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Thread: 180mm for Portraiture

  1. #1

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    180mm for Portraiture

    Hi all,

    I'm new to large format. I recently picked up a 4x5 Linhof Color Kardan 45s. I'm looking for a 180mm lens. I specifically shoot photos of people, and primarily in the studio-portraiture, dance,

    I really love the look of 180mm lenses with the 4x5. But, frankly, I am a bit lost as to which to pick. I would love any recommendations, specifically in regards to portrait work. I have read the large format lenses for portraiture page, which I found really helpful (does most of the information offered for 150mm/210mm lenses apply to 180mm of the same make? Or is that making too large an assumption?). Still, I feel a bit lost and daunted by the decision.

    The three lenses that I have found myself drawn to are:
    180mm Schneider Symmar-S f5.6
    180mm Fujinon-W f5.6
    Or, a 180mm Schneider Xenar. I love the look of the Xenar in the info page about lenses for portraiture, but finding example shots from this lens has been less straightforward and there seem to be several different iterations of it. Frankly, I feel a bit in over my head.

    Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated! I would love to hear others' experiences choosing lenses for portraiture.

    (I apologize if I'm asking something that's been asked and answered before. I found a lot of 180mm threads, but most were for all-purpose or landscape shooting.)

  2. #2

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    Re: 180mm for Portraiture

    The Symmar-S and the Fujinon are both Plasmat-design lenses, and usually quite sharp throughout their aperture range.
    The Xenar is a Tessar-formula lens, generally less "clinically sharp" until stopped down to f16-f22.

  3. #3

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    Re: 180mm for Portraiture

    Quote Originally Posted by Dugan View Post
    The Symmar-S and the Fujinon are both Plasmat-design lenses, and usually quite sharp throughout their aperture range.
    The Xenar is a Tessar-formula lens, generally less "clinically sharp" until stopped down to f16-f22.
    Thanks, Dugan. I think one thing I've been a bit concerned about is lenses possibly being excessively sharp. Is that something that people consider? I guess it might sound a little silly, since 4x5 offers such quality, to be concerned about something being too sharp. But it's been on my mind.

  4. #4

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    Re: 180mm for Portraiture

    Opinion? Definitely the Xenar or any other f/4.5 Tessar formula lens, for their smooth rendering of nearbyout of focus areas such as hair and ears.

    No need to buy a modern lens for this... An old American tessar such as a Paragon or Raptar will be cheap and good for the task.

    Many of my protraits were shot with tessar types, like this one, https://www.flickr.com/photos/michae...in/dateposted/
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format: http://flickr.com/michaeldarnton
    Mostly 35mm: http://flickr.com/mdarnton
    You want digital, color, etc?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stradofear

  5. #5
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: 180mm for Portraiture

    Hi Michael!

    Viewers may click twice on the Flickr right arrow to see the good old days

    I love that shot of me with 3X4 RB

    Miss you guys



    Quote Originally Posted by mdarnton View Post
    Opinion? Definitely the Xenar or any other f/4.5 Tessar formula lens, for their smooth rendering of nearbyout of focus areas such as hair and ears.

    No need to buy a modern lens for this... An old American tessar such as a Paragon or Raptar will be cheap and good for the task.

    Many of my protraits were shot with tessar types, like this one, https://www.flickr.com/photos/michae...in/dateposted/
    Tin Can

  6. #6

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    Re: 180mm for Portraiture

    Quote Originally Posted by mdarnton View Post
    Opinion? Definitely the Xenar or any other f/4.5 Tessar formula lens, for their smooth rendering of nearbyout of focus areas such as hair and ears.

    No need to buy a modern lens for this... An old American tessar such as a Paragon or Raptar will be cheap and good for the task.

    Many of my protraits were shot with tessar types, like this one, https://www.flickr.com/photos/michae...in/dateposted/
    Thanks for the input, Michael. And thanks too for sharing the image - great shot you have there.

    Again showing my newness to the format, would a Xenar or any other, older tessar-style lens require a different shutter than a modern lens?

    I have two empty Kardan lens boards at the moment, but I am a bit at a loss as to figuring the necessary shutter, etc for whatever I end up buying.

  7. #7

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    Re: 180mm for Portraiture

    Whatever lens you get, check that there are soft focus filters (softar, soft/fx, or the like) available in that size. For a lot of portraiture, you'll want something to cut the sharpness.

  8. #8

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    Re: 180mm for Portraiture

    Quote Originally Posted by AidanAvery View Post
    Thanks for the input, Michael. And thanks too for sharing the image - great shot you have there.

    Again showing my newness to the format, would a Xenar or any other, older tessar-style lens require a different shutter than a modern lens?

    I have two empty Kardan lens boards at the moment, but I am a bit at a loss as to figuring the necessary shutter, etc for whatever I end up buying.
    Well, by and large, you want to buy lenses already in shutter. That’s a little less necessary with newer lenses because of the Copal 0/1/3 standardization, but older lenses don’t buy shutter less unless a) you have a Sinar shutter or graphic with a focal plane shutter, b) you’re comfortable using a hat or dark slide as a shutter, c) are planning to sent it to someone to adapt, or d) you know enough about interchangeability that you’re confident you already have a shutter that matches.

  9. #9

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    Re: 180mm for Portraiture

    180mm equates to ~7". There are quite a few older Tessar-type lenses available in that focal length.
    Bausch & Lomb, Wollensak, Ilex, etc.
    They are usually in older shutters such as Alphax, Betax, Ilex Universal, Ilex Acme, etc.
    The positives of older shutters:
    Almost completely round aperture, good for out-of focus rendition. Most Copals have five blade, pentagon-shaped apertures.
    Usually inexpensive.
    Readily available.
    The negatives:
    Usually need a CLA, they're old, most likely not exercised regularly.
    Flash sync is usually Bi-Post (obsolete, but with workarounds)
    They don't conform to Copal sizes.
    Limited or unobtainable fast speeds.
    Some require long-throw cable releases.

    Whatever shutter you get, make sure to get a mounting flange or retaining ring with it!

  10. #10

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    Re: 180mm for Portraiture

    Aidan, I'm no lens expert, but my primary concern is portraiture, and I share your feeling about pore-sharp lenses. I'm not looking for such sharpness in my work. I disagree, respectfully, with the reply above about the need for soft-focus filters, on two counts: 1. You may not be looking for that degree of softening, though, yes, some are very mild in effect; 2) there are other ways to achieve softening when such a filter is not available. It really depends on the look you are try to achieve.

    I have, by default, a 210 Komura, which, while (single?) coated (to preserve contrast) and by no means soft, is not the super-sharp variety. Default, because it's what I could afford 30 years ago and has done fine for me, with plenty of coverage when I need movements.

    As for softening -- and this is an area likely to arouse passions of controversy -- I have occasionally used black tulle fabric tightly stretched over a small frame. There is a hexagonal type, which softens very little, and a much finer weave rectangular type, with a greater affect and a requiring a slight exposure increase, depending on your situation.

    As you may know, one can also diffuse the projected image in enlarging, but the effect is different: "In-camera" diffusion spreads the highlights, "in-enlarger" diffusion spreads the darkest tones. W. Eugene Smith, who worked primarily in 35mm, often used a square of aluminum window screen, lightly spray-painted matte black, under the enlarging lens during part of the exposure. At certain magnifications, this can significantly reduce the apparent size of the grain while providing a sort of harmonizing effect. I made myself one and have used it a good deal with smaller formats and fast film, but it can also be used with 4x5 for very subtle effects when used for, say, 10-20% of the time (some exposure increase needed).

    I hope this helps.
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

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