View Full Version : Ilex-Calumet Wide Field Caltar 90mm f8 Lens

Brian Schall
17-Feb-2005, 14:16
Does anyone have any experience with this lens. A google search turned up one discussion on this forum back in 2000. I t seems to cover 4x5 with room for movements. I have no idea how 103 degree coverage translate to image circle size. Presently I'm using a 90mm Optar WA, which has zero room for movement. I need to move up from there.

How is the image quality, sharp across the whole image? I shoot only B&W.
What is the filter size? I saw once reference that it did not have filter threads.

Any info will be helpful.


James Meckley
17-Feb-2005, 15:43

I owned one for a short time and ultimately replaced it with a Nikon 90mm f/8 SW. The Ilex 90 is a good but not great lens. The image quality on my sample fell off well before the image circle did, even at f/22. The lack of filter threads was also an irritation.

James E Galvin
17-Feb-2005, 15:45
Take the tangent of half of the angle of coverage, times the focal length, times 2. 226 mm.

Bob Fowler
17-Feb-2005, 19:32
I have, and use, one of these lenses. I picked mine up via ebay for about $125.00 ( a steal of a price). It's a pretty nice lens that has enough coverage for 5X7, though I only use it on a 4X5. Carol Miller of Flutot's Camera Repair did the CLA on the Seikosha shutter (another $45.00).

The lens is sharp and has good contrast - especially good contrast for a single coated lens. Obviously since it can cover 5X7, there is plenty of room for movements with 4X5.

The only thing I don't like about it is that it doesn't have front filter threads. I have a series VIII slip-on filter holder that fits the rear lens cell, but abandoned that idea because of the focus shift and some flare problems. I found that a series VIII retaining ring will slip nicely over the front cell and I hold it in place with some black electrical tape. The added bonus to series VIII is that 67mm filters are a direct screw-on fit.

Ernest Purdum
17-Feb-2005, 19:41
If , unlike Jim, but like me, you're not mathematically inclined, laying it out on paper is an easy alternative. Draw a line. Draw another line starting at the first one and at an angle of half that of the lens. On the first line, measure out the focal length.from where the two lines join. From that point draw a vertical line. Measure the length of the vertical line and double the figure. This will be the image diameter.

Brian Schall
17-Feb-2005, 20:01
Thanks all. Seems like this lens gets mixed reviews. I saw one of Ebay for a BIN of $200. Thought it might be a good deal. Think I'll wait and see what else comes along. The thing I really need to do is sell my Busch Pressman and Speed Graphic and get a good field camera.

Again, thanks for all the responses. I'll let my wife do the math, she tutors math.


17-Feb-2005, 21:13
Don't know about the mixed reviews. I have been using one of these lenses on 5X7 for years and IMO it is every bit as good as a 90mm Super Angulon of the same period in terms of performance and coverage.

The only thing I really don't like is the fact that there are no threads on the front for filters or filter holders. Can't imagine what the desisgner of the lens must have been thinking at the time! But, to be fair, there are good work-a-rounds for this flaw, one of which was mentioned before.

At $200 it is a good buy. It will not give you the same kind of performance as a Nikkor 90mm f/9 SW, but on the other hand you are not likely to find the Nikkor for anywhere close to $200.

Oren Grad
17-Feb-2005, 21:34
With a bit of patience it should be possible to pick up a modern 90 at an attractive price on the Famous Auction Site. The best bargains are among the later Caltars - types W-II (Schneider Super Angulon) and II-N (Rodenstock Grandagon). I paid all of $400 for my 90/6.8 Caltar II-N in like-new condition; Calumet currently sells it new for $929.

Andy Eads
18-Feb-2005, 17:29
I bought one about 28 years ago, still have it, and have no complaints. In a side by side with a Super Angulon of the same vintage, there was no discernable difference.

Dan Ingram
18-Feb-2005, 19:23
I'm very happy with mine -- very sharp and nice color rendition for a single-coated lens, especially for the price. The Seikosha shutter is solid. I got mine in an online auction for $125 as well, so the deals are out there. For under $200, I don't see how you can beat it. I've only used it for 4x5 and smaller (roll film backs) so edge fall-off hasn't been a problem.

John D Gerndt
19-Feb-2005, 15:19
As usual, it is a pricepoint question. I got mine for $75.00 with some coating flaws. For as often as I use it, it is perfectly good. If you want scads of movement and tack sharp to those limits, you'll need a deep pocket.

I like how it starts to go fuzzy at the corners on 5x7, kinda moody.


28-Dec-2008, 21:46
My question is to the past and present users of the Ilex-Calumet Wide Field Caltar 90mm f8.

Because I've seen differing opinions of the image circle capability of this lens from this thread, I would like to ask if someone knows for sure what the image circle diameter truly is when stopped down to f16 or f22.

Your answer is appreciated.

David Karp
28-Dec-2008, 22:37
There was an article in View Camera Magazine covering the history of Caltar lenses, including the Ilex Caltars. I am not sure where my copy is right now, but it included tables with specifications for all of the Caltar lenses. It will have your answer.

Alternatively, perhaps Jose, who works at Calumet in Chicago, will be able to help you. I have called him in the past, and he was very helpful.

28-Dec-2008, 22:43


Jason Greenberg Motamedi
28-Dec-2008, 23:02
There is a version of this lens, the 90/8 Ilex Acu-Veriwide (funny name, no?) which has filter threads and appears to have larger coverage. These may be less common than the Calumet branded Ilexes. Mine has a usable image of about 225mm, which provides small movements on 5x7. As I recall, the image circle actually extends another two blurry centimeters.

Mine lens was slightly sharper than a single coated Linhof branded 90/8 Super Angulon I compared it to, and had a larger image circle.

I like it well enough, but if I used it often I would replace it with a 90mm f4.5...

Mark Tweed
30-Dec-2008, 14:23
Brian, I have an Ilex catalog with the specs on this lens and it calls out a 102 degree angle of view with a 8.6" diameter of coverage (which translates into around 218 mm). The catalog states it will cover the 5X7 format.

I own the 65 mm version of this lens and it's very sharp. It definitely has more useable coverage than my 65mm f8 Super Angulon which I use on a 6X9 system. The 65 mm Schneider WA just covers the 4X5 format but with essentially zero movement, where as the Ilex 65 mm allows comfortable play.

These Ilex wide angle lenses are often overlooked in favor of the big three, but they are in fact superb performers. The lack of front filter threads can be solved with a push or clamp on adapter.