View Full Version : Help with lens choice

Neil Genower
24-Mar-2007, 13:39
First posting here as I've just bought from e bay a Wista 45 SP.
I use Canon Eos cameras for my day job and want to get back into some "real" photography for pleasure, hence the Wista. Although I have been working as a photographer for over 20 years I'm not very familiar with 4x5's, so I hope the Wista is a good buy ? So having got the camera I now need a lens.
I will use the camera mostly for landscape stuff including urban landscape so was wondering what size and what make of lens to go for.
Many thanks.

Ron Marshall
24-Mar-2007, 13:54
Welcome to the forum Neil. The Wista is a nice camera, one that I almost bought.

Have you seen the lens chart on the front page of this site: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/lenses/LF4x5in.html

The diagonal on 4x5 is 153mm, while on 35mm it is 43mm, dividing one by the other, and ignoring the difference in aspect ratio (35mm is more elongated than 4x5), gives a conversion factor of about 3.5 to get from a 35mm focal length to the corresponding 4x5 focal length.

So roughly, a 90mm is equivalent to a 28mm on 35mm, 125mm to 35mm.

For urban landscape I would go for a 90mm and a 135mm.

Ernest Purdum
24-Mar-2007, 14:49
Many people would agree with Ron that a 90 and a 135 would be good lengths for landscape, but probably an equal number would suggest something longer. It'sl a very individual matter having how you see the potential subjects.

There is a potential problem with both 90 and 135mm lenses. Many have image circles too small for good use of your movements, Landscape work demands little movement capability, but even so it is frustrating to need a little front rise and run out of image at the corners. f6.8 90mm and f4.5 135mm lenses are apt to have small image circles, If in doubt about a particular lens, come back here with a question.

John Kasaian
24-Mar-2007, 15:41
IMHO, A 210-ish lens is a good choice if you're looking for a place to start.

Walter Calahan
24-Mar-2007, 16:17
Oh come on guys, let's go to extremes, like a 58mm and a 600mm. Grin.

Neil, when you are shooting with your 35mm gear in an urban setting, what focal lengths do you seem to favor for your style of seeing? I'd try to find those LF lenses that replicate your seeing.

Ralph Barker
24-Mar-2007, 16:30
Welcome to the LF Forum, Neil.

Good advice so far, covering most of the key issues, such as equivalence and image circle.

You may find, however, that you'll "see" differently with 4x5 than you do with your 35mm camera. One way to check this is to walk around taking "air photos" with a framing aid (http://www.rbarkerphoto.com/Misc/Photo-gear/FramingAid1-500.jpg), where the cutout is the size of the 4x5 image area, and knots in the string are tied at various focal-length distances from the card. With the knot to your face, and one eye closed, you'll see approximately what the film would see with a lens of that focal length. If you see a pattern in the "focal length" you select for your air photos, that's a good place to start for your first lens.

Ernest Purdum
24-Mar-2007, 19:11
One nice thing about the present situation is that you don't need to get locked into a first lens purchase. If you buy a used lens and find for whatever reason that you would like something else. you can likely sell it for nearly as much as you paid for it, assuming you didn't get carried away on your purchase. Search for "completed auctions" on eBay to get an idea of what a lens might cost. You can regard any loss as cheap rent.

Ron Marshall
24-Mar-2007, 20:23
A couple of stores with excellent reputations, good service and fair prices are KEH Camera Brokers and Midwest Photo Exchange. Check out their websites:



David Karp
24-Mar-2007, 20:48
If you are interested in MPEX, call there and ask for Jim. Not only is he a wealth of information and a great guy, he often has stuff in stock that is not yet on the website. I have a feeling that a lot of stuff comes in and goes out before they have time to get it on the site. Its always worth the time to call, and always an enjoyable conversation.

Jack Flesher
25-Mar-2007, 09:21
As others have said, it's a personal choice and depends on your style. You will most likely end up with at least three lenses, and probably a lot more, but the basic three is a short, a normal and a long. My recommendation would be a 90, 150 and 240 to start, but anything in the 65 - 90 range for short, 110 - 180 for normal and 210 and up for long would serve perfectly well. If you want to limit yourself to two, a 120 (a lot more compact than the 110) and 210 is a nice combo, or for one lens, pick one or the other of those or a 150...

PS: If you buy used, modern, multicoated current or immediately previous generation lenses in their proper shutter, you can easily sell them for within $100 of what you paid for them right here on this forum, and in that fashoin can try out several for not too much loss. Older lenses will be less expensive, and many are just as good as their modern counterparts, but you need to know which aree dogs and avoid them, and need to be able to spot those that have been hack-mounted in cheap aftermarket shutters. (And there are a couple of guys doing just this and pawning them off on eBay as great deals, so beware...)

Welcome back to LF!

Neil Genower
25-Mar-2007, 12:31
thanks one and all for your helpfull and informative replies. I am, however from London UK so can't (much as I'd like to) visit the stores in the US.
The "air photography" is a good idea and may give it a go.So what are the dog lenses to avoid and what are cheap aftermarket shutters ??

As for the lenses, I don't do much photography for myself and for work it's film stills so all types of sizes. having said that I have an old Leica and I have a 35mm welded to it, so if push came to shove, the 5x4 version of the 35mm (35mm terms).
Again thanks very much for taking the time to reply !!

steve simmons
25-Mar-2007, 12:46
There are several aricles in the Free Articles section of the View Camera web site that will be helpful to you.


including a chart that wil compare roughly equivilent focal lengths beteen formats. No chart can be exact because of the different proportions of the formats but this one will help get you started.

Here are some books that may help as well

User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone
Using the View Caera that I wrote
Large Format Nature Photography by Jack Dykinga

check your local library or Amazon.com

steve simmons
publisher, View Camera magazine
20 years of service to the large format community

Ole Tjugen
25-Mar-2007, 13:51
thanks one and all for your helpfull and informative replies. I am, however from London UK so can't (much as I'd like to) visit the stores in the US.

Then go to Linhof Studio (http://www.linhofstudio.com/), TeamWork Photo (http://www.teamworkphoto.com/) right in London, or Mr Cad (http://www.mrcad.co.uk/shop/home.php).

Mr Cad probably has the best selection of budget lenses, but it takes some experience to know the difference between budget and dog. They are very helpful, though!