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  1. #1

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    Going to get a 4x5, lens help requested

    Hey there,

    My name is graeme and I am an engineering student from montana with a passion for photo.

    Like the title says, I am about to make the leap into 4x5 after years of 35mm and 120. I think there are enough "find me the cheapest field camera" threads out there, so I will look through that question on my own. I dont know much about these cameras, but do realize that the lens is really the crucial part.

    I have about 2k saved up for the gear I need (with a fair bundle saved for film apart from that). I have no interest in shooting speed graphic or the like. I'd rather buy nice than buy twice. Willing to sacrifice a bit on the body for good glass.

    I would like to get a two lens kit, a 135mm and a ~240-300mm. I will primarily be shooting environmental and tight portraiture, with some scenery mixed in. I rarely ever shoot above f5.6 currently with my 6x7 kit, so shallow DOF ability is something important to me.


    I will definitely be shooting color in addition to B+W with the 4x5. I currently shoot a pentax 6x7, which is nice, but I dont like the lens' color rendition as much as my old mamiya 7. I really like the smooth, clean color and sharpness of the mamiya glass. I feel like the pentax has similar colors to the hasselblad's zeiss lenses, which I actually dont like very much.

    Here are a couple examples of image output I liked with the mamiya...

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    So looking for two lens models that are able to give off the same aesthetic, if such a thing is knowable. Preferably in a 135 and a 240-300 range.

    Thanks in advance!

    -graeme

  2. #2
    tony lockerbie's Avatar
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    You will get a million different answers here as everyone has their favourite! In general, LF lenses are quite slow compared to what you have been using, ie around F5.6 is the norm. There are thje Zeiss Planar and Schneider Xenotar at F3.5 in the 135mm focal length, but these are hard to find and expensive when you do. If you are doing portraits with say a 210 or 240, then the DOF is still pretty shallow at 5.6 so it may be OK. I personally use a 270mm Schneider Tele-Arton for portraits. The 210mm lenses seem quite plentiful and anything from Schneider, Rodenstock or Nikon will give top quality images.
    Unfortunately I only shoot B&W, so no idea of colour rendition I'm afraid! In my kit I have a 180mm Rodenstock Sironar and also a 150mm Sironar, both these lenses have particularly pleasant OOF areas, so could work with portraits.
    A lot of people here use really old lenses for portrait work and some of these produce amazing results, but I'm no expert here as the only oldie that I have is a pre-war 210mm Tessar, which is uncoated and really nice wide open.
    Really like the snow pictures you have and the second shot is a good example of where LF could improve your image. By tilting the lens forward you can easily get good front to back sharpness in pictures like this without stopping down drastically. Good luck with your quest and I hope you like LF.

  3. #3

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    in addition the the advice tony gave you ...

    you might think about a schneider symmar convertible lenses
    they are worth their weight in GOLD .. BUT their nodal points are not the same
    as a "normal" lens. when converted they take more bellows than you might think ..
    plasmat lens design beautiful color and b/w rendition too.
    don't overlook them 2 lenses in 1 !

    i am a fan of older lenses, less sharp ( well not really ) but old glass seems
    to be less "clinical" than new. i also have tony's love of old tessars
    mine's also a pre war uncoated one, a 21cm f3.8 fast and beautiful

    good luck !
    john

  4. #4

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    Are you nearby anyplace that you can rent equipment? I know that large format in stores seems to be getting as rare as hen's teeth these days, but if there's a Calumet store near you, they usually have a healthy rental department and could probably help you choose the equipment you want to settle on.

    A lot of what you're talking about involves "style" rather than "substance" as far as actual production of images is concerned -- I love wooden Deardorff 5x7 cameras, but I was talking with a guy the other day who prefers metal cameras. They both do the same thing.

    As for color rendition -- wow! You haven't indicated whether you process your own film or have it done; whether you print in the darkroom or after scanning, etc. and so on. So much depends on film type, exposure, processing, and how you print (analog or digital) -- I can only say again, you'll have to test, test, test to find what combination of lenses and films are going to do the job for your photos.

    After all that, I must say that I do agree with the statements above as regards older lenses. They're more economical, they provide more than adequate sharpness, and often -- especially in the case of Schneiders and Rodenstocks -- if you settle on a brand and vintage, you'll often find that lenses of the same "model" will offer up consistent color across different focal lengths. So, if you hit the jackpot with a Symmar Convertible, you can probably rely on similar or same color rendition from similar vintage Symmar Convertibles.

    As for cameras: Just be sure to get front rise, tilt and swing, and rear tilts and swings, minimally, from whatever camera you settle on, and you'll be able to cover any shooting situation you find yourself in.

    If you want a good tutorial on camera movements, you can't beat the view camera chapter(s) in "The Camera" by Ansel Adams. Short and sweet and covers just about everything you'll need to know.

    I hope this verbosity is helpful...! Good luck.

  5. #5

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    Going to get a 4x5, lens help requested

    Thanks for the replies! Tons of helpful information here!


    I don't think I was as clear in stating my original question as I could have been.

    I shoot portra 400 and have it processed at various labs, usually with the same general results. I would likely do the same with 4x5 as far as continuing to shoot portra and getting lab processed.

    I think I am looking for a more modern, "clinical", lens... But maybe I am not? I do enjoy having extremely sharp images, and having very accurate color.

    Unfortunately I live in a relatively rural area with not much access for testing gear. I will likely go to seattle or Portland to buy gear if I can't find it online, but I will not have enough time to mess around with trying stuff out.

    The little I do know about large format was in a brief chat in a camera shop in Portland where I was told that older lenses generally aren't great for accurate color, as the coatings (or lack thereof) were not designed for that purpose. While that makes sense to me, I have no idea whether or not that is true.

    I do know that generally when I look at what photography I like in the large format medium, it is generally associated with newer, and therefore, more expensive glass. I know that in medium format, someone could show me a photo and I could recommend a camera that would give a similar output. I feel as though I can generally peg a camera's general output, you know?

    I think maybe the best way to ask this question is in asking what gear might mimic the aesthetic of photographers I would like to emulate. Right off the bat, alec soth (www.alecsoth.com) and Bryan schutmaat (www.bryanschutmaat.com) are probably my favorite two photographers.

    I am sorry if my question doesn't make sense, I hope it does. I feel as though I am right on the cusp of having an understanding of what is going on.
    Last edited by montucky; 11-19-2012 at 02:16 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  6. #6
    Slixtiesix's Avatar
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    I´ve read very good things about the Rodenstock Apo-Sironar S Line. Michael Reichmann from LL has called them the best lenses you can buy for LF today. The 135mm is not even that expensive, but the longer focal lengths are.

  7. #7
    polyglot's Avatar
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    One thing to keep in mind is that (to make a bit of an overgeneralisation) lenses of 240mm and more tend to be in #3 shutters whereas most 210mm are cheaper, smaller, lighter and mounted in #1 shutters. If you like portability and could stand the shorter focal length, a 210mm might be good. The other issue is bellows draw - as you get longer lenses, you obviously need more bellows to reach a particular magnification unless they're telephoto (usually designated with a T in the name).

    Personally I have a 240/5.6 Symmar-S at the long end. Absolutely sharp and contrasty, as per any relatively modern multicoated lens, but you pay for it in weight compared to a 210. My Toyo 45A barely has enough bellows to use this lens - I can get to about 1:3 without stretching it too far but it need to use a 150mm if I want 1:1. You definitely want to know how much bellows your chosen camera has before you go buying a really long (e.g. 300mm) lens - most 4x5 field cameras can barely reach infinity at that focal length.

    A modern 150 or 180 is worth considering as they're so cheap, common, light, sharp and all-around useful.

    PS $2k is heaps. Your example photos look outdoors so I'll assume you want a field camera - an excellent used one in metal or wood will set you back $500 to $800 with occasional bargains around $350. And probably $300 for each lens+shutter, again in absolutely top-notch condition. Budget about $10 for each film holder (so $100ish); you should be all-in on a body, two lenses and accessories (loupe and weighted-corner darkcloth) for well under $1500.

  8. #8

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    in addition to looking into a camera, lenses ( film holders, darkcloth, big tripod &c )
    i would make sure your region has places to process color+chrome 4x5 sheet film
    because sending to a out of region lab will be an added expense you might have overlooked
    there are some great labs that do wonderful work with sheet film
    but like everything in life, there is a fee involved ..

    if your school has a photography department that has chemical based photography classes
    you might also look into taking a color photography class ( or at least
    poking around and learning about it on the interweb ) so you can get a handle on processing your own
    c41 + chromes, it might be an additional expense upfront, but will safe you lots of $$ in the end.
    where i live ( urban rhode island ) i have to ship all my 4x5 color film to an out of state lab
    since no one is left standing who processes sheet film.

    nice photos you posted btw, but no dental floss, or pigmy ponies ?!
    i thought that stuff was all over montana ... i guess i've been brainwashed by rock and roll ...

  9. #9

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    I'll second Polyglot's advice. Modern 150 and 210mm lenses are cheap and plentiful. You can find good used 1980s-1990s models from Nikon, Rodenstock and Schneider at very reasonable prices. These are the pre-apo plasmats. They're multi-coated and all are fine performers. Once the lens makers went to the super new designs the prices really escalated. Yes, they probably produce "superior" results, but you can pay a whole lot of money for what really is a small increase in performance.

    If you want consistent color rendering, stick to lenses from the same manufacturer.

    Focal length spread is a matter of personal choice. My basic kit is 90mm, 150mm, 210mm. Some prefer 75mm, 135mm, 180mm. A 240mm is going to be bigger and heavier than a 210mm, but there's something special about working at close distances with a 240mm. It throws the background out of focus just enough more than a 210mm to have a very different look, especially at closer working distances. I don't own one, mostly because I have a 210 and a 305. I'd love to have one, but really can't justify the purchase.

    Good luck and good hunting!

    Peter Gomena

  10. #10
    Patrick Robert James's Avatar
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    If you like the color from your Mamiya vs. the color from your Pentax I would suggest you take a look at Fuji lenses.

    The only "normal" (135-150mm) lenses that are wider than f/5.6 that are worth anything from your viewpoint are the Planar/Xenotars or the Xenar/Tessars. Unfortunately though, all of these lenses are "older" except for a few Planars that were multicoated. Those late Planars are waaaay out of your budget, and almost anyone's budget for that matter. You might be happy with the Xenotar 3.5 mentioned above. I am not sure if any of the Tessar/Xenar f/4.5s were ever multicoated. Maybe someone will chime in.

    You might have to decide whether the shallow depth of field or the clinical quality of the color is more important to you.

    I haven't seen many modern longer lenses that were wider than f/5.6. A friend of mine has a 300mm f4.5 Ilex (Tessar) in a #5 shutter that is coated. There may be other Tessar types out there, maybe even something multicoated, but I don't know. I think there was a Docter 210/4.5 which would be modern/multicoated I believe. In getting a fast longer lens you will pay a huge weight/size penalty. Even the 5.6 plasmats are starting to get huge in the 300mm focal length. You may find a 240mm length to be the better bet.

    On the upside, whatever you buy, if you don't like it you will be able to turn around and sell it for the same amount of money, or even more. Prices seem to be going up slowly these days.

    I hope that helps.

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