Lens for 4x5 and 8x10 portrait

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I need advice for selecting lens for shooting portrait in 4x5 and 8x10. In 35 mm usually 85 mm lens considered as portrait lens and I like the way it show the face. And for 4x5 ,85 mm will be about 300mm,8x10 about 480mm. Some photographer like Karsh ,Ive heard that he is useing mainly 300 mm for 8x10 or 5x7 . In general 300 mm considered as good lens for portrait ?

-- Kazuhiro Tsuji (semua@earthlink.net), December 16, 2000


In 8x10 you're going to be limited by bellows draw and practicality. A "portrait" in 8x10 may require an image:object ratio of 1:2 for a head and shoulders shot which would require 730mm of bellows for a 480mm lens. Distance determines the perspective - if you like the 85mm in 35mm just record the distances at which you shoot and use the same distances with the larger formats. Cropping is much easier in large format (unless you stick to contacts), so people tend to use wider lenses than in 35mm (also weight and bellows draw play a large part).


-- Wayne DeWitt (wdewitt@snip.net), December 16, 2000.

The common wisdom that you should think about the lens you would use for 35mm and find the lens for the equivalent perspective in 8x10", doesn't work in practice for me. Bellows draw aside, you get very slim depth of field with a 480mm lens, and I find that changing the proportions of the frame affects the composition in ways that influence the lens choice. The squarer frame seems to have a "flattening" effect of its own. For a very tight headshot I might use a 250mm or 300mm lens in 8x10". For head and shoulders, I might use a 360mm.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), December 16, 2000.

We ancient photographers were taught that for portraits with large format, you should add the length to the width of the film and use that measurement as the focal length for portraits. Most photographers added an inch or so for better perspective. For 4x5 that becomes a focal length of about nine inches...most used 10 inch (250mm) or 12 inch(300mm). For 8x10, the length would become 18 inches focal length, etc. That is for head and shoulders. For half length, a normal will suffice if you don't crowd the subject. As previously posted, filling the frame is not such a big deal with large format where you have that big, juicy neg to play with.


-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), December 16, 2000.

Kazuhiro: One additional note...you made mention of Karsh's protraits and his use of the normal lens. Karsh usually showed quite a bit more of his subject than head and shoulders. That is one thing that made his portraits stand out above the others. I saw some super protraits he made of Krushev and his wife in Russia with a Rolleiflex. Evidently his talent came through in any format.

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), December 16, 2000.

Dear all, Karsh and many other photographers( I dare say......including myself) were making good use of cropping the negative. Cropping in using large format is easily done because grain doesn't show much, if at all. On top of everything else long lenses are difficult to use, tend to be not very fast due to their aperture, if shooting close ups you need to prolong esposure (0,5 to 2 stops 4"x5" and 1,5 to 4 stops in 8"x10"), lenses can be very heavy stressing some cameras too much. Depth of field is so critical with long lenses that you'll soon start using not so long ones. My advice is: 180mm to 210mm for 4"x5" 300mm to 375mm for 8x10

be imaginative and use lenses which do not cover the entire format , you'llget very nice special shots follow rules and advice and be your own advisor it usually works the best. I wish you all happy Hannukah, Cristmas or New year Andrea

-- Andrea Milano (milandro@multiweb.nl), December 19, 2000.

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