View Full Version : Choices for first LF lenses?

Steve H
16-Aug-2005, 01:00
I'm just about to venture into the world of LF and slowly building my kit together, however having come to choice of lenses I'm bewildered to say the least, the options being quite extensive.

I'll be shooting mainly interiors and exteriors and hope to have an occaisional foray, for pleasure only, into landscapes. Bearing in mind my architectural shots will be 75% of my LF work can anyone recommend a good wide angle for a starting point?

I was thinking of a 65 plus an accompanying longer lens. I'm limited to the 2 for now.


Armin Seeholzer
16-Aug-2005, 02:24
Hi Steve

I would buy not a shorter one as beginner then 75-90mm because of covering power and easy of use, and as the long end a 150-210 mm.
My second lens was a 75mm and if you can only buy two then I recommand the 75mm because you always can crop a bit but never expand the picture! 65mm is very limited by the covering power and just to be honestly if I would start knew with the knowledge what I have now it would buy the 72 mm Super Angulon XL wich has 226mm covering power! You could do quite a bit of work in the wide era with this lens!
Later you may go even wider with a 55mm or the 47mm but I use them as seldom as possible! 75 and 90 are my most used lenses for arch work!
And sometimes I loved to have the 72 mm instad of the 75mm!
Good start!

jonathan smith
16-Aug-2005, 02:50
I don't shoot 4x5 so am not familiar with the focal lengths, but I think you would need wide angles first and telephotos not at all.

steve simmons
16-Aug-2005, 06:49
I would suggest a 90mm as a place to start. It is roughly equivilent to a 28 on a 35mm camera.

Here is some suggested reading

Photographing Buildings Inside and Out by Norman McGrath

Using the View Camera that I wrote

Getting Started in Large Format which is an article in the Free Articles section of our web site


steve simmons

Joseph O'Neil
16-Aug-2005, 08:13
My favourite, and two most used lenses are 135mm and 180mm (both Rodenstock Sironars). 90mm is nice - I have two of them - but you do not use it as much as you might think. While my 90mms seem to be my best choice for architectural shots, outside of that use, I do not use it that often.

Also, while 210mm seems ot be a defactor "standard", I've enver much cared for that size - it just doesn't seem to "fit right" - if that makes any sense. I do have one - well, technically it is a 8.25 inch red dot artar , F9 process lens, front mounted in an ilex shutter (so for all you nickpcikers I think that makes it a 209mm :), and while the lens itself is superb, and I woudl reccommend it to anyone thinking about, I find i actually use my 180mm more. Maybe it is just personal taste.

One last thought. Now that I have the shutter fixed, I find I am using my 300mm Komura more and more. Optically not bad at all, although the Artar and Rodenstocks are, IMO, nicer, the 300mm focal length works good for me in many situations. Even architectural. For example, a few weeks ago I was at the harbour in Port Stanely, ON (I live 25 minute drive form the Lake Erie). Shooting some of the buildings on the dock from the far side of the harbour, I found my 180 and 300mm worked best. In 90 and 135mm, the buildings were just too far away and I had too much water in the frame.

I was also recently in Colorado - Independace Pass (12,095 feet! - wonderful!), a nd the ghost town of Independance, there, i found photographing some of the old ruins against the mountians, my 180mm worked best. The old log cabins and ruins just seemed to "get lost" against the background in my 90mm. The point is, some buildings seem to work best when photographed as part of an entire streetscape, not just by themselves, especially historical buildings. I am chairman of th elocal heritage committe for my city,a nd one of the things I ahve learned is when working on preservation and / or researching, having photographs, but old and new, showing a building in context of how it relates o the rest of a neighbourhood can at times be just as important than a nice closeup.

The other thing - espeically with older, historical buildings, is a slight telephoto - 210mm for example - might be better for close up photographs of unique, individual architectural features that make a building special. So you might be doing architectural on three levels - a whole streetscape, a building by itself, and then close ups of individual features. Depends on where you go and what you shoot and what your images will eventually be used for.

So you never know.

If you can only buy / use one lens to start with, and you know for certian most of your work is going to be architectural, then yes, a 90mm is the way to go. Otherwise, look at a nice 135mm. Very versitile lens , and a good lens to learn with. Also, there are times when a 90mm is too wide, and the 135mm fills in the gap nicely.

One last thought about 90mm lenses - and the reason I have two of them. For backpacking, I use a "Lindhoff" (spelling?) 90mm Angulon. Very nice lens, but there are days I wish it had wider coverage. Conversely, I have an older Komura 90mm, a honkin' huge chunk of glass that covers 5x7, so plenaty fo movement for 4x5, and allows me to capture many church steeples up close. But to backpack with it is dreadful due ot the weight. So for my Super Speed graphic, I use the Angulon , but for driving, with my monorail, I use the bigger Komura.

Plan or think out ahead of time how you will be travelling most of the time - backpacking = compact lens, or driving with lot so room = bigger, heavier camera & lens, then plan your 90mm purchase accordingly.

have fun & good luck


Nathaniel Paust
16-Aug-2005, 11:52
It really has a lot to do with how you visualize things. When I got my 4x5 I was planning on getting three lenses a 90, a 210, and a 450 since those were sort of the focal lengths that I most use in 35mm. I started out by putting a 150, a 180, and a 210 on the camera in the store and just looking around and found that the 180 matches the way that I see things.

So I think that rather than saying you need a 75mm or 65mm lens just because they're incredibly wide, you should borrow or rent them and just see what you see through the camera. If you don't feel a really strong affinity for one focal length or another then make your choice based on coverage and speed and everything like that. However, if you do find a lens that matches your vision, that's going to be the best bet.

David Vickery
16-Aug-2005, 17:24
Hello Steve,
What type of architectural work will you be doing??

If, for example, you will be photographing model homes for a home builder, then you will use a 75mm and a 90mm almost exclusively.

If you are working in larger office buildings, or etc. that have large open spaces, then your first choices in lenses might best be the 90mm and a 110mm-120mm, or similar.

Or if you are doing the kind of historical work that Joseph talked about then you should take his advice, probably.

Regardless, I would guess that the 65mm is too short for one of your first two lenses, unless you know for a fact that your clients will be paying you to photograph small rooms on a regular basis. And you will need the center filter to go with it. I use one on my 75mm but have never tested it to really see what it looks like without it.

David Vickery

Steve H
17-Aug-2005, 00:47
I should perhaps initially have been a little clearer with my photographic intentions. I'll be working with an interior designer who deals with dwelling spaces as opposed to offices etc...
They are relatively sizeable but not extensive, the smallest area I'll be working in will be about 25'square, possibly slightly larger, hence the preference for a wider lens.

My quandry was that with the initial expense my budget really limits me to a choice of 2 lenses, the wide for the interiors and a longer for exteriors, exterior details and occaisional landscapes. With some of the exteriors I'll be working in built up areas so space is relatively limted there too.

I guess I'm probably expecting too much from 2 single lenses.

Thanks for the replies, plenty to think about and not something to rush into.

Ted Harris
17-Aug-2005, 07:46
There is always more than one way to skin a cat. Instead of looking at 2 lenses for starters why not look at 2 formats? If you choose the Canham T57 (the traditional wooden Canham) and get a 4x5 reducing back you will have a camera that is only marginally larger than many 4x5's and relatively lightweight. You can then shoot 5x7 and 4x5 with ease and you have more options. I use my Super Symmar 110 at 5x7 with frequnecy and it is wide. You could choose either the 80 or 110 Super Symmar or the 72 or 90 Super Angulon XL as all four of them cover 5x7 and, at that size, give you vast coverage. I use these only as examples as there are other lenses that will do the same job.

I say one lens here simply because you mentioned that budget was an issue and none of the lenses that I mentioned (or others with similar coverage) are inexpensive. Add to that the fact that with, for example, the 110 you have a lens that is sort of 'wide standard' at 4x5 and wide at 5x7. For your purposes something in the 72 - 90 range that covers 5x7 and a 150 that does the same might be ideal. To me the Canham 5x7 could come close to being an ideal solution for your purposes. Just a different approach.

David Vickery
17-Aug-2005, 12:44
Based on what you've said, I would still advise a lens in the 72mm-75mm range as the first and most important lens. With the close second being a lens in the 90mm-110mm range.

The longer lenses, 135mm-210mm, are very inexpensive (used) compared to the shorter focal length lenses. So you could pick those longer lenses up later as you find that you need them.

Unless your clients build with showy, rich architectural details you will be surprised at how little you use a longer lens for exteriors. Longer lenses make rooms look small. So if you work for the builder, then they will want the room to look big.

But if you are only working for the interior designers then you may be right in wanting a slightly longer lens to single out details of their work. For that you may want something around 150m to go with the 75mm.

Hope this helps some. Good luck.

steve simmons
18-Aug-2005, 07:15
When I worked as an architectural photographer my lenses were 58mm, 75mm, 90mm, 120, 180, and 240. For interiors it was the first three that I used 99% of the time.

steve simmons