View Full Version : Favorite portrait lens for 11x14" format?

Markus Albertz
03-20-2006, 02:10 PM
OK, this is in the spirit of updating my lens wishlist (part 1, triple convertible lens, see previous thread...). So, those of you doing portrait work in the 11x14" format, please allow me to ask: what is your favorite portrait lens and why?

Many thanks in advance,


03-20-2006, 02:11 PM
Stop thinking portrait and think 1:1.

df cardwell
03-20-2006, 02:24 PM
19 to 25 inches ( 450 - 635 mm )

Unless you're working with a big camera on a stand, it is very difficult to make a bigger image than you can with 8x10. You run out of light, as well ( correction for magnification factor ).

03-20-2006, 03:04 PM
18" Wollensak Verito because of it's wonderful soft, dreamy look. If you're looking for a sharp portrait lens, maybe a 19" or 24" Artar.

03-20-2006, 03:10 PM
So far, I've only used one lens on the giant Century #8 11X14. An equally gigantic 22" Voigtlander Petzval. The camera is on a studio stand and has enough bellows (over 40") to fill an 11X14 with a head and shoulder shot.

I have several lenses that will work on it but I simply have not had the time or subjects yet. I have a 24" Dallmeyer 6D which is overkill, the 20" 5D would be plenty. I have an 18" Gundlach Hyperion which is the same formula as the more famous Pinkham Smith Visual Quality series IV. You choose the dreamyness by stopping down. At f4 it's VERY soft. Then there's the 18" Bausch & Lomb Plastigmat Portrait. It has a spectacular look to it stopped down. It's missing the front element if it ever had one. Anybody know? My 15" does. The big #6 Voigtlander Euryscop would be a fine choice for sharper focus. It's 21". Then I have a big 27" Suter Aplanat I've never used. Oops, almost forgot the 22" Verito. Some or all of this stuff would work at portrait focus on the 20X24 Polaroid.

I'm dreaming of a 19" Hermagis Eidoscope. But I'd settle for an 18" Pinkham Smith. Also dreaming of a winning lotto ticket so I can play with all this stuff non-stop.

03-20-2006, 03:19 PM
A Ross Symmetrical 18x16" should do nicely, or the slightly less imposing Suter Aplanat B no.6. Both of these work fine on my 24x30cm camera - I don't shoot 11x14", but 24x30cm and 30x40cm (that's 9.5x12" and 12x16", or close enough).

Dave Wooten
03-20-2006, 03:55 PM
19 " Artar, (about 481 mm), the 450 fugi C (compact) tiny little lens, the 355 G Claron, these all cover at infinity and can do group portraits as well as head shots and can be used on larger formats and smaller...

however, as it has been mentioned... think 1:1, for portraits, head and shoulders etc. the lens does not have to cover at infinity, this gives you lots of possibilities......move the camera closer and pull the bellows, a lot of lenses cover...some of the process lenses i.e. nikor 360 mm and ronar 360 will cover, when the bellows are pulled...they will cover 16 x 20 at one to one!

I would like but do not own yet the fugi 600 mm (compact) it covers at infinity...

the nice thing about 11 x 14 for head shots is
it is the SMALLEST format you can use to photograph the human head at a one to one ratio....

makes a great and most impressive contact print portrait and I feel is unsurpassed for detail using the modern lenses like the fugi and the clarons and various process lenses, taking advantage of the film format and the ability of the lens to show sharp detail.....you need lots of light........

03-20-2006, 04:26 PM
48cm f4.5 Universal Heliar - best bring a big camera and a big wallet.


David A. Goldfarb
03-20-2006, 05:58 PM
I haven't picked a favorite yet. There's a good article by Ron Wisner (I think it's on the Wisner site), about why the rule of thumb about using a lens approximately equal to the diagonal of the format for portraits doesn't really apply when you get over 8x10" and are in the macro range. I often use a lens of about 14" on 11x14" for portraits--headshots to about 3/4 length.

03-20-2006, 06:35 PM
I'm curious as to the replies here myself----I've heard of several that really like a 360 mm for 8x10 and I've fallen close to that with my Fuji 420 L for 8x10 and the 420 L still has a pleasing perspective into the 11x14 format as well and it easily covers--I have a 19 RD Artar (Ilex shutter) but still I like the 420 Fuji but I'm suggesting full length in 11x14 as I've never tried a tight portrait in 11x14 due to my limited budget and my concerns with DOF in 11x14. For a good waist up in 8x10 the Fuji is my number 1 pick and so sharp (Tessar) in the f16-22 range which is as shallow (as of yet) that I'll go for a portrait.

df cardwell
03-20-2006, 07:04 PM
Most of the 8x10 PEOPLE shooters I've known liked the 18 - 19" with 8x10 for a head and shoulders picture. I like that myself. A headsize of 2 1/2 to 4 inches is quite attractive.

With a 14", lens, I think a good full length shot that has a figure about 6" high. Get closer, it becomes bizarre.

Shooting at the same distance as I would with an 8x10, the 18 - 19 is very flattering to the subject, and the bigger neg adds a pleasant amount of context to the picture. Of course, the head size is the same size it would be on 8x10.

Shooting tighter, with a 24" lens, the headsize looks nice 4 to 7 inches. Bigger, and it gets a little creepy to me. Not to mention, difficult to work with.

I think the camera and tripod will determine whether you can efficiently shoot larger than a 3" head size with an 18" lens, and whether you can shoot a 24 at all. A saltzman, majestic, #5 Gitzo or Foba is pretty much a requirement. Racking out a 24" lens on an 11x14 Deardorff (V 11) is safe. A willing sitter, 3000 - 6000 ws of flash are also nice. For shooting in available light, which is a lot of fun, and makes very pretty images, a big studio stand makes life worth living.

JG Motamedi
03-25-2006, 08:03 PM
Coming to the conversation a bit late:

I am currently using three portrait lenses with 11x14, two Dallmeyer Petzvals and a soft focus Verito.

Of the two Dallmeyers, I prefer the slightly longer 22" f4 (5A), but the shorter 19" f6 (5D) gets used more often since it is significantly lighter, and requires less bellows. Even with 38" of extension, I often run out. I have attached two photos, the first taken with the 5A and the second with the 5D.

I have only just started using the 18" Verito. Its a much harder lens to get to know. I have been surprised at the results, as they don't always match what I see on the GG. Other soft focus lenses I have used include a 16" f3.5 Wolly Varium, a medium-soft triplet which I like quite a bit.

Another option are Tessar types. The f4.5 variety would probably be great, but I haven't found the right one yet. I have also used my 450 Nikkor-M for portraiture. Its a great lens, but a bit too clean and clinical for most portraits.

All this said, you are best off seeing what you can find and afford. The Petzvals which will cover plates this big are uncommon, and are selling for large sums of money (a big Darlot which would easily cover 11x14 sold a few weeks ago for over $900). The most common is the Dallmeyer 5D, which comes up for sale a few times a year. Also the Wolly Vitax with the 20" front element are often available and relatively affordable.

03-25-2006, 08:47 PM
JG Motamedi,
Thanks for the image postings--I happened across a 5D some time ago and acquired it as well as the much larger 4B and I have a 6D as well--there is a significant size difference and my choice to toy with will likely be the 5D as the mounting and support of the other two will be an issue in itself--not sure if it will be worthwhile for me to even try the 4B as it is much larger than the 5D (redundant) but of much less coverage according to the spec sheets--I also have a beautiful 2B that is limited to 4x5 but a very very nice lens (that I've actually used on 5x7 and clipped corners) and still sports it full set of serial numbered waterhouse stops which is rare enough in itself --I also have 4 Lerebours et Secretan Petval lenses and at least one covers at least 8x10 and likely 11x14 but there is so little information on them (that I've found at least) that there is no stated coverage or markings to suggest the FL or aperture as they do not accept waterhouse stops and are about 10 to 15 years before the Dallmeyer Patent Portrait lenses--all mine date to 1850-ish and one supposedly earlier but no way to verify. The Lerebours tend to be more compact and of larger coverage than a similar sized Dallmeyer and these are not magic lantern lenses but portrait petzvals--if I could only get my butt in gear and use them rather than hoarding them !! Again I thank you for your posting and would be very interested in any other images you care to share with us!!

03-25-2006, 09:48 PM

I'm dreaming of a 19" Hermagis Eidoscope...

"Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the treetops glisten"

03-25-2006, 09:54 PM
Another vote for the 18" f/4 Wollensak Diffused-Focus Verito. Dreamy.

Mike A
03-29-2006, 06:15 PM
I know I can some how justify buying one of these...Oh wife we can save $ on all those crappy Sears portraits you get the kids.

03-29-2006, 08:00 PM
Thats like trying to justify buying a fishing boat, all the money you will save at the fish counter at the grocery store ya know. Might as well try it, might work once.

Mike A
03-30-2006, 01:32 AM
Thats like trying to justify buying a fishing boat, all the money you will save at the fish counter at the grocery store ya know. Might as well try it, might work once.
No not a fishing boat just the tackle, fly rods, fly tying vises, waders............................................ ......................

03-30-2006, 01:46 PM
You would be particularly correct if practicing catch and release.