What lens should I but first?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I recently bought a new Toyo-View 45C and I am having difficulty selecting my first lens. I will probably be shooting landscape as well as portrait pictures. Which model and brand will give me the best results if I shoot both monochrome and color? I want to buy a used lens off EBay but before I bid I want to make sure that the lens will meet my requirements. In addition what price should I pay for the recommended lens?


Lee (new to the LF arena)

-- Lee Phlegar (yowzaa@pacbell.net), February 20, 2000


Lee, you tryin' to start a war? There are more opinions on first lenses than there people on the planet. Since you specified what you plan to shoot, the answer is not too difficult. Go for a 210mm. It is a long normal for 4x5 and can be used for portraits, but not close up portraits. It is an excellent compromise for one's only lens. All the major manufacturers make good 210 mm lenses. Used prices range from $300 to $500 or so. You may be able to pick up a 203/f7.7 Kodak in shutter for about $250 or so. It is an excellent lens, but you need a little more light to focus it. It is small, lightweight and sharp and excellent for hiking or backpacking. There is an excellent lens discussion section at the end of this forum listing. Go all the way down the page until you hit it. Doug

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alanet.com), February 20, 2000.

Another option - how about a convertible Symmar, maybe the 150mm. At it unconverted 150mm length, it will deliver decent performance and 150mm (depending on your 'seeing') might be a nice general purpose landscape lens. At its converted 265 mmm length, it is less sharp but that's what you want for portraits and 265mm is long enough to be a decent portrait lens. DJ

-- N Dhananjay (ndhanu@umich.edu), February 20, 2000.

for landscape I would go with a 120mm or 135mm.

-- mark lindsey (lindseygraves@msn.com), February 20, 2000.

If you do not have first hand experience, the best way I know to find what lens you would use on landscapes is to look at the pictures of the great landscape photographers. One book I found particularly helpful on that regard is "Plateau Light" by the great American Landscape artist, David Muench. This is one of his forty books, and the only one I have seen that provides details on lenses used. For the prints in this book, DM used the 75mm for 38% of the plates, the 500mm on 21% the 300mm on 14%, the 210 on 10% and the 90mm on 3%.

Remember that the lens selection also depends on weight, as in back- packing trips weight can become burdensome on LF as in MF. (In fact such a lens selection would be even more burdensome on MF). Other landscape photographers as Dykinga go to 58mm as the widest, to 270mm as the longest. One other photographer whose landscapes I much admire, William Neil, does not like using lenses smaller than 90mm. This much depends on style. This explains, as someone already commented, why there are so many differing opinions on this issue.

Rather than follow any one's advice on this matter, however well- intentioned that may be, I think that several trips to a good bookstore will let you see with your own eyes the photographic style you would prefer and the right equipment for it.

On portraits, it also depends on what style you'd prefer. For fairly close shots, i,e, heads, you could use a 360mm. Mind, this requires careful focusing. The shallow depth of field is actually an advantage, since as someone suggested, focus should extend from the tip of the nose to the ears. Such is the DOF you get with a 360. -At 7 feet, and F16 you get a DOF = 5.5". and a field of view 20" X24". -At this F stop you will need adequate studio lighting. For head and shoulders, the 300 is adequate. Because the landscape range is wider than required for portraiture, many a longer lens you buy for landscape will be OK on portraits, except that in landscapes weight is an issue which is irrelevant in the studio. Thus, the longer lenses with larger openings, (F5.6) are brighter and great in the studio but an unbearable burden on the trail, unless you hire porters to carry your gear. Good luck and enjoy your photography!

-- Julio Fernandez (gluemax@ora.auracom.com), February 21, 2000.

On David Muench's usage per "Plateau Light" ommitted mentioning, the 47mm was used as much as the 300mm, on 14% of the plates. This is an excellent book. Jack Dykinga's book is called "Desert", William Neill's book is called "Landscapes of the Spirit".

-- Julio Fernandez (gluemax@ora.auracom.com), February 21, 2000.

Lee, do you currently use a different format? You may be able to judge what focal length you would like from that. Multiply by about 3.5 from the 35mm format. For example, if you use a 28mm lens on your 35mm camera, you might like a 110 lens on 5x4.

The first LF lens I purchased was a 47mm, and I use that more often then any of the other half-dozen lenses I have bought since then. It's a great landscape lens, and I've even used it for some portraits. Not many people share my eccentric tastes.

For the manufacturers, I doubt that we can do more than tell you what works for us. I happen to use Schneiders, almost entirely, but I have no reason to prefer them over, say, Rodenstock, or Nikkor, or...

Price? Check out the second-hand adverts in the LF magazines inyour locality. Don't pay more on ebay than you see advertised.

-- Alan Gibson (Alan@snibgo.com), February 21, 2000.

The clear choice for a first landscape lens: the Schneider 110/5.6 XL.

-- John Costo (mahler@lvcm.com), February 22, 2000.

Read Bob Wheeler's articles under "MISC" on this homepage. I found his suggestion for visualizing lens focal length very helpful - specifically he walks you through the making of a wire frame the size of your negative, and with this and a cloth tape measure you can very accurately determine what the field of view is for any given focal length. I used this before purchasing my first LF lens and it has many other uses as you can read. A very good tool.

-- Al James (groupj@home.com), February 22, 2000.

If you don't like home made stuff, Adorama sells something they call the "Visualizer" which works the same way as Bob Wheeler's gizmo. It sells for around $10. I like it a little better than Bob's because it consists of a large black sheet of heavy material (about 8x10) with the hole in the middle, so that when you're looking through it you see nothing but the scene you are focusing on, just as the camera will see it, with nothing outside the scene. The large format one has 4x5 on one side of the tape and 8x10 on the other, which I guess is handy if you use both formats.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis@tampabay.rr.com), February 23, 2000.

A 300 mm lens will provide a nice head and shoulder portrait but lack the depth of field of either a 240 or 210 mm lens. Since neither portrait work nor landscape work requires much lens movement apart from tilting, many photographers prefer a compact, light weight lens in these lenses, to a bulkier lens with greater coverage. The Schneider 210 G-Claron is relatively compact, lightweight, uses a Copal 1 shutter, can be used with a 49 mm filter, and is ideal for 1:1 closeups, and is widely used for landscapes at infinity focus. The Rodenstock Apo-Ronar 210 mm is virtually identical. Some people claim that the Nikkor 200 mm M-lens is contrastier and preferable for black and white, but cooler than the Schneider and Rodenstock. Others say that there is no difference in lens characteristics among these brands. These small size lenses are limited to f9 apertures and are not as bright as the bulkier f5.6 lenses. I have been able to focus a f9 lens in the shade where EVs were in the 7 and 8s, but I have found that f5.6 lenses make it much easier to see the image clearly. I once owned a f5.6 Rodentstock N 210mm lens that uses a 67 mm filter, but replaced it with a Schneider 210 mm G-Claron, because I wanted a lighter lens that could do a better job with close-ups and uses a filter that matched the filter ring size used for my Rodenstock Sironar S 135 mm. Some people claim that you should buy all of your lenses from only one manufacturer, to ensure color consistency, but I have mixed them and never seen any disadvantages in so doing.

-- David Caldwell (caldw@aol.com), February 24, 2000.

I looked and couldn't find the Bob Wheeler's article for visualizing lens focal length by using a wireframe tape measure. Could someone post the URL?

-- Chris Hawkins (peace@clover.net), February 25, 2000.

http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~qtluong/photography/lf/. - Scroll down to "Misc" and download the adobe reader format file

-- Al James (groupj@home.com), February 25, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ