View Full Version : How much lens coverage is enough?

4-Aug-2006, 14:44
Hi, I'm fairly new to large format, and have been fretting over buying my first lens and the issue of lens coverage. Is there a rule of thumb or general guideline to go by when figuring out how much coverage you need and how much coverage a lens provides? For instance, I'm planning on purchasing either a 135mm or 150mm lens for use in landscapes and occasional architecture with a 4x5 monorail view camera. I want to have adequate coverage area to be able to use plenty of movements so my setup can handle any possible situations I may encounter. How much coverage is enough?

On a related sidebar, I've been looking into getting a Rodenstock Apo Sironar S 135/5.6 or 150/5.6. What type of coverage do these lenses have, and is it enough for the above said applications?


4-Aug-2006, 15:31
How much depends on what you're doing. Landscape isn't that demanding. OTOH buildings are more demanding. Some one doing portraits could get by with very little coverage.


Sheldon N
4-Aug-2006, 17:24
The APO Sironar S series is the current leader for coverage in the conventional f/5.6 plasmat lens series. Either the 135mm (208mm IC) or 150mm (231mm IC) lens will provide you with ample coverage for most normal situations. Anything that needs to have more coverage than that will start to be a lens that's designed for 5x7 or 8x10 and will be much larger and more expensive. The primary situation that would need that kind of coverage on 4x5 would be architectural photography using a monorail. I have the 150mm APO Sironar S and I have to twist my poor little Wista DX field camera into a knot to hit the edge of the image circle. It has more image circle than I need or use.

My personal feelings regarding coverage/image circles:

155mm - just barely covers the 4x5 format. No movements, not really useable.

175-190mm - a little tight for coverage, but enough for basic landscape shooting, where just a little tilt is typically all you need.

195-220mm - healthy coverage for most applications in 4x5, except perhaps architecture.

225mm + more than I need.

Also keep in mind that almost any lens above 150mm has enough coverage. It's the wider angles that will give you trouble.

Brian Ellis
4-Aug-2006, 23:08
Keep in mind that if you use back tilt or swing rather than front you can get by with much less in the way of coverage. And the actual image circle is usually larger than the quoted coverage spec so by stopping down you can usually increase the usable image circle (for example, looking at the specs for a 210 G Claron you wouldn't think it even covers 8x10 but it not only covers, it has ample room for movements when stopped down below f22). And even when you start to run out of coverage it's not like you can't make a photograph. You get vignetting, which didn't seem to bother Atget and today can be fixed in Photoshop. All in all lots of coverage is certainly nice but it often leads to big and expensive lenses and there are ways around lesser coverage in a pinch.

5-Aug-2006, 14:38
Thanks all for the input and link to more information. I appreciate it.

Ron Marshall
5-Aug-2006, 15:34
Here is a link to image circle data for current lenses, on this site. You may have seen it before.


For general use look for at least 30mm of rise and 10 degrees of tilt.

For landscape I have never used more than about 5 degrees of tilt, or 20 mm of rise.

8-Aug-2006, 08:32
If one is buying a 300-360mm lens for 4x5, is there an advantage in buying one that will cover larger formats? In other words, would I get more movements if I stuck a 5x7 or 8x10 lens on a 4x5?

Ole Tjugen
8-Aug-2006, 08:49
If one is buying a 300-360mm lens for 4x5, is there an advantage in buying one that will cover larger formats? With the exception of telephoto lenses, 300-360mm lenses are made to cover 8x10" or larger.

The advantage of a "normal" 300mm lens is that it will often be lighter and smaller than a tele lens of the same focal length. The disadvantage is that it needs more bellows extension: A 360mm f:5.6 Tele-Xenar needs 21cm extension to focus at infinity, and barely covers 5x7". A 360mm f:5.6 Symmar needs 30cm, and covers 12x16". In this case the weight is about the same, but the Tele-Xenar is bulkier.

Ron Marshall
8-Aug-2006, 09:26
Almost all modern non-telephoto 300-360 lenses will cover 8x10. See the chart on this site.

I have a 4x5 and a 5x7. I bought lenses to cover both. The extra coverage is really of no benefit for landscape, because my field camera will not allow extreme movements, even if the lens has enough image circle. The penalty I pay, is heavier lenses. But I save money by not having to buy duplicate lenses for both formats.