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Thread: New to Large format - need help about telephoto lenses!

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2018

    New to Large format - need help about telephoto lenses!

    Hello all!

    I am new to this forum and indeed large format photography! My apologies if I have posted in the wrong place, but really looking for some help with kit questions. thank you so much in advance!

    I am a student, and have just bought a Wista 45DX camera, and building up my new kit, film holders, lens cloths, loupe etc etc.

    The college where I study have a few lenses (150mm, 210mm etc) which I have access too. However, I am really looking for a longer lens to do landscapes with.

    I believe the maximum bellows draw for my Wista is 300mm? Can anyone please recommend any lenses (basically as long as possible) that I can use? I think that certain tele lenses have a shorter 'flange focus distance than 300mm? please correct me if I am wrong! Still very much a novice in this field! I am a student so preferably not something that will break the bank also haha.

    Additionally, has anyone used lens boards like this one?

    also, are there any cheaper options for this kind of thing? £100+ inc. postage and taxes seems like a lot no?

    Am I correct in saying that with this lens board, I could almost use a 400mm lens say if its of tele variant?

    Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge and experience!



  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jul 2016

    Re: New to Large format - need help about telephoto lenses!

    Lorien, this was the Nikon catalog.

    In pages 9 to 11 see the flange focal distance parameter: fot Nikon tele lenses.

    This is the required distance from the inner ground glass surface to the outer side on the lensboard, or the hat on it.

    Also google schneider tele-xenar (and tele arton) to get info at manufacturer's web for antique and new T lenses.

    Also check Fujinon catalogs/datasheets for Fujinon T.

  3. #3
    multi format
    Join Date
    Feb 2001

    Re: New to Large format - need help about telephoto lenses!

    hi lorien
    you might look for the 15" tele-raptar ( also called tele-optar )
    it is sometimes sold in a shutter ( i have seen them in betax, alphax and rapax shutters )
    it has a very small bellows draw. it also has a smaller cousin the 10" tele-raptor( tele-optar )
    same sort of thing, tiny bellows draw and sometimes in a shutter.
    they do not sell for bags of gold and are usually "sleepers" and overlooked by people
    who only want brand new modern lenses... ( because they don't know anybetter )...

    have fun !

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Palo Alto, CA, USA

    Re: New to Large format - need help about telephoto lenses!

    Welcome to the club Lorien,

    Take a look at the Fujinon Tele lenses

    Fujinon 300mm T - flange to focal plane 195mm
    Fujinon 400mm T - flange to focal plane 259mm


  5. #5
    Tin Can's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    Re: New to Large format - need help about telephoto lenses!

    Most LFers try to get closer and use non telephoto lenses.

    Look at this link and see many variations of lenses including telephoto LF.
    Tin Can

  6. #6
    Drew Saunders drew.saunders's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Palo Alto, CA

    Re: New to Large format - need help about telephoto lenses!

    Thanks to the Web Archive, you can still get to this very useful page from Ebony Camera:
    It lists the flange back of most lenses available new in the past decade or so. You'll have to look elsewhere for older lenses, but that also explains what the terms mean, and has the information for some telephoto lenses, so you can see the difference in flange focal distance (or "flangeback") between a regular and telephoto lens.

    For example, the Fujinon-C 300/8.5 has a FFD of 283mm, so could work well enough on your Wista for landscape work. I had a Tahihara with similar 12"/300mm maximum extension, and I was able to use the 300/8.5 at moderate to infinity focus. You'd use the thin lens equation, 1/focal length - 1/bellows extension = 1/object distance. The 17mm difference between the focal length and FFD of the 300/8.5 acts as if your bellows were 17mm longer, so, assuming your Wista has 300mm extension (not 305mm, which is closer to 12 inches, so you may want to measure), you'd get 1/300 - 1/317 = 1/5594mm object distance at maximum extension, and that's not too bad. I found it worked well enough until I got an Ebony with 365mm of bellows.

    Sticking with Fujinons, the 300/8 T has an FFD of 195.3mm (I'll round up to 196mm), giving you a "free bellows extension" of 104mm, so that ends up being 1/300 - 1/404 = 1/1165mm object distance, and that's a whole lot easier to work with, assuming you don't mind hauling around a much larger lens.

    Obviously, if you want a focal length longer than 300mm, you have to go with telephoto lenses, but if it's just a bit over, or you'd be happy with a 300mm, you could look into "top hat" lens boards that mount the lens a bit in front of the lens board. From the old Ebony catalog at scroll down a bit over halfway to see how an extension lens board works.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2013

    Re: New to Large format - need help about telephoto lenses!

    I have been in the same position as you are now: wanting a longer lens for landscape work on a camera with 30 cm of bellows draw. Over the past 15 years I have been working with a 150mm - 240mm - 360mm lens set, which suits my needs very well. Having worked originally with a 360mm Schneider tele-xenar I switched for a 360mm - 500mm Nikon set to have the extra reach of the 500mm. The Nikon tele-lens is basically a front lens with a shutter and three back lenses that can be swapted to create 360mm, 500mm and 720mm lenses. I only have the 360mm and 500mm pair. The 500mm is not a lens i use very often, but every now and then I am glad to have it with me. And yes: I do change in the field.

    In 500mm configuration the lens needs a top-hat, which has a negative influence on the camera stability as tele-lenses tend to be compartively big and heavy. The top-hat also makes tilting the lens pretty awkward, but then: tilting a tele-lens is awkward anyway because the nodal point of the lens is not in it's centre, but somewhere in front of the lens. This makes the effect on where the focal plain will land hard to predict. Tilting your back works as normal and it is what I use when the tele-lens is on the camera.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Melbourne Australia

    Re: New to Large format - need help about telephoto lenses!

    I have a Komura f/6.3 400T which while it isnít in the same league as the Fujinon and Nikkor telephoto lenses, isnít that shabby if you are using B&W film, which is what I use on my 4x5Ē cameras.

    I used the Komura for landscape work with my Shen Hao HZX45-IIA and was reasonably happy, but not super happy. Served me well for about 8 years, still have it but rarely use it these days.

    I eventually picked up a Fujinon CM W f/6.3 250 lens, to effectively replace the 400 telephoto lens. The W stands for wide, meaning it has wide coverage and is suitable for formats up to 8x10Ē (20cm x 25cm). This means that on any 4x5Ē camera, you will never run out of coverage; the image circle is 322mm at f/22.

    Now going down to a shorter effective focal length, may seem like madness, but I have found it is so much better in many other situations for landscape work over a telephoto lens which has, by comparison, much less coverage.

    As a by product of having such large coverage, I can use this lens for architectural stuff and I can use shift, swing, and/or rise and fall to my heartís content. These are things that a telephoto is not the greatest at, but for landscape stuff, I can only remember using rear shift once in the last 3-5 years.

    Another thing to remember is the possibility of cropping a shorter focal length to get an effective longer focal length in your final image. The attached picture of the big rock is taken with my Fujinon 250mm lens, but has been cropped reasonably hard to give me what I envisaged. I saw the picture as a 360mm to 400mm lens requirement, but only had the 250mm lens. So I set it up and just cropped to what I needed. I do understand that the dynamics are different, but the end result is reasonably pleasing and doable when walking in the bush carrying stuff.

    Also included are a couple of shots taken quite close together of a summer beach scene. Both are cropped to a landscape format as that was what I saw when I decided to shoot that scene. One is with a 150mm lens, the other is with my 250mm lens. The tripod and camera were unmoved, only the lens was change and focus adjusted. This shows the reasonably large difference between the two focal lengths. You can see the difference and with some judicious cropping of the longer focal length picture, you could emulate a 400mm lens effect.

    Larger negatives allow one to crop like this with relative ease, compared to smaller formats. It may not be what you want, but I do believe it is a viable possibility. It has worked better for me, it may not work that well for you.


    Click image for larger version. 

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  9. #9

    Join Date
    Dec 2018

    Re: New to Large format - need help about telephoto lenses!

    Wow! Thank you all so much for such detailed and fast responses. It certainly has given me a lot to think about.

    Mick Fagan, I have been looking at the Komura. Obviously I would love to get a Nikkor or Fujinon. But do you think it worth saving a few hundred quid for? Or to invest a bit more for a keeper? I will only be shooting black and white due to college darkroom facilities. I do hear what you are saying about cropping. certainly not something I object to too much if necessary! Nice photos as well!

    One more question to all if possible. How exactly are peoples experience using these top hat/extending lens boards? Are they cumbersome and not worth the hassle? Are they worth nearly a hundred quid also?!

    I cant thank you all enough for all your help! will be sure to use these forums in the future!

  10. #10
    Drew Wiley
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    SF Bay area, CA

    Re: New to Large format - need help about telephoto lenses!

    Telephoto lenses are long and heavy, and your Wista is a lightweight field camera with a front standard that might struggle with the weight and forward-leaning leverage inherent to some of them. By learning how to incorporate front and rear base tilts to gain a bit more bellows extension, you should be able to accommodate lightweight regular lenses like a Nikkor 300M or Fuji 300C. Or you could employ a modest "tophat" extension board. Long tophat boards are seldom practical because they can cause mechanical vignetting of the image when front tilt is used. If you do decide on a telephoto design instead, choose one in a no.1 shutter like the Fuji 400T, so that the excessive weight of a larger shutter is not involved.

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