View Full Version : FLs for LF beginner?

David Honey
7-Nov-2005, 14:14
Well, thanks in part to all of you here on this forum, I'm almost ready to shoot my first LF images, after 20+ years of fairly serious 35mm, and lately dSLRs.

My camera is a beautiful 4x5 Graphic View II that's again like new after getting some TLC and a lube/adjustment of the focusing gear.

My first LF lens, as it turns out (due to a handy trade for a 35mm lens) is a mint Fujinon W 210mm/f5.6 in a Copal No. 1 shutter.

I originally wanted a 90mm (Super Angulon or Fuji SW) as I felt it would more closely approximate the 20mm I've lately been using for landscapes, trees, etc. on my dSLR (equivalent to 30mm fl on 35).
However, now I'm not sure a 90mm will work well enough on my camera, given the limited amount of bellows compression, even with a recessed lens board. A 105 or 120mm, though probably a nice useable length for the GVII, would have comparatively little coverage to make sense, I think.

My questions:

Is there a good 90mm with fairly wide coverage on a shutter small enough to fit into a recessed lens board in the GVII? (I will build a custom lens board if necessary). I think maybe the SA and Fuji SW are too big to fit.

Is my 210mm Fujinon W a good 'all round' lens to get started in LF? How about it's sharpness compared to other 210mms? I'd guess that I might be 'backing off' quite often(?) I know it's coverage is terrific and should allow full use of the camera's movements, and therefore be a good learning tool as well as perhaps a 'second' lens to a WA..

Which brings me back to my desire for the 90mm. Am I wrong in thinking that you 'need' a wide-angle for LF at all, in the way you seem to for 35mm?

Apologies for the convoluted form of my questions.. Any advice at all will be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

David Honey

Steve Feldman
7-Nov-2005, 14:53
I can't comment on all of your questions, but here's what I can:

A recessed lens board (5/8) was made for the View II cameras. Considering the LF format is 4x5: A 90mm LF WA lens is the equivalent of a 18mm in the 35mm format. 150mm in LF is a normal. Therefore your 210mm is a moderate long focal length.


steve simmons
7-Nov-2005, 15:00
A 90mm lens on a 4x5 is approx equivilent to a 28mm on a 35mm. How often did you use that focal length?.

Ys, the 210Fuji is fine. Just photograph and enjoy.

steve simmons

Mark Sawyer
7-Nov-2005, 15:00
Hey, David! Welcome to the lf forum!

The 90mm is a very useful lens, and fairly common for 4x5 photographers, which tells you that it definitely has usefulness. I like shooting with wide angle lenses in large format (8x10) too.

Is it necessary? No, but it may well be the best lens for your particular vision. That you used a wide angle lens on your digital camera is an indication that you might like one on your 4x5, but be open to the thought that your vision might change with the new format. One thing composing on a ground glass is known for is changing how you see. Even if you decide a few years from now to go back to a digital SLR, your experiences with large format will influence your imagery more than you think.

A 150mm is the "normal" lens for a 4x5, but then, who wants to be normal... I'd make it a point to work with the 210 and give it a fair chance. It will (I suspect) tend to isolate the subject and allow for more formal composition, (working with the upside down image helps some people see the abstract nature of how their images are put together.) I suspect you'll want that 90mm, but the 210mm will make a nice counterpoint.

BTW, yes, you'll have more room for movements with the 210's increased coverage, but the longer focal lengths need more movements to get the same effect, so it's kind of a wash.

If you're on a budget, consider a later Linhof Select/Technica version of the 90mm Angulon. Not as much coverage as the SA or Fuji SW, but still a nice, compact lens at a much lower price. (Some knowledgable people will poo-poo that lens, but I like it!)

And remember, you'll have to run both standards way forward on the monorail to keep the rail out of the image with a 90mm. If the back of the rail isn't poking you in the throat while focusing, better check the top of the ground glass...

David Honey
7-Nov-2005, 15:49
Thanks for the welcome, and for the advice.

Yes, of course the thing is to get out and shoot some film (which I haven't done in a long time, let alone develop my own). I can't wait, but on the other hand I don't want to rush.. there's still a bit for me to learn by reading...

I picked up some Polaroid 52, 55, and 59, and a 550 back, so it shouldn't be too long. After that I'll get a box of Tri-X and test the girlfriend's reaction to having trays of chemicals in the bathtub ;-)

The 210 seems like as good a starter as any; Eugene (thanks again for the email) is recommending a Fuji 105 SW to go with the 210, so I'll give it a look when the budget allows.


Janko Belaj
7-Nov-2005, 16:16
David, I have, for my backpacking, small Tachihara with 210 (G-Claron) and 135 (Symmar) mm lenses. I had plans to use 90mm SA, but, lazy as I am, have found that old 135mm symmar is almost perfect companion for 210mm lens. Fine wider normal lens. something like 40mm on leica format. (What I really like.) Right now I think it would be better with combination like 120+240... the latter one I have got for my 8x10, but something like 120(+/-) will wait... just my 2 cents.

John Berry ( Roadkill )
7-Nov-2005, 18:10
I do landscapes and I usually find myself using my 135 wide field Ektar or 121 SA more than the 90 fuji that I have. I find the 90 wants to let the mountains in the background get small too fast. I did find it to be a great lens shooting in the slot canyons though. My first LF view camera came with an 8 1/2 in comercial Ektar. It was the only lens I had for 2 years. There is somthing to be said about only having one lens. I think it helped me to learn how to see things in more than one way when I had to make one lens work. That said, I now have a choice of 8 focal lengths. 90mm-24"

7-Nov-2005, 19:39
"A 105 or 120mm, though probably a nice useable length for the GVII, would have comparatively little coverage to make sense, I think."

I'm not sure I understand this. You can get 105mm that almost cover 8x10. Or 120mm that do cover 8x10.

Wayne Crider
7-Nov-2005, 20:02
The 90mm to me was a lens where I had to be practically on top of the subject to get a frame filled photo, otherwise for typical landscapes everything looked too far back. I shoot a 135mm now which seems to be a decent all around and slightly wide lens.

Graeme Hird
7-Nov-2005, 22:39
Welcome to the world at large, David.

When I first got into LF (4x5) I bought a 90mm SA to go with my Tachihara. I preferred a 24mm lens on my 35mm gear and the 90mm turned out to be a pretty good approximation - in 4x5, a 90mm "seems" wider than the 28mm lens on 35mm gear, probably due to the squarer format.

You need a WA lens for LF, and the 90mm SA is a good one to get. It's certainly sharp enough and I would recommend one. You may not even need a recessed lens board.


David Honey
7-Nov-2005, 23:12
Steve, I used a 28mm a lot on 35, and now always have a 20mm on one dSLR (= 30mm). My other dSLR always has a 300mm on it, but that's for the birds so I don't think it'll translate in LF!

At one time I used only 24, 35, and 105mm (on 35). Different kind of photography, different subjects. Things change, as they should, and I don't imagine LF will allow me to see things the same even if I wanted to (I don't).

Thanks again for your feedback, everyone. This is a great site.

BTW, the 210mm seems like a terrific length for close range technical shots.


Doremus Scudder
8-Nov-2005, 03:50

To answer your question: The 90mm SA f8 (the smaller version) fits into the standard recessed lens board on the Graphic View. I used one like that for years. You will need a 90-degree cable release adapter or a cable release with a very small tip (that's what I have) permanently installed. I have since transferred the 90mmSAf8 to a Technika recessed board. It's a tight fit and I have to adjust shutter and aperture with the tip of the cable release or a pencil tip. Seems to me that I did that with the GVII as well.

Is 90mm right for you? I too have a selection of lenses that includes a 203mm, 135mm, 90mm, 240mm, and 300mm. I end up using the 135 more than any of the others. I picked up an almost new Nikkor on the famous auction site for very little. If you are on a budget, you may want to pick up the 135mm next. You will almost certainly want it at sometime in the future anyway. If it is still to long, then look for a good used SA90 in the f8 variety. They are also available fairly inexpensively. The Angulon 90s (no "Super") are good lenses but have very limited coverage. If you plan on using movements at all with the 90mm then get a lens with better coverage.

BTW, 90mm on 4x5 is approx. equal to 28mm on 35mm film.


neil poulsen
8-Nov-2005, 09:22
The 90mm f5.6 Super Angulon has pretty broad coverage with an image circle of 235 at f22 and has the same sized shutter as the f8 version. I'm not sure how well it fits the GV, though. Both the front and rear elements are larger on the f5.6.

The 90mm f8 has an image circle 216mm at f22.

Scott Davis
8-Nov-2005, 09:56
It may take some time, perhaps more time than you want, to find a Goerz Dagor 4 3/8" (110mm) F8. It is a great lens- very nice mild wide - wider than a 135 (which many people consider to be a normal lens for 4x5) but not as exaggerated as a 90. I got mine on that auction site for about $100. You may have to perform a shutter-ectomy on it when you get it , as the shutter on mine is rather unreliable (it likes to stick a lot), even after a thorough CLA. It is also long enough that you can probably use it on your GVII with a flat lensboard. It will allow some movements on 4x5, and will probably cover 5x7 with minimal movement. Another plus, although not particularly useful for your current camera, is that it is so compact, I can leave it installed on my Shen Hao when I fold it closed.

Jim Galli
8-Nov-2005, 11:21
You're off to a grand start with the 210-W. One of my most used 4X5 lenses is a Fuji 125-W. Excellent coverage for 4X5 and really REALLY seriously sharp. Small 90's like the old Schneider 6.8 Angulon and the Congo WF f6.3 are too limiting for my tastes on 4X5. Although coverage on either of those might be a good match for what your old bellows will allow.

David Honey
8-Nov-2005, 12:01
Thanks everyone for the continuing info and feedback.

When I'm ready for another lens a 105 - 120mm will probably be about right. The 210 will have to do me for now, while I find my LF feet. Probably a good thing to keep it simple.

Given this, what exercises can I try with my 210/5.6 on the GVII that will be most educational and useful? What would you say are it's specific strengths/weaknesses? How to extend it's usefulness? etc..

I forgot to mention that the camera came with an old generic German 90mm lens on it that has a suspect Prontor shutter (currently undergoing home surgery). I'm not sure that it's worth fooling with, but it might at least give me an idea of composing with a 90mm.


Mark Sawyer
8-Nov-2005, 12:20
David- if you can just get the T or B setting going, it might be enough for quite a bit of your work. Even removing the shutter blades and using a lenscap can be functional; many of us here often use barrel lenses with no shutters. And don't sell those old lenses short- they can be quite nice!

For learning movements on a view camera, architectural photography will teach you the most. But I'd recommend just start doing what you want to do and learn from experience that applies directly.

If you haven't got one yet, get a book specifically on view cameras. Steve Simmons has one that I like (excellent info, well illustrated, and very easily understood), and frequently loan out to students interested in large format. A good resource book will definitely jumpstart your learning process.

Don Wallace
9-Nov-2005, 05:12
The 90mm SA I had did NOT fit properly into the Graphic View recessed lensboard. For the life of me, I can't remember the shutter but it was not a modern copal (Synchro-Compur, maybe?). I DO remember that the previous owner had filed a slot in the board to fit a cable release. The SA would fit inside the board, but the fit was so tight I could not change the aperture. Later models may work.

David Honey
9-Nov-2005, 09:50
Thanks Don. I see now there's a problem with this camera using wide-angles if you need any more than very limited movements.
After looking at lens specs, taking a few measurements, and trying out the camera movements, it looks like a 105 would be no better and only the most expensive 120mms would allow a bit more clearance.

I guess that doesn't mean you couldn't still use a 90 or 105.. but how well can you do without movements in most wide-angle work?


David Honey
9-Nov-2005, 10:50
PS - I would have have a decent amount of front and back tilt or swing, but only 3/4" or so of front rise. That might be enough for all I know..


9-Nov-2005, 13:15
The Fuji SW 105mm has a flange focal distance of 116mm. Wouldn't that work with a flat board on the camera? Look around it can be cheap used.

David Honey
9-Nov-2005, 19:08
Thanks Nick, that is one lens I noticed might work. I just got an offer of a recessed board, so it's worth a try (if the shutter is compact enough).


Don Wallace
10-Nov-2005, 11:14
The 90mm Angulon (not Super Angulon) looks pretty small and I bet it would fit. It has a lot less coverage, but in terms of movements, you will be surprised how LITTLE you need to get the effect you want. I know that view cameras are often shown twisted all over the place in advertisements (not so much anymore) but that is nonsense. For example, in most landscape photography, the amount of front tilt you need to get the focus you want (especially with short focal length lenses) is miniscule. Architecture, of course, is a different thing, especially interiors. The first time I actually used Scheimpflug with a landscape, I laughed out loud at how little forward tilt it took to get focus from foreground to infinity. If you want to use lenses from quite long to quite short, you will eventually have to get a camera with interchangeble bellows (a shorter or even bag bellows for short focal length lenses). The problem with the Graphic View is that it has quite a long bellows, so focusing with short focal length lenses really compresses it very tightly. Even if you get a 90mm on it, it is hard to use movements when so compressed. I suggest getting something along the lines of a 135-150mm to go with your 210. My 4x5 lenses are 210, 150, and 90. I used to own a Graphic View but went to another camera for more ease of use with the 90mm.

David Honey
10-Nov-2005, 13:12
Thanks Don, that's very helpful to hear, especially the part about being surprised at how little front tilt you often need under actual circumstances. I can understand that, as a short FL lens should already have good DOF.

At the moment I'm still thinking of the Fuji 105mm/5.6 SW, especially as I've found a GV recessed lens board that might allow it to work OK.

Any more feedback on the 210mm FL in general? Does anyone use it for it's intrinsic value, can it be pretty 'blah' and uninspiring? etc etc. And that particular Fuji W -- I feel like it's probably an OK lens, sharp enough, etc., but not necessarily remarkable. Will I wish I'd got Schneiders or Rodenstocks later on?

Of course I'm aware that this is probably just silly pseudo-technical stuff, but in 35mm and dSLR I always chose only the sharpest fixed-FL lenses, and FLs that were often intrinsically interesting to use in themselves (either quite wide, very close-focusing, or very long.)

Just that it's a new arena for me, so I'm pretty curious as to what you all think.

Thanks to you all for your help.

David Honey
10-Nov-2005, 18:43
Sorry -- just ignore my 'brand-comparison insecurity' and other tripe. It's not important, especially to me at this stage.

I'll start with the 'old' 210mm Fuji and go from there. Can't afford (and don't need Schneiders) right now anyway!


Ole Tjugen
10-Nov-2005, 22:36
" 'Blah' and uninspiring" is a description which fits many pictures made with excellent lenses, as well as many made with less "exhilarating" lenses.

Honestly: Don't worry about sharpness of this or that lens as compared to something else. All modern lenses are sharp enough! And some oldre lenses as well - within its limitations, a 1900 Rapid Rectilinear is every bit as sharp as a brand new Schneider or Rodenstock lens.

I use lenses from 90mm to 360mm on 4x5" and 5x7". None of them are multicoated, some are uncoated, and the newest is from 1972. In addition I have quite a few 19th century lenses. Some have less contrast than others due to flare in the uncoated lens elements, but none are "unsharp". My whole "collection" of 20-odd LF lenses has cost me less than one single new lens from any major manufacturer!

If you stick to coated lenses, you could get a 90, 135, 150, 165, 180, 210, 300 and 360 for about $2000 - in total.

David Honey
10-Nov-2005, 23:15
Good point, Ole!

(It's not the lens, but the nut behind it!)



William Mortensen
11-Nov-2005, 12:39
"Honestly: Don't worry about sharpness of this or that lens as compared to something else. All modern lenses are sharp enough! And some oldre lenses as well - within its limitations, a 1900 Rapid Rectilinear is every bit as sharp as a brand new Schneider or Rodenstock lens."

I agree with Ole. I have a 121mm Linhof-Select Super Angulon in a Copal shutter for my 8x10, but it's big and heavy so I leave it at home and take a tiny 125mm brass-barreled Neuhring from the late 19th century.

Earlier this year, I took eight of my favorite lenses out and shot the same scene with each. The lighting was quite subdued (which I prefer), and technically, the results, while not identical, were remarkably similar, especially in sharpness. Under harsher light (direct sunlight), there is a marked difference between coated and uncoated lenses, but if the sun is kept from directly hitting the elements, I generally prefer the softer uncoated optics. Your mileage may vary, but don't discount those old lenses til you've spent time with one...

BTW, 127mm Ektars and 135mm Optars, coated and in working shutters, are to be had in the $50 range sometimes.

David Honey
11-Nov-2005, 12:58
Thanks Mark. That sounds like a lot of fun. I always go to the photo swaps, now with LF in mind, and as I get to know what to look for I'm sure I'll collect all kinds of lenses, and most will of necessity be cheap.

Probably takes time to learn which old lens can be made to fit which shutter assembly, etc; but if you can get it to focus on the ground glass, who cares? Non-working/inaccurate shutter speeds would seem to be another damper, but as has been said, it still doesn't preclude using the lens.

I recently went through a two-week novelty phase of sticking prisms and various old optics on a bracket in front of a dSLR lens to see what came about. One shot was the closest I think I've gotten to something that, once converted to b+w, looked like a 19th-century daguerrotype (only without the resolution, and completely by accident!)