View Full Version : Normalish focal length lenses for 8x10

adam satushek
19-Jul-2012, 14:22
Hi All,

I'm just curious what 'normal' focal lenghts you use for 8x10? I know there are lots of different definitions of 'normal' but I'm thinking of it in the range of about 240mm to 360mm.

I currently have a 300mm caltar f5.6 (i think its a Schneider Symmar-s), and its been fine (even with extensive schneideritis) except that the shutter is dying and I consistently run out of coverage. I'm thinking of upgrading soon, and have of course been eying the Rodenstock Sironar-S series in this focal lenght range.

But my question is not about specific lenses but instead choice of focal lengths. I already have a Nikkor-M 450mm which I really like, so considering that what paring do you suggest?

I know this is very subjective and I need to figure it out for my self, but I am just curious what other photographers prefer.

300mm, and 450mm?

360, and 450mm?

240mm, 360mm, and 450mm?

240mm, 300mm, 360mm, and 450mm?

Any other combination that you use?

Or do you use just one lens?

In 4x5 I essentially never shoot shorter than 120mm. And about 90% of my shots are 150mm or 210mm/300mm, so logically I should be just fine with a 300mm and 450mm, but for some reason a 300mm in 8x10 feels very different to me than 150mm in 4x5. The 300mm feels wider than the 150mm.....not sure why.

So, any insight into why you chose the focal lengths that you did would be greatly appreciated.


Oren Grad
19-Jul-2012, 15:31
I currently have a 300mm caltar f5.6 (i think its a Schneider Symmar-s), and its been fine (even with extensive schneideritis) except that the shutter is dying and I consistently run out of coverage.

In what kinds of situations are you running out of coverage? The 300 Symmar-S is specified for an image circle of 411mm at f/22, which leaves a fair amount of room against the format diagonal of about 312mm. The 300 Apo-Sironar-S has a specified image circle of 448mm but is very, very expensive new, pretty scarce and stlll very expensive used. Of course, depending on your taste in rendering, there are other, not so expensive lenses like the 305 G-Claron that can give you ample coverage when stopped way down, if that's what you need.

FWIW, my normal for 8x10 is 270mm. I have the G-Claron and the Computar in that focal length, but I prefer the rendering of the Apo-Sironar-N and -S, which aren't available in 270mm, so I'll often go with a Rodenstock 240 or 300 instead.

As for lenses other than the normal, I rarely shoot long. But I'll often take a shorter second lens, which for 8x10 can be any of several possibilities down to 120mm.

Oren Grad
19-Jul-2012, 15:47
In what kinds of situations are you running out of coverage? The 300 Symmar-S is specified for an image circle of 411mm at f/22, which leaves a fair amount of room against the format diagonal of about 312mm....

Ack, that sounds bad, sorry. I take your word for it that you're running into a problem. But knowing more might help clarify what are the best options for overcoming it.

John Kasaian
19-Jul-2012, 15:58
My most used 8x10 lenses run 10"-ish, 14" and 19"

19-Jul-2012, 16:38
I have lenses of 120mm, 150mm, 210mm, 240mm, 300mm, 360mm, and 450mm for the 8x10 cameras.

The Nikkor SW 150/5.6, Nikkor W 300/5.6 and 360/6.5, and Nikkor M 450/9 all have ICs of 400mm or larger.

The other ICs are:
Nikkor SW 120/8 (312mm)
Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-S 210/5.6 (316mm)

The Nikkor W 240/5.6 (336mm) is a good lens if little or no movement is required; otherwise I use the
Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-S 240/5.6 (372mm) that affords about 1" of movement, which isn't very much but it's a wide-angle on 8x10.

- Leigh

Alan Gales
19-Jul-2012, 21:59
I own a 14" Kodak Commercial Ektar and a 250mm Fujinon f/6.7 lens. The 14" feels like a normal lens and the 250mm feels wider than a normal lens to me.

E. von Hoegh
20-Jul-2012, 06:42
I like 240 as a moderate wide that gives some room for front movements. 360 is another nice focal length. If I had to get by with just two lenses, these would be a good pair.

I'm surprised you're running out of image circle with a 300mm Symmar; that lens has as much or more coverage than the 30cm Dagor I use, which gives me all the room I've ever needed.

20-Jul-2012, 07:04
i have been shooting on a 360, taking just one lens out, and it feels pretty normal to me, not to long not to short. It would be, or something around that length, my one lens for 8x10.

as to why, well, the 360 just lets me do what ever i want and compositions feel very comfortable, to me, much like the eye sees, or rather what my eye is happy to see in the GG. i actually love looking at the ocean or beach through the GG using the 360

I have been using it to shoot the ocean, and love it, i have been using it to shoot street scenes of shops etc, portraits (full body) fine, interior shots, i have not taken yet another lens out, but i think it all depends on what your shooting to, sound obvious.

tommorrow i plan to take out my 19" as i have not been able to get close to the counter of a cafe i tried to shoot last saturday, i have to set up on the foot path, so need longer lens, but my last three outings have all been 360.

360 will of course give you a full circle.


adam satushek
20-Jul-2012, 08:26
Thanks for all the suggestions so far!

Oren: Don't worry, I was not offended by you asking why I run out of coverage...its a valid question and something I should think about. So for you and E.von who was also suprised I run out of coverage here is a description of a recent shot where I had issues. I was shooting some huge satelite dishes a long ways off on a gentle hilside with some nice fields in the foreground and a dramatic sky. The ground sloped gently from my feet to the dishes. I maxed out my front rise, which is only 1.5 inches or so because my Sinar F2 8x10 unfortunately has a 4x5 front (thats another issue I need to address), then I had to resort to false rise by tilting the whole camera up and strightening out the standards to get the composition I wanted. And of course I feel like I need everything in focus...so from about 10-15 feet in front of me to infinity. Since the only tall objects(satelite dishes) were far off I used extensive front tilt to match the focal plane with the slope. It ended up working out fine and I got the shot, but it was a fine balancing act between tilting the front enough to put the plane of focus where I wanted and reducing rise so I was not vignetting and trying to not stop down past f32.

So I realize there are several things I could do to use the most of my current image circle. First I could use more rear movements for focus. I have generally avoided this as I dont like introducing distortion....but I probably should have in this situation. Also, I need to use my ladder more. Adding a 3-4 feet between my lens and the ground would allow me to use less rise and should also make getting my desired DOF easier due to the added distance between the lens and the closest thing in the frame. I should also problably be less afraid of f45. I try to shoot everything are f32 or wider on 8x10, because I can generally get everyting I need with f22 on 4x5, but I should probably be more willing to go to f45 when needed.

But anyways, in terms of focal lengths I am still having a hard time deciding. I like the idea of a 360mm because I could probably get a cheaper Nikkor or Sironar-N and still be good on coverage. If I went with a 240mm or 300mm I think I would want something with extra coverage, like the Sironar-S (also because I love my 150mm Sironar-S on 4x5) but of course those are out of the question new and hard to find used.

I guess ideally I'd have all 3: 240mm, 300mm, and 360mm, but ill have to sell some other gear first.

(PS. I do have a super wide, the Nikkor-SW 120, but as far as I am concerned it is a 4x5 lens...its just way too wide for me. I slap that lens on my 8x10 occationally just to gawk at how wide it is...but have only exposed 1 neg. with it.)

Alan Gales
20-Jul-2012, 12:08
I know what you mean about super wide. I picked up a Schneider 121mm for less than $200.00 including shipping off Ebay a few months ago. I thought it was a great deal at the time but I still have not actually used it yet. It is really wide!

E. von Hoegh
20-Jul-2012, 12:19
I had a 6 1/4" Wollensak Ser III, and that was damn wide - like a 75mm on 4x5. I hardly ever used it, and traded it off because it was uncoated. Sometimes I wish I'd kept it.

adam satushek
25-Jul-2012, 14:41
Thanks again to everyone for their responses, you have given me a lot to think about.

Just to update, I think I have decided to try to find a Nikkor-W 360mm F6.5. With an image circle of 494mm I think I will have plenty of room for movements. And they seem to go for pretty reasonable prices. I have been curious to try out the 360mm focal length as 300mm somehow seems slightly wide to me on 8x10.

karl french
25-Jul-2012, 15:20
Be prepared for the size of the thing. It's a beast.

I have an Osaka Commercial 360/6.8 which seems not much bigger than your average vintage 300mm lens.

Leonard Evens
25-Jul-2012, 16:42
The normal focal length for any format is usually taken to be the diagonal of the format. For 8 X 10 inch format, which is actually slightly smaller, 300 mm comes pretty close.

adam satushek
26-Jul-2012, 10:37
Be prepared for the size of the thing. It's a beast.

Yeah I'm aware that it is big and heavy, but I figure it can serve dual purpose as a boat anchor....which is a big plus for me.

But seriously, I am not really concerned with size or weight. I already have a 300mm f5.6 symmar-s (badged as caltar) and while I know the 360mm f6.3 Nikkor is bigger and heavier I am not concerned. I rarely shoot more than 100 yards from my car....not out of laziness, but that us usually where the kind of stuff I like to shoot is.

It may cause me to upgrade my 8x10 or at least the front standard because my F2 "8x10" is unfortunately half 4x5. It's one of those conversion jobs with just the 8x10 rear standard, heavy dity clamp, and tapered bellows, but with an F2 4x5 front standard. Works ok and have not had any stability issues yet, even with my 450mm, but the very limited amount of front rise is annoying. I need to fix this situation anyways, so if the weight of the 360mm motivates me to do it that is just fine.

26-Jul-2012, 14:48

I'm in the moment getting my 8x10 setup up and running,
camera is a Toyo 810M, which already came with three lenses:
* Schneider Super-Symmar HM 210 f/5,6
* Rodenstock Apo-Sironar S 240 f/5,6
* Schneider Apo-Symmar 300 f/5,6

I've ordered two other lenses (oriented at my 4x5 habits):
* Nikkor-SW 150 f/8
* Nikkor-M 450 f/9

I'm not sure why the previous camera owner had both 210 and 240, as I find those very close.
I think I will leave the 240 at home most of the time and go for the 210.

Best regards,

Steve Barber
26-Jul-2012, 17:20
You say you like the longer focal lengths for 8x10, but I am surprised no one has mentioned by favorite for that format, the 210mm f8 Super-Angulon, at least for landscapes and buildings. You commented on how wide the Nikon 120 is and I agree, it is just about too much for the 8x10, but I use the 210 more than any other and it certainly has enough coverage. Seems to me it would have been just about perfect for the situation you described where that was an important issue with your 300.

Steve Barber
26-Jul-2012, 17:27
With it you would, of course, need to upgrade to a capable front standard, the 210 S-A defines big and heavy.