A good set of 4x5 lenses starting from 47mm ?

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I know this is a really subjective question, and a bit foolish in a way, but I'll ask anyway.

I'm going to get into LF photography and want to plan what lenses I want to get to have a reasonable setup. I'm not sure how many lenses I should plan to own. I'm more used to owning zooms in 35mm, so I'm not particularly attached to any particular focal lengths, but I guess I might find zoom withdrawal disturbing.

Anyway, I'm thinking that a 4 lens setup might be what to aim for. After all I do 35mm photography too and there is a limit to how much gear to carry around.

I definitely want to get the 45mm Super Angulon XL because I love my 17mm lens for 135. I love w-i-d-e lenses. From then on, I'm not sure. I figure I should probably get a "normal" 150mm lens. And then something longer - 300mm perhaps? And something in between the 47 and 150 - maybe a 90mm would give me an fairly even distribution of focal lengths. Being scientific I figure the 90 is 1.9x the 47, the 150 is 1.7x the 90 and the 500 is 2x the 150mm, with seems a reasonable approach.

I want to shoot various subjects, but including a lot of landscape. So how does it sound - a 47, 90, 150, 300 setup? Are there too many gaps, or is that a reasonable setup? I would probably find that a too restrictive set of gaps on 35mm format but I guess 4x5 being a more slow and considered style the gaps would be less troublesome.

What are other people's favourite set of focal lengths to use?

-- Chris Bitmead (chrisb@ans.com.au), August 07, 1998


Response to What would be a good set of 4x5 lenses?

47 to 300 strikes me as a very wide range. I'm not sure what camera would be comfortable with that, but that's another question entirely.

Like 35mm, you may find that you gradually acquire various lenses, but usually only take a small selection. And this will depend on whether you have a pick-up truck, or rucksack.

I have 47, 58, 72, 135, 180. I would like a 90. Yes, I am a wide-angle freak. I don't miss anything longer than 180 (but I rarely use anything longer than 105mm in 35mm).

On a rucksack trip, I often take just the 47 and 72.

-- Alan Gibson (gibsonal@mail.dec.com), August 07, 1998.

Response to What would be a good set of 4x5 lenses?

Well Chris, it sounds like you have elected to go with the Arca-Swiss F-C camera. Good choice! a 47mmXl is closer to a 12mm rectilinear then it is a 17mm, The real world horizontal coverage on 4x5 is about 120 degrees(long side of format). One thing people always forget when they make the comparison between 35mm lenses and LF lenses is that the LF format is much squarer (1:1.25 ratio)than the 35mm ratio (1:1.5). With longer lens this doesn't mean a lot, but with super and ultrawide lenses it does. I would go with maybe the 55mm Apo-Grandagon or the 58mm Super Angulon XL instead. Otherwise the rest of the combo sounds about right to cover 99% of LF needs. Since you are doing landscape work, may I suggest the following specific lenses? the 300mm f/9 M-Nikkor,sharp and small; and the 90mm f/8 Nikkor SW, also sharp and small plus bigger coverage than the similarly f-stopped Grandagon or Super Angulon lenses. Keep in mind your filter size needs. 82mm filters are heavy and expensive.

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), August 07, 1998.

Response to What would be a good set of 4x5 lenses?

Yes you guessed right, I've settled on the Arca-Swiss. It's taken a long time to decide, but I'm now sure this is the camera for me.

Let me see. I just did a quick calculation and I figure that the 47 XL is equivilent to a 12.55mm lens on 35mm format.

That's certainly wide, but why would you want to disuade me from it? I'm willing to accept that maybe the gaps are too big. In that case I might perhaps think about opting for 47-72-110-150- instead. Is that what you are really saying?

-- Chris Bitmead (chrisb@ans.com.au), August 08, 1998.

Response to What would be a good set of 4x5 lenses?

Hi Chris, I am trying to talk you out of the 47XL as part of an initial kit of lenses because my experiences with it tell me that it is a specialty lens for 4x5. Now if you are also getting a 6x9 or a 6x7 roll film back with your camera, then that is another kettle of fish. I really do think you will be better off starting with the 58mm XL or a 65mm, plus the 90/150/300 combo. You may really want the 47XL or the 45mm Apo-Grandagon (which also covers 4x5), in which case nothing I say could or should persuade you to buy otherwise. Good luck!

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), August 09, 1998.

Response to What would be a good set of 4x5 lenses?

Chris, Take Ellis' advice on the 47mm XL. Extreme wide angles, like the 58 XL or 65 Super Angulon on the 4x5 format, are tough enough to use well. Ultra-wide angles, like the 45 Grandagon or 47 Super Angulon, will just about drive you nuts.

These are strictly specialty lenses. Expensive too! I would strongly urge you to rent one, see how you like using it, and decide whether you really want to sink that much money into a lens that you may not use very often, if at all.

Using one of these ultra-wide lenses for the 4x5 format is defintely not like using a 14mm in 35mm format. The logistical problems of setting up a 4x5 shot with one of these lenses would be difficult to describe. With a 6x7/6x9/6x12 roll film back it's a different matter.

Since you asked, my favorite set of 4x5 lenses for landscape, architecture, and general photography: 305 G-Claron, 210 Symmar, 120 Nikkor SW, 90 f8 SA, and 75 f5.6 SA.

Good luck with your selection, Sergio.

-- Sergio Ortega (s.ortega@world.net.att), August 11, 1998.

Response to What would be a good set of 4x5 lenses?

Interesting advice from Sergio. I'm glad I didn't have that advice before I bought 47XL. It was in fact one of my first 5x4 lenses. "Ultra-wide angles, like the 45 Grandagon or 47 Super Angulon, will just about drive you nuts." Well, perhaps I was already nuts. This is my favourite 5x4 lens, and I like it so much, I even built a camera especially for it, so I wouldn't have to take a tripod wherever I went.

Is it a speciality lens? Well, yes, but it depends on what photography Chris currently does, or wants to do. Try-before-buy? Yes, by all means. I suspect this lens is the sort you either love or hate, with little middle ground. Logistical problems? Well, I suppose it is fiddly, tilting such small angles to get Scheimpflug, I would like a screw-driven rear tilt, but it's not really a problem.

I'm not trying to persuade anyone to get, or love, this lens. If someone has tried it and hated it, then so be it. I'm just trying to balance Sergio's and Ellis's opinions.

-- Alan Gibson (gibson.al@mail.dec.com), August 11, 1998.

Response to What would be a good set of 4x5 lenses?

this is an interesting debate, Alan. As you can tell from my lens selection, I'm not that much of a ultra-wide fan in LF; I suppose it just does not fit my own particular photographic vision.

Personal taste aside, Chris did express a definite desire to get a 45/47mm ultra-wide for the 4x5 format. My comments to Chris were predicated on the assumption that he would be using a standard view camera, capable of handling such a wide range of focal lengths--45mm to 300mm. I've not used the Arca line of view cameras, so I'm not sure what the minimum usable focal length would be. My cautionary advice to Chris is based upon the style of field view camera I use.

I think Alan's choice of camera for his ultra-wide (47mm) photography reveals that these lenses are not easily used on normal view cameras. I rented and used a 58mm XL SA with my view camera, for some interior architectural shots in 4x5 using transparency film, and it was quite a challenge. Lots of vignetting and light fall-off, difficulty seeing the image on my standard ground glass, and so on. I imagine the same lens, or even the 47mm XL, on something like a Cambo Super Wide, similar to what Alan is using, would have been much easier to contend with.

I believe the advice that Chris should start out with either a 75mm or 90mm wide angle lens for 4x5 is sound. If he finds, after dealing with and mastering all the inherent idiosyncrasies of WA lenses and view cameras, that he really has to have a 47mm, then he'll probably be better equipped to work with such a lens.

-- Sergio Ortega (s.ortega@worldnet.att.net), August 11, 1998.

Response to What would be a good set of 4x5 lenses?

Sergio, Chris, Alan, etc. As they say practice makes perfect. I do like wide angles very much, I also like telephotos very much, I just don't think you should start such an extreme w/a. But as Alan points out if it fits the way Chris shoots then it really doesn't matter what I think. The Arca Swiss F-line series of cameras by the way can be used with lenses as short as 43mm (if one existed) before needing to resort to a special recessed lens board as the standard Arca-board is already recessed 13mm. You need a bag bellows of course. Cheers!

-- Ellis (evphoto@insync.net), August 11, 1998.

I share your love for ultra wide angle lenses. I have the 58mm super angulon XL and love it. YOu may want to consider it. $300 cheaper allows for another lens (almost.) I have a 300 mm f8.5 fuji as well.

You seem to be on a similar path..

have fun.


-- Rob Adams (rob762@aol.com), August 13, 1998.

Dear Ellis

I'd like to inform you that ARCA-SWISS cameras handle lenses from 35mm. (Apo-Grandagon) But be aware the lens covers only 6x12cm. Still an interesting combination. A 26mm recessed lensboard is required. (standard is 13mm)

-- Martin (arca-swiss@swissonline.ch), August 16, 1998.

Hey Chris, I use that same range of lenses, with 4 others in the mix. My 47 is the standard Super-Angulon F/5.6 however. Also have: 58 XL, 75 6.8 Grandagon, 90 6.8 Grandagon, 125 Fuji W 5.6, 150 Sironar-N 5.6, 210 Sironar-N 5.6, 300 Nikor M F/9. All mounted on Technika boards to save space and adapt easily to other cameras. Camera is Horseman LE (about $1300 from B&H, and IMHO, a bargin), and I shoot primarily with 4x5 Quickload and Readyload, and also 6x7 and 6x12 Horseman 120 holders. All lenses and holders fit into a Domke Courier Satchel, and the camera folds flat into a hard case. (BTW, I'm looking for the best folding field camera that takes 47 to 300 Technika easily, w/ an international back. Anyone have ideas?)

I think you are on the right track with your lens selections. I wouldn't be afraid that the 47 XL is too extream since you will also have the 90 for 'standard' WA shots. However, as an interiors shooter, I find the 58 a more useful lens than the 47. It isn't too often I find myself wishing my 47 was an XL, but I use the 58 all the time. But if personal work is your primary interest at this point, the 47 may prove most interesting.

-- Dave King (kingphoto@mindspring.com), August 16, 1998.

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