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Thread: Recommendations: Small 135mm with good coverage for 4x5 portraits?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Purcellville, VA

    Recommendations: Small 135mm with good coverage for 4x5 portraits?

    I use just one lens on my 4x5 Tachihara field camera at present, a 210mm Komura, but am thinking about a slightly wide lens for certain images. 135mm appeals to me as about the widest I would want, though there may be more choice in 120s. I don't know if there are any between 135 and 150, which latter would be a bit long. My work is essentially natural light portraiture on location, B&W, interior and exterior. I find the Komura fine for my work; I don't need or desire greater sharpness or contrast, and the lens is fairly compact in its Copal 1. The f/6.3 max aperture is workable; faster would naturally be a boon. I'd like a multicoated lens if possible; a working shutter is necessary.

    Images for which I would use the wider lens would tend to situate the figure smaller in the frame, rarely, if ever, closer than 6-7 feet/2 meters. (I prefer my subjects' bodies to retain natural proportions as much as possible (and please, let's save the debate about minimum distances for another thread).

    I have looked through the lens guides on the home page and elsewhere, from which I infer that most available 135mm lenses tend to have just-adequate coverage for 4x5 -- at least, without investing more than I can manage. I frequently have my front standard dropped 1-1 1/2 inches (24-38mm), with the 210; probably less would be needed for a 135, but I would like some leeway, so I'm leery of what I infer about Xenars.

    Perhaps someone can suggest a few lenses that might fit my needs, if any there be, so that I can keep an eye out for any that might come along in the coming year or so.

    Thank you!
    Philip U.

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)

  2. #2
    Drew Wiley
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    SF Bay area, CA

    Re: Recommendations: Small 135mm with good coverage for 4x5 portraits?

    Fuji W 135/5.6. Superb lens, sufficient coverage, and can often be obtained used in clean condition quite affordably - NOT the newest CMW version, which will be costly and needs a bigger filter.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Bellingham, WA (displaced Canadian)

    Re: Recommendations: Small 135mm with good coverage for 4x5 portraits?

    A Nikkor W 135mm f/5.6 would also serve you well.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Massachusetts USA

    Re: Recommendations: Small 135mm with good coverage for 4x5 portraits?

    Coverage is generally stated for infinity distance. Even lenses with modest coverage provide abundant coverage when shooting at closer distances.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Buford, GA

    Re: Recommendations: Small 135mm with good coverage for 4x5 portraits?

    Apo Sironar S

  6. #6
    jp's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Re: Recommendations: Small 135mm with good coverage for 4x5 portraits?

    Tessars/Xenars are very small with 4.5-4.7 aperture but have less coverage than the suggestions above which are plasmats.

  7. #7
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Fond du Lac, WI, USA

    Re: Recommendations: Small 135mm with good coverage for 4x5 portraits?

    A Wide Field Ektar would also work.
    Please stop feeding the trolls.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Aug 2000

    Re: Recommendations: Small 135mm with good coverage for 4x5 portraits?

    Your 210 is a far better FL for portraits on4x5, than is a 135.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Besanšon, France

    Re: Recommendations: Small 135mm with good coverage for 4x5 portraits?

    Hello from good ol' Europe!

    Now that three 3 out of 4 brands of the legendary "Gang of Four LF lens manufacturers" have been recommended, it is time to recommend the 4-th : 135/5.6 Schneider-Kreuznach Apo-Symmar.
    This was my first LF lens purchased, new, 19 years ago, and I never regretted my choice.

    Not kidding, looking for a 135, you can't go wrong with any LF lens recently manufactured (i.e. after year 1980) by (by alphabetical order) the Gang of Four : Fuji, Nikon, Schneider-Kreuznach, Rodenstock.
    Sure, you can be tempted by a 3.5/135 Zeiss Planar, but those lenses are now collectors' items and command such high prices, that is is not reasonable to think about them.

    Now regarding Tessar-type lenses (a Xenar from Schneider-Kreuznach is a Tessar formula, first Tessar patent by Paul Rudolph was issued in 1902, as early as the twenties of the last century ALL lens manufacturers could legally fabricate and sell tessar-type lenses).

    Technically, the only limitation of Tessar-type lenses (4 lens elements, 3 groups) used for LF photography is that they are limited to a field angle of about 60 degrees @f/22.
    Looking back in time, there were many LF tessar-type lenses with a full aperture of 4.5, i.e. with about one f-stop more than a modern 5.6 LF "plasmat" lens.
    Modern "plasmat"-type lenses (6/4) as manufactured by the Gang of Four since 1980 will easily outperform any Tessar formula. At least in terms of coverage.
    I would not say the same for older plasmats, for example I certainly would prefer a 1960's tessar formula to a 1950's (6/4) "plasmat' formula, but this is another controversial story.

    Hence if an angle of 60░ is sufficient for your project, a tessar-type lens is a good choice. Cheap as a used item, reliable, compact ... the only limitation of those beloved (4/3) lenses if their damn' 60░ of coverage.

    Summary for 135 lenses: any recent "plasmat" formula will be a good choice, but you won't be disappointed by a tessar-type if 60░ of coverage is enough for your project. 135 mm was the standard focal length for many European 9x12 cm cameras, those LF lenses are very easy to find.

    Now about 120 mm lenses.
    Schneider-Kreuznach had on catalogue a (6/4) 120 mm plasmat lens, the Apo Symmar. Covering 72░. Small, compact, efficient but may be somewhat limited in coverage for 4"x5" aficionados who demand large capabilities for tilt & shift. Not so easy to find on the used market.

    In another league, the wide-angle lens league (WA in short), you had several 115-120 mm lenses, used as wide-angle lenses for the 5x7" format. Covering more than 100░ (102░ for the Grandagon-N).
    Those lenses are easy to find on the used market. Again from the Gang of Four.
    Schneider-Kreuznach maintained for many years on catalogue a 121 mm, then a 120 mm, Super Angulon lens, that you can easily find for a good price.
    And the direct European competitor, Rodenstock, offered a superb 115 mm Grandagon-N (I have one, this lens is actually superb)
    Of course Japanese manufacturers offered 120 mm WA lenses for the 5x7 format, but a 120 is a 120, whichever format you are using

    Those modern WA lenses are so sharp that you should not be ashamed of working only with a tiny fraction of their generous image circle.
    But if you do not need 100░ of image circle, a 135 mm or a 120 mm (6/4 ) 5.6 "plasmat" type is so small and compact compared to a 120 Super Angulon or a 115 Grandagon-N, that is is really better to use WA lenses for what they have been designed : WA photography
    And if 60░ of field angle is good for you, numerous 135 mm tessar-type lenses are also easy to find and will faithfully serve you for years!

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Dec 2001

    Re: Recommendations: Small 135mm with good coverage for 4x5 portraits?

    To add a little to Emmanuel's comments about tessar types, f/6.3ers have more coverage than f/4.5ers. Probably the best of the slow tessar lot are also the most recently designed, Schneider's 150/5.6 and 210/6.1 Xenars.

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