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Thread: 120mm lens choice

  1. #1

    120mm lens choice

    Hi there,
    I am new to 4x5 photography - I've just bought my 1st camera (tachihara view), and would like your thoughts on buying a lens in the 120mm category.
    I have seen the lauded Schneider 120mm/5.6 super symmar HM, and am very tempted (approx $1200), but have also been looking at other options:

    Schneider super angulon 120/f8 (app. $280)

    Fujinon W 125mm/5.6 (app. $280)

    Is the image quality of the fujinon & angulon close to the SSHM? i am primarily doing studio shots, need a little bit of movement but not a lot, and am looking to print large (40inch long side), and in colour for an exhibition, so sharpness is needed.

    any help would be appreciated...


  2. #2
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Seattle, Wash.

    Re: 120mm lens choice

    I think you’re gonna hear from a lot of fans of the Fuji 125mm/5.6 – $280 is a good price.

    Small and light if you hike – w/ older versions having front threads 46mm, 52mm, and 55mm. All very fine in terms of weight and performance for landscape work ... that is, if you occasionally wander away from studio. ;^)

    I once owned the 55mm version, and smiled every time I climbed the mountains.

    BTW, I remember selling it to a forum member who was replacing his “very heavy” Schneider SA 120mm/8, and who was willing to sacrifice the SA’s larger image circle. As a studio person, you might be more interested in keeping that spec.

  3. #3
    Lachlan 717
    Join Date
    Apr 2007

    Re: 120mm lens choice

    If I was going to drop $1200, I'd get a second hand Schneider 110mm SSX and forget the 120mm lenses.

    But, in the real world, I went with the Schneider 120mm. I have only just got one, and the first roll (on a 6x17 pano) is breathtaking.

    There might be equal 120mm lenses, but I cannot fathom one being better.

    Unless it was a f5.6, rather than f8.

    You miss 100% of the shots you never take. -- Wayne Gretzky

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Feb 2010

    Re: 120mm lens choice

    My favorite 120s are the apo symmar if you need small and light, and the nikon 120/8 sw if you need the coverage. Both reasonablyriced, usually.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Re: 120mm lens choice

    The 120 SSHM may be a bit sharper than the 120 Super-Angulon, but the main differences are size, image circle and maximum aperture. They're both very good lenses. Also you could consider the 115/6.8 Grandagon-N, which is comprable to the other two in sharpness.

    Of course you won't be shooting these lenses wide open, but the faster SSHM is a bit brighter to focus. The SA is a huge lens, but you get a huge image circle too.

    I have both, but I use the SSHM more often. Even for my urban landscape work, it usually has enough coverage. It's relatively small and very, very sharp for huge color prints. Within it's coverage I think it's a tad sharper than the 120SA and 115 Grandagon-N, but we're really splitting hairs. All of these lenses would produce great 40x50in. prints assuming your technique is good.

    $1200 sounds like a lot for the 120SSHM. I got mine for much less from B&H (used). And if you're patient you can find them here or on ebay for a good price.

    The 120mm lenses you mentioned will have less falloff than the 110XL, which in my opinion is a bit overrated. It's sharp and small, definitely, but in my opinion it needs a center filter for critical color work, whereas the others don't. It's pricey and has issues working with filters since the front element protrudes too much.

    The 120 Apo-Symmar should also be very sharp, but with the smallest image circle of the lot. You may run out, although perhaps not if you're shooting close-up in the studio without a lot of movement.

    I guess if you're shooting in the studio, lens size isn't an issue. And if you can pump a lot of light onto the scene, the f/8 viewing aperture will be ok. So maybe the SA is perfect for you. $280 is a good price if it's in decent condition with a good shutter.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    Re: 120mm lens choice

    Especially with a little Tachi doing landscapes, a 120 Schneider APO Symmar or newer APO Symmar L will be ideal. Not only is it small and light, but it is blazing sharp and not very expensive ($400 for the APO, $600 for the L). Coverage is more than enough for normal work - maybe for architecture you'd need more but you haven't got the right camera for extreme movements anyway. These lenses are really the right balance for what you've got.

    I use the 120 APO with my Sinar for environmental portraits and never run out of coverage. Just go get one at KEH and stop worrying about it.

  7. #7
    Drew Saunders drew.saunders's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Palo Alto, CA

    Re: 120mm lens choice

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Petronio View Post
    Especially with a little Tachi doing landscapes, a 120 Schneider APO Symmar or newer APO Symmar L will be ideal.
    When I bought my Tachi from Badger many years ago, I got it with the 120 Schneider APO and am still happy with that lens. The Fuji at $280 is a good deal too, as it has a larger IC than the pre-L APO Symmar. I've occasionally run out of IC with the Schneider, which tempts me into getting a Fuji, but not enough to spend the money.

  8. #8
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Fond du Lac, WI, USA

    Re: 120mm lens choice

    I have a 120SA and a 125 Fuji 5.6. On a recent trip, I left the SA home and took the 125. The Fuji worked very well. That said, I agree with Lachlan: if I had the money, I'd get a Schneider 110mm SSX. I had one for awhile. It's my favorite 4x5 lens hands down. It's small, has first rate image quality, and it has tons of coverage.
    “You often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you.”
    ― Alexander Den Heijer, Nothing You Don't Already Know

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