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Thread: Wide aperture performance of 110mm to 120mm lenses

  1. #1

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    Wide aperture performance of 110mm to 120mm lenses

    I am selecting lenses for a documentary project using a 4x5. I'll being working in a wide range of settings, both inside and outside. The lenses I'm considering for a moderate wide angle are:

    Super Symmar XL 110mm
    Super Symmar HM 120mm
    Apo Symmar 120mm
    Apo Symmar L 120mm

    I understand that most view camera lenses are optimized at smaller f-stops around f/22. Of these lenses which would perform at wider apertures the best? Perhaps in an f/8 to f/11 range.

    I have experience using many different formats, and have used 4x5 for some time. I've done a lot of searching on Google, and have also looked at the MTF charts I could find, but don't really know how to read them, so any help from people with experience using these lenses would be most helpful.

    Any suggestions for other lenses to consider in this focal length range that perform well at wider apertures would also be helpful.

  2. #2

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    Re: Wide aperture performance of 110mm to 120mm lenses

    None are corrected for wide open. Most should be pretty good at 8 to 11 however, many will probably need a center filter and those will only work with the lens stopped down at least 2 stops

  3. #3

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    Re: Wide aperture performance of 110mm to 120mm lenses

    Bob, are you sure about the need for a center filter? I ask because a 120 shot on 4x5 with no movements will lose at most 1 stop in the corners and center filters aren't often used for such relatively minor optical vignetting. If the OP is going to decenter his lenses much, well, that's another matter.

  4. #4
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: Wide aperture performance of 110mm to 120mm lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by Arne View Post
    I am selecting lenses for a documentary project using a 4x5. I'll being working in a wide range of settings, both inside and outside. The lenses I'm considering for a moderate wide angle are:

    Super Symmar XL 110mm
    Super Symmar HM 120mm
    Apo Symmar 120mm
    Apo Symmar L 120mm

    I understand that most view camera lenses are optimized at smaller f-stops around f/22. Of these lenses which would perform at wider apertures the best? Perhaps in an f/8 to f/11 range.
    The phrase "documentary project" means very little to me. What are you actually trying to do?

    Without knowing this, I can forge ahead anyway.

    The best lens in my kit is the SS-XL 110mm. It's razor sharp, even at f/8. It's image circle is huge, so plenty of room for movements. And that large image circle means you really never need a center filter. At least, I never bothered to buy one, let alone use one. And I've made some huge enlargements from that lens and not felt the need to correct any kind of light fall off.

    I'm just sayin' it's an excellent lens for 5x4 in my book.

    Bruce Watson

  5. #5
    Eric Woodbury
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    Re: Wide aperture performance of 110mm to 120mm lenses

    There is a Super Angulon at 121mm/8 you might want in the mix. It's a wonderful lens and can be had for a song. Almost covers 8x10.

  6. #6

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    Re: Wide aperture performance of 110mm to 120mm lenses

    Bob, thank you for the solid information. As always you are a tremendous help.

    Bruce, thank you for the info about the 110 and it's quality at f/8. I'm beginning a project photographing people, their homes, and the countryside in my area, which may include central and northern Maine. I will be photographing in unpredictable situations, and having the ability to use f/8 when needed, and still get very good results, is important for me. I may use some lens movements, but nothing too drastic, so really all of these lenses would work. Still I'm intrigued by the 110.

    I'll be using both Portra, and black and white 4x5 film, so it will be possible to adjust the prints or scans for any light falloff. I'm planning on analog printing, but may scan the negs at some point if I need to do large prints. If I can find a used center filter I'll try testing both with and without it.

    Eric, thank you for mentioning about the Super Angulon. A good suggestion.
    Last edited by Arne; 11-Nov-2016 at 21:00.

  7. #7

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    Re: Wide aperture performance of 110mm to 120mm lenses

    One other question.

    The 110 Super Symmar has threads for a back filter. I've always just used front filters. But can see the benefits of the smaller filter on this lens.

    I've read that when using a filter on the back of the lens you need to focus with the filter in place, and be careful for any dust on the filter.

    My question is if the image quality is degraded more than with a front filter, assuming top quality multicoated filters are used.

  8. #8

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    Re: Wide aperture performance of 110mm to 120mm lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by Arne View Post
    One other question.

    The 110 Super Symmar has threads for a back filter. I've always just used front filters. But can see the benefits of the smaller filter on this lens.

    I've read that when using a filter on the back of the lens you need to focus with the filter in place, and be careful for any dust on the filter.

    My question is if the image quality is degraded more than with a front filter, assuming top quality multicoated filters are used.
    No, the lens is not designed for rear filters. If it was it would have come with some type of filter in place on it.

  9. #9
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: Wide aperture performance of 110mm to 120mm lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by Arne View Post
    The 110 Super Symmar has threads for a back filter. I've always just used front filters. But can see the benefits of the smaller filter on this lens.

    I've read that when using a filter on the back of the lens you need to focus with the filter in place, and be careful for any dust on the filter.

    My question is if the image quality is degraded more than with a front filter, assuming top quality multicoated filters are used.
    Here's the thing about the 110. The first glass element comes out to about where the threads are. That is, if you screw in a filter tight, you can touch the lead element with the filter. People scratch the lens that way. Design flaw IMHO.

    There are a couple of easy ways out of this -- find a junker 67mm filter and remove the filter from the ring. Now you have a 67-67 extension ring that you can use as a spacer between filter and lens.

    Second, you can use a 67-72mm step up ring and use 72mm filters (72mm is just an example, use whatever filter size you want).

    Third, if you are scanning your film, just forget about using filters and do your adjustments in photoshop.

    What I did was to standardize on 67mm filters, used option one above for my 110, option two above for lenses that were less than 67mm, and then for all my photography I used option three, which rendered my filters and step up rings a waste of time and money.

    Bruce Watson

  10. #10

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    Re: Wide aperture performance of 110mm to 120mm lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
    Here's the thing about the 110. The first glass element comes out to about where the threads are. That is, if you screw in a filter tight, you can touch the lead element with the filter. People scratch the lens that way. Design flaw IMHO.

    There are a couple of easy ways out of this -- find a junker 67mm filter and remove the filter from the ring. Now you have a 67-67 extension ring that you can use as a spacer between filter and lens.

    Second, you can use a 67-72mm step up ring and use 72mm filters (72mm is just an example, use whatever filter size you want).

    Third, if you are scanning your film, just forget about using filters and do your adjustments in photoshop.

    What I did was to standardize on 67mm filters, used option one above for my 110, option two above for lenses that were less than 67mm, and then for all my photography I used option three, which rendered my filters and step up rings a waste of time and money.
    Heliopan filters place the glass closer to the front of their ring thus eliminating this problem.

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