View Full Version : 4x5 lenses

Bob Ring
3-May-2004, 16:34
I'm wondering if anyone can give me some direction on a good all round 4x5 lense for wooden field camera. I take mostly landscapes (no interiors, etc). I'd like it to be very sharp & good contrast for chromes. Any thoughts?

steve simmons
3-May-2004, 16:48
I'm wondering if anyone can give me some direction on a good all round 4x5 lense for wooden field camera. I take mostly landscapes (no interiors, etc). I'd like it to be very sharp & good contrast for chromes. Any thoughts?>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Stay with lenses made in the last 15 years. People will argue over Schneider, Rodenstock and Nikon but the differences are only apparent with very high magnification. Fuji has also has some pretty good lenses.

What focal lengths are you looking for. If you are just getting started in large zformat there is some free info on our web page that might be helpful


go to the section on Free Articles

steve simmons

Ted Harris
3-May-2004, 17:10

I think most will agre that there is very little difference between 'standard' focal length from any of the big 4 as long as yo stick to current/recent production as Steve already mentioned. Somewhere in the range of 135 mm tto 210 mm is the comfortable 'normal' range for many. I prefer to stay wider and the Rodenstock 135mm Sironar S is my choice when I want to go light withy one lens.

OTOH if I had to choose just one lens for all seasons it would be the Schneider Super Symmer XL (pricy however). I'd recommend a 135 or 150 for your first lens.

3-May-2004, 17:48
"Stay with lenses made in the last 15 years." IMO that's bad advice. Replace "the last 15 years" with "since WW2" is a more reasonable suggestion for LF lenses.

3-May-2004, 18:05
Half of my lenses are from before WWII and are not coated. They produce outstanding results(Dagors and Heliars). The contrast is subtly different from multicoated lens, but that is no reason to avoid them - in fact, I sometimes prefer the look. There is no substitute for research about the qualities of individual lenses. There are many dogs to avoid from the past, but many gems as well. I suggest that Bob do some research, most of it available from information available in this website's article section, and from Chris Perez' giant lens test (as well as other sources).

Gem Singer
3-May-2004, 18:16

World War II ended in 1945. There have been many advances in lens design, coating, and manufacturing technique just within the last 15 years. All of the major lens manufacturers have introduced new models (except for Nikon) since 1990. I recommend that Bob look for the latest designed lenses that will fit his budget. Start with a lens in the 135-180mm range. Then add longer and shorter (wide angle lenses) in the future.

Ole Tjugen
3-May-2004, 19:40
I agree with Bill - almost. Except for very special situations, a coated lens is far better than an uncoated one. The difference between single-coated and multicoated is an order of magnitude smaller.

Any post-WWII lens that is coated; if Schneider, newer than 1970 when quality control seems to have improved a lot. That said, I have a very sharp 1924 Xenar 180mm/f:4.5, so you can be lucky.

My first suggestion? A 150mm/f:5.6 Schneider Symmar "convertible". It's not the sharpest lens ever made, nor the one with the most coverage, nor the brightest. But it's a very decent all-round lens, available for a decent price, and you can even unscrew the front group and use it as a (fairly poor) 265mm/f:11. Most of my chromes were shot with this lens, and I have no complaints. They are not as magically sharp as those I've shot with APO-Lanthars (210mm and 150mm), but the price is about 1/10th of these.

Buy a decent cheap lens first, then you can still afford a better one (in a different length) when you decide you need one.

Michael Kadillak
3-May-2004, 20:34
A simple beginner question deserves a simple answer.

Buy a used Nikon 135mm W or a Nikon 150mm W lens and you will be assured of one of the best combinations of performance and costs.


Scott Rosenberg
4-May-2004, 06:08
having just gone through this process a few months ago, i will relate my experiences.

after much research, i bought the following lenses:

150 Sironar S: Wonderful lens, contrasty and very sharp to the edges.

240 Fujinon A: I love this lens - very compact, contrasty and sharp.

i just ordered a 90 Grandagon... if it performs anything like the 150, i'll be very pleased.

i don't speak with much authority, as these are the only lenses i've used. however, i can't imagine getting consoderably better results had i chosen other glass. there's a lot of good info at the following links:




i will restate what others have said - choose any of the modern lenses out there and you won't go wrong. there's probably a larger drift in performance between individual samples of the same lens then across brands.

whatever you choose, get out and enjoy it, scott

Colin Carron
4-May-2004, 07:01

I suggest you look at what lens you use most in smaller formats. If you tend to go for wide angle landscapes (say 28mm in 135 format) then something like a 90mm f8 Super Angulon would be good. If you tend to use a 'standard' lens then a 150mm f5.6 Schneider Symmar-S would fit. (or the earlier Symmar and the current Apo-Symmar). Similarly a short tele lens of 70mm equates to the 210mm focal length. (Again the Symmar would do here). I have cited Schneider lenses but Rodenstock, Nikon and Fuji make equivalents which are all very good. Depending on your budget you can buy new examples or get older versions which tend to be progressively cheaper.

good luck

neil poulsen
4-May-2004, 08:15
"Stay with lenses made in the last 15 years."

Let's assume that the lens you purchase doesn't show any signs of abuse. Then, you will most likely get a lens that's very high quality and that is multicoated. It's hard to go wrong with a lens like this.

At the very least, consider staying with multi-coated lenses. You can still obtain good photos with single-coated lenses. But, the later the lens, the less likely it is that you will encounter problems.

Calamity Jane
4-May-2004, 12:38
Geez, you fellers had me worried fer awhile. I picked up a Scheinder 150/265 convertable from E-bay for $137 'n' thought I got a great deal on a good lens. When I started readin down this thread, I waz gettin a sinkin feeling.

Glad ta hear that at least some folks think they're an ok lens.....

Sharon S.
4-May-2004, 13:49
If it is possible in your area to rent a lens, you should rent and test them out before purchasing. I wasn't sure if I wanted a 110 SS or 90 mm SAXL so I rented them and tried them out. Considering the cost of either of the lenses, it was worth it to spend some $ renting. (I eventually got the 90 mm SAXL...lovely).

John Kasaian
4-May-2004, 14:23

There you have it---twelve different correct answers! While it seems logical enough that you'd want to get the best lens for your hard earned $$, I offer that as long as you get a reputable lens in good condition in a properly working shutter you'll be better off just going out and taking pictures with the thing rather than stressing over a something like a Nikkor vs Schneider debate. As long as you don't get a "dog" or even an otherwise respectable lens thats been somehow futzed up by a shade tree mechanic, you'll have a worthy combination. IMHO, Developing your own imagination and creativity is far more important than the name on your lens, so get out there and take some pictures!

Edward (Halifax,NS)
5-May-2004, 06:49
Jane, while your lens is the second worst normal lens on Chris Perez's test site it is still sharp enough to give good quality 16X20s. What I would worry about is a 50 year old shutter. If it is properly maintained it will probably last another 50 year - still, that kind of age scares me.

As for my recommendation, I say Rodenstock cuz it sounds cool. I like the way it rolls off the tongue. In all seriousness it depends on your budget. I am in the same boat as Jane and I spent $67 on a Schneider 150mm f/9 G Claron and I will be spending $50 to $75 for a shutter to put it in. If I had $500+ that would not be my choice but I don't.

Brian C. Miller
6-May-2004, 21:10
Honestly, I use whatever I can get, i.e., afford. Why? Well, I have a 35mm Nikon Nikkormat. Before the lot across the street got filled with duplexes, I photographed the lot and brick buildings with both the Nikon 50mm lens and Graflex Super Graphic. Guess what the results were: LF had all the detail! Like, duh!

The biggest problem I had with sharpness was that my old Graflex's ground glass had been replaced, and the image on the replacement was not in the film plane. I then bought a new GG/fresnel, and shimmed it up. What did I use for shims? Strips of film from 35mm and 4x5 sheets. The biggest job was getting the measurements right.

From an old Shutterbug article, coated/uncoated has a big effect with color film. For B&W, all contrast adjustment can be done in the darkroom, i.e., film development and paper grade.

So from my perspective, just get _something_. Then learn to use it to its utmost.

Kirk Gittings
7-May-2004, 01:10
Basically I think in this context Steve is right, especially for novices. I think it takes a very knowledgeable person to buy older lenses whereas anyone can hardly make a bad choice of major brand "lenses made in the last 15 years".

Let me give you an example. I used to have a 70's vintage 120 Super Angulon and a recent Schneider 210. Images from the early 120 were always about a paper grade flater than images from my newer lenses. The newer lenses were simply more contrasty. The difference meant that I had different normal dev. times for negs. from different lenses. Too much complexity for my tiny little brain. I now have seven lenses, five Schneiders and two Nikkors that were all made in the last ten years. Normal dev. time for all negatives are the same now regardless of the lens used and I can simply worry about expansion and contraction etc. Simplicity in the darkroom for me is a huge virtue.

Ernest Purdum
7-May-2004, 07:19
Bob, if you email me your mailing address, I'll send you a booklet on lens choice.

John Kasaian
7-May-2004, 14:47
Just a thought---

Q: What do Large Format lenses have in common with pizza and sex?

A: When its good, its very very good and when its only so-so, its still pretty darn good!