View Full Version : What ONE lens would you pick for landscape work?

10-Jul-2006, 18:57
I'm new to this forum and enjoying the conversations. Not much shyness here. One question intrigues me. If money were no issue, what ONE lens would you pick for landscape photography? Some claim ( e.g. Jack D.) that the Schneider SS XL 110 is it. If I were going to eat peanut butter for lunch for a year to buy one, it this it?
Dave B.

Hany Aziz
10-Jul-2006, 19:00
Any 135 mm lens. Sironar N 135 mm for e.g. (for 4x5 obviously). And you do not need to subsist on peanut butter for very long to be able to afford one.



Walter Calahan
10-Jul-2006, 19:03
Which ever one I pull out of my lens bag to work the scene in front of me. Grin.

Eric Rose
10-Jul-2006, 19:17
If I had a 135mm but I don't so I use a 120mm. Next most used is a 210mm, followed by the 150mm then 90mm, 300mm and finally 65mm.

I find the 120 to be a very versatile lens. I use diopters to do close up stuff. In a pinch I can take off the front element and presto I have a 240mm.

Andre Noble
10-Jul-2006, 19:39
You're going to get an incredibly wide variety of responses here, especially since you didn't specify the format (let's assume 4x5), and your favorite focal length in 35mm. Plus we are very individualistic.

Nikkor SW 120mm f8

Ron Marshall
10-Jul-2006, 19:42
Do you mean one special lens, among others in a kit or the kit is only one lens.

For a one lens kit a 135mm. For a special lens with others the 110 XL.

10-Jul-2006, 19:45
Fuji SW 105mm.

Ed K.
10-Jul-2006, 19:53
Hi Dave -

Everyone will have their own answers to that one. You didn't say which format you shoot, or whether you generally shoot close up to your subject or far away, etc. Instead of eating peanut butter for a year to buy a lens, how about this:

1. Use a finder, such as some cardboard if you don't have a zoom finder, or a zoom finder if you have one. Walk around with it a bit..well, a lot. Figure out the angle of view that does it for you. Also, you can aproximate this if you have a camera with zoom lens, and simply crop to the aspect ratio of your format.

2. When you think you've got your angle, for that one lens, figured out, rent it to see how you like it.

3. Then, try to find one cheap. Chances are good that if you're willing to live with some cosmetic defects and a long wait to get it, you might get a good deal.

My 2 cents - what Walter said, however to be nice about it, I'm an odd one - I would pick a 480 or so for my 8x10 for most things I like to shoot, perhaps a tad longer would be nice, and at least a 210-240 for 4x5 in many cases. Those lenses are on the short side for portraits, however usable for both portraits and landscapes. Many other people love super wide. For the squarish formats of 4x5 and 8x10, I often have more foreground or sky than I would like with wide lenses when not right up on top of the subject. Everybody has their own thoughts and preferences on it.

You'll find that Rodenstock APO 135mm lenses are marvelously sharp and reasonable even new - if you like anything in the 135-150 range, they can be the most reasonable lenses of all...they are sort of like "enduro" motorcycles ( not a great street bike, not a great dirt bike ) in a way for me at least, however when conditions are right - well, they're great. Consider that many, many Graflexes came with 127mm lenses - that might be a vote for "one lens".

You might also consider beans, as they could be cheaper than peanut butter and less greasy, and in some cases, if you have a wife, prepare yourself for eating some dogfood and sleeping in the doghouse after buying your new jewel. Some of the scientists on this board might even be able to tell you how to make a lens from peanut butter!

Frank Petronio
10-Jul-2006, 20:02
I am a big fan of the "normal" persepctive, 135-150-180mm range in 4x5. These are also the best value for sharpness per dollar.

4x5 tends to feel "wider" than 35mm give the same angle of view, IMHO.

Ralph Barker
10-Jul-2006, 20:05
If I had to choose just one lens for landscape work, it would be the Schneider 80-400mm f/2.8 RSDKYSOS XXXL (Really Super Duper Knock your Socks Off Symmar, and we all know what XXX means) with a 500mm image circle.

Short of paying Schneider a few $million to make it, on 4x5 I use the 110mm SSXL about 60% of the time, with most of the other 40% split between a 210mm and something around 400mm (400mm Nikkor M, 16 1/2" Red Dot). On 8x10, I use the 150mm SSXL a lot, then a 240mm G-Claron, plus the longer lenses. Just depends on the scene and how one sees it, I think.

10-Jul-2006, 20:06
I second the 120mm -- it is my #1 choice, followed by 210mm.

J Michael Sullivan

John Kasaian
10-Jul-2006, 20:44
Hmmm....assuming your talking about a 4x5, I could get by nicely with either a 203 Ektar or a 210 G Claron. If I were into color maybe something thats multi-coated in the same 210-ish region from Rodenstock or Nikkor (but I'm not into color) Better yet would be a convertible----something that would give me both a wide lens(for close ups) and a long focal length for the 'grand view' by fiddling around with the front element, say like an early symmar convertible. I know this sounds bass ackwards, but that how it seems to work for me.

Jack Flesher
10-Jul-2006, 21:06
I really like my 120 too.

And my 210.

And my 90.

Steve Barber
10-Jul-2006, 21:16
Good thing you didnít specify the format:

Schneider 210mm f8 Super Angulon, hands down! On my 8x10, if I remove the bellows from the back of the camera, unscrew the rear element, mount the lensboard with the front element in place and, then, collapse the bellows and replace the rear element and, then, finally, re-attach the bellows to the back, I am able to use it.

Even so, it is still my favorite.

Or, maybe, it isnít and I just think it is because I leave it in the camera all of the time.

10-Jul-2006, 21:18
120 Nikkor!


10-Jul-2006, 21:19
6" Dagor. Gives 10" if needed by removing the front element and stoppppppping downnnnnnnnnnn. (Don't forget to refocus.)

Brian Vuillemenot
10-Jul-2006, 21:33
For 4X5, definately the 150 mm Apo Sironar S- I'm kind of surprised that I'm the first one in the thread to pick it. For 8X10, it's big brother, the 300 Apo Sironar S. Now, I'm lookin' to pick up a 210 Apo Sironar S, so it'll be one big happy family! ;)

Doug Dolde
10-Jul-2006, 22:05
I'm a three lens user. 110 XL, 210 APO Symmer, 305 G Claron. The 110 XL gets used as much or more than the other two combined.

Bruce Barlow
11-Jul-2006, 04:13
210 Symmar. That's mostly out of habit. The 120 Super Angulon usually rides shotgun, but I'm not as comfy with it, and so don't use it as much.

Let's not forget subject matter. I'm in New England, where we don't have the grand landscapes that you westerners have, but rather much smaller things like beaver ponds, roots and rocks, running streams, etc. which seem more suited to a longer lens than what I am told is the quite delicious 110. I don't know how much of the former is true and how much is rationalization of my own laziness in not learning to see in 120mm... I got a critique once from a photographer I respect who said "Use the 120, and let people meander through your pictures." Good advice, not yet taken.

We may have an opportunity to take Fine Focus Workshops on the road out west. Ted Harris and I were laughing about trying to teach a western workshop with our East Coast eyes. My wife pointed out that maybe that's exactly the point: we'd see things differently in Yosemite Valley, and that would be valuable for students. Maybe: the challenge for us as instructors would be to avoid the cliche postcards that WE TOO would want to make! Sorry. Off-topic there for a moment.

I think the real answer is to get something and make a lot of pictures with it. Good luck!

Bruce Watson
11-Jul-2006, 05:51
If money were no issue, what ONE lens would you pick for landscape photography? Some claim ( e.g. Jack D.) that the Schneider SS XL 110 is it. If I were going to eat peanut butter for lunch for a year to buy one, it this it?

Steve Hamley
11-Jul-2006, 05:58
135mm lens for 4x5, 270mm for 8x10. Specifically, the 135 Apo Sironar S and the 270mm G-Claron or a 10-3/4" Dagor (convertible).


Michael Gordon
11-Jul-2006, 09:09
I'd recommend rice or dried beans. Peanut butter isn't all that inexpensive.

David Karp
11-Jul-2006, 09:19
Since I have not used a lot of lenses beyond the ones I own, I have to limit my response to those that I have used. That excludes such well regarded lenses as the Schneider 110 XL. With that caveat, of all my lenses I think my choice for one lens only would be the Fujinon NW 125mm f/5.6. Small (52mm filters), light, and very versatile.

Ken Lee
11-Jul-2006, 09:20
First you have to show us what you mean by "landscape photography". It's a broad category, like "oil painting" or "sail boats".

Christopher Perez
11-Jul-2006, 09:41
If money were no object, I'd buy four mint used lenses from MidWest photo and call it done. I'm sure you could find four wonderfully luscious lenses to express your vision with clarity, contrast, and subtle detail that total to less than the cost of a single 110SS-XL. Considered in this way -

1) 90mm Angulon f/6.8 (no rise/fall, but this is landscape, fer cry'n out loud!)
2) 135mm Fujinon W/EBC f/5.6
3) 210mm Schneider Symmar-S/MC f/5.6 (or APO Symmar or a Kodak 203 Ektar or a GClaron or a Xenar f/6.1 or...)
4) 300mm Nikkor M f/9

For me, spending money on a well marketed lens (ie: plenty of hype) did nothing to better my ability to take a fine photograph.

Andre Noble
11-Jul-2006, 10:00
Some people take 'bang for the buck' to the extreme.:p

Diane Maher
11-Jul-2006, 10:20
For 4x5: 203 mm Kodak or 240 mm Schneider G-Claron
For 8x10: 450 mm Nikkor M or 420 Schneider Repro-Claron

Ted Harris
11-Jul-2006, 12:39
Well ..... I probably move in closer than Bruce so tht these East Coast eyes end up framing the same as Bruce's but I do find that for 4x5 my SSXL 110 is among my most used lenses....this of course assumes that I can move in close enough. That not being the case out come the 240 or 300. For 5x7 it is the 300 followed by a 150.

i alwasy ejoy taking these East Coast eyes to the West. I don't gnerally come back with sweeping vistas though. The last time I was photographing in the Rockies I got totally absorbed by a couple of tree knots .... shot them for several hours. Another time, either Laguna or Newport Beach, I spent an entire afternoon photographing the moorings under the old pier (don't as details it was a good 30 years ago but I still remember lugging my Kardan Color S through the sand). I have also had a great deal of fun with whacky architectural stuff on the 'left coast' such as the witch's house in the Beverley flats (did get chased away by cops once there), the Tale of the Pup, the Cider Barrel, etc.

11-Jul-2006, 12:51
G-Claron 240mm. Enough with the big skies and foregrounds already.

Tom Westbrook
11-Jul-2006, 13:03
My fave for landscapes is the 210mm APO Sironar S (4x5).

Eric Biggerstaff
11-Jul-2006, 13:52
Rodenstock 150mm Apo-Sironar-S for sure.

John Kasaian
11-Jul-2006, 15:05
For 8x10 I'd have to say a 19" Artar...no a 10" WF Ektar...no a 19" Artar...no a 10" WF Ektar...no a19" Artar...no a 10" WF Ektar----I give up!

John Kasaian
11-Jul-2006, 15:34
OK, make it a 14" Commercial Ektar!

11-Jul-2006, 18:33
270mm Computar. Truly wonderful for 5x7 through 7x17. In a pinch remove the front element for a long lens. Emile/www.deleon-ulf.com

Oren Grad
11-Jul-2006, 19:21
Well, for 4x5, which I don't use much for landscapes but which is probably what the OP had in mind, it would be the 135 Apo-Sironar-S.

Michael Kadillak
11-Jul-2006, 20:05
8x10 and larger - 450mm Nikon M

5x7 - 210mm Nikon W

4x5 Nikon 135mm W

The more I photograph in the West, the less I see with wide angle lenses.


Wayne Crider
11-Jul-2006, 20:19
Landscapes in Manhattan or landscapes in the desert of Arizona?

Mike Lewis
11-Jul-2006, 20:47
I agree with Michael K. re photographing in the West with wide angle. I don't live there but I often take photographs there. I also like the Nikon 135; I find that I use it and my Fuji 180 W the most. But I also use my other two lenses (Nikon 300M and Schneider SA 90) often, depending upon the scene.

Ole Tjugen
12-Jul-2006, 07:09
One lens only???

All right - a 240 Symmar convertible. Fairly long on 4x5, normal-ish on 5x7" and short on 8x10". And the 420 rear is very long on 4x5", long on 5x7" and a good portrait length for 8x10".

Maybe picking a convertible lens is "cheating", but that's what I do. Using 3 cameras is admittedly not the way to save money, but you never specified formats...

Since I often use WA lenses, I might also pick the 165mm Angulon as a normal/short/very-wide combination. In a pinch, that one can be used as a convertible, too (300mm f:12, rear cell alone).

Both of these lenses are old, and long out of production. They also came in a No. 2 shutter, which is no longer produced. The only practical consequence of this is that they go relatively cheap, even compared to the other lenses in those series. Then spend the rest of the money (compared to the 110 SSXL) on a second camera?

12-Jul-2006, 21:10
Interesting that no one has chosen very wide lenses, even 90mm or wider on 4x5.

On my DSLR I've operated in the 12-18mm range for most lanscapes (comparable of course to 18-27mm on 35mm). I've assumed that now that I'm in the 4x5 world that I'd be looking for really wide lenses, even 47 and 58, for the cityscape and landscape pictures I like to take.

Ole Tjugen
13-Jul-2006, 04:02
Interesting that no one has chosen very wide lenses, even 90mm or wider on 4x5... I did as an alternative, but I use larger film instead of wider lenses: A 165mm on 8x10" is a little bit wider than a 90mm on 4x5".

Vick Vickery
13-Jul-2006, 05:15
Hmmm...I've got this 6 3/8" Turner-Reich Triple-Convertible...changes to 11" and 14". For a one-lens setup, convertibles can be very good choices! When useing one group by itself (behind the shutter), stop down and refocus...many convertible lenses do have some focus shift after stopping down.

Ryan Hill
13-Jul-2006, 07:06
I shoot 4x5 color landscape (Velvia), so I prefer modern multi-coated optics. My favorite lens is a 75mm. I have the Nikon as it is pretty bright to see through, takes only 67mm filters, and is fairly inexpensive as new 75mm lenses go.

It fits the way I see and the way I like images to look. But YMMV.

Alan Davenport
15-Jul-2006, 12:55
90mm f/8 Super Angulon. Plenty of coverage for 4x5 with generous movements, plenty sharp and these days plenty cheap. No peanut butter required.

15-Jul-2006, 15:16
Rodenstock 150-S. Sharp, light, small, versatile.

15-Jul-2006, 18:34
Interesting that no one has chosen very wide lenses, even 90mm or wider on 4x5.

I would choose my Schneider 80mm XL lens.

Ed K.
15-Jul-2006, 20:24
Okay - if cheating is allowed and money no object - Cooke Series XVa sounds good, however for me, even a year's peanut butter wouldn't cut it, I'd have to give up at least all my 4x5 stuff; besides, it's possible to develop an alergy to peanut butter.

Think of it - I announce that I'm selling all that expensive 4x5 gear, and get cheers from city hall for it - but then have to make the announcement that all the money was spent on magic beans that will arrive several months from now ( a convertible magic bullet? ).

There is another answer too - "the one you have".

If only the library had wonderful old lenses to lend out..

John Kasaian
15-Jul-2006, 20:48
I'll stick with the 14" Commercial Ektar and put the money into resoling my boots which will be prematurely worn out from walking back and forth to get the distance right (.....if I have to!)

JW Dewdney
15-Jul-2006, 23:10
I'll stick with the 14" Commercial Ektar and put the money into resoling my boots which will be prematurely worn out from walking back and forth to get the distance right (.....if I have to!)

Yeah - or - just use ANY lens you have available (maybe something very different than you're USED to using) and then spend an hour or two re-thinking the way you approach photographing the 'landscape' (hint hint). Then use the money for something significant!

16-Jul-2006, 16:10
Thanks to everyone for the interesting comments. I've learned a lot from the discussion. I conclude that asking this question is like asking "what's your favorite novel?". One is unlikely to get a consensus.
Thanks all,
Dave B.

Austin Moore
16-Jul-2006, 16:42
A Schneider apo-symmar 240mm for my 8x10