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NancyP
14-Feb-2014, 17:50
I am an amateur and newbie at LF, and would like some opinions on how to get started.
So, I figured that my first lens (4 x 5) ought to be some approximation of "normal", which to me in 35mm terms is 35mm to 60mm, which should be 135mm to 220mm or thereabouts. I see lots of choices in 135, 150, 180, and 210mm. I have an opportunity to buy a 210mm f/5.6 Symmar-S locally. I thought this could be a good starter because I like the 55 to 60mm focal length on 35mm, and because the lens specs indicate a ~290mm image circle - theoretically giving me 65mm worth of movements with 4 x 5. I'd like to learn movements, this should be way more than I need, shouldn't it? I intend to shoot landscape and some outdoors architecture. Does it make sense to get the larger longer 210mm with ginormous I.C. , rather than a 150mm equivalent with still-generous I.C. of ~210mm, for a "learner" lens?

Oren Grad
14-Feb-2014, 18:28
My "normal" for 4x5 is 135 - a 210 feels very long to me. And 150 is, strictly speaking, the true normal as conventionally defined by the format diagonal. But if you like longish normals on smaller formats, a 210 could well be your own version of the proverbial comfortable old shoe. And really excellent modern 210's are widely available now at very attractive prices.

The image circle of any modern 210 plasmat will be way more than ample for 4x5 - more than ample for 5x7, actually.

In general outdoor snapshooting, a little bit of movement goes a long way. With architectural subjects in particular, extreme parallel movements call attention to themselves through their extreme effects on subject geometry. That's fine if it's what you want, not so much if you'd rather that your viewers' attention focus on your content rather than your oh-so-clever technique. Ditto with crazy tilts of the focus plane, which can leave OOF stuff leaking out in awkward places and end up looking contrived.

Regardless, if you tend to "see long", a 210 is a perfectly reasonable choice to get started.

MMELVIS
14-Feb-2014, 18:30
Get the 210 you can purchase locally and get shooting. Sounds like you have a very good idea on your needs and the 210mm f/5.6 Symmar-S you mention should serve your needs well.

Tim Meisburger
14-Feb-2014, 18:47
I like a 210 for portraits, but for general shooting generally reach for my 135. If I only had one I would go for 135 or 150 and crop when needed. 2nd would be 210, third a wide (90mm).

My 2c (FWIW)

David Lobato
14-Feb-2014, 19:39
If you like 55mm to 60mm in 35mm format, then the 210 would suit you quite well. I certainly love mine on a Toyo field camera. The major brands of 210mm lenses are excellent, Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikon, Fuji. Symmar S lenses are excellent, just be sure to visually inspect it before payment.

I also like 135mm lenses as do many others on the forum. For me, 135mm is a great compliment to a 210mm lens and their prices are very reasonable. Those two focal lengths are the most commonly used for my landscapes.

richardman
14-Feb-2014, 20:37
135mm or 150mm is a good starter lens, IMHO. The wides on LF don't have the exaggerated look as much as the small format lens. I am sure there are physics explanation somewhere. Anyway, if you concentrate on portrait, especially half body or headshots, then yes, longer lens would be good. Otherwise I'd recommend 135mm/150mm.

Any modern lens from the big 4 should be fine. A $200 lens could serve well for many many years.

David Swinnard
14-Feb-2014, 21:23
My starting lens for 4x5 was a 120 Super Angulon - a bit wider than the 35mm I liked on 35mm and a bit narrower than the 28mm I often had on.

It worked well for me as it matched my vision (no portraiture). Later I had access (borrowed) to a 90mm SA so my second personal lens was a 210mm which I liked very much too. When I lost access to 90, the 120 and 210 worked well.

Personally, a 135 or 150mm did not work for me. After using a 4x5 now since the late '70s I finally got a 150mm - a hand-me-down from a closing business - the price was right. What remains to be seen now, is whether I reach for it or not.

Leigh
14-Feb-2014, 21:35
Of course, everyone's preferences are different.

I think the 210mm lens would be too long for either architecture or landscape work that you mentioned.

Its angle of view (wide) is 33.6 degrees, compared with 45.9 degrees for a 150mm lens.
That's a huge difference.

On the other hand, if it's available and inexpensive, shooting and learning trumps reading and writing any day. Look for a good price.
If you decide you want/need a shorter lens you can probably sell the 210mm for your original cost.

- Leigh

Jim Graves
14-Feb-2014, 22:49
Buy it ... shoot it ... sort it out later. If the image looks too narrow, move back ... it it looks too wide, move forward. Have fun!

AtlantaTerry
15-Feb-2014, 00:00
I intend to shoot ... some outdoors architecture.

You may find that a 210mm is a bit long for outdoor architecture. A lot depends on how far you are away from the buildings and your final goal for the photos.

IMHO the most popular focal length for architecture is 90mm. But as always, YMMV.

Once you start actually photographing architecture with your 4x5 and 210mm lens, you will immediately know if that focal length is too long.

So get out there and start burning some film.

Regular Rod
15-Feb-2014, 01:00
I am an amateur and newbie at LF, and would like some opinions on how to get started.
So, I figured that my first lens (4 x 5) ought to be some approximation of "normal", which to me in 35mm terms is 35mm to 60mm, which should be 135mm to 220mm or thereabouts. I see lots of choices in 135, 150, 180, and 210mm. I have an opportunity to buy a 210mm f/5.6 Symmar-S locally. I thought this could be a good starter because I like the 55 to 60mm focal length on 35mm, and because the lens specs indicate a ~290mm image circle - theoretically giving me 65mm worth of movements with 4 x 5. I'd like to learn movements, this should be way more than I need, shouldn't it? I intend to shoot landscape and some outdoors architecture. Does it make sense to get the larger longer 210mm with ginormous I.C. , rather than a 150mm equivalent with still-generous I.C. of ~210mm, for a "learner" lens?

You could do what I did when I started 4x5 with a 150 mm Symmar. Not a Symmar S just a plain old fashioned Symmar. What a lens! Sharp as a tack. Great coverage and it has a trick up its sleeve. It's convertible! Take off an element and you get a 265 mm lens! Later I added a 90 mm Angulon to my 4x5 kit and so now get 3 lenses in the space and weight of 2.

RR

Doremus Scudder
15-Feb-2014, 03:21
Hi Nancy,

A little out-of-the-box thinking:

First, I can't imagine a lens kit without a pair of the focal lengths you mention, e.g., 135/180, or 150/210, or 135/210.

I'd suggest you look at getting two lenses (in whatever order is convenient), i.e., plan the first pair, not just one lens.

Some considerations. If you need lots of image circle for architecture, a 135mm is likely not the best choice (unless you can get your hands on a Wide-Field Ektar in that focal length). A 150 will have more wiggle room.

If coverage is not your primary concern, however, I would recommend the 135mm focal length over the 150mm any day. They are not very far apart and you can always crop the 135mm image to get the 150mm view and still have tons of quality with LF. The opposite is not true, and it can be frustrating to have a "just-a-bit-too-long" lens in the field.

If you plan on only having a couple of lenses for quite a while, I'd take the 210 over the 180mm as well. Again, they are not far apart and, since you'll have a shorter focal-length lens, going with the longer focal length on this end makes sense.

FWIW, my most used focal length is 135mm (I'm quite happy with my Nikkor W 135mm for most situations but use a Wide-Field Ektar for more coverage when needed), followed by my 203mm Ektar (a sweet little lens and small if weight and size are important to you).

And, one more after-thought. If size and portability are important considerations for you, you should be aware that a 210mm plasmat (i.e., one of the usual f/5.6 lenses) is pretty big (too big for me to want to carry around hiking/backpacking). You might want to look at Kerry Thalmann's website and the list of compact lenses he has there.

Alternatives to a larger 210mm plasmat would include the 203 Ektar already mentioned, the Fujinon A 180mm, the Schneider G-Claron lenses in those lengths. There are others too.

Hope this helps a bit,

Doremus

Bruce Watson
15-Feb-2014, 09:28
Does it make sense to get the larger longer 210mm with ginormous I.C. , rather than a 150mm equivalent with still-generous I.C. of ~210mm, for a "learner" lens?

Not really. It's really a bit easier to learn movements with a "normal" lens. It's easier to find a 150mm lens with a generous image circle with plenty of room for movements and exploration of movements, so I suggest a 150mm. 150s have the added advantage of being plentiful, easy to find, and relatively inexpensive on the used market.

Use the 150mm for a while. Months. Years even. Only buy another lens when you find yourself consistently frustrated at seeing a composition and not having the right lens to capture it. This way you'll find out more about how you see.

In a decade or so of participating here I've read way too many threads about lens spacing. There seem to be three main camps. Those people who tend to see compositions in 15 degree increments of angle-of-view, those that like 20 degrees, and those who use specific lenses for specific purposes and eschew regular spacing. There's no right or wrong, just whatever works for you personally.

But a 150mm lens is a great place to start.

tgtaylor
15-Feb-2014, 09:58
When I "graduated" to LF, my first lens was a Rodenstock 150mm Apo-Sironar-S http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/43853-USA/Rodenstock_160702_150mm_f_5_6_Apo_Sironar_S_Lens.html. This was a very logical choice for me since my favored 6x7 lens was a 75mm (38.5mm in 35 terms) and the Rodenstock had the same field of view. My 2d lens was a Rodenstock 90mm f4.4 Grandagon and the 3d was a 300mm Nikkor-M f9. Later I acquired the 210mm Schneider Symmer-S. The 90mm will be useful for most up close architecture, the 150mm for most landscapes, and the 210mm for most portraits.

Thomas

Jim Jones
15-Feb-2014, 11:06
For several decades my most often used lens on 4x5 has been the 203mm Ektar for landscapes and portraits. For architecture, a 90mm with enough coverage for extensive front rise is desirable. These lenses have been supplemented by intermediate, wider and longer lenses that get less use. If someone never intends to use more than one lens, a 135mm is a reasonable compromise.

Steve Barber
15-Feb-2014, 11:43
I think your 210mm Symmar-S is an excellent choice. My interests mostly coincide with yours and that is my most used focal length. . In any event, even if it were not your first length, it would very likely be your second. If it is to cost more than $220, you ought to consider another 210 currently listed for that amount as shown:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/NIKON-NIKKOR-W-210mm-f-5-6-in-COPAL-No-1-Shutter-/251448639545?pt=Camera_Lenses&hash=item3a8b81c039

I have two of these and I would not sell the one that has the cleaning marks for that price.

Also, if you decide on the locally available lens, before you buy the lens, compare the 1 second time with a clock that has a stop-start second hand or a digital display that shows seconds and see if it is reasonably close in its timing. And, obviously, be sure that there is no haze or damage to the lens surfaces and it includes the original lens caps and the threaded flange. If it is already mounted to a lens board that will fit your camera, that is worth a bit more.

Jon Shiu
15-Feb-2014, 12:01
There is a good company called www.keh.com that sells used lenses. Good to check current prices for lenses.

Jon

Vaughn
15-Feb-2014, 12:09
I very much like the 150mm for general 4x5 work, mostly landscapes in my case. Rarely do I feel that it is too long. But then I feel that one should more often than not, move closer...instead of getting more into the image, say more with less.

I like the tiny Copal 0 shutters a lot of the 150mm/f5.6 lenses are on...makes for a light little light-gatherer!

AuditorOne
15-Feb-2014, 12:12
Like Regular Rod said, I too was fortunate to start with a plain vanilla Symmar 150 convertible lens. I still own it and it still is a great little lens. Pick one up and go shooting.

Bernice Loui
15-Feb-2014, 16:11
Hello Nancy,


The 210mm is a fine choice as a first lens.. Focal lengths between 135mm to 210mm are very typical commonly used focal lengths for 4x5.

The only way to really know how you like the 210mm focal length is to make images. If 210mm is not your cup of tea, it is not difficult to get a different focal length or add others with more experience gained.


IMO, it is already difficult enough to learn how to use a view camera. Everything from loading film to setting up the camera, learning your version of the choreograph_ed motions and moved required to operate your camera and making the exposure. Beyond this, there is processing film and the many other steps to creating the image.

It is more significant and important that the first lens does not cause any grief and operate as it should. The last thing a beginning LF photographer needs is grief from the lens (sticky shutter, f-stop scale wrong, defective optics and...) or camera problems. Even a small problem can easily grow to a much larger one due to a small problem that is not understood by a beginning LF photographer.

Knowing this.. get that first lens regardless of focal length and make images.. This is what LF photography is all about.

We will be here for you..

:)
Bernice




I am an amateur and newbie at LF, and would like some opinions on how to get started.
So, I figured that my first lens (4 x 5) ought to be some approximation of "normal", which to me in 35mm terms is 35mm to 60mm, which should be 135mm to 220mm or thereabouts. I see lots of choices in 135, 150, 180, and 210mm. I have an opportunity to buy a 210mm f/5.6 Symmar-S locally. I thought this could be a good starter because I like the 55 to 60mm focal length on 35mm, and because the lens specs indicate a ~290mm image circle - theoretically giving me 65mm worth of movements with 4 x 5. I'd like to learn movements, this should be way more than I need, shouldn't it? I intend to shoot landscape and some outdoors architecture. Does it make sense to get the larger longer 210mm with ginormous I.C. , rather than a 150mm equivalent with still-generous I.C. of ~210mm, for a "learner" lens?

DennisD
15-Feb-2014, 20:07
Hi Nancy,

I would urge you to invest in a normal lens, if that's what you're comfortable with from experience. That's not to say you should pass up the 210 if it's a bargain. My guess, in your case, is that a 210 may feel somewhat awkward and limiting at first.

For landscape and architectural 90-135-150mm lengths are all wonderful to work with. My first lens was a 150, second lens was. 90 and then a 210. I tend to use the 90 and 150 the most. Again, these are personal prefs and you will need to learn and judge from experience. The forum members give great advice, but it may not necessarily suit your taste.

Perhaps the person selling the 210 will let you try it for a short period. If you do buy, heed the advice in some of the earlier posts. Alternatively, you might be able to meetup With someone in your area who would be willing to show you their equipment and lenses. You might always rent a lens or two for a day just to "play" with - no film.

Hope this helps.

Dennis

C. D. Keth
15-Feb-2014, 21:35
If I had a 150 or 180mm and nothing else, I wouldn't feel all that crippled.

Jac@stafford.net
16-Feb-2014, 03:56
You might find the 35mm film equivalent of a 35mm lens on 4x5 'feels' wider because of the different aspect ratio.
As mentioned, just get going, 150mm or 135mm are my favorites, respectively.

Bruce Barlow
16-Feb-2014, 04:52
I used, and still use, a 210 Symmar for most of my 4x5 work. You can't go wrong, and will love it for portraits, and LF portraits are about as much fun as it gets.

Film holders. Don't skimp on film holders. I have 30, and there have been days when I have been one short, losing the best picture of the day for lack of the 31st holder. A dozen ought to be minimum.

Get the camera and lens and sit in a comfy chair and just play with all of it in your lap. At our workshops we call is "camera cuddle," to get you familiar with the camera and lens. At one workshop, we had lovely assistants blindfold the students, and they cuddled their cameras, learning where everything was, how everything worked, without having to take their heads out from underneath their dark cloths, so to speak. Everybody loved the exercise. Spend an hour - set a timer, because you'll think you're getting bored, and that's just about the moment that you should double-down and pay attention. Do it watching American Idol.

I developed mnemonics, and may learn to spell that word. For the lens, the switch that opens and closes the shutter - "Up is open," two vowels, "down is closed," Adjacent adjectives. Now I always know which is which. I played and learned to set the aperture on the lens from behind the camera. With practice I could get within a quarter of a stop, and good for seeing depth of field.

I developed a shutter ritual for when I am ready to make an exposure - a set routine of all the little actions to be ready to press the cable release. Practicing the ritual and using it helps make sure I'm not removing the slide with the lens open, or forgetting to set the aperture, or forgetting to cock the shutter. That way, when the light is perfect, the composition is wonderful, and the adrenaline is in full course, I have much higher odds of actually making a negative, and not screwing it up.

Always guess the exposure before you meter the scene - learn to see light, and what it's doing. Learn how consistent, or not, the light in your part of the world is.

Get film, make pictures. Make lots of pictures.

Len Middleton
16-Feb-2014, 08:08
NancyP,

Is this a test for the forum?

I mean you are asking such a personal question regarding individual likes and dislikes, and with little surprise you have a large variety of answers. Given your initial question was on Valentine's Day, are you looking for our personal advice on potentially a more personal nature?? :D

All kidding aside, it is a very personal matter. Like your initial thoughts, I am one of those that prefer the 210 over the 135 or 150. My first lens was a 150, but I oriented more to the 210 and consider it MY normal lens on that format. And as others have said YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary, a common term here), and my choices need not match anyone else's.

I think you have been given some good advice here, although it will be necessary to sort it all out.

Two very excellent bits of advice are:
1. Bruce's "camera cuddle" activity, as you want to know your camera well, before needing to sort it out in the field; and
2. Get out there and shoot learn what you like and find out what you need to know.

It is a great activity, now make your choices and to quote the old Nike motto "Just Do It".

As others mentioned, if you buy well on the used market, then you are likely to be able to return it back to the used market for close to the same money, so good equipment selection errors are minimal.

Good luck, enjoy the ride, and keep us posted on your results.

Len

mdarnton
16-Feb-2014, 09:05
Another vote for something in the 210 range. Large cameras are so large relative to what people are used to that I feel like I'm crowding the subject with camera, tripod, and stuff with anything wider, except in special circumstances.

hoffner
16-Feb-2014, 09:41
I am an amateur and newbie at LF, and would like some opinions on how to get started.
So, I figured that my first lens (4 x 5) ought to be some approximation of "normal", which to me in 35mm terms is 35mm to 60mm, which should be 135mm to 220mm or thereabouts. I see lots of choices in 135, 150, 180, and 210mm.
-

As you can see, all you get is a lot of personal preferences of other photographers. Why don't you make it easy for your own personal view? Make a simple viewing frame and go out with it to the world you live in. And look through it - with one simple view frame you can judge all FLs you like or dislike. The one you will like most will be the one you should go after. And the choice will be done with your own eye, your own taste in your own photographic world. Why ask others about their preferences then?

David Karp
16-Feb-2014, 09:55
Since you like portraiture, consider purchasing a Caltar II-N branded lens. They are made by Rodenstock, and are usually available at good prices. I have lenses from all the major modern manufacturers, including to many 210s. If I am going to do a portrait, I always grab my 210 Caltar II-N.

Heroique
16-Feb-2014, 10:25
As you can see, all you get is a lot of personal preferences of other photographers. Why don't you make it easy for your own personal view? Make a simple viewing frame and go out with it to the world you live in. And look through it - with one simple view frame you can judge all FLs you like or dislike. The one you will like most will be the one you should go after. And the choice will be done with your own eye, your own taste in your own photographic world. Why ask others about their preferences then?

This is armchair photographer non-sense.

Trust your actual picture taking experience as your guide for a first lens – that is, your preference for 60mm in the 35mm format.

A 210 would be a fine place to start. Then use your experience with that lens (or any other first lens) to make choices about additional lens purchases.

ROL
16-Feb-2014, 10:40
I mean you are asking such a personal question regarding individual likes and dislikes, and with little surprise you have a large variety of answers. Given your initial question was on Valentine's Day, are you looking for our personal advice on potentially a more personal nature??

My love was only then satiated by the rapturous embrace of its velvety cape, its muscular stalwart threesome supporting our carnal desires, while my eager arms felt the full length of its extended majesty, focussing my determined attentions without shame completely, resolutely and forever.

Jim Galli
16-Feb-2014, 11:09
I started with a 210 Symmar S over 20 years ago and here I am! A very forgiving lens and it is potent. Just don't pay too much. Check completed sales of similar things on Ebay so you're armed with fair prices. I still prefer the long side of normal to this day. My 90mm languishes in a drawer. I just don't see in wide very well.

Bruce Watson
16-Feb-2014, 15:35
Trust your actual picture taking experience as your guide for a first lens that is, your preference for 60mm in the 35mm format.

Except that 35mm isn't LF and the workflows are, for most of us anyway, quite different. I'm talking about the "frame with your feet" style of 35mm useage, and the slow, deliberate, "find the perspective from which to shoot before you setup your tripod" LF method.

When I used 35mm cameras (I spent years working for the local newspaper an age ago) I typically used just a 35mm lens and a 105mm. And I had access to the equipment lockers where we had just about every lens Nikon made.

So I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find that after a couple of years of denial with LF, I actually needed a "normal" lens. And I ended up using it for like 30% of my work.

I'm just sayin' that LF isn't 35mm. One's experience with 35mm helps one learn LF about the same way that knowing the trumpet serves in helping one learn clarinet. Just like trumpet and clarinet are similar but different, so are 35mm and LF.

Heroique
16-Feb-2014, 16:22
I'm just sayin' that LF isn't 35mm...

I mostly agree however, the OP says she likes 60mm in 35mm and is interested landscapes.

If the OP means she likes 60mm for energetic children or on-your-knees macro, then choosing a similar angle of view for 4x5 landscapes would be an odd "translation" indeed.

In my experience, the corresponding lenses for tripod-based 35mm and LF landscapes are very close by comparison.

tgtaylor
16-Feb-2014, 17:33
Here's an example of a landscape that could only be taken with a 90mm lens:

http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2806/12576605035_fd02dac7f9_b.jpg

The original idea was to include the creek flowing into the scene from the right and its vertical passage into the scene from the left side, and the mountain range in the far distance. While my wide 150 brought the distant range closer, the FOL was way too narrow to include the stream in the foreground as I wanted it. A shorter FL would show too much and push the range back too far. The 90 was perfect.

As a side note, this was taken with a light weight Toyo field camera (3.5 lbs) off an even lighter tripod (Gitzo Series 0 - less than 3lbs with the head). If yopu need to, you can go light with 4x5.

Thomas

NancyP
17-Feb-2014, 10:57
OK, so I may sum up this thread as: Just. Get. A. Lens. Already. And. Start. Shooting.
Sage advice.
It seems that the world of LF has its own equivalents of "just give me a rangefinder with 35mm lens" and "I use every lens in the book" in 135-land. I admit that I am the latter type, although I enjoy days with one and only one prime lens. I will be getting a look at the 210mm lens tomorrow at camera club. It seems like it is worth a shot at the price quoted (I have scanned eBay, but would prefer to buy from the forum or face to face at the moment). A key thing is that the lens has had a relatively recent CLA.
Thanks for the image, tgtaylor. Looking at my recent output when using an APS-C with a 15-85mm lens, I have a large number of shots at 15mm, and use a broad range of FLs, with longer FLs being used for medium range plant and rock still life shots. I suspect that I will be happy to start out with any one lens, and if I am not all thumbs at the developing and can tolerate the scanning or locate a community darkroom with 4 x 5 capacity, will likely proceed to multiple lenses.

C. D. Keth
17-Feb-2014, 11:09
OK, so I may sum up this thread as: Just. Get. A. Lens. Already. And. Start. Shooting.
Sage advice.

Yup. Whatever you get you'll see pictures you can make with that lens. People always say, "Oh, but you couldn't have taken this picture without x lens. You NEED it!" See two posts above this one, for example. When you would have simply taken another picture instead. WHO CARES if you can't take one particular picture? You CAN take hundreds of others.

I can't think of many Edward Weston images that have a feeling other than that of a relatively normal lens. Nobody criticizes him for not taking wide photos.