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Thread: Lens for studio use

  1. #1
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    Lens for studio use

    Bit of a noob question here. I am interested in getting a new lens for use primarily in the studio doing still life on table top, 3/4 portraits and head shots. Will be shooting color neg and chrome. And ultimately printing in the range of 20x24s - 40x50s. I want something sharp like a bullet hole through a stab wound through a bee sting.

    I have been looking at the big four mostly:
    210mm F5.6 Rodenstock APO-Sironar-S
    210mm F5.6 Rodenstock Sironar-N
    210mm F5.6 Schneider APO Symmar
    210mm F5.6 FUJINON-W
    210mm F5.6 NIKKOR-W

    Are any of these optimized for closer working distances? Should I be looking at something else? Is 210 optimal for this application? I have been using a 150mm but don't want to risk wide angle distortion (though I am not sure I am getting any distortion at the amount of extension I am using).
    I have seen the Fujinon for the cheapest at $200 but I hear a lot of talk about the German lenses being the best. Any thought/suggestions?

  2. #2

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    Re: Lens for studio use

    If you can buy a nice 210mm Fujinon 5.6 for $200, that would serve you very well for the price. I have Fujinon lenses in 4X5 and 8X10 systems. They are all you could ever want in a lens. and I have two Nikkors as well and have used Schneider, Rodenstock, etc.

  3. #3
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    Re: Lens for studio use

    You might also include the Caltar 210. Made by Rodenstock and usually goes pretty low in price.
    "One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude." Carl Sandburg

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    Re: Lens for studio use

    You don't mention the size of your camera. Is it 4x5 ?

    None of the lenses you mention, are optimized for close work. However, you can reverse a "normal" lens, and it should do better at close distance. You can save some money that way. I have used my 150 Sironar-S that way, and it works great. I presume that a W lens (wide coverage) may not match a more normal lens when used this way.

    Remember that at 1:1 you need 2x the infinity bellows draw. For example, a 150mm lens at 1:1 requires 300mm bellows draw. Be sure not to get too long a lens if you don't have enough bellows draw.

    Lenses which are corrected for close work, fall into 2 categories: process lenses, designed to shoot flat subjects, and macro lenses, designed to shoot 3-d subjects.

    Most process lenses are f/9, which becomes f/18 at 1:1 (so to speak). They can be hard to focus for that reason, unless the light is bright. APO Ronar, APO Nikkor, G-Claron are of this type. Many are mounted in barrel, and thus have no shutter. If you have a Sinar camera, however, you can use a Sinar shutter instead. These are all very sharp lenses. Many people purchase these lenses at a low price, and have them mounted in a shutter. Often, the shutter + mounting costs much more than the lens. Process lenses also perform well at infinity when stopped down sufficiently.

    Macro lenses include Macro Sironar, Macro Symmar, etc: In other words, they generally have the name Macro. They open wider than f/9 process lenses, and are easier to work with for that reason. They are corrected to work well even closer than 1:1, and have greater coverage, which facilitates view camera movements, which can be critical for table-top work.

    I've used process lenses with great satisfaction, and currently use a 210mm Macro Sironar N: it's not too expensive, but opens to f/5.6 and is thus considerably easier to focus than f/9 process lenses. I have used it mainly with 5x7, but also with 4x5. On 4x5, it's a great length for portraits too. It too, is plenty sharp.

  5. #5
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    Re: Lens for studio use

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Lee View Post
    I presume that a W lens (wide coverage) may not match a more normal lens when used this way.
    FWIW, the Apo-Sironar(-W) is specified by Rodenstock as being intended primarily for studio work and accordingly as being optimized for 1:10 ("but with no noticeable loss at inifinity, either").

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    Re: Lens for studio use

    Sorry. I thought I was being very clear and I left out some of the essential bits of information. I am shooting 4x5, on a Toyo Field 45AX to be exact, with a maximum bellows draw of 321mm. I probably won't ever be shooting as close as 1:1. The closest I would ever go would probably something to the tune of:
    Last edited by Robot; 18-Sep-2010 at 20:16. Reason: picture did not show

  7. #7

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    Re: Lens for studio use

    If you're shooting product shots, then it's best to get a lens designed for product shots.

    Otherwise, use a normal lens and turn it around.

    Note: Most shutters are symmetrical, i.e., have the same inner diameter and thread pitch front and rear, but #1 shutters are not. So the cells of lenses in most shutters can be swapped front to rear. But not if the lens is in a #1 shutter.

    Given ~300mm bellows draw, you don't want to be stretching your bellows out to the maximum all the time. The camera will be straining, so to speak. A 135mm or 150mm lens will give you "normal" perspective (no foreshortening), and since you won't get to 1:1, you'll have some room for comfort.

    Cost aside, a 120mm Macro Sironar (or 180mm) or Macro Symmar (120 or 180mm) would be the way to go. Note the lengths: manufacturers offer these as appropriate for 4x5 cameras with moderate bellow draw. They know the story.

    These lenses come up on eBay from time to time.

  8. #8

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    Re: Lens for studio use

    Ken, reversing a lens at magnifications less than 1:1 is a sin.

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    Re: Lens for studio use

    So a macro lens? Even though my typical magnification ratio will be in the range of 1:3 - 1:10?
    Or process lens? Why are process lenses bad for 3D objects?

  10. #10

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    Re: Lens for studio use

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Fromm View Post
    Ken, reversing a lens at magnifications less than 1:1 is a sin.
    Dan - This is one of your areas of expertise. Could you please elaborate ?

    Meanwhile, here's a substantial article on our forum, entitled "Macro Lenses, Equipment, and Techniques".

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