Highly recommended lenses for 12 X 20

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What lenses would this august group particularly recommend for the 12 X 20 format (diagonal 595 mm by my calcs)? New or old is fine, I'm looking for wide, normal and long, as I'm just getting into this format. The camera has 45 inches of bellows, I will be doing portraits of small groups, probably also some landscapes. The only lens I have that fully covers at infinity is the Fujinon 600 11.5 C (IC = 620), and I have two other modern lenses with IC around 500 that will probably cover for closer shots (at 210 and 360), but I'd like to have at least one lens that covers with room for movements, and maybe a longer lens as well. Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this!


-- Nathan Congdon (ncongdon@jhmi.edu), December 04, 2000



My two lenses for 12x20 format are a 355mm G-Claron and a 16.5 inch dagor (am. opt. co.). Both cover fully (G-Clarons have wonderful coverage when closed down to f/45 and beyond) and give a small but useful amount of rise/fall. I understand that a 19 inch artar will cover, and of course a dagor at that length will cover with lots of room for adjustments. A 24" artar would make a classic 'normal' lens and would provide lots of extra coverage as well. The G-claron is available new or used, and the dagors and artars can be found, but you will probably have deal with cranky old shutters with them. The older lenses can deliver beautiful images.---Carl

-- Carl Weese (cweese@earthlink.net), December 04, 2000.

I use only one lens for my 12x20, but I really like it - it's the 14" f/7.7 Goerz Dagor (Am. Opt. Co.). I use it for both group portraits and landscapes. Even uncoated, the Dagors have a reputation for sharpness which in my experienced is well deserved. The 14" one will cover the format with a bit left over for movements, but not a ton. I got mine in a barrel and had Steve Grimes mount it in a Betax #5 shutter. Works like a champ. And because it's a symmetrical design, you can "convert" it by using only the front or rear element alone and experiment with a couple of longer focal lengths (I think approx. 21" and 27") without spending any more.

I think you'll find that with the mammoth formats you can't just apply the same "focal length-to-film size" thinking you use with smaller formats and size it up. i.e. while it's no big deal to use a 300mm on 4x5, a 1200mm lens on 12x20 (equivalent length/format ratio) would present several problems, both optical and physical. Not saying it can't be done, mind you. Just problematic as hell.

Personal opinion here - I think the banquet formats really lend themselves to the wider end of the lens spectrum quite well, and I'd suggest you start there and experiment for a while before you pop for a complete "wide, normal, and long" system of lenses.


-- Mark Parsons (Polar@thegrid.net), December 04, 2000.

I use an old brass barrel lens...a 16.5" Goerz Cellor. I don't know a thing about the lens itself other than its performance, which is outstanding for 12x20. Lots of movement. I've been looking for a 14" 7.7 like the one mentioned above but without a whole lot of luck so far. I have a Gold Dot Dagor 14" f/8 more modern lens in Copal 3 but it BARELY covers 7x17 with absolutely no movement. My Nikkor 600mm covers as do a number of barrel process lenses I have between 16.4" and 600mm, like my Kodak 21-3/4". But I like as wide as I can go. There's a 165mm Pantagon out there for major bucks that will cover 12x20!

-- Rob Tucher (rtphotodoc@juno.com), December 07, 2000.

An Apo-Germinar 1000 mm (single coated) in Copal #3 will give you 795 mm @22 and 1590 mm at 1:1. A new one will set you back about $1500.

-- Geoffrey Chen (db45tek@aol.com), December 07, 2000.

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