old main street photography

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in my work, i am often required to reproduce historic "main street" type photographs. since the original views have been made at different periods over the past 120 years, it is often not easy to tell what size camera and what focal length lens was used to photograph the historic view. i have been working from a basic assumption that the earlier views (1880s-1900s) would typically have been made by an 8x10 camera using a 300mm standard lens, and that many of the later views (1930s) have been photographed using a 5x7 graphlex but i dont know what the "normal" lens was for that camera. certain images seem to have been made with 4x5 press cameras with a 135mm lens. i use a 4x5 to photograph the contemporary main street view to match the historic view as closely as possible, and generally use a 135mm, but i can tell i am a bit wider than most historic views. i was wondering if anyone has any specific information on whether my assumptions are correct (that generally a "normal" lens was used, rather than a slighly wide, or slightly long lens), or what type of format/focal length would have actually been used for this kind of main-street documentation. basically, i am wondering whether to purchase a 150mm, 165mm, or 180mm lens for this type of photograph - any advice? thanks. jnorman

-- jnorman (jnorman@teleport.com), May 15, 1999


If you want to reproduce a veiw exactly, the camera position is the most important, not the lens focal length. As long as all of the scene is inside the borders you can always crop to get the desired framing. Perspective is a function of distance, not focal length. Buy the wider lens if you aren't sure and crop to get the desired final image. ;^D>

-- Doremus Scudder (ScudderLandreth@compuserve.com), May 16, 1999.

But also remember that too far from the same focal length p[roduces compression or expansion of the elements in the scene.

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), May 16, 1999.

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