View Full Version : Beginner confused about lenses

21-Oct-2009, 17:25

I'm beginning to shop around on ebay for a 4X5 view camera. However, I'm confuised about lenses. How do I know which lenses work with which cameras? Also, where and how do i get lenses for LF cameras (I don't see them on sites of the usual camera stores such as Adorama). And what about lens boards? Can I get lens boards for any camera no matter how old. And where can i find someone who can attach a lens to a lensboard?

Thanks for any help you can provide.

Ron Marshall
21-Oct-2009, 17:38
Most lenses in Copal 0, or Copal 1 shutters will fit on most cameras.

Look at KEH Camera brokers, Midwest Photo Exchange and Badger Graphics for used equipment.

KEH has a huge selection of reasonably priced lenses and cameras. Most of their Ex graded equipment looks and functions pretty close to new.

Don't buy new as current used prices are a bargain, and if you change your mind on a lens you can sell it for almost what you paid.

You can attach a lens to a board yourself; takes 10 min. and a $10 wrench.

Read the Home page of this site, which has all the info you need:


Lee Christopher
21-Oct-2009, 18:17
Hi Larry,

I was in your exact situation not too long ago, and the numbers sounded like Greek to me.

I am also a beginner, so I hope I have this right and if I don't, I do hope that you won't be too mad and that someone will correct it:

The two most important things you need to check are the lens minimum flange distance of the lens and ensure that it's within the specs stated by the camera manufacturers, and that the size of the image circle will give you enough coverage and room for movement. How much depends on what format you're using, focal lengths and application.

Additionally, physical dimensions play a part. Some cameras such as field and technical cameras use smaller lens boards so there's a limit to the physical dimensions of shutters/lenses it can take. Generally, view cameras or monorails can take a much wider variety of lenses than say a field camera of same format, or at least that's what I think I've noticed.

As mentioned earlier, I hope I am recalling all this correctly and I am sure other much more knowledgeable and experienced members would chime in.

21-Oct-2009, 18:36
Before you get all involved in Large Format Photography you need to stop and learn the basics, otherwise you will experience frustrations and grossly excessive expenses.
I know that you're anxious to get started, but you need to either find yourself someone with LF experience who can guide you, or dig into some good books on the subject.
Even then, like the rest of us you will probably make lots of mistakes, but one of the most important aspects of LF Photography is that it requires/teaches patience.
Oh Yeah, and welcome to the asylum

Steve Barber
21-Oct-2009, 21:46
Look here for most of the specs for the later 4x5 lenses:


Ignore the prices, they are way out of date.

Look on S. K. Grimes for a lot of information concerning mounting:


It is well worth it to take your time and find all you can on the Grimes' site. It can be a little difficult to navigate, but there is a ton of information on it.

Last, a strong second for the suggestion regarding KEH:


21-Oct-2009, 22:56
The lenses for large-format cameras have a threaded barrel that fits through a hole in the board and is then held in place with a threaded retainer ring. It's as simple as that.

There are only three sizes of shutters for lenses made in the last couple of decades: #0, #1, and #3. The holes are 34, 42, and 65mm for these, respectively. There are a few variations, but generally a lens baord for a #1 shutter will fit any #1 shutter. The only three brands of shutters that have been made in the last couple of decades are Compur, Copal, and Prontor. Seiko built a few, too. They are all the same size. Only Copal is still making shutters.

Once you get back to the early 70's and before, you run into variations. Compur made a #00 shutter for 65 and 47mm Schneider Super Angulon lenses. They use a 25mm hole. S. K. Grimes sells a neat little adapter that will screw onto such a lens and allow it to be installed in a #0 lens board. Others are not so easy. Compur made some funky #2 shutters with a 50-ish mm hole. Ilex made a zillion shutters of different sizes than are currently used, but only up through the 60's. If you stick with newer lenses (which is a good first place to start), you won't have to worry about those.

The lens boards are specific to camera brands, but the lenses are not. Lens boards may be made by the manufacturer or by some aftermarket company. With very few exceptions, they all work fine. Some camera brands use the lens board design of other companies. For example, several use the Linhof-style boards, a number of older cameras use 4x4 boards, and some Horseman cameras use Sinar-style boards.

My favorite source is KEH, but Midwest Photo, B&H, Adorama, and this forum are also quite useful sources at times. Only one of the lenses I've bought for large format came with the board for my camera.

If you want to pay someone to fit boards, S. K. Grimes is pricey but the best in the biz. But it really is easy to do yourself.

Rick "everyone has to start somewhere" Denney

22-Oct-2009, 04:33
At Keh in the lens description you will see (4X5)(35 MOUNT) or (2X3)(35 MOUNT). This tells you which format the lens is designed for. If you use a 2x3 designed lens on 4X5 your image circle may not cover the film and you can get vignetting. This limits shift and tilt capability. I buy bargain lenses from Keh and have had excellent results.

22-Oct-2009, 07:16
thanks all. This has been very helpful

John Kasaian
22-Oct-2009, 08:11
The bellows on your camera will tell you which focal lengths you can optimize.

The size of the lensboard will tell you the maximum diameter lens you can use.

If your lensboard is predrilled for the shutter size (and is made of wood) it is easy to mount a lens.

If you have to drill a hole or the lensboard is metal it might be too complicated for you (but maybe not)

If you're just starting out on a 4x5 consider a 210mm lens by any of the big names...it is generally accepted as an "all around" length for landscape & portraits---just about anything.
These aren't very costly in the current market, but you can also find 203mm by Kodak and Wollensak which are super vintage lenses which generally cost even less than the 210mms. The 215mm Ilex/Caltar is a bit larger but also an excellent cost effective substitute--some of these are "convertables" which means that they offer the use of an additional focal length---neat!.

If architecture is your bag a 90mm Super Angulon is the cat's meow (but IMHO a poor lens to "learn" the basics on---ymmv!)

If you'll be hiking with your camera, the 135mm WF is a neat, light little lens worth your consideration as well as the convertable 135mm Schneider. The 135s are wider and might be of more value if architecture is one of your interests. They also come in handy with more intimate landscapes.

Midwest Photographic is a fine place to take your business--ask to speak with Jim. If you're set on eBay, be careful and factor in the possibility of a "cla"---clean, lube & adjustment (some ebayers have excellent reputations and the prices they get generally reflect that--IMHO they are worth it!) Don't overlook the "for sale" sections here and on APUG.

Have fun!