8x10 Lens Speed -- f9 Fast Enough?

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I've been using a 4x5 for about a year, with modern "fast" lenses, such as a 150mm/f5.6 and 210mm/f5.6. I now would like to move up to 8x10, and have questions about lens speed.

I've read wonderful things here and elsewhere about the performance of Schneider G-Clarons, as well as the Nikkor-M 300mm/f9 (Ron Wisner, in particular, seems to recommend the G-Clarons for 8x10 for focal lengths of 210mm on up). I've seen several Q&As about whether those f9 lenses are bright enough, but usually the commenters are answering the question with respect to the use of fairly long lenses on 4x5 cameras (such as 270-305mm focal length). They advise that those f9 lenses are brighter than expected because, as long lenses for 4x5, the rays of light are coming straight back and are from the center of the image circle.

Regardless of the reason that most 4x5 users find a 270-305mm/f9 lens bright enough for 4x5, will they also be bright enough for 8x10? If that image circle is now spreading out to cover 8x10 instead of 4x5, I imagine that the outer portions of the ground glass could experience fall off that wouldn't be an issue with a 4x5.

In short, given that I am accustomed to faster 4x5 lenses, will I be happy (or adjust to) using a Nikkor-M 300mm/f9 or Schneider G-Clarons in the normal focal length range for 8x10? And what about with moderate wide angles, such as 210mm and 240mm? I don't relish the thought of the weight and larger filters of the much larger faster lenses, but I don't want to struggle with accurate focusing either (I tried a 75mm/f8 once on my 4x5, and I didn't like it very much).

-- Greg Lawhon (glawhon@unicom.net), November 21, 1999


At a given f/number, the apparent brightness of the image will not vary for 4x5 and 8x10 lenses of similar equivalent focal length. If you didn't like focusing a 75 mm f/8 on your 4x5, you won't like focusing a 150 mm f/8 on an 8x10.

In addition to improving viewing brightness, fast wide-angles suffer less illumination fall-off on the film than slow ones, even when stopped down to identical an identical shooting aperture.

Note that the Nikkor-M and G-Claron are intended primarily as long 4x5 lenses, not normal 8x10 ones. Their limited coverage not permit the movements possible with a modern normal lens.

-- Sean Donnelly (smd@alumni.rice.edu), November 21, 1999.


I have used a 305 G-Claron for years with 8x10 as a normal lens. I also use it on 4x5 and 6x9. This lens is very sharp, reasonably compact (copal 1 shutter, 67mm filter size) and very moderately priced compared to other 300mm lenses for 8x10.

I have found the 305's f9 maximum aperture provides excellent brightness for good viewing and accurate focusing, in all areas of the image, in the 8x10 format. The 305 G-Claron also has more than ample coverage for the 8x10 format, with adequate movements. You can imagine the amount of coverage it provides for the 4x5 format.

I would highly recommend it as a normal lens for 8x10, and a longish focal length for 4x5. I don't think you can go wrong with this choice.

Good luck, Sergio.

-- Sergio Ortega (s.ortega@worldnet.att.net), November 22, 1999.

When considering a G-Claron, one should keep in mind that it needs to be stopped down to f22 or smaller to deliver sharp distants, as the lens is designed for close range photography (repro). The Nikkor is more a general purpose lens. The Claron 305 has a little more coverage than the Nikkor 300.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@vtx.ch), November 22, 1999.

Hi, Greg: I fully agreed with Sergio's comments. The 305mm f9 G Claron is excellent from 1:1 to infinity. I have one. Copal 1 with a filter size of 67mm. Image circle of 381++. Small package. The 300mm f9 Nikkor M is a Tessar derivative design. Copal 1 with a filter size of 52mm. Image circle of 325mm at f22. Remember that the minimum image circle to cover a 8x10 is 323mm. It has a PUNY coverage!!! Just allows you to have a few back movements. Excellent for the 4x5 format.Another excellent choice is the 300mm f8.5 EBC Fujinon CS, Copal 1 with an image circle of 380mm at f22 and a filter size of 52mm. For the second part of your question, I have two Fujinons W pre EBC coating. A 250mm F6.7 Copal 1. Image circle of 400mm at f22. Filter size of 67mm and a 210mm F5.6 Copal 1, filter size of 58mm. (long lens for 4x5, normal for 5x7 and semi wide for the 8x10). Do not confuse it with the newer 210mm NWS EBC with a filter size of 67mm an an angle of coverage of 70 degrees. The pre EBCs Fujinons all have 80 degrees of coverage. The 250mm F6.7 is getting scarce to find in the used market. Ref.: New Lenses from Fuji, View From Kramer- Modern Photography January 1974-p24. 8x10 Lenses, Steve Simmons- View Camera Magazine Nov.1988-p30. Product Roundup, Steve Simmons - View Camera Magazine Sept/Oct. 1993 p64. Best wishes, Tito.

-- Tito Sobrinho (z3sobrinho@prodigy.net), November 27, 1999.

Thanks to all so far. It sounds like Tito and Sergio both agree with Ron Wisner that the G-Clarons are better performers than their published specs would suggest. I too thought as Sean did that they wouldn't have the coverage for 8x10, particularly at the shorter focal lengths of 210mm, 240mm and 270mm. But Ron Wisner claims that each of those lenses covers 8x10, despite Schneider's conservative specifications, and performs well even at infinity (although perhaps stopped down as Paul suggested - I don't recall Ron Wisner's advice about that). It's the use of the 210 or 240 as a small, light moderate wide-angle lens that is particularly intriguing.

-- Greg Lawhon (glawhon@unicom.net), November 27, 1999.

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