Nikor 120SW for 8X10 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

My B&H catalog shows that a Nikor 120SW will not cover an 8X10, yet I find a lot of adds for this lens as a 8X10 wide angle. Will it cover 8X10 open, or do you need to stop down to F22? Is the image like a fisheye, or just wideangle? I would assume their is no room for any movement?

-- tim kimbler (, November 28, 2000


The "Nikkor Lenses for Large-Format Cameras" that I have dated 1986, back when Nikon cared about marketing their LF lenses, gives the specs you want. At f8 the image circle is listed as 200 mm diameter, at f22 as 312 mm for 8x10. The 312 mm covers 8x10, but with very little room for movements.

On 8x10 this lens would be like a 60 mm lens on 4x5, which is to say quite wide. The projection or mapping of the object onto the image is the typical one rather than fisheye. Since Nikon lists the coverage at f8 well below the diagonal of an 8x10 negative, at f8 the corners will either suffer from poor image quality or very low illumination.

-- Michael Briggs (, November 28, 2000.

I have a 120mm Nikkor SW that I use on a Deardorff 8X10. The lens covers the full neg at normal apertures f16 thru f45 with no noticeable fall off. I am using B&W films. As I understand it chromes are more likely to show light fall off than B&W negs. The image is very "normal" and not distorted. Straight lines do not appear curved on the negative. My 120 is very sharp out to the edges.

As for movements, the most common movement in landscape work is back tilt. I occasionally tilt the back with the 120 with good results. Front tilt, rise, fall and lateral shifts are not do-able.

If you are planning to do architectural work I would recommend the Nikkor 150 SW.

-- Steve Barth (, November 28, 2000.


I agree with everything Steve writes. I have both the 120SW and 150SW.

The 120SW is a largish and heavyish lens for 4x5, in a Copal "0" shutter, with 77mm front threaded and rear diameters. It's about average in size and weight with larger formats.

For 4x5 it works superbly as a moderate wide-angle lens (about a 35mm focal length when comparing to 35mm format), offering so much movement on the 4x5 format you will never run out of image area with any type of rise, fall, shift, swing, tilt, etc. It should also work beautifully with the 5x7 format.

I have found I can use the 120 with 8x10 with no problems for general landscape work, though not for architecture or any type of work requiring movements of any significance.

The 120SW will cover the 8x10 format fully when centered on the film format at the usual taking apertures. Focussing on the ground glass can be a bit tricky at full aperture (f/8). Shifts and rises are not really practical with 8x10. A bit of rear tilt or swing is possible, but front tilts and swings could prove difficult.

Normal distortion or stretching of the image at the edges and corners is evident, as is to be expected with any extreme wide-angle lens. But, if the camera back is properly levelled, straight lines will remain so. At the usual taking apertures (f/16, f/22) the corners are a bit darker, but with B&W (I don't use color with 8x10) this can be corrected at the printing stage. Sharpness appears good all the way out to the edges/corners.

I have also used this lens for the 4x10 format on my 8x10 camera, as well as with my 4x5. It makes an excellent lens for the panoramic 4x10 format, or with the 6x17 format on any view camera that takes 6x17 roll fim backs.

It's very reasonably priced new, and you can find good used examples in the $800-900 range. Its biggest virtue is that it can be used easily will all formats/cameras.

That being said, the 150SW is the perfect extreme wide angle lens for the 8x10 format. Listed coverage (at f/16) is huge, 400mm+ I believe. It is really a great lens for 8x10 extreme, wide-angle architectural work, allowing substantial movements in all directions. The 150SW's comparable focal length to 4x5 would be a 75mm lens.

It is an expensive lens, though not as pricey as the Schneider 165 SA or Rodenstock 155 Grandagon. New ones are over $2000., but good used ones can be found in the $1400-1500, range. On the down side, the front filter size is huge for the 150SW. I don't use threaded filters with this lens, but I believe (from memory) that the front thread size is about 95mm.

In summary, unless you really need a lens as wide as the 120SW with 8x10 (and who really does?), or you really want a 120mm wide-angle that you could also use comfortably with the 4x5/5x7/4x10/6x17 formats, I would consider the 150SW instead.

Hope this helps. Good luck, Sergio.

-- Sergio Ortega (, November 29, 2000.

I completely agree with the previous postings as I have both the 150 and the 120 SW Nikon that I use for 8x10. All I would add would be a bit of caution in screwing in filters for the SW series lenses (if you go this direction) such that you do not contact the curved outsurface of the lens with the underside of the filter. I use a 95mm B+W filter on the 150 SW and make sure that I do not take the filter all of the way into the lens threads and have not had a problem. One of these days I will probably get a threaded step ring, but for now it seems to work OK. Good Luck

-- Michael Kadillak (, November 29, 2000.

I don't have the Nikkor 120SW, but I do have a 120 for 8x10 and find I use it quite a lot, much more than I would use an ultra-wide with a smaller format, because a smaller format cannot register as much information in that wide view as an 8x10" negative can. Here is one exposure with an uncoated 120mm Berthiot Perigraphe.

-- David Goldfarb (, November 29, 2000.

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