Barrel Lenses-- opinion\film\processing : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I wanted to know what kind of film and processing would be required for these kinds of lenses. I'm a high school student saving for college and am trying to get into large format photography for cheap, so if anyone has suggestions I'm listening. If you have an opinion on barrel lenses it would also be appreciated. Thanks.


-- Nate Snow (, April 06, 2001


Barrel lenses are just fine as long as they cover the size film you are working with. The downside is in guessing how long to hold the lens cap off of them to expose your film. Getting accurate and repeatable exposures can be tough. Try guessing a 1/15 second exposure. Then, try taking a lens cap off & putting it back on in a short time while exposing film without shaking the camera. It can be done, but takes practice as well as the admission that some exposures just aren't going to be practical. One way to work is with longer exposures... and having a few neutral density filters to assure you have cut the light enough to get long enough exposures is an easy answer. Just don't plan on a lot of moving subjects unless you like blurs. But again, you might find that working within the limitations is a way you enjoy and the creative muse cooperates & your work is stunning as a result. At any rate, don't use the barrel lens as an excuse, rather, use it as a creative tool.

-- Dan Smith (, April 06, 2001.

Barrel lenses are just any lens with only an iris diaphramn mounting and no shutter. The image produced is identical to the same lens in a shutter, so there's no special processing technique needed.
Most of the lenses that turn up in this type of mount are 'process' or copying lenses, with coverage angles of from 45 to 80 degrees. In my experience, they work just fine at almost any focusing distance.

Don't try to use a lens cap for exposure, use a piece of black card. Set up the shot, put the card close in front of the lens, pull the slide and let the vibration settle, whip the card away, count one elephant, two elephant (or use a stopwatch if you must), and drop the card back in front of the lens. Close the slide, rush off to give the film its normal processing, and enjoy the sharp results.

-- Pete Andrews (, April 06, 2001.


As Dan and Pete mentioned above, you can use your lens cap or a black card for your long exposure, and I have done both. I have learned a lot from these two LF experts. In addition, there are other ways to use a barrel lens with controlled exposures. For example, you can use a packard shutter (more information at Hub Photo site), a Norblex shuuter which gives you 80 mm open hole, and speeds from B, 1/256 - 256 sec with a 6x6 Deardorff board (more info at Lotus View Camera site), or a Sinar shttuer which gies you 75 mm open hole, and speeds from B, 1/60 - 8 sec (more info at Sinar site). Those Sinar and Norblex shutters are by no means cheap, but hey barrel lenses are cheap! If I were you, I'd start with a shutter mounted lens. Good luck!

-- Geoffrey Chen (DB45TEK@AOL.COM), April 06, 2001.

If you use a barrel lens you will probably want to shoot longer exposures of at least 2-3 seconds. This has several important implications. First, subjects (including clouds, trees, etc.) will move and will impact the final appearance of your image. Obviously, this is less of a problem in a studio setting. Second, you will need to shoot with the film's reciprocity characteristics in mind. In general, this means increasing exposure and reducing development. Third, you may need a neutral density filter, especially if you shoot in daylight. Mounting the filter opens up more questions, including where and how to mount. The other thing to mention about barrel lenses is that when you buy one make sure it comes with a flange so the lens can be mounted on a lensboard. Shutter/lens combinations always seem to come with a retaining ring. On the other hand, barrel lenses often come without the flange and many dealers won't have one availbe. This means that you end up shipping your lens to a photo machinist (often SK Grimes) so they can make a suitable lens flange. I hope this helps.


-- Dave Willison (, April 06, 2001.

Remember reciprocity failure with long exposures over (1-2 seconds). Search past threads for specifics.

-- jimryder (, April 06, 2001.

I confess to being a lens junkie.

There, I said it.

Noteing that, I recommend investing in a good #5 shutter and fitting barrel lenses to it. One shutter, one set of speeds to know. This is a way to get the advantages of more lenses for cheap AND reduce the variance you get from having too many old shutters. Of cours if you have thousands to sped...nevermind.

-- john d gerndt (, April 07, 2001.

What'r ya saying there John... Ya mean get several barrel lens machined er whatever so they'll screw right into a shutter, and interchange them as needed? I just stumbled across my first barrel lens, a flawless 14 " Blue Dot Trigor fer next ta nothin, and will be stumbling across another slightly longer barrel lens very soon, so please explain your system for cheapies like me. I just dont think a Packard is going to cut it for me, so I'm looking for cheap ways to try different lenses. I'll probably mount the Trigor in a Copal eventually.

-- Wayne (, April 07, 2001.

I'm here learning what I can about 4x5 before buying one. What about using barrel lenses on a used Graflex Speed Graphic with focal plane shutter? This is what I'm thinking about for landscape photography and Velvia film. Good luck Nate!

-- John Crowe (, April 07, 2001.

BTW, another thing thats handy for trying out lenses, especially if you have a packard or are quick with the hat, is an iris diaphragm. With one of these babies you can quickly and easily attach many different lenses of different sizes on one lens board. You can even use them with shuttered lenses as well. hard to come by though. they look just like the iris diaphragm in a lens, only much bigger. They mount to a lensboard and clamp/lock down on the outside of a lens. Takes 10 seconds to change lenses.

-- Wayne (, April 08, 2001.

John Crowe,

I was surprised that no one mentioned that. Yes, you can use barrel lenses with a Speed Graphic since the Speed has a focal plane shutter. That might also be an inexpensive starter option for Nate if he doesn't already have a camera and doesn't need extreme movements.

-- John H. Henderson (, April 09, 2001.

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