Used Fuji 180/5.6 or new Nikon 210/5.6 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm fairly new to large format, but recently got a Canham DLC 4x5. To save money, I got a used Zeiss Jena 135/4.5 lens which I now consider a complete waste of money.

I've been planning on getting a Nikon 210/5.6 W but recently found a Fuji 180/5.6 for $450. The Fuji lens looks to be in good condition and is multicoated.

I have three questions: 1) Which focal length to people use more 210 or 180... is the difference really noticable? Can the 180 be used for head and shoulders portraiture without significant distortion? 2) Are there any specific problems with the Fuji large format lenses that I should look out for? 3) Is $450 a fair price for this lens?


-- Nathaniel Paust (, February 20, 2001


1. 210 is likely the more popular length, but with LF nothing is cast in stone. The difference is minimal: 180 mm is 112% of "normal"; 210 mm is 131%. 180 mm give you a nice big image circle which allows plenty of movement. Either could be considered normal or slightly long on 4x5.

Distortion is likely a misnomer: "normal perspective" is probably what you are concerned with, but this is only controlled by location of the lens with respect to the subject. 180 will work fine. You might plan to crop, since people move a little, and you can't look through the camera while you're taking the picture. (The exaggerated perspective where somebody's nose looks huge and his face small is because the lens is so close to the nose. Put you're eyeball close enough to somebody's face and it looks the same.)

2. Known problems: only with their LF Telephoto lenses, but I don't have one and can't comment. The lens you are talking about is not a Telephoto design.

3. Price. Calumet charges $653 for a new Caltar II 180mm/5.6. Basically a Rodenstock equivalent lens. Badger Graphics has the Fujinon 180/5.6 for $800 new. I would probably opt for the new Caltar for the difference in price unless I had a "money back if not satisfied" guarantee on the used Fuji. But $450 seems fair, but not a bargain.

For what it's worth: I own a Fuji 210 and 125 and am extremely happy them and Fuji lenses in general. I think the only reason they are not as well known as the big 3 (Schnieder, Rodenstock and Nikon) is lack of marketing in the US.

I previously owned a Rodenstock 180 Sironar and it was a fine lens, and a very useful length.

-- Charlie Strack (, February 20, 2001.

it depends on how recent an iteration the Fuji lens is. I have a recent 210 W-Nikkor and an older (mid to late 70s? early 80s?) Fuji 150mm /5.6. Images made with W-Nikkor have slightly more contrast better contrast and a little more sparkle but the Fuji is a fine lens as well.

1.) Probably more lenses in the 210mm length are sold, but this seems to me to be a matter of habit rather than quality.

2.)Distortion really is a matter of lens to subject distance and also viewer to print distance as well. My preference for a head and shoulders shot is a 300mm (the 300mm /9 M-Nikkor to be precise) as I like that working distance.

3.) Yeah it is a fair price. But I bought my 210mm W-Nikkor for $500 - 550.00 from Quality Camera in Atlanta.

-- Ellis Vener (, February 20, 2001.

You will probably find the 180 too short for head and shoulders work. The 210 might also prove to be too short. Based on linear magnifications, a 210 used in 4x5 is approximately equal to a 55 used in the 35mm format, and a 180 is about equal to a 47mm. Therefore, both of the lenses you are choosing between are really "normal" focal lengths. Some like to assume that a 150mm lens is normal for 4x5, but based on linear magnification, it is approximately equivalent to about a 39mm lens in 35. I,personally, like to shoot head and shoulder shots with lenses a bit longer than normal, so I usually use a 300 in 4x5.

Differences in the linear magnifications of two lenses are directly proportional to the differences in the focal lengths of the two lenses. 210 is 117% of 180, therefore, linear magnification of the 210 is 117% of the linear magnification of the 180. In other words, if something is 1 inch tall is the 180's image, it will be 1.17 inches tall in the 210's image. 17% isn't enough to matter much.

As far as problems with the Fuji lenses go, I am no authority there. I have owned two different Fujis, and both of them have been good lenses. I had a Fuji 75 f/8 that was mounted on a Seiko shutter. The lens was great, the shutter was a PITA. I presently own a Fujinon 300T (telephoto) that is a really sharp lens. It works great for head and shoulder work.

-- Ken Burns (, February 20, 2001.

Personally, I find the 210mm to be too much of a compromise between two more desirable focal lengths. For a general taking lens, I like the 180mm. It's narrower and has more movements than a 150mm, but it's wide enough for the kind of landscape photos that I like to take. For something in a longer focal length, I have a 240mm that I like a lot. Again, it's a personal preference.

-- neil poulsen (, February 21, 2001.

I have been puzzled by the number of near new Nikkors W 210 put on Ebay. Every day comes a new one. They sell relatively high price (450$). I have seen pictures made with that lens and they are exceptional. So why would so many people get rid of such a good optic? Or is it simply due to the large number of these lenses in service?

-- Paul Schilliger (, February 21, 2001.

If it's any help, the 210mm lens is closer to the angle of view that a 50mm lens gives on 35mm, but many people prefer the more 'spacious' view of a 150mm on 5x4 for landscape and general use.
If your main interest is portraiture, I'd go with the 210mm focal length.
I use a 150mm Nikkor W, and it's an excellent lens, both in sharpness and colour rendering. However, I doubt that anyone could tell the difference between pictures shot with Fujinon and Nikkor lenses.

-- Pete Andrews (, February 21, 2001.

Its not easy to answer your question because, if you plane to buy very soon a 2. or also a 3. lense then I would say you should buy a 240mm or even better a 300mm lens, for portraits! But if your plane is, to work for quite a wile only with 1 lens then is the 210mm the better compromise for portraits and stillifes etc. But these is just my personal opinion! Good light and good luck!

-- Armin Seeholzer (, February 21, 2001.

I like a 240mm-300mm for head and shoulders portraiture. A 180 can work, but is not ideal.

-- William Marderness (, February 23, 2001.

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