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Thread: Basic Lenses

  1. #1

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    May 2002
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    Basic Lenses

    I am looking to purchase a large format and i am having problems choosing a lens . i am a graduate student, so money is far and few and i'm looking for a relati vely inexpensive lens with a standard shutter. the requirements f/5.6 min and a bove f/32 (i thought all large format lenses went up to f/64, apparently, i am m istaken). i just plan on going 4x5 for that is what i used as an undergrad and have a sense of familiarity with it -- if figure, if i must, i can go to 8x10 an d keep the lens just getting an Emmett Gowin look My other question: what is standard? the one i used as an undergrad was 210mm but i have also seen 135 an d 150 considered as standard, please, suggestions, comments and any other info w ould be greatly appreciated. thanks!

  2. #2

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    Basic Lenses

    Ally: What do you most want to take large format photos of? You'll get much better answers if you let people know that up front.

  3. #3

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    Basic Lenses

    i mostly do self portraits, but i don't know where my work is going, i'm in a slump. i don't work with studio lighting (ugh) and i would like to do more outdoor work.

  4. #4
    MIke Sherck's Avatar
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    Basic Lenses

    For me the "standard" 4x5 lens is either 190mm or 115mm, depending on what I want to photograph. Honestly, I don't think there is a 'standard' lens that suits everyone: we all see things a little differently. 150mm is often considered the "standard" 4x5 lens for the same reasons that a 50mm lens is considered "standard" in 35mm; in theory it gives roughly the same field of clear view as our eyes do. In reality, in 35mm a 35mm lens seems more "natural" to me in that it more closely matches what my eyes see (thus the 115mm 4x5 lens preference.) On the other hand, lots and lots of 4x5 photographers report a strong preference for a 210mm lens as the one they use most often. See what I mean? Previous questions related to the subjects you are most interested in are very relevant to the answer to your question. Regarding inexpensive lenses, I've had good luck with Ilex Paragons. Most of them are copies of Kodak Ektars, are single coated, and provide good performance at affordable prices.
    Politically, aerodynamically, and fashionably incorrect.

  5. #5
    All metric sizes to 24x30 Ole Tjugen's Avatar
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    Basic Lenses

    "Standard" generally means a lens with a focal length which is equal to the diagonal of the image. That would be 150mm for 4x5, 210mm for 5x7, 300mm for 8x10, and 135mm for 9x12cm (German standard film size, along with 13x18cm).

    Using a 210mm lens on 4x5 gives you a good portrait lens, and LOTS of coverage for movements and the like...

    A 150mm f4,5 is nice and compact, 210mm f4,5 is getting large, 300mm f4,5 is ridiculously big and heavy (I know, because I've got one).

  6. #6

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    Basic Lenses

    Ally, Self portraits? Super tight budget? 4x5? If you'll be shooting black and white, I'll got out on a limb and suggest looking for a 127mm Wollensak Velostigmat. $50-60 max in a working shutter, probably a rapax. A pretty highly regarded (uncoated)speed graphic lens in its day(1940s) and a good example should do a credible job if you do your part. Not in the same class as a G-Claron, but do you really want to pay for eye-popping sharpness in portraiture? OR, you might want to take a look at books by photographers you find inspiring and note what focal length lens they used. Its a place to start! Good Luck!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
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  7. #7

    Basic Lenses

    The classic approach to portraiture is to use a longer lens. A 210mm would probably be considered the 'standard' portrait focal length on 5x4. But the classic head-and-shoulders portrait look, with a flat perspective, may not be what you're after.Perspective only depends on distance, not on the lens used. So, if you're talking about full-body portraits, then a shorter lens might give you more flexibility in terms of the 'studio' space required.

    Whatever focal length you decide on, I wouldn't try and skimp on the lens quality. You can always soften a sharp lens with a filter, but you can't make a poor lens any better.On the other hand, there's no need to go over the top to get those apo or xl labels on the lens either.The Nikkor-W range of lenses are excellent value for money if you're buying new, although they tend to hold their price on the 2nd hand market. You won't go wrong with a Schneider Symmar, or Symmar-S, or a Rodenstock Sironar either.If you shop around, $350 US should get you a nice clean 2nd hand 210mm lens of a reputable make such as those I've just mentioned.When you consider that film is at least $25 a box, one new double-darkslide costs $30, and a scrappy 5x4 camera body is going to set you back about $400; to fit a really cheap lens is a false economy, IMHO.

  8. #8

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    Basic Lenses

    The "standard" lens for 4x5 is a 150mm lems. I use a 105mm, 135mm and 190mm instead. If you want inexpensive lenses, keep an eye on EBay. The closed auctions will give you an idea what various lenses are going for. I use old (vintage 1960s?) Wollensak and Rodenstock lenses for 4x5. I use the 135 the most. There are better lenses, but as an amateur, it's hard to justify the price of brand new top of the line lenses. $65.00 a lens is pretty good, since I just do it for my own enjoyment anyway. For self portraits, you might like something in the 210-250mm range. Of course if you plan to turn professional, bite the bullet and get the best lenses you can. They cost, but a pro needs them.

  9. #9

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    Basic Lenses

    Ally,

    My first lenses purchased on a budget were Kodak Ektars: 127mm and 203mm. Both excellent lenses sharp and good contrast. They are getting harder to find but check Shutterbug and Ebay. They are not normal lengths, but I found they allowed for a nice range of options at first.

    Also keep in mind that any used lens will have a used shutter. You need to make sure that where or who you purchase from allows you to return if the lens and shutter are not in the condition as advertised. That doesn't mean the shutter will be accurate, but it should operate to some degree at all settings.

    Old shutters usually stick and are way off on slower settings, also off but consistently so at faster settings. So you will need to test film to establish an exposure index for the shutter you have and when you get the chance have it cleaned and adjusted, usually $100 to $150.

    I would advise you review the archives of this forum, the Large Format Photagraphy Page and SK Grimes website for excellent information about shutters and lenses. If you have no one local who can work on LF lenses he is highly reccomended.

  10. #10

    Basic Lenses

    Ally: I strongly second John K. If you're doing portraiture, think seriously about getting a portrait/pictorial lens. In the first place, they're designed to your purpose. They take a little "getting the hang of it," but so what.... There are good options besides John's good suggestion of the Velostigmat. (BTW, that name ("velos" = fast; "stigmat" = astigmatic) reminds me that these pictorial lenses are faster than std. "sharp" lenses, most right around your f5.6 requirement.) Wollensak was, far and away, the most prolific maker of pictorial lenses (Velostigmat, Verito, Veritar, Vitax, etc.), its Verito probably being the most celebrated. Also, there is the Rodenstock Imagon (250mm for 4x5), and the similar Kodak Portrait Lens. If you're going to stick w/ portraiture, really think about one of these. There are bargains on all of them, esp. some of the old Wollensaks. Just watch ebay and be patient....

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