View Full Version : 165mm lens recommendations for 4X5

John Layton
16-Dec-2005, 08:34
While I really like my current lineup of lenses for 4X5, consisiting of 90/120/210/and 305 focal lengths, I'm feeling a need for a 165. Not a 150 or a 180 - but a 165! I know I could look at a Dagor or maybe an Angulon - but for the sake of overall consistency of process and results, I really do want something optically consistent with modern (post 1980) lenses - something with properties more or less equivalent to at least a Sironar - N or Symmar - S. Am I missing something? If not, I'm a little surprised that a focal length that would fit so well between the ever-popular 120 and 210 offerings remains unavailable.

steve simmons
16-Dec-2005, 08:43
The 165 foal lenght will probably be an older lens and may not be up to snuff optically with your other lenses. The difference between 150 and 1265 is pretty small. I would get a newer 150.

just my thoughts

steve simmons

John Layton
16-Dec-2005, 09:07
Thanks Steve - you're probably right. For awhile I used a 135, as it provided good continuity with my 90, 210, and 305 lenses - but consistently needed something "just a bit wider" - and the 120 has been perfect. But the differences between 150 and 165, as you say, are not that great, and proportionally less than those between a 120 and 135. So maybe I'll try a 150.

Ralph Barker
16-Dec-2005, 09:09
You could always try a 165mm f/8 Super Angulon - they are quite sharp. The only problem is they are a little on the hefty side - 105mm filters, and around 1600 grams. ;-)

Jim Galli
16-Dec-2005, 09:21
Calumet made a sweet little single coated 165mm in the mid '70's with their Caltar brand line up. It was actually made by Ilex but the last of the crop is found in the early style Copal 0 shutter. It is a tessar design and the one I had for a while was very satisfyingly sharp. That may have been the last of the 165's. A modern-ish coated Dagor would trump the Ilex, and you may have to settle for a 180 to get into the same world as your other modern lenses. An f9 A series Fujinon 180mm is in a class all it's own for sharpness. I have a coated Kodak 170mm f7.7 which is little brother to the common 203mm f7.7 and it blows me away how sharp it is, but I've never seen another coated one. It fits a Copal 0. None of the older stuff has modern style filter threads.

John Layton
16-Dec-2005, 09:21
Yeah - my 120 S.A. is a bit hefty as it is - and for this reason I sometimes think I might like to replace this with a 120 Super-Symmar HM at some point. But I really like the qualities of my 120 S.A., and so I'm not sure that I'd give it up.

John Layton
16-Dec-2005, 09:25
Jim - I missed your post and was replying to Steve and then Ralph. Yes - I've seen the 165 Caltars, and they come up with some regularity at very decent prices. I could probably just buy one, test it out and re-sell it if it didn't work out. Going to 180 or longer is getting a bit close to my beloved 210 - so I think Steve's idea of the 150 probably makes more sense. Lots of offerings in this F.L. also.

Joseph O'Neil
16-Dec-2005, 09:32
I have a 135mm Rodenstock, and a 180mm Rodenstock. It's a nice jump for me. I do have an older Ilex Anastigmat (spelling) Paragon that is around 162 to 164mm range (once you convert it from inches).

A noticable jump to be sure form 135mm, but I find I use my newer 180mm more. Something too about the 180mm size I like , maybe because they often cover 5x7, so for 4x5, it has lots of movments.

If you see one of these Ilex lenses for a decent price, in good shape, it is worth buying,(I got mine for $50 cdn - and shutter is in great shape), but like all Tessars, you have to stop them down (soft at the edge) and while the one i have has some room for movements, it's not much.

I've used a number of older lenses, including wide field ektars, commercial ektars, etc, and most of these older tessars from the 50's and 60's are pretty good, but unless you have something special like a commercial or WF ektar, most of these regular ektars, wollensaks, ilex, even that schneider tessar that was sold on crown graphics , while all good lenses, you pretty much have to stop them down and you'll find little in the way of movements, especailly compared to newer lenses.

I don't know of too many other lenses in that range.

The other thought is like you i have used a couple of 210mm lenses, sold one, (kept the 209mm artar :), but I find I use my 180mm more than my 210mm. I've always been puzzled why 210mm is a defacto standard, because I personally find 180mm to be "just right" when composing in the ground glass. It "fills that gap" , at least for me. Either schneider or rodenstock ( I have one of each in 180mm), and hard to say which is better.


David Karp
16-Dec-2005, 09:56

If you ever have a chance, try out an older 125mm f/5.6 Fujinon W, or the current CM-W. The older one (which I have) uses 52mm filters. The newer one, uses 67mm filters, which I am guessing, probably fit most of your other lenses. The newer one also has a larger image circle than the version I have. At any rate, both are smaller than your current 120, and might be worth a try.

Kerry L. Thalmann
16-Dec-2005, 10:53

I'm going to shake up your whole world (feel free to ignore what I'm about to say). My current lens set for 4x5 shooting is:

80mm f4.5 Super Symmar XL
110mm f5.6 Super Symmar XL
150mm f5.6 APO Sironar-S
210mm f5.6 APO Symmar
300mm f9 Nikkor M
450mm f12.5 Fujinon C

I am very happy with the quality of all the lenses, the size and weight, and the spacing of the focal lengths. For many years back in the early 1990s, my lens set consited of:

75mm f4.5 Nikkor SW
90mm f8 Nikkor SW
135mm f5.6 Nikkor W
210mm f5.6 Nikkor W
360mm/500mm f8/f11 Nikkor T-ED set

While I liked the 90mm, 135mm, 210mm spacing, I found the 75mm and 90mm a bit too close together and the gap between the 210mm and 360mm a bit wide.

Then I started down a slippery slope. I acquired a 120mm Super Symmar HM at a favorable price from a friend. I bought it to use on a 6x17 point-n-shoot camera I was building from an old US Navy torpedo camera, but it was such a sweet lens, I also HAD to use it on 4x5. Of course, it was too close to my 135mm to carrry both. So, when I got a good deal on a 150mm f5.6 APO Sironar-S, I bought it and sold the 135mm Nikkor. I ended up replacing my 135mm with two lenses and didn't really address the spacing issue at the wide and long ends - and my lens kit was now getting heavier.

Along comes Schneider with their fabulous 110mm Super Symmar XL. A wonderful lens that allowed me to replace the 90mm and 120mm and even out my spacing on the wide end a bit. I then bought the 300mm Nikkor M as a long lens for backpacking and eventually combined it with the 450mm Fujinon C to replace the heavier Nikkor telephoto set. The final piece of the puzzle was the 80mm Schneider Super Symmar XL, it's smaller, lighter and has more coverage (and unfortunately more illumination fall-off) than any 75mm on the market.

It took me a few years to transition from my old lens kit to my new, but I am quite happy with what I have and haven't felt any urge to chance anything for several years now.

Long story short; you might consider replacing your 120mm Super Angulon with a 110mm Super Symmar XL and then adding a nice modern 150mm lens. The two lenses togther will weigh less than the 120mm Super Angulon and the 110mm will give you just as much coverage, a brighter ground glass and even better performance. The 110mm - 150mm spacing might also work better for you than 120mm - 150mm, which seems a bit close to me. I really like the 110mm focal length on 4x5. It's a nice, gentle wide angle that I find easy to work with. As a bonus, I've also used the same lens on 5x7 and 4x10.


John Layton
16-Dec-2005, 11:59
Hmmm..... maybe a little shakeup would be a good thing! But its really interesting how the paradigms can shift when fantastic new products - like Schneider's 110, are introduced. And yes, I'm thinking of this very combo - 80/110/150/210/305/450 as where I'd ultimately like to settle with 4X5. Seems like lots of glass, and yet within this combo are several very useful sub-combos. I know that the 110 and 210 would always be with me, just as the 120 and 210 are now, and with the compactness of many current 150's I'd likely always have this along as well. The 305 would be next, and an 80 and 450 would be more "need specific" lenses.

But I'm so enamoured of the 90 and 120 focal lengths, that I may instead just opt. to pick up a 150, then maybe a 450 and a 65, and live with this (65/90/120/150/210/305/450) for awhile. But wait - that's one lens in addition to the already expanded selection mentioned above! I think the term "slippery slope" pretty much says it! Too much thinking here - watch out.....I'm reaching for my Holga!

Dan Fromm
16-Dec-2005, 12:11
John, if you can find one, the 160/5.6 Pro Raptar isn't bad. Essentially a Symmar-S, but made in Rochester.

Sal Santamaura
16-Dec-2005, 12:24
If you're patient, and can go with 158mm instead of 165mm, Barbara Lowry says you'll be able to buy a modern multicoated version of the Cooke Series VIIb. Will probably require waiting a couple of years though.

John Layton
16-Dec-2005, 13:52
Sal - this looks intriguing! And to add to the upcoming Cooke set the 80 and 110 XL's - could be worth the wait! Of course, Cooke glass is just wonderful - I'd probably get spoiled by this and then wish that they'd come out with their own wides for 4X5! Barbara - you reading this?

Brad Rippe
16-Dec-2005, 17:37

I agree with Steve, get a 150 Sironar-S, not that much different from a 165. If you are replacing your 120, check out the
125 Fujinon CM-W. I recently purchased one to replace my 120 Nikkor SW, and it is a great lens. As Dave points out, it does take 67mm filters, but I think it takes 52mm filters on the rear element. It's light and really sharp and a lot less expensive than the Schneider 110.

I now use my 120 for super wide on 8 by 10, but I'll use it on 4 by 5 if I need greater coverage. So far, the Fuji is perfect. I would like a 150 Sironar-S as well. Kerry pointed out it might be a little tight on the lens spacing, but I think it would work for me.

I'd also like to try a 240 Fuji, but it might be a bit close to my 200 Nikkor-M. That would be great for 8 by 10 though.