Barrel Lenses - What For? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I heard someone talking about barrel lenses for large format cameras. Can someone tell me why and where barrel lenses are used. I have an Ebony camera and my lenses are mounted on lensboards and have shutters.

Thanks Jon

-- Jonathan Abernathy (, September 03, 2000


For the most part, these are high quality process lenses that were used in graphic arts reproduction cameras in the printing industry. Why use in barrel? #1. Mostly because its expensive to get them mounted in a shutter  at least $200 for the labor, and the larger shutters are also expensive  but sometimes its worth it  see this. #2 They can be had relatively cheaply (see ebay) now that process cameras are being replaced with digital processes. If you dont get it mounted in a shutter, use a lenscap.

-- sheldon hambrick (, September 04, 2000.

Or they are used with cameras with a built-in shutter like a Sinar or Linhof or a Speed graphic.

-- Bob Salomon (, September 04, 2000.

..Or with an old fashioned Packard Shutter. I have 3. Great (and cheap) way to expand an old camera!

-- Matt O. (, September 04, 2000.

Barrel lenses can be great deals. I just recently bought a Process Nikkor 240mm f/10 on ebay in new condition (complete with orig. box, hood, caps, flange)in barrel for $260. This thing is ridiculously sharp and, even with the cost to have it mounted into shutter, it is a lot less expensive than a comparable lens bought new (or even used for that matter). True, buying and using a barrel lens can be a bit of a bother, but they can be a worthy investment if you know what your're looking for.

-- Dave Munson (, September 04, 2000.

Over the years I have become disenchanted with barrel lenses. There are some major disadvantages to them and one should think twice before the purchase of what at first looks like a bargain. Unless you are willing to use it "as is" the true cost is usually significantly higher than the lens itself. For example, sometime ago I purchased a 12 inch red Dot Apo artar, which is a relatively common barrel lens. It was mint and therefore I considered it a good deal at $200. A modern copal #1 shutter runs ~$175. Having it professionally mounted runs another $225. All total ~$600. Why go to all the trouble when for $600 you can buy yourself a modern 300mm Nikkor M or Fuji equivalent corrected for infinity. Of course the Apo artar has a distinctly characteristic image and it you love the image it gives then by all means get one.

There are longer focal lengths where there is no modern equivalent shutter mounted lenses, otherwise I am not sure they are worth the trouble. A few things to watch out for. Some of these barrel lenses require larger shutters than their focal length would suggest. Another thing is that they do not always have stellar performance at infinity even at smaller apertures. They are not always coated and the filter sizes are likely to be on the odd side. In spite all of this I love my two artars.

-- Pat Raymore (, September 05, 2000.

Pat is right. The G-Clarons and Apo-Ronars are now available at such prices from Badger or Robert White that mounting an old lens on a new shutter is not worth it. An exception: I have a Fujinon C 300 and I bought a G-Claron 305 in barrel for less than $100. The G-Claron can be exchanged with the Fujinon lens on the same shutter for the setting is the same for both lenses. This makes an economic close-up lens. I know others have done the same thing.

-- Paul Schilliger (, September 05, 2000.

I tend to disagree a little bit with what has been previously written. I have a 19 inch Apo Ronar and a 24 inch Red Dot Artar. Both produce incredibly sharp negatives. Moreover, the corrections spoken of are not corrections "for infinity" as the writer suggests. Go to the Wisner home page and read his explanation concerning "flat field lenses" where he explains everything in detail. If someone complains of unsharpness in a process lens I would ask the following questions. 1. Was the tripod stable and weighted down. 2. what type of shutter release was used. 3. how good was the focusing. 4. what aperture was used. Remember, these apo lenses are usually longer than normal and therefore have less depth of field. they need to be focused perfectly and with a good high powered lupe. Correct camera corrections must be made. Only when all of these things are taken into account will you come close to realizing the incredible sharpness of some of these lenses. Same goes for the modern lenses. Kevin

-- kevin Kolosky (, September 06, 2000.

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