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?