View Full Version : My first viewcam...Now for the lens

Steve H
16-Dec-2005, 10:46
I just acquired my first view camera (in 4x5 format), a Sinar F2 (With standard and bag bellows). With that being said, I am now poor. Unfortunately my camera did not come with any lenses (although boards were included). My question is what focal length should I purchase first ? My thought process is to get a 150mm lens first, as it is the 'normal' lens - sound reasonable ?
I basically want to make sure that I get a lens that I will be able to use for a while, as it may be a while until my bank account has more black than red.

Thanks for all the help - I look forward to the board.


Emre Yildirim
16-Dec-2005, 10:51
My first semi-fancy view camera was a Sinar F2 as well. The lens I used with it was a 180mm F/5.6 Nikkor-W. Typically, anything in the 150 - 180 range will be fine if you want a normal lens. It really just depends on what you want to do with your view camera. If you want to shoot landscape stuff, you'll need a wide-angle lens. You already have bag bellows, so that's a plus. If you just want to shoot portraiture, a 180 - 150 (or maybe even 210) lens will do.

In other words, what do you plan on shooting?

Brian Vuillemenot
16-Dec-2005, 11:06
Get yourself a Rodenstock Apo Sironar-S 150 mm- you can't go wrong with the best, and not too much more $ than the rest. Use just this lens until you are somewhat comfortable with the LF photo making process- at least one year.

Ron Marshall
16-Dec-2005, 11:19
Steve, Welcome to large format. I started this year with a Sinar F1, you should be happy with your F2. There are plenty of resources on this site concerning lens selection. This one is an Excell spreadsheet of the current 4x5 lens specifications.


Kerry Thalmann has a great site: www.thalmann.com/largeformat/

My first lens was a 180, since then I have gone 110, 75, finally 300.

I took my time, bought used and was able to get some great deals. I think I would be somewhat happier with 90, 135, 200, 300, but that is splitting hairs. Or, 90, 150, 240.

Consider weight if you plan to do much hiking, and what other focal lengths you eventually plan to aquire.

Good luck

16-Dec-2005, 11:22
150mm is an excellent choice, as is 135mm. I presume that you'll be buying used -- consider a Symmar, which can also be converted to longer focal lengths by removing the front element and shooting at a small aperture. Be sure to get one with the shutter working properly, or plan to spend another $75 to have it cleaned and adjusted.

steve simmons
16-Dec-2005, 11:39
before recommending a specific lens by a particular manufacturer I would suggest we ask

what are his favorite lenses from his other formats

what does he want to photograph?

I forgot about the rteformatting that takes place

here is what I meant to say

IMHO the older convertible Symmars are ok when used all put together but suffer badly when taken apart and used in the converted mode.

Since you are new to large format may I suggest some reading

User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone

Large Format nature Photography by Jack Dykinga

Using the View Camera that I wrote

are the three books I recommend as a place to start

plus the articles on the View Camera web site


if you have any questions just ask

steve simmons


--steve simmons 2005-12-16 10:38 PST

Nick Morris
16-Dec-2005, 11:43
Hello and welcome to large format. Steve Simmons made a very good suggestion in his reponse.
In other formats, what focal length best serves your photographic vision?

I have a nice selection of lenses that I can use with 4x5; from 100mm WF Ektar to a 13"' Wollensak that is primarily used with my 8x10. The lenses I have most often used on my 4x5 is a 135mm WF Ektar and a 203mm 7.7 Ektar; a moderately wide and a long normal.


Ron Marshall
16-Dec-2005, 11:53

I forgot to mention sources for used equipment. Do a Google search on these. I have no affiliation with any of the following stores, but I have done business with all of them and have been satisfied with their service and the quality of their used lenses.

KEH camera brokers; Midwest Camera exchange, Badger Graphics.

Good luck!

Ernest Purdum
16-Dec-2005, 17:07
In selecting a lens for a view camera, the most common mistake is to buy something that doesn't allow use of the movements. I keep seeing instances of view cameras for sale with a 135mm or even a 127mm f4.5 lens. No wonder the camera is for sale, the owner must have been totally frustrated.. In the 150mm range inadequate coverage could still be a hazard. If you run across something you are unsure about, ask here, you'll get a good response, probably almost immediately.

Many knowledgeable people recommend a lens in the 203 to 210mm range as a first lens for 4" X 5", but it is quite a personal matter. Steve's recommendation to get a book first is excellent advice. Books are much less expensive than lenses. If you care to send me your mailing address I will send you a booklet on selecting a view camera lens without charge. It isn't a substitute for one of the books Steve recommends, but it is intended to specifically address your question and you can't beat the price.

Steve H
16-Dec-2005, 17:55
First off, I must say that I am deeply appreciative of all of your help. Secondly, it is GREAT to come to a place where film is alive and well (Getting tired of seeing my old 35mm films dissapear from the shelves). I do mainly landscapes/Natural scenes - rairly if ever am I in a studio setting. I also enjoy shooting old steam engines, etc; so a wide variety of lenses are needed.
In 35mm format, I usually use a 20-35mm/35-70mm zoom, a 50mm prime, a 100mm macro, and a 70-200 for wildlife. Granted, I know that the wildlife shots will stay with the 35mm, but I think I would be well served by you suggestions of a 90/150/240 selection. Im actually thinking of purchasing the 90mm first, as I will be able to take advantage of the season and get some good snow landscape shots in before the spring hits.

Thanks yet again,

Ernest Purdum
16-Dec-2005, 17:56
Maybe I should have mentioned that my email address is ernestpurdum@aol.com.

David Richhart
16-Dec-2005, 18:24
"Secondly, it is GREAT to come to a place where film is alive and well (Getting tired of seeing my old 35mm films dissapear from the shelves)."

Steve... the film situation in large format is no better than other formats... My favorite film has been gone for over 20 years, and I don't want to think about how many times I have been forced to begin using a new paper.

But welcome to LF. The only way to keep materials alive is to find more customers.

John Kasaian
17-Dec-2005, 00:26
Since you already have lensboards, what size shutter will they accept? SK Grimes website has dimensions (I'm guessing either "0" or "1" copal/prontor) in which case an older american lens probably will be a hassle to mount unless it is already fitted to a copal or similar size shutter. Too bad because there is a lot of great vintage glass. If you do have a lensboard drilled to take a flashmatic for example, just get a 203mm F7/7 Ektar to pop in---IMHO an all time classic.

IMHO anything from 135 to 210mm will look "normal" on a 4x5 so don't feel you have to limit yourself to a 150mm. Maybe its my imagination but there seem to be more 210mms on the used market than anything except maybe 127mms which IMHO wouldn't give you the coverage you'd expect on a monorail camera. Of the 210s just about anything from Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikor or Caltar should be a safe bet if its in good condition in a working shutter. A convertible symmar will give you an extra focal length, so theres more bang for your buck but I wouldn't pass up a 210 G Claron either.

Steve H
17-Dec-2005, 08:55
The two lens boards I have are copal #0, and #3. I suppose that I'll be in the market for a #1 at least.


John Kasaian
17-Dec-2005, 09:23

You're in luck! A 150mm G Claron comes in a #0 and is a fine lens to consider.

Richard Kelham
17-Dec-2005, 16:06

Just to muddy the waters a little, I used a Sinar years ago (a Norma as the P series were not then available) and it was/is a hefty brute not exactly suitable for yomping across the countryside especially when you add a few lenses, several DDS, filters etc. Perhaps a body-building course first...? :-)


Steve H
17-Dec-2005, 19:03
I'll just make it part of my work-out routine. Weight isn't too bad whilst on a mountain bike anyway =)