View Full Version : 135mm or 150mm - Help persuade me

17-Aug-2006, 23:45
I'm planning on buying my first lens for my first large format camera system and I need some of your input. I will be using a 4x5 monorail view, probably a Horseman LE, and plan on shooting mostly landscapes and architecture. I eventually plan on buying a 90mm lens also, but first things first, I want a "normal" lens at the outset. I am leaning toward either the 135mm or 150mm Rodenstock Apo Sironar S.

So, tell me in your opinion, why or why not I should get one lens length or the other. I really can't decide and need some persuading. Thanks.

David A. Goldfarb
18-Aug-2006, 02:03
150mm--it will give you better spacing from the 90mm you plan to get in the future, and you will have more image circle to learn to use the movements of a view camera, which makes it a good first lens.

Matus Kalisky
18-Aug-2006, 02:11
Well I would make it breaf - if you would comare to 35mm format the focal lenghts you've mentioned would be something like 39 and 43 mm. It's more a matter of taste and of coverage.

Ron Marshall
18-Aug-2006, 05:23
This is subjective decision and there is not a great difference between these focal lengths. That said, I would opt for the 150. More coverage, and it works well as a single lens kit, or part of a three lens kit, such as 90, 150 and either 210 or 240.

Joseph O'Neil
18-Aug-2006, 05:32
My favourite lens is my Rodenstock Apo-Sironar 135mm. I've always liked the 135mm over the 150mm, in any lens brand I have used. I found it an easy format to learn with.

I suspect this debate will take on something of a "Ford vs Chevy" tone after a few more messages, there will be no one right answer, just what you tend up liking best.


Frank Petronio
18-Aug-2006, 05:53
Whichever turns up cheaper on eBay

Leonard Evens
18-Aug-2006, 06:02
My inteests are similar to yours. I have the Rodenstock f/5.6 150 mm Apo Sironar-S. I am very happy with it and generally prefer it for architecture if I can get far enough back from the subject. Unfortunately, often that is not possible. (A 135 mm lens would not be much better in this respect.) When I started I also got a 90 mm lens and the two lenses together still account for most of what I do.

One thing you should do is to construct a cardboard viewing frame with a 4 x 5 inch opening. (Actually it would be better if it were 96 x 120 mm, closer to the actual format size.) Tie a piece of cord to it and place knots at the focal lengths you are considering. To use the frame, put the knot at your eye and view through the frame. Try this with typical scenes you think you might photograph. That will give you some idea of what to expect.

You can enhance the usefulness of the frame by putting appropriate marks along each edge. Put one mark at the center, and then add marks above and below it indicating the maximum rise or fall your camera allows. When using the frame, start with your horizontal line of sight passing through the center, and then raise or lower it within the limits marked.

Patrik Roseen
18-Aug-2006, 06:42
Having used both 135mm and 150mm for (4x5", 9x12cm and 6x12 RF-back) I do not think there is much differences between the two.

It really depends on which other lenses you plan to have in your kit. You mention a 90mm...do you plan to get a larger lens too?

OTOH, you might start to suffer from the infamous 'can-not-resist-to-buy-that-lens'-syndrom which means you suddenly have many more lenses than you ever planned ;-)

Since I started shooting more 4x5" over 9x12cm I tend to use the 150mm more often than the 135mm since it supports slightly more movements.

Ralph Barker
18-Aug-2006, 08:02
Either lens would be good as a "starter" lens for your kit. But, as mentioned, the choice is really very subjective. Which focal length would be better for you, personally, is a matter of how you "see" things, and that often changes with different formats. The technical issues of coverage, etc. can play a role, but probably a secondary one.

If you are unsure, try walking around with a framing aid for a couple of days, composing "air" photographs to see which focal length seems to pop up more frequently for you. If you are unfamiliar with framing aids, the knots are tied at the focal-length distance from the framing card, and held the the cheek below the eye. You see what the film would when using that focal length.

18-Aug-2006, 08:47
One thing you should do is to construct a cardboard viewing frame with a 4 x 5 inch opening.

A 3 x 3.75 opening is the same aspect ratio as 4 x 5. Makes the frame smaller and easier to pocket.


Ron Marshall
18-Aug-2006, 09:14
A 3 x 3.75 opening is the same aspect ratio as 4 x 5. Makes the frame smaller and easier to pocket.

Using a smaller frame size you must shorten the string lengths corresponding to the focal lengths proportionally.

Using 3 x 3.75 the diagonal is 122mm.

Multiply focal lengths by 122/153.

Emmanuel BIGLER
18-Aug-2006, 09:25
My 0,02 euro.
If you plan to make later some 6x9 cm shots on rollfilm (think about colour slides and their cost :( ) , the 135 will probably more useable on 6x9 as a slightly-longer-than-standard lens (equiv to a 58mm in 24x36/35mm photography, 55 or 58 was the standard focal length on Russian "Zenit" 35MM SLRs in the good old days ;)
On 4"x5" the 135 will give you roughly the same angle of view as a 38 (diagonal) or a 40mm (horizontal) in 35mm / 24x36 photography.

I have started by the 6x9 format so I have a 135 instead of the 150.
Having now access to the 4"x5" as well I got a 90... and will use the 135 "full frame".

Brian Vuillemenot
18-Aug-2006, 11:09
You just HAVE to get a 150. In the history of LF, there was never a single decent photograph taken with a 135. ;)

18-Aug-2006, 11:22
My vote goes to the 150 Sironar-S for many of the same reasons that have already been stated previously.

And, the difference in the focal lenghts isn't huge... few steps up, few steps back!

Just my 2 cents worth!


Jack Flesher
18-Aug-2006, 12:13
The best advice you have gotten so far was Frank's :D Frankly, the difference between the 150 and 135 is about two steps forward or back in most situations. However that philosophy becomes problematic if you are in an enclosed room or on a cliff...


Leonard Evens
18-Aug-2006, 17:43
If you use a frame of different size from that of the film, you have to asjust the positions of the knots for each focal length proportionately.

18-Aug-2006, 17:58
You just HAVE to get a 150. In the history of LF, there was never a single decent photograph taken with a 135. ;)
Hilarious Brian, simply hilarious! I guess you are right... my best shots have been taken with a 210!

18-Aug-2006, 23:10
150mm is usually cheaper than 135mm. Go ahead look for a 135mm Schneider on ebay...you will get handful of Nikon, Rodenstock and Schneider for 150mm.

24-Aug-2006, 19:50
1. If you KNOW you will be getting a 90 but aren't sure about others, start out with the 90.

2. When in doubt, go with the shorter lens, you can always crop, but you can't always take two steps back. Go with the 135.

3. "Always shoot with the longest lens possible" is a cliche that I agree with, so get the 150.

4. There is little difference between the two, so base your decision on other factors like coverage, price, etc. Go with either.

5. Personally I find normal lenses not that useful for landscape, so I'd bump up to a 210, which pairs nicely with the future 90. Forget both.

24-Aug-2006, 19:53
Very decisive! :)

Doug Dolde
24-Aug-2006, 20:14
Ralph...how about making that into a wearable piece so you could leave it on all the time? Like a hat sort of.

neil poulsen
24-Aug-2006, 20:28
I held off getting a 150mm for a long time, because a lot of people advised against getting the "normal" lens. Now that I have it, I like the focal length.

My vote goes for the 150mm. I don't think the 135mm offers a lot of movements, either. With only one lens at the beginning, you'll be disappointed if you don't get a decent amount of movement on large format.

If you're concerned about getting a wider lens, get a 120mm later on.

Ralph Barker
24-Aug-2006, 20:39
Ralph...how about making that into a wearable piece so you could leave it on all the time? Like a hat sort of.

Great idea, Doug.

Actually, at one point, I tried to adapt the rails from my Toyo compendium shade to that purpose, with a treaded socket on the bill of one of my baseball caps. It was a little heavy, though, and needed a counterweight on the back of the cap. That, in turn, kept bumping me in the posterior, making me think someone was trying to pick my pocket, which, of course, prompted me to draw the .45 auto. Embarrassing, to say the least. ;)

Ben Hopson
24-Aug-2006, 20:48
I have the 135 Sironar S and it is a great little lens as is the 150. If you are looking for a used lens I would take whichever turns up. If going for a new one it would be the 150 because as others have noted it will fit a little better with a 90 and 210. I have a 90 Nikkor 4.5 and the 110 XL as well as the 135 and although they are relativly close in length I do use them all.

If you are able to find either lens used it is unlikely you would lose anything by selling it later if it does not fit your needs. The Sironar S's hold their value quite well.

Stuart Lane
28-Aug-2006, 20:16
I faced the same chioce last year when I assembled my LF kit. I choose the 135 Sironar S, and like it a lot, bought it new, paid a bunch, picked up a 240 G Claron for a lot less, and use it more than the 135 (for landscapes), so in hindsight, I agree with Frank, whatever comes up cheapest, and don't limit your search to just 135 vs 150. And hey, the 240 will still be useable as a wide angle when I (someday) get an 8x10.

Ole Tjugen
29-Aug-2006, 02:57
I have both 135mm and 150mm, and the 150mm gets a lot more use. Even 121mm, 165mm and 180mm gets more use (still on 4x5") than the 135mm lens.

Jack Brauer
29-Aug-2006, 09:22
My 2 : I primarily shoot big mountain landscapes and wide vistas, so I tend to prefer lenses on the wider scale. Through trial and error I've dialed in my ideal lineup: 75mm, 120mm, and 200mm. I sold my 135mm in favor of a 120mm because I felt the 135mm was oftentimes just a little too tight.

29-Aug-2006, 09:32
Jack, I don't want to go too much on a tangent, but you have found the same thing I find at times... 135 being a bit too tight. Why did you trade for a 120 versus supplementing 135 with a 90? I'm thinking of doing that because at times I still find 135 a useful "normal" focal length.

29-Aug-2006, 12:12
If you're only going to have one lens, the answer is obvious -- the 135mm. If it's too wide, you can easily crop the negative image a little without significant loss of detail. Although it's almost always possible to move closer, sometimes you can't back up. This answer does not apply if you have a wider lens available. Sorry it took 10 days to respond to your query.