View Full Version : Lens for head & shoulder portraits with Shen-Hao 4x5

5-May-2007, 10:22
I'm shopping for a used (economical:rolleyes: ) lens for taking portraits with my SH 4x5 -
something equivelent to an 85-105mm in 35mm format, but I'm not sure
of the availability of inexpensive lenses in this range on the used
market or the SH's ability to focus those lenses at the 12-15 foot
range at which such portraits would be taken.

If anyone has any experience with this camera for this type of
photography, I'd be happy to hear your recommendations.


John Harper

David Karp
5-May-2007, 10:40
A 240? Hard to find something inexpensive in this price range. Smaller lenses that people seem to like in this focal length include the Fujinon A 240mm and Schneider G-Claron 240mm. Both have f/9.0 max openings. The G-Claron is single coated. Most other lenses in this focal length (with f/5.6 max apertures) are in Copal 3 shutters. If you are willing to go that route, the offerings expand.

Mike Davis
5-May-2007, 11:15
210 Schneider f5.6 is what I use for Portraits with the Shen Hoa (and the Toyo G for that matter). I also have a 240 Germinar f:9 that I can use which is certainly smaller, I really don't use it all that much in 4x5.


Andy Eads
5-May-2007, 13:54
If you want to keep it light, consider a Kodak 203mm f/7.7 Ektar. If you can find one in a Compur shutter, all the better. I think a 240mm lens would be better from a perspective stand point but the previous comments point out the problems in that focal length range.

Ole Tjugen
5-May-2007, 14:02
A 240? Hard to find something inexpensive in this price range. ...

Yet again - a 240mm f:5.6 Symmar convertible does the job. The original shutter (for most of them) is a Compur #2, which went out of production at about the same time as the lens. Some have been remounted in Copal #3, I believe.

Peter Lewin
5-May-2007, 14:38
More of a question than a statement, but isn't 210-240 a bit short for head & shoulder portraits on 4x5? My experience suggests a 300 is closer to what you would want. (Applying the "triple it" rule of thumb when finding a 4x5 equivalent lens, 85-105 converts to 255-315.)

Ole Tjugen
5-May-2007, 14:48
With the larger negative follows an increased reproduction ratio, which in turn increases the extension needed as a percentage of focal length, thus narrowing the image angle a bit.
Using the short side of the image as a "base line", the "multiplier" is about 4, not "triple it". This pulls in th other direction and might lead to thinking that a 355mm lens would be best, but that's just too long for portraits on 4x5".
So 240mm on 4x5" is actally pretty close to 90mm on 24x36mm.

6-May-2007, 04:44
Real problem is I think his camera only has about 300mm of bellows. So it doesn't matter if a 300mm is better because unless he gets a telephoto it might not focus close enough.

But how much of a difference is there between 240mm and 255mm?

Does he really need light? Lots of older big 210-240mm lenses selling for not much money. Backpack portrait photographer? Spending money on a light lens might not be the best choice.

Also he doesn't say what inexpensive is.

To the OP get out your calculator. You can figure out how close your bellows can focus with a non-telephoto lens fairly simply. I'm sure the formulas are on this site some place. :D

Mick Fagan
7-May-2007, 02:02
I bought a Shen Hao 4x5 last week with 4 lenses, one of which is a Komura T400 f/6.3.

Yesterday I tested the camera out and all 4 lenses had film exposed by them. I paid special interest to the telephoto 400 lens as I thought it may do nicely for interesting portrait work.

I was really surprised at just how close I could focus, down to 3.1m but that is stretching things to the limit. Realistic close focusing for portrait work with this lens, should see the subject about 4m to 5.5m or slightly more as very workable, whilst giving a very nice blurred background. This is for a bust shot, not a full length standing shot.

A 210mm lens will give you very nice 3/4 length portrait workability, whilst still allowing you forward and back focusing for differential focus. You should be able to get a bust shot with the 210mm but I didn't try that as I concentrated on the 400mm.

One of the things I didn't know about until I read the latest edition of Magnachrom (I think that is correct) is that the back can be pushed back about 35mm to give slightly more bellows draw. The latest edition of this online free magazine has a reasonably interesting report of the Shen Hao 4x5 camera, including a picture of the camera extended to the limit with the back pushed back.

With a heavy lens on the front I will be employing this back facility to change the centre of gravity slightly for straight portrait work. The front standard can be altered to give more bellows draw but will not hold a heavy lens well when on the limit.

Bellows draw on my particular camera is approximately 356mm +-1mm.

I would suggest a conventional 240mm lens would allow you to operate quite close, without pushing the camera to the limits, any longer and stable close focusing ability, may hinder your creative possibilities. I myself will now be looking for a 240 for this very purpose.


Turner Reich
9-May-2007, 21:29
Mick is right on with his estimate. I think a 210mm is the perfect lens and a 240mm at the limit of the bellows on that camera. How about a 210mm convertible Symmar? What does it convert to, about 370mm? That might be a very reasonable choice. Gives two choices for portraits, 3/4 and head and shoulders. What do you think?

Mick is your camera new, how do you like it so far? What are you going to be using it for?


John Kasaian
9-May-2007, 21:54
How about a 215mm? Caltars and Ilex don't seem go go for a lot of moolah these days

Colin Robertson
10-May-2007, 02:56
360mm Tele Arton. With the rear standard moved back you can shoot tight head and shoulders at near full extension on a Shen Hao. The Tele Arton is cheap for such sharp and contrasty old glass. It is one full stop faster than the FUji 300mm f8 T lens. It is easy to focus thanks to bright image and shallow dof. It gives beautiful, smooth out of focus areas.
Unfortunately (:( ), it is a BEAST at about 1 kilo in weight. With the Shen cranked right out to 300mm of extension it has enough flex in the wood to allow 'wobble'. You must close shutter, set speed, and wait a few seconds for it to settle before firing shutter. DO NOT get involved in tilting and moving forward the front standard as some have described. Yes, you can steal more extension but it is a BAD idea for this reason. Mine is also mounted in a compound shutter, which works fine but is not fast in use. All in all, I love my lens but you must work at a modest pace- not ideal for portraits. My dealer has just listed a 270mm Tele Arton, with which to tempt me.
Get thee behind me, Satan.

Mick Fagan
10-May-2007, 04:28
Turner, no the camera isn't new, I believe it's about 2 years old. I bought it from another person, as a full kit so to speak. He had moved to 8x10 and was apparently thinking what to do when I found out he had a Shen Hao.

As I had narrowed down my choice to either a new Shen Hao or something similar second hand, I was on the look out for cameras when I found out that he had one, I emailed him and enquired whether I could view his camera, as I hadn't seen one in the flesh. One thing led to another, I ended up with most of his 4x5 kit!

Last year I decided to move into 4x5 and I picked up a relatively old Calumet monorail with a Caltar 215 lens, which served it's purpose well. I have used 4x5, 8x10 and 11x14 cameras previously, in a work environment, but the Calumet was to see if I would be interested enough to fiddle with 4x5 for personal work. I have full 4x5 darkroom situation, so that wasn't a problem.

The calumet was terrific, I pushed it to it's limits from a technical aspect and wrung pretty much everything possible out of the wonderful 215 lens. I decided I would like a flat bed camera and really wanted a Wista or Toyo metal folder, the pricing and availability in my part of the world made this problematic so as the American dollar started dropping and my currency was ascending, I looked quite closely at the Shen Hao and Tachihara wood models. I would have purchased the Shen Hao new, probably from badger, but this unit turned up and here I am.

I have always liked bush scenery, buildings and motorcycles as photographic subjects. As most of my travels around the world have been on motorcycles, I have been restricted pretty much to 135 and occasionally 120. Things change, as retirement gets closer, we have more or less figured on using four wheels as a means to travel around, enter 4x5!

I have a 90, 150, 210 and 400mm lens set, which is a pretty good spread of affordable and workable glass. I will get to know these over a period of time, then figure out if I need to change, add, or detract, for what I'm wishing to photograph.


Michael Graves
10-May-2007, 05:40
Look around for a 10 3/4" Artar. Typically, they're mounted on a #3 Ilex, so they're lightweight. Great coverage and sharpness. I've got one and it's the one I use for that purpose. It also makes for a nice general lens for 5x7.

Scott Davis
11-May-2007, 06:58
A 250 would make a nice long portrait lens for the Shen Hao - something like the Fujinon 250 f6.7 . The shutter is a Seiko, but the equivalent size of a Copal 1.

Paul Fitzgerald
11-May-2007, 07:23

You might want to look for a 241/4.5 Wollensak Raptar in an Alphax shutter. 15 blade perfectly round aperture, coated, flash synch, very nice OOF front and rear, smooth/sharp like a Heliar, and usually affordable. OR just take the time to find a Heliar in shutter, coated or uncoated, never cheap.

Have fun with the hunt.

Alan Davenport
11-May-2007, 07:57
I have a 254mm lens that will focus to around 5 feet on my Tachihara; the Shen Hao would do about the same. That focal length is roughly analogous to 85mm on 35mm film. There are plenty of 270mm telephotos on the market, which should focus a bit closer, or in the alternative give you more working room.

Turner Reich
12-May-2007, 12:54
I have one of the Red Dot Artar 10 3/4" in a barrel, Michael do you think it is a direct fit to a #3 Ilex shutter?

Mick, glad to see that you have a nice set of lenses for the camera, the Shen Hao is certainly priced right. I saw one and they are as well built as any I have seen. If I had one I would make a lens extension and a back extension. Maybe 2 or 3 inches in the front and 3 or 4 inches in the back. Looks like you got a good deal.


Jim Galli
12-May-2007, 13:26
For portraits it would be hard to beat a Wollensak Velostigmat Series II 9 1/2" f4.5 Wide open at that focus distance it will have a slightly soft - sharp thing going on. Voigtlander Heliar's are superb but priced accordingly. The Kodak 190mm f4.5 Ektar is a great lens for portraits on 4X5 and mostly affordable. I's stick with the f4.5 lenses to get a nice soft sharp effect pleasing on portraits.


Leonard Evens
12-May-2007, 18:41
It is not hard to make the calculations which will enable you to produce essentially the same image with the subject at the same distance from the camera. Ole is quite right. You do have to adjust for the further lens extension associated with the longer focal length on the large format camera. I did the calculations assuming that the image was in portrait orientation and the shoulders filled the frame from side to side. As Ole did, I used a factor of 4 to compare the 4 x 5 frame with the 35 mm frame. So, for distant subjects, you would just multiply the 35 mm focal length by 4, and 85 mm to 100 mm scales up to 340 mm to 400 mm. I won't go into the details, but it turns out that you have to reduce that by about 15 percent. So the proper focal lengths to use would be in the range 290 mm to 340 mm.

So why is everyone talking about about 250 mm or therabouts? The answer, I believe, is that when doing large format photography, one doesn't try to match the image size and perspective that one would use for 35 mm. Partly this is a matter of practicality because of limitations on bellows extension and availability of lenses. But it is also because, large format portraiture is just a different kind of beast than 35 mm portraiture.