View Full Version : Help with lens choice: 120 vs 90

Serge S
20-Mar-2017, 13:47
I was planning on getting a 90 that I could use primarily for 4x5 & occasionally 5x7 (possibly for some panos)
I currently use my 210 for 95% of my shots, and a 12 inch commercial ektar for the balance.

My favorite focal length's tend to be 80 or 105 & 150 in 6x7 format.

I was considering a 90, but am wondering if a 120 may be more versatile.
I tend to shoot some architecture and some landscape, but mostly people.

Not sure what would be better go wide and crop when needed, or go narrower and back up:)

Thinking maybe a Schneider 120 or rodenstock 90 6.8...I think the 120 focal would be more appropriate for me (based on my other format lens usage), but want to hear some feedback before I make a purchase.



Dan Fromm
20-Mar-2017, 14:02
90 mm lens? 5x7? Problem. A 90 that covers 5x7 without movements has to cover 120 degrees. AFAIK there are no 90s that cover 120 degrees.

20-Mar-2017, 14:21
An 80mm for 6x7cm isn't really all that wide, while a 90mm for 4x5 has a much wider angle of view, and a 90mm on 5x7 is very wide, so a 120/125 or even a 135 might be more to your taste. Regarding Dan's question, according to http://www.largeformatphotography.info/lenses/LF5x7in.html , as of 2002 there were nine 90mm lenses that covered 5x7 (with the Schneider SAXL having lots of coverage), and only five 120/125mm lenses that covered 5x7. That might just be on account of 120/125 being a less popular focal length. If the OP can afford it, and can find one, the Schneider 110 SSXL has plenty of coverage for 5x7, and is not as super wide on 5x7, while being a good 4x5 lens as well.

Michael E
20-Mar-2017, 14:57
If you are more into medium or long lenses, a 90mm might be too wide. It really shows its wide angle characteristics - even on 4x5". On 5x7", it's pretty nasty and hard to use well. 120mm is my favorite FL on 4x5", it gives me a "normal" perspective, but includes more in the frame. My Super Angulon 121/f8 covers 5x7" with movements, it's supposed to scratch the 8x10" barrier.

Jim Noel
20-Mar-2017, 15:04
my 90mm Fuji SW covers 5x7 quite nicely at f16 and smaller

Dan Fromm
20-Mar-2017, 16:14
Drew, thanks for calling me on that. I was mistaken.

20-Mar-2017, 16:30
Also consider the 115mm Grandagon-N f/6.8 - almost covers 8X10 (no movements). I have the Calumet version.

Oren Grad
20-Mar-2017, 16:47
Last night I went down to the darkroom to take down my latest batch of 5x7 negatives from the drying lines and put them away. This latest run included a couple of negatives made with my 90/6.8 Caltar II-N (Rodenstock Grandagon). This lens is specified to cover 102 degrees at f/22, for an image circle of 221mm at infinity focus. The scenes I had photographed were a little short of infinity so the bellows extension bought me a bit more image circle; the negatives were exposed at f/22, with the lens aligned essentially straight on, or as close as I get when setting up my Nagaoka in a real hurry. (The setup was at dusk, with the light fading rapidly.) The lens covered the full format nicely, though with obvious illumination falloff. If I find myself wanting to do that more often, I might see if I can find a center filter to fit.

But the view is, of course, *very* wide - roughly corresponding to 18.5mm on 35mm format, calculating by the diagonal. One of the 120-ish wides (120 SA, 115 Grandagon, 120 Nikkor SW, etc.) would deliver subjectively even illumination over a much wider area, allow for ample movement, and generally be much more practical as a general-use wide-verging-on-superwide for 5x7. I consider 90 more in the ultrawide category, suitable mainly for solving the occasional special problem.

The ultimate modern 90 for coverage on 5x7 is the Super-Angulon XL with center filter. But that's going to be much larger, trickier to handle and way more expensive.

On what camera(s) do you plan to use the lens?

20-Mar-2017, 17:01
I have a little array of w/a lenses in that range that all cover 5x7--90/5.6 SA, 108/6.8Wollensak, 115 Caltar/Grandagon, 120 Angulon--and the one that gets the most 4x5 use is the 108 Wollensak. I haven't figured out 5x7 yet except to say that 90 is pretty wide on 4x5, and I'm leaning to 135 or 150 for 5 x7, but my 5x7 camera doesn't get out of my studio much and I have not needed a W/A for 5x7.

Though I like wide wides for 35mm, especially 21-24mm, somehow I haven't gotten used to them in LF. I don't have any idea why that would be.

Eric Woodbury
20-Mar-2017, 17:26
I use the 90mm Nikkor for 4x5 and 5x7. What a nice lens. If it is too wide, you can always crop. Plenty of negative. You can't go the other way without some fancy digital antics. I did use a 121mm. Inexpensive and good lens, but heavier. I have the 110mm, but don't use much and it's an expensive lens. Later, you could add a 150mm and you'd be good for all weather. Happy snapping.

Alan Gales
20-Mar-2017, 18:32
Though I like wide wides for 35mm, especially 21-24mm, somehow I haven't gotten used to them in LF. I don't have any idea why that would be.

I don't have an idea either but I'm the same way. One of my favorite lenses for my Contax 35mm camera was 25mm. The widest lens I have used on 8x10 is my 250mm which feels like my 35mm felt on my 35mm camera. I've got a 180mm and 121mm for 4x5 that will just cover 8x10 straight on but I've never felt a need yet for something that wide.

Alan Gales
20-Mar-2017, 18:44
Serge, I've got a 121mm for 4x5 and it would probably be closer to a 65mm lens than an 80mm on 6x7. It feels to me like a 35mm lens on a 35mm camera. A mild wide. You may actually prefer a 135mm for 4x5 but I don't know if any 135mm lenses can cover 5x7.

20-Mar-2017, 19:16
The older Fuji 125 and 135mm single coated lenses will cover 5x7, though the 125 will not allow movements.


Peter De Smidt
20-Mar-2017, 19:48
I use my 120SA much more than my 90, but obviously that's highly personal.

21-Mar-2017, 14:24
I use my 120SA much more than my 90, but obviously that's highly personal.

I would agree with Peter. I have 120mm, 90mm and 65mm lenses for my 4x5, and the lens that I use most of these three is the 120mm, then the 65mm, followed by 90mm. Have you considered taking a bit of cardboard and making a viewing frame to get an idea of what sort of angle of view you'd like? I think that there's a formula that you can use for determining the distance to hold the frame to mimic lens sizes. Just a thought......


Jim Galli
21-Mar-2017, 15:25
I have a lovely and expensive Rodenstock 90mm f4.5 WA and I think it's never been on the camera. I just don't see wide very well. An old Fuji single coated 125 is one of my most used lenses in 4X5. I have a 110mm Cooke Series VII that is a worthy lens also, but no shutter.

21-Mar-2017, 16:15
I have both Super Angulons XL 72mm and XL 90mm with center filters for my Canham wood 5x7 camera, both lenses recommended by Mr. Canham. Watch your feet with the XL 72mm! I have slight movements with the XL 72mm. It helps to have a bag bellows for both lenses.

Best wishes --- Allen

Serge S
22-Mar-2017, 05:55
On what camera(s) do you plan to use the lens?


I am using a 5x7 Deardorff for 4x5, but plan to use the 5x7 back this summer now that I've got a hold of some film holders.



Serge S
22-Mar-2017, 06:04
Thanks to all for the great information.
It's a bit trickier to purchase a lens to work for two formats, taking lens coverage and overall field of view account. And the price points are quite wide as well😀
I am leaning towards getting a moderate wide angle for the 4x5 format, as opposed to the 90.

Thanks again for all the great feedback!


23-Mar-2017, 13:26
Hello Serge,
Rodenstock 90mm/4.5 did not, IMHO, receive the deserved mentioning in this thread. My apology if that could irritate any body here.
It covers 5x7, but do not have personal experience. Please review manufacturer website.
On 4x5, it's very sharp and not so much wide for my taste. Equivalent to 28mm in small format.
Does not need to a center filter.
I'm looking now to 11x14 crop of 49.5" enlargement from 4x5 FP4+ developed in HRX.
Of course, do not have structural capability to enlarge to 50" longer aspect(10X). Just testing lenses at the central part of the negative.
You may imagine me putting my short height nose over the 11x14 crop print, saying: this is magic, marvelous, extremely sharp for a 50" print. Yes, FP4+ has its effect, also HRX. But nothing of that sharpness could be retained if the lens is not super sharp in the first place.
Mine is older version of MC( I think), it covers 102 only. Have seen only few similar in Ebay. But, the 105 coverage version, is typically distributed and more common.
Use it with Sinar behind lens shutter, failed to reassemble in a copal shutter. It's in the heavier side, but I keep it(with Sinar shutter), ALWAYS, in my camera bag. Super satisfied with this lens.
It's a marvelous lens that covers 5x7.
Hope this useful.