View Full Version : Lens for Botanicals: 4x5

Ken Lee
25-Mar-2006, 19:40
What would be a good lens for close work ? This image (http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/gallery/pcatp.htm" target="_blank) was made with a Wisner Technical Field, and a 150 APO Sironar S. The ratio is right around to 1:1

If I were to shoot with a real macro lens, would I see a dramatic improvement over the Sironar-S at 3x enlargment: an 11x14 B&W print ?

I had a 180 Fujinon A (http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/gallery/daylily.htm" target="_blank) for a while, but sold it when I made my brief foray into 8x10. The Wisner has over 450mm of bellows draw, so I could get more than 1:1 with it, if I were to get another one again. Alternately, I could get something like a 150 G-Claron.

I don't need a "flat field" lens per se, but would a real macro lens give demonstrably better performance in the rendering of 3-D objects for the kind of images I intend to make ? It seems that a 150mm or 180mm lens would produce no fore-shortening, while anything shorter will probably do just that.

Many thanks !

Stephen Willard
25-Mar-2006, 21:05
Ken, I just started doing macro photography, and I do not have a lot of experience to offer. I did buy a Nikon 120mm lens designed specifically for macro work. It uses Nikon's ED glass and is optimized for a 1:1 image size. I have done 1:3 and the negs look good, but it is not easy at that magnification. I also have the Nikon SW 120mm lens and both lenses are very different.

I suspect at 8x10 or 11x14 enlargements you will not see much difference between the two lenses. However, the differences may be quiet noticeable at 16x20 and larger. Because I have never benched marked the two lenses, I real am only guessing. On thing for sure is that my negs are extremely sharp with the macro lens.

Mike Lopez
25-Mar-2006, 21:12

Do you suspect that if you only make contact prints, there would be no discernible difference at all? Thanks.

Mike Lopez
25-Mar-2006, 22:07

My apologies for misspelling your name.

Mike Lopez
25-Mar-2006, 22:11
Dan, you mentioned reversing elements in reference to the macro sironar. Do these lenses' front and rear elements allow reversing in use? How do you stop down, cock, and trip the shutter if the front element is now inside the camera? I think I'm missing something here.


steve simmons
25-Mar-2006, 23:24
The real benefit to a macro lens is when you get to 1:1 and closer. The Fuji 240A would be a great choice and would allow you to be closer than 1:1. That would be my choice.

steve simmons

John Berry ( Roadkill )
26-Mar-2006, 00:15
I have a 210 macro sironar. The front and rear elements are interchangable in the shutter, depending on what magnification you are using.

Bob Salomon
26-Mar-2006, 06:50
"Dan, you mentioned reversing elements in reference to the macro sironar. Do these lenses' front and rear elements allow reversing in use? "

The old Macro Sironar 210 and 300mm required that the elements be reversed as was indicated above.

Their replacements, the Apo Macro Sironar 120 and 180 do not require that the elements be reversed and are corrected for a greater range of magnifications.

The Apo Macro Sironar Digital also does not equire that the elements be reversed.

With the old Macro Sironars you could reverse the elements at any time, depending on the image ratio desired. You just unscrewed them from the shutter and switched their position in the shutter. A pictograph on the front and rear cell indicated which went where at different magnifications. At 1:1 it made no difference how the cells were placed in the shutter.

Vijay Nebhrajani
26-Mar-2006, 07:38
Just out of curiosity, is it possible to reverse the elements of the Apo Sironar S and end up with better macro results?

Bob Salomon
26-Mar-2006, 08:26
"Just out of curiosity, is it possible to reverse the elements of the Apo Sironar S and end up with better macro results?"


Ken Lee
26-Mar-2006, 09:02
I have a Fujinon 240A and have used it a lot for close subjects.

Getting down near 1:1, I find that the depth of field is rather limited with that length. I figure I'd do better with a 15o or 180. As I say, I presume the 120, while giving even more depth of field, might introduce foreshortening.

Ernest Purdum
26-Mar-2006, 09:50
Vijay, a little background information. Lenses are either asymmetrical, like a Tessar, in which the rear cell is nothing like the front, symmetrical in which front and rear cells are identical, or near-symmetrical, the cells resembling each other but not being the same. An asymmetrical lens definitely must be turned around to give decent reults when the image is larger than the subject. A true symmetrical lens doesn't care which way it faces the subject. The Apo-Sironar-S is near symmetrical. It probably is at its best when the subject is from ten to an infinite number of times larger than our image. It probably would perform decently down to a reduction ratio of 5:1. This means that it should work well magnifying more than five times if reversed, better at 1:10 and up. O.K., lets do it. WE take a small one, the 135mm, and set up for 1:5. This means extending the bellows to 810mm. Oops, that's almost 32", Maybe our camera doesn't have that length. Higher magmification ratios and/or longer focal length lenses would make matters still worse, of course. In addition, those lenses in number 1 shutters can't be reversed because the mounting threads are different fron and rear.

Ralph Barker
26-Mar-2006, 09:57
If you haven't already read it, Ken, take a look at this article by Ernest Purdum on the home page here:


Michael S. Briggs
26-Mar-2006, 10:30
Ken, what aperture did you use for that example photo of the orchid?

A macro lens should do better than a lens optimized for distance, but I suspect that for your botanicals you will usually be stopping way down for depth of field. This may create enough diffraction to wipe out the improved performance for macro work of the macro lens compared to lens optimized for distant subjects. So if you are stopping way down, don't be surprised if you don't notice an improvement after buying a macro lens.

Ken Lee
26-Mar-2006, 10:49
Michael -

(Thank you for your contributions to this forum. Dunno what you do for a living, but your knowledge of optics and lenses, and your ability and willingness to clearly articulate it, is stunning).

That shot was made at f/32, which I figured was around as small as I could go before diffraction effects set in.

In shots such as these, having some out-of-focus areas can be visually pleasing, giving a greater sense of depth, and can emphasize the sharp areas. But it would be best if I could get more than necessary, and open the lens to remove depth of field, according to taste.

Ron Marshall
26-Mar-2006, 12:59
Ken, for a given reproduction ratio focal length will not signifigantly influence depth of field. It will only influence lens to subject distance.

Ken Lee
26-Mar-2006, 14:46
Ron -

To get the same reproduction ratio, we need to move closer or further away, according to the length of the lens. That makes sense.

By moving closer with a short lens, are we, in effect, tossing out whatever increase in depth of field that we would otherwise get due to a shorter lens ?

When we read that shorter lenses give greater depth of field, is this statement based on "normal" subject distances only ?

tim atherton
26-Mar-2006, 14:50

tim atherton
26-Mar-2006, 14:52
I meant to add to Ken

"By moving closer with a short lens, are we, in effect, tossing out whatever increase in depth of field that we would otherwise get due to a shorter lens ? "

essentially, yes. To get the same sized image on the film, if you use a wider lens and move in closer, the DoF is basically the same at with the longer lens from further away

(see some of the discussion in the link I posted).

There is all sorts of fancy maths around this, but in actual practice, this is the case

Stephen Willard
26-Mar-2006, 15:22
Ken, I would doubt that you would see any difference when making contact prints between any high quality lenses regardless if the lens was optimized for 1:1 or infinity. Here are a few general rules of thumb for macro work.

1. You will require more magnification for larger formats. An image that is 1:1 for 35mm would require 5:1 or greater for 4x5 to make an equivalent image. That is why I only work with 4x5 for macro photography. 8x10 would tend to require extreme magnification unless you are shooting big flowers that are close to 8" in size.

2. The DOF is the same for any focal length lens for a given image size. Thus, a flower 2" big on the ground glass will require the same DOF whether you shoot if with a 120mm lens or a 500mm lens.

3. For a given image size, say a flower 2" on the ground glass, a change in focal length will alter the scope of the background. Shorter lenses will have a broader background while longer lenses will have a restricted background. In most cases the this is not an issue because the background is severely blurred to begin with.

Ted Harris
26-Mar-2006, 17:00
Ken I have done the side-by-side test with three lenses: a 180 Apo Sironar N/180 Macro Symmar HM/Apo Macro Sironar S. I measured my magnifications carefully on the rail of my Horseman LS and right up to just a few mm shy of 1:1 there was no discernible difference between the three lenses. The moment I hit 1:1 the differences between the macro lenses and the standard 180 were clearly evident, especially as you moved toward the edges and corners of the image. The test subject was a long silver necklace made up of thousands of small (2 mm across) links and it was heaped to check both depth of field and resolution.

Ken Lee
26-Mar-2006, 17:18
Thank you all, for clarifying the various issues. As Tim has pointed out, the mathematics involved is fancy - so I appreciate the 'nutshell' version.

There seem to be 3 variables in the game: image size, aperture, and focal length. You get to keep any two the same, but the third one varies accordingly.

This reminds me of what we say in the software business. High Quality, Fast Implementation, Low Cost: you get to pick two. You can't have all three.

Ken Lee
26-Mar-2006, 17:29
On second thought, please excuse my lame attempt at simplification. I overlooked lens-to-subject distance, and probably a few other variables.

You saved me some money, time, and vexation: No need to get a shorter lens.

Since I already have a Fujinon 240A, and my camera has enough bellows draw to accommodate it all the way to 1:1, I can use it, without missing any depth of field.

Rob Hale
27-Mar-2006, 15:20
OK so what makes a Macro lens macro ?
How does it work ?

Ken Lee
27-Mar-2006, 15:59
There's a brief explanation <a href ="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optics" target="_blank">here.

Ernest Purdum
27-Mar-2006, 17:24
Bob Hale, It's all a matter of lens design. Very subtle variations will affect the subject/image range the lens works best at. Highly asymmetrical lenses are very picky regarding optimum range, so most newer ;enses are symmetrical, or nearly so. This is why thr G-Claron for example, is usable at small stops even at landscape distances, even though designed for close work.

When used at magnification ratios, a short focal length lens will cover a format for which a much longer lens is needed in landscape work. This is why the shorter (17mm to 75mm) MP-4 lenses, for another example, are usable in macro work. Longer lenses demand too much bellows extension when used for magnification.

Ken Lee
28-Mar-2006, 05:40
Rob - Sorry, I thought at the time that my response was funny, but now that I read it, it comes off a little sarcastic, which was not my intention. Please accept my apology.

I have updated the first photo with another taken at the same time with the same lens, the 150 Sironar S. By the way, these are my first photos using Sandy King's Pyrocat P formula.

Pyrocat P seems to work very nicely, and the stain is more neutral-colored, which is probably a good thing for those of us who print on VC Silver paper. There has been a nice discussion of some initial testing results here (http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=26000&page=1&pp=10" target="_blank).

Jim Galli
28-Mar-2006, 08:25
Ken, I'll throw a wrench in the gears here. I've been playing with macro on 8X10 with the big 9a Century studio camera. 36+ inch bellows. Since with LF you WILL have to live with sharpness fading to unsharpness somewhere, think about that transition. Most any lens can make the sharp areas look nice in a print. But the smooth transition of an antique petzval or Heliar does good things to my psyche. The attached was done with a 9" darlot Magic Lantern lens

http://tonopahpictures.0catch.com/6RacersS.jpg6 racers

Ken Lee
28-Mar-2006, 09:15
All wrenches are welcome and much obliged. You're right.

Oren's words have come back to haunt me, and now I can't help but wonder if my 150 APO Sironar-S does render the out-of-focus areas in an especially "creamy" manner, in close images of orchid blossoms, such as this one (http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/gallery/orchidswhite.htm" target="_blank).

I really will have to do some side-by-side comparisons at close range.

Better yet: Perhaps Christopher Perez can repeat his recent bokeh tests (http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/test/BigMash210.html" target="_blank)... on a set of model trains this time !

Rob Hale
28-Mar-2006, 16:30
Ken, no offence taken was mildly baffled it now seems mildly amusing. Your apology is accepted.

Thanks Ernest, I trundled off and read your article on macro lens here on this site Excellent