Good lens to complement 80mm SS XL? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello all,

In 4x5, I am primarily a color landscape photographer, using a Canham DLC and an ever-growing assortment of lenses from 75mm to 450mm. My intrests are primarily in mountain and canyon scenics, with a strong preference for canyons. (If only I lived in the great SW!)

My color work tends to be either grand landscape or intimate-scale landscapes. I find I use my 75mm most when I am in a small scale landscape situation where there may not be rooom to back up and still get everything in the image I want (e.g. in a narrow canyon). I tend to not use it other places because of the diminishing effect it has on distant subjects, and because it often gets too much foreground or sky in the image.

My preferred lens in 35mm has always been the 24mm, and in 4x5 it's currently the 90mm.

I have been thinking about my wide angle lenses, and am contemplating replacing my 90mm 6.8 Caltar II (Grandagon) with the new 80mm Super Symmar XL some time in the late winter or early spring. If I do that, the 75mm lens I have will be only slightly shorter in focal length and coverage, so I was trying to determine what would be a good lens to complement the 80mm.

Some research has provided the following information:

1. The 65mm (88.6 degrees horizontal coverage) lenses out there are all very similar in specifications (at least angle of coverage and image circle), but the Nikkor is slightly faster, and the Fujinon is slower. There are weight differences also, but in this lens, I don't think I would pick solely based on weight. I will consider the performance of the lenses in this group if sheets are available (Schneider and Rodenstock), but if I select a lens that is unique, (see the two options below), then that is a bit of a moot point.

2. The 58mm SA XL (95.1 degrees horizontal coverage) has almost the same IC as the 65mm lenses (about 4mm smaller), so I have to consider this lens also. As a newer design, I expect that the lens may perform better at the corners than the older designs.

3. The 55mm APO Grandsgon (98.2 degrees horizontal coverage) is also in the hunt, with an IC only 7mm smaller than the 65mm lenses. It is, however, the heaviest lens of the group, and the angle of coverage is getting pretty large at this point. My feeling is that this one is too wide and too large, but I don't want to rule it out without merit.

4. The DLC can handle lenses this short, but it will take some effort. Since the lenses don't have a great deal of excess coverage, shooting will be straight on most of the time anyway, but I may consider getting the bag bellows for the camera if I end up shooting a lot with this lens.

Since the widest lens I've used up till now has been a 75mm, I'm unsure what to expect as the FL gets shorter. I know that there will be little or no IC for movements, and that I'll need to use a center filter with chromes.

I'm looking for some comments on the relative merits of one lens over another in this FL range, from people who have used one or more of the lenses. If Ellis is reading this, please tell me your opinions on these wide angle lenses, because I have seen posts in the archives that indicate you have a definite preferrence for Rodenstock in the wide angle lenses. Also, any comments on the focal lengths as it applies to landscape work are welcome.

I'll probably take some time to make this decision, so I should also be thinking about what may be coming out in the next year or so. If Rodenstock or Schneider (since they are the only two that seem to care about LF anymore) are thinking about lens offerings in ths range, that would definately impact the decision. A 65mm SS XL would be just about ideal, in my mind. Any whispers out there on new offerings?

Thanks for any comments you may have. Please feel free to email me directly if you wish to keep the comments confidential.


-- Michael Mutmansky (, December 19, 2000


Michael, You have already indicated that you sometimes find the 75 too wide in rendering distant detail too small and too much foreground. If I were you I would only consider something wider if you have found that on occasions the 75 has an insufficient angle of coverage. If this is the case then one of the 65's should suit your needs. Speaking from my own experiences with a 75 (Grandagon-N f4.5) I have on more then one occasion found it wanting on coverage (image circle). I use a lot of front and/or back movements. So the 80 XL does have appeal over the 75 allowing about another 17mm of movement. Plus it's a lighter more compact lens. So the jury is still out on this. I wish you luck with your choice,

-- Trevor Crone (, December 19, 2000.

Rather than the 80, why not just get the 72XL? It will be heavier but has an image circle that will cover 5x7. If you are having 'vision' problems with your 75, going too much wider most likely won't solve them. This lens should be a good way to keep wide while not having to carry two extra lenses.

-- Dan Smith (, December 19, 2000.

Supposedly the Super Symmar Xl lenses are sharper than the Super Angulon designs. if you have oodles of cash to spare than get the 80mm S.S.XL.

Otherwise I think you should just get a faster 90mm like the 90mm f/4.5 Grandagon / Caltar II or the 90mm /4.5 SW-Nikkor. Both are very sharp.

How sharp? I have an 8 feet long Type R panoramic of the Guadalupe River at Gruene's Crossing --shot on 120 Velvia wth the 90mm f/4.5 Caltar II lens mounted on a V-Pan 6x17cm camera-- over my bed that is tactile sharp from edge to edge, even up close.

1.) Always go for the faster lens in a given focal length: you get a larger image circle and this means you have a larger sweet spot and more movement possibilities as well. I really like the 65mm f/4.5 Grandagon, but I also really like the 65mm /4.5 SW- Nikkor. Jack Dykinga and John Sexton both recommended the SW Nikkors to me. (true, but it never hurts to drop names).

2 &3.) No comment as I don't know these lenses.

4.) it doesn't take any effort to use the DLC with the 65mm. And the DLC was designed for using the 58mm SA XL so I doubt there will be trouble there. I have used the 47mm /5.6 Super Angulon XL with the DLC but the lens was mounted on the dedicated recessed Linhof board, again no problems.

-- Ellis Vener (, December 19, 2000.

Michael: I would suggest that you consider lenses of focal length such that the next longer is about 50% of the previous in oder to make each lens a logical addition. As you have the 80mm, your next down would be a 55 or 58mm and the next a 47mm, and the next up would be the 110mm., an ideal world. Additionally, it much depends on your style. D. Muench has made it an art of using wideangle lenses, with the 47mm being one of his most often used lenses. William Neil does not use anything under 90mm. Jack Dykinga ("desert...") uses a 58mm as his shortest if my memory is right. None of these very short lenses have generous movements or even any at all, yet some 4X5 photographers do not find that an impediment. As for brands, you can't go wrong with Schneider or Rodenstock. The 72mm Super Angulon XL however is not one of my choices, wheather or not you have or do not have the 80mm SS XL. Reason? the humongous 95 mm filters, and the fact that other than for a wider IC, this lens, while technically good according to Schneider's specs, it is no better than the SA 75 in contrast and resolution. Finally, you have been given some good advice by others, but you must be the judge. The best place to make that decision is in the library or on a well stocked bookstore, where you will know what you like and what you do not. After all, photography is not about lenses or hardware but about images, images that convey your own very personal feelings.

-- Julio Fernandez (, December 19, 2000.

Thanks for the thoughtful comments, everyone.

Let me clarify why I am looking at the 80mm SS XL. I travel pretty lightly when away from the car, and I would prefer to have a smaller and lighter (and sharper?! now I sound like marketing hype.) lens for that reason. The 90mm lens I have is the largest lens in my travel bag (for the 4x5), and so I thought I could do something about it.

For this reason, I'm not interested in getting a larger lens. The 72 SA XL is just too large, as is all of the 90mm 4.5's out there. That's why the 80mm SS XL seems to be the ideal lens. I rarely run out of IC on the 90, and feel that the issue for me is the angle of coverage in the frame.

I had originally thought that I might actually be able to replace TWO lenses with the 80mm, since it is between the 75 and 90. In most cases, I end up with the 75 if the 90 isn't wide enough, and I'm guessing the 80 will be able to accomodate most of those those situations.

However, I'm not one to like having no choice in the wide angle department, and so I thought that I'd better figure out if the 80mm lens will make a lot of sense if it actually reduces my options out in the field. It doesn't seem to make sense to carry both a 75 and the 80, so I was thinking about something shorter.

I don't have trouble with wide angle vision. In fact there are often times that I wished I had a lens wider than my 75. However, I don't try to force the 75 on a landscape where the 90 is more appropriate. The use of an ultra wide angle lens for intimate landscapes is something I really enjoy, and the 75 just barely gets me into that realm. The conditions for an intimate landscape photograph are not always right, but when they are, nothing else will work for me but the wide angles.



-- Michael Mutmansky (, December 20, 2000.

Michael: You are right on in the common sense department. From what you say you are definetely a wideangle vision person. I think you will find a lot in common with some of those photographers I previously mentioned in my last post. Do look at their photographs to confirm and then go for it. In my own experience, what you see through the lens changes enough to make a difference when the focal length changes by about 50% or more. There would be no point in increments that are too small artistically and practically after all, landscape photographers do carry their tools on their back. Look at "Plateau Light" by DM. There are lots of 47mm wideangle shots there as well as 75's. You will not find many 90's shots. Just as you found, too heavy and large. Dykinga chose 58,75,110, 180, 305 and 400. For you, either the 47 or 58 depending on what you like. The 80 and 110 are the new charge of the light brigade. The 58 and 75 are still small and light, so is the 305 G-Claron, or better the 300mm Apo Ronar. The new 400 Apo Tele Xenar is relatively small for that F. This set of 6 lenses are together a very portable lot. As for the ultrawides, their minute movements with the did not prevent these photographers from doing great stuf with those lenses. This whole 6 lens set is quite light and small. My widest is a 75 but unlike you, I find that at this F I am near the limits of how I see. Let us know where you have been and god cheer.

-- Julio Fernandez (, December 20, 2000.

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