View Full Version : Portrait lens for 4x5 for around $300 any suggestions

8-Jul-2004, 09:04
I am looking for a decent, reliable 210mm-300mm for 4x5 portraits. I have a Nikon 150mm F5.6 I like very much but I prefer some thing longer for Head shots.I am using a Tachihara so I believe 300mm would be the max. Is the Convertable Symmar 240/420 a good lens. Ive seen them go at decent prices. I Any other recomendations?

Steve Hamley
8-Jul-2004, 09:23

I recently saw some nice B&W studio work done with a Rodenstock 270mm Rotelar. I suspect this lens or a corresponding older Schneider Tele-Xenar would work nicely. Both should be well within your budget.


David A. Goldfarb
8-Jul-2004, 09:31
I have a 210 convertible Symmar that I like for portraits on 4x5". A 240 would be fine as well.

Steve J Murray
8-Jul-2004, 09:40
I have a 254mm f6.3 Caltar (old one) in an Ilex shutter that is extremely sharp. Even at f8 and f11 the center is sharp, which is great for available light portraits. I got it years ago used for $50. I would imagine these are still very reasonable used. As with many older lenses, quality may vary with each lens.

Ted Harris
8-Jul-2004, 10:21
The 250mm Fujinon SF sells new for $750 and you should easily be able to find a used one in the $500 range.

8-Jul-2004, 10:54
If you want to stay at the 210mm end, looks for a commercial Komura 210mm 6.3 on ebay. A tessar design that will cover 8x10 when stopped down all the way. They go for $150 or so and they are great lenses.

John Kasaian
8-Jul-2004, 11:04

You might consider a 203mm F/7.7 Ektar. Its a nice lens, close to 210mm, and you should be able to find examples within your budget. A 240 G Claron barrel lens should also be within your budget, and you can always spring for a new copal shutter later on(thats what I did!) or canabalize a prontor press shutter off a polaroid copy camera for very little money (did that too!). If you want a soft lens, look at Wollensaks like the Verito or the Velostigmat. A word of caution: the Veritos can get kind of big though! Perhaps someone else can comment on how they'd fit on a Tachihara lensboard. A Velostigmat in a working Rapax, Betax or Alphax shutter would be a nice portrait lens--a little soft when opened up and quite sharp when stopped down. They go for very little moo-lah (around $100 I've noticed) which makes them a real deal. I've got a 6" velostigmat on my anny speed graphic---sweet lens.

Good Luck!

Terence McDonagh
8-Jul-2004, 11:22
Jay O Tepper's website almost always has a few portrait lenses in this price range. Most of the older 9" portrait lenses should do well. I find most of the more modern lenses too sharp for portrait-type work. If you are looking for a more general purpose lens maybe go for an older wollensack. They'll be softer thn today's lenses, but still sharp enough for general work.

8-Jul-2004, 12:42
hi sam

if you can find a 10" wollensak veritar that is a great lens for portrait work. it is found in a alphax shutter and has a bi-post flash sync.

8-Jul-2004, 12:54
300mm is too long for a Tachihara 4 x 5. I mounted my 12" Dagor on mine and couldn't focus it at infinity. The bellows is just too short. I use a 210mm and can get plenty close with it.

Jay DeFehr
8-Jul-2004, 13:58
As others have noted, for focal lengths close to 300mm, you'll have to go to a telephoto design like the Rotelar etc. The Rotelar is bitingly sharp, but I imagine your Nikon is too. If you prefer a softer look for your portraits, a 9" Verito or 10" Veritar as John Nanian suggests are good candidates. For a more modern design, the Rodenstock Imagon is an alternative to the Fuji SF or ridiculously expensive Cooke SF lens. Truth be told, I would bet that just about ANY lens in the 8"-10" focal length would do just fine, and I would shop based on the following criteria, in the following order: Focal length, price, condition, shutter, coating. Good luck.

Jim Galli
8-Jul-2004, 15:50
A 240mm Voigtlander Heliar is superb for portraits wide open at f4.5 but they are big. Especially in a shutter. The 210 Heliar is also nice and smaller in shutter. Something to try: take the front group off the Nikon and you should focus at about 265mm at an effective f12 or so. Do a shot or 2 and see if it's what you're after. You'll have chromatic abberations but all it will cost is a couple of sheets of film. I'm listing a 210mm Goerz Dogmar f4.5 on feebay tonight. It won't fetch near $300 and is very capable of nice portraits wide open.

8-Jul-2004, 17:29
How is the Caltar 210mm F5.6 HR?? Its seems to be moderatly priced.

Jim can you send me particulars on your lens and a few pics to sportera@bellsouth.net

Ralph Barker
8-Jul-2004, 18:53
Although you're limited by the 330mm or so of bellows extension your Tachihara 4x5 provides, Sam, and are probably pushed toward a 210mm or 240mm, or perhaps a 300T or 360T (T being telephoto designs with the shorter back-focus), you may also want to give some thought to the style of portraiture you want to do with the 4x5. If you're thinking in terms of full-length seated shots with some environment, the 210mm lens, or even your standard 150mm lens might be fine. If, in contrast, you are thinking in terms of tight head shots, the considerations are substantially different.

Once you start dealing with the higher magnification ratios of tighter portrait compositions, the perspective provided by lens-to-subject distance can play a big role in your results. Get too close with a lens that is close to "normal" for the format, and foreshortening starts to be a factor, and your subjects may not like the result. Using 35mm or medium format, the usual guideline is to go at least 2x the "normal" focal length for the format. Thus, 105mm to 135mm lenses are popular for 35mm, and 180mm or so for MF. For a 4x5 with 330mm of bellows, that probably puts you in the 300-360mm range, assuming a telephoto design.

You might still be forced to work with a 210mm lens, due to your bellows and budget limitation, but after going through the style-oriented thought process, you'll have a better idea of the type of portraiture work of which the rig will be capable.

Tadge Dryja
8-Jul-2004, 20:29
I got a schnieder 300 f/9 Repro-Claron for about $200 on ebay. It was in a compur shutter... as far as I can tell, it's just as sharp as any other lens I have, which is to say, really sharp. Then again, I've never really understood the attraction of soft / soft focus / whatever lenses. F/9 isn't as fast as most "portrait" lenses, but you still have very little depth of field.

Then again I almost never use it for portraits, usually it's my 150, probably because I have the whole body in the frame most of the time.

Actually, here's a question I've been thinking about... it seems like as you go up in format, the whole "use a really long lens for portraits" isn't used... now, maybe it's because 300, 450, 600mm lenses, etc, are huge, rare, unreasonable things, but here's what I was thinking. A portrait of someone is a picture of something of fixed size, say, something 12" tall (well that would be a very tight headshot [or small head] but it makes it simpler). So in 35mm, that's like a 12:1 ratio about, in MF that's maybe a 6:1 ratio, in 4x5 it's close to 2:1, and in 8x10 that's almost 1:1 magnification.

When you rack out the standards and get into macro territory, the angle of view must change, right? So if you're taking a headshot on an 8x10, with a 300mm lens, your lens will actually be close to 600mm in front of the film, to get that magnification. So doesn't it now have the effective "look" of a 600mm lens? A narrower field of view, since most of the image circle is cast outside the film area...?

Anyway it's something I've been thinking about, and seems like a good reason why LF lenses tend to "feel" longer than you'd think based on an equivalent to 35mm. If I'm wrong hopefully someone will correct me and explain why.


Frank Petronio
8-Jul-2004, 21:03
I had an old Rodenstock Rotelar 270mm f/5.5 that was a nice close portrait lens. Only required about six inches of bellows and fits your budget. Now I use a 300mm Sironar N (more movements, slightly sharper for landscapes) that I got for only $400 because it had a dented filter ring... I blur people in Photoshop, but the bokeh of the Rotelar was nice.

David R Munson
8-Jul-2004, 22:16
Keep an eye out for a good user 210mm Nikkor-W. I got mine on eBay with a scuff on the barrel and perfect glass for around $275. Fantastic lens in general, and well suited to portraiture.

Armin Seeholzer
9-Jul-2004, 17:00

I recommend the Rodenstock Imagon 250mm has a wonderfull deep in the picture but its only for people wich like it not to sharp!

9-Jul-2004, 21:01
Following a bit on what John Kasaian remarked about Verito's, they did seem to come in a variety of mounts. I have an 8 3/4" Verito (http://wfwhitaker.com/verito.htm) which has been remounted in an Ilex #4 synchro shutter which would fit with little room to spare on a board for a Tachihara. Another Verito very similar in focal length, a 9-inch, is in the original Wollensak air shutter which all but fills up a 5 1/4" Agfa board. Portrait lenses historically tend to be fast which implies that they're going to get big, but the 8" range probably can be made to fit. Not sure if a soft focus lens is what you're looking for anyway. But if you find one you like which is too big, there may be something else close to it which will fit. Otherwise it looks like you got some good suggestions. Good luck!