View Full Version : lens focal length strategy?

26-Mar-2013, 16:02
As I have assembled my LF gear I have wound up with 3 mono-rail 4x5 cameras and 2 lens that are very close in focal length. I have a Symnar S 180mm and a Fujinon-W 150mm.
To those who have lots of experience with these lenses is one clearly a better lens in terms of optical performance. I know the Fujinon is small and lighter but I am more concerned with keeping the lens that is better in terms of sharpness, resolution, fall off etc.
I am going to sell two of the mono-rails and probably one of these two lense as well unless there is a reason to keep both of them.

I hate looking back at something I have sold with regrets.

Dan Fromm
26-Mar-2013, 16:09
Why ask us which of your lenses better suits your preferences? You have the lenses, ask them.

Similarly, why ask us which of your monorails better suits your working style? You should be able to decide for yourself.

Whatever you do will be wrong and the fault will be all yours no matter what advice you've received.

26-Mar-2013, 16:20
Dan I have no idea what you are talking about! I did not ask about what to do with the cameras. I know what I am keeping and what I am selling. The point with the lenses is is there one that is supposed to be OPTICALLY, as I said, superior. If one was clearly better than the other on the surface to me I would not be asking the question! I am asking from the position of someone who only has a year or so with LF and it is a different animal than MF or 35mm.
Also if the question posed by the post does not interest you then don't respond or give us your asshole opinion!

Gem Singer
26-Mar-2013, 16:32

The lenses that you have are equal in quality and performance. Keep both of them.

The focal lengths I use for 4x5: 90, 125, 150, 180, 210, 250.

(All are Fujinon NW's)

26-Mar-2013, 16:49
Thanks Gem I have not really been able to tell any difference in image quality. Obviously the Fujinon is a great lens to have to carry around.

26-Mar-2013, 16:50
I’d keep both of them too (if you were me). That is, for this reason: I have a 110-150-240 kit (for 4x5), and miss a 180 more often than I miss any lens wider than 110, or longer than 240. But what I happen to miss is based on actual trips into the field. (I can assure you that I wouldn’t miss the 180 had I stayed online, and accepted the kind recommendations found there.) I think if you take your two lenses on just a few trips into the field, you’ll have an easy time deciding if you want to keep both lenses, or sell one in favor of another, such as a 90 or 300. And everyone here would be interested in hearing about the in-the-field experiences that led you to your decision.

AJ Edmondson
26-Mar-2013, 17:56
In terms of performance it would probably be a toss-up between the two and they are pretty close in focal length. If the Fujinon-W is one of the early, single-coated lenses (80 degree coverage) I might be tempted to keep it over the 180 but I am sort of partial to the older single-coated lenses (including the Angulons) for landscapes. To me, more than three lenses was always a waste but that is just one old man's opinion based on packing LF for fifty+ years. Nowadays I pretty much stick to carrying a 120 and a 180. If I have something specific in mind that calls for a longer focal length I'll carry the 120 and a 305 but I usually know before I go someplace (by having been there before) what I want to work on and what angle of view I need. 180 is (again, for me) a really nice focal length on 4x5!

26-Mar-2013, 20:06
I try to double each focal length, so I have 90/150/300mm. And, a small pile of historic lenses.

Lachlan 717
26-Mar-2013, 20:46
I've changed from 72-90-150mm to 72-120-180mm kit, so I'd recommend keeping the 180mm.

Lachlan 717
26-Mar-2013, 20:47
I try to double each focal length, so I have 90/150/300mm.

Wouldn't it go 90/180/360mm?

John Kasaian
26-Mar-2013, 21:10
What subjects will you be photographing?
Use both lenses and see which one tickles your fancy. Add a longer or wider lens when you find the need to. A focal length number progression is impressive but IMHO not at all neccesary. There are photographers who do amazing work with a single 210mm and maybe a 90mm if needed (I'm thinking John Sexton, Roman Loranc, etc...) I'm not saying run out and buy a 210mm! Just concentrate on making photographs and don't stress over gear. With time, your kit will develop (see what I did there?) into what you find works best for you. The craftsman determins his own tools, the tools don't determin the craftsman.

27-Mar-2013, 07:03
John I understand what you are saying. Ralph Gibson, one of my favorites, used primarily a Leica 35mm and a 50 mm lens and produced some remarkable work. In the current world we live in the day of the apprentice is basically gone and we communicate over such long distances, the knowledge we would have gather 30,40, 50 years ago by being with a skilled photographer is very hard to come by. Many of us are self taught and the tips, understanding and knowledge we need comes from asking questions that in the past would have been unnecessary. Today, for me, I ask these types of questions to acquire that type of knowledge and hopefully avoid spending tons of money, and wasting time.

If I were actually present with some of you out on a shot I would ask a question as to why you selected a certain focal length or why you used a particular f/stop etc. I would get the answer in a matter of fact way as you set your gear or whatever and the question wouldn't seem so ridiculous but when we novices ask questions of you more experienced photographers that seem to have such an apparent answer try to remember how you were able to acquire the knowledge you have amassed over the years.

I am grateful for the help a information that you folks share and help other people grow in their craft. Never underestimate the effect you may have on some young person who ask questions or reads you answers and may grow in their skill to be great.

27-Mar-2013, 07:12
Here is one type of photograph I take quite often. I do this for my work and my website.921239212492125
I also like still life shots but am trying to do more portraits, nudes and even some landscapes92126

C. D. Keth
27-Mar-2013, 08:09
I don't exactly have a strategy, but I think I can give a somewhat useful answer. I don't like to carry too many lenses and I don't like them too close nor too far apart. Doubling focal lengths is too much space between lenses and carrying every lens length a company makes is just silly. I've found that 1.4x to 1.7x the last focal length or so will feel like a comfortable step in size. For 4x5, for example, I like a 90mm, a 150mm, and a 250mm. That gives me something that feels wide without being gimicky, something normal, and something long enough to be helpful without being gigantic, slow, or tele design. Keeping with evenly spaced steps in focal length means that once you learn the step size, you can call a lens with surety rather than the trial and error I see a lot of people perform when they are missing their light.

Another closer (1.4x) 5-lens spacing might go 65mm, 90mm, 125mm, 180mm, 250mm.

27-Mar-2013, 08:18
My main kit is 65mm, 90mm, 150mmand 210mm I have a 300mm but it hasn't been used for 20+ years.

My portable kit for hand held work is 90mm, 135mm, 203mm, but these are all smaller/lighter lenses as it's often 30C+ when I'm shooting in Turkey/Greece.

If funds permitted I'd probably get a second 75mm for my main kit, I have one fitted to a 6x17 camera.


E. von Hoegh
27-Mar-2013, 08:56
FWIW the lenses I use most on 4x5 are 90, 150, and 210. These cover 95% of my work with that camera. I also have available a 240, a 300, and a 420, all of which get used - but pretty seldom. The two I use most are the 150 and 210.
I do tabletop to landscape with those two - if you have room the 210 is especially nice for tabletop - huge image circle and gives a nice "drawing" of the subject; the 90 comes out for some landscape, the odd interior of a large building, and so on.

John Kasaian
27-Mar-2013, 09:38
Here is one type of photograph I take quite often. I do this for my work and my website.921239212492125
I also like still life shots but am trying to do more portraits, nudes and even some landscapes92126

I certainly can't find any fault your selection of lens for the violins!:)

Bob Salomon
27-Mar-2013, 09:45
Did they sustain a serious "wound"?

Alan Gales
27-Mar-2013, 09:49
There is no right or wrong strategy. Everyone is different and it goes from a person happy with just having one lens to the person who has many. Some like their focal lengths perfectly spaced out and others just like what they use and don't worry about perfect spacing.

Since you are unsure what to do, keep both lenses for a while and see how much you use them. If one doesn't get any or much use then sell it to fund more film or a lens you will use.

Large format lens selection has been a little trial and error for me. When I shot 35mm my favorite focal lengths were 25mm and 100mm. With 4x5 and 8x10 I find I gravitate to more "normal" focal lengths.