View Full Version : Your favourite normal lens for 4x5?

Adrian Pybus
31-Mar-2012, 15:30
I have a Nikkor W 150 but on the GG this lens seems less sharp than my better 90mm and my better longer lenses.
So I'm thinking of locating a second second hand normal lens. I seems to have acquired several wider and longer lenses (yes, I suffer from GAS hamsteritis) but I only have the one normal lens.

What do you use?


Ed Richards
31-Mar-2012, 15:39
First, you cannot judge sharpness on the GG. Do some test shots before you buy any new lenses.

That said, I have come to realize that there is no normal lens, just the lens that is right for the scene before you. For a long time, I tended to just shoot with the lens on the camera, usually a 90mm. I finally broke the habit by not leaving a lens on the camera, so that I had to pick a lens every time. For walking around, I carry an 80, 110, and 210. (In the past it was a 90, 120 SW, and 180). I also carry a 300, but find I use it infrequently. Today I ended up doing interiors with the 80 for most shots (no room to move around) and the 210 for details and an exterior.

Adrian Pybus
31-Mar-2012, 16:13
Yes, I agree. There is a right lens for the specific image you have in mind.
I don't have a lens around 150mm that I'm happy with.
I have several over 200mm that I really like and I like my two 90mm lenses but I don't have anything in between.
Taking test shot is a good idea but then it's good if the image looks at least a bit sharpish on the GG. It's kind of hard to focus if it never looks sharp :)
Funny about you not leaving a lens on the camera. I decided today before reading you post to not have lens already on my camera but for a slightly different reason. You normally know which lens you want to use and that lens is usually not the one you have on. So you first have to remove the lens you don't want and then put on the one you want ... it screws up the flow.


31-Mar-2012, 19:13
Rodenstock 150mm Apo Sirona-S.

Doremus Scudder
1-Apr-2012, 02:50
If you Nikkor W 150mm is not focusing sharply on the gg and your other lenses are, then check the mounting, etc. to see if somehow you have mounted the lens improperly on the lens board (element spacing not correct), or some other problem. The Nikkor should focus just fine; it is a fine lens. What makes you think your 90mm lens is "better"?

To answer your question: my most used lens on 4x5 is 135mm. But, as mentioned already, lens choice should be a direct function of what you want in your picture and camera distance; i.e., viewpoint and magnification. I tend to think of 135mm as a slightly wide lens. BTW, I have two Ektar WF 135mm lenses and a Nikkor W 135mm. This latter is supposedly not the sharpest, but I have a good one. It is in the 60 l/mm area in the center. And, my Nikkor 150mm is really sharp too (which makes me think there is something wrong with the way your lens is mounted...



1-Apr-2012, 13:42
I'm just now reentering the LF arena so take what I have to write with a grain of salt...

I've always preferred longer ratio images... 2:3 or 1:2 rather than squarer ones like 4:5. So, for me, a "normal lens" for 4x5 cropped to 80x120mm (my actual usable image size) is 144mm. If you use the entire 95x120mm frame then 153mm is "normal". I agree with others regarding "normal" focal lengths and am using that term as only a reference. In either case 150mm is close enough.

IMHO, most any modern lens made during or after the 1970's should be more than adequate unless you get a lemon or just... under-spend.

FWIW, the lens I chose as my normal for cropped 4x5 (80x120mm) is a 135mm Apo Symmar. However, because I'll be using the same FL on other slightly larger images and I may want more wiggle room I'll probably replace it with a 135mm Fujinon-W.

If your Nikkor is "really" not sharp then something is definitely wrong either with the lens or the mounting. Maybe the rear element isn't fully seated into the shutter... hitting the jam nut or something. Even so... I'd think it should at least be sharp in the middle.

1-Apr-2012, 16:42
I agree with the others. It seems that there is something wrong with the lens or it is not mounted properly. Check that the rear element section is not loose and is flush without it being overtightened. The Nikkor 150w is very sharp. My Aztec-scanned prints with this lens have been superb.

Harley Goldman
1-Apr-2012, 17:11
I know people rave about the 150mm Rodenstock APO Sironar S. Based on those rave reviews, I bought one and sold a Nikkor W 150mm. After, I compared chromes through a 4x and 8x loupe. I really could not see much (any really) of a sharpness difference so I sold the Sironar S and got another Nikkor W and pocketed the significant extra $$. That was about 4 years ago and I did not have a moment of regret about selling the Sironar S. The Nikkor is very sharp. I am sure others have had a different experience, but that was my take on the two lenses. Any of the modern 150's, be it a Rodenstock, Nikkor or Fuji are really good lenses and I don't think you can go wrong with any of them.

Eric Rose
1-Apr-2012, 17:16
My favorite "normal" lens depends on my mood. Sometimes it's a 300mm and other times it's a 65mm. I don't try and shoe horn my images into one lens choice.

1-Apr-2012, 18:24
Rodenstock 150mm Apo Sirona-S.
Or the 135mm Apo Sirona-S. I have both, among the 14 lenses for 4x5, and use whichever seems most appropriate.

- Leigh

Adrian Pybus
2-Apr-2012, 01:04
Thanks everybody for the feedback.
It was good to hear that most of you really like the 150 Nikkor. I'll see if it's mounted correctly or perhaps it has gotten a heavy kiss in the past.


Noah A
2-Apr-2012, 07:10
I recently did some real-world lens testing and compared a few Rodenstock and Schneider lenses--namely the 115 Grandagon and 120 Super Angulon in one comparison and the 135 Apo-Sironar-S and 135 Apo-Symmar in another.

I realized that at least between Rodenstock and Schneider, there are very few differences between the lenses in terms of performance. I found the Schneiders had a touch less contrast, but it was a really small difference. I was a bit surprised that in both comparisons, the Schneider seemed to resolve fine details a bit better, though again, this was only really visible upon really close inspection of a drum-scanned E100G chrome printed in a section equal to a 48"x60" print! This surprised me especially in the case of the 135 Apo-Sironar-S since it's often said to be the sharpest lens out there.

But all four lenses I tried were absolutely tack sharp, even in the edges with some movement. So my point here is that there are very few differences between performance in modern lenses. It's true that I only tested Schneider and Rodenstock but I doubt Nikon would be much different in terms of image quality, though they may have a different look in terms of color and contrast.

I think you either have a real dog of a lens, your lens was damaged somehow, or something is wrong with the lens spacing, etc.

My favorite normal focal length is 135mm, though I use a 150 most of the time because it fits in better between my overall favorite focal lengths, 120 and 210.

Greg Y
2-Apr-2012, 07:15
My #1 lens is my 8 1/2" golden Dagor on my 5x7. If I were to have only one lens this would be the one. I use it more than any other.

John Rodriguez
3-Apr-2012, 21:16
In the normalish range I've tried a Nikon 135mm, and Fujinon 125, 150, and 180mm - all f/5.6 Ws. All the Fuji's are/were very sharp. The Nikon was soft in comparison. If I could find a 90mm as sharp as those Fujis I'd be a happy man, my 90mm Caltar/Rodenstock Grandagon 6.8 isn't in the same league.

4-Apr-2012, 13:39
My 'normal' lens is a Symmar-S 150/5.6. I've used Xenars (135 & 150) in the past, and I can't tell the difference except none of my cameras will fold up with the Symmar. I am looking for a couple of others to try, I really want to try color film with a Fujinon. But I haven't decided the format, so I haven't bought the lens yet.

Armin Seeholzer
4-Apr-2012, 15:51
Its a 135mm and a 210mm I'm a 150mm hater!

MIke Sherck
4-Apr-2012, 19:41
For me, "normal" is either my 210mm Fuji or my 125mm fuji. About half my photographs are taken with the one, half with the other. I have a 300mm Nikon M which gets used very occasionally, and I recently bought a 90mm f/8 Fuji to see whether I would use it in addition to or in replacement of the 125mm.


5-Apr-2012, 02:42
I was a bit surprised that in both comparisons, the Schneider seemed to resolve fine details a bit better, though again, this was only really visible upon really close inspection of a drum-scanned E100G chrome printed in a section equal to a 48"x60" print!
Usually, when you can see only very slight differences, you're seeing variation between individual samples rather than product-wide effects.

All manufactured products have tolerances. These add up to determine the final performance of the product.

- Leigh