View Full Version : moderate wide-125-135 or just get 150?

22-Aug-2005, 20:14

I am trying to decide on a first lens for 4x5 and having difficulty. I have read countless posts here and see the common suggestion is a 150mm. That is fine and all but I am not sure if I am a 150mm person. I like wide angle landscape work. That is usually done with a 45mm or 35mm with a 645 medium format camera. I have normal lenses for 35mm and 645 I just do not use them much anymore. The people I have spent some LF time with do not have 150mm, they had 90/135/270.

Normally I prefer something of a moderate wide and then a short long lens. Based on the look that it gives a 90mm would be an ideal moderate wide but the two 90's I have had a chance to work with were both f/8 models. One was used on a Linhof with a fresnel and an 8-10x loupe and all I saw were the circles on the fresnel and even with reading glasses was very hard to focus on anything other than the fresnel. The other was on a older press camera with no fresnel with no loupe and it was very hard to see through at all. Both experiences were enough to scare me away from f/8 wide angles. The fast lenses are bigger than I care for and so I am shying away from 90mm for now. Might see about a Rodenstock 90/6.8 if consensus is that the 1/2 stop is significantly noticeable as brighter than an f/8.

Alternative is a 125-135mm as a possible moderate wide. I had alot of exposure to a 135mm and it was much easier to see through than the 90 even on a non fresnel camera. Images were very easy to focus but I just was not enamored with the "look" it gave. It falls kind of into that no mans land.

In an ideal world I would have somewhat of a plan for buying lenses rather than haphazard purchases. The old plan was a 90 then a 200 then maybe a 300 and 75 if I wanted to expand.

Now I am leaning toward the Fuji CMW 125/5.6 as a first lens with the Nikon 200M or Fuji 240A as a short long. If I get the Nikon 200 I might add the 300M later. If I get the Fuji 240 I would probably stop with that on the long side.

I am also thinking a 75mm is in my future, just not as a first lens.

The camera I am purchasing is an ArcaSwiss Discovery with the regular bellows. I understand 90mm is the shortest lens possible with the regular bellows and that 210 is about the max if I get the wide angle leather. So trying to be a one bellows guy I should be able to do a 125/240 combo or a 75/200 combo.

I was leaning toward the Nikon 200M as a first lens but Badger is out, so is MPEX, B+H has Gray market imports but no USA.

So now I need to decide on a lens but am not sure which way to go.

125 Fuji and hoping the little extra kick (over 135) is good for moderate wide and then can look at a wider lens (like a 90/6.8 or 75mm) later
135mm as a known factor
200M Gray Market from B+H? Or should I wait the month for Badger to get more?
Fuji 240A But will it work if I get a Arca wide angle leather bellows?
Just get a standard 150mm? And if so would you go cheap like a Caltar /6.3 or top end like a Rodenstock-S? Or just something?

I used Kerry Thalmann's future classics and light weight lists to narrow my choices down, but the decisions just do not get easier :-)

Frank Petronio
22-Aug-2005, 20:44
If you want to stick to just using the leather wide angle bellows (which is not a bad idea) then I would adjust my expectations and consider getting something like the Rodenstock 75/6.8 and 150/5.6; or the 90/6.8 and 180/5.6. Anything beyond a 180 won't be fun to use with the wide angle bellows. And after using a wide, the 150/180 will "feel long".

The beauty of the Arca is that wides like the 75 and 90 are easier to focus than most other cameras because of the excellent fresnel and ground glass.

Latter on get a bonafide 240 or 300, and toss on the standard bellows for when you need the reach. But for hiking, the standard bellows and long lens can stay in the car. Or get a 250 Tele-Arton or other short, coated Tele lens and use that with the leather wide bellows (although good teles are $$$).

Everyone will tell you differently, but it comes down to two opposite philosophies. Some people want to stand where they set the camera and choose from an array of lenses to get the view they want. Other people simply move the camera. There are very few situations - outside of high end architectural photography - where achieving a successful photo is going to be thwarted because you don't have an "in-between" focal length.

Ahhh... that wonderful leather bellows smell.... Those Euros must kill some fine cows, it is really nice leather.

Oren Grad
22-Aug-2005, 21:04
If I could have only one lens for 4x5 it would be a 135. (An Apo-Sironar-S, to be precise.) But that's because of the way I see.

In the end you can't calculate in advance what will be exactly right based on some theory or on what others are using. You just have to make your best guess, take the plunge and see whether it works for you and your own way of seeing. It's highly likely that some of your initial choices of equipment will turn out not to be ideal, and that you'll eventually move on to other things, but if you buy wisely and take care of your equipment you should be able to resell anything you decide you don't like without taking a huge loss.

If you've already tried a 135 and didn't like the perspective, then by all means get something a bit wider. If I needed something just a bit wider than a 135 for 4x5, I'd get a 120 Apo-Symmar L rather than the 125 CM-W, purely as a matter of personal taste - I've discovered over the years that there are some subtleties in the way Fujinons render an image that I don't care for. But there are plenty of very satisfied Fujinon owners here too, and I'm sure some will speak up. Anything shorter than 120 doesn't feel moderately wide to me - it feels very wide, and suitable primarily for special purpose problem solving, not as a general-use lens.

Also, I wouldn't get too hung up trying to figure out in advance what a properly spaced set of focal lengths should be. I could get by in 4x5 with the 135 alone. At various times, I've also carried one or more out of 75, 90, 180, 210 and 270. None of these others has ever turned out to be really compelling for me as a general-purpose lens for 4x5, and there's no magic pair or set of three out of these that I could recommend from my own experience as being ideal. But YMMV. So get your first lens, whatever it turns out to be, and use it a lot. Then, based on that experience, make your best guess as to what you most need next - if anything.

And if so would you go cheap like a Caltar /6.3 or top end like a Rodenstock-S?

For 4x5, I'd go for the Apo-Sironar-S over a random old lens any time - I just really like the Rodenstocks, and the S is the most refined of them all. If I couldn't afford an S, I'd go for an Apo-Sironar-N/Sironar-N MC/Caltar II-N, which is almost as nice for quite a bit less money. Again, this is a matter of personal taste, both in terms of how much the utmost in optical correction matters to you and for your intended uses, and how much you care about the subtle - sometimes very subtle - distinctions among the different "looks" characteristic of a Schneider, a Rodenstock, a Nikkor and a Fujinon.

Good luck!

John Kasaian
22-Aug-2005, 21:35
You might consider a Kodak 135mm WF. A 203 f/7.7 Ektar would make a nifty companion to the 135 WF.

Eric Leppanen
22-Aug-2005, 22:54
Compared to 645, I've found that the less rectangular 4x5 aspect ratio reduces my need for wider-angle lenses. On my 35mm camera, for example, I frequently used my 20mm lens, but on 4x5 I rarely go wider than 80mm (roughly equivalent to a 24mm lens in 35mm format). If 35 and 45mm are your most frequently used 645 lenses, then I suggest that you look for an equivalent to your 45mm lens, which in 4x5 would be 90mm (roughly). Something like a Grandagon-N 6.8 or Super Angulon 5.6 might most cost-effectively fit the bill.

For the long end, if the bag bellows allows only 210mm of extension, then I wouldn't go any longer than 180mm for your longest lens (if you want to have a useful close focusing capability, for which the normal rule of thumb is bellows extension = focal length x 1.25). However, this is essentially a normal lens, which based on your 645 experience you won't use much. If you reconsider this (e.g., to go 90-180 with your initial lens set), then here is a recent thread on 180mm lenses: www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00DG0v (http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00DG0v).

I think extrapolating from your 645 lenses is probably a good first estimate for your 4x5 needs, but trying to squeeze by with one bag bellows is limiting this approach. Also, as the previous posters have noted, shooting 4x5 is such a different experience that you may ultimately desire a totally different set of focal lengths versus 645. So try to buy good quality used glass now that you can cost-effectively trade-in later as needs arise. I'd suggest covering the wide-angle side first (initially purchasing a 135mm and then deciding if you still want something wider), then later decide on how you want to handle the long end. I suspect you'll want a fully functional 210-240mm lens (rather than a "compromise" 180mm or an "infinity only" 210mm), in which case you'll just have to bite the bullet and carry two bellows (or upgrade to a different camera).

paul owen
23-Aug-2005, 01:26
Take a look at the Schneider 110XL.

John Cook
23-Aug-2005, 04:38
Let me offer a philosophical answer.

The instruction sheet for Ethol T.E.C. states that “photography is not an exact science”. This seems especially true of large format.

LF shutters work with two or three sets of springs which operate different speeds. Some of these are tighter than others. Thus, two adjacent shutter speeds may actually be reversed in duration. It used to be said that Compur’s factory tolerance was plus-or-minus 25%.

LF f-stops depend upon from which direction they are approached. Stopping down to f-16 yields a very different exposure from opening up to f-16.

Finally, lens nominal focal lengths may also be somewhat crude. At least that was the conventional wisdom of the old pro’s I worked for in my youth. Sid Avery actually had a 120mm lens which was slightly longer than his 135mm lens on the old Sinar.

My point is that with that kind of slop factor, it may not be necessary (nor even possible) to have the extensive range of LF lenses so popular with meticulous 35mm SLR users.

A normal, wide and long lens may be just fine.

jens peter
23-Aug-2005, 05:59
I would agree with Oren, the 135 Apo-Sironar S is a spectacular lens!
I prefer it to any other lens lens in the moderate wide spectrum. Even the 110XL. But again, It all depends on how you see your images

23-Aug-2005, 06:10
You wrote often of the 'feel' of a wide lens, and I relate to that quite well. I will second the observation that the aspect ratio of the 4x5 gives a far wider feel than an equivalent lens on 645.

Given that you are coming from a fixed-perspective camera, I need to ask if you plan on using perspective controls, movements, and if you do plan to, then coverage is a serious consideration for the lens.

If you do not plan to use movements (and many scenic photographers use none, or just a bit of rise), then speak up, be not afraid, for there are some remarkable super-wide cameras that practically obviate ground-glass viewing. If you do not use movements, then you can also consider the Biogon 75mm lens rather than the Super-Angulon. IMHO the Biogon is far superior (and still permits a tiny bit of rear tilt.)

Henry Ambrose
23-Aug-2005, 07:10
If you are buying an Arca Swiss Discovery and plan to use the standard bellows you will have problems using a 90mm lens as the bellows will be a bit jammed up. The 110 works OK with the standard bellows. You will run out of rail when you get to a 210 - any longer and you will not be able to focus close. So when you pass either of these extremes you will have to buy and carry a different bellows and/or rail. If buying and carrying more gear is not a problem for you then don't worry about this.

But I'd put my money into the lenses rather than the camera. This is something to consider as a wide bellows and a different/longer rail together cost as much as a nice lens. I think the sweet spot for the Discovery as it ships is from 110 to 180. Lenses in this range will work great with the stock camera. The 110 and 180 make a nice combo being about like a 28 and 60 in 35mm terms. The 110 is very bright on the ground glass as is the 180 (of course). Both lenses have large image circles to do anything you'd ever want on 4X5 in terms of movements. If you don't care about close ups then a 110 and 210 combo will work for you and give you a bit more or a "short tele on 35mm" feel.

John Berry ( Roadkill )
23-Aug-2005, 09:43
If I had only one focal length, It would be my 135 wide field ektar, but we all know you can't eat just one.

Paul Butzi
23-Aug-2005, 09:55
I was all set to write a fairly lengthy response, but Oren Grad already wrote what I was going to, so you can save us all time by reading Oren's post twice. It was actually kind of eerie, reading it.

Except for the part about Fujinons. I don't agree with him on that.

But the rest of it, especially the part about the 135mm Apo-Sironar-S, I wholeheartedly agree with.

23-Aug-2005, 10:37
I have a Horseman 45FA and use the Rod. 90mm 6.8 mostly and I like it a lot. Next I use the Rod. 75mm 6.8 and I like it a lot. (it is wiiiiiiiide). The next most used lens is a Rod. 180mm 5.6. I don't it as often as I mostly see in the wide way. I do want very badly a nikon tele 270mm as it matches my narrow view. I have a nikon 125mm 5.6 that I bought for use with a roll film holder and I like it's medium wide look, but it dosen't cover 4x5 well. My focusing aid is the toyo 3.6 power and it does not enlarge the fresnel lines badly. With the wide lenses I tilt the focuser to brighten the image around the edges, and it's easier to focus.


Graham Hughes
23-Aug-2005, 10:57
I have a Fujinon 135 and a Schneider 210 Convertible for landscapes. I started out with the 135, and still like that field of view, but for technical reasons it's very awkward to use on my camera with the standard bellows, and as a result the 210 is my standard tool. I should note, though, that I do a lot of detail work in landscapes and gravitate toward slightly longer lenses than a lot of other people do--I never did figure out how to use wide angle lenses until I visited Europe, for example, and I have a lot of trouble using them at home now implying the density of a European city was very important. Presumably I would have similar fortune on many cities on the East Coast of the US.

I haven't had much of a chance to use my 4x5 of late, but I plan on making the time soon and will make an effort to use the 135 more.

23-Aug-2005, 14:04
If you tried a 135 and didn't like it, for heaven's sake don't buy a 125 or a 135.

It shouldn't be all that hard to focus a 90 unless you are shooting in relatively dim surroundings. For reasonably well-lit conditions, a 90 is an extremely popular lens, so don't rule it out; perhaps there is some other factor that is impeding your focussing. The SSXL 110 is another winner.

Many people use a "laser" pointer to aid in focussing when there's not much light. I tried it but never could get the hang of it, but it might be worth a try for you.

Many folks have warned you that your camera may not allow you to focus in close with a 200-210. But how often would you be doing that (I shoot at infinity at least 90% of the time)? Don't restrict yourself for factors that are irrelevant to you personally.

David Karp
23-Aug-2005, 16:29
I have the older version of the Fuji 125mm (with a smaller image circle than the current version). I love it. It is my only lens between 125mm and 210mm. The 125mm and the 210mm are my most frequently used lenses.

23-Aug-2005, 16:37
Great advice. Thanks to all for sharing. Sometimes I probably put too much thought into a purchase. My friends say I am tight. I think having a general purpose lens that works in alot of situations is a good idea. I just know my preference for wide images so want to plan for the going wider in the future.

If my experience with the 90/8 had been better I would have gone 90 all the way but I like to do alot of images in the twilight prior to sunup. The 90 was so difficult to work with it was frustrating. The 135 was fine and I did fine with a 75mm Biogon on an overcast day so I figure I just need faster lenses. The fast 90 lenses were really big so back to square one on that.

So since I might skip 90 and go to a 75 on the wide end maybe the 125 is a good compliment to it. Rates a future classic and is reasonably priced. I know if I went 150 or 135 I could go cheap but I have read enough here to really really consider the Rod -Sironar -S line. But that ties up more $$ in a lens that might be phased out as I get more lenses.

All food for thought. Thanks again.

Kerry L. Thalmann
23-Aug-2005, 17:04
How much coverage do you need? How much weight are you willing to carry? How much money are you willing/able to spend?

Depending on your answers to these questions, there are several alternatives (in addition to the 125mm Fujinon CM-W and 135mm APO-Sironar-S already discussed).

If you don't need much for movements, the 120mm f5.6 APO Symmar is small, light, fairly cheap on the used market, and blazingly sharp. The only drawback is the limited coverage (Schneider says 179mm, but they are a bit on the conservative side). I've actually used this lens for backpacking a few times over the last two years and really like the focal length on both 6x12 (plenty of room for movements) and 4x5 (a bit tight, but usable if you don't push the front rise too much).

The 120mm f5.6 Super Symmar HM costs a bit more, is bigger and heavier and has significantly more coverage. It's a good compromise in this focal length.

For even more money and coverage, there is the wonderful 110mm Super Symmar XL. It's not tiny or ultralight, but it's also not THAT big and heavy. It is expensive though. It is one of my most used lenses and an all time personal favorite. I'm not a big ultrawide shooter, so the 110mm focal length is a very comfortable wide angle for me. If I could only own two lenses it would be the 110 and a 210. In my general purpose kit, I also carry a 150mm that nicely fills the gap between the the 110 and 210. And, I carry an 80mm SS XL as my widest lens.

Focal length preference is a very personal choice. I tend to favor lenses in the slightly wide (110) to slightly long (210) range. Given your preference for wide lenses, something in the 110 - 12o range might make a good "normal" lens for you. It would also be a good intermediate focal length between your planned widest (75mm) and longest (200mm) focal lengths. Something like 75, 120, 200 is a nice focal length spread in a three lens kit.


6-Sep-2005, 21:06
while i would prefer a 135 in therm of angle, i bought a 110xl and an apo sironar S to be have to use a lot of movements...

6-Sep-2005, 21:09
for movements in 4 lens you can't beat that...72xl / 110xl / 150s /210s