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Thread: Super Wide Lenses and Center Filters

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    Super Wide Lenses and Center Filters

    Lately I have been exploring super wide lenses for my 4 x 5 Zone VI camera. I have the Bag Bellows for Camera, and I have the room and capability of using the 58mm Schneider Super Angulon XL and maybe even the 47mm if I choose to go that route.

    In my opinion, the Design of the Zone VI Camera's moving front and rear beds and the adjustments built into this camera are just sheer genius. I can actually put the front standard all the way inside the rear standard of the camera if I desire.

    I already own the Nikon SW 4.5 90mm lens. After focusing and shooting with it I found that while its a nice lens, and provides a sharp image, I think I would rather have a lens where I did not have to back up so far to capture a complete image of a building or home. At this point I decided to start exploring the use of wider lenses on my camera. Since Super Wide lenses are still pretty expensive for Large Format, I looked up places to possibly rent the focal lengths I was interested in for a day. Unfortunately there are not many of those around, and if you live outside of a major city you end up having to deal with paying for a full week of rental because of policy issues. Of course you also have to provide a credit card for the rental place to hold for liability purposes and/or provide proof of insurance for them.

    My goal was to shoot a frame or two with each focal length I was interested in of the same scene with each lens mounted on my camera. I also decided to include my 90mm so I could get a feel for the difference in the lenses both physically and visually. I feel both those things are important.

    I live about 3 1/2 hours from Chicago. Since I had an appointment in the city I decided to see if I could test lenses while I was there. I had purchased my Zone VI camera while visiting Calumet Photo a few weeks ago and I knew they have sold Large Format equipment and supplies for many years. When I contacted Calumet in regard to lens rental I have to say I was very disappointed to find out they had very limited lenses available to be rented for Large format. So I called Helix Camera which also has a rental dept and has been around for quite a few years. Helix had two of the lenses I was interested in. One of them was the 58mm and the other was the 72mm. Both were the Super Angulon XL lenses. So while I was in Chicago I made my way over to Helix.

    When I got to the store, I found the people in the rental dept at the store to be very helpful. I had no idea if there was going to be enough room to rack the lenses back to focus without hitting my ground glass. Helix agreed to allow me to bring my camera and tripod into the store and mount the lenses to see if I could focus and check ground glass/film plane clearance distance before renting the lenses. One of the rental dept workers mounted the 72mm on my lens board for me while I set up the camera. I put the board and lens on the camera and pointed the lens down a long large walkway inside the store. Even though I had put on the bag bellows to allow for extra focusing movement, it would have been great if I had been more familiar on how to adjust my camera to accept and focus with the Super Wide lenses. I didn't even think to swing back the front standard on an angel to get it closer to the focus plane. The Helix employee did not know my camera either, so like me he assumed there just was not enough adjustment to rack the front standard back enough for back standard close enough to bring the lens into sharp focus. So I left that day without even trying to shoot a frame or mounting the other lens.

    As I made the 3 1/2 hour drive home, I happened to call one of my friends who shoots a Tachihara, and had gotten me interested in LF. One of the design benefits of the Zone VI model I owned was the user interchangeable bellows and the availability of a bag bellows for the camera. As my friend and I talked we could not understand why a bag bellows existed if I could not adjust my camera enough to accept the wider lenses. So when I got home, I started playing with the adjustments and discovered what I forgot to do. Needless to say I was kind of upset at myself but I was also happy to discover it was not a limitation of the camera.

    Still wanted to do my test I called Calumet in Chicago and because of special pricing they offered me, I opted to rent a 58mm XL from them so I could at least do part of the testing I wanted. Prior to renting the lens, I asked them if it came with the center filter. I had been reading and discovered that it was very important to have the correct center filter when shooting a Super Wide lens because these types of lenses have light fall off in the corners if you do not use the filter. I also wanted a proper exposure so I could do an accurate comparison.

    When the lens arrived, I was excited to shoot it and see the results. I mounted the 58mm on my lens board and then got on line to Schneider's website so I could look up what my exposure compensation needed to be for the filter. It was then I discovered that Calumet had sent me the wrong center filter for the lens.

    I guess this is a good time to explain what a center filter does. Basically because of the design of a Super wide lens, more light hits the center of the lens and falls off in the corners. The Center filter is a neutral density type filter that is denser in the middle and as it reaches the edges moves toward transparency. In other words it is used to even out the light across the lens and therefore give you a more even exposure on your film. Why they did not build this filter into the Super wide lenses is beyond me but I am sure there is a reason. The Center filters are very expensive and will add $250 to $400 to the cost of wide angle lens you use it for.

    Anyway on with my little story. I called Calumet the next day and let them know they had sent me the wrong filter. I came to find out that the person that sent the lens and filter was aware they had sent the incorrect one. Basically this made my rental kind of pointless other than finding out that I could mount the lens on my camera and have the ability to focus it. I certainly could not get the right exposure with the incorrect filter. So Calumet agreed not to charge me for the rental and I shipped the lens back to them that afternoon.

    Now for my questions:

    1. Why is it that the manufacturers did not build the center filters into these
    Super Wide lenses?

    2. Are there exceptions to when you need a center filter and when you do not?

    3. How come Nikon did not specify center filters for their SW lenses?

    4. Are the Nikon SW lenses optically different where they do not have the light falloff that Schneider and the other brands do?

    5. If center filters are necessary for the the Nikon SW lenses how do you know which one to use for each lens? Schneider at least has a chart for each lens specifying the number of the filter required and the exposure compensation required when using them. How do you know what to do for Nikon?

    6. Is a center filter required for all Nikon SW lenses or just certain focal lengths?

    Jason

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    Re: Super Wide Lenses and Center Filters

    Hi Jason;

    A CF is a mixed-bag trade-off IMO. Also, the amount of rise/tilt/shift you impart will affect the final result as well, since the falloff gets stronger as you move the image away from the lens' center.

    For me with landscapes, I didn't bother with one on my 65 and up for most shots. However I definitely carried it in case I needed an extreme movement, and in some cases would mount it on my 110 SSXL to alleviate falloff with extreme movement. With 58 and shorter I basically used it all the time as falloff is pretty extreme, especially for chromes.

    Oh, and I used the Schneider 3B CF as my standard (standard 1-1/2 stop recommended for the 80 and 110 SSXL), and found it gave fine results with the 47 through 110. I usually compensated 2 full stops with it for whatever that's worth to you (hint-hint) ...

    Here are some old shots with the CF on a 58. First is at the narrows of the Virgin River in Zion NP. Here I had as much fall as possible, and also around 3 or 4 degrees of forward tilt -- those two movements cancel, so you can combine them and remain within the limited lens IC. This allowed me to get the rock and background all to focus. It was after being so cramped to make this shot, I replaced the 58 with a 47. With the 47 I simply would have shot this a bit loose and cropped, given there is so much negative area on 4x5:



    Another image where IMO a 47 would have been preferred. I had my back against the rear wall of this old cabin living room (Bodie, CA) and had no more room to move. I have filter flare from the CF on the 58 coming from a large window just off-image to the right. I was so cramped, I could not see the GG well enough to spot the flare, so I did not shade the lens:



    Finally, one where the 58 worked well for the subject as I had ample room behind me to work, (Bodie Hotel, Post Box):



    Ironically, right after I sold the 58 and got a 47 to replace it, I got interested in 8x10. There the 110 SSXL was my "super-wide" after that (Yes, it almost fully illuminates 8x10!), then I moved to high resolution digital and never really made any worthwhile image with the 47.
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Super Wide Lenses and Center Filters

    Jack those are some beautiful images. I think I have pretty much decided that if I go wider its going to be with a 75mm Nikon. The 47 and 58 are a little rich for my blood when you consider the center filters as additional costs.

    Of course I will not be able to go as wide as you have.

    Jason

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    Re: Super Wide Lenses and Center Filters

    Jack, I finally bought a 75mm SW Nikon. I will let you know how it works out. If I like it I will probably let go of my 90mm unless you think there is a good reason for keeping. Up to this point I have been shooting B&W but I did buy a small box of color to try out once I feel comfortable enough using the large format.

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    Re: Super Wide Lenses and Center Filters

    Focal choices are personal, so my advice is to keep whatever you use most to capture what you envision. For me, I found the following progression in this approximate order of use worked for me, but this is not to say it will work for everybody: 90mm (35%), 150mm (35%), 210mm (15%), 300mm (8%), 58mm (7%).

    One thing to keep in mind, is there is so much film real-estate with LF, it's easy to crop say 20% and not lose any quality. With that in mind, if I were starting back up today I'd probably get a 90, a 150 and a 240 (and maybe a 47 for ultrawide if/when needed), then crop as required (most likely with the 47 or 240 most of the time) to fill in any gaps.
    Jack
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    Re: Super Wide Lenses and Center Filters

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    Focal choices are personal, so my advice is to keep whatever you use most to capture what you envision. For me, I found the following progression in this approximate order of use worked for me, but this is not to say it will work for everybody: 90mm (35%), 150mm (35%), 210mm (15%), 300mm (8%), 58mm (7%).

    One thing to keep in mind, is there is so much film real-estate with LF, it's easy to crop say 20% and not lose any quality. With that in mind, if I were starting back up today I'd probably get a 90, a 150 and a 240 (and maybe a 47 for ultrawide if/when needed), then crop as required (most likely with the 47 or 240 most of the time) to fill in any gaps.
    I agree. I figure if I like the 75mm I can alway crop to what the 90 would give me without losing too much. Both of the lenses are 4.5 so if the sharpness is there and there is not a bunch of light falloff in the 75 I figure I will be golden. Since I have the Schneider 180 convertible and a 210mm as well I should be covered for what I will be using the most. The Nikon 90 is a large hunk of glass so it will be interesting to see how it compares to the Nikon 75.

    Jason

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