View Full Version : Describe your lens journey?

John Kasaian
3-Feb-2015, 12:18
How did you end up with the lenses you shoot for your chosen format? Can you remember the chronological history?
For me & 8x10:
My first lens was a 14" APO Artar in a dial set Compur from Stephen Shuart, who ran ads in the back of Shutterbug.
Steve Simmons mentions Artars favorably in Using The View Camera and it was the cheapest lens I could then find in a shutter that would cover 8x10.
It is a marvelous lens and shortly after I also discovered a mentor, a long time commercial photographer is strongly recommended a Commercial Ektar, being not only faster but having a monstrous image circle, either a 12" or a 14" I ended up with a 14" and for a long time that was what I used with no desire for anything else---having two 14" lens was like wearing a belt AND suspenders but it was a comfort to know that if one of the lenses had to go in for a cla I'd still be able to shoot.
Eventually though I needed something wider for subjects where I couldn't back up far enough to capture the whole enchilada. By that time I had read the Ansel Adams trilogy and 40 Photographs which favorably mentions the 10"/250mm WF Ektar. About the same time Schneider pulled the plug on the G Claron line and 240mm G Clarons were going for very little $$ while 10" WF Ektars were, well, culti$h. I figured to get both, replicating the redundancy I enjoyedd with my 14" lenses. The G Claron was affordable but I had to wait a few years before a WF Ektar I could afford became available, oddly enough on eBay and from none other than Dagor 77.
So I was at approx two focal lengths (14" & 250/240mm) and four lenses. This was the status quo for several years before the GAS took the reins once more.
I could have stopped there, but my interest in mountain photography soon brought a desire for something longer. Back to Simmons' Using The View Camera I determined that a 19" APO Artar, like Morley Baer used would enhance my capabilities. A very nice RD showed up in Canada on eBay and I was extraordinarily fortunate to win without blowing my budget, which I'd set quite realistically set for an older uncoated APO Artar version. Shortly after that Butch Welch offered me a great deal on an even wider lens than the 240 G Claron---a 159mm Wollensak EWA "yellow dot."
I long admired the 165 Super Angulon but they were out of my league financially as well as very likely being a Fatal tax on my camera's front standard weight-wise. So here was an even wider lens, not much slower (f9.5 for the Wolly vs f/8 for the SA) so I added it it to the fleet thinking in terms of architecture. As it turned out, for me the 250mm lens served my architectural vision better than the EWA (why the 250 WF and not the 240 G Claron? Because of the more than generous image circle on the WF) But the 159mm EWA became my table top lens since it didn't require running my camera's bellows out all the way into the next county.
Eventualy a 12" Dagor in a Compound shutter showed up, well, because it is a 12" Dagor and I've always heard such good things about them and I got a great deal on it.
One more lens, a 300 Nikon M came to live aboard a Gowland 810 Aerial camera. This represents an accumulation of 18 years worth of shuttered 8x10 lenses. It doesn't include any barrel lenses which I've bought and sold, scavenged or traded.

3-Feb-2015, 13:12
How did you end up with the lenses you shoot for your chosen format? Can you remember the chronological history?

Not necessarily in order of love and affection:

1) Schneider XL 110mm/5.6
2) Schneider 150mm/9 g-claron
3) Fuji A 240mm/9

Call me impatient – I purchased all 3 at the same time, rather than one-at-a-time.

I remember I did a lot of research on technical specs (Kerry Thalmann's site was helpful) + practitioner comments (this forum was the best place). I've been pleased w/ this kit choice, as the three lenses have taken care of 98.3% of all my desired 4x5 landscape shots.

But to be honest, it wasn't my diligent research that made this kit useful to me. It was hitting the field and learning how to see the world through these lenses, and how to make use of the specs they happened to have. Any other sensible 3-lens kit, I'm certain, would have made me just as happy.

As for the "lost" 1.7% of my landscape shots, they were wider than the 110mm could handle. (Well, maybe a handful of shots when a 180mm lens would have been ideal.) But these are losses due to vision, not to gear.

My "journeys" – on a more literal level – have been longer in mileage due to the relatively light weight of these lenses, especially the 150mm g-claron during one-lens outings into the steep mountains of my region. Ounces do make a difference, not just physically but for the oft-forgotten psychological reasons. (Hikers who cut-off the handles of their tooth brushes and trim-off the edges of their paper maps understand this!)

These "journeys" would have been even longer had it not been for my beloved Ries tripod...

Kirk Gittings
3-Feb-2015, 13:23
I went by Fred Picker's recommendations if I remember right. In 4x5 bought a 210 then a 120, which served me well. When I got into commercial architectural photography I added a first a 90 then a 305, then a 150 and then a 65. When I changed over to shooting a lot of 6x9 I got a 47xl. Ultimately adding a 450 also. When I switched to digital for the commercial work and only my personal work was with film and VCs I got rid of the 47, 65, and 450. So now I just have the 90, 120, 150, 210, and 305.

3-Feb-2015, 13:34
Yup, My first two in 1985 were Fred Picker's recommendations of a 210 Symmar & a 120 SA to use with a 4x5 Wista. Used them for a few years then started replacing them with classic lenses. Replaced the Wista with a Zone VI/Wisner, then Deardorffs:

For 8x10/5x7 for personal work in modern shutters:
14" MC Schneider Kern Gold Dot Dagor in Compur in 1987 then
9.5" Golden Dagor in 1988 then
19" RD Artar in 1988 then
6.5" WA Dagor in 1988 then
24" RD Artar in 1988 then
3 5/8" WA Dagor in 1988 (gift) then
90 mm Angulon in 1989 then
6" Golden Dagor, in 1992 then
8 1/4" Dagor in 1992

For 4x5 all bought within a 2 year span around 1990 when I did architecture photography:
47 mm SA
58 mm XL SA
65 mm Grandagon
75 mm SW Nikkor
90 mm XL SA
115 mm Grandagon
180 mm Apo-Symar

More recently, replacing lenses I'd sold in the past, or came along as a good deal:
300 Sironar N
240 Sironar N
210 G Claron
150 Geronar (bought for the shutter)
4 3/8 WA Dagor
8 1/4 Golden Dagor
12" Dagor & 12" Golden Dagor

Probably forgot one or two, but this list is already embarassingly long. Bought and sold a few along the way, but this is what I currently have (I think).

Nigel Smith
3-Feb-2015, 16:16
I bought mine all (2nd hand) at once (90/135/210) with the camera (Zone VI 4x5). I use the 210 the most, then the 135 and rarely the 90. I bought a 90/8 (Fujinon) in anticipation of my Travelwide arriving, but looking at the size of it, might have got the wrong lens for that... I will see. I would like to add a (little) 300-360mm, probably prefer 360 rather than 300.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
3-Feb-2015, 16:29
Each format and subject has its own story. For 5x7 landscapes...

I started with two G-Clarons in the 1980s, sold them and
I bought a four lens Goerz kit in the 1990s, sold them and
I bought a four lens Rodenstock kit in the 2000s, which I still have.

The Rodenstock lenses are excellent, but I shouldn't have sold the Goerz lenses.

Portrait lenses and speed lenses for alt processes are a much more complicated story.

Jim Galli
3-Feb-2015, 18:35
I could write a coffee table book. For me the lens journey is the journey. Most of the usual's have come and gone. In fact I'm down a bit of cash and was looking for something to sell, and there's nothing very replaceable left to sell these days.

5-Feb-2015, 08:22
hi john

i got thr trifeckta early on (150/90/210 ) then its exwa cousin ,
but since i have a speedy i began early on finding oddball and useful
barrels ( tele ottar 15+10", enlarger lenses, old forgotten
and then worthless now with worth brassies, home made,
stuff harvested off junk cameras ( folders, boxes &c )
and then cheap pre-digi-days now well known ( then obscure )
portrait lenses since the fp shutter was willing to play.
like jim, its been a fun time ...

Michael R
5-Feb-2015, 09:32
My lens journey is pretty boring. The focal lengths are simply based on the way I shot with 35mm (which I used, and still use like a mini view camera) before I started 4x5. Initially, given budget limitations I bought a 150mm. I would have liked something wider for my first lens but couldn't afford one. Later on I added a 90mm. At some point after that I added a 72mm. Then a 110mm and eventually a 300mm. I still use them all and don't need anything else.

Ken Lee
5-Feb-2015, 10:13
How did you end up with the lenses you shoot for your chosen format?

Not exactly a chronology since the dimension of time is absent, but a description nevertheless: http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/lenses/

5-Feb-2015, 10:25

I'll stick to generalities as I have bought, tried, sold, and bought more lenses the last 5 years than I can list


I started out with schneiders for my 4x5 and later..a 12" com ektar for my 8x10

then sold off all that stuff

much later.. I decided to start all over again and this time 5x7 only.. I think my first was a 12" caltar 2 wich is a really decent lens but not doing what I wanted it to.. plus I found this crazy place so I though the old petzval soft focus thing was the deal and almost immediately found an old portrait studio guy selling off all his stuff so I bought him out - tried the imagons and stuff and didn't like them..but

he had a 170 heliar stuck in there that I used on a speed graphic and sure enough..THAT was the deal

so - for awhile it's been a blizzard of buying, selling, trading and more buying of lenses until I have most all the heliars I want (150 for the 4x5, 240 & 300 in shutters for the 5x7)...of course along the way I've tried all kinds of crazy lenses I've had adapted to shutters.. a Berthoit that is okay, .. a couple of Rodenstock Hemi-Anastigmats (210 and 400) that I like a lot
and two or three others I've forgotten

a big (500mm) Olor barrel lens sits on my 8x10 studio camera along with a 16.5" voigtlander that I'm supposed to shoot this weekend

for a start

Joe Smigiel
5-Feb-2015, 10:39
My first LF lens probably was a 127mm or 135mm Ektar that was standard on a Speed Graphic I purchased from a guy at work in the late 1970s. When I purchased my first view camera, a series 40x Calumet from a friend, it came with a 180mm convertible Symmar. Around that time I used a 300mm Symmar on an 8x10 at school with no complaint and figured they were nice lenses. (I've since acquired several others in various focal lengths.)

About 1998, I purchased a copy of my favorite photograph, George Seeley's "The Firefly" and started contemplating what I would need to duplicate the look achieved by the Pictorialists. I decided I needed a ULF camera and a fuzzy-wuzzy portrait lens. That led me to the next several types of lenses and cameras I purchased. Those included an 11x14 B&J Commercial View along with an 18" Verito. Loved the Verito and bought some more (7.25", 8.75", 11.5" 14.5" and 22.25"). I also picked up a 24" RDA and a 210mm Angulon to cover the 11x14.

Discovered wetplate in 2005 and stocked up on Petzvals (5A Voigtlander, 1A and 3A Dallmeyers, big Vitaxes, smaller Vestas, half-plate Darlot, etc.) and then purchased some meniscus lenses again to reproduce certain looks. Decided to do some other things as well along the way and in the past few years accumulated more Symmars and clones, Fujinons in a wide range of focal lengths, an Angulon, an Aero Ektar, Dagors, Wollastons, RRs, EWAs, etc.

Truth be told, I'm probably good to go now with a couple Symmars and Veritos that cover whole-plate and the 11x14. All the others sit on shelves, in boxes, or have been sold to finance other purchases. I still have way too many outliers. Petzvals are nice sometimes but unless you absolutely need that swirl, most wetplaters would probably do just as well with a 4.5 Tessar or 5.6 Plasmat, and save a grand or two, IMO.

Alan Gales
5-Feb-2015, 10:41
How did you end up with the lenses you shoot for your chosen format?

Not exactly a chronology since the dimension of time is absent, but a description nevertheless: http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/lenses/

The dimension of time is absent? Sounds like you are doing this, Ken. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZkOFqC-csM

5-Feb-2015, 10:47
I started with the speed graphic, rediscovered "pictorialism into modern", went to a soft focus workshop, then it was sort of like that 15 minute scene in Space Odyssey where it's wild colors flying by and at the end, how did I get to here? Except that it wasn't in color.

5-Feb-2015, 10:56
Jeez...To date I have purchased a grand total of 44 lens for my cameras and still have and use (except for the 7 35mm Pentax lens) all of them on a regular basis.


Alan Gales
5-Feb-2015, 11:18
I buy and sell film camera gear so I have owned many 4x5 lenses from either buying complete camera kits and parting them out or just buying particular lenses at a good price and selling them if I didn't like them. What a long, strange lens trip it's been?

By the time I started 8x10, I pretty much knew what I wanted. I first bought a 14" Commercial Ektar added a 250mm f/6.7 Fujinon and then a 19" Red Dot Artar. I'm very happy with these lenses.

I recently bought an old 8x10 wooden tailboard camera with a Kodak 305mm Portrait lens. I'm playing with the lens to see if I like it or not.

Ken Lee
5-Feb-2015, 11:23
The dimension of time is absent? Sounds like you are doing this, Ken. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZkOFqC-csM

Sorry, I listened for the first few moments: I'm not familiar with the music and couldn't really discern the lyrics.

I guess I'm just too old to get the reference :rolleyes:

5-Feb-2015, 11:28
I started out in 1997-8 with a Crown Graphic bought off fleabay, with an Ektar 127 attached. That turned out to be a decent lens, but I wanted to do wildlife, so I bought a convertible 210/370 Symmar. Then I learned that I couldn't focus that at 370 on a Crown Graphic, at least not in the range that I could take a pic of an animal. I got a little distracted and gave up the whole LF thing for more than a decade, and sold all of that on fleabay when I needed money.

So I started up again with another fleabay purchase, a B&J 4x5 field camera that came with an excellent Xenar 150/4.7 (and more importantly, the extension rail). I came into a Symmar-S 150/5.6, which I mistakenly thought was better than the Xenar, so I sold the Xenar. I wanted something wider, so I bought the cheapest I could find S-A 90/8. I wanted something longer, so I got a Rodenstock Apo-Gerogon 240/9 in barrel. Decent lens set, except for the barrel lens that I almost never used; those 2 Schneider lenses remain my standard 4x5 lenses to this day. I do still use the Apo-Gerogon on 8x10 with a Packard shutter, but along the way I bought a Speed Graphic so I could use barrel lenses on 4x5 with some control over speed. For longer lengths on 4x5, I got a 180/315 convertible Symmar which I also use on 5x7.

For 8x10, I started out with old brassies, got frustrated at the lack of shutters, so I bought a G-Claron 210/9 and fitted that to a Copal 1 that I reclaimed from yet another Graphic standard lens. By then I had discovered this forum, so I was able to piece together that sort of thing by reading up on lenses here. That was my standard 8x10 lens until I sold it with my Deardorff, a move I still regret (selling the G-Claron, not the heavy-as-lead Deardorff). I decided I wanted a 'normal' 8x10 lens so I bought a Fujinon-W 300/5.6, which I still have but I hate and never use. I eventually replaced my lost G-Claron with a Fujinon-W 210/5.6 (inside lettering), which is nearly as good and I love. For 300mm, I got a Congo Tessar 300/6.3 which is a great lens, I use it with the same Packard as the Apo-Gerogon. Since then I have bought a whole mess of antique and projection lenses to do various things, plus I now have a Velostigmat II 12"/4.5 in a #5, a Paragon 12"/6.3 in a #4, a B&L 8x10 4.5 Tessar, a Goodkin Graphinar 300/6.8 Dagor clone, and I just got an Apo-Nikkor 480/9 for a longer focal length. Having fun, I guess. My LF lenses are slowly taking over the shelf that used to be dedicated to 35mm prime lenses, which I'm slowly liquidating on fleabay.

5-Feb-2015, 12:06
Started with a 150, which folks on this forum recommended (or a 135). Good advice.

At the time I was infatuated with the large format color guys (Meunch, Dykinga, Cornish, etc.) so thought I needed a wide lens - bought a 90. I then became more familiar with, and liked more, the B&W photographers who rarely used an exaggerated wide angle view. I then wanted a longer lens, so I got the highly regarded Fuji 240A. Then wanted something even longer (for "extractions"), so bought a 400mm tele lens.

Those were my mainstays for a while, although I got to thinking I might want something wider than the 150 but not as wide as the 90. I found a great deal on a 125 Fuji, so got that.

Now I use primarily the 125/150/240 set, with the other two seeing action every once in a while. The 150 is a Sironar N, which I am quite happy with. Small, light, sharp enough for my tastes.

Alan Gales
5-Feb-2015, 12:46
Sorry, I listened for the first few moments: I'm not familiar with the music and couldn't really discern the lyrics.

I guess I'm just too old to get the reference :rolleyes:

The dimension of time is absent sounds like something Rod Serling would have said on the old Twilight Zone show. I referenced the Twilight Zone song because he sings about slipping into the Twilight Zone.

You are not too old. Maybe I'm too out there? ;)

I find my jokes are sometimes like my photographs. Some work and some don't. :)

John Layton
5-Feb-2015, 12:51
My first LF lens (135mm Optar) came attached to my first LF (4x5 Crown Graphic) which I purchased from Dean Chamberlain (now a well known light painting guy) at RIT in the mid 70's. Not bad, but soon replaced this with a 135 convertible Symmar - which was a bit better overall.

Then I started to build cameras - beginning with an 11x14, and for this first picked up a 12" Series 3 Berlin Dagor, plus a 19.75 inch Kodak Anastigmat - both of which worked just fine. But, lusting for more, I eventually found a late, Kern build Goerz Blue Dot Trigor - covered 11x14 beautifully, and when I tested this lens by taping strips of 35mm Agfapan 25 at center and edges of a holder, the resulting negatives, when viewed with a good loupe, looked like those taken with my Leica M-Summicron set at around f/5.6 - in other words, mind blowing! I so regret selling the Trigor!

A bit later, after having build my first 4x5, I picked up an old Goerz 90mm WA Dagor - very compact and truly a gem! I eventually sold this to Fred Picker. Fred P...what a character! A couple of classic F.P. Quotes..."there's only one guy in the world who knows how to build wooden cameras, and he works for me! (was he referring to Richard Ritter?). Another..."So...you want to build cameras to sell? Are you out of your mind?" (slightly prophetic?)

I was a photo-retailer from 1980-85, and during this time picked up three lenses, all Rodenstock - 90 6.8 Grandagon MC, 135mm f/5.6 Sironar-N MC, and 210mm f/5.6 Sironar-N MC, under a "dealer special" program - great price! I still use these lenses, for both 4x5 and 5x7 (except the 135, which is only good for 4x5). In a pinch, the 210 will just barely cover my 8x10.

Had a brief relationship with an older 65mm f/8 Super angulon. Nice little lens, and helped me immensely with a series of photographs of the Racetrack at Death Valley. Sold this lens shortly afterwards though.

A bit later I hooked up with a 305 G-Claron...an amazingly universal lens, which I can use for anything from 4x5 through 11x14. I love this lens and will never sell it! (famous last words?)

Then, when I got into 5x7 in a big way, I found a used 120mm f/8 Super Angulon MC (as my 135mm would not cover). I love the 120 FL on 5x7. (I shouldn't, as this lens equates to appx. 24mm on 35mm format - and I much prefer either a 21 or a 28).

So I sit with my 90, 120, 210, and 305. Plus the 135 which is now more or less permanently mounted to my old Calumet/Gowland "Pocket View" camera for times when I want to travel super-light. Perfect little camera for this, so I don't need to build my own version!

I'll likely be happy with the above for awhile, but as I get into printing larger, and experimenting with Delta 100 in the 5x7 format, I might want to swap out the 120SA and 210 for a 110Apo and 210 Sironar-S. Also thinking about a 450 Fuji-C at some point. Thats about it.

Randy Moe
5-Feb-2015, 12:57
I have a spreadsheet, that needs updating. I try to read all I can. I respect the opinions of a number of members and mods here. Some have graciously given a lot of great info in various ways. Thank you Kerry Thalmann, Ken Lee, Jim Galli, Eddy, Dan Fromm and many others I cannot list from the top of my head. Brain fade...

Most of my lenses have been bought locally in packages. My first modern lens score was eight lenses from one pro, all sharp as anything. All keepers.

Many walked right in my door from a neighbor.

None from Ebay.

A couple here from very nice members that found me and offered deals.

Some found here in classified, also bargains.

I don't sell lenses for a couple reasons. Many buyers don't know what they are buying. Ebay is out of the question. All LF are rare and getting rarer through attrition. Lenses are way underpriced except for a few types.

The journey ends when I cease to be.

Ken Lee
5-Feb-2015, 13:04
I find my jokes are sometimes like my photographs. Some work and some don't. :)

I'm with you there !

5-Feb-2015, 13:31
Lots and lots of reading and research and research and reading. Lots and lots of buying, selling, buying, selling. Endless experimentation and experience. And I still have it wrong... or right... or wrong and right. I'm coming to the same conclusion that others have suggested on my part... just STFU and shoot.

5-Feb-2015, 13:38
My worry is that my search will not end until I find a zero-mm lens that covers infinity and an infinity-mm lens that covers zero-mm.

Drew Wiley
5-Feb-2015, 13:47
I started of with 4x5 and a Symmar 210S simply because that's what my older brother recommended, but it was an excellent choice and the only lens I used for
awhile. Then I got fancy, and bought some more Schneider specifically to cover my 8x10 as well. As these early lenses started be look a bit unlovely due to
my wilderness style of shooting out in the elements, when the German Mark happened to be high and the Yen low, I sold my German lenses for as much as I paid for them new, and bought brand new Fuji lenses for less. That was an eye opener, not only with reference to quality, but to the fact that I could use much smaller lighter lenses which had even superior performance relative to my needs. The only Schneider I still use is G-Claron. Otherwise, Fuji A and C, Nikkor M, plus a few classic old 8x10 lenses for special purposes.

Mark Sampson
5-Feb-2015, 14:52
This is about my personal LF lens 'journey'; I will leave out the many lenses I used in my industrial employment. In 1977, I started with a 1946 127/4.7 Ektar on a 3x4 Graphic. Put that lens on my first 4x5 in 1982. At about the same time I got an Ansco 8x10 with a 12"/4.5 Wollensak Velostigmat and used it for a year before putting it away (Never even tried the soft-focus gizmo.) Back to 4x5, I bought a (new) Fujinon-L 210/5.6. Didn't care for the FL, traded it for a Nikkor-W 180/5.6. Managed to drop that one off a cliff into Penobscot Bay (oops). The next year I bought another Nikkor 180, which I still use, and an old Schneider 90/8 Super-Angulon in a recessed Linhof board. A couple of years later I bought a 135/6.3 Wide field Ektar and retired the 127. The 90/8 showed barrel distortion so I traded that on a 90/8 Nikkor-SW, a superior lens. Around the same time I bought a 300/9 Nikkor-M (going to Ken Hansen's and Lens&Repro was always fun). Then I found a 1957 Schneider 121/8 Super-Angulon and had to have it (and paid $600 for it). When I started shooting architecture, around 1999, I bought a Nikkor-SW 75/4.5 for shooting kitchens and bathrooms; still use it occasionally but not for that. So there it stands, for 15 years I've been using the same glass; I guess my needs are covered. Although I would like a Nikkor-T 500/11...

5-Feb-2015, 16:49
Started digital with a 50mm and 28mm on apsc
Went to 35mm film with a 50mm
Then to a full frame digital with a 17mm and 50mm
Then to medium format with mamiya TLRs and the 55mm and 105mm
Picked up FF digital again with a 40mm
Played around with various 35mm point and shoots such as the olympus xa and nikon L35af
Then went to 4x5 with a rodenstock 135mm
Currently using an Autocord with its amazing 75mm and FF digital with 50mm

I've come to the conclusion over the years that the focal length I get along with best is the 35mm - 50mm range (normal lengths I suppose), 40mm being the perfect compromise. I found 135mm on 4x5 to be the absolute perfect lens for me and I miss it dearly, cant wait for the day I return to that setup when funds allow. I'm also thinking the fuji ga645i with its 60mm would be a perfect camera for me.

David Karp
5-Feb-2015, 21:12
I started shooting 4x5 with a 210mm Caltar II-E, which is the only lens I ever purchased new. I followed it up with 90mm and 75mm f/4.5 Grandagon-N lenses, because I was going to shoot architecture and lighting (long story). That happened not very long before digital took over, and I decided it was not the time to start doing that. I continued LF photography for fun, but mostly with the 210mm. I found a 125mm Fujinon NW at MPEX. A friend of mine told me that if I did not buy it, he would, so I grabbed it. These two focal lengths are probably my most used, even after purchasing lots of different lenses.

I did a lot of research on the forum and elsewhere, and came up with a list of what seemed to be the preferred lenses at various focal lengths for backpacking. These included lenses like the 150mm APO-Sironar-S, 200mm Nikkor M, and the 110mm Super Symmar XL. Then I made a list of lenses that I thought I could afford to buy in their place! These included the 150mm Fujinon NW, 210mm f/6.1 Xenar, a 90mm f/8 Fujinon SW, and my already in-use 125mm Fujinon. Over time, I accumulated lenses that were on my ideal list, like a 300mm Nikkor M and a 450mm Fujinon C. I also sold my 90mm Fujinon and upgraded to a 90mm f/8 Nikkor. The Fujinon was really nice. The only real advantage of the Nikkor is the larger image circle, which is truly an advantage. The Nikkor has the same image circle as the 90mm Grandagon-N, so I sold the Grandagon-N.

I found a 210mm f/6.1 Caltar Pro, which is a Xenar, and it is really nice. I got it for a low price on EBay, but it came with a dented filter ring which was not disclosed. I got a partial refund and was able to get a step up ring to 52mm on it, so who cares? Single coated, but I have no need to trade up to get a 200mm Nikkor M. The 150mm Fujinon W is just as nice as the 125mm version. The 150 has a nice image circle. Not as big as the APO-Sironar-S, but bigger than most other multicoated 150s. The Fujinon was a fraction of the price of the Sironar-S, but nobody ever looked at a photo and said “why didn’t you photograph that with a Sironar-S?”

I got a nice deal on the forum for a 135mm Optar to use on my Crown Graphic. (That is where the 210mm Caltar II-E lives now.) More recently, I purchased a 90mm Wollensak to use on my Travelwide.

Of course, then you run into deals that you can’t pass up. Like the 150mm Sironar-N I picked up for something like $135 thinking I was going to use the shutter for something, but can’t because it is tiny and light and just as nice as my 150mm Fujinon. Maybe someday I will choose between them. Who knows? Then there was the 210mm Caltar II-N, which years ago went for a “210mm today in 2015” price and is super nice. I guess I had to have three Caltar 210mm lenses! (This one was for my WP camera.) Then I purchased a camera, lenses and accessories to get a Horseman roll film back. The kit included a 180mm Fujinon A and a 135mm Fujinon W (single coated). I sold everything but the 180mm Fujinon A. It was too good to part with it. And of course, I purchased a single coated 240mm Fujinon A because I had to have it. Later, I sold it because I got a really good deal on a multicoated version I had to have. So now sometimes I go out with a 90mm-125mm-180mm-240mm-450mm combo and other times I go with a 90mm-150mm-210mm-300mm-450mm set.

Buying a whole plate camera led to more adventure. A $100 single coated 180mm Fujinon W made for a really nice short focal length in that format. Lots of movement. Then I found a great price on a 250mm f/6.7 Fujinon W, which is also really nice on WP. As mentioned, the 210mm Caltar II-N is good for WP, as are the 300mm Nikkor M and the 450mm Fujinon C I bought for my 4x5. Next came a single coated 135mm Fujinon W to replace the one I sold. Who knew Galli would sell me a 5x7 back for the WP camera and I would want a short focal length to use when I am shooting that format? At least it was only $100 – and it looks pristine! Finally, who could pass up a great deal on a 215mm Ilex Caltar convertible which I already know is a good focal length for whole plate? Apparently, not me! Plus, it converts to 14” too. Nor could I pass up the identical 215mm Acuton. Nope, couldn’t pass it up!!

Well, I think I am done. Except maybe if I find a fantastic deal on a 120mm f/8 Nikkor. Or maybe instead I will get a single coated 120mm Fujinon. Or . . . .

(And that is how I ended up with two 180s, three 210s, two 215s, a 240, and a 250. At least I don’t play golf.)

Fr. Mark
5-Feb-2015, 21:48
A friend heard me talking wistfully about LF and gave me the rest of his film gear: a 35mm film only enlarger with two excellent lenses, other darkroom gear and a Busch Pressman D with a 135mm Wollensak Raptar in a shutter.

Not long later I bought what I originally thought was a 5x7 from a Craigslist ad and realized it was a half plate camera with 3 holders and a set of Rapid Rectilinear cells a relatively wide and a normal-ish lens for that format 8.25" f7.7, I think, the other's around 100mm, I think. I've not used them much. This camera's beautiful, but it needed a lot of work to put back into use.

Then I saw an old opaque projector in an antique mall with an f3.6 18" lens. I thought "ooh, a fast lens for portraits on 8x10 possibly for use with wet plate some day." Made the projector into a crude camera (it was not a good camera, to say the least, even when light tight), then put the lens in a sliding box camera with home built add on-waterhouse stops, then, recently, mounted it in a home built monorail. That 18" beseler lens weighs 8 pounds and is a cooke triplet. For contact prints on Xray film it's at least o.k., but I'd like something A. lighter, B., Contrastier, C. Wider/normal. D. that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. The 8x10 is so huge and heavy (25 pounds w/that lens, plus tripod, plus I need to beef up the tripod head) I'm not sure its going to get as much use as I'd hoped. I'm 6'5" tall, so I really thought I'd be able to enjoy this, but for anything close, I can't reach the front standard from the back...headshots require 3 feet of bellows extension...

The 1/2 plate camera will become (non-destructive modifications) an enlarger for 4x5 and if I can get the internegative thing down, may stick with the "miniature" 4x5 for anything I have to go anywhere. I like cyanotypes as well as silver prints.

I'd like a wider and longer lens for the Busch Pressman D, but the opening is quite small, lens boards are 3" squares with rounded corners, internal clearance is not a lot more than 2". I found a 1950's Elgeet 90mm enlarging lens in a $10 box at an antique store with other useful stuff and I'm planning on making a mount for it to see what the world looks like through it on 4x5. I'm not sure what lens to get next for the 4x5 or if I just need to spend more time and money on darkroom supplies. Maybe a 210 or 250, particularly if by some miracle the long lens for 4x5 would cover as normal for 5x7 and wide for 8x10 and have a back cell that'd fit in the Pressman D 4x5.

As a kid, my dad had Olympus 35 mm gear. I still have the 50 1.8 from that and the OM1, the 28mm, 50mm macro, 75-150 telephoto, the macro bellows all went away before I realized I wanted back into film. Sadness.

I found both an Oly XA 35mm and a Nikon FM at thrift stores recently, and am enjoying those, too. A Free 28-200 nikon mount vivitar lens came my way recently, with some issues but mostly works. That's fun, too. The 50 1.8 on the crop sensor dslr Nikon is fun, too. As is the 28-200.

There've been other odd things done, too. I've made 3 Pinhole LF cameras so far: 8x10, 5x8 and 4x5 and will eventually make ones with curved film planes to try out, I prefer lenses, but the cost and simplicity can't be beat. I also received a free dead 35mm zoom lens a year or so ago. I used the front lens group as a sort of meniscus lens with waterhouse stops on the 1/2 plate camera with paper negatives. Interesting results, I guess. I think I prefer sharper for most things. The internal zoom assembly on that lens makes a pretty good loupe for my 4x5 work.

Am open to suggestions for the long lens 4x5 that works for 5x7 and 8x10 and doesn't cost a fortune.

6-Feb-2015, 01:46
My first LF lens was a second hand 150mm f4.7 Xenar (around 1976)which I used for a decade but aside from 3 or 4 test images never for my personal work, it was used as a copy lens and always performed well. When the shutter broke I was lent and later given a 240mm Symmar, both lenses were later stolen.

In terms of my main work from around 1986 to date (both personal & commercial) I built up a lens set that I haven't changed much in close to 30 years. The key lenses are a 150mm f5.6 Sironar N and a 90mm f6,8 Grandagon, plus a 65mm f8 Super Angulon, later (probably 20 years) I added a 210mm f5.6 Symmar.

In many ways my additional lenses have first been building up a second LF system abroad, living on two continents and low baggage allowances this made sense at the low prices of LF equipment 6/7 years ago. Other lens purchases have mostly mainly been steps backwards, a Petzval, RR's, some triplets (older and modern - Multi Coated Geronars), as well as quite a few Tessars.


Joe Smigiel
6-Feb-2015, 09:13
...Who knew Galli would sell me a 5x7 back for the WP camera and I would want a short focal length to use when I am shooting that format?

Oh, I could've told you that. He did the same thing to me.

6-Feb-2015, 09:30
And Joe, I've got one of your old lenses. We need to start a new thread, "Describe your lenses journey."

William Whitaker
6-Feb-2015, 12:04
I figured to get both, replicating the redundancy I enjoyed with my 14" lenses...

Nothing like redundant redundancy!

As with many, I followed Fred Picker's teachings and went for the 210/120 pairing, starting first with a Nikkor-W 210. I still like that equivalent pairing for most anything but a panoramic format. I had looked first at a used 8 1/4" Dagor at Phil Levine's in Boston, but felt so ignorant and suspicious of any dealer's recommendation that I chose to go with a brand new shiny Nikkor from (I think) 47th Street Photo in NYC. I eventually paired the 210 with a 120 Nikkor-SW and then a used 90mm Super Angulon (apparently I was becoming more comfortable in this new suit).

When I got my first 8x10, it was a Protar series VII, something like a 37/50/60 or close to it, in an Alphax shutter purchased from Lens & Repro. Heavy lens, but a good one. I had gotten interested in 11x14 early on and had purchased a Kodak 21" Anastigmat in barrel from Stephen Shuart for around $200. I still have that lens.

And looking to repeat the Picker formula in 8x10, I found a 250 WFE, partially on inspiration from his photographic majesty, Mr. A.A.

Then I discovered Ebay. Uh-oh.

Some hundred-or-so lenses later (and I realize that's mild compared to some), the time and realization has come that I will never be able to use them all. So I have to decide [painfully] which will stay and which must go. Selling them is a pain. Giving them away isn't an option, really, although I have considered keeping a shovel with me and at random points along life's path, digging a small hole and dropping in a lens, like a dog burying his favorite bone. Then I could publish a treasure map full of clues and vague references and let the sharks have their feast. But no... that's like giving them away, isn't it?

What was this thread about?... I know it wasn't about death and dying and letting go. Was it?...

Life is just a bowl of Veritos...

Randy Moe
6-Feb-2015, 12:16

Well written Will!


David Karp
6-Feb-2015, 12:34
Oh, I could've told you that. He did the same thing to me.


And, I appreciate the fact that he did sell it to me. I really like 5x7 contacts mounted on 8x10 mats.

6-Feb-2015, 13:15
Am open to suggestions for the long lens 4x5 that works for 5x7 and 8x10 and doesn't cost a fortune.

Caltar II 12"

6-Feb-2015, 14:59
Good post Will!

Joe Smigiel
6-Feb-2015, 19:54
And Joe, I've got one of your old lenses. We need to start a new thread, "Describe your lenses journey."

That's the #5 Voigtlander, IIRC? I'm afraid I only know the fate of a few. I bought my first and earliest 3A Dallmeyer from "ineffablething" (William Linne IIRC) who got it from someone in China. I sold that lens to Quinn and it ended up in his first book on wetplate. Who has it now?

I don't want to hijack the current thread but mention the above example because I'm glad some of the things I've owned have made their way to others who actually have put them to far better use in their work. An 8x10 Korona to Andreas Reh in Germany, a huge bellows to Tom DeLooza via Jody Ake, etc. It's nice to make such connections from these online communities. I'm very glad to be involved in several circles I've been introduced to due to the LFF, APUG, Quinn's collodion forum, the MWLFA, and the SPE. I hope to expand further and meet some folks in person that live in different corners of the world and with whom I've interacted online.

Fr. Mark
6-Feb-2015, 21:39
Forgive the redundant question:

The 4x5 camera is a Busch pressman d. 3" square lensboard, 2.125" square clearance inside. Bellows to 300 mm.

Is there a long lens for that camera ie 210-250mm that'd cover 5x7 and 8x10?


And that doesn't cost a fortune with a working shutter?

Jim Galli
6-Feb-2015, 21:45
Forgive the redundant question:

The 4x5 camera is a Busch pressman d. 3" square lensboard, 2.125" square clearance inside. Bellows to 300 mm.

Is there a long lens for that camera ie 210-250mm that'd cover 5x7 and 8x10?


And that doesn't cost a fortune with a working shutter?

With luck and patience, wait for an early Schneider G-Claron that was the Dagor style. Element on the front IIRC is a 40.5mm thread, so back should be same or smaller. Gorgeous lenses and they will fit a Copal 1.

6-Feb-2015, 21:45
Am open to suggestions for the long lens 4x5 that works for 5x7 and 8x10 and doesn't cost a fortune.

240/9 G-Claron in Copal 1.

Bernice Loui
10-Feb-2015, 11:30
The Sinar Kit, Working Photographers and Foto Stuff Dealer.

Some where in the early 1980's appeared a Sinar F kit with three lenses, film holders and all for $350. This kit consisted of a basic Sinar F, 210mm Sironar N, 190mm Wide Field Ektar and 90mm f5.6 Super Angulon. All functional and working condition. The initial purchase was made at the encouragement of working photographer friends from that time. Hurdles were, no idea how to use a view camera and all related to it, but it was a good deal and the purchase was made. That first year of learning how to use a 5x4 view camera was an absolute struggle. Forgotten how much film was wasted (no less than 100 sheets) on things like forgetting to stop down the lens, setting the wrong shutter speed, not flipping the dark slide over making multi exposures, totally outa whack camera movements and a LOT more. As more time passed, learning did happen. At some point a 8-1/2" Kodak Commercial Ektar appeared at the local camera store in absolutely fine condition. The price was low and curiosity of what it might be was tugging at me. Asking my group of Foto friends at the time about the KCE, they encouraged me to get it and try it. In the back of my mind was, old vintage lens, how good can it be given the modern lensed were multi coated, modern "computer designed", modern optical glass and all that. Four sheets of Agfa Chrome RS100 proved otherwise. The KCE had equal to better definition to the Sironar N, with lower contrast and better overall color rendition. As more images were made using both color transparency, color negative, B&W film the overall image results of the KCE appealed to me much more than the Sironar N. There was access to all the modern view camera lenses from that time including a working studio and related lighting for me to try stuff out which added to the ability to try out many view camera optics. This experimenting and learning went on for years cycling over a LOT of lensed modern and vintage. This was when my preferences in lens performance and their resulting images became gelled and solidified. The modern plasmas got grouped into a image result that did not appeal to me, while the vintage Kodak, Goerz and such fell into favor. It was also abundantly clear the prime problem with vintage lenses was the shutter as they were often very questionable in their shutter time accuracy (slight differences in exposure easily alter image results). The answer to this on going problem was to use a Sinar shutter and get these lenses in a barrel ditching the shutter all together. This resulted in lowering the cost of lenses a great deal and allowed using lenses that could never fit in a shutter. This in combination with the flexibility of the Sinar system of expandable rails and various bellows made using most any lens on that Sinar system possible. Exception were modern wide angle lenses which were supplied with Copal shutters.

Out of all this the keeper lenses were:

8-1/2" & 12" Kodak Commercial Ektar,

8-1/4" & 12" Goerz Dagor (testing proved gold dot-gold rim, plain could be mostly equal dependent on a specific sample. Exception was the 355mm Kern-Schneider multi coated Dagor which proved to be the HIGHEST contrast lens and had a very different look from other Dagors).

6", 9-1/2" 12", 14", 19", 24", 30" Artar (mixed Red Dot & coated Artar. These were very low cost in barrel and LOTS to choose from back in the day)

111mm Wide Angle Dagor.

75mm & 115mm Grandagon.

90mm f5.6 Super Angulon. Eventually replaced with a 90mm f4.5 Grandagon.

By this time, the modern plasmat (Rodenstock, Schneider, Nikkor, Fuji) look was quite apparent. It was high contrast, high apparent resolution at f16 and smaller aperture with a lens brand's preferred color rendition. In comparison, the Kodak, Goerz, and similar had equal to better resolution with lower contrast and IMO better overall tonality. They did not deliver that hard edge, high contrast look of the modern plasmats lens designs. What was becoming apparent was technical excellence or superiority did not always translate to visually appealing results on film. There was a LOT more to this lens stuff than measurements, modern multi coating and all that, there was a visual-emotioal aspect that went far beyond the paper-computer lens design. It became apparent that lens design was as much art as it was science and technology. Adding to this problem, lens performance varied to some degree with each sample. While the modern lenses were mostly consistent, vintage lenses could vary from sample to sample significantly.

Except dragging around a monorail camera was just not portable or easy to transport. To deal with the problem, a Linhof 5x4 Master Technika was added to the pile as a portable camera kit. Nice camera except it had the usual folder limitations of bellows length, how wide angle lenses can be used and limited camera movements. The other nagging problem was the need for lenses in shutters appeared again. This kit was used for a number of years until the camera limitations got tiresome.

In time, the move to 8x10 happened. What surprised me was the improvement in image quality over 5x4. Better resolution in most cases and MUCH better tonality. Except the Sinar F was HUGE, HEAVY and not very portable at all. This was about the time when a curiosity of soft focus lenses happened. What was learned, soft focus lenses really worked on 8x10 in ways that was no where the same on smaller film formats and 8x10 contact prints were special in many ways. This was a time when there was still a lot of commercial color transparency work being done using 8x10. Those big color transparencies were great to look at on a light box in so many ways.

Lenses became:

155mm Grandagon.

250mm Wide Field Ektar (Ilex# 5 was often mixed)

12" Dagor.

12" & 14" Kodak Commercial Ektar.

14" to 35" Artar..

Collection of Schneider Xenars from 300mm to 480mm in barrel.

Of the soft focus lenses, the Kodak Portrait and Imagon became favored for their image results in B&W and color. Learning how to use these lenses properly was not easy and if not for Foto friends from that time who did the coaching, that understanding would not have happened.

In time my all time fave 8x10 camera appeared, Toyo 810M. IMO, if one were to have a metal 8x10 field camera, this is it. If a Sinar shutter were to be added, it makes a very nice set up in every way.

As more time passed, the move to a Sinar 5x7 system happened causing the 810M to find a new home. This became the format of choice to this day as it offered the largest variety of lenses, do-able camera size and film size better than 5x4 and often equal and at times better than what can be achieved with 8x10.

Some time during the 90's Schneider announced their Aspheric wide angle lenses and new XL wide angle lenses. They were SO tempting. With some wheeling and dealing offing the 90mm, 115mm, 155mm Grandagon + $ resulted in a order for one each 72mm super angulon XL, 110mm XL, 150mm XL. These took almost a year for delivery. The performance and smaller size of these new Schneider lenses were great. I'll keep them for as long as I'm doing view camera stuff along with the current pile of vintage lenses.

Every now and then, I'll pick up a modern lens such as a G-claron or Fuji-A, try it for a while to see if they appeal to me at this moment in time. The answer remains no. The appeal of what those vintage lenses deliver stays with me to this day.


William Whitaker
10-Feb-2015, 12:01
Nicely written, Bernice!

What was learned, soft focus lenses really worked on 8x10 in ways that was no where the same on smaller film formats...

That's been my biggest argument for 8x10 for some time.

10-Feb-2015, 12:21
I started off using the 4x5 cameras belonging to the university. A mix of 135mm, 150mm and 180mm, depending on which camera I checked out.

My first 4x5 (Deardorf knock-off) came with a Computar Symmetron 210/6.3, but that camera had some major light leaks in the back and I got a lighter 4x5 camera and a Caltar II-N 150/5.6 that I used for years. I eventually got a 5x7 back for the first camera and used the Symmetron 210/6.3. When I went to 8x10, I got a FujiW 300/5.6 for it.

So a progression of single, 'normal' lenses for each format. I have had the 8x10 for long enough to have added too many lenses to the kit (210mm, 250mm, 19", 24"). I added an 11x14 with a collection of lenses that I can not keep track of -- and I end up using the RDArtar 19" most of the time.

Jim Galli
10-Feb-2015, 12:33
Nicely written, Bernice!

That's been my biggest argument for 8x10 for some time.

Agree and wanted to say the same thing. Very well said.

Michael Graves
10-Feb-2015, 13:05
I still have the very first two lenses I ever got for large format. Not just copies of the same lens, but the actual lenses I purchased way back when. Back in the late 80's I was young and actually thought I had a future. While snagging as many paying jobs as I could to start my budding career as a commercial photographer, I was making ends meet by working for Photomark in Phoenix, Arizona. My first 4x5 outfit came in as a trade to that store, and I talked the manager into selling it to me at cost (which I no longer remember what was). It was an Omega 45D and a Fujinon 210W 5.6. The camera has long since moved to other hands, but the lens is still one of my primary optics. My kids will put it up for sale when I die.

The other lens was purchased in that same year. A photographer by the name of Trevor Stanley was about to retire after many years, working as a photographer for Arizona Highways, among other notable positions. He sold me his Toyo 810M, a 300W 5.6, a dozen film holders and a Gitzo Tele-Studex for about 20 percent of what it was really worth -- on the condition that I not buy it from him simply to resell at a profit. I have every single piece to this day, so Trevor, if you're listening from up there...I kept my promise! I've never shot a single image as good as those he took. The guy was magnificent! But I keep trying. And I may insist that all that stuff go into coffin with me when I'm buried. That way nobody will sell it at a profit.

11-Feb-2015, 04:53
My LF master, the photographer that I assisted in the very early 80īs, used Schneider lenses. The first LF camera I worked with was a borrowed Cambo with a couple of Schneider lenses, so I was predestinated to use Schneider glass until an used Sinar F 4x5 with a Sironar N 210 crossed my path. By that time, the Sinar Spanish importer had the first Sinar factory mounted Sinaron lenses, 25% cheaper than the Rodenstock ones and 30% cheaper than Schneiders. (Spanish Rodenstock and Schneider importers had surreal pricing policies) and purchased a 65/4,5 and 90/4,5. For 3-4 years this was my workhorse kit. Then I purchased 2 more Sinaron WS150/5,6 and S300/5,6. 2 years later I got my Sinar P2 with 4x5 and 5x7 backs, Sinaron 115/6,8 and Apo Sinaron 240/9 and 480/11, and this was my almost definitive kit for years. When I needed 8x10, I could borrow a back from a friend. A special chapter in this story could be titled "In search of a good 600mm". My 480 was a bit short for some shots and I had the need of a 600mm. For years, I tried almost all possible options (Too long and boring story) until I got my Apo Sinaron 600/9 MC and Apo Nikkor 760/11.
One of my partners who is a great photographer, but hated the LF workflow, entered some years ago in the High End Multishot digital back league, and told me that if he had to shot LF again he would prefer shot himself, then I felt the obligation to apart my friend from such a fatal danger and kept away from him his LF cameras and lenses, adding to my kit some redundant cameras and lenses and a Sinar P2 8x10, Nikkor SW 75/4,5, Schneider Super Symmar XL 90/5,6, and Apo Ronar 360/9.
Now I need a good Apo Ronar CL 890/14 or Apo Ronar CL 1000/16 in Sinar board. I tried both Schneider Fine Art XXL 1100/22 and Docter Apo Germinar 1000/19,5, both really great lenses, that I canīt afford. I was offered both at 4000 and 3000 EURO respectively

12-Feb-2015, 10:08
I figure I'll join in, though I'm just starting compared to many here.

Bought a Cambo 4x5 with
Fujinon SW f8 90mm

Sold it for the money and because I wasn't using it

Bought a Wisner 4x5 with bag bellows and
Purchased that same Fujinon SW f8 90mm again.

Wanted a longer lens, ordered a
Fujinon f5.6 210mm (I'm not sure what series it is, but it's big enough to cover 8x10, and I actually use it for 8x10 as of recently)

Needed/wanted even wider angle and had little money. Got
Fujinon SW f8 65mm. Low coverage, but I can usually tilt the camera up or down as needed with my landscape photography to get around the coverage problem.

Then, as I mentioned, I'm using the 210mm for 8x10. I'm trying to find what the series is, but I know I saw somewhere that it had what was necessary for 8x10. I've even made a couple shots and it fits just fine. Oh well. Something for later.

Jim Galli
12-Feb-2015, 10:41
Needed/wanted even wider angle and had little money.

Instead of solving by buying a 65, why not get a 5X7 format and shine the Fuji 90 on 5X7 ;~')) See how that works. I should start a new thread. Describe your camera_s (plural) journey.

Colin D
19-Feb-2015, 20:49
When a lens has a story to tell I find it fascinating. My lens collection is tiny compared to some outlined in detail on here, my contribution is about one lens I acquired a few years ago when I ventured into LF.

The lens itself is not unique, it's a Schneider Xenar 150mm f4.5. It arrived on a Linhoff Technika III from the USA. On opening the package I found a camera in imaculate condition, clearly loved and cared for by someone with a great appreciation for it. The lens looked fine but I still sent it off to be assessed by a local technician. The report came back that the timing was out and the auto timer was beyond fixing, I still don't know what that is. Being slightly miffed I contacted the seller to complain. They responded by suggesting I send the lens and camera back for a refund. By now I was smitten by the Xenar and the Technika and was not sending them back so I thanked the seller for his offer and let it be. The seller sensing my genuine attachment to the gear responded with an email advising amongst other things he was sending at no extra cost a dark bag, a dark cloth, four film holders, another Schneider lens board and a shutter release cable.

Following on he then related in the message that all the gear once belonged to Vilem Kriz, Czech surrealist photographer who immigrated to USA displaced by WWII and taught at a Californian university. He worked with some of Europe and America's most important avante garde artists during his journey as a photographer and created his own style of printing.

The seller apparently was one of his students and from what I gather was given the gear by Vilem. From there I began my LF journey of learning with the Xenar which now had the timing issue fixed.

Eventually I sold the Technika III due to its limited movements, but it was a work of precision and beautiful to handle nonetheless. I use the lens occasionally, it gives me images with an even, low contrast across the film I like, quite soft, which is not something I have not read other people mention but maybe that is because it is common. Its history though does give it a special place in my small collection.

This post prompted me to do a more thourough searching for Vilem Kriz and his past turning up these articles. What the seller told me about the gear does seem to fall into place with what these say:



This book of Vilem's work was sold on fleabay recently:


Damn, wish I had seen it.

Vilem Kriz is not a household name in photography like AA or Weston, but he clearly was an accomplished artist in his field of interest with an equally fascinating history. For sentimental and not practical reasons I'm sorry I let the Technika III go even though it did enable me to move up with something more suitable for studio work. The lens is going to stay with me knowing what I now know about its history.

So my story is not so much about my collection, but about one lens and its fascinating owner and how it ended up in my cabinet. I guess many antique lenses would have a rich and colourul history like my Xenar, due to the length of time passing and the history becoming more removed from our lenses original owners, most of us just don't realise what it is. In this instance I'm lucky the seller had a close association with it and thankfully passed on the story.


John Kasaian
19-Feb-2015, 23:43
Great story, Colin D!

28-Jun-2016, 23:04
Hi Colin,

I'm Vilem's daughter, Dominica (niki). The catalogue you mention is quite an elegant catalogue. They used Photoshop to duplicate Vilem's toning techniques, and though I appreciated the careful color matching, work, quality and layout (and by then I was using Photoshop to manipulate Vilem's negatives myself) I was glad Vilem wasn't alive to see it! He guarded his toning formulas so jealously that when he taught them to me, he made me commit them to memory and never write them down. In a way it's a shame that what he labored so hard to accomplish was so easy to do via computer, and I'm glad he didn't live to see it. Anyway, it's a fine catalogue and I'd be happy to send you one if you cover the shipping. A year or two ago I was interviewed for an article about Vilem in Black and White magazine, if you are interested http://www.bandwmag.com/articles/vilem-kriz-poet-in-exile

29-Jun-2016, 09:50
Pretty much by being careful about what I bought and knowing ahead of time what formats I intended to shoot so choosing lenses with large coverage and light weight was my choice right from almost the beginning of 4x5.

I got a 150 Symmar-S f/5.6 and 90mm SA f/8

These two cheap lenses (no more than $300 total for both these days) told me 1). That I could see fine at f/8 and I didn't need wider to see the GG, and 2). an indication of what fields of view would be best for all my shooting.

Those are the only 2 lenses that don't match for multiple formats and everything else has a large IC.

I shoot 4x5, 8x10, 11x14(retired), 14x17.

My lens lineup will shoot up to 20x24

I only have 6 regular modern lenses total besides the above 2

I have 3 brass lenses that cover 4x5 up to to 14x17

That's it, that's enough.

You don't need a gazillion lenses you just need one of each FL you like, and to get out to shoot!

I do have 5 additional lenses total that are all teaching lenses, as in cheap "crappy" lenses for loaning out to students (when I have them in the future) because they aren't worth selling and are of more value to help others learn.

I probably have too many lenses for even my own taste, but because of the expense and rarity of acquiring them, I'm not set on selling any of them just yet.

There's 4 modern lenses I've considered getting that I don't have in 200mm, 240mm, 350mm and and 355mm respectively.

This would then allow me to have completed "kits" without having to move some crossover lenses from one format to the next. HOWEVER, that's a minor convenience issue, not a necessity. So I won't be doing that until my profit from my work allows me to buy them with purpose rather than just to have the small convenience.

Hope this thought process helps others. Having forethought about buying and not buying "for now and upgrade later" saves you a lot of time and money and space in the end. Not being impulsive etc.

It's hard, I've failed at that with other things, thankfully just not with lenses!

Dan Fromm
29-Jun-2016, 10:19
Hmm. Long story, but since it involves 2x3 and, more recently, 6x12 it doesn't really belong here. Mods, if you want to move or delete this post, moderate away. I won't be offended.

In the late '80s I got very dissatisfied with my wildflower pictures. On 35 mm I could get good detail in the flower and no setting or the flower in its setting and poor detail in the flower. The only solution was a larger format. A colleague gave me a 2x3 Busch Pressman with no board and a 101/4.5 Ektar in a broken shutter. I played with it, decided it wasn't quite what I needed. Eventually I found a 2x3 Pacemaker Speed Graphic with a 101/4.5 Ektar on board and in a good shutter. Then an Adapt-A-Roll 620 roll holder and I was off. The 101 wasn't always wide enough so I bought a 65/6.8 Raptar. It didn't make infinity on a 2x3 Speed so I bought a Century Graphic for the 65.

When I decided to work above 1:1 I tried to educate myself about macro lenses for 4x5 and got involved with Usenet's rec.photo groups. That led to meeting Charlie Barringer, who lived ~ 2 miles from me, and many misadventures. Most of the lenses I've had since then are discussed in http://www.galerie-photo.com/telechargement/dan-fromm-6x9-lenses-v2-2011-03-29.pdf

When Charlie was dying he gave me his 2x3 Cambo. It is the basis of a funny camera that takes a 6x12 roll holder. I've a few lenses, mainly as replacements for lenses of the same focal length that cover 2x3 but not 6x12, since my lens diary was published. The most recent are an 85/6.8 Boyer Beryl set up as an enlarging lens (don't ask, Boyer did some very strange things) and a 160/10 Beryl prototype in a straight barrel, both gifts from Eric Beltrando when I visited him last week.

The adventure has been quite enjoyable. I have more lenses than I can carry and find it hard to justify adding more. I don't have every focal length extant and some of my lenses aren't the best. But the ones I use are all good enough for me.

29-Jun-2016, 13:06
My “photographic-lens journey” has now lasted over half a century. Whilst I have never worked in the “photographic industry”, I’ve used and encountered a wide range of lenses.

My journey began in the UK In the late 1950s when I was given a Voightlander Vito C, subsequently I moved to an Exacta system. Lack of money prevented any desire for larger formats, though I used MPPs when I worked at Rolls Royce Aero in the late 1960s.

Moving to Canada, exposed me to a much better market economy where ‘everything was inexpensive compared to salary”. So in Toronto I bought two Leica M3 cameras together with a visoflex and a range of lens from 28mm to 280mm.

In the mid 1970s I was loaned a 4x5 Linhof loaded with 70mm film through which I sold some images to a well known Canadian company.

In the mean time the Leica system survived “40 below temperatures” whilst skiing, and I sold images taken through the open door of a low flying aircraft – deliberately hired for that purpose.

In 1978/1980 the Leicas plus wife and one-year-old daughter travelled around the world – Canada, USA, freighter to Japan, various places around the Far East. Unfortunately the health risk to daughter and the civil strife in the Middle East precluded a planned itinerary to India, Africa and then back to North America. Subsequently, circumstances caused us to settle in the UK

During the 1980s and 1990s I moved from Leica M to Linhof 6x9, to Hasselblad, to Leica R cameras, to Nikon with Seacam housing.

My journey became stagnant during the first decade of the 21st century. But I have now acquired a Calumet 4x5 with a 135mm f4.7 Xenar lens. It is my intention to concentrate on using that one lens and not purchase others. This is due not only to high (UK) costs, but to justification of that expense.

Other respondents have listed the numbers of LF lenses they have acquired, used and sold. I’m very envious of their journeys, but think those journeys were aided by the relative low cost of LF lenses compared to typical North American income, as well as the size of the US LF marketplace.



Dan Fromm
29-Jun-2016, 13:45
Other respondents have listed the numbers of LF lenses they have acquired, used and sold. I’m very envious of their journeys, but think those journeys were aided by the relative low cost of LF lenses compared to typical North American income, as well as the size of the US LF marketplace.

Tony, I understand very well what you're saying but think that timing was important too.

The rise of the internet and roughly coincident rise of digital cameras created a temporary opportunity to buy lenses at extraordinarily low prices. Before eBay was created camera dealers had their own web sites. Many of them seem to have acquired used lenses at very low prices from people who'd abandoned film and offered them, even with their usual markups, at low prices. Prospective buyers weren't comfortable buying from distant vendors found over the 'net. It was a wonderful time to buy slightly obscure lenses at prices that now seem ridiculously low. Witness the 6"/1.9 Super Six I bought for $70 delivered from the UK and the 20 38/4.5 Biogons I got for I won't say how little. These beauties paid for the rest of my lens collection.

And then came eBay. I started browsing eBay in '97, when the photography section was so small that I could easily look at a day's new listings every morning. People were emptying their attics and dumping obsolete, they thought, film gear at prices that now seem improbably low. Again, prospective buyers didn't really know what they were offered and were cautious. It was a time when fortune favored the brave.

It took some years for buyers to learn how to recognize obscure lenses that were worth having and for vendors to recognize treasures. Until then, for me Christmas came many times a year.

Nowadays the information I had and that few others did is widely diffused and the attics seem to be empty. So wonderful opportunities to buy good lenses for very little are scarce. It was great fun while it lasted.



Michael Clark
30-Jun-2016, 12:04
That is great post niki,and the article in B&W was nice too.Hope you will post more in the future, thanks
Hi Colin,

I'm Vilem's daughter, Dominica (niki). The catalogue you mention is quite an elegant catalogue. They used Photoshop to duplicate Vilem's toning techniques, and though I appreciated the careful color matching, work, quality and layout (and by then I was using Photoshop to manipulate Vilem's negatives myself) I was glad Vilem wasn't alive to see it! He guarded his toning formulas so jealously that when he taught them to me, he made me commit them to memory and never write them down. In a way it's a shame that what he labored so hard to accomplish was so easy to do via computer, and I'm glad he didn't live to see it. Anyway, it's a fine catalogue and I'd be happy to send you one if you cover the shipping. A year or two ago I was interviewed for an article about Vilem in Black and White magazine, if you are interested http://www.bandwmag.com/articles/vilem-kriz-poet-in-exile

Kyle M.
30-Jun-2016, 17:21
My first LF lens a 135mm F4.7 Xenar came on my first 4x5 a Crown Graphic Special. After deciding I wanted a bit more coverage even for the Crowns limited movements I bought a Schneider Symmar 135mm f5.6 the older convertible Symmar. While waiting on the Symmar to get here a Fujinon-W 135mm f5.6 came up for a very good price and I bought it too. Shortly thereafter I bought a Busch Pressman from a good friend and put the Symmar on it, the Fuji on the Crown Graphic, and the Xenar just kind of sat. A few weeks later my LF gas flared up again and I bought an Arca Swiss 4x5 on ebay that came with an 215mm f6.3 Ilex. A few weeks later a 15" Wollensak in an Alphax #4 came up for sale and I bought it to use on the Arca Swiss.

Not long after that a fellow member here had a Pre-Anniversary Speed Graphic for sale with a G. Leitmeyr Sytar 210mm F4.5 barrel lens, I bought it having wanted a Speed Graphic for several years. This all happened between last November when I got in to LF and this past March. Since March I've decided that for what I do the Speed Graphic and barrel lens were all I really needed. The Crown Graphic, Arca Swiss, Xenar, Symmar, Fuji, Ilex, and Wollensak have all been sold and I'm currently left with the Speed Graphic and the 210mm barrel lens. It's really all I need and it's very sharp and contrasty which was surprising to me as a newbie who had never shot an uncoated lens.

I did shoot a fair bit with all of the above cameras and lenses and made some excellant images with all of them. In the end it was the Speed Graphic and Leitmeyr barrel lens that one me over. I absolutely love the vintage look of that combo, that focal plane shutter of the Speed is very nice, and it's a compact package that I can take anywhere. As nice as the Crown Graphic was I just wasn't feeling it for some reason it almost seemed kind of flashy in comparison to the utilitarian looks of a rangerfinderless viewfinderless Speed. The Crown would have been hard to strip as it was a later top rangefinder model.

The Arca Swiss A model was very nice and had a great range of movements but I didn't really find myself using them much and it was a bear to take out in the field. The Speed Graphic fits nicely in my shoulder bag or if I'm carrying other gear as well I can take my f64 BPX. I'll admit the past few months I've been a bit lazy and have been shooting mainly 35mm and tried some digital. In all honesty my DSLR is collecting dust as I find it quite boring to use, but my Canon F1 and 55mm f1.2 are getting a workout. I really need to get out and shoot some more 4x5.

1-Jul-2016, 04:53
I will talk about lenses that i bought as brand new only, and i will neglect/pass those used i bought for C/S.Graphic cameras.

1. Rodenstock 150mm Sironar-N, it came as a bundle lens or kit when i bought Shen Hao HZX 45IIA
2. Schneider Super Angulun 72mm XL, my dream lens, hope to use it soon and have nice results.

Not sure which next lenses i want to buy, but my wish/plan list is as following:

1. 210, mostly Schneider, and brand new but who knows what i will end up with
2. 90, not sure which one, i was thinking about SA XL 90mm, but i lost the thread here where someone or a member mentioned which sharpest 90mm is, i think f4.5 too, and i think i will only find used and never brand brand, not sure if it was Rodenstock or Nikkor or Fujinon [i think it was Rodenstock]
3. A macro lens, i am confusing about which FL to get, 180, 210, anything else? i want to have it for still life and close-ups/abstract shooting, hope someone can give me a recommendation.
4. Anything else that may help, such as 240, 300 maybe, or 58 for widest if possible, or replace that Rodenstock 150-N with something better version such as Rodenstock itself but S version or Schneider Symmar L, but this is not as top priority anyway.

Another time i will mention used Graphlex lenses i have as i forgot them now after i moved to my house, and will see if they are sufficient or what else to get as bonus, one of them is Kodak 127mm Ektar and the first ever LF lens that came with Crown Graphic i bought is Wollensack 165mm.