View Full Version : Advise on my next lens:75 or 90?

David Home
3-Dec-2009, 12:38
Hi all.
I know I am asking a rather vague question but I would appreciate any opinions.
My use of 4X5 is landscape, portrait and still-life: All as an enthusiast not a professional.
95% is shot on Tri-X with the remainer on Fuji Instant Color. Currently I have a SK 210/5.6 Symar-S, a SK 120/8 SA and an older 150/5.6 which I use with the rear element removed to make a 250 for portraits. The last lens gets rarely used for anything else since I got the 120.
I am craving something wider and find my back against the wall at times with the 120.
Both the 90 and 75 lengths are available as used lens regularly on ebay. 90s are more plentiful but I wonder if it will not be that much wider then my 120. 75s are more expensive and I assume I will need to get a center ND filter for it to use on the Fuji Instant Color.
What would YOU do in my shoes? (smile)
Thanks and regards, David

Gem Singer
3-Dec-2009, 13:09
You didn't mention the camera you are using.

Some cameras use a bag bellows in order to utilize a 75 mm lens.

Some require only a recessed lens board.

Some need a combination of bag bellows and recessed lens board in order to focus a 75 at infinity.

If your camera will take a 75, by all means choose it, since you already have a 120.

3-Dec-2009, 13:17
I bought a 90mm lens for my 4X5 and used it twice before selling it. I use a lot of movements, rise/fall, shift, tilt, and swing and the coverage with the 90 prevented any movements. If you use movements be careful of having a lens that doesn't really meet your needs.

I used to shoot a lot of wide but learned to use the 210 for landscapes and rarely use anything else.

3-Dec-2009, 13:23
One user's opinion: Depends! Things to consider:

a) Camera used (not mentioned above). Some cameras struggle with a 75mm, and some that work well with the 75 provides very little if any movements. If you use a lot of movements you're better off with the 90mm.

b) You most likely will need a center filter on the 75... you most likely will not need a center filter on the 90. You'll find center filters are usually not included with a lens, and dreadfully expensive (new over $400).

c) As you have a 120mm already... the 75 provides more of a spread from it than the 90 (which quite often the 120 can nearly replicate the effect of the 90). But then again, there's not that much of a radical difference between the 75 and the 90.

d) Subject matter: Both lenses are useless for portrait and still-lifes... both only will be beneficial for landscape and architectural. Which one is better for landscapes will be dependent more on your shooting style than subject matter. Used for interiors, there's not a massive amount of difference between the two.

e) Filters: IF you are a heavy user of filters for color (plus of course B&W filters used), you'll find that IF you are using a center filter, then you'll need to be using larger filters (for instance: 75mm Grandagon-N f4.5 without center filter takes 67mm filters... with center filter takes 86mm filters).

I use a Linhof Master Technika with 75, 120, 150, 210, and 300 and shoot principally landscapes. Also had a 90mm until last week. My personal preference lies with the 75mm, altho' using it is considerably more of a challenge than was the 90 or 120. I do find the 120mm is by far the most-oft used lens in my kit as I have a preference for that wide angle look (210 also heavily used for other), it has lots of movements available, and is generally easier to use than wider lenses.

Ahhh... what I would do if I were in your shoes (and of course spendin' your money!)?: Buy both!!! One just can't have too many lenses, and if you don't "invest" it in camera-stuff you'll just spend it on far more useless stuff (ie: bills, groceries, etc.).....

Just my opinion of course.


David Home
3-Dec-2009, 13:26
Hi again.
Sorry I forgot to mention that the camera is a Wista DX. I understand that I will have to use a recessed lens board and probably will not be able to utilize the full movement the lens is capable of.
Thanks for your input.
Regards, David

3-Dec-2009, 13:57
Hi David,

I agree your camera model is key to know for the best help, and what you’ve mentioned is enough for a few additional tips.

I am craving something wider and find my back against the wall at times with the 120.

This may be the chief clue. If your need for a lens wider than 120mm is only “at times,” I’d suggest the 90mm. Yes, it’s closer to the 120 than a 75, but a 90 might prove the best match for your occasional need for it. A 120-to-75 might be too wide a step.

My use of 4X5 is landscape, portrait and still-life.

If you had mentioned interior/exterior architecture, the 75mm would likely be worth some very serious consideration. But the extra cost of the lens, the increased need for center filters, and the additional distortion it might produce are additional things to keep in mind.

…more expensive…

If cost is a critical consideration, you might consider replacing your 120mm with a 90mm – and crop when the need arises. Yet, it sounds like you use your 120 very often, and would miss it. If you find little need for your 150/250 convertible, you might consider replacing this one instead.

David Home
3-Dec-2009, 14:33
Hello all.
Thanks for the comments and I have a good bit to chew over.
One poster mentioned that the 75 is 'harder' to use then the 90.
Did you mean technically or aesthetically harder?
What is it about very wide lens that make them harder to use?

I pulled out some work I had done with my lenses on a 5X7 camera I had the use of for a while. I think the 120 on 5X7 is very close to the angle of view I will get with the 90 on 4X5. My feeling is that on landscape, there is a look with wider angle that I am not sure I like. There seems to be a 'looming' quality to the foreground which detracts from my aesthetic intention. Presumably with practice one learns to use this quality to ones advantage?

Anyway having read the comments posted I am leaning toward the 90. I think that I do not wish to alter the 'look' too much, just get a bit wider when necessary and when I cannot get the shot by stepping back. There are risks buying used lens but resale value is not one of them. If the 90 sits in my bag and doesn't get used, I can always sell it again and get back what I put in it.
Also the 90 on a recessed lens board will have a bit of movement possible on the Wista DX.
Regards, David

3-Dec-2009, 14:37
I have a 75 and a 90 which I use for landscapes. I rarely have need for a 75 which is quite wide on 4x5, a real pain to focus, a tight squeeze (I use a bag bellows), and offers little in the way of movements. Even with a recessed lens board, your bellows will be scrunched down tight on a 75mm. As a rule, I use the 90mm more often.

But, sometimes really wide is really good and the Rodenstock/Caltar 75mm lens is tack sharp and physically smaller/lighter that the 90mm 6.8 and takes the same 67 mm filters. I don't use a center filter with B&W.

The best advice is to buy both and then sell one if you don't use it enough to justify the cost. In good condition they seem to sell easily enough.

3-Dec-2009, 18:58
David, By use being harder on the 75mm I meant for several reasons:
a) Easier to screw up perspective... they're not quite as forgiving as a 90.
b) Harder to see images, especially in corners, on some ground glasses (I changed ground glass to help here).
c) Some cameras you have to rotate entire camera in order to shoot verticals (not familiar with your camera but you do with mine).
d) Have to be more careful setting up to avoid vignetting or on my camera the bottom platform.
e) Deep recessed boards more likely to be needed, making access to controls harder.

Altho' above I advised buying both above, I'd most likely suggest buying the 75 first if you find the one you like and filling the gap if you feel necessary to do so later. At least that way you get the larger expenditure out of the way first, and 90's are cheaper and seems to be easier to find than 75's and/or center filters.

But then again, I'm kind'a partial to obtaining the "looming quality" to foregrounds.....

3-Dec-2009, 19:37
Go with a 90. I think you'll find yourself fighting a 75 on a field camera. If you want to do a lot of interior architecture work with 75mm and shorter lenses, invest in a monorail view camera, preferably one that will specifically work with very short lenses. A Sinar F, for example, is not too expensive and will accept a 75 (or even a 65) on a flat lensboard. For most other cameras, you'd need a recessed board at the least, and those are really fiddly with the 4x4 or Technika-style board of a field camera.

Yes, a 75 is harder to see without an expensive viewing screen. But a 90 is usable even without a Fresnel--as I did for many years with a Cambo view camera.

Someone mentioned that a 90 had no movements on 4x5. I don't know what 90 he was using, but I think you'll find that a Schneider Super Angulon, Nikkor-SW, Fuji SWD, or Rodenstock Grandagon will allow plenty of movements for 4x5. My preference would lean towards the faster versions of these lenses because they are easier on the eyes (and have wider coverage), but they are pricier. The old Super Angulon f/8 will be fairly cheap and still work quite well, with 215mm of coverage. Just don't get a really old Super Angulon that is in a Compur 00 shutter--those lenses are bit large and heavy for that now-orphaned shutter. Another alternative that might pop up is a 90/8 Wide-Field Caltar, which is quite similar to the Super Angulon. The Caltar II-N is a Rodenstock Grandagon. Any of these would produce excellent results on 4x5 for your stated purposes.

Don't get an Angulon--those really will limit your movements substantially.

In 75, the choices are fewer, but they are available, too. Just make sure you can focus it and still have enough flexibility left in the bellows to take advantage of it.

Rick "seeing an older Grandagon 90/6.8 in a Copal shutter and bargain condition at KEH for under $300" Denney

Doremus Scudder
4-Dec-2009, 05:32

I have a Wista DX that I use both 90mm and 75mm lenses on (Schneider SA 90mm f/8 and Fujinon SWD 75mm f/5.6). Both are mounted in recessed Technika-style boards. The shutters have very little space between them and the recess of the board which prevents using fingers to set aperture and shutter speed (I keep a short cable release permanently attached to both and use the end of the cable release to do the settings). Cocking can just be accomplished with fingers. With the 90mm, the fit is pretty tight, I had to move the mounting hole slightly off-center to allow the shutter to cock.

Movements with both lenses can be done clear to the edge of the respective image circles with only minor crimping of the bellows. The f/5.6 or f/4.5 versions of the 90mm have a larger image circle, but also larger front and rear elements. This, I believe, would make dealing with them in a recessed board impractical if not impossible (maybe someone with one of the wider-aperture 90mms mounted in a recessed Technika board can confirm or refute this...). Both these lenses take 67mm filters.

From my experience, I would recommend you go with the 90mm first. I use the 75mm much less than my other lenses. In the 130+ negatives I made from my last trip to the Southwest (Death Valley, Escalante, etc.), only a handful, maybe 5 to 10, were made with the 75mm. True, the 75mm is invaluable when the subject is just too wide for the 90mm. But, that said, I had only the 90mm for years and years and only rarely found myself needing (or wanting) a wider lens.

The 75mm has some disadvantages as well: there is the above-mentioned light fall-off (not a problem for me without a center filter since I shoot B&W only and can correct the fall-off during printing), the difficulty of using a Fresnel lens, the difficulty viewing the corners of the ground glass, and the relatively small image circle (only small movements possible). These are present with the 90mm as well, but to a lesser extent, making the lens easier to use (even the dimmer f/8 version I have).

When anticipating a "wide-angle" shoot, I usually carry the 75mm, the 90mm (or a WF Ektar 100mm), and a 135mm plus a couple of longer lenses. I find the difference between the 135 and the 90 to be significant and often use the 90 with the intention of cropping a bit because the subject was just a bit wide for the 135. I might use the 90 less if I were carrying a 120mm like you have. Still, I use the 135mm and the 90mm much more often than the 75mm. If I have to hike a long way and anticipate using longer lenses, I'll often leave the 75mm in the car and grab the 300mm to fill out the other end. Only rarely do I find myself regretting the decision. Even then, I can usually compose something with the 90mm that is satisfying, if, perhaps, a compromise from my original intent.

If you end up with your back to the wall a lot with a 90mm, you will probably want to get a wider lens but still wish to keep the 90mm in your kit, since it is such a usable focal length.

Hope this helps in making your decision.


Doremus Scudder