View Full Version : Help with lens understanding and selection for a newbie

14-Jan-2015, 18:56
I am very new to the LF world and need some help selecting lenses for my field camera. I am in the middle of purchasing two cameras, and ebony and a Wisner.

I have been told that I should get a 90, 150 and 210. I have searched this site and a few others but am very confused by the names and the nomenclature of the manufacturers. I really want to focus on only Rodenstock and Schneider.

If anyone can easily, in plain English, tell me what kind of lens I should be looking for, I would greatly appreciate it. Everything I willshoot will be architectural or landscape images. I tiro of buildings, etc. I want to buy the best that I can, I just need to understand what to look for.

Thank you in advance for your help with this! I appreciate it.

14-Jan-2015, 19:08
sound advice on the lenses

that's a good trio to start with

Larry Gebhardt
14-Jan-2015, 19:19
For architecture you will want lenses with large coverage. That's a good range of focal lengths. I use a 90, 135 and 200 myself as a three lens setup, but 90, 150 and 210 is a great choice too. I really like the 135mm Rodenstock Sironar S, and I hear the 150 and 210mm are just as nice. They have a larger image circle than other lenses with the same focal length.

For the 90mm I'd try to find something faster than the common f/8 lenses since wide angles seem dimmer on the ground glass than longer lenses. The Rodenstock 90mm f/6.8 grandagon is nice, though I'd rather have 90mm f/4.5 grandagon if I didn't intend to hike with it.

There are a lot of choices in the 210mm range. I've used a Nikon plasmat, which is nice. I don't have any experience with Rodenstock's offering in this focal length, though I'm sure it's excellent.

14-Jan-2015, 19:31
Thanks Larry, this is exactly the type of information I have been looking for!

14-Jan-2015, 20:00
Start with a late-model 90mm (f4.5 or f5.6) lens of good quality from one of the big four; shoot a lot with it, then work your way out from that to figure out which FLs work best for you.
Eventually you'll go through most of the standard 4x5 FLs and settle on the ones you tend to use most; sell the others.

14-Jan-2015, 23:31
For a 4x5 architecture camera I think I'd go with the following...

110 SSXL
150 Apo Sym L
210 Apo Sym L

Paul Cunningham
15-Jan-2015, 08:21
I wonder if 90mm will be wide enough for you. Do you intend to expand your kit ever, or are you hoping to buy only once? What focal lengths do you like to shoot now (and which format)?

15-Jan-2015, 08:23
Agree, for architecture it is helpful to have lenses with a lot of coverage for giving yourself a wide range of possible movements (otherwise you run out of image circle when tilting, shifting, rising, falling etc), so the Schneider XL series. There are also the 120mm f/8 and 150mm f/8 Nikkor Nikon super-wides, and others. The tradeoff is, more covererage = bigger, more expensive lens usually with a smaller max aperture (f/8 instead of 5.6 or 4.5). The lens comparison tables should help you, they are on the main page of this site, the link is bold. EDIT: here's the link: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/lenses/

EDIT: additional thoughts

On the other hand, lenses for landscape often don't need as many movements as architecture, so you can get away with a lighter-weight camera (with fewer movements) and lenses with not as much coverage. Most monorail cameras have many more movements than most field cameras, but the monorail cameras are also heavier. A monorail with a large-coverage wide angle lens is great for architecture, but heavy and unnecessary for most landscape shots. So there are a lot of tradeoffs to consider.

Since you're using field cameras, you have to take into account their limitations. On the telephoto end, you will be limited by bellows extension. To focus at infinity, you need to extend your bellows by the focal length of the lens. To focus closer than infinity, you need even more bellows extension. On the wide angle end, you will be limited by how close you can get the front and rear standards. On many cameras you can use a bag bellows (to get the standards closer) or a recessed lens board (to get the lens even closer to the film plane) in order to use wide angle lenses. But in general, at the very wide end (for example, a 75mm lens or wider), you will have limited movements on most cameras (because the standards are close together) and with most lenses (because of limited image circles on most ultra-wides).

So, since you already have your cameras picked out, you should be considerate of their specifications before you invest too heavily in lenses. A 90 / 150 / 210 setup is going to be compatible with pretty much any 4x5 camera - nothing is too wide or too long. As long as they aren't huge large aperture versions (larger than 5.6 for example), they won't be too heavy for the front standard of even a very lightweight wooden field camera. The other thing about 90 / 150 / 210 is that the lenses are plentiful and inexpensive from most manufacturers, so you can get very good optics for not a lot of money.

I have to say, I respectfully disagree with ic-racer below - "Asking what lenses you should get is like asking what kind of wife you should get. " I don't think that's a fair comparison - you can always sell your lenses if you don't like them. It's a lot harder and more expensive to get rid of your wife. ;-)

So get a 90 / 150 / 210. If you don't like them after a few boxes of film, you'll know what you want, and can sell them. Maybe a 75 instead of a 90. Maybe a 180 instead of a 150. Maybe a 300 instead of a 210. Who knows? The world is your oyster.

15-Jan-2015, 08:32
I really want to focus on only Rodenstock and Schneider.

I would narrow it down to Rodenstock.

Dan Dozer
15-Jan-2015, 08:42
I would narrow it down to Rodenstock.

What do you have against Schneider? I've been using them for 30 years and have always had great results.

15-Jan-2015, 09:17
Get any 150mm from the 1970s onward with a working shutter and clean glass. Don't buy any other lenses until you are familiar with the view camera and know what you want. Asking what lenses you should get is like asking what kind of wife you should get.

15-Jan-2015, 10:15
The way I see it is if the OP is looking at buying an Ebony then he/she probably has plenty of money to spend. This is why I listed the pricey lenses I did. He/she sure as heck can't go wrong with those because they are some of the very best lenses ever made and they all have plenty of coverage for architectural work with 4x5 film. One just needs to be patient and wait for the best deals so, if one does change his/her mind, he/she can sell the lenses without losing any money. I don't think there's any doubt in most peoples' minds that the very latest and best lenses will only increase in value... at least for awhile... because these are the last of the best and no new ones are being made.

15-Jan-2015, 10:16
Why are you buying an Ebony and a Wisner? Either will do -- you don't need both.

15-Jan-2015, 10:19
Why are you buying an Ebony and a Wisner? Either will do -- you don't need both.

I don't think that's what the OP intended to convey. I may be wrong but I think he/she is trying to decide which of the two cameras they want. At least I hope that's what they meant. Otherwise, I agree with you 100 percent.

Alan Gales
15-Jan-2015, 10:32
I would rather go with the combination of an inexpensive folder for landscape and a monorail for architecture. Both together could be a lot cheaper than an Ebony.

16-Jan-2015, 10:55

Thank you so much for your kind reply. Your thoughts are important and meaningful to me. I can see that there is no real "answer" to this lens stuff, but your comments are well taken.

And for your analogy about a wife ... Well I used to have one of those for the last 23 years, but got rid of her. It wasn't as easy as posting her on eBay, and a lot more expensive that's for sure!! All kidding aside, thank you for your thoughts and opinions, I am off to do some lens selection.

16-Jan-2015, 11:45
Depends on type of landscape you like to shoot - modern super-wide or old style tele. 90-210-360 might be better set to pull around. Or just 90(75 if you camera can handle it and you like REALLY super-wide shots)-240 might be not a bad set of 2. I am not too fond of 150mm FL on 4x5, but then its just could be me.

Nikkors, Schneiders, Rodenstock and Fujis are all going to work for you. Things to watch out is what your camera can handle, what you really planning to shoot, and of course - filters. Wider lens - tricker filters are. Everything else is trivial.