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Thread: Which wide angle lens for 4x5?

  1. #1
    Brett Laker
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    Which wide angle lens for 4x5?

    Dear DPI,

    I hope that I am posting in the right place. Forgive me if I am not.

    I am a complete beginner to LF. ( I have 20 years experience as an amateur photographer and I have made pictures using medium format and, latterly, digital. I now want to move in LF as the format would give the detail I need in my landscape pictures-particularly in the middle and far distances. I also like the look of film too. And I am excited about getting back into film again, dusting off my Pentax spotmeter and starting to think again!

    I started my research in LF about 2 weeks ago. I have decided to buy the Chamonix 045N-2 camera as it is within my budget and has probably more functions than I will need. I am now looking into a lens. Once I finally decide on the lens I need, I will then order the camera. This is why I am writing to the LF forum as I need help and advice about lenses. (And probably a lot of other advice too.....)

    I have decided that I need a lens of around 90mm or 100mm as this would match the field of view that I like ( about 54 degrees I think or thereabouts).

    So can I ask the forum about any lenses they could recommend around 90mm or 100mm focal length. ( I haven't decided a budget yet for this lens). Here are some other thoughts:

    1. As I will be investing a lot of my time in LF, I do want to sacrifice quality for price.
    2. I would prefer a lighter lens to a heavier lens as I will be carrying my gear on foot.
    3. I would like a bitingly sharp lens.
    4. I would like a bright lens.

    I live in Japan and I know a LF photographer who is currently selling a Fujinon 90/5.6 SWD large format lens (USED). He I haven't seen the lens but he says that it is in superb condition. This being the case, do you think that this lens would fit my needs?

    I would really appreciate some help here, as I feel that the lens is going to be the most important thing I buy and will have the biggest bearing on the quality of the images I can make( hopefully!).

    Other things that I feel I need to know:

    1. Should I buy used or new?
    2. If I, at some point in the future, get other additional lenses, should I buy the same brands? ( I will be shooting monochrome for the most part).

    Anyways, that is more than enough from me. I hope that I am asking the right kind of questions and I would really appreciate any advice or ideas or opinions.

    With very best regards,

    Brett

  2. #2
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    Re: Which wide angle lens for 4x5?

    Late-model 90's from all four of the big manufacturers - Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikon, Fuji - are all excellent. Among them you have a wide choice of tradeoffs between maximum aperture, image circle and size/weight.

    Used tends to be much cheaper than new, especially for the slower lenses (f/6.8, f/8), which are very common on the second-hand market. OTOH, if you want to do your part in encouraging the remaining manufacturers (Nikon no longer makes LF lenses) to stay in business...

    Lenses of a given brand and vintage do share a "house style" in the way they render, especially within lens types (e.g., normal plasmats, wide angle lenses). In late-model lenses the differences in drawing character can be very subtle, and most users either don't notice them or do see them but conclude that they don't matter. The only way to find out whether any such differences matter to you is with experience. Don't sweat it as you're getting started - that's something that will take care of itself in due course.

    The source for LF info:

    http://www.largeformatphotography.info/

    http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/

    Good luck and enjoy!

  3. #3
    Brett Laker
    Guest

    Re: Which wide angle lens for 4x5?

    Oren,

    Thanks very much for your reply. Food for thought.

    I posted a thread in the LF forum and I am getting some responses. One of the responses suggested NOT getting a 90mm lens as a first lens as a 90mm is difficult to use for a new comer to LF. The poster also suggested that if I bought a 90mm lens that I would not get as much experience using camera movements.

    Here is the thread:

    http://www.largeformatphotography.in...ad.php?t=67792

    If I decide that perhaps using a 90mm lens is going to be tricky for me, I need another lens. If what the poster in the LF forum states is correct, then what focal length lens should I be considering? For example, would I have the same difficulties with a 100mm lens? Or perhaps be safe and got up to 135mm. 135mm is the longest I think I could go to- I like a little foreground in the pictures, but not as much as a 75mm lens.

    I had a look at your photographs of Tokyo. Wonderful images. Are you still in Tokyo/Japan?

    Thanks for any help or advice you may have on this.

    Brett

  4. #4
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    Re: Which wide angle lens for 4x5?

    The 90 will give you modest coverage. But it depends on the subject, landscape I think you will like it. Fast lenses have their own problems and you gain little in practical value. There should be a host of Fuji, Nikon and Super Angulon out there. For a normal lens get a Symmar it is simply the sharpest of the pack, If you can pick up a 300 mm Apo-chromatic, I have a Tessar but there are others. Used lenses are relatively inexpensive you don't needas lot of shutter speeds either, just get it calibrated and know what it is, otherwise you are usually going to be doing slow and long shutter speeds, stopped down where these lenses kick butt. Get a secure tripod. Think a lot before you shoot, shoot little think much. Good Luck, Joe

  5. #5
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    Re: Which wide angle lens for 4x5?

    Most 100mm lenses are actually for smaller formats and will not provide full coverage for 4X5. And there is no reason to go 100 and 90 as you would not see the difference. 150 is the "normal" lens for that format and there are significant differences between 150, 135 and 90. You could try 135 as that is usually considered the widest normal and 210 the longest normal. I do not know the model that you are buying but on my Shen Hao if I want to use a lot of movements on the 90 than I switch to the bag bellow. You could also try a 120 to start with as well as 120, 121 Super Angulon and even 120 Angulon have loads of coverage for 4X5 and could be used in addition to not instead of a 90. IIRC the more modern 135 have a lot more coverage than the older ones. For myself my most common used lens is the 150 Symmar and it is from the '60s.

  6. #6
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    Re: Which wide angle lens for 4x5?

    Brett -

    90 is actually the "bread and butter" wide angle focal length for 4x5 - it's very versatile and practical, and an excellent first choice for a wide angle. But I wouldn't recommend starting with it as an only lens. I would pair it with something in the 135-210 range. You can get a good, modern lens in that range very inexpensively.

    If I could start with only one lens, though, my own preference would be a 135, which is semi-wide. Others prefer 150, which is exactly normal, or a 180 or 210 long-normal.

    Thanks for your kind words on the pictures. Afraid I've been back stateside all these years; it's long past time for a return visit. There will be some new postings from time to time - I'm in the middle of a project to review all my Japan negatives and scan selected frames.

  7. #7
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    Re: Which wide angle lens for 4x5?

    I am also pretty new to LF and now I have what I feel is a good range of lenses for my purposes.

    I think a lot of what you choose will depend on you. I think you mentioned you wanted a view of 54mm because that is what you are used to, so a 150mm would probably satisfy you.

    You can get an idea of the focal length you are looking at compared to 35mm for 4x5 by dividing the LF focal length by 3. For 8x10 divide by 4. This should give you an idea.

    Image circle is a very important factor to consider when buying any lens. So once you figure out the focal length you want to buy, then take a look at the image circle. Another factor to consider when buying any lens is what brand of shutter is it mounted in. I stuck with Copal brand shutters because I wanted to have the best chance of getting them repaired if necessary.

    As has been suggested, if you stick to the major brands of lenses you will probably do ok. I have all Nikon lenses except for the a 180/312mm schneider convertible. I did spend a lot of time researching and reading before buy each lens. I also bought every lens I own used off ebay. I just made sure I was dealing with someone with a history of good feed back and a return policy before I bid on those auctions. My shortest lens is a Nikon SW 75mm 4.5 lens and my longest is a Nikon 300M F9. Different focal lengths give you different perspectives, and you will find a difference in the coatings, warmth or coolness in what lenses from different manufacturers produce. You just need to find what you like.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a used lens and if you are patient you can find a deal. There are quite a few LF photographers who are retiring and others who are getting out of LF to go to digital so currently its a buyers market. One of the cameras I shoot is a Zone VI 4x5 camera and I have the Bag Bellows so I can use the wider angle lenses.

    I personally bought a Schneider 180 convertible as my first lens because I felt it was inexpensive, sharp at 180, and useful for soft effect portraits when the front cell is removed and becomes a 312.

    I also suggest you find the book Using the View Camera by Steve Simmons. It will be very helpful to you.

    Last but least, do not forget to buy a good light-meter. If you can afford a spot meter that will be useful to you especially if you choose to learn and use the zone system.

    I hope my comments are helpful to you.

    Jason

  8. #8
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    Re: Which wide angle lens for 4x5?

    One subtle point to consider...

    All lenses introduce chromatic shifts, to a greater or lesser degree. I'm not talking about "chromatic aberration", which is distortion, but rather a subtle filtering of colors which results from the choice of glasses used.

    Manufacturers go to great lengths to standardize the shift across their product lines, so all of their lenses (within a family at least) will produce the same results.

    If you mix lenses from different manufacturers you lose this matching, and may find subtle color shifts when moving from one maker's lenses to those from other companies.

    - Leigh

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