View Full Version : Ok, down to two...150 or 210 ?

Steve H
18-Dec-2005, 16:45
As some may recall, I just began my forray into the 4x5 world - and am trying to pick up my first lens. I have the chance to purchase both a Rodenstock 150mm f/5.6 Sironar - N, and a Rodenstock 210 f/5.6 Sironar - N. The seller is asking the same price for either lens. The problem arises in the fact that I can only afford to purchase one. So which one to get ? They both are in mint shape, and I suppose that the 210mm is a slightly better deal (as it is a more expensive lens). However, being as I usually do out-door type of stuff, Im just slightly concerned about not having a wider lens to keep me content for a while.

Flip a coin perhaps ?

Thanks again,

18-Dec-2005, 16:51
Steve, whichever you get, you will soon regret it. That's just the nature of the human psyche. Personally, I'd get the 150 - you can always crop the negative.

Armin Seeholzer
18-Dec-2005, 17:00
I would go for the 210mm I almost never use a 150 its just to normal for me. But its your desicion! You need sooner or later an wider one thad would then be in the range of 90-110mm!

Ron Bose
18-Dec-2005, 17:13
You should consider filter sizes the 150mm will take a 49mm while the 210mm will take the 67mm.

The 150mm is a Copal 0, the 210mm is a Copal-1. The 150mm is my least used lens, I find it 'flat' in terms of perspective. This is not surprising for me as it sits between my SS-XL 110mm and the Sironar-S 210mm in my kit, both of these lenses are gems and can be used (carefully) with 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10 (at a stretch for the 110mm).

Many people will advise you to get the 135mm for a single lens system ... If you're anything like me, it won't be the last lens you get. After starting with the 150mm, it was quickly joined by a 75mm, 210mm, 90mm, 110mm, 450mm and then a 305mm. My favorite three are the 110mm (SS-XL), 210mm (Sironar-S) and the 305mm G-Claron ....

Good luck !

John Kasaian
18-Dec-2005, 17:16
IMHO, the wider would be my choice for close up, more intimate shots like rocks, trees, buildings, etc. The longer would be my choice for grand landscapes like mountains, river valleys, that sort of stuff. At least thats how I seem to use my lenses YMMV. OTOH, I don't see much difference between a 150 and a 210 as 150 is not really wide enough to make a difference. A lot of people don't see much need for anything other than a 210mm, even with more intimate subjects. and that make sense to me too----my current 4x5 optic of choice is a 203mm f/7.7 Ektar---if it were the only 4x5 lens I owned I think I could do quite nicely with that lens alone.

Go with the 210mm, Lad!


Eric Leppanen
18-Dec-2005, 17:34

As this is your first foray into LF, I wouldn't spend much time evaluating your initial lens decision. Any of the lenses mentioned above would be fine, the main point is to get out and shoot with the camera, and get comfortable with the LF process and 4x5 aspect ratio. Then you'll get a better feel as to which lenses you prefer.

A good starter lens set is a moderate-wide (110-135mm) and moderate-long (210-240mm). If you pick the 150mm initially, you may end up selling or trading it in later once you are ready to purchase your second lens. But this is just speculation; at this point, just follow your gut. You mention concern that the 210 may not be wide enough, so if an attractively priced moderately wide lens is not available to you, then get the 150 and start taking pictures! The nice thing about LF is that there is a vibrant used market via Ebay, Midwest Photo, etc., so if you need to sell or trade-in lenses in the future, you can do so with relatively little financial loss.

Ron Marshall
18-Dec-2005, 17:36
Steve, Try to think of what lenses you plan to add in the future. The 150 is good for a 90,150, 240. The 210 for a 75, 110, 210, 300. But of course there are many other possible combinations, and you can always resell a lens if you determine you have another preference.

It really depends on what types of subjects you intend to shoot.

Eric Woodbury
18-Dec-2005, 17:45

Ralph Barker
18-Dec-2005, 17:50
These two focal lengths are close neough that it really boilds down to personal taste, how you "see" and so forth. Both are quite suitable for a variety of work.

To assist in your selection, you might try walking around with a framing aid to see which focal length fits your visual preference more often. The knots are tied at the focal length choices, and held to the cheek while looking through the 4x5 opening (with one eye closed). What you see is what the film would see.


Alan Davenport
18-Dec-2005, 18:17
I started with one lens, a 150, mainly because that's what the camera came with as a package. I don't regret it at all.

If you tend toward large landscapes -- wide vistas -- then the 150 will probably be a better choice. Also, as mentioned, you can crop the film to get the POV of a longer lens, but you can't add what isn't on the film.

Also, you've already stated a concern about not having a wide enough lens.... so you're more likely to be content with the 150. Anyway, it'll keep you happy longer than the 210. Get the 150.

Donald Qualls
18-Dec-2005, 18:20
If you have 420 mm of bellows, it might not matter. Otherwise, consider carefully how many close-up and macro images you might want to make, compared to how many landscapes. There isn't a 4x5 around that won't do landscapes with either lens (though it's much easier to crop an image that's too wide than it is to include a bunch of scene that you couldn't fit into the 210's view on 4x5), but there are a bunch that might have trouble doing close-close images with the longer lens.

FWIW, I've just committed to getting a 150 f/4.5 Componon -- it'll do what I want, it's in my price range and in good condition, and there are conflicting opinions, but it might also convert to a 265 f/12.

steve simmons
18-Dec-2005, 19:10
I have a 120, 180, 240 setup and have never regreted not havng the 150 or even a 210.

It all comes down to a personal choice.

steve simmons

Steve H
18-Dec-2005, 19:29
Thanks for all your help (yet once again). I think Im going to go with the 210, as I don't really think the 150 will be wide enough for what I would ever use it for...I see a 115 as being perhaps a good wide for me.

Thanks !

Steven Barall
18-Dec-2005, 19:35
Go with the 150. If need be, 4X5 allows for quality cropping because the film is large to beging with. Don't worry about a focal length being too normal. Everything having to do with photography is contrived to begin with so nothing is really normal anyway.

Have a great time.

Ernest Purdum
18-Dec-2005, 19:43
I think you'll be happy with your purchase. Amongst other considerations, the 210 will let you try out your movements very freely (play with it, it's great experience), it will cover 5" X 7" plus should you ever decide to move in that direction and should you ever want to sell it, will probably get you a better price. Congratulations.

Ed Richards
18-Dec-2005, 20:18
I started with a 150, then added a 90 and a 250. Makes a nice progression - wide, normal, short tele. Like a 28, 50 and 75 in 35mm. The problem with a 135 is that it does not allow much movement, the 150 gives a lot more movement without much change in angle of view.

If I had the bellows, a 450 would be next, but a 360 tele is the best I can fit.

Jack Flesher
18-Dec-2005, 20:25
I have always preferred the "looser" view of the 150 over the 210 -- But that said, it might be prudent for a first lens to go even wider, planning in advance for a more balanced two-lens set...

For example, a 120 is about like a 35 and that might make a better all-around focal for landscape. If OTOH you are primarily into people and portraiture, then going perhaps longer to a 240 (eff 70) or 300 (85) might be a good choice.

The Schneider 120 APO Symmar is nice and compact and relatively inexpensive as is a Fujinon 125 if you can find one. They do not have a lot of excessive IC but do allow for moderate movements. If you can afford it, the 110XL is superb, not overly large and covers 5x7.

The Nikkor 300m is a classic -- probably over half the shooters on this board own it or something very similar and it is one of the last lenses any of us would part with. Fuji makes a very nifty 240 "A" lens that weighs about the same as the Nikkor M yet sits in a Copal #0 shutter.

I could be very happy if all I owned were my 110 and 300.

All FWIW only,

Kevin Crisp
18-Dec-2005, 20:56
Of course if you got a 180mm.... Sorry.

18-Dec-2005, 20:58
Buy the 210mm, and start saving up for a 90mm. That's all you really need. A future luxury item would be the longest lens accommodated (at infinity) by your bellows (e.g. in my case, a 450mm).

There; now you don't have to waste any more time or energy thinking about lenses. This is the advice that I wish I had received in the first place. And believed. And followed... But who believes the kooks on this forum? ;-)

John Berry ( Roadkill )
18-Dec-2005, 21:34
I had nothing but a 210 for my first 5 years. I always found that a standard focal length was always to long or too short. I still, after 35 years have no use for a 150. Now that my main subjects are landscapes. If I could only have one it would be my 135 wide field ektar.

Merg Ross
18-Dec-2005, 22:31
Steve, either would be a good choice for a first lens; I don't think you will be disappointed. I would then consider 60mm between lenses for future additions, giving you a range of, say, 90mm, 150mm, 210mm, 270mm, etc. I believe that Steve Simmons suggested a similar range between focal lengths, albeit with a different selection. Have fun with your new purchase!

Richard Kelham
19-Dec-2005, 05:46
Hi Steve

I see you're back from the Gym! It's a tricky decision I have both, and both have their uses but perhaps the decision could be made for you in the short term: didn't you say you had lens boards for #0 and #3 shutters? If as someone said the 210 comes in a #1 shutter then you'll need another lens board. No big deal, but a further delay.

By the way, I would take issue with Ron Bose re filter sizes: my Sironar 150 takes 67mm filters, the same as my Nikkor-W 210.

In the final analysis, go for what you want (210!). Nothing is irrevocable. And good luck.

19-Dec-2005, 09:17
If you use filters, standardizing as much as is reasonable on one size is a $avings and a big convenience. Many of us have standardized on 67mm, which is a very common size.

Scott Davis
19-Dec-2005, 11:08
I was recently on a trip out in the Sierras of northern California - I had my 4x5 kit with me, which consists of 75, 90, 110, 150, 210, and 300mm lenses. The one single lens that got the biggest workout??? the 150. I would never have expected that, and in fact I almost left my 150 at home. I rarely used my 90, I think I used the 75 twice, I would have used the 110 more but the shutter is unreliable. The 300 was I think my 2nd most-used lens. This may well in fact be because the landscapes in the California Sierras are just so huge, so grand, that shooting them with a wider lens would have made too many views look too small. That said, my 210 is my preferred lens if I had to have just one lens, but I like shooting portraits, so that explains that.

Richard Schlesinger
19-Dec-2005, 11:10
Steve, if you decide on the 150 and the 210 is as good as you say, let me know. I don't have a 210 and would like one. At least for a while. I would be willing to purchase it, use it carefully, and re-sell it to you at the same price in the not-too-distant future.

Steve H
19-Dec-2005, 17:36
Thanks for all of your help (yet again !). I lucked out and didn't get either lens (sold before I got to them...). But I suppose that this makes my decision making process easier, as I will purchase the first good specimen that comes my way (in either focal length).
On a different subject, If anyone has some scans lying around, I would be more than happy to check 'em out. I lurk on photosig sometimes, but there doesn't seem to be much LF stuff on there lately (or film items for that matter).

Thanks !

PS - The Mountain Bike thing was no joke - it really does make your life easier (even with 35mm), and expand your range. This may help even more:

Hany Aziz
20-Dec-2005, 04:03
With a more wide open choice I would in fact vote for 135 as your first lens. In my setup the 135 was my first lens and is still my most used lens. In descending order of use 135, 210, 300, 450, 90, 75. I have also recently added a 150 and 180 that I have not had a chance to use much. I also use a 120 on a different camera. Given your original choices I would have opted for e 150 but then I really like normal and "slightly wide of normal" lenses regardless of format.



Graham Hughes
20-Dec-2005, 05:17
My first LF lens was a Fuji 135, but I picked up a Schneider 210 shortly afterward and tend to prefer the latter. I like a slightly longer normal lens anyway, and the 135 really needs to use the bag bellows on my camera which I find irritating.

What do you like in other formats? I've found my preference for a slightly longer normal lens to be quite consistent.

John Layton
20-Dec-2005, 08:17
I bought my first 4X5 in 1972 - a Crown Graphic with 135 Optar. Nice lens, but I soon replaced it with a 135 Symmar, and used this combo for a couple of years. When I began building cameras in the early 80's - I purchased my second lens, a 210 Sironar-N, which to this day remains my favorite lens. The computation of this lens isn't as "distance specific" as are many from the latest generation, and so its truly versatile. I now use a 90, 120, and 305. Lately, I do miss something between the 120 and 210 focal lengths, and am looking for something in the 150 range.

You didn't mention the make/model of your 4X5, but since you're new to LF, I'm going to stick my neck out and recommend that you consider a 210 as your first lens - for several reasons. One, the focussing dynamics of a 210, specifically f/5.6 lens are very straightforward and definitive. The slightly more compressed perspective and narrower depth at f/5.6, when compared to a 150, will make it easier for you to quickly arrive at your desired adjustments. The less oblique nature of light rays from this longer lens will make edge to edge focus easier, no matter what focus screen you use, with or without a fresnel, and the image field will present itself as more even and unified - keeping your attentions equally rapt over the entire image field. Furthermore, and again, this depends on the camera - the 210 might well be the most "comfortable" fit for the widest range of 4X5 cameras, in terms of what might be your average amount of bellows extension with this lens, and what this means in terms of realizing the maximum range of available camera dynamics in the least "stressful" manner possible - for yourself as well as for the camera in question. Then, once you become so hooked on LF that no amount of having to "fight" a compromised camera design will stop you, you can then feel free to investigate a second focal length, the choice of which by then will be clear to you.

And then some day, with a few years of LF behind you, and now perhaps with a stable of "favorite" lenses in your posession - in a wide range of focal lengths, you will want to realize a comfort level with all of these lenses which is equal to that which you continue to experience with your trusty 210. At that point in time will know that what truly you need (and so deserve) is a new camera! Happy Holidays!

neil poulsen
20-Dec-2005, 10:15
I know this isn't on your list, but 180 was my first lens. For me, 210 is just a bit long as a single.

If it has to be on your list, I'd go for the 150mm. In fact, that whas the last focal length I bought, with everyone talking about don't go normal. I was surprised at how useful it became.

20-Dec-2005, 10:32
Actually, my first lens was also a 180mm. At first I hated it for lacking any punch, being boring. It took a few years for me to learn what an excellent and useful tool it is. I had to grow in experience before being able to take a 'normal' shot, I guess. Buyer beware: your needs will change over time, so to a certain extent it is a crap-shoot whether your first lens turns out to be a long-term keeper.

Conrad Hoffman
20-Dec-2005, 11:32
210mm or so has always been the recommended first lens for students starting out with 4x5. It works well in the studio, and has lots of coverage so you can use movements, without it being an expensive wide angle lens. Any decent 210mm should give excellent image quality, as it's not a difficult design. IMO, once you venture out in the field, there are too many times when it's too long. You'll quickly want something shorter, and with good coverage, 150mm or less, maybe a lot less. IMO, you should have a 210mm, but whether you start with that focal length is determined by what you like to shoot.