View Full Version : Which lens?

26-Apr-2007, 06:39
I know these questions have been asked a gabazillion times... but hear me out...

I shoot railroads professionally. Normally I am shooting in the 24-70mm or 70-200mm range on Canon gear.

I currently have only a 150mm Rodenstock but since I havent shot yet with my Toyo I am wondering if there is a better focal length that I should be looking into for railroading.

Any help is greatly appreciated!

26-Apr-2007, 07:02
Surprisingy, there is so much difference between the way most people shoot in 35mm and Large Format, that the focal lengths use dfor one often are in a completely different range for the other. For example, I usually shoot slightly wide to normal (35-50mm) on 35 but prefer longish lenses (180-250mm) on my 4x5. You'll just have to try it for yourself, and the 150mm for your Toyo would seem an excellent starting place.

Ole Tjugen
26-Apr-2007, 07:10
Just to make the confusion complete, my experience is the exact opposite of Bill's: I tend to use longish lenses on 35mm, and wide to very wide on LF.

My 90mm is one of my most used lenses, on both 4x5" and 5x7".

A 150mm is an exellent lens to start with, and will help you decide whether to get a 210mm or a 90mm (or something entirely different) next.

Mark Sampson
26-Apr-2007, 07:10
Wilhelm makes a good point, but remember that a 150mm lens on 4x5 is "more or less" like a 40mm lens on a Canon (35mm film) camera. So give it a try and see how well it works.

Walter Calahan
26-Apr-2007, 07:18
As you learn to see with your 4x5, you'll find the correct set of lenses for you.

Brian Ellis
26-Apr-2007, 07:35
You have a lens that's the approximate equivalent of a 45mm lens in 35mm, i.e. about "normal." To approach the range you have with your Canon stuff you need a short focal length and a long focal length in 4x5. 90mm and 300mm would be good place to start. That way you'd have the approximate range of your 24-70mm zoom in the 90mm and 150mm lenses and the short end (85mm equivalent) of your 70-200mm zoom in the 300mm. Going longer than 300mm will be difficult unless your camera has a very long bellows or you're willing to use a telephoto lens so I'd just forget that end for now and try to move closer to the trains with your 300mm. Of course you have to recognize, as I'm sure you do, that because of the different aspect ratios of 4x5 and 35mm there are no exact equivalents. And obviously you'll need to make sure your bellows will allow use of whatever additional lenses you plan to buy. Most cameras can accept a 90mm lens without the need for a bag bellows but to use a 300mm normal lens you should have at least a 13 inch bellows and preferably a little longer.

I agree with Ole and Bill that basing your 4x5 lens purchases on your 35mm lens usage may turn out to be futile because of the different ways we photograph with the two formats. However, you have to start somewhere and having three lenses, short, medium, and long, is a good place to start. FWIW, when I started out with 4x5 I tended to use mostly longish lenses (210 and 300mm) just as I did with 35mm but over the years I've gravitated to shorter lenses in 4x5. There's much more to using 4x5equipment than simply getting a bigger negative. The equipment itself has a huge effect on what and how we photograph.

26-Apr-2007, 08:17
Thanks everyone for their responses... everyone makes good and perfect sense in my ways of thinking. So in follow up... since I probably wont change my bellows out what would be the longest lens I can use on its factory length bellows without going to the bag bellows?

I actually do intend to use this camera more for wide shots then longer ones so in that thinking I may go with the 90mm and later on do the 210mm.

In buying new lenses is it practice to get the lens boards also so that they are "plug and pray" or just use one board providing they are the same copal?

26-Apr-2007, 08:19
Unless you are rarely using a lens it makes little sense to not mount the lens on it's own board.

Ken Lee
26-Apr-2007, 08:24
You're a pro, so take this amateur's advice for the 2 cents its worth.

Stick with the 150 for a while, and get accustomed. This will force you to look more deeply when you shoot - a good exercise that we should all try now and then.

At a certain point, you will automatically find yourself wishing you had another lens, because there will be certain shots that demand it. Then, buy that lens... and repeat the process, until you've spent way too much money.

Then, try another, larger format. Repeat until bankrupt.

26-Apr-2007, 08:28
LOL Ken thanks... yeah I can completely relate to that statement... I am not sure that I will go on to larger formats from here... I shoot a TON of MF and digital now... so much so that I spend as much time processing as I do shooting...LOL

Nick thanks for your quick response... so now my list has gotten one piece longer... lens board, 90mm lens, more film holders, changing bag... sheeesh... certainly NOT a turn key operation I have going here...LOL

Walter Calahan
26-Apr-2007, 08:36
Get a lens board for each of your lenses. Lens boards are not expensive, and you'll save a ton of time in the field not switching out lenses.

You might also look at a 75mm. And then a 65mm. And then a 58mm. And then a 360mm. And then a 600mm. And then . . ..

Alan Davenport
26-Apr-2007, 09:26
Another vote for a lensboard for each lens you own. It takes only seconds to change the lens when it's already on a board, but to swap lenses onto a single board requires much more time and, worse, usually requires removing the rear group separately during the process. Just too much opportunity for an accident, IMO.

Your 150mm Rodenstock is an excellent lens. It is a normal lens for 4x5, similar in coverage to a 50mm on 35mm film.

FWIW, I think 90mm is a great focal length for railroading. This was taken with a 90mm f/8 Super Angulon:


Jim Galli
26-Apr-2007, 09:38
24 - 200 on 35 eh? For 4X5 you'll need 65mm 80mm 110mm 135mm 180mm 210mm 240mm 270mm 300mm 360mm 420mm 480mm and 600mm. A different camera of course with a longer bellows will be needed also.

The place to start is with the Brinks Co. You'll need some cash. Quite a bit.

Just messing with you. I'm envious. I wish someone would pay me to photograph trains.

steve simmons
26-Apr-2007, 09:41
If anyone has good train photos View Camera is interested in taking a look.

steve simmons

26-Apr-2007, 09:47
Off topic... but here are some of my railroad shots...

Northeastern Railroad Photography (http://nerrphoto.fotopic.net/)

Jon Wilson
5-May-2007, 18:34
Just to highjack your thread a little.....I just learned that an old train will be in Boise on Sunday, 5-6-07 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. I have thought I would try my V8 with some outdated 8x10 Velvia & 8x10 Ektachrome 100+ and for B&W 8x10 film, PL-100, and TXP 320. I have an assortment lens and thought I would try out a 15.5 inch Verito in a studio shutter, 15 inch Illex f5 Portrait Lens in an Illex shutter, 45 cm f9 Zeiss in a compound shutter, a 240mm or a 305mm Graphic Kowa in Copal 3s, and possibly a barrel lens or two, e.g., 24 inch Voightlander & Sohn, 19" Petzval, Dallmeyer 5D Patent lens. Any thoughts, suggestions, etc.....please let me know. If you are in the area, please send me an email and we can try to coordinate a small LF gathering for this impromtu event. Thanks. Jon

Mark Sawyer
5-May-2007, 19:39
I currently have only a 150mm Rodenstock but since I havent shot yet with my Toyo I am wondering if there is a better focal length that I should be looking into for railroading.

Depending on which Rodenstock 150mm you have, it may convert to a longer lens by removing the front element and using only the rear. The f/stop scale would be off, but that's simple enough to compensate for. Set it up and check it on the ground glass!