Tominon lenses ... decent? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

My 13-year old daughter has decided it's time to move up from her 35mm Minolta outfit and doesn't like the Autocord I let her use. She wants to use a view camera (hooray!) instead since she likes the rectangular 2x3/6x9 format better than the square 6x6 and nearly square 6x7 format even if she's not that comfortable using movements and focusing with a loupe yet.

Accordingly, I'm letting her use my Galvin and an old Graflex back ... so far, she's happy with it but after a near-miss this past weekend, I am starting to get nervous about letting her use my lenses. I have no idea how long her interest in view cameras will last -- like teenagers everywhere, her interest in things fluctuates almost daily -- but I've been thinking about buying her some cheap lenses of her own to prevent mine from suffering any damage due to accidents and/or carelessness.

A few years ago, when I was just getting started with a view camera, I bought a Tominon 105/f4.5 that was removed from a Polaroid copy camera and paid next to nothing for it. As I recall, it was an okay lens but clearly not as nice as the Sironar-N I replaced it with a year later.

According to Polaroid's site, there are 17mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm, 105mm, 127mm and 135mm Tominon lenses available for the MP4 camera, with the first four being labeled as "macro" lenses. I've seen them up for bid on eBay and for sale cheaply elsewhere and I'm tempted to buy a few to see whether they're acceptable performers or not.

Does anybody know anything about these lenses and/or if they will work well on a 2x3/6x9 when used with some movements? I'm also open to any other suggestions for el-cheapo "starter" lenses...

-- Jeffrey Goggin (, April 10, 2001



You might look at some older press camera lenses. The kodak 127 Ektar is a decent budget lens and will provide some movements for 2x3. Occasionally I see some short focal length Artars on Ebay as well which should be a good choice. Check with Midwest Photo Exchange to see what old press lenses they have. I'm sure you can find an appropriate bargain.

-- Kevin Kemner (, April 10, 2001.

You might try looking for a lens from an old pre-war 6x9 folding camera. You could probably find an old kodak folder for under $20 and salvage the lens. You might also find any number of Zeiss Tessars in the 100-135mm range which were taken from Ikonta cameras. Voightlander folders might be another option or any old 6x12 folding plate camera.

If you are looking for old starter lenses, check out the KEH website under Collectibles-Large Format-Lenses. Lens and Repro also has a large number of sale lenses, many for under $100. Finally, you might look at the large format lens selection at Pacific Rim.

Congratulations on having a 13-year old who wants to use large format! I'm still working on room cleaning and getting my teens to quit using those pesky little ELPH APS cameras!


-- Dave Willison (, April 10, 2001.

Jeffrey: The Tominon lenses I have seen are four element tessar designs and are sharp enough but have rather limited coverage as do most tessar designs. They usually have good contrast and sharpness if stopped down a couple of stops. I agree with the other posters that a visit to Ebay might turn up what you need at a good price. Also, Midwest Photo Exchange is a good place to shop for LF used lenses.


-- Doug Paramore (, April 10, 2001.

Thanks for the input ... unfortunately, the price range I had in mind -- ~$50 per lens, $75 tops -- seems to be quite restrictive, at least when you're looking for cheapish lenses in good shape instead of good lenses that have been treated poorly.

BTW, I did some more research on Tominon lenses and learned that most of those used by Polaroid in their copy cameras barely cover 2x3 when focused at infinity, despite covering as much as 5x7 (!) when focused at 1:1. That's good enough for my daughter's purposes, though, so it appears they're wort considering at the right price.

I called a few local stores yesterday afternoon and have also found a 127mm Ektar in a Supermatic shutter for $69 so I'll have a look at it later this week. Although it's a bit on the long side, it seems like a good starter lens and the price is in the ballpark...

-- Jeffrey Goggin (, April 11, 2001.

Jeffrey, Stay away from the MP-4 stuff as there is no aperture in the MP-4 shutter's. The lenses you listed that are made specifically for the MP-4 set-up are made to screw in and out of a common shutter and the aperture is seperate (and a little funky) What you want is the 127 f4.7 that was used in some oscilloscope type polaroid cameras. These have a Copal 1 press type shutter that while not as pretty as our regular ones are very useable. Later on if she gets interested buy her a 210mm G-Claron in barrel and use the same polaroid press shutter with a re-work on the ap scale. There is a 105 that was used on the same type cameras later that's in a Copal 0 press shutter.

Another camera she'd probably enjoy are the Mamiya Press types with 6X9 back. They have ground glass focus capability and some truly great lenses. In fact any of the Mamiya press lenses if you could find them cheap enough all cover 6X9 and all are in Seiko 0 shutters that can be easily removed from the helical mount. The older 90's can be had for under 40 bucks sometimes on Ebay. Jim

-- Jim Galli (, April 11, 2001.

Thanks for the warning, although all the lenses I've seen were mounted in Copal No. 1 Press (i.e., self-cocking) shutters ... perhaps they're not really MP4 lenses and were removed from some other Polaroid camera instead?

Using Mamiya Press lenses idea also crossed my mind, particularly as I made an adapter in a machine shop class that allows them to be used on a view camera without removing the focusing helicals. I never did get around to shooting any photos with the Mamiya lens I borrowed to serve as a pattern, though, and since the prices I typically see being asked for them start at $100, I had ruled them out. It sounds like I should reconsider that decision, though...

-- Jeffrey Goggin (, April 11, 2001.

I wonder if one of the old Graflex press lenses would do the trick. You'd have lots of image circle for 6X9 and you wouldn't lose any sleep if she trashed it. A more expensive solution might be 150 Schneider Xenar. An old one wouldn't cost that much either.

-- David Grandy (, April 11, 2001.

Another possibility on the polaroid lenses are that they came off of an older MP3 camera. We have one gathering dust in the back of our studio, although it's lenses are all Rodenstock's, they're in prontor-press shutters. I think the focal lengths are 35mm (that's right- a macro) 75, and 127. The only ones I've used were the 75, and the 127. While these didn't quite compare to the G-Clarons we normally use for copywork, they were alright. I'm sure there are all sorts of "cheapo" lenses out there. From what you're describing, I'd suggest maybe some of the Ektars, Optars, etc. that were made for the 2x3 press cameras. Check out the Lens & Repro Company's "lens closeout" bargain sales. Sometimes they have some pretty good deals.

-- DK Thompson (, April 11, 2001.

I have a 5" Tominon salvaged from Polaroid cameras originally attached to electron microscopes. It works OK, and will cover normal roll film formats without problems. For 4x5 at infinity it's gettting soft and dark in the corners, but it is usable at small apertures. A 3" Tominon I got from another SEM wouldn't cover 4x5 at infinity, but would work with no movements on 6x7.

Another cheap option for lenses in the sub $100 range would be to get a speed graphic (6x9 if you want to keep things small) and use the focal plane shutter in concert with barrel lenses. Old enlarging lenses in particular seem to be going at very cheap prices at present, and give better results than the shorter Tominons, even at infinity.

-- Struan Gray (, April 12, 2001.

Yesterday, out of curiosity, I stopped by a pawnshop while I was out and about running some errands, and spotted a 101/f4.5 Graflex Optar lens in a Graphex shutter in the back of the photo equipment cabinet ... it appeared to be in pretty good condition and for $15, I walked out with it. (They also had a Mamiya Press with a 90mm lens that is horrendously overpriced at $750 -- Yes, that's right, $750! -- so it appears their ignorance about cameras works both ways. Of course, I know you can negotiate but if they're starting at $750, the odds are pretty good that it will be gathering dust for a while longer...)

Anyway, I don't know how well it'll perform but the price was right!

-- Jeffrey Goggin (, April 12, 2001.

Jeffrey, buy the Tominon by all means! I've used it and use it regularly . I own a MP4 and the only lens usable on 4"x5" is the 135mmf4,5. Here in Holland they cost around $100 and they are infact enlarging lenses (Also known al Fujimoto!), the previous version MP3 used a rodenstock Ysaron 135mm 4,5 also OK. The shutter is made to use a lens which doesn't protrude inside the camera and with the screw 42x1. A good and inespensive way to start with large format.

-- Andrea Milano (, April 12, 2001.

I've use the 75mm Tominon, 75mm Ysaron, 105mm Tominon, 127mm Ysarex on 6x9 and 4x5 cameras with very good results. As noted by others, they are only limited by their image circle since they are tessar design. However, if your daughter is not doing archectural photography where she needs lots of movement or the distortion is part of the look she wants, these coated modern lens, usually with very little usage and abuse are excellent. They produce sharp contrasy images. They come with shutters and are inexpensive. What more do you want. In my mind these lens have been under rated and may be one of the best kept secrets. I have used Optars, Ektars, Xenars, Tessars, Dagors, Angulon and Super Angulons in similar focal lengths and I don't see how you can do better for what you want to pay. Good luck.

-- John Eng (, April 12, 2001.

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