Lens and film recommendations for 12x20 format?

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I am looking for a lens to cover the 12x20 format and I am getting conflicting advice from several dealers/experts specializing in older, used and classic lenses. Strangely, it always seems that the perfect lens for this format is the one the dealer happens to have for sale.

I woulld like to buy a moderately-wide focal length for the 12x20 format, something comparable to a 210-250mm in the 8x10 format. The area of greatest controversy seems to be coverage; opinions vary wildly as to the covering power of particular lenses.

Assuming the image circle of a particular lens is sufficient to cover 12x20, with some movements, how about its sharpness and other characteristics? What should I consider? Which ones should I rule out? What would be a fair price? Any good sources?

Also, I've been reading numerous complaints about older wooden film holders in the smaller formats: light leaks, poor fit, etc. I've only used new holders in both 4x5 and 8x10. Assuming I can find used 12x20 film holders, should I be wary of these? Any recommendations as to style, make, age, cost? I guess I'm really asking whether I'm stuck paying about $500 a piece (or more) for these things new?

Also, the issue of film availability. In the past few years I've only seen ads for Ilford FP4 in 12x20 dimensions. Now I no longer see this film advertised. What film(s) is/are still available in this format? Any sources? Would I have to special order, in large amounts? If any of you have thoughts on the continuing availability of films in this size, I'd appreciate your comments?

And lastly, up to now I've been using large sheets of a graphic-arts type film for my interpositive enlargements from 4x5 negatives, for contact printing platinum/palladium prints in sizes of about 16x20. Has anyone out there used these types of graphic-arts films in-camera? If so, how did it respond in comparison to "regular" films?

Thanks for your thoughts and advice, Sergio.

-- Sergio Ortega (s.ortega@worldnet.att.net), April 01, 1998



A guy who could answer all of the above questions is Clyde Butcher. He is a landscape photographer working from the Everglades in Florida. He maintains an excellent internet site at www Clyde Butcher.com, showing examples of his amazing work, a lot of which is done in 12 x 20. For myself, I am just struggling along trying to get to grips with 5x4! Good luck, Elliot Bialick

-- Elliot Bialick (bialick @ eclipse.co.uk), April 12, 1998.

Here is some new information on Panoramic films from Ilford


-- Mani Sitaraman (bindumani@pacific.net.sg), February 20, 2001.

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