View Full Version : Which Lense for Photographing Artwork???

2-Sep-2004, 06:45
I am relatively new to large-format photography, moving up from 35mm digital. I wanted to get opinions as to the best focal length lense for flat art work studio reproduction. I am not sure if I should go with a 150, 180 or 210. Please advise...

Frank Petronio
2-Sep-2004, 06:54
Usually people use a 210mm to 300mm lens for flat art repro. Unless you are shooting straight down, as in a copy stand situation, where your working distance might dictate a certain focal length. The slightly longer than normal focal lengths give you good working distances so you can light the subject evenly; they have less keystone types of distortions (than wider lenses); and their shorter depth of field allows you to decisively focus on the most important plane of the subject. That said, a 150 - 180 will work fine in most normal situations, but I'd opt for the 210 if I had the choice.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
2-Sep-2004, 07:05
How large is the work you are photographing? For small paintings (up to 12" x 12" or so) I have found that my 240mm Fujinon-A is fantastic--very sharp, nice color reproduction. Any "flat field" lens (G-Claron, Apo-Ronar, or Apo-Artar) will work very well. Unfortunately however, these lenses are all maximum aperture f/9, and can be awful dark, particularly with polarizing filters on both lens and lights.

Large work I tend to use a normal 150mm plasmat (Symmar, Sironar, W, etc). They also work nicely, but doesn't work as well with higher magnification. The 180mm Fujinon-A might be a nice compromise.

I keep thinking of trying an enlarging lens, but haven't gotten around to it.

Gem Singer
2-Sep-2004, 07:43

Assuming that you are referring to the 4X5 format, all of the focal lengths that you mentioned will do the job. The longer the focal length, the longer the distance between the lens and the film plane and the greater the magnification, when it is in sharp focus. A longer focal length lens, like a 210, will allow more working space between the camera and the subject for manipulating lighting, etc.

However, copy work is usually done at relatively close distances, and a longer focal length lens requires a camera with longer bellows extension capability. For example: a 150mm. lens requires 300mm. of bellows extension to focus at 1:1 magnification. A 210mm. lens would require 420mm. Before choosing the focal length of a lens, make certain that your camera has enough bellows extension to handle it.

If I were choosing a lens for reproducing flat art work with a 4X5 camera, I would choose a process-type lens that is optimized for that purpose. The Fujinon "A" series and the Schneider G-Clarons are examples. Check out the Fuji 240A and the 150 and 210 G-Clarons. They do a teriffic job reproducing flat art work, both B&W and color.

Bob Salomon
2-Sep-2004, 07:57
a 240mm Apo Ronar used at f22 is one of the most commonly used. Rodenstock did not make this lens in a 210mm focal length.

Michael S. Briggs
2-Sep-2004, 22:57
4x5 film? What range of sizes for the art work? Vertical copy stand or photographing art on the wall?

I don't think that there is one best lens, or even one best focal length. It depends on the answers to the above questions, which will narrow the choice down but probably not to a single focal length and lens.

The ratio of the film size divided by the art work size divided will give you your intended magnification, e.g., a 16x20 painting photographed on 4x5 film will be M=0.25, aka 1:4. From simple optics equations (e.g., the Lens Tutorial at http://www.photo.net/learn/optics/lensTutorial) you can figure out the distances between film and lens, and between lens and subject. If you pick a focal length, figure the film-to-lens distance for the largest magnification M that you want to do -- does your camera have sufficient extension? Calculate the sum of the film-to-lens and lens-to-subject distances. Is this too big for your setup?

My experience is that the longer lenses, e.g., 240 mm and above, can require a fairly large distance from film to subject. This is fine if your room is large enough. You don't want to go too short because the lens might not have enough coverage and the illumination on the film will be less uniform. I think 180 mm is a good value, but others will work.

If your subjects are larger than roughly 8X the size of your film, then any of the modern plasmats will work well. If the subject is smaller than about 5X the size of your film, then one of the closeup lenses will work better.

Current or recently produced closeup lenses: G-Claron, Fuji-A, Apo-Macro-Sironar, Macro-Symmar HM, Apo-Ronar, Nikkor-AM, ..... Most of these are symmetrical lenses which are optimized for 1:1. The Apo-Macro-Sironar is optimized for 1:2. The designs that originated as process lenses (G-Claron, Fuji-A, Apo-Ronar) are f9 lenses; the more recent designs are faster.

3-Sep-2004, 06:35
Thank you to everyone who has replied. Your information has been much appreciated. To answer some of your questions, the artwork that is photographed is 18X24 (Smallest) to 48X60 and larger. I will be shooting with a Sinar F2 in our studio.

I am very interested in the G-Clarons, specifically the 150mm or the 210mm. Due to the size limitations of the studio and the size of the artwork itself, which lense (150mm/210mm) would you recommend. Thanks...


3-Sep-2004, 06:37
Thanks again to everyone...

Gem Singer
3-Sep-2004, 06:43
Hi again, AJB,

Since there are size limitations in the studio, and the subjects are fairly large in size, of the two lenses you mention, I would recommend the 150 G-Claron. It should do the job very nicely.