View Full Version : Help Me Pick A Lens: 5x7 Home Portrait Graflex

J. P. Mose
2-Aug-2005, 19:22
Last year I found a 5x7 Home Portrait Graflex with a 12" Kodak Aerostigmat. I was really excited about my find but honestly never found the time to use it. I recently tried to sell the camera on Ebay and was unsuccessful. I thought it was worth more than it is and needed to generate some money. However, it didn't sell! I had poor photos and I'm sure the price was way too high. Well I have sold enough other equipment that I can now keep it. I am grateful it didn't sell and want to start using it (finally). I tried the Aerostigmat a few times and am not trilled with it for portrait work (after all it is a lens for "aero" purposes which is optimized for infinity).

Finally....the question: I want to pick a suitable lens (barrel is preferred) for this camera. I would like to limit the cost to $500 - $600 but cheaper would be better. If money was no object, I would love to find a 12" Pentac. However, they are nearly impossible to find even if the funds are available.

Give me some choices that are more common but yield beautiful and/or unique images. I am sure you know what I mean.....is there anything similar to a Pentac but common and cheap? Tell me why your choices are recommended.

Help! If anyone can bring some suggestions to the table you folks can!

Thanks a lot for your time!

JP Mose

2-Aug-2005, 19:29
I'm quite envious. Paul Strand used a 5x7 HPG for many years, (with the film aperture cut down to 5x6). I believe that Richard Benson says he used only one lens, a 10" Dagor. That's not a bad recommendation.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
2-Aug-2005, 20:51
Hi JP,

I watched the auction, and was rather surprised no-one bid. I would have love to but circumstances dictate that my money goes elsewhere...

I wondered how that Aerostigmat would perform as it seems an very odd choice for a portrait camera. In any case, as we discussed before, the chance of finding--let alone affording--a 10" or 12" Pentac are pretty slim. If it were me, I suppose I would look for a 10" Heliar. If you want faster 10" f/3.5 Xenars or Tessars can be found, although I don't think these make particularly nice portraits lenses.

I wonder if you might like the look of a Petzval? Nice and sharp in the middle but fuzzing out in a beautiful bokeh? You would need at least an 11" Petzval for the camera (an 11" f/3 Dallmeyer 3B would be nice), so you would need quite a bit of bellows plus a big lensboard.

If you are willing to spend the big bucks, how about a nice new Cooke PS945? These apparently cover 5x7 with room to spare. If spending $3,400 leaves you dry but still want the fuzzy look, maybe a 9" Verito?

In any case, if it were me, I would start looking for a nice 10" Heliar. Maybe you can find a 10" f/3.5 Heliar, if they were made...

Ernest Purdum
2-Aug-2005, 21:00
I'm not all that certain that the 12" Pentac is unavailable. You might want to put a standing "favorite" search on eBay. It might take some patience, but I think one would eventually show up.

Another possibility, and a comparatively low cost one, would be a big old Petzval, probably by either Dallmeyer or Darlot. From your mention of the Pentac, I gather that you are looking for high speed, and many of these are quite large aperture. They have different image characteristics than modern anastigmat lenses, but you might find the results interesting.

Wollensak made several "portrait" lenses with differing degrees of softness.

Cooke made a number of anastigmats, some with a soft focus adjustment, that you might find desirable.

Your big lensboard is an asset when considering lenses. Most of those above wouldn't fit on many cameras.

Jim Galli
2-Aug-2005, 21:07
I have an affordable 14" Wollensak Vesta Portrait lens that would be superb for this. The Vesta was a cheaper version of the Vitax. Both are Petzval type but the Vesta is f5 so it's much smaller and lighter than it's giant sibling. 14" is ideal for portraits on 5X7. It has nice clear glass but with quite a few cleaning scratches. Nothing to hurt the portraits at all. Has good useable aperture, and because I can't brag that the glass is perfect.............it's $165.00 About $10 to ship it in USA.

An original 1919 catalog page about it is here. (http://www.cameraeccentric.com/html/info/wollensakcata/vesta.html)

David A. Goldfarb
2-Aug-2005, 21:28
Lenses that I use on the 5x7" Press Graflex are the stock B&L 5x8" Tessar, which is beautiful, a 210/3.5 Xenar that doesn't focus to infinity, but is just great at portrait distances, and a 12" Gold Dot Dagor, which is a fine lens that happens to use the same flange as the 5x8" Tessar. I have a 19" Apo Artar that also uses the same flange, but the camera doesn't have enough bellows for it.

Ole Tjugen
2-Aug-2005, 23:06
If you want a barrel lens, you should be able to pick up a fine Rapid Rectilinear or Aplanat for no more than $50. Center is sharp at all apertures, edges going sharper with stopping down. If the lens is so old it has a number instead of a focal length, most #3's are around 300mm focal length.

Most Universal Aplanat lenses (f:7.2 or so) have about 30 sharp coverage at full opening, increasing to 75 or so at f:32.

Paul Fitzgerald
3-Aug-2005, 00:55
Hi there,

great suggestions so far;

Heliar 240mm but you will want the 300mm for 5x7

R.R. 12 inch 8x10, they all make nice portraits

B & L 8x10 tessar 1C, early uncoated

Wollensak Velostigmat Series II 12 in., with or without the adjustable soft focus

VITAX 10 1/2in. or 13 1/2 in.(might be too large)

12 inch Dagor

12 inch Ektar or Portrait Ektar

They all have a great look but all are different.

Have fun with the hunt.

Ernest Purdum
3-Aug-2005, 04:28
Earlier, I hadn't thought of an Imagon. An uncoated one without shutter should be well within your stated budget. It may say "Tiefenbildner".

J. P. Mose
5-Aug-2005, 11:55
Thanks for all the suggestions so far. One opportunity I have is a 12" f4.5 Universal Heliar but it is coated. What are your thoughts on this lens? Also, is anyone familiar with a 305mm f2.5 Carl Meyer Speed Ananstigmat? Would it yield images similar to a Pentac? Thanks again for your help! JP Mose

David A. Goldfarb
5-Aug-2005, 13:50
The Heliar will be a fine lens, but will it fit the lensboard? I have my doubts, if it uses 4" lensboards like the 5x7" Press Graflex.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
5-Aug-2005, 14:16

The 305/2.5 Carl Meyer Speed Anastigmat is a repackaged 12" Aero-Ektar; not the best portrait lens. I think the Universal Heliar would be perfect.

J. P. Mose
5-Aug-2005, 15:48
The HP Graflex uses 5x5 boards so the fit would not be a problem. The bellows draw is another story and limits the use of any lens longer than 12" (cannot focus close enough for head shots). A 10" or 11" may be more suitable but I would prefer perspective better from a 12". I also have a 8x10 enlarger so I can crop in for head shots.

David....I have been on the lookout for a nice 5x8 lens for my Press Graflex (it came with a 330mm Cook Anastigmat). How would you compare a Kodak Anastigmat, B&L Tessar and Zeiss Tessar? Are they all about the same?

J. P. Mose
5-Aug-2005, 15:49
I mean Cooke!!!

David A. Goldfarb
5-Aug-2005, 16:47
I've never tried the Cooke anastigmat, and there's so much variation in Tessars that it's hard to make any prediction without trying the lens. Here's a shot I've posted before with the B&L 5x8, which turned out to be a much better lens than I expected, and they're usually pretty cheap--


Ernest Purdum
5-Aug-2005, 19:11
The "Universal" version of the Heliar has a variable soft focus adjustment. Judging the quality of soft-focus lenses is very subjective, but many people consider this a very desirable lens for portraits. Being coated, of couirse, would be expected to run the price up significantly.

Paul Fitzgerald
5-Aug-2005, 19:22
Hi there,

J.P. Mose;

"One opportunity I have is a 12" f4.5 Universal Heliar but it is coated."

If it says 12 in not 30cm it's before 1920, not factory coated. Buy it anyway but check the coating.

Good luck with it.

Glenn Thoreson
17-Aug-2005, 21:22
No. 33 Kodak Anastigmat. I have an extra one if interested.

J. P. Mose
18-Aug-2005, 10:25

A No. 33 Kodak Anastigmat is 7 1/2" in focal length. 10" is the shortest recommended lens for an HP Graflex due to the large mirror (larger than a Press Graflex mirror due to revolving back). Thanks anyway.


JP Mose

Glenn Thoreson
18-Aug-2005, 13:37
Ah, yes. Forgot about the mirror. I have a 33 on my 5X7 Speed Graphic and, for that application, it works beautifuly. Good luck with your search.

30-Dec-2005, 21:39
Hi J.P. Just wondering if your 5x7 home portrait is still available. I've been looking for one for some time. Thanks, Geoff

J. P. Mose
2-Jan-2006, 13:41
It is on Ebay currently.