View Full Version : Newbie Calumet 400 Lens Options

9-Oct-2011, 00:07
Hello to all you LF shooters ! My first post

Heres my issue , I have been shooting 35mm slr, old rangefinders , yashica medium format twin lens etc and love black and white . I have decided to sell off some of my collection to purchase a beginners LF system for learning. I purchased what looks to be a calumet 400 4x5 monorail with lensboard for 56.00 what a steal . I want to put together a system as cheap as i can without a compromise in sharpness. I was wondering if there is a fair lens i could take from a camera that was in poor cosmetic or parts only condition to save some cash. Looks like 200.00 is the standard for a fair lens which is over my budget. My goal is to photograph all the bridges through the feather river canyon which would be easily roadside accessible . I was considering a 210 mm lens on a copal shutter . Also need to find a used bogen 3036 tripod and focusing loup and film holders. I was hoping to put a basic system together for under 300.00 and am excited to see those huge negatives. Thanks for the advice ! Im looking to ebay for parts.

9-Oct-2011, 02:47
In keeping with the camera you bought, Calumet used to sell two lenses that often show up on the bay and sometimes in the 'for sale' section here. They were manufactured by Ilex and each often goes for well under $100. First is the 165mm Caltar which is roughly a normal focal length for 4x5 and the second is the 90mm Caltar f8. The older versions both had Seikosha shutters while the newer version of the 90mm had the Copal (I think) shutter.

Don't forget, you will need the appropriate lens boards with the 90mm working best with a recessed board to allow freer and more extensive camera movements unless the version you bought is the wide angle body.

Anyway, shooting bridges will likely require a wide angle, so the 90mm (which is roughly the equivalent of a 28mm on a 35mm camera) might be the better candidate for you. The 165mm is a fine all around lens.

Older lenses like these usually require a good CLA for the shutter as the speeds are often way off. I use Carol at Flutotscamerarepair.com for all my large format lenses. She is a wonderful technician with rates much lower than most shops, with the only drawback being a fairly long waiting list. Turn around can take several weeks, but it's worth it.

Also, take a look at the options in the large format section at KEH.com. They have lots of different brands in a variety of focal lengths.

Jim Jones
9-Oct-2011, 06:41
Brand names on used equipment aren't as important as condition and price. The Ektar 203mm f/7.7 has a well deserved almost cult status, and similar lenses are even less expensive. Lenses taken from junker cameras rarely have the covering power desirable on view cameras. Copal doesn't have a monopoly on decent shutters. If an old shutter's speeds are off, but consistant, you can allow for their errors. There are several ways of roughly checking shutter speeds at no expense. Flat lens boards for the Calumet are easy enough to improvise for whatever lens you use. Near new film holders are nice, but dingy old holders usually work almost as well. A cheap loupe might not do all that one wants, but does what one really needs. I have several tripods, but almost always use an old Tiltall (not the new imported version). With careful shopping it may be less expensive than the Bogen with a head.

Keep asking questions here and perhaps on a few other sites. Knowledge is power. It helps us get the most out of our money, and the most satisfaction in making good photographs.

9-Oct-2011, 16:23
Be aware of what you ask for. Unless you buy the latest multi-kilobuck lens from Schneider or Rodenstock, you are going to be compromising sharpness. Now, is it a compromise that you will see with the naked eye in a 16x20 print? Probably not.

I haven't been watching lately, but I recall that nice 90's rarely go for much less than $200. The 150mm/9 Schneider G-Claron process lenses cover 4x5 very well, work great for landscapes stopped down to f/22 and occasionally sell below $150. So do 210mm/5.6 Caltar-S II (Schneider Symmar S) lenses. At 210mm and longer on 4x5, you really don't need fancy 6 element plasmat (210/5.6 Schneider Symmar, Rodenstock Sironar etc.) The 203mm/7.7 Ektar mentioned above is a good choice. As would be a tessar design like the Schneider Xenar or Rodenstock Ysarex, both made in 210mm & 240mm or the Kodak Commercial Ektars and Ilex built Caltars in 215mm/6.3, & 254mm/6.3 or Caltar badged versions of the Xenar & Ysarex lenses mentioned above. Of these, the Caltar badged lenses, no matter who made them, are most likely to be found with a sub $150 price.

This list is not at all comprehensive, but is only intended to identify some of the most common inexpensive lenses.

10-Oct-2011, 06:52
Often the best deals are found when you buy a camera, tripod, lens, and film holders all together. I end up with quite a few "free" cameras that way, where the total sells for less than the value of the lens etc.

Robert Hughes
10-Oct-2011, 13:03
Be aware of what you ask for. Unless you buy the latest multi-kilobuck lens from Schneider or Rodenstock, you are going to be compromising sharpness.
Also, keep in mind that St Ansel and the gang never shot with said high end lenses. They still managed to make a few decent snaps, of a sort...

Lynn Jones
10-Oct-2011, 13:23
The lenses of high quality and low cost would be the Ilex lenses for Ilex, Calumet, B&J, and BBOI.
The f6.3's were 4 element tessary type that were an improvement on the Commercial Ektar, they were Caltars, Acuton', and AcuTessars.

The 6 element plasmat type which covered over 70 degrees incluted Acuton and Acu Symmetrical, if you can find one of the few f4.8 Calumet symmetricals they were excellent but the others were f5.6 although otherwise identical.

The 103 degree wide angle included the WF Caltar, Acugon, and I can't remember the BBOI equivalent, we didn't sell very many. Some of these lenses will sell at a very attractive price and in my personal experience were excellent. All of these lenses were also sold as Ilex Paragons.


10-Oct-2011, 22:16
Thanks for all the replys !

Looks like the ilex are in my price range but picking up another camera with lens my be a option. I found a kodak 4x5 master view that appearently was the camera before the calumet 400 until the manafacturing license was sold to calumet. It has a schneider angulon 1:6 8/90 not sure what the 8 stands for maybe elements ? Im guessing if i can get it for under 100.00 and rob the lens and recessed board this would fit my needs but the ilex lenses may be an alternative. Any opinions on focal length for black and white photos of bridges . The 90 was a recomended lens but some of the bridges are accessable and will be bridge only while others will be in the distance with the river and foothills in the background. Also what shutters are considered real garbage and what brands are considered more predictable ?
Thanks again and sorry for all the newbie questions !!!

10-Oct-2011, 22:43
It's probably a typo for 1:6.8/90, which is a baroque way of saying 90mm f/6.8. That will have more falloff (dimmer corners) than a Super Angulon, but it's a perfectly good budget lens that will be plenty sharp when stopped down to f/22-f/32.

I like wides (90mm and shorter) and some people like longer lenses - it's all personal regarding the perspective you want to achieve. Do you have a favourite length for 35mm or medium format? I suspect most people would recommend that if you were to have just one lens on 4x5, it should be about 150mm and there are plenty of those going very cheaply.

I don't think there are any 'real garbage' shutters. Condition is more important than brand, though I suspect that most here would buy nothing mechanical from Seagull.

John Kasaian
10-Oct-2011, 23:15
A 203mm Kodak makes a fine lens for a 4x5. You can probaby still find them under $200 in good shutters if you're patient