420mm image circle mostly, unless you're looking at something like an APO-Ronar (which only covers 264mm). The 360's give you more room for movements with their 500mm image circle for Symmars and such (and if you don't use movements then why use a view camera?); but apparently at a fairly hefty weight penalty, not to mention the limited top speeds of those big leaf shutters and the enormous cost of the lens/shutter combination.

    Finally there are the longer options, like the Caltar 508/7 and the various 19 inch process lenses (usually in barrel mounts). These are sometimes a lot cheaper than a 360mm Symmar. But would you really want your main lens to lack a shutter, since nobody seems interested in building an affordable behind-the-lens shutter for 8x10 aficionados?

    Maybe I've just got my knickers in a twist from looking at too many secondhand lens listings online, but I just can't seem to see a really attractive and viable (let alone affordable) solution to the dilemma of optics for the 8x10.

    You good people out there who have been shooting 8x10 for decades, now. What do you do? Once the new has worn off it all, and things have settled down to the point that you've evolved a personal style with 8x10 format and a personal *way of working* with the big camera -- how does the optics question actually shake down? Leaving aside the various cults and manias, and the compulsion to fiddle with antique brassies -- if you are going to have ONE lens for your 8x10, what's it to be? And if you are going to have just TWO, what should they be? And is it a better idea just to forget about process lenses, or are they serious contenders as lenses for everyday work in 8x10?

    ???

  2. #2
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses for 8x10 (again)

    The only special thing about the G-Claron is that it can be used for multiple purposes, like doing double duty as an enlarger lens and a taking lens. I have used a G-Claron on my 8x10, and its a very good lens.

    Recommendation: Just get a lens! You need something on the front of the camera, unless you have the patience for pinhole photography.

    I have a couple of Wollensaks for my camera. One is wide, the other is long. Is the name on them important, or is it what I do with them that makes the picture?

    Buy according to your tastes and budget, but get something on the camera and then go make photographs!

  3. #3
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    Re: Lenses for 8x10 (again)

    Of course I forgot to mention the obvious: what I intend to DO with the 8x10!!! My main interests for 8x10 would be landscape and architecture (mostly in the sense of exterior views of old abandoned structures, with some interiors and detail shots), and static nature (mostly flora, but also things like wildfowl gathering for migration, etc.); maybe the odd character portrait. Since I'm going to be moving into a different part of Canada at the same time I'm resuming my long-neglected LF interests, I'm not yet entirely sure about everything I might wind up photographing, but certainly the above areas are where I intend to start.

  4. #4

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    Re: Lenses for 8x10 (again)

    I have probably over 40 lenses I could use on an 8X10. If someone held a gun to my head perhaps that same old Cooke that Adams used so much would be the one I'd keep. 8X10 is very different from 4X5. You've graduated to contact prints and after a bit you'll discover 68 line pairs / mm just doesn't matter much. What matters is tonality and smoothness. The guys in 1915 knew a lot more about that than we do today. Wade through some of the pages on my little web site. Like the one that says an old Conley anastigmat can out muscle a MC Symmar. You'll be more confounded than ever BTW a 240 G-Claron will cover 410mm regardless of what Schneider says. I measured.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

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  5. #5
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    Re: Lenses for 8x10 (again)

    Recommendation: Just get a lens! You need something on the front of the camera, unless you have the patience for pinhole photography.

    I have a couple of Wollensaks for my camera. One is wide, the other is long. Is the name on them important, or is it what I do with them that makes the picture?

    Buy according to your tastes and budget, but get something on the camera and then go make photographs!
    I don't know if I really deserved that, or not, Brian! Perhaps I did. Yes, of course, the end in view is to get an optic of some sort on the front end, with a view to getting out and exposing some film. Sorry if that wasn't clear from my first post. Although, come to that, I would be perfectly amenable to exploring the possibilities of a pinhole. Optics don't make great photographs; great photographs are made THROUGH optics, not by them.

    But given the lack of clarity of the 8x10 lens scene (at least by comparison with 4x5, at least in MY mind), coupled with the COST of big lenses with big coverage, it seemed sensible to enquire concerning what others have done, in the end, after their own years of experimentation and learning. Isn't that what a forum of this kind is intended for -- the exchange of knowledge gained through experience?

    At this point the camera itself hasn't even been delivered yet, I'm still trying to buy a few decent film holders, and having a darkroom is probably three to six months in the future, at best. So while I'm as yet unable to "go make photographs" I'm trying to gain just enough perspective on the lens question to perhaps avoid making an expensive mistake.

    As for Wollensaks, I have unhappy memories from the late 1950s of the mushy negs produced by certain Optars and Raptars . . . not sure I'd care to repeat that experience.

  6. #6
    tim atherton's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses for 8x10 (again)

    There have been 4 or so Fujinon 250mm 6.7 lenses (NOT the 6.3) on ebay in the last week or so for between $340.00 and $390.00 - a fantastic 8x10 mid wide angle lens.

    It was the second 8x10 lens I got. The first was a 12" Commercial Ektar - which you should be able to find for between 250.00 and 375.00 (if you are lucky on the lower end). A little large, but a fantastic lens.

    I still have and use both (though I have a small/light Fuji 300mm that gets carried more often than the Ektar these days)

    I've used both for architecture and landscape. Until recently I probably used a 210mm (the getting hard to find fantastic Kowa Graphic) and the fuji 250mm more than any other lenses.

    A 210mm G-Claron will also do with an inch or so of movement

    Goign wider, the cheapest option is probably the 159mm Wollensak Wide Angle. Again, an inch or so of movement at f32/45

    I've missed a few, but after that the prices and/or weight generally start to go up.

    But for ages, the only two 8x10 lens I had were the first two I mentioned.

    And it's kinda weird - 250mm seems wider on 8x10 than 125mm is on 4x5

    I often used a 90mm for landscapes on 4x5. In 8x10 I often found the 210mm too wide...
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn

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  7. #7
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    Re: Lenses for 8x10 (again)

    ditkoofseppala,
    I suggest some reading, both on this forum and Steve Simmons book "Using the View Camera" There are lots of lens choices, many can be had for way less than you quote. Fujinon and Nikkon (M)both made "compact" 300mm lenses in the $500 used range. The 300 mm M is only supposed to cover 300mm but it works fine on 8X10. A sleeper in the 240 mm range (10 in) is either an older Symmar which sells for about the price of the shutter ($300) or a good clean Commercial Ektar which sells for more. The bonus of the Symmar is that you can unscrew the front element and you get something like a 460 mm. lens. At 355 (14 in) either a G-Claron (you can still find them for less than $500 in barrel and you just screw them into that No 3 Copal that came with the 240 mm Symmar or a 14 in Commerical Ektar, a lens that kept an army professional photographers alive for decades. Cheap, good wide angles are kind of rare. Cheap ($200 to $500) would be a 165mm angulon, 6 1/4 in Wollensak EXWA or a 180mm ish Zeiss Protar Series V f18 usually without shutter. When I started in 8X10 I already had the Nikkor 300mm and I just used that. You might look at http://www.prairienet.org/~b-wallen/...valLensMkt.htm

    K

  8. #8
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    Re: Lenses for 8x10 (again)

    Well and good, Jim, but those old Cookes are not exactly easy to come by, AND the shutter problem remains intractable. It wouldn't be so bad if we still had a lot of slow emulsions around (Panatomic-X and Pan F are probably still a bit fast for outdoor work with old barrel lenses -- I can't even remember the names of all the old really slow ones of 4-12 ASA in the pre-ISO days). I know people use lith film sometimes now, but seems like an uphill struggle trying to juggle developers and timing to produce a gentler curve out of emulsions designed for high contrast.

    And you're right. I HAVE read your articles comparing various old brassies with Symmars and Sironars. I found them quite interesting, but let's face it, gaining a usable working knowledge of the optics of yesteryear is yet more of a challenge than the basic question that I outlined above. I've had over a dozen brassies on my eBay watchlist for several days, but had to recognise that I'd just be shooting at high-flying geese blindfolded. I watched one of a group of four (maybe you were the seller, even) skyrocket to over $300 while the others stayed mostly in the <$100 bracket. Maybe others knew which was a sheep and which were the goats; I didn't. Why buy something you don't understand? That's not a good way to get started.

    If you've got 40 lenses that are usable for 8x10, have you one or two redundant examples that you'd be willing to sell, that you could recommend with confidence as reasonably sharp, with the good rendering qualities you mention? Knowing that I'd be relying on your experience in that area of expertise?

    I know, at least, that 8x10 IS different to 4x5, as you said. That in large measure is why I'm floundering a bit, because I'm aware of a difference but not yet conversant with the fine points of it all.

  9. #9

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    Re: Lenses for 8x10 (again)

    Seriously just get a 300 or so, load some holders and shoot.

    My first 8x10 lens was a 14" Commercial Ektar in a #5 Ilex. It's a good lens though it could use a CLA as the slow times are off. It also requires a longer throw cable release. My second lens was one of the 240-w Germinars from Kerry. I bought it in the barrel, found a VG condition used shutter and I was in business. I would like a 450mm-480mm at some point and hopefully I will find a deal one of these days.

    Mike

  10. #10
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    Re: Lenses for 8x10 (again)

    Kirk, I've got the Steve Simmons book already on order, funnily enough, impatiently awaiting its arrival as I felt I could do with a thorough review even though I do still recall quite a lot (was an avid reader about anything photographic in my teen years, and most of it has stayed in my mind).

    Yep, I'm well aware of the convertibility of the Symmar; used to use a 180 Symmar on my grey 4x5 B&J non-monorail view in the early 1960s. And I was just looking speculatively at a Protar series VII listing . . . but, the shutter problem. (I'm still thinking about feasibility of a Speed Graphic shutter behind the lens; not many of them are still in good working order, now, at least on cameras that you wouldn't feel badly about cannibalising.)

    Tim, Kirk, AND Mike -- how amusing and reassuring that you ALL mention the Commercial Ektar! It's a lens about which I don't think I've EVER heard anything bad, only praise. There's a 10" going right now; if it were at 12" or a 14" I'd grab it, but the 10" just covers, and I'd really like some wiggle room for movements. Obviously I need to look at some of the less big-name options. I don't recall ever having heard of the Germinars before, for example.

    And Kirk, thanks for the article link. I read the whole thing, and it's one of the most helpful articles of its kind that I've read recently. Good stuff!

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