View Full Version : newbie lens questions

e. a. smith
12-Jan-2007, 21:37
I acquired a Linhof-Karden Bi a couple of months ago. I am not sure what lenses will best suit my needs. Price is a factor as this is going to be a seldom-used camera. Do I need wide angle, "normal" and tele lenses? My main use will be landscapes, buildings, figure and some studio portraits. What focal lengths are best and what models are good starter lenes? The camera came with a Zeiss Tessar 100 f3.5 but no lensboard. Several posts have claimed that this lens will not cover a 4x5. Should I replace this or would it be adequate for a beginner? Any suggestions?

EA Smith
Chaffeys Lock Ontario

David Karp
12-Jan-2007, 22:14
Wow, one lens for landscapes, figures, buildings, and portraits. That is a tall order.

If you want to do architectural details, then probably a 210mm would fit the bill. I use mine a lot for landscapes. It would also work well with figures and portraits.

If you want to do more expansive views of architecture or interiors, then the classic lens to start with is a 90mm (similar to a 28mm in 35mm). Most manufacturers have two versions of a 90mm. One has a larger image circle and a larger maximum aperture (f/4.5 - f/5.6). These are usually favored by architectural photographers because the bigger the image circle the better for their application, and because the larger maximum aperture makes it easier to focus in dim interior lighting. The smaller 90s usually have a smaller image circle and a smaller maximum aperture (f/6.8 - f/8.0). The one exception to this is the 90mm f/8 Nikkor SW, which has the same large image circle as the 90mm f/4.5 Nikkor SW (and the 90mm Rodenstock Grandagon-N f/4.5, Fujinon SWD f/5.6 and older Super Angulon f/5.6). The larger lenses with the larger max aperture and bigger image circles command higher prices. A 90mm is not a good choice for portraits, but is a good focal length for landscapes.

My feeling is that a one lens solution would be pretty tough for your applications, but a two lens kit of a 90 and a 210 would be a good bet. Others might differ.

Consider buying used. My recommendation is to talk to Jim at Midwest Photo Exchange (mpex.com). He alway has lots of used lenses in excellent condition. He is a straight shooter, and will help you make good decisions. Any modern lens, by Rodenstock, Fujinon, Schneider, and Nikon would be a good bet.

Ron Marshall
13-Jan-2007, 01:28
I concur, 90 and 210 would cover what you require. You can always add a 135mm later if you need something in the middle.

Emmanuel BIGLER
13-Jan-2007, 02:41
Congratulations for your Linhof Kardan Bi. This is one of the finest monorails ever made.
As far as lenses for 4"x5" are concernde, simply follow the good advice posted above by David & Ron.

About the tessar : a 100mm tessar has no chance at all to cover 160mm in diagonal i.e. what is required for covering the 4x5" format (actual image size : 94x120mm)

A tessar design covers about its focal length plus 15%, in diameter. So a 100mm tessar might cover 115 mm in diameter i.e. what is sufficient to cover the 6x9 cm (actual : 56x82mm) format. To cover 4x5" you need at least a 150mm tessar design, a 180 would allow more movements. The 135 tessar was the standard lens in the past for the European 9x12 cm format (actual : 84x114mm), which is slightly smaller than the 4x5".

But you can use your 100mm tessar with a 6x9 rollfilm back. Do keep it as your standard lens for 6x9 shots on rollfilm !!

The tessar is an excellent standard lens for cameras without movements. Its only real imitation is that it cannot cover more than 60° in diagonal. By definition a standard lens covers 53 degrees : diagonal = focal length. In fact I'm quite sure that the idea of a standard focal length = diameter is closely related to the dominant position of triplet and tessar lenses throughout the XX-st century : standard focal length = standard available lens of the time = tessar design !!

When stopped down to f16-f22 a large format tessar will perform extremely well but its coverage will not increase that much when stopped down. The reason why LF tessar were superseded by 6-element lenses in the 1950s 1960s is that LF photographers demanded more and movements. Modern 6 element "standard" LF lenses cover 70-75 degres i.e. their focal length plus about 40% which allows considerable freedom for tilt+shifts.

Colin Robertson
13-Jan-2007, 03:21
Hi E.A. Welcome to LF. I'm assuming that you already shoot some other format since this will be an occasional camera. Here's a question- what format do you already shoot most of, and which lens (or two) do you really use most. I know that we all like to cover all our bases by having 'enough' gear, but most of us have a couple of lenses we wouldn't want to be without. Post that, and some people here will throw you suggestions for good LF equivalents.

13-Jan-2007, 03:44
Hi E.A.,

This is a link to a chart that will compare the 35mm horizontal view of lenses with other formats:



13-Jan-2007, 13:53
I concur, 90 and 210 would cover what you require. You can always add a 135mm later if you need something in the middle.

My thoughts, exactly... except I got the 135 sooner than later.

neil poulsen
14-Jan-2007, 03:55
Wide angles are better for architecture. The most used is typically a 90mm super wide. Longer focal lengths seem more popular for landscapes. This depends on taste, though. Do you have a tendency towards longer or shorter focal lengths.

If shooting in a different format, what's your favorite lens.

Jim Rice
14-Jan-2007, 07:20
I happily used a 90 and 210 for years. They're a great combination.

steve simmons
14-Jan-2007, 09:06
There are several articles in the Free Articles section of the View Camera web site that will be helpful to you


You might also want to get one of these books
User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone
Large Format Nature Photography by Jack Dykinga
Using The View Camera that I wrote

try your library

steve simmons