View Full Version : Do you use your longer lenses much for landscapes

Matt Brain
10-Oct-2005, 05:24
Hi, I have recently purchased a 240mm G-Claron. It is nice enough, takes sharp pictures but ...

Compared to my 180mm lens (Fujinon W) - the longest I had previously, it is much more difficult to attain focus across the scene (I shoot 4x5 and enlarge my negatives). Due to the considerably narrower depth of field, I have to spend a lot longer with movements and still stop down to f45 to get sharpness across the groundglass. This is more annoying when I discovered that there is a very obvious decrease in resolution from f32 to f45 in a landscape scene (the detail resolved at f45 by the 240mm is not much better than that shot with the 180mm lens of the same scene at f22).

I am otherwise happy with the field of view but I like landscapes with foreground objects and horizon in focus (and commonly a valley between to make it more difficult). The best thing about this lens over the 180mm is that it fits in my technika. So my question to other landscape shooters is do you use your longer lenses much in the field or do they stay at home or in the case, what percentage of your shots does it come out for - or do you mainly aim for flat plane subjects. Feel free to tell me I must be going to fast to not be able to acheive this or to show some examples.

Ralph Barker
10-Oct-2005, 06:25
You should rent a Nikkor 450M for a week, Matt. Then, you'll feel much better about the 240 G-Claron. ;-)

Seriously, I think it's all a matter of refining one's personal vision, and using focal lengths that fit that vision. What others do really isn't all that important.

mark blackman
10-Oct-2005, 06:46
I regularly use a 300mm lens for 5x4 landscapes, and I cannot recall ever having to stop down to f45 - are you making full use of tilts & swings? By the way, as the G Claron range were designed for 1:1 reproductions, you should be stopping down to f22 at least to get decent coverage across the film.

Ed Richards
10-Oct-2005, 06:47
I use a 250 a bit, but not for scenes with a near/far composition. In addition to the DOF issue, a longer lens increases the visual compression, making near/far even harder - look at news photos with telephotos for the extra effect.

You are right about the stopping down - if you get below F32, you have to consider whether you would be as well off just shooting with the 180 and cropping. Are you using a wide lens? If you like near/far, wider gives additional options.

John Cook
10-Oct-2005, 08:13
For me, it all depends upon the subject matter and where in the frame the emphasis should lie (or is it lay?).

A perspective expert will tell you to select the best point of view, plant your tripod there, and then select the lens focal length which will fill the frame.

However, I canít get away from the apparent foreshortening of an unnecessarily wide lens which seems to emphasize foreground objects and minimalize distant ones.

This is fine, if you are shooting something like a car commercial where the ďheroĒ is in the foreground.

But with a short lens you can also wind up with a portrait of a massive, frame-filling rusty parkinglot trash can, and Mount Whitney looking like a fly speck in outer space.

I tend to reserve my 200mm and 300mm lenses for scenes where the hero, like a range of Rocky Mountains, is along the horizon. My technique, since I can frame only one or two peaks in a frame (with a long lens) is to shoot multiple views, panorama-style, and hang the prints along the wall in a row.

The more mountains I manage to include in the frame (by shortening the lens) the more tiny and insignificant they become.

I recall reading that the secret to the Queen Motherís serenity and long life was her uncanny ability to tune out unpleasantness. She simply sipped another Gordonís Gin, smiled and ignored the rumors and controversy.

Photographic cropping with long lenses is a lot like that. Someday, a very astute psychologist will write a paper on this phenomenon.

John Kasaian
10-Oct-2005, 08:28

My tastes tend toward longer lenses when the subject is the 'grand view' and wider lenses with more intimate scenes like rocks and trees. Not 100% of the time, but close.


Steve J Murray
10-Oct-2005, 08:45
Hi Matt. My first lens for 4x5 was a f6.3, 10 inch Caltar. It is quite sharp at f22. I shot many a wonderful image with that lens. Compared to shorter lenses the image on the GG is bright, like looking at a TV, making it easy to compose and focus. I did a few "vista" shots with it which turned out great. I also found it excellent for isolating objects like fallen logs and rock formations. When you only have one lens, it forces you to "see" the world in such a way to "fit" that perspective. That can be a good creative exercise. Compared with the Caltar, my 90mm is a PITA to compose and focus; GG is all murky and dark and I have to glue my eyeball to the loupe and search the corners of the GG for focus. I have more fun shooting with the 10 inch.

Brian Ellis
10-Oct-2005, 09:00
With landscapes I use a 300mm lens fairly often and a 210mm lens all the time. I also used to occasionally use a 400mm telephoto lens (but not often enough to justify its cost so I sold it).

I assume your technique is fine since you've apparently been successfully using your 180mm lens so I wonder it there isn't a problem with your lens. The effect of the 60mm difference between 240mm and 180mm from a depth of field standpoint is very small. Doubling the lens focal length cuts the depth of field in half (assuming everything else affecting depth of field remains equal) and your 60mm difference between the two lenses is a lot less than that. So going from a 180mm lens to only a 240 mm lens shouldn't be causing the problems you mention IMHO. The type of landscape you describe isn't necessarily that easy to handle from a depth of field standpoint but if you've done it with your 180mm lens without going to any great extremes you should be able to do so with your 240mm lens as well. Tilting the front or back or both will help in many situations of that type but you already know that.

I'm also puzzled by your statement that moving from f32 to f45 causes a major change in resolution. Stopping down creates diffraction but diffraction shoudn't be a big deal when you're only moving one f stop. And even at f45 its effect shouldn't be great or even noticeable when enlarging from 4x5 film, unless perhaps you're making enlargements measured in the 40" x 50" or so foot range. With the more common enlargement factors used when printing from 4x5 film (2x to maybe 4x or so) the effects of diffraction usually aren't obvious in my experience. All the horribles you read about diffraction are mainly directed at smaller formats, especially 35mm, where enlargement factors of 8x and higher are typical.

I'm no lens expert so I can't say why but between your depth of field problem and your resolution problem it sounds to me like there may be a problem with the lens (or conceivably your camera when racked out to 240mm though that seems unlikely). I'd suggest having the lens checked by a repair person. If you bought it used it may be that the two cells are mismatched or possibly reversed or something like that. As an aside, I don't think you don't need to stop down to f22 for your 240mm G Claron to cover 4x5 (though you may want to do so for other reasons). I regularly use my 240mm G Claron with an 8x10 camera and at f22 the lens covers that format easily.

10-Oct-2005, 09:13
A 240mm G-Claron is my most used lens for 4x5, generally at or near infinity, though not necessarily landscapes like you describe. I always try to use it in the f/22-f/32 range. I have yet to notice any focussing or depth of field issues with it.

mark blackman
10-Oct-2005, 09:17
quote from the Schneider Optics web site:

"The G-Claron is a lens of symmetrical design with six elements in four groups, optimized for 1:1 reproduction. The normally used range of linear magnifications is 5:1 to 1:5. The G-Claron may also be used for distances up to infinity by stopping down to f/22 or less".

Of course, this doesn't mean you *have* to stop down to f22 or less, and it's my experience that lens manufactures tend to err on the side of caution. For example, they do not recommend using the 240mm for 10x8 (they claim an image circle of 298mm at f22), but the fact you do illustrates my point.

Eric Leppanen
10-Oct-2005, 09:28
I own 4x5 lenses ranging from 58mm to 600mm focal lengths, which I tend to use almost equally (aside from the 58, which I use infrequently).

The longer lenses are vital for me because, aside from providing smaller angles-of-view for close-ups and distant objects, they also provide more options for optimizing compression of perspective. In general I have found that:

- My 150mm lens is the longest lens that can capture near-to-far compositions (where near is defined as within a couple yards of the camera) by solely stopping down, without resort to movements. This is important for compositions where movements just won't work.

- My 240-300mm lenses are the longest that can capture near-to-far compositions with non-planar objects, and require a combination of movements and stopping down. If the landscape is irregular (non-planar) then there is often no choice but to stop down quite a bit, even with movements. There is no getting around this.

- My 450mm lens can only capture near-to-far compositions with planar subjects, otherwise "near" must be farther away (perhaps 10+ yards from the camera). The 450 is also useful to close-ups of planar objects (such as Indian petroglyphs).

- My 600mm lens is used solely for distant objects.

Longer lenses on 4x5 are going to pose depth-of-field challenges, and all you can do is tailor your compositions so that movements can be used as much as possible, thereby minimizing the need for stopping down. To me, using a shorter lens with an otherwise overly large angle-of-view just to avoid stopping down is artificial, and can only hinder your compositions in the long run.

Jack Dykinga routinely stops down his lenses as much as the light permits, in order to achieve the most depth-of-field possible; he is more preoccupied with getting the shot in focus rather than minimizing diffraction.

Joseph O'Neil
10-Oct-2005, 09:49
I often use my 8.25 inch (aka 209mm) Artar and my 300mm Komura for landscapes.

Frankly, I like the look of not everything being in focus.

By having some part of the picture out of focus, it forces the eye of the person looking at your photograph to see what you want them to see.

Secondly almost all digital work today - everything is "perfect" - almost always in full focus. By having some part of yoru pciutre out of focus, it gives it a different look form much of todays photography.

If you have time, take at look at some old portraits - usually pre WW2 - where you see only the eyes and nose in focus on the whole face. Stand back and take a good look at them. I am not suggesting we go back to that style with all new portraits, but there certianly is "character" to these old portraits.

So instead of seeing it as a weakness, use the lack of depth of field to your advanatage. You might be pleasantly surprized.


Brian Ellis
10-Oct-2005, 10:10
Mark - Your message to which I was responding spoke only of coverage and that's all I was talking about as well. I used a 210mm G Claron on 8x10 for a while and IIRC it covered that format at f16. Also, as I mentioned, I currently own and use the 240mm G Claron on 8x10 and it easily covers even that format at f22. For those reasons I'm confident that while it may very well be desirable to stop a 240mm G Claron down to f22 for any number of reasons as Schneider states, it isn't necessary to do that solely to cover 4x5. But thanks for reading my message, sometimes I rattle on at such length that I wonder if anyone reads them. : - )

Eric Wagner
10-Oct-2005, 10:34
Like you, my longest lens for many years was a 180, and then I bought a 240 G-Claron. I didn't use the 240 much at first, but became fond of it as I learned to "see" better from the perspective of a longer lens. I use the 240 about half as much as the 180. 30 percent of my photos are taken with a 180 and 16 percent with the 240.

Doug Meek
10-Oct-2005, 10:39
I am always amused by the needless fretting over diffraction. To put it succinctly, there simply is no "very obvious decrease in resolution from f32 to f45 ". I am a sharpness fanatic. After all, resolution is one of the prime reasons we shoot large format to begin with. I routinely shoot at f/32 and f/45, especially with my long lenses (300, 360 and 500mm). 30x40's look very sharp, regardless of whether I shot at F/22 or f/45. I also just spent 6 days shooting with Tom Till in Utah. Tom, with rare exception (his words), shoots all of his images at f/32 or f/45. His Moab gallery is adorned with at least twenty 30x40 images, all of which are extremely sharp. I do not dispute the theoretical effects of diffraction, the laws of physics are undeniable. I do maintain, however, that the visible effect of diffraction at f/45 is nil. On the other hand, the gain in depth of field by using f/45 is substantial. In short, the benefit derived from increased depth of field far exceeds the insignificant loss of resolution due to diffraction. I speak not from textbook theory, but rather real world experience. Don't be afraid to shoot at f/32 or f/45!

QT Luong
10-Oct-2005, 12:15
In support of Doug's point, if you measure the focus spread for most non-planar subjects and lenses 210 and above,
you'll find the

"optimum" f-stop (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/fstop.html)
is usually at least f45.

Struan Gray
10-Oct-2005, 12:38
My most-used lens in 4x5 is an 18" (457 mm) Apo-Lustrar. Once you get that long, you are shooting either the valley floor or the mountains in the background, and so rarely have to worry about having both in focus at the same time. That said, one reason I stick with a monorail in the field is that it happily copes with the relatively large tilt angles needed to lay the plane of focus along the ground.

My second most-used lens is a 240 Apo-Ronar. I use it mostly for close-ups and detail shots, and it is an ideal length for when I want to point the camera straight down without getting that domed effect from too wide an angle, and still be able to peek at the ground glass.

I too often stop down beyond f22, but even at larger apertures I haven't been ambushed by misfocus or too-shallow depth of field. I think the well-illuminated ground glass you get with longer lenses helps to spot problems before you trip the shutter. The extra depth of focus makes alignment less of an issue too.

In short, I'd recommend using the lens a while longer before giving up.

David Karp
10-Oct-2005, 12:40
My experience matches Doug's and QT's. I use a 450mm Fujinon with my 4x5 fairly frequently. I use it for non-planar subjects and planar subjects when my feet cannot get me to where I need to be to make the photograph I want. Using the 450mm often leads to small apertures like f/45 and f/64, but I do not think that the resulting decrease in sharpness is visible at the sizes that I make my prints - no larger than 16x20. Perhaps if they were much larger, then there might be a noticeable problem.

I worry more about the chance for vibration or the wind picking up during the long exposures more than I am concerned about diffraction. If the choice is between worrying about diffraction or not taking the photograph, I always make the latter choice.

Matt Brain
10-Oct-2005, 14:06
Thanks for all the responses:

First, to an issue where I seem to be wrong - f32 to f45 being a lot less sharp, this is based on a roll film that I shot the other day over our town: 3 shots with the 180mm and 3 with the 240mm going from f22 - f45 with each all of the same scene. Obviously I have only one shot with each lens at each aperture so sample error is possible. The 180 mm didn't change much at f45 but (and I have read QT Luong's excellent article and was surprised) the 240mm could pull out the lines of corrugated iron roofing kilometers away at f22 and f32 (lines which the 180mm cannot resolve) but this fell off at f45 and more distant powerlines which resolved at f22 and f32 similarly were not much better than what the 180 mm could see at f22. I realise that I said the wrong thing: all shots look very sharp but the resolution drop is noticable - however I should take more photos to test this - as Dave Karp said and others implied if it meant getting the scene I would use the 240mm at f45. It is quite possible that there is something wrong with the lens but much more likely that there was something wrong with my technique for the f45 shot, as if there was something wrong the lens, it should be unmasked by wider apertures and more hidden by smaller.

For near far perspectives I do mean compositions that look good on the groundglass - usually with the near objects around 6-7m away and objects on the horizon. I use the longer lenses as others have stated, to bring emphasis onto the distant objects and be very selective about what is in the frame. The above composition (typical for how I would use this lens) still requires a focus spread without tilts of around 9-10mm movement of the standards and this borders on f64 to accomodate. With tilts, I can get this down to between 4-6mm. The suggested table for focus spread on the LFinfo site uses f45 from over 5mm spread.

I guess my question has been answered though: People obviously use and highly value their longer lenses and I will have to slicken my technique and practice acheiving focus more quickly. Perhaps using shorter lenses (65, 90 and 180) have made me lazy about thoroughly checking focus across the groundglass. But the time increase that each shot requires will costly in faster light and I suspect that in those situations I will be shooting with a shorter lens and cropping.

Ole Tjugen
10-Oct-2005, 16:25
My most used landscape lenses for 4x5" are 90, 240 and 360mm. If I need wider than 90mm, I'll put the same lens on a 5x7" camera. Same at the other end - if I need narrower than 360mm on 5x7", I'll go back for the 4x5" camera.

10-Oct-2005, 17:44
Don't forget that many lenses (especially older ones, but not limited to them) have focus shift as you change the aperture. It is necessary to check focus carefully after stopping down to shooting aperture.