Lenses for a Burke & James Press 4x5
Looks like I'll be getting a 4x5 Burke & James Press camera shortly! It has a Kodak ektar 127mm on it. What lenses would be a suitable for this camera that would be a step up in quality without breaking the bank? Are there any sleepers out there that are good. I'm planning on doing mostly landscape but would like to do some wildflower photos if I can.
Symmar convertibles from the 1970s are a pretty good value. They have good coverage and good sharpness across the image circle, they're fairly compact, and usually in decent Synchro-Compur shutters that work well after they've had a cleaning, if they haven't had one in a while. They also take standard mm filter sizes and are single coated.
I have a B&J press. One lens I can *not* use is a 90mm super angulon. The lens is too big to fit in the hole. Unlike a camera like the B&J Orbit (which I also have!), the B&J press has a board behind the lensboard with a limited hole or aperture for lenses. The SA is just too big. Since it has a springback rather than a graflock, you can't take the lens apart and put it together in place.
Originally Posted by Brad Bireley
That all said, for landscape are you interested in color or B&W? Do you want more wide angle coverage than the 127mm? Do you want to be able to use some movements? These would affect the answers.
I'm new to this large format stuff! I want to do mostly b&w. Is 127mm about 35mm in 35mm format? If so this should be about where I would be. Somewhere in the 28-35mm focal length of 35mm. But then if I can pick up various lenses I would use whatever I can.
I use a Crown Graphic press camera & my basic compliment are the following lenses:
Tominon 105mm for the wide angle- it's sharp, light & has a Copal Press shutter
Optar 135mm- close enough to the "normal" 150mm & it came on the camera
Geronar 210mm- nice for some portrait/people shots & it's not huge
Wollensak 15" telephoto- weighs a ton, but it works with the bellows
Your biggest problem with lenses longer than 240mm is bellows length on the press cameras... so if you want a long lens make sure it is a telephoto.
I have a couple of lenses that I keep meaning to put in the classifieds, so send me a PM & I'll send you a list.
John (Alpha Flying Monkey) Moore
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I didn't think the Tominon would cover 4x5 at infinity with good sharpness. Otherwise, I wouldn't have given the one I found to my brother!
Originally Posted by JLMoore3
Back to the OP's question--
One lens to consider is the 90mm angulon. Some like them, some don't. There is also the 3.5" (90mm) Wollensak Raptor. You can't use front tilt (front tilt will bring more of the forground/background into focus).
Sometimes you can find cheap process lenses--I got a 150mm and a 210mm for $20 (whith the fixturing to mount in an MP-4 copy camera. That ended up in the recycling). I need to try those out. One problem is that they are slow--rather dim at widest opening.
You can always ask someone like Jim Galli (here on APUG) for suggestions of what he has on a shelf somewhere. If you are trying to stay cheap, let him know.
If you are staying with landscape, consider "Barrel" lenses. These are lenses without a shutter. Mountains don't move too fast, so you can use longer exposure times. Lenses in shutter cost more for the shutter and for the convenience of having a shutter.
If you are doing mostly B&W, you can use older lenses without coatings or with single coatings.
Lastly, try out the 127mm Ektar before you get something else. There are people who really like them. I got rid of mine to someone who has put it to great use. I really only got rid of it because with a 150mm and a 90mm, I didn't see using the 127 so much.
I'll second David's recommendation for an older Symmar convertible lenses. They were available in a lot of focal lengths, and the prices have stayed reasonable over the years. Many suffer from "Schneideritis" where you'll see white specs at the enge of the lens, but that's not a problem. It's only on the outside edge of the lens so it can't impact the image quality. If you try to use one in the converted state (by using only the back element), use a colored filter to avoid chromatic abberations. Yellow and orange have worked well for me; I've not tried a red filter yet.
As David mentioned, the Synchro-Compur shutters are workhorses. I have three in my collection, and two of them just needed to be fired about 100 times to loosen them up. They've since given me a few years of very reliable service.
If you decide to look into a 90mm Angulon (non-Super), you might try to find one that has the Linhof name on it. The story goes that Linhof "cherry picked" the lenses that they sold, so with the Linhof lenses you have a better chance of getting a good lens. I have no idea how true this is, but I did luck into a cheap Linhof 90mm Angulon a few years ago and it's a great lens. Very tiny (helpful if you have to walk some distance with your gear), sharp, easy to focus...about all you can ask for of such a small lens. It doesn't have the coverage for a lot of movements on a 4x5, but it versatile enough for many situations.
As Matt suggested, try out the 127. You might find that you like it. If you don't, then it never hurts to look at what's out there in your price range in newer lenses. A more modern lens in the short-normal range is easy to find from Fuji, Nikon, Schneider, or Rodenstock. Newer lenses will give you more coverage, and therefore greater movements.
Regarding the focal lenght equivalence between your 127mm lens on 4x5 and 35mm lenses, there is no absolutely correct way to convert what the lenses look like because 35mm is a 2x3 format whereast 4x5 is, well, 4x5. The rule of thumb that works for me is to divide the LF lens by 3 to get an equivalent focal length in 35mm. Thus your 127mm lens is about the same as a 42mm lens on a 35mm camera. Put the lens on the camera and look at the image...I think you'll find that the lens is closer to "normal" than "wide angle".
Finally, I strongly suggest a trip over to Kerry Thalmann's large format pages at http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/ . The information density is amazing, and his recommendations are first rate. (Plus he's one heck of a writer.) You can learn more there in an hour than you can in a day at the library.
Best of luck.
Film is cheap. Opportunities are priceless.
A nice thing about the Synchro-Compur shutters is that they are all metal, so if you're handy, you can remove the face plate and the speed adjustment dial, soak them in naphtha working the shutter at all speeds and opening and closing the iris, dry, add a drop of light machine oil to the slow speed retard mechanism and maybe a little light grease in the channels on the speed-adjustment dial, and they'll come back to life. If you can do this, you can find some great deals on lenses in "non-working" Synchro-Compur shutters.
Note that if you try this with a shutter that has vulcanite blades (like some of the shutters used for Graflex lenses), you'll damage them, and if the shutter has paper blades (like some older Compound shutters), you'll have a mess.
It's not as good as a full disassembly and ultrasound cleaning, but it solves a lot of problems.
A 127 Ektar is actually a very good lens! The trouble is there isn't any coverage for using movements, but on a press camera thats hand held, whose going to use movements?
If you have the bellows for it, consider adding a 203 f/7.7 Ektar. A great lens IMHO. Another Ektar worthy of consideration would be a 135 WF Ektar. Heck, get both of them!
Another classic would be a 168mm f/4.5 Wollensak Velostigmat or Raptar(in its more recent incarnation) in a Rapax or Alphax shutter.
For a 203mm Ektar expect to pay around $200 168 Wolly closer to $100 while the 135 WF Ektars tend to get rather pricey as they're in high demand by the ultra light crowd.
Jon Wilson has an Ilex convertable lens in the Classifieds worth looking into:
I have seen this & it is definitely worth picking up, especially for the price!
John (Alpha Flying Monkey) Moore