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Thread: What 8x10 lenses to get?

  1. #1

    What 8x10 lenses to get?

    OK, so I finally broke down and decided to get the 8x10, and now I need to find some lenses. I would prefer lenses with 11x14 coverage, as I would like the extra movement and less light falloff, but am wondering if this is necessary. From those of you more knowledgable in this area, I have a few questions:

    1) What lenses are best/should I avoid?
    2) How much movement does an "average" (say 450mm) lens allow for (ie, is it worth the extra $/searching to find 11x14 lenses, and will there be much difference)?
    3) I've read that newer 8x10 and larger lenses are of lower quality than older lenses because of less demand for such lenses, and they remain "softer" than older lenses. True/false?
    4) Is it difficult to mount barrel lenses w/shutter (ie, worth the time, effort)?
    5) What is your preference in lens focal lengths (ie, your 2 favorite)?

    Thanks in advance for all your help!

    Mike

  2. #2

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    What 8x10 lenses to get?

    For the last forty years that I have been in LF photography, the two standard lenses for 8x10 are the Nikkor-W 300mm f5.6, the 360mm f6.5 and their Schneider counterparts.

    The Nikkor-M 450mm f9 is a dandy lens. But the extreme length of the required bellows is a problem. The camera will begin to act like a sail and move around in even the slightest breeze. In the studio, the two standards will be too far apart to adjust the front while watching in the ground glass.

    Older lenses tend to have a much more primitive coating, resulting in a softer image. Some excellent photographers absolutely swoon over this effect. But I have always felt that if I wanted a mushy image I would simply shoot 35mm and save myself the grief of LF. Bottom line: newer lenses are sharper than old. Iím sure there must be an exception in there somewhere, but I havenít yet found it.

    There are many highly experienced photographers on this site who favor some scarce, obscure lens nobody ever heard of, which hasnít been manufactured in fifty years. My recommendations are for what you can pick up this afternoon, brand spanking new with guarantee, at any decent camera store.

  3. #3

    What 8x10 lenses to get?

    Schneider's 240 Apo-Symmar and 355 G-Claron. Moderate wide angle and a normal lens. These two are my staples. Sharp, great contrast, not too big or heavy (for me anyway). I do not think they are part of the range anymore but I am sure you can find some new old stock with some of the main large format retailers.

  4. #4
    Tim Curry's Avatar
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    What 8x10 lenses to get?

    1) A very decent lens as a "normal" would be the used Schneider Symmar-S in 300mm, as John has mentioned. You will then have to decide on a longer lens (400mm-600mm), or a wide angle (210mm-240mm) based on your needs and style. One thing to keep track of, filters for big lenses are more expensive than you will find in 4x5. The 300mm Symmar-S which I found used, for example, uses a 105mm size which is not cheap. They are available now as some pros are moving into newer models. Keep track of lenses and try to consolidate your needs around one filter size if at all possible.

    2) An average lens of 450mm has plenty of movement for 8x10. When you start to get into shorter lengths, coverage goes up with cost.

    3) There are some outstanding older lenses out there, but in general, the newer lenses which are made to closer tolerances and designed with newer technology, are better in many respects than a garden variety single coating old lens with a tired shutter. (Internet myth about "older is always better," in this case)

    4) To properly mount a barrel lens in a Copal 3 shutter will generally set you back between $600 and $800. Is it worth it to you when you can find a good used lens-shutter which is good for the same price? Depends....

    5) 300mm & 240mm

  5. #5

    What 8x10 lenses to get?

    I second Tim's caution about filter size. Apo-Symmar 240 and 355 G-Claron both take 77mm.

  6. #6

    What 8x10 lenses to get?

    I second the recommendations made above particularly Tims about the cost of mounting a barrel lens. I personaly have found it to not work for me as it was more cost efffective to acquire a used modern lens in a newer shutter over a cumbersome and sometimes cranky Ilex #5 that would have been necessary for a re-mount.

    If I were contemplating being outdoors on the trail at some point with your 8x10, I would seriously consider two lenses based upon performance/coverage and not being in a copal #3. The 450 Fuji C f12.5 and the G Claron 305. I have the Fuji and it is in a Copal #1 and takes a 52mm filter and will nearly cover 11x14 so 8x10 is not a problem. It is such a tiny lens that weights nothing and I have no problem focusing it even at f12.5. I have heard others talk about the 305 which I also believe comes in a Copal #1 and will cover 8x10. I use the 355 G Claron and the 450 M Nikon F9 and they are both fabulous performers, but much bigger and heavier than the two alternatives mentioned above.

    Considering the weight of everything else with 8x10 (holders, tripod, and focusing cloth) sometimes paring down a bit in the optical department as long as you are not compromising quality and results is not necessarily a bad thing. Lastly I would just recommend being a bit more patient with 8x10 shooting versus say shooting 4x5 as you have a proportionally larger amount of ground glass to evaluate with each shot. At the end of the day it is a wonderful experience well worth the time and effort. Just an alternative point of view as you would do well with any of these suggestions.

    Cheers!

  7. #7

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    What 8x10 lenses to get?

    Mike,

    Welcome to 8x10! I'm not knocking new lenses, but I don't feel the least bit disadvantaged with my classic glass. My favorites ("most used"to be more accurate) are the Kodak Wide Field10") and Commercial Ektars( 14"), and Goerz Artars(14" 19" and 24")

    For focal lengths, anything from 240mm/10" to 420mm/16-1/2" I would consider "normal" and something in that range would probable be the most useful. For a second or third lens I'd go for something really wide(159mm f/9.5 Wollensak WA) and/or something really long(Goerz 24" Artar.)

    For newer lenses, I can recommend the Nikkor f/9 450mm M and the Schneider 240mm G Claron from personal experience, and while I've never used one, I find the 165mm Super Angulon or 155mm Grandagon interesting, though weight/ size/ and price-wise they aren't likely additions to my kit.

    The 240mm G-Claron is an especially nice lense: coated, small and light weight in a modern shutter with a useful image circle at f/22, APO, and they go for cheap (so cheap its almost criminal!)

    Don't stress over lens selection for 8x10, unless you get something really dreadful, those big negatives will look Great as long as you do your part!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  8. #8

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    What 8x10 lenses to get?

    FWIW, regarding mounting barrel lenses in shutters---there are exceptions! Schnieder G Clarons will screw right into Copal shutters. All you"ll need to pay for is the shutter and a f/stop scale.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  9. #9
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
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    What 8x10 lenses to get?

    As others have said, welcome to the realm of near-infinite choices, Mike, but don't stress over the choices - almost none of them are "bad".

    Having recently added 8x10 to my bag of tricks (I've been shooting 4x5 and smaller formats for years), it seemed to me that the 8x10 lens choices amounted to a balance between focal length, coverage, optical quality, size, weight, and cost. There is a wealth of information about lenses on this site (click the link above for the home page), and a lot of information on the S.K. Grimes site regarding mounting older lenses in modern shutters.

    Personally, I use a 150mm Schneider Super Symmar as my ultra-wide. The 95mm filter requirement of this lens wasn't a problem for me, as I already had a 300mm f/5.6 Schneider Symmar that uses 105mm filters for my 4x5. So, the 95mm-to-105mm step-up ring was trivial. I use the big, heavy Schneider 300mm as the "normal" lens, but I've been keeping an eye out for a 305mm G-Claron (at the right price) to reduce the weight. For a longer lens, I'm using the 450mm Nikkor-M, and wish I had longer arms.

    What I've found interesting is that on 4x5, 90% of my work has been either with a 110mm Schneider Super Symmar, or a 210mm Schneider Symmar. In contrast, on the 8x10, I'm tending toward the wider view of the 150mm lens.

  10. #10

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    What 8x10 lenses to get?

    1) What lenses are best/should I avoid?

    In my opinion, any lens that looks sharp enough. You are likely to be contact printing and should have no problem with sharpness from any anastigmatic (post - 1890 or so) design. That pretty much levels the resolution floor betwen old lenses and new lenses. You may still prefer the look of specific lenses based upon the other optical characteristics - flare, contrast etc. But the look you like is based very much on how you shoot and how you want your prints to look.

    2) How much movement does an "average" (say 450mm) lens allow for (ie, is it worth the extra $/searching to find 11x14 lenses, and will there be much difference)?

    At long focal lengths, coverage is seldom an issue - even process lenses will offer enough coverage. At shorter focal lengths, coverage will be more limited but use of wide angles seems to decrease as you move to marger and larger formats (although this clearly is idiosyncratic). Unless you are doing the kind of work that demands huge coverage (architecture/product etc), save the $.

    3) I've read that newer 8x10 and larger lenses are of lower quality than older lenses because of less demand for such lenses, and they remain "softer" than older lenses. True/false?

    I would say false. See 1 above. If anything, newer glass is likely to be sharper given computer aided design etc but you probably will be hard pressed to see any difference in a contact print. Some older designs, especially uncoated lenses, have a little more flare and this can result in somewhat more shadow detail. Don't get sucked into sharpness issues with formats as large as 8x10. Given careful technique and methodical working, a contact print should be sharp and grainless regardless of whether you use a 100 year old Dagor or Protar or whether you use a 1 year old Schfujnikron. There will be differences in how the prints look, which can be compensated to some extent by other controls, especially in B&W, but this is a function how you want your prints to look.

    4) Is it difficult to mount barrel lenses w/shutter (ie, worth the time, effort)?

    Eminently worth it. Especially look to the following technique. Get yourself a large shutter like an Alphax or Betax 5. Longer focal length lenses can be front mounted. Shorter lenses can also be accomodated. The folks at SKGrimes will help you out there.

    5) What is your preference in lens focal lengths (ie, your 2 favorite)?

    If you had to get two lenses, I would push you towards a 240 Dagor and a 480 Artar. These are based on the way I want my prints to look ...;-) but Dagors and Artars are affordable and tend to hold their value well if you decide you prefer another look.

    Hope this helps. Cheers, DJ

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