using barrel lens for 8x10 portraits? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I've been using a modern 300mm lens on my old Kodak 8x10 with some nice results but I really want to do head&shoulder B&W portraits. I have some basic lighting gear but prefer indoor natural light. From what I've seen I can only afford a barrel lens and have my eye on a 405mm Kodak Portrait lens in barrel. My question is how difficult this set up would be to use? Are'nt Portrait lens ususally used at larger Fstops, and if so then I presume you really need a shutter for shorter times, or do you? I know that a packard shutter might be an option but then thats even more expense. Has anyone got any tips or experience to relate using this type of setup? thanks.

-- bill zelinski (, August 08, 2000


it depends on how much indoor light is available. If you have many large windows and skylights your times maybe too fast for your hand. I have found I can get down to about 1/2 second using a card for a shutter, you may be able to go faster. However I usually prefer at least 1 second if not 2. You may want to practice without the shutter on your present lens a little and see it works. The exposure times will be comparable for the two focal lengths. Asking a sitter to be still for 1 sec can be distracting or relaxing to sitters. My sitters become concentrated and engaged in the process. They know I won't sneak up on them with a candid. You may or may not like the resultant poses and possible subject movement. Personally I like the challenges of barrell lens portraits but they may not be for you. Also the depth of field changes in the widest f stops probably will not make that much difference to you, but stopped down may offer you a little more time. Incidently I use 4x5 so a little movement ruining a negative doesn't cost that much. Good luck with this, but experiment some before spending too much money.

-- jim Ryder (, August 08, 2000.

thanks jim, My first concern was really that as my camera is old and shaky (and has no front tilt) and that replacing a cap on this lens (which looks fairly heavy) would cause too much shake (although that never stopped the old time photographers). I suppose I could work with the lighting till my exposure times are past a second or two and use a stop watch for accuracy. The lens I'm interested in I think has some sort of variable diffusion ability, and I'm also worried about DOF problems at wider stops where I want to use diffusion. I also have a 4x5 so I like your idea of practicing with cheaper film :)

-- bill zelinski (, August 08, 2000.

Bill: Have you priced a used Packard shutter? They are pretty cheap compared to other shutters. I bought mine at a photo trade fair for $10. A little cleaning and it was good as new. I use a bulb from an old blood pressure cuff to operate it. I haven't looked up the prices for a new one, but they used to be reasonable. Stores like Midwest Camera Exchange which deal in LF equipment a lot ought to have a used one. I have used a barrel lens on my 8x10 using a card covered with black velvet. A little practice and you can time speeds pretty close. I place the card on the front of the lens, pull the slide, let everything settle down and then move the card slightly forward and up. No shakes. It would be easier though with a Packard, and you can use any lens on the camera with mount adapters.

Hope this helps, Doug.

-- Doug Paramore (, August 08, 2000.

Packard shutters were and still are made with the portrait photographer in mind. Used ones are bargains but I also consider new ones to be economical since they will last forever with little or no maintenance, can be purchased with modern flash sync, and can be configured to make one shutter serve many lenses as in the 35mm systems. With a little practice, one can also obtain repeatable and predictable speeds. As a portrait photographer, I like to eliminate unpredictable variables in my procedure -- the Packard provides a logical method of working from behind the camera which saves time and motion, letting one concentrate more carefully on the subject.

-- C. W. Dean (, August 08, 2000.

With a 300mm or 405mm lens, depth of field will be extremely short wide open, particularly if you are close enough for a head & shoulders portrait. I've taken some portraits like this with flash in a dimly lit room and a barrel mounted 360mm Heliar at f:32. The ambient light is so low compared to the flash, you can get good results this way by removing the lenscap briefly while firing the strobes.

-- David Goldfarb (, August 08, 2000.

Bill: C.W. is correct. I tried to find a Packard Shutter web page but it is probably listed under another name. However, Photographic Systems in Albequerque lists themselves as a dealer for Packard shutters. You ought to be able to find one used. They are great shutters for the studio. It isn't difficult to convert an old one to electronic flash. Most I've seen used have been converted. There is about a ten minute learning curve with a Packard, then it's the easiest studio shutter you can use. The whole thing is controlled by the air bulb.

-- Doug Paramore (, August 09, 2000.

The website of the manufacturer is

-- K H Tan (, August 09, 2000.

Oh BTW, you can Packards at good prices (new and used ones) at Equinox -

-- K H Tan (, August 09, 2000.

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