economical 4 x 5 lens : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I need an economical 'normal' lens (135-150)for 4 x 5 work. Although readily available, I'm concerned that a lens from a Crown Graphic or Speed Graphic package will not project a large enough image circle when using more than very slight movements since these cameras were not designed for more extensive movements. I plan to use the lens for landscape work. If such lenses are not practical, can anybody suggest a suitable lens?

-- Andy (, June 11, 2000


For landscape work there is generally little lens movement required. The Tessar type lenses furnished with Graphic cameras are entirely adequate for this application. Next up the cost ladder are probably a Kodak Wide Field Ektar, Schneider convertible Symmar, or even an uncoated Goerz Dagor (my personal favorite) with coverage for a lot more movements.

-- Bill Mitchell (, June 11, 2000.

Andy, Most folks consider that landscape photos don't require that much movement. A lot of times that may be the case. But, if you would be in a situation where you would want a prominent foreground (flower/rock/log/etc) and a background in focus, you will quickly run out of coverage with a typical Tessar press lens. A consideration might be a Caltar II N. These have a little less coverage than a Wide Field 135, but should be more than adequiet. They are supposedly made by Rodenstock, have a little nicer shutter in my opinion (Copal vs Supermatic), and have been going on eBay in a similar price range. There may be someother lenses out there that I'm not familiar with, but I'd guess you're probably at least in the $250-$400 range for any used coated lens that will give good movements.

I'm not greatly familiar with Crown or Speed graphics, but it's my understanding that they require a fair amount of manipulation to get front tilts, which will be your most common movement.

-- Roger (rrouch@msn.con), June 11, 2000.

My vote is for a Fuji 150 or 135mm (the newer or older series). The 150 f/6.3 especially (only available used) is really small and light and at least the one I picked up is very sharp and contrasty. Its got a huge image circle. The usable amount is perhaps less than what the meechanical vignetting would indicate (i.e., the far corners might be soft), but its plenty sharp out quite a bit. I would definitely say the image circle would be generous for field work and its small size and light weight are a plus on that front as well. For more info on Fuji lens specs, see Good luck. DJ

-- N Dhananjay (, June 11, 2000.

I too will disagree with the general statement that 'landscape work requires little movement.' I do a lot of mountain portraiture in which the primary reason for using LF is to employ rise/fall so as to keep the trees vertical and non-converging with normal and wide angle lenses. I often push a field camera to the limits of rise and fall and no tessar like lens would be suitable for this. As stated above, any near/far shots would also suffer greatly in this regard. If you are going to have one lens, get a plasmat, you won't have to look too hard to find one in the $300 range, if that satisfies your budget.

-- Richard Ross (, June 11, 2000.

Is "mountain portraiture" the same as landscape photography? I am not familiar with the term.

-- Bill Mitchell (, June 11, 2000.

I own a Crown Graphic and found the 135mm Optar to be deficient in the corners. The 127mm Ektar is even worse. Both lenses are Tessar types, and the image quality falls off radically beyond the 60% of image circle point. Tessars just cannot deliver the corner quality in this short focal length.

If you are interested in a quality "normal" lens, buy a plasmat. The Nikkor-W, various Sironars and Symmars, will all perform well and give good sharpness in the corners. In the 135mm focal length, all are compact and lightweight.

If you want the best, and the most movements, (and the highest price) the Apo-Sironar-S is the lens to have. This lens will still fold up inside the Crown, as will all the others mentioned above. If you stick with the 135mm lens, your rangefinder will be calibrated, and the sports finder, etc, in the Crown will match the lens' field of view.

Should you decide to change to a longer focal length, your rangefinder will have to be recalibrated or recammed. If you have the side mounted Kalart, calibration is easy. If you have the top mounted later RF unit, you might be able to get a cam from Fred Lustig in Reno, NV. My advice is to stay with the 135mm, and get a plasmat.

-- Bruce Gavin (, June 12, 2000.

The most economical lens in that range which I know about is the Polaroid/Tominon 135mm 4,5 in copal "prontor" shutter. Comes from a Polaroid MP-4 repro camera and performs well (I know by direct experience), very simple lens but I've used it for general photography with great pleasure (f4,5 great help!), It might be cheaper to buy a whole Polaroid MP-4 second hand than buying the lens alone, you can use the shutter with any enlarging or processing lens with a 42 x 1 thread. Former versions were made for MP-3 with rodenstock lenses and prontor shutters, equally good or better I presume. Good luck!

-- andrea milano (, June 12, 2000.

The best bargins are the 162mm Optars and Raptars made for the Graphic cameras. These are 4 element lenses, but longer than the usual 127-135mm lens found on the Crown Graphics. You did not say that you planned to use a Graphic Camera, so I am assuming that you simply need a practical, inexpensive lens for general 4x5 work. You can find nice examples of these 162mm lenses for 120.00 and up. Being longer, they have a larger image circle, they are usually quite sharp too. The 705mm Optar is another possibilty. Good luck.

-- Bill Moore (, June 12, 2000.

I have and use a 162mm Optar on a SG, and it has enough coverage to use full rise (19mm on the SG), and it is usable with tilts, also. The longer the fl, the greater the coverage, and the closer you focus, the greater the coverage. Tilts on the SG are not difficult, contrary to a previous posters response. Most landscape shots only need about 5 degrees tilt.

-- Ron Shaw (, June 12, 2000.

In response to Bill Mitchell : Sorry about letting a bit of my own internal dialogue out in public. By 'Mountain Portraiture' I do indeed mean landscape photography, restricted in my mind to photographs taken in close proximity to the mountains. With the peaks, ridges and flanks as the subjects, I am rarely in a position to take a front on shot, hence the need for, sometimes substantial, rise/fall.

-- Richard Ross (, June 12, 2000.

Perhaps this is of little utility and more a self-explantion. I owned a Super Graphic with a 135 Optar and replaced the lens because I ran out of coverage for what I wanted quite routinely. At that time I also owned a 127 Ektar which seemed no better. I used mostly forward front tilt which is quite simple using a Super. However the Speed Graphic, per the site obtains front forward tilt this way: "Front Tilt (Forward)- Drop the bed and correct for the front fall by using front rise. Use front tilt backward to compensate for the maximum tilt obtained by the bed drop." This seems a little complicated to me, but may be quite simple to others.

-- Roger Rouch (, June 12, 2000.

I picked up Andrea Milano's comments on this thread regarding the Tominon 135mm lens, then tried contacting him at his E-mail address - The E-mail bounced back as a bad address. Can anyone help me with this problem? I just bought one at E-bay for my elderly Graphic View II 4x5 camera. I'm hoping that it will prove to be a good macro. The glass looks like-new. And the shutter is crisp and seems on time. I've seen two problems, however. First, there's no retaining ring. I put a metric dial caliper on the back end of the shutter (a Copal with "Polaroid . . . MP-4" on the front) and got a reading of 39mm. Should I look for a 39mm retaining ring? Second, there's no back group to the lens. That is, there's a lens group screwed into the front of the shutter, but there's no glass at all behind the actual shutter leaves. I've seen an illustration of a Tominon 127mm lens that fits a Copal #1 shutter, and this 127mm has both front and back lens groups. Should there be a back group of glass to this 135mm Polaroid MP-4 lens-shutter combination? Or is it designed to carry only a front glass?


Roy Hayes

-- Roy Hayes (, July 23, 2002.

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