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Thread: Thoughts on 4x5 lenses (confessions of one who despises ‘normal lenses’).

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    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Thoughts on 4x5 lenses (confessions of one who despises ‘normal lenses’).

    I have been using roll film for 30 years and am quite accustom to the type of view a certain lens will give in 35mm and 6x6cm formats. I frequently use lenses of shorter focal lengths. I have tried hard to use the 50mm planar with my 35mm camera, it is one of the sharpest lenses for that system, but any group of good photographs in my portfolio would have probably zero photographs taken with that lens.

    Enter 4x5 format. When searching for a cheap camera/lens combo just to ‘try it out,’ I was always put off by offerings with 150 or 180mm lenses. I figured, ‘I don’t like the 50mm lens in 35mm cameras, I won’t like these lenses in 4x5.’ Well, I never wound up getting one of those cheap combos and wound up spending more on a Horseman and some lenses.

    Now that I am using 4x5 and have a bunch of lenses, I have some comments on these lenses in the 135 to 180 range. First, some goals I have in 4x5 are the rendition of precise detail, to achieve an ‘image clarity’ not available in smaller formats. It seems once an object falls outside of the focal plane, the effect is lessened. So, as I was shooting with 90 and 105 and 120 mm lenses, I was finding myself wanting to ‘zoom in’ a little more to eliminate foreground objects that won’t be in the sharp focal plane. Next thing you know, I am using the 150 mm lens and liking the results! The other day I even forced myself to try and take some pictures with the 35mm camera using 50 and 60mm lenses to see if is me or what.

    Some thoughts on this; first, additional detail in 4x5 allows better transformation of the ordinary to the extrordinary (which is what a lot of my images are about). For example a picture of a bunch of leaves on trees with the 35mm camera and 50mm lens does not do much for me because you can’t make out all the individual trees. But with the 4x5 camera, the fine detail and clarity of seeing all the individual leaves transforms the photograph into extraordinary. And it is the 150 that allows me to ‘tighten up’ the shot to avoid all the extraneous stuff. (In my 35mm photography with the 18mm lens, ‘all that extraneous stuff’ is what the picture is all about.)

    Secondly, a common problem I encounter is two planes that intersect at right angles. No camera movement will allow focusing on both planes. An example is a foreground clearing that extends back to meet a wall of trees. Scheimpflug the foreground extending back to the base of the trees and the treetops are out of focus. Focus on the plane of the trees (usually at infinity) and the foreground is blurry. Scheimpflug the near-foreground and tops of the trees, then the center of the picture at infinity (the base of the wall of trees) is blurry, and looks really bad. Stopping down past f22 reduces the lenses resolving power too much for me. I don’t like those pictures where everything is equally blurred by diffraction so it all looks in focus (well it doesn’t to me). So I have been tightening up the shots with the longer (for me) lenses. This allows the image to concentrate on either the distant plane or the foreground plane.

    The place that I work has a lot of landscape B&W photography on the walls. Some Ansel Adams reproductions and some good local artists. I have been re-thinkng my interpretation of the lens used for many of the photographs. Whereas I had thought ‘that was taken with a short lens’ in fact it was probably a ‘normal’ lens.

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    Re: Thoughts on 4x5 lenses (confessions of one who despises ‘normal lenses’).

    Good luck in finding the lens you like. LF lens look and feel usually doesn't seem to translate down to smaller formats for me.
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

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    Re: Thoughts on 4x5 lenses (confessions of one who despises ‘normal lenses’).

    There is another thing that contributes to my feelings that a 50mm lens is 'too long.' The 50mm lens is 'normal' for a camera with a 36mm by 36mm square image. I don't know of any cameras made like this. The typical 35mm camera 'lops off' the top and bottom giving a 36 x 27 image. The diagonal of this is 43. Why no one makes a 40mm interchangable lens I don't know (one more reason to get a Rollei 35 with the fixed 40mm Sonnar). I really DO have a lot of pictures taken with an 80mm lens on a 6x6cm camera.

    So, I guess I should have re-phrased the opening remark that I despise the 50mm lens on 35mm format.

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    Re: Thoughts on 4x5 lenses (confessions of one who despises ‘normal lenses’).

    Quote Originally Posted by ic-racer View Post
    Why no one makes a 40mm interchangable lens I don't know (one more reason to get a Rollei 35 with the fixed 40mm Sonnar). I really DO have a lot of pictures taken with an 80mm lens on a 6x6cm camera.
    I agree that 50 is distinctly long. But if normal is your bag, there are interchangeable lenses in 40, 43 and 45mm focal lengths available for both rangefinder and SLR.

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    Re: Thoughts on 4x5 lenses (confessions of one who despises ‘normal lenses’).

    I suppose it is a different way of looking at things, but being mostly a single lens per format photographer for most of my 30 years of photography, I have looked for images that work well with what I had, format/lens-wise...rather than worry about which lens to use to get an image. I never felt that I was running short of images because I did not have a kit full of lenses.

    Most of the time it has been a "normal" lens (80mm on the 6x6 Rollei TLR, 150mm of the 4x5, 210mm of the 5x7, and 300mm of the 8x10).

    I photographed mostly at f32 and f64 with the 150mm (4x5) -- had no trouble with 16x20 enlargements at those f/stops...though f/16 was a bit sharper. But working in the redwoods usually requires a large DoF and I rather have a slightly less sharp but focused image than a super sharp out-of-focus image.

    I normally use f64 or f90 with the 8x10 for the same reason -- but I am contact printing, so there is no noticable difference in sharpness compared to f16 or f22.

    Vaughn

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    Re: Thoughts on 4x5 lenses (confessions of one who despises ‘normal lenses’).

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    I agree that 50 is distinctly long. But if normal is your bag, there are interchangeable lenses in 40, 43 and 45mm focal lengths available for both rangefinder and SLR.
    Your are right, I was just thinking of the Rollei QBM system.

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    Re: Thoughts on 4x5 lenses (confessions of one who despises ‘normal lenses’).

    "Stopping down past f22 reduces the lenses resolving power too much for me. I don’t like those pictures where everything is equally blurred by diffraction so it all looks in focus (well it doesn’t to me)."

    Diffraction doesn't make everything look in focus. It has the opposite effect. But apart from that, I think you have an exagerated idea of the degree to which diffraction is a problem with 4x5 film. With 4x5 film the effects of diffraction in my experience aren't really noticeable until enlargements get into the 6x and up range (i.e. prints 24x30 or bigger). It's a much different situation than with 35mm film, where even an 8x10 print is roughly an 8x enlargement so that diffraction becomes a real problem much of the time.

    I think you're going to have a lot of trouble with LF photography if you never stop down below f22 because of an exagerated fear of diffraction. Given the comparatively long focal length of 4x5 lenses (as compared with 35mm) you often need to stop down well below that in order to produce the needed depth of field. The effects of inadequate depth of field are usually far more noticeable, and objectionable, than the effects of diffraction. If you never stop down below f22 you'll often end up with a photograph that has very shallow depth of field so that one plane is sharp but everything in front of an behind that plane is blurred in varying degrees. That doesn't sound like the look you're after with large format photography.
    Brian Ellis
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    Re: Thoughts on 4x5 lenses (confessions of one who despises ‘normal lenses’).

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ellis View Post
    "Stopping down past f22 reduces the lenses resolving power too much for me. I don’t like those pictures where everything is equally blurred by diffraction so it all looks in focus (well it doesn’t to me)."

    Diffraction doesn't make everything look in focus. It has the opposite effect. But apart from that, I think you have an exagerated idea of the degree to which diffraction is a problem with 4x5 film. With 4x5 film the effects of diffraction in my experience aren't really noticeable until enlargements get into the 6x and up range (i.e. prints 24x30 or bigger). It's a much different situation than with 35mm film, where even an 8x10 print is roughly an 8x enlargement so that diffraction becomes a real problem much of the time.

    I think you're going to have a lot of trouble with LF photography if you never stop down below f22 because of an exagerated fear of diffraction. Given the comparatively long focal length of 4x5 lenses (as compared with 35mm) you often need to stop down well below that in order to produce the needed depth of field...

    I never understood why people say LF has less DOF (I think they think 35mm can only be enlarged to 8x10 max or something). At least to my eye and mathematically (assuming everything is brought up to 16x20) I get the same depth of field with 4x5 at F22 as F16 in 6x9 and F11 in 6x6 and F8 in 35mm and minox wide open. I DO have DOF issues when I open up the lens on the 35mm camera for available light photography. I have never been happy going below an aperture of around 5 to 6mm. I know Oscar Barnack felt F11 was OK with 35mm but I don't know if he was doning 16x20s with a APO enlarging lens corrected for high magnification. I always associate Ralph Gibson with F16 (from his "Somnambulist" / "Days at Sea" era (read it somewhere)). Reproductions in the book "Days at Sea " are ok to my eye, though, from what I recal they are not very big.

    All I know is what I see and I don't like mush.

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    Re: Thoughts on 4x5 lenses (confessions of one who despises ‘normal lenses’).

    Quote Originally Posted by ic-racer View Post
    I never understood why people say LF has less DOF (I think they think 35mm can only be enlarged to 8x10 max or something). At least to my eye and mathematically (assuming everything is brought up to 16x20) I get the same depth of field with 4x5 at F22 as F16 in 6x9 and F11 in 6x6 and F8 in 35mm and minox wide open.
    That's the trouble with assumptions -- if people make different assumptions when talking about the same thing, one gets different results.

    I think most people "assume" the same degree of enlargement when discussing DOF -- not enlarging to the same size print (16x20 in your example). Brian, I believe, was making the assumption of using the normal lens (or at least the equivilent focal length) for the format size in his statement.

    So with your assumptions, you are correct. Brian with his assumption is also correct.

    The DoF does become a problem with LF even with contact printing when dealing with the very long focal lenghts usually required for coverage of ULF negatives.

    But you do bring up a good point. While DoF is usually described as being the function of 1)focal length, 2)f/stop and 3) lens-to-subject distance(or how close one is focusing), the fourth factor often missing from textbooks and other explanations of DoF is the degree of enlargement.

    Vaughn

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    Re: Thoughts on 4x5 lenses (confessions of one who despises ‘normal lenses’).

    I shoot primarily with 5x7 and 4x10, and on occasion 4x5. I have a suite of ten lenses ranging from 75mm to 720mm, and I have no idea what is a normal lens for any of these formats except the 4x5. In fact, I do not even care. I simply stumble upon a composition and then undergo an investigation that can take me hours or even days to figure the right lens and format for the job. For me, it is a matter of fitting the lens and and format to the composition and not the other way around. Some compositions call for 4x10 while others are better served with a 5x7. Some call for wide angle lenses while others require extreme magnification. My goal is to optimize the composition in the field (not in the darkroom or with Photoshop), and so, I carry three different formats, each having a different aspect ratio, and ten different lenses to make sure that happens.

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