4x5 starter lens

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Anupam Basu, Aug 23, 2006.

  1. Anupam Basu

    Anupam Basu Member

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    Now that I have a Bender 4x5 on the way , I am on the lookout for a starter lens. I would like to keep the price low but don't want to get complete junk which will take softer pictures than my 35mm. To be honest, the sea of information about lenses, shutters, lensboards etc has been a little overwhelming. I have done some reading - Simmons' book, largeformatphotography.info and of course APUG, but would still appreciate a little handholding.

    Am I right in my understanding that though barrel lenses and such can be had very cheap it will not be worth the hassle to install in a shutter for my budget and needs? If so, then could you suggest some lenses or sources of information about lenses on a budget.

    Again, I do want the lenses to be sharp but it doesn't look like I'll be able to afford the latest multi-coated APO model. I'll only shoot BW for now and expect that my subject will range from architecture/interiors, landscape to some moderate closeups/abstracts. My 35mm set that I am very happy with is 24/50/105macro/180. As such I was thinking of starting with a two lens set of a 75/90 and a 135/150.

    I was eyeing a Schneider Symmar 150/5.6 convertible lens which will supposedly be a usable 265mm/f12 but I don't know if this is a wise move at all. So, I am generally confused and overwhelmed at the choices and would appreciate any suggestions you might have - brands/deals to look out for etc.

    Thanks,
    Anupam
     
  2. raucousimages

    raucousimages Member

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    150mm Caltar (made by Rodenstock)
     
  3. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

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    4X5 lens

    Don't be afraid of the symmar convertibles: i started with a 135/235 conv. that worked great even at the converted lenght. It was a linhof badged lens though and I don't know exactly what effect that has on it. If you get one try to get it from someone who will let you return it if it doesn't suit you.
    On mine at the 135mm lenght it was as sharp as anything I've ever seen and at the 235mm length you could make full frame 12X16's with no excuses. Maybe I just got an extra special one as I have heard others that have not had good experiences with them so make sure you can check it before you buy. If you get a good one .....keep it! I let mine go and have always regretted it. I think lens&repro has a 135/235 symmar convertible on their website and I know that they are a reputable dealer. For me it was an ideal lens(looking back) the 135 was just wide enough, but not too wide and the 235 was good for the longer stuff. I also always used a #15 filter with the converted length.
    For what its worth, the wisner convertible sets are reputed to be the smae formula.
     
  4. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Set your scepticism aside. The Symmar was made for folks who had to deliver. It's a fine lens.
     
  5. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'll third that - the Symmar is a great starting lens. In the old brochures, Schneider recommended the Symmar for all reproduction ratios down to 1:1, and reversed for magnification. So in one cheap little package you get a sharp normal lens, a decent macro lens, and a usable long lens!

    I've sold my 150mm Symmar since I had 6 other lenses in that FL range, but still use 180, 240 and 300mm Symmar lenses with no plans to replace them.
     
  6. argus

    argus Member

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    I must second the vintage Symmar recommendation. I have a 150mm/265mm and it is sharp enough for my needs on 4x5.
    I even plan to buy the 210 version.

    Greetings,
    G
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 24, 2006
  7. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Anupam,

    If you can get one, a Symmar. I used a 210 for years and although I can tell the difference between the trannies shot on that and my newer 210 Apo-Sironar-N I can't really see the difference in a print. Converted, it's a good idea to stop down, but they're perfectly usable.

    Having said this, almost anything will do, and you never know what may come up cheap -- including some amazingly good lenses. Other lenses I have that are around that length include a 150/4.5 Apo-Lanthar (much cheaper than they used to be) and a 168/6.8 Dagor, and I used to have a couple of 203mm (8 inch) Ektars which I sold cheap to friends who were starting out. One of thev best 150s I ever had was an f/6.3 Tessar: I don't like faster Tessars but the f/6.3 was gorgeous. I'm not the only one who loves that lens: Sir Kenneth Corfield's eyes lit up when we were talking about them, and he has the same opinion as I. I've even seen great pictures taken with Xenars (and had a good one myself, though admittedly Linhof-selected).

    I prefer a 210, partly for the perspective, and partly because the longer a lens is, the easier it is to focus. Twinned with a 110/120/121 it makes a REALLY nice outfit. I've used wider lenses on 4x5 -- 90, 65, even 47 -- but they do get a bit hard to focus.

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com -- where there's a free module in the Photo School about the various large formats).
     
  8. Lachlan Young

    Lachlan Young Member

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    Either a Symmar or Ektar will do very well - both were and still are at the very top of their game.

    Hope this helps,

    Lachlan
     
  9. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'll add a bit to my previous comment:

    I compared negatives shot with a 150/4.5 Xenar, a 150/4.5 Apo-Lanthar, a 150/4.5 Heliar, a 150/5.6 Symmar, a 135/4.5 Eurynar, and a 135/3.5 Planar.

    The Symmar was the most "neutral" of all those lenses, so that was the one I sold off. There was very little difference in sharpness, the main difference between the lenses was that the Symmar had more coverage than the others (I shot on 5x7" film in order to check the coverage as well). Since I also had 120/6.8 and 165/6.8 Angulon as well as a 180/5.6 Symmar, I decided I didn't really have that much need of the extra coverage of the Symmar over the Apo-Lanthar.

    Last time I was out shooting 4x5" I brought 65, 90, 121, 150, 165, 210, 240 and 355mm lenses... Ended up using 90, 150, 165, 210 and 355mm. I keep bringing the 165mm for the extreme coverage (it covers 8x10"), but I would not have needed it if the 150mm had been a Symmar.

    I would recommend you spend more money on the wide-angle lens - for architecture and interiors, you will need the coverage of a Super-Angulon or equivalent in 90 or 75mm.
     
  10. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    All very good advice. I will add that a shutter is (usually) necessary for sharp shots and a barrel is more difficult to work with in most cases. For a slightly wide lens, the 125mm length is a nice choice for depth of field and coverage, depending on what you find. The old press camera lenses of 127mm were fine lenses, just not as much coverage as the Symmar. tim

    P.S. I love my 300mm Symmar-s, but it is a bit heavy.
     
  11. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    For starting off, I'd not get too hung up over ultimate sharpness. As the other folks have said, there are many lenses which will give you excellent results without spending mega-money. Not to mention that compared to 35mm (is that even possible?) 4x5 is hugely forgiving.
    However, you are probably better off sticking with shuttered lenses, at least until you get used to all the mechanics of working with the camera.
    Finally, welcome to the large format world!

    bd
     
  12. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    AT this phase of your decline,
    it's probably more important from WHOM you buy the lens
    than WHAT you buy. Get it locally,
    from someplace to which it may be returned.

    Don't worry over scratches, stuff like that.
     
  13. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    My $.02:

    ANY lens in a 4X5 format that is marginally better than a coke bottle cramed into a lens board will blow you away. You don't really know what's good or bad yet, until you experience the lens. Don't think you will only have one lens the rest of you life... you will change or add lenses as you learn what is good and bad but you need a reference point to begin with.

    To look at a favorite photographers images and learn what equipment he used and duplicate it will not make you a good photographer.

    Good wishes,
     
  14. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    For a guy beginning, the most important consideration is the shutter, not the lens. Get something in a low mileage Copal shutter so that you can be assured that the problem isn't inconsistent operation. I started with a Caltar SII 210 f5.6. It was pure luck but it's what came with the Cambo I traded a P67 for. Turns out it was a multi-coated Symmar in Caltar wrapper, and a lens that could resolve high 60's line pairs. Later on you can stray into all sorts of interesting old junkers with packard shutters behind them, but don't start there. Any Caltar in a black Copal would be excellent to start out with.