View Full Version : Why the 135 mm lens 4 x 5 landscapes

Richard A Johnson
13-Jul-2006, 21:25
Hi everyone I'm curious about the 135 mm phenomena.

This is not another one of these questions as to which lens if you only had one choice. I am however curious as to why this lens continues to be mentioned as a possible first choice for landscapes other than the 110 mm lens. Which by the way I cannot afford. I am however trying to narrow my 4 x 5 kit down to 1 or at the most 2 lenses for landscapes. I have a bad back; 3 years ago I had an operation on my back with not a whole lot of relief. However I refuse to give up the use of my view cameras. My 2 favorite formats are 4 x 5 and 5 x 7. The 4x 5 seems to be winning out these days because of the lighter weight. I am using a 4 x 5 tackle our and an assortment of lenses.
The 90 mm F/8 and 135 mm lenses have mainly been used for 6 x 12 format.
I also have a 150 mm and 180 mm Nikon 210 mm Rodenstock Geronar I've been using off and on in the full 4 x 5 mode. I can't seem to make up my mind which one of these I like the most.
210 mm Rodenstock symar- N and A 300 mm Nikon M have been used strictly for my 5 x 7

I've read almost every post I can find about the 1 to 2 lens outfits. The 135 mm lens keeps popping up in a lot of post as the lens of choice other than the 110mm.
On one hand folks say that the 135 lenses don't have much coverage, on their hand everybody recommends it for landscapes it seems as though that this lens is used by others as more of a general purpose lens as well. My questions are -

What is it about the 135 mm lens that gets everyone so excited?
What do you and don't you like about this lens?
Does it work well for you with close focus work?
Why you think this lens is so great as a 1-lens outfit for 4 x 5 landscapes?

So to all of you 135 mm lens users out I would appreciated if you would be so kind as to talk to me about what and why this lens is so great over other lenses such as the 150, 180, or 210 for 4 x 5 landscapes


Gordon Moat
13-Jul-2006, 22:09
I have a fairly recent Schneider 135mm, though mainly use it for architecture and urban landscapes. Part of my reasoning was the numerous images I saw using a 150mm, which sort of drove me towards a slightly wider view. Other than that I got a really good deal on this one.

When adding other lenses, I do own a 210mm, though I am going more towards replacing that with a more modern 180mm in Copal 1. I would also like to add on a 75mm at some point, then that would be it for me. My feeling is that any other more cropped views could be done using a roll film back, like a 6x7 or 6x9.

Other than less weight and bulk, a different issue is simplification. When you have less lenses, sometimes you find that you are driven to do more. Obviously this is different for many people, and some would not think of venturing anywhere without at least four lenses. Each individual should figure out some working methods, though some lenses do seem better suited for certain scenes.


Gordon Moat

Turner Reich
14-Jul-2006, 01:17
Richard, what brand is the 135mm lens you are talking about? A wide angle or of the normal angle? The difference between a 4x5 and a 5x7 can be great with a bad back. A 4x5 with a light weight lens can be the ticket I think. With the holders and the larger lenses 5x7, my favorite format, can be just to heavy after back surgery. I have a several cameras but the little wooden field camera I made with 12 inches of bellows and a light lens can be taken about anywhere. A good shutter can make life easier too.


Frank Petronio
14-Jul-2006, 01:30
Most of the 135mm lenses are small, sharp, and inexpensive. You can use them for interiors, environmental and full figure portraits, street shooting, and landscapes with a slightly wide angle of view. It also makes a good intermediate lens in a typical 90-135-210 lens kit that is very popular.

How much coverage do you really need for most landscapes and people shots? The 135/5.6 lenses are usually OK, and the modern plasmats have more coverage than the older press lenses. If you do a lot of architecture there are some other 120 to 150mm lenses with more coverage, but in general something like a 135 Sironar-N or Symmar-S is a great all around lens that folds into a field camera or Technika, is as sharp as anything on the market, and can be found in good used condition for around $300 or so.

Ken Schroeder
14-Jul-2006, 02:29
Richard, there are several reasons I like the 135. The first reason, nonartistic, was cost. My first 4x5 camera, a Zone VI Wista DX was sold as a single lens package with 210 or a two lens outfit with 210 and 120. After using the 135, I have come to appreciate its compact size and weight. I never have gotten a 120, so I can't comment on the differences. I have not found the smaller covering range a constraint in actual field work.
Bruce Barlow and Ted Harris mention a very good point. The sweeping vista landscape is more western. Being a midwestern transplant from New Jersey, I tend, like Bruce, to see more in terms of the 210. The 135 is my second most used lens. I notice on trips to the west about two thirds of my work is done with the 200 and the other third mostly with the 135.
My lightweight outfit might interest you (and your back). I use a Wista DXII. I replaced the 210 Symmar with a 200 Nikon M lens. It is even smaller than the 135. Its covering area is plenty for the field. Either the 135 or the 200 can ride in the folded camera. So can the third lens I often carry, an older 105 Fujinon (the smaller version with 46mm filter threads). It barely covers a 4x5, but I carry it as a "wider than 135 when needed" lens. I have found this small outfit comfortable to carry.

Hany Aziz
14-Jul-2006, 03:58
It's a slightly wide normal lens with a very comfortable view. Most 135s also are tiny and very sharp lenses. They can also be folded into many field cameras (something I do appreciate). I do use other lenses and in fact my use tends to be in descending order 135, 210, 300, 450, 90, 75. So I guess like a lot of "eastern" photographers I would tend to go long rather than wide. I have acquired a 110 recently and am begining to figure out where it fits. I did use it quite a bit (more than the 135 mm) on a recent trip to Arizona an Utah. I am also struggling with which lenses to take into the field (I have unfortunately a gear fetish). A 75, 110, 150, 210, 300, +/-450 sequence makes sense however I have so far balked at not taking my most used lens, the beloved 135 mm.

Another very important reason for using the 135 mm as my most used lens is that it was my first LF lens. A lot of people often continue to use their first lens (or first focal length) the most.



Ed Richards
14-Jul-2006, 05:54
I think it has a lot to do with what your landscape looks like, and your own vision, and, of course, whether you have a gear fetish.:-) I started with a 90mm and a 150mm, then added a 250mm, and finally a 400mm. I find the 150mm to be a slightly wide lens, and I like a good jump between lenses, so 90mm makes sense for me. In my landscape world, I can move my position pretty easily so I if the 90 is too wide, I just use the 150 and step back a bit. If I were in the West and shooting off cliffs or in canyons, closer spaced lenses would make more sense.

Ernest Purdum
14-Jul-2006, 06:06
It all depends on which 135mm lens you are talking about. The several f4.5 135mm lenses are inexpensive, easy to focus under the worst conditions and relatively small. Sharpness and contrast are quite good. They are, however, lacking in the excess coverage needed to use view camera movements. This pretty well restricts them to landscape use. Even there, if you need some front rise, forget it.

135mm lenses with smaller maximum apertures are much more versatile. Typically, they have a large enough image circle to allow considerable use of movements.

Bruce Watson
14-Jul-2006, 06:16
I think I have an idea where you are coming from. I moved from 35mm to 5x4 about five years back. At the time of the move I guessed, wrongly it turned out, that I'd want the "same" lenses for 5x4 as I used in 35mm. And I never owned a "normal" lens for 35mm. I did the vast majority of my work with a 35mm lens, and a 105mm lens, with nothing in between.

My first lens, and only lens for about a year, was a 110mm SS-XL. When I got to feeling like I needed something longer, I went for a 240mm Fujinon-A. The angle-of-view difference is about 30 degrees which is a large gap.

The more I played with it, the more I found there were scenes I couldn't capture in between these two. I finally dawned on my why.

The problem is that one works differently with 5x4. One can no longer put the camera up to the eye and frame with one's feet. One instead has to walk the scene and use one's eyes to find the correct perspective. Once you've found the right location from which to capture the scene it's much more difficult to move forward or back because of the way it changes the perspective (not to mention the pain of moving all that equipment around).

The answer for me was a 150mm lens, a "normal" lens. I didn't know what I was missing in 35mm land. Now this trio of lenses accounts for about 90% of my work, and each lens is used about a third of this duty. My 80mm SS-XL and my 360mm Fujinon-A rarely get used.

So... the reason people suggest normal lenses for LF is because, due to the way people photograph using LF equipment, these lenses make sense. From a practical stand point, they work as well. They are small and light, nice and sharp, work well when pressed into macro duty (without requiring bellows draw that some field cameras don't have). All that stuff.

But mostly, it's because they provide an angle-of-view that's very useful in LF photography. That's what I think anyway. Of course, YMMV.

Leonard Evens
14-Jul-2006, 06:23
Re a bad back

I have four herniated discs and spinal stenosis. I carry my equipment in a Baby Jogger with 20 inch wheels. This allows me to go everyplace over paved paths and even over grass and through woods on trails. It gets a bit awkward if there is much up/down travel and if there are lots of tree roots in the way. My essential equipment consists of a Toho FC-45X which weighs a bit over 3 three pounds, a spotmeter, film holders, and an old Tiltall Pro tripod which weighs just under six pounds. I have four lense an f/8 300 mm Fujinon, an f/5.6 150 mm Rodenstock Sironar-S, an f/6.8 90 mm Rodenstock Grandagon-N, and an f/4.5 75 mm Rodenstock Grandagon-N. If necessary, I can fit everything I need in an old backpack designed for 35 mm equipment weighing about two pounds. The film holders go in a pouch on my belt, and the tripod is hung over my shoulder. I only take the lenses I think I will need. The whole thing weighs about 15 pounds.

Mark Sampson
14-Jul-2006, 06:37
Why is the 135mm lens popular now? There are lots of them out there- it's been a popular F.L. for 75 years. A 135 was standard equipment on the 4x5 Speed Graphic, a preferred tool of the industry for 30 years. It's a versatile lens and complements, in the field, the equally popular 210mm (studio) lens. The only 110mm lens I know about is the very recent Schneider XL, which has a price to match its reputation. So most of us haven't used that focal length, and recommend something we know.

Ole Tjugen
14-Jul-2006, 07:10
A low-cost lightweight lens with lots of coverage? I'd get a 120mm f:6.8 Angulon or similar. Older (=cheaper) 135mm lenses don't have the coverage, newer ones aren't as cheap. Not to mention the 110mm - if I owned one, that would have cost the same as the rest of my lenses all together, from 65mm to 620mm...

Ron Marshall
14-Jul-2006, 12:38
Richard, I think the 135 has been mentioned by many as a one lens kit because that focal length is versatile for landscape; it is wide, but not too wide.

My favourite focal length for landscape is 150 followed by 110. So naturally if I could choose only one to replace them it would be a 135.

Richard A Johnson
14-Jul-2006, 12:39
This is a great discussion so far and is giving me great food for though.
As you can see I have a good selection of normal lens. I feel at times that I am bouncing back and forth between all these normal lens. as I stated the 135 mm has not been pressed into service much. so this is very helpful.

After reading my post I found a typo - the camera is a 4x5 tachihara not a
{ tackie-our ]. Viva voice dose not always pick up on such things.
The 135 mm lens is a Nikon 5.6


Ron Marshall
14-Jul-2006, 12:57
Lens selection is very subjective, but my two lens kit would be 120 and 180.

But, I think that a two lens kit would be limiting for many people, and a three lens kit much more versatile: such as 90-135-210.

Rico Obusan
14-Jul-2006, 19:45
The 135 is the most used lens in my kit. Why? Because it includes enough, but not too much. Visually a 135mm gives that sense of slight expansiveness without the space becoming too much of a dominant element. In tight quarters its handy enough, and in places that are spacious enough, it allows re-arranging visual elements with a minimum of fuss and physical movements of the tripod. Composition, as a formal exercise, becomes more manageable. There's also that qualitative feel of a lens fitting the way you see the world. I see the world in a slightly "wide" way, and so a 135 fits my visual sensibilities quite well. I have shot side-by-side images of the same scene with a 90, 125, 135, and a 150 as part of an instructional manual. Either as prints or trannies, I always favored the image made with the 135.

27-Feb-2007, 12:26
I had a 150 and sold it to get my 135. The 150 was too narrow. The 135 includes the right amount. I found it was easier to compose with since I generally compose closer to things than farther away. When I want really wide, I go to a 75mm. When I want longer I go to a 240 or a 400T. If I were to pick out only two lenses to use, I'd use just the 135 and 240mm lenses. But, that's just the way I see in large format, I guess.

Graham Patterson
27-Feb-2007, 13:24
My 135mm Symmar-S came with the used Wista DX. From my experience, squarer formats seem to mitigate the shorter focal length. The 135mm on 5x4, or 75/80mm on 6x6 do not seem as wide in use as the simple numbers might suggest.

Jeffrey Sipress
27-Feb-2007, 15:13
These types of discussions are inane. Lens of choice? Any photographer, especially in LF, who knows what he's doing will frame a scene from a chosen distance, and then select the lens that provides the angle of view that captures what he wants in the image. Get it? A 150 is too narrow? Huh?

Sam Crater
27-Feb-2007, 16:02
I think the short answer to your question is its the shortest focal length for which the excellent and extremely practical plasmat design covers 4x5 with movements. My favorite lens for 6x12 is a 100mm plasmat, for the same reason.

Gordon Moat
27-Feb-2007, 16:09
I wonder why so many 100mm and 105mm lenses are only for 6x9, while both the 90mm range and 110mm (just Schneider?) offer choices covering 4x5. I like my 135mm, but I wonder at some other ranges of choices. Eventually I will get a 75mm, though it seems that about 100 to 105mm would be a better between range choice than a 90mm or a 110mm (and that Schneider is not cheap).


Gordon Moat
A G Studio (http://www.allgstudio.com)

Wilbur Wong
27-Feb-2007, 18:33
Years ago when I first got into LF, I chose a 135 as a natural progression between 90 mm and 210 mm. 50% over 90 goes directly to 135, and 50% more goes to about 202ish. I thought a 150 leaves the gap a bit unbalanced.

28-Feb-2007, 06:25
135mm is the diagonal dimension of European 9x12 cm plates, which is what a Tessar design lens is designed to cover. The focal length naturally migrated to 4x5 users because it is the widest "standard" of reasonable speed, size, and cost, and the negative is large enough to allow cropping if the final negative takes in too much.