View Full Version : Cheap (and old) 300mm choices.

Stephanie Brim
20-Feb-2010, 10:08
I made the mistake of looking on Ebay. Eek.

So I'm making a jump in format from 4x5 to 5x7. I have a 210 that will work, but I'm going to be working on portraits (a lot of portraits...) in the near future and I'm going to need something a little longer. I'm thinking 300, but if anyone has an idea that's a little longer I can take that, too. Any suggestions on what to look for? I've seen relatively cheap Tessars and I have to say that I love the look of that type of a lens. I'd prefer something with a shutter, but if it has to be without I can adapt.

Ken Lee
20-Feb-2010, 11:11
You'd be hard-pressed to find anything better than a Tessar for portraits. That is, unless you are looking for something like a "portrait lens".

They open wide, making it easy to focus, and a 300mm lens, opened wide, will give considerable blur. Even at f/8 they will be sharp as a tack - on 5x7 especially.

Make sure your camera can hold one. Because they are fast lenses (by large format standards) they get rather large and heavy.

Size and weight aside, their main limitation is coverage - so for architecture and landscape images which require a lot of movements, other designs are a better choice. But for portraits, they're my first choice too.

Stephanie Brim
20-Feb-2010, 11:15
The only other lens I'm watching is the 12" Wolly Velostigmat that I'm pretty sure more than one of YOU guys is watching. The Series IV? Heh. Probably also a good choice, if a smaller one, but I've seen those go over my cheap-arse budget.

20-Feb-2010, 11:25
What sort of 5x7 camera are you shooting with, and what are the dimensions of its lens board? I only ask because some of the older less expensive 300mm lenses are quite large and heavy, and may prove taxing on something like a 5x7 field camera. And when you're searching, remember to also look for lenses marked with focal lengths of 30cm, 305mm, and 12 inches in addition to 300mm.

In the way of barrel lenses, I'm a big fan of Tessars and old rapid rectilinears (or aplanats). The large aperture 300/4.5 Tessars are quite heavy, but Zeiss also made a 300/6.3 which is considerably smaller (and harder to find). I've also had some luck with a cheap (100$US) Agfa Super-Intergon 305/9 process lens. Actually there are a lot of cheap process lenses with maximum apertures of f/9 or f/10 that might work for you. Some might complain that those lenses aren't bright enough, or have don't shallow enough depth of field for portraiture work, but I find that maybe 80% of my 5x7 portraiture I shoot between f/8 - f/16, so an f/9 lens is fine. It is a little harder to focus than an f/5.6 lens, but if you've a focusing loupe it's not a problem. The above all tend to fall in the 100-250$US range and are quite usable for available light portraiture when used with a packard shutter and exposure times of around 1/2s to a few seconds. I suppose you could go the lenscap shutter route as well, but I don't trust myself to do that without introducing camera vibration.

If you want something with a more modern shutter, then I'd poke around for one of the Caltar branded lenses. The Caltar-S II 300/5.6 and the Caltar-II N 300/5.6 are excellent (rebranded Schneider and Rodenstock lenses respectively.) Then there's always the classic Kodak Commercial Ektar 12"/6.3. These all tend to fall in the 300-500$US range, but are worthwhile if you need faster more accurate shutter speeds and things like flash sync.

Paul Fitzgerald
20-Feb-2010, 11:31

none of them are cheap but:

B&L Special Portrait petzval 6.5 x 8.5" f/5, 300mm, adjustable soft focus rear cell, the front sell alone is a 400mm soft focus meniscus (mine's not for sale). These were very popular and re-badged with a dozen names.
B&L Unar, nice standard lens with an 'old' look to it, rear cell alone is very soft focus adjustable with stopping down.

Kodak Commercial Ektar f/6.3, 12" and 14" both work well with 5x7.
Kodak Ektar f/4.5, up to 12"

Wollensak Raptars f/4.5, fully the equal of Ektars

Voightlander Euryscope series 4 f/6, lovely look and convertible to 2X focal length
Voightlander Heliar and Universal Heliar

Goerz Dogmar, lovely look complete, triple convertible 1.4X and 1.9X, and 3 different looks.
Goerz Dagor, studio standard for a century, convertible.

Rodenstock Ysar, Schnieder Xenar, Zeiss Tessar, usually the equals of Ektar.

Price and condition count BUT now you're getting into really large, heavy lenses that may no fit your lens board.

Good luck with it

Mark Sawyer
20-Feb-2010, 13:21
There are sooooo many good 12" lenses to choose from, the two big variables are:

* Different ones are good at different things. There, I think the Series II Velostigmat with the variable diffussion (restraining screw removed) has the most potential for getting very different signatures from the same lens. (But it won't give the same razor-sharp-and-contrasty look you can get from a multicoated plasmat.) If you're lucky, you'll find one in a Betax 5 shutter, but that shutter doesn't have a flash sync.

* Which particular lens you find a deal on. And as I said, there are so many nice ones (they're all nice in their own way!), that you just need to see what you fall into, and have an idea if it gives the look you want to work with.

MIke Sherck
20-Feb-2010, 15:31
Look for an Ilex Paragon, Hugo Meyer, Congo, or one of the earlier Calumet 300mm lenses. All are decent designs but rarely anything "special" so can often be had for less than the big names. One reason is that their quality control was, shall we say, not a selling point. Sometimes that's an advantage with portraits! :)


Paul Fitzgerald
20-Feb-2010, 17:23

"So I'm making a jump in format from 4x5 to 5x7. I have a 210 that will work, but I'm going to be working on portraits "

what size is your lens board? I do have an extra B&L 8x10 tessar (300 f/4.5) in barrel mount you can have for shipping.

Stephanie Brim
20-Feb-2010, 17:41
Sanjay can answer that. He's got the camera at the moment. It looks to be a pretty strong lensboard, though. It's a Burke & James much like the one that was selling (and I couldn't get) a few weeks ago.

20-Feb-2010, 17:57
Another thing to consider is bellows length before taking on longer focal lengths.
If you're interested in the Super Intergon 305/9 mentioned by benrains above, I've got one I can part with for $100. PM me if you're interested.

Stephanie Brim
20-Feb-2010, 18:27

"So I'm making a jump in format from 4x5 to 5x7. I have a 210 that will work, but I'm going to be working on portraits "

what size is your lens board? I do have an extra B&L 8x10 tessar (300 f/4.5) in barrel mount you can have for shipping.

That's exactly what I'm looking for, really. Once I find out the size of the boards I'll let you know. :)

20-Feb-2010, 18:52
If it's a B&J View 5x7 the lensboard would be 5.25" square. The bellows extension on that camera is advertised as 21" (with the extension rail if you have one) so that should be plenty for a 300mm/12" lens at portrait distances. The faster (f/4-f/5) and hence heavier lenses might put quite a bit of stress on the hardware of the front standard. B&J's gear is fairly solidly built from what I've seen, but those old lenses can weigh a couple of pounds with all the brass, steel, and glass in them.

Carsten Wolff
21-Feb-2010, 01:25
The 12" and 14" Ektars are the classic lens choice, but there are a number of other lenses about and I wouldn't get hung up on brands and I'm actually not that fond of the shutters most Kodak lenses came in, be it Acme/Ilex, or Supermatics for the smaller lenses.
I mostly work with 5x7 these days and although I have a very nice 300mm/f9 Nikkor-M, I most often use a slightly longer (15" or ~380mm/f5.6) old Wollensak Tele, esp. for portraits and when I'm not hiking. I picked this up cheap: I may have paid US$20 or so for it, but it was a barrel lens, so I also had to find an Alphax #4 shutter for it, which probably set me back another $80 or so; I even managed to fit this onto a Linhof board. The nice thing is that it only needs 270mm or so of bellows at infinity, so when I'm lazy, I can even get away with using it with my old Arca W/A bellows. Optically it's lovely as well, it's bright and sharp with good bokeh and I really can't fault it. I like it enough, that I've even had heretic thoughts contemplating to go "budget" and sell both the 300mm Nikkor-M and my 450mm Fuji-C...

If you only occasionally do portrait, you have enough bellows and your 210 is an older Plasmat, try unscrewing one of the cells and see what happens :)

sun of sand
21-Feb-2010, 11:46
i think they're 16 inches bellows but whatever they are
portraits on 5x7 with a 210 is too short for the ideal look
300 is about ideal for 4x5 but considering most 4x5's only have 12-14in of bellows it's a tradeoff between ideal fl and fatigue of camera and most people decide to use a 240or so
5x7 I'm thinking a 14in would be about right if not on the shortish side
so don't avoid a longer lens when one shows up for nothin

a 14in tessar in barrel will wigh about 2.5 pounds
or the size and weight of a large soup can and a half
that's a lot to hang out there in breeze but not enough IMO to stress a standard or anything else unless weak already

shuttering on a fast barrel lens is tricky ..with fast film difficult unless you buy large ND filters
stopping down avoids that issue but whether you want to is up to the style of portrait you're going to go for

Brian Stein
21-Feb-2010, 17:22
Given you have two extremely good offers here Id call it on that: big tessar vs smaller slower process lens.
I use a B&J 5x7 and have no problem with a lens that's just under 2lb, although its by no means as rigid as the toyo 57G. If you have the extension rails you can easily go longer: I often use the 240 convertible symmar at its 420 mm length.

Stephanie Brim
21-Feb-2010, 17:28
It has the extension, I believe. The boards are 5 and 3/16 inches so I think I could mount the Tessar. I can make a custom board out of a nice, rigid hardwood if I wanted to; my grandfather has all the tools we'd need to do so.

I thought about convertibles, but I don't know much about them. I'll look at the Symmar, though I'm pretty sure it's probably over my limit budget-wise.

Paul Fitzgerald
21-Feb-2010, 19:28

the tessar is already mounted on a 5 3/16" board for an Ansco Studio 5X7, you may need to trim the rebate to match your camera. A Packard shutter large enough for the lens would need to be front mounted outside. Send an address in a PM if you wish.

Stephanie Brim
21-Feb-2010, 20:06

the tessar is already mounted on a 5 3/16" board for an Ansco Studio 5X7, you may need to trim the rebate to match your camera. A Packard shutter large enough for the lens would need to be front mounted outside. Send an address in a PM if you wish.

Eh, Packard...I'm not so high tech. I use the Jim Galli method: two dark slides. Heh. I've been trying to get my hands on one for quite some time, but something always seems to get in the way.

I'll PM you. It'll be a fun lens to play around with. :)

Stephanie Brim
18-Mar-2010, 15:52
So I got the 300mm quite a bit ago and haven't shot it yet because I need to fix the board still, but I just have to say that when someone says 'massive' on this forum they tend to mean it! I have a feeling that I'm going to really love it.

Now, pardon me...I have some luscious strawberries to shoot (and then eat :D)!

Jim Galli
18-Mar-2010, 16:25
Get to work girl. Find someone that can make that lensboard fit. Here's a page (http://tonopahpictures.0catch.com/BandLTessar/11X14BandLTessar.html) I made with a little bigger B&L Tessar. Easy to modify them to act like the more pricey Velo's. I'm waitin' to see those strawberries. They don't last long enough at our house to get photographed.

Stephanie Brim
18-Mar-2010, 17:06
The strawberry (because I found an odd-shaped one that I liked) is shot with the Ilex Paragon. I got it about life size on 5x7. That's...really big. I can't believe how much fun I'm having just shooting crap like that.

180mm f/4.5 is no slouch when it comes to weight, either.

I'm having my grandfather come with me tomorrow to the local Shopper's Supply (for those of you not in the midwest, it's a farm supply/home improvement hybrid) to look at PVC pipe for a daylight development tank idea I have. Whether or not it'll work is one thing, but it'll be fun making something with him. He's 80 years old and I really want to enjoy the moments while I can. I plan to have him sand down the board to the thickness it needs to be on the two sides then. So maybe I'll have shots with the 300mm tomorrow...of course, that depends on whether or not he'll sit still long enough for me to take his portrait. :D Considering how much he's helped me build, by his saw would probably be the best place. While I'm over at his house I plan to look for the Dremel he says he has but has never used and put it to use myself. ;)

So anyway, thank you to Paul for the lens and thanks to some random old stainless steal development tank with black lid for the idea for the light trap for the top of the tank I'm making. If it works, I'll post what we did. If it doesn't...well...we'll pretend I never mentioned it. :)