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Thread: 90mm & architecture why the popularity?

  1. #1
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    90mm & architecture why the popularity?

    When it comes to 4x5 architectural (exterior) photography, why do so many experienced shooters recommend a 90mm lens for general use?

    No other lens wins so much of their praise and affection.

    It’s enough to make one think that architects have this focal length in mind when they select building sites & draw their plans.

    I can almost see the spec at the bottom of the blueprint: Site selected & plans drawn to accommodate a 90mm lens on 4x5 film.

    • Is there something inherently natural & pleasing about this match (90mm + architecture)?
    • Does the trade-off between field-of-view & distortion help explain things?
    • Might common client preferences have something to do with all this?
    • Do you think the 90mm lens would enjoy the same popularity across architectural styles & cultures – for example, Prairie School, Anasazi, Byzantine, Greco-Roman, etc.?

    Please share with us what you think...

  2. #2
    Small town, South Carolina, US
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    Re: 90mm & architecture why the popularity?

    "trade-off between field-of-view & distortion help explain things?"

    It is a practical choice mostly. You choose the focal length that lets you accomplish the task at hand with the least distortion. And yes, the 90mm focal length on 4X5 is often the one chosen because you can only get so far away from a building before other things intrude (poles, trees, etc.)

    One well known architecture photographer commented that the longest lens he nomally had in his kit was a 180 which is close to a 50mm lens in 35mm photography.

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    Re: 90mm & architecture why the popularity?

    For one thing, AFAIK, until fairly recently the widest commonly-available lenses that cover 4x5 with generous movements were 90mm. The 72mm SA XL has changed that but, as with all things, changes/ideals/opinions can take decades to evolve. Other than that... the previous reply is far better than mine here.

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    Re: 90mm & architecture why the popularity?

    Quote Originally Posted by Heroique View Post
    When it comes to 4x5 architectural (exterior) photography, why do so many experienced shooters recommend a 90mm lens for general use?

    No other lens wins so much of their praise and affection.

    It’s enough to make one think that architects have this focal length in mind when they select building sites & draw their plans.

    I can almost see the spec at the bottom of the blueprint: Site selected & plans drawn to accommodate a 90mm lens on 4x5 film.

    • Is there something inherently natural & pleasing about this match (90mm + architecture)?
    • Does the trade-off between field-of-view & distortion help explain things?
    • Might common client preferences have something to do with all this?
    • Do you think the 90mm lens would enjoy the same popularity across architectural styles & cultures – for example, Prairie School, Anasazi, Byzantine, Greco-Roman, etc.?

    Please share with us what you think...
    If the print is the answer, why do you question praise and affection by guys who obviously know their stuff? Would you ask a skydiving instructor why pull the ripcord? You're certainly free to choose any lens you wish and heap lots of praise on that lens, but there is more credibility if darned near every other architectural photographer found that same lens just as useful.
    I don't know what the Anasazi, Byzantines or Greco-Roman architecture photographers used on their 4x5s.
    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.

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    Re: 90mm & architecture why the popularity?

    John,

    We ancients used 120 super wides on our 4x5 cameras.

    We had more room to back away from our subjects.

  6. #6
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Re: 90mm & architecture why the popularity?

    A 90mm lens has the feel of a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera--about as wide as you can go without having an obviously "wide look," so it's often a good choice for exteriors where you don't want an exaggerated perspective. Maybe you could go to 80mm, but most 80mm lenses were historically designed as normal lenses for medium format, and tend not to cover 4x5".

  7. #7
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: 90mm & architecture why the popularity?

    Quote Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb View Post
    A 90mm lens has the feel of a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera--about as wide as you can go without having an obviously "wide look," so it's often a good choice for exteriors where you don't want an exaggerated perspective. Maybe you could go to 80mm, but most 80mm lenses were historically designed as normal lenses for medium format, and tend not to cover 4x5".
    Interesting – so if I understand, the 90mm (on 4x5) is favored because it goes as wide as possible w/o diverging too “obviously” from how the human eye would render the perspective.

    It certainly makes the 90mm, as a lens for architecture, sound style-proof and culture-proof.

    Very convenient. :^)

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    Re: 90mm & architecture why the popularity?

    Another advantage to the 90s is Image Circle (IC), which governs the amount of lens movement available.

    The diagonal of 4x5 film is about 162mm. Of course the diagonal of the image area is a bit less.
    I use the 162mm value since it allows for gradual degradation of the image near the edge of the IC.

    Modern 90s in my data base have large ICs, ranging from 216mm to 236mm (plus the Super-Angulon XL at 259mm).

    By contrast, the 75mm lenses are all 200mm or less, and the 65s are all about 170mm, which just barely covers 4x5.

    The 90s will definitely permit greater movements than the shorter ones.

    Going the other direction...
    There are few choices in 105mm, with ICs ranging from 155mm (Nikkor W, won't cover 4x5) to Fujinon at 250mm.

    At 120mm the ICs range from 139mm to 312mm (the classic Nikkor SW 120/8).

    - Leigh

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    Re: 90mm & architecture why the popularity?

    LIke most of the others, I use a 90mm lens a great deal on architectural photography. That said, my kit includes several other lenses; I'll use a normal lens or around 165mm if I can (less distortion even than a 90mm); I also carry a 215mm for normal shots if room allows (good modeling) and for architectural detail shots; and I carry longer lenses, just in case I need them. And those are the same reasons that I always have a 35mm kit and a 6x6 SLR kit along, too. No one lens or even camera is going to do it all!

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    Re: 90mm & architecture why the popularity?

    I used a Nikkor 120mm f/8 for some architecture stuff the other day on 4x5. I haven't dev'd the sheets yet but just having that much IC to play with was just awesome. I have had some shots in mind for a while that just did not work with a 90mm - too wide.
    Bryan
    My blog about shooting film in south GA:
    valdostafilm.blogspot.com

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