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Thread: First lens for 4x5

  1. #1
    Large Format Curious
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    Question First lens for 4x5

    I just picked up my very first (well, almost first) LF camera, a 4x5 format.

    Now I'm looking for a lens.

    Having shot medium format (6x6) for 20 years, I understand that doubling the focal lengths I like best should give the approximate equivalent focal length in 4x5.

    In almost all cases, I've always found 80mm (same as 50mm in 35mm film/digital cameras) just a touch too wide, and prefer something between 90-120mm. My first and favorite MF lens was a 110mm/f4 Macro PS, currently it's a 90mm f/4 APO Symmar Macro, and I occasionally use the 80mm f2 Xenotar with 1.4x Longar teleconverter for a 112mm/f2.8 equivalent.

    While the "normal" focal length for 4x5 is 150mm, I'm wondering if I would be happier going with something closer to 180-210mm as a first lens. I'm primarily looking at the Rodenstock APO Sironar S (or W if I can find one for a reasonable price) as well as the Schneider APO Symmar L, both seem to be very highly rated, very sharp, and with excellent color and contrast, as well as reasonably light and portable (not the lightest, but not the heaviest either). It's always easy to make a lens look softer or put a filter on it, so I'd like to get a good sharp lens to start with, and go for a "character" lens later, should I continue pursuing LF.

    Suggestions? Am I correct in looking at 180mm - 210mm, or will that make it difficult to take "normal perspective" photographs? I hope/expect in a few years to end up with a 3 or 4 lens setup, wide, normal, tele/portrait and possibly a specialty lens. For now I want to stick to the basics and learn, and am looking for a good solid lens to start with.

    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Join Date
    May 2015
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    100

    Re: First lens for 4x5

    All of what you said makes sense, so pick a lens and go with it. My first lens was a 180mm Wollensak (it came with the camera) but I prefer slightly shorter so I soon got a 150mm and I used that for a long time. Now I have a 90mm, 150mm, and two 210's (one is a nice old 10" Commercial Ektar).

    So pick one and use it a lot until you feel the need for another.

  3. #3
    Joel Edmondson
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Re: First lens for 4x5

    The only lenses I carry anymore are a 180mm APO Symmar and an older 135mm Fujinon ( in essence the equivalent of the 135mm WF Ektar). For me the 180mm works better than 210 (but I don't do portraits) and I prefer it over the 150mm despite the fact that there isn't a lot of difference between the 150 and 180 FOV. I vote with docs.

  4. #4

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    Re: First lens for 4x5

    Quote Originally Posted by 6x6TLL View Post
    I just picked up my very first (well, almost first) LF camera, a 4x5 format.

    Now I'm looking for a lens.

    Having shot medium format (6x6) for 20 years, I understand that doubling the focal lengths I like best should give the approximate equivalent focal length in 4x5.

    In almost all cases, I've always found 80mm (same as 50mm in 35mm film/digital cameras) just a touch too wide, and prefer something between 90-120mm. My first and favorite MF lens was a 110mm/f4 Macro PS, currently it's a 90mm f/4 APO Symmar Macro, and I occasionally use the 80mm f2 Xenotar with 1.4x Longar teleconverter for a 112mm/f2.8 equivalent.

    While the "normal" focal length for 4x5 is 150mm, I'm wondering if I would be happier going with something closer to 180-210mm as a first lens. I'm primarily looking at the Rodenstock APO Sironar S (or W if I can find one for a reasonable price) as well as the Schneider APO Symmar L, both seem to be very highly rated, very sharp, and with excellent color and contrast, as well as reasonably light and portable (not the lightest, but not the heaviest either). It's always easy to make a lens look softer or put a filter on it, so I'd like to get a good sharp lens to start with, and go for a "character" lens later, should I continue pursuing LF.

    Suggestions? Am I correct in looking at 180mm - 210mm, or will that make it difficult to take "normal perspective" photographs? I hope/expect in a few years to end up with a 3 or 4 lens setup, wide, normal, tele/portrait and possibly a specialty lens. For now I want to stick to the basics and learn, and am looking for a good solid lens to start with.

    Thanks!
    Actually putting a diffusing filter or soft focus filter on a lens to soften it is not at all the same as a soft focus lens.
    A filter attachment will diffuse the shadows into the highlights. A soft focus lens diffuses the highlights into the shadows.

    That is why a soft focus lens, if available, is the better choice!

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Oct 2015
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    828

    Re: First lens for 4x5

    Based on your preferred lenses for the smaller formats, I'd highly recommend a 210mm focal length as your first lens. That was my very first lens 40 years ago and I still enjoy using it to this day. Sounds like you're leaning more toward the plasmats for a 210mm, but don't rule out something like the Calumet Caltar-IIe 210/6.8 or the Rodenstock equivalent. These lenses are quite a bit smaller and lighter and are quite sharp! I use the Caltar lens on a Wista 4x5 for long hikes when weight is a concern.

  6. #6

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    Re: First lens for 4x5

    Given your preference for slightly longer lenses, I would opt for either a 180, or more likely a 210 lens. When I bought my first view camera, now about a half century (!) ago, the now defunct Olden Cameras recommended a 180 Congo 6.3. A bit later, Fred Picker (Zone VI) who was something of a LF guru in the 1970s, recommended a 210 as one’s first lens. The 180 is now my “travel lens” because it is very small, but because my “vision” is wider than yours, a 150 has become my “go to” lens, but I still carry a Schneider Symmar-S 210/5.6 in my standard backpack.

  7. #7
    Drew Saunders drew.saunders's Avatar
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    Re: First lens for 4x5

    There are lots of 210/5.6 plasmats available used from the "big four" lens manufacturers: Fuji, Nikon, Rodenstock and Schneider. Look for a clean lens with a good shutter. If you'd prefer portability, the Nikkor-M 200/8 is a very tiny, very nice lens, and was my 2nd LF lens (after a 120/5.6). For Schneider, the APO-Symmar L replaced the APO-Symmar, and has a bit more coverage, which may be overkill, so you might be able to save some $ by going for the older APO-Symmar.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/drew_saunders/

  8. #8
    Indiana, USA chassis's Avatar
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    Re: First lens for 4x5

    Long is good, but so is wide. I like traditional portraits done on 4x5 with 300mm, and also with 120mm lenses. On 6x7 I like people images with a 50mm which corresponds to around 100mm on 4x5. Depends on the image you are seeking. Really can’t go wrong. Even a 150mm normal lens can make nice portraits with the right camera position.

    Go with your gut and get the 210mm now, but be thinking about where you want to take your imaging.

  9. #9

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    Re: First lens for 4x5

    210.
    Bruce Barlow
    author of "Finely Focused" and "Exercises in Photographic Composition"
    www.brucewbarlow.com

  10. #10
    Foamer
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    Re: First lens for 4x5

    If you think about it, the difference between a 180 and a 210 isn't that great. In 35mm equivalents it's roughly 60mm vs. 70mm. Hope that helps you get a sense of perspective.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

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