View Full Version : Lens rationalisation - forum as a sounding board please

Dave Tolcher
2-Jun-2013, 07:50
Over the years I have shot 2x3, 5x4, whole plate and 10x8 and as a result have ended up with an odd mix of lenses which I could do with rationalising down to a set that I use. There isn't a bad lens among them so its not about quality. I have changed bag strategies and now have a 'camera compartment which is interchangeable depending on what I want to take out and a lens and accessory compartment that lives in the bag permanently. So what I want to do is get down to a basic lens set predominantly for 5x4 through 10x8 where I can add extremes or specialties if needed. I think I know what I want to do - interested in views from those who may have made or would make different choices. I shoot mainly 10x8 and 5x4 these days. Head needs to make a good decision....

Its scary but here is what disgorges from my bags currently !

58mm Xl
80mm XL
110mm XL
150mm Sironar S
180mm Docter Tessar F4.5 in copal 3
203m Ektar in prontor svs (recently CLA'd)
210mm G-Claron
240mm docter germinar F9 (not the W)
300mm Nikkor F9
360mm / 500mm T nikkor
360mm apo ronar in copal 3
480mm process nikkor & front fitted luc shutter

The bottom end is pretty clear, the 58mm is only used on 2x3, the 80mm is a 1% lens on 5x4 so counts as specialty but standard on 2x3. 110mm is most used lens on 5x4. Gap to 180 is a bit big so the 150 is logical to keep. The 180 is a great lens and works well on whole plate (nearly covers 10x8) as well as 5x4. 203mm ektar covers 10x8 surprisingly so is good for all formats. So it goes on and in the end there is a good reason for them all and why they were acquired over the last few years.... The 'T' lenses were acquired because of the bellows draw (or lack of). I have for each camera 20cm on 6x9 and a stretched 40cm on 5x4. I don't want to invest in additional bellows for these cameras.
My hypothesis is to drop down to this set:

58mm Xl (speciality 2x3 only)
80mm XL(2x3 standard, 5x4 speciality)
110mm XL(2x3, 5x4 standard, whole plate and 10x8 speciality)
150mm Sironar S (2x3, 5x4)
203m Ektar (lovely lens and almost valueless so not worth selling and a real small utility player)
210mm G-Claron (5x4, whole plate standard & 10x8) - in a modern latest type compur which I miss the 'T' setting on
300mm Nikkor F9 (5x4, whole plate & 10x8 standard)
360mm apo ronar in copal 3 (whole plate speciality & 10x8)
480mm process nikkor & front fitted luc shutter (10x8 speciality only)

Thoughts ?



2-Jun-2013, 08:12
Sure, why not?

Dave Tolcher
2-Jun-2013, 08:27
I perhaps should have added that >95% of the time I take out a 3 lens kit unless a specific project is being shot, for 10x8 its often only one lens.

Ken Lee
2-Jun-2013, 08:35
What subjects do you shoot ?

Dave Tolcher
2-Jun-2013, 08:47
I am a landscape man predominantly taking main inspiration from the likes of Dykinga and Cornish. Transitioning from colour velvia to b&w at the moment and recently moved up format to 10x8 to focus wholly on B & W when my supply of velvia in 5x4 runs out.

Ken Lee
2-Jun-2013, 09:21
Unless I counted wrongly, you moved from 12 lenses to 9: only a mild reduction.

Lately I'm using only one lens, but I've always regretted parting with lenses and cameras. (The only exception is a 90mm lens that I used once in 10 years and the photo was a dud. I never make wide shots).

Just when I think I'll never use them, a need arises or I hear them "asking" to be used and oblige them. It's part of the fun and keeps things from getting stale.

So unless you need to free up some funds for other purposes, why not make a kit of the 3 lenses you're planning to "recycle" and take them for a spin ? They may surprise you and remind you why you got them in the first place :cool:

Otto Seaman
2-Jun-2013, 09:51
If you're happy with the results from your 203 Ektar why not build a compact and reasonably-priced kit around quality vintage glass and unload the expensive modern XL and Sironar-S lenses for simplicity's sake? (As well as saving for retirement or further photo adventures....)(Also more consistency to the look of your pictures.)

Experiences - time to photograph - travel and friends are so much more important to photography than gear. I think.

Plus it's obvious that you relish the shopping for gear aspect or you wouldn't have accumulated so much of it ;-) imagine the fun you'll have tracking down a nice 135 Wide Field Ektar, etc.

2-Jun-2013, 12:25
Lately I'm using only one lens, but I've always regretted parting with lenses and cameras. (The only exception is a 90mm lens that I used once in 10 years and the photo was a dud. I never make wide shots).

This sounds just like me (except ken shoots more than I do). Even the "useless 90"!!!

For most application I have a 2-lens kit (two for landscape - 135 and 210; two for portraiture - 250SF and 12" Kokdak CE; one for each Graphic; and a couple of inexpensive odds and ends (barrel lenses) that are fun to play with. But in general I pick one and shoot with it.

You paired down the lenses that were close enough to be essentially duplication. If you were me (and you should be thanking the almighty that you are not)... I'd also reduce the number of short lenses unless you intend to shoot roll film or 2x3 again.

Dan Fromm
2-Jun-2013, 14:07
Why carry the 203 Ektar and the 210 G-Claron? I'm surprised that y'r 203/7.7 covers 8x10, there are claims of only 216 mm (see http://www.bnphoto.org/bnphoto/KodakEktarsDB2.htm) but not from EKCo.

And why not use all of your lenses on 2x3 and all that will cover 4x5 on 4x5? Do your 2x3 and 4x5 rigs have limited extension?

Dave Tolcher
2-Jun-2013, 14:19
Thanks for your considered responses and not mocking the question. 10x8 has done something funny to my photo head - its become much more about the emotion and the character in my work and part of that is an almost artisan feeling about the tools. A small number of cherished tools now seems really important to the process for me to be able to complete the journey. I know part of this is returning to B & W after a 15 year gap (I used to shoot with a camera and standard lens only). For whatever reason I have end ended up with more gear than I am happy to own.

You guys are all right ! I have enjoyed tracking down the interesting and unusual, modern or old and previously had the income to support such indulgences. As I moved around the formats it seemed obvious to find the optimum lenses for that format and that led to duplication, some lenses are just plain interesting and when I saw one at a good price I felt the need to sample its special character. I have looked at buying & selling as 'free' rental for a few years when required for a project.

I am worried about sellers remorse, more than once I have re bought things sold when the need called. I was really trying to avoid that this time, looking to simplify, remove the conspicuous excess - ideally I will drop down to 10x8 over the next 2 or 3 years and really pare the lenses down. I had expected to move to 2x3 roll film / digi back when E6 for all intents disappears so hung on to the stuff for that but that was before 10x8 came along.

My alternative list was to drop down to the 'interesting' lenses which means losing the 150mm sironar-s which is in a class of its own in the dimensionality of the pictures produced but I find a bit clinical. I haven't shot 2x3 for a year now so could drop the 58mm and 80mm xl lenses leaving a 110mm, 180mm 240mm, 300mm and 360mm kit. Pop the ektar in the bag too and that is a decent reduction from 12 to 6 and all except the 180 cover all formats. Most radical was to also lose the 180 and 240 and keep the 210 claron and be down to 110/210/300/360.

I am totally comfortable on 10x8 shooting with a semi wide (240/210) and normal (300/360) as the only kit in the bag. Likewise for 5x4 with 110/200/300 so perhaps I just need to bite the bullet. Occasionally I will return with a specific lens after scouting a location.

I am now retired so it is about getting the best bang - I hadn't expected to get so hooked on 10x8 and it has been a more expensive journey than I perhaps thought so one of the drivers is to balance the photo books and this is where the key duplicated assets lie unless I want to ditch a format completely - which is a good suggestion.

Carsten Wolff
2-Jun-2013, 20:49
I'd perhaps get rid of the 58, 80, 180, 203, 210, 300; the 360 A-R and the 480 A-N. This leaves you 110, 150, 240 and 360/500...(I, too, am surprised about that 203 covering 8x10 by the way) If you're thinking of going 2x3 in future, why own these lenses now?

[I've gone another way: I've reduced the number of formats I'm using; this probably wouldn't appeal to you though. I almost exclusively do 5x7 (b/w and color) these days on a small old arca-swiss (with extra 6x17 and 4x5 backs). I run a modern, or a vintage kit on that: Either: 104, 159, 254 vintage or: 90, 135, 210 modern. I also keep a 380T when I need longer. If money was no object, I'd have a 110xl, a 150Sironar-W and a 240Docter, or Fujinon-A to replace all of these, bar the long lens, but that wasn't your question :) .]

evan clarke
3-Jun-2013, 04:57
Lenses are tools..At the rightntime in the rightnplace any one ofmthem could be exactly the thing you need.I'd keep them all.

Dave Tolcher
11-Jun-2013, 06:36
Thanks for your input, interestingly I have decided to keep a narrower set. 80/110/150/203/300 in shuttered lenses and a 350/460 barrels with the luc shutter. This is a nice small kit with coverage of 10x8 at the long end and a balanced spacing at the wider end. It was a toss up between the 203 and the 240 but I have a particular fondness for the 203 and have just had the shutter serviced. The 80/110/150 took me years to put together and is something of a holy trinity in terms of quality etc. The 203 becomes my emergency wideangle for 10x8. For now the 58 is on hold while I think about whether to drop 6x9 as I havent used it in anger for 6mths now. If it wasnt so light, portable and share so many of the components from the other Arcas then it would be a no brainer to go. I have 6x9 and 6x12 backs for 5x4 so but for size it could be made redundant.

Your right Evan but I cant carry them all anymore ! I lugged a good subset around for the weekend up cliffs and over moors and I did wonder at the madness of it...

Best regards

13-Jun-2013, 11:33
A good question which I have pondered more than once. I shoot 5x4 for the vast majority. I have two sets of lenses: colour and b&w. My colour set is made of modern lenses at different focal lengths (75, 90, 125, 210, 420 - their usage follows a nice bell curve with 125 being the favourite). My b&w set is made of vintage lenses but are all more all less the same focal length - 210mm. The texture of the picture matters more to me in b&w and the different, old lenses each have their character. For colour, the "transparency" of the lens is paramount. Good luck!

Bob Salomon
13-Jun-2013, 11:40
Why not use the 58 on 45? It fully covers it.

sun of sand
17-Jun-2013, 16:21
I love these threads
Here are my tho