View Full Version : Lenses Longer than 600mm/24" on 7x17

Kerry L. Thalmann
7-Nov-2005, 11:47
I also asked this question over on the APUG forum to solicit as many opinions as possible:

I'm considering moving up to 7x17 and have a question about lenses longer than 600mm/24" on this format. This is not the typical question about what lenses are available (I am familiar with the options) and how much they cover. It is a question about actual usage. Specifically, for all you 7x17 shooters, do you use a lens longer than 600mm/24" on this format. And if so, how often?

The reason I ask, is maximum bellows draw is one of the main considerations when purchasing a 7x17 camera. For me personally, camera weight is also an issue. I realize no 7x17 is going to be ultralight, but I'm not eager to carry more weight than necessary unless I really need it. I already own a 600mm Fujinon C, which is longer than normal on 7x17. If that ends up as my longest lens for 7x17, I can get by with a lightweight camera with a fairly short bellows. For anything longer, I start to get into heavier, bulkier, more expensive cameras and bigger and bulkier lenses that need a sturdy front standard to support them at full extension.

I currently shoot quite a bit of 4x10 and my lens kit consists of 110mm, 150mm, 210mm, 300mm and 450mm. The 150mm and 210mm are my most used focal lengths, followed by the 110mm and 300mm. The 450mm is my least used lens on 4x10, but I do use it on occasion, and I always carry it in my pack as it's just so darn small and light (it's a 450mm Fujinon C, which I also plan to use on 7x17).

I already have lenses in the 240mm, 355mm, 450mm and 600mm focal lengths that cover 7x17. This seems like a pretty good assortment of focal lengths. It doesn't quite cover the extremes at the wide and long ends that my 4x10 kit does, but it does covers the range from wide to moderately long quite well. Doing the math, the 600mm Fuji on 7x17 would be equal to about a 355mm lens on 4x10 and it would take a lens in the 750mm/30" range on 7x17 to equate to the 450mm I use as my longest lens on 4x10.

My gut instinct tells me I can probably get by without anything longer than the 600mm Fuji on 7x17, but I'd like to hear from users with more experience on this format. Buying a 7x17 camera is a spendy proposition and I don't want to buy one only to find out later the bellows are too short to meet my needs. On the other hand, I also don't wish to spend more money on a heavier camera if I'll never use the added bellows extension.

So, all you 7x17 shooters. Do you use lenses longer than 600mm/24"? How often (compared to shorter lenses)? What is the max. bellows extension of your camera? Do you ever wish you'd bought a camera with a longer bellows, or are you happy with what you've got? If you were shopping for your dream 7x17 camera, what is the absolute shortest maximum extension you'd consider mandatory on this format?


Daniel Grenier
7-Nov-2005, 12:45

I recently bought a triple-extension 7x17 Wisner that weighs in at 14.5 pounds. The bellows draw is (I think) 23" but longer bellows can be bought and installed in a snap on this camera. My longest lens is currently a 480mm which I find too short for the format in many instances. Hence, I am on the market for a 600mm but I'm not convinced I'd want longer than that.

My camera is the "Technical" model so it is heavier than really necessary for my needs as I could do without rear rise and rear geared tilt. I find the camera very solid, though, with only one complaint and that is the less-than 100% WYSIWYG between the GG and the film. I have to "shift" the image on the GG over by a good 1/8" to make sure it registers exactly as visualised on film - most annoying on tight compositions.

I do like my camera very much but I have no experience with other 7x17s so therre may well be better ones out there. Hope this helps.

Brian Vuillemenot
7-Nov-2005, 13:59
Hi Kerry,

I was just wondering, do you plan on switching to black and white when shooting 7X17? Or have you located a source of color 7X17 film?

Kerry L. Thalmann
7-Nov-2005, 14:10

The 7x17 would definitely be for black and white. 4x10 transparancy film and processing is pretty darn expensive. Even if 7x17 color was available, it would probably be too rich for my blood.


Kerry L. Thalmann
7-Nov-2005, 14:24
Daniel - Hence, I am on the market for a 600mm but I'm not convinced I'd want longer than that.

Thanks for the response. I'm leaning toward the 600mm Fuji as my longest lens on 7x17, but just wanted to see what other people had to say before committing to a camera with limited bellows draw. Heck, my 4x10 has 27" of bellows. When I first started looking at 7x17 cameras, I just assumed they'd all have a much longer bellows. Not true, many of them have even less bellows than my 4x10.

In any case, in a 600mm the Fujinon C is tough to beat. It has huge coverage, and even though it comes in a Copal No. 3 shutter, it's still compact, very light for a lens of this focal length, takes reasonably sized filters (67mm) and isn't outrageously priced. I bought mine while back on eBay and got a good price, but even new they are "only" $1425. Not exactly chump change, but also not bad for a new, shutter-mounted, multicoated 600mm lens capable of covering 12x20 with movements.

Other options are the 24" Red Dot Artar or 24" APO Ronar. I've seen 24" RD Artars in factory Ilex shutters, and I've also seen them re-mounted in Copal No. 3 shutters. By the time you pay for a shutter and the cost of custom machine work, you'd probably be better off looking for a used 600mm Fujinon C. Of course, both the Red Dot Artar and APO Ronar are most commonly found in barrel mounts in this focal length. When used with a Packard or LUC shutter, this can be an economical approach to a long lens for 7x17 (or other ULF formats). The 24" APO Ronars I've seen a LOT bigger and heavier than the 24" Red Dot Artars. So, that might be a consideration.


Oren Grad
7-Nov-2005, 15:09
Kerry -

It really, really depends on how you see. (Surprise!) I have no interest in a lens anywhere near that long for 7x17. For me it's not so much about the field of view as it is about the feeling of space in a picture. I'm pretty sensitive to the compression that sets in as you move beyond mathematical normal. I only occasionally use a lens longer than normal for the format I'm working in, and even then hardly ever go beyond about 1.25x the format diagonal. If anything, as the format gets both larger and more elongated, my bias is to go even shorter relative to the format diagonal, not longer.

FYI, a Phillips 7x17 from Dick's last batch measures pretty close to 26" from flange to film at maximum extension. The limiting factor is the total extension of the rear standard in one direction and the focusing bed in the other - this still leaves a bit of slack in the bellows, which means you can use the front movements even at maximum focus extension. The Phillips can securely hold a 480 Sironar-N at maximum extension without external stabilization.

Oren Grad
7-Nov-2005, 15:14
To be a bit more concrete about it, based on preliminary tinkering, I expect I'll settle on either 270 or 300 as my normal for 7x17, and will rarely use anything longer than 360. (Yes, 1.25x the 7x17 diagonal will get you pretty close to 600, but I can't imagine needing to go there.)

Michael Kadillak
7-Nov-2005, 15:49
I find that on 8x20 (closest I shoot to 7x17) I use the 24" Red Dot and the 450 M Nikon/19" Red Dot the most with the Schneider 355 G Claron next often. I have a 35" Red Dot with a front mounted Packard and a 42" Red Dot in shutter that rarely get used. It does not have to do with the "vision" component as much as what I would call the pain in the ass component. Both are heavy as hell and at their focal length and I feel I need a second tripod under the front standard to support the weight. It can be done but it is a lot more "involved" than the standard focal length (24" and under) photographs.

Ironically, I had a replacement 50" bellows made for my 8x20 but the standard 30" bellows seems to be on the camera most often as it is easier for me to use in the field.

If there was a 30" light weight lens that would cover 8x20 (still looking) I would not feel the need for my 35" and 42" artars. I would opt for at least 30" of bellows length just to be have a bit of security in the extension department. 50" of bellows is probably not necessary. Just my $0.02.


7-Nov-2005, 15:56
Kerry, I use a 30 inch red dot on my 8x20 but I have 40" of bellows. With a 27 " bellows you can't go much larger than 24 anyway. A 24" red dot would be a nice lens for a long lens for you on a 7x17. A 14" " Dagor would work nicely also. I think a 12" Dagor will cover too.

phil sweeney
7-Nov-2005, 16:39
Hi Kerry,

A trip this winter I used my 7 x 17 with a 15 inch lens almost as much as my 8 x 10. On occasion I found that I would have liked a longer lens and sort of figured a 30 inch lens would be my pick. Of course the korona has about 21 inches bellows draw. I am entertaining the idea of getting a 8 x 20 with a 7 x 17 back. I do not think I will use the 30 inch alot but I did figure I would prefer it to my 24 inch red dot. Since then I have picked up a 30 inch red dot.

Kerry L. Thalmann
8-Nov-2005, 00:39
Thanks to all for the responses. As expected, it all comes down to a matter of personal preference - and ease of use.

If I do end up assembling my own 7x17, I plan to make the design flexible enough to allow for increasing/decreasing the extension as needed. Since the longest lens I currently have is a 600mm that needs 573mm (22.6") of exension to focus at infinity, I'll probably start with a configuration that provides about 26" of extension (the same as the 7x17 Phillips). This will make the camera as light and compact as possible and will work well with my current set of lenses. The maximum extension will be a function of the length of the focusing rails and the bellows. By providing a way to add an longer extension rail and making the bellows interchangeable it would be easy to increase the maximum extension down the road if I someday feel the need to add a longer lens.

Even if I do add a longer lens in the future, I don't expect it will be anything longer than a 30" RD Artar or a 760mm APO Nikkor. Back in my 11x14 days, I owned a 35" Red Dot Artar. It was a beautiful lens, but as Michael mentioned the PITA factor was quite high. It really pushed the limits of my camera (and my patience) and was quite heavy to be dangling all the way out there on a less than rock-solid front standard.


Struan Gray
8-Nov-2005, 01:32
Some of the older process lenses are smaller and lighter than the modern APO-Ronars. Wray made long APO-Lustrars with f16 maximum apertures that are relatively compact. Hard to find though, especially in the US. Some of the early Artars I have seen are also less beast-like than modern lenses.

If you are going to go to the trouble of using a second tripod for your longer lenses, the rail or bed becomes just a way of aligning the front and rear standards as you set the coarse composition. It can therefore be a lot lighter and flimsier than a conventional monorail or extending bed. You could mount the front and rear standards on six-inch rails, and then join them with a lightweight spar - a lighting pole or monopod if you want something photographic, but CF kite making spars and fishing rod blanks are surprisingly cheap if you're tempted to make your own.

8-Nov-2005, 07:44
Well, the 12" dagor and the 16.5 artar pretty much do it for me. Part of the beauty of 7 x 17 is the wide ange of view (with a normal feel and size of the objects in the image). If anything, I might want to go a wee bit wider on occassion. No real desire for longer...yet....certainly I can't imagine longer than 600mm. Plus the lenses can be heavy, extended way out on the bellows with wind as a factor?

BTW, I picked up a 16.5 artar in shutter for $216 on the famous auction site. Yes, its NOT a red dot, but appears coated and has excellent contrast. No flare in photos either. That's what a lens shade or your hand is for..You may want to look into a 19" artar?

Tracy Storer
8-Nov-2005, 08:17
While I haven't used the format extensively yet, I have felt the need to use the 600, but not longer. Usually switching from 14x17 to 7x17 is enough to eliminate excessive blurry foreground. I one were shooting "grand landscape" type imagery, you might want something longer sometimes.

J. P. Mose
8-Nov-2005, 09:08
Kerry....what about the new Schneider Fine Art 1100mm lens? I know it is quite pricey at $4,395, but it does have an image circle of 900mm. Just a suggestion...JP Mose

Kerry L. Thalmann
8-Nov-2005, 11:40
J.P. - The 1100mm XXL is too long, too heavy and too expensive for my needs. If I do go beyond 600mm on the 7x17, it will probably be a barrel mounted 30" RD Artar or 760mm APO Nikkor.

Struan - I'd prefer to keep it to a single tripod set-up. This will require a tripod head with a big platform, and perhaps an outrigger support arm. I think a single sturdy tripod with a good head should be able to handle a lightweight 7x17 camera with a 600mm Fujinon C. For going longer, the outrigger support arm might do the trick. As I plan to hike with this beast, a second tripod, even a lightweight carbon fiber one, is really a burdern (literally). Using two tripods is also a PITA in the field. I'd rather make the focusing rails a little beefier and the tripod head platform a little bigger than deal with a second tripod in the field.


8-Nov-2005, 12:57
Monopod....can be used as a walking stick and it will provide that little extra stability when you need it with those longer heavier lenses. I have the ries mono, but a CF one would weigh next to nothing. I have a small swivel bipod the screws right on top of mine that allows the lens to sit down into it. Works great.

Struan Gray
8-Nov-2005, 14:32
I can understand your reasoning. All the same, a bipod or even a very flimsy lightweight tripod can make a big difference to vibration with long extensions. It's a simple matter of long lever arms producing large torques: you eventually reach the point where having a single, beefy support point becomes counter productive. Have you seen the Novoflex basicball + two hiking poles solution? I do something similar but uglier with my ski pole straps round an extended monorail.

In my idle moments I design lightweight ULF kit in my head, and I keep coming back to the Panfield-like idea of having a well-featured camera for short lenses with an add-on simple extension for when longer lenses are used. In 4x5 I have to add extra rails, bellows and an intermediate standard once I go above 18", and I carry my 'long kit' as a seperate bag in my backpack, so splitting the camera in two seems like a natural thing to do. In ULF it makes more sense to extend the front than the back, so as to avoid carrying around a huge bellows.

In your shoes I would be tempted to make a 7x17 field-like camera that worked well with lenses up to your arm size in focal length. Then put a rail clamp for your Toho or Arca-Swiss rail on the front of the bed and have a bellows connection on the front standard or on a special lensboard. There is a danger of vignetting, but that's simple geometry to avoid, and if it's a big deal you can make the add-on bellows tapered (use a 5x7 bellows for cameras with 4x5 front standards).

I saw you snagged the 355: have you seen he 750 Artar?

8-Nov-2005, 15:25

This is a (very) rough sketch of a setup of my own. The extra black 'leg' is a Manfroto-like extension that collapses into itself for carry. When you need it, it pins to the leg, extends to whatever length is necessary, and then to the big, heavy lens via a velcro strap. Lightweight, small. Dunno. Just a thought.

(I wrote 'Manfroto-like' because it's not by Manfroto, but the same stock material.)

Jerry Fusselman
9-Nov-2005, 13:13
Nice diagram, jj! How did you make it? And how did you manage to make it display here?

John Z.
9-Nov-2005, 16:43
I shoot 11x14, but think my set-up is close enough to offer one pearl. I have found that the Nikon T 800mm and 1200mm lenses cover my format, although the published coverage for these lenses indicates otherwise. This lens cobination comes as one lens with an interchangable rear element.
It is of great use to use a long lens at times, that requires much less bellows draw (2/3 the standard bellows draw, being a Telephoto lens). It has saved me a lot of effort and expense in finding comparable 30-40 inch Red Dot Artar lenses, not to mention the weight savings, and also not needing a longer bellows.