which lenses are good for which format??

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Hi, I just bought myself a 13x18 (4.75" x 6.5") wooden field camera, with a old lens. right now I m looking for a lens for this format. how can I know which lenses are good for which camera format's, is there a general rule? or is it related withe the brand (quality?)

also if you answer, could you aswel concider other format's of LF camera's, please more information, thanks Stijn

-- Stijn (s.saelens@email.com), May 16, 2001


That format is half-plate, and film is no longer available in that size. I'm sorry to say you've been sold a bit of a pup.
Even adapting the camera to 5x4 won't be easy, since I don't believe you can buy a reducing back from half-plate to 5x4. The back of the camera would have to be permanently modified, and that's going to cost more than the camera's probably worth. It'll also ruin any collectible value that the camera has.
I suppose you could cut down 5x7 sheet film, but I bet you don't even have any modern filmholders to fit the camera. Trying to find half-plate filmholders will be like looking for hen's teeth.
IMHO buying any reasonable quality lens for that camera would just be throwing good money after bad.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), May 16, 2001.


Take a look at filmholders.com, they build wooden film holders.

Good luck


-- Bill Jefferson (jefferw@together.net), May 16, 2001.

On a somewhat more optimistic note: another message below is about Banse & Grohmann, a German company: they cut film to size *in any quantity*. So much if you have film holders. If not, then the decision must indeed be between a new camera or modification. As for modification: Lotus view camera does such things, and, as I have heard, for very reasonable prices. Their website: http://www.lotusviewcamera.at/ But ask somebody, also the Lotus people, whether your camera is worth it. As for lenses: measure out the diameter of your ground glass and select those with an image circle larger than that.

-- Lukas Werth (lukas.werth@rz.hu-berlin.de), May 16, 2001.

concerning this format, apperently in Europe (Belgium) I v seen cataloges printed in Jan. 2001 which sell inserts and back's for 13x18 from HAMA, but this was not realy the question, could someone answer me my question? thanks

-- Stijn (s.saelens@email.com), May 16, 2001.

Stijn: You need to determine first which focal length lens you require. There are quite a number of charts and programs which compare the various formats and their approximate focal length equivalents. As a start, take a focal length and format you're familiar with, and convert to your 13X18. Then you know how long of a lens you want. Second determine how much coverage you're going to need. At the very least you need to cover the film area, and most likely a whole lot more if you're going to be using movements. As to which lenses are good, it depends on your requirements as to image quality, coverage, and lens speed. There are many comparisions of many lenses in the older threads.

-- Michael Mahoney (mmahoney@nfld.com), May 16, 2001.

Last time I looked (admittedly a couple of years ago) 13x18 film was actually more available than 4x5, at least in Sweden and Germany.

Stijn, most of the lens information on the web has been compiled by Americans. They use a 5x7 inch format which is roughly the same size as 13x18 (modern holders in the two sizes are interchangable). This forum is associated with Tuan's large format page, which has a wealth of information about various lens types, including Tuan's own recommendations for 5x7:


-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), May 16, 2001.

concerning my uses of the lenses; I mainly would shoot, Architecture (LF is easy for shifting), landscape and close up.

this brings me further to a other question, I heared that in general for focal lenght you should devide by 3 to get a compared lens in slr camera's. I never realy got into it as I never had to look for a LF lens befor. but I asume that a 180mm for a 4x5 is not the same as for a 8x10. how do I have to recalculate? (if it indeed is not the same)

for my 13x18cm format I was thinking for a 120 (landscape's) and maybe a 80mm for architecture. (will this be to small??) and a 300mm for close up.

thanks for the advice of everybody.

-- Stijn (s.saelens@email.com), May 16, 2001.

Stijn, Here are some lense ideas ;

Nikkor SW120 f/8 ; on 5x7, will be close to a 24mm lense in 35mm format. Very sharp, if a bit large and heavy, 77mm filter size, but covers up to 8x10, so you will have lots of movement,

or as an alternative ;

Schneider 110mm XL ; I haven't used this lense, but it gets excellent reviews, and will cover 5x7 with movement.

For a longer lense on 5x7, a 300mm is a good choice, and it is difficult to do better than the Nikkor 300mm f/9, or the Fuji 300mm f/8.5, which are both very small and light (52mm filter size) ; I use the Nikkor, which again has coverage up to 8x10, and it is an excellent lense. Both of the Nikkors I have mentioned are readily available used at reasonable prices. I am sure that others will have alternative suggestions which are equally worth considering.

-- fw (finneganswake@altavista.net), May 16, 2001.

To approximate 35mm lens length equivalents from 5x7 (or 13x18) divide by 5. So an 80mm lens on 5x7 would be about equal in angle of view to a 16mm in 35mm, a 120mm about equal to a 24mm, and a 300mm about equal to a 60mm.

A couple of thoughts: The 80mm is probably too wide, assuming you can even find one that covers the format. 120 would probably be a good architecture lens, and also good for landscapes if you like that wide a view. The modern plasmat lenses FW suggests are relatively large, heavy, and--given what you probably paid for your camera--expensive. But they do have good image quality and lots of coverage and will allow movement, which is often necessary for architecture (less so for landscape). Alternatives in the 120 range would be older wide angle lenses, such as the Angulons, which will just cover the format at this focal length.

210mm is considered the "normal" focal length in this format. If you like a slightly wide lens for landscapes (similar to a 35mm lens on 35mm format) you might look at a 165mm Angulon or a 159mm WA Wollensak both of which will cover 8x10 and therefore give lots of room for movement on 5x7. I get a lot of use out of a 165mm Angulon, but I don't have to be too picky about image quality since I only contact print that format.

Finally, for close-up work you probably want a shorter lens than 300mm since you need lots of bellows extension to get close ups with such a long lens. I would guess your old camera doesn't have enough extension. Shorter lenses are often more practical for closeup work in LF.

-- cmpatti (cmpatti@aol.com), May 16, 2001.

thanks cmpatti and Fw, for giving your opinions. I ll have a look at the Nikkor SW 120mm and at the Plasmat lenses. the close up lens will have to waite. ;o)

concerning the bellow lenght, I have about 50cm, which should be about 1.5 ft. which looks pretty long for me.

-- Stijn (s.saelens@email.com), May 16, 2001.

I don't think it makes much sense to compare lenses for formats that have different ratios of height to width. One see's 35mm (3 to 2 ratio) differently than they would see 4x5. My recommendation would be to draw the comparison from 4.75x6.5 to 4x5 (or to 35mm), assuming that one is using only that portion of the 4x5 (or 35mm) negative that would give them the same width to height ratio as 4.75x6.5. Following this strategy, to obtain the equivalent focal length lens for 4x5, multiply by 0.77. To obtain the equivalent focal length lens for 35mm, multiply by 0.21. This would give the following lens conversion table for common LF lenses:

4.75x6.5 35mm 4x5

120mm (SA) 25mm 92mm

150mm 32mm 115mm

180mm 38mm 139mm

210mm 44m 162mm

240mm 50mm 185mm

300mm 63mm 231mm

360mm 76mm 277mm


-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), May 17, 2001.

OK. I should have checked your conversion from centimetres to inches myself. 13 x 18 cm is 5"x7", and not 4.75" x 6.5". 5x7 film is fairly readily available, half plate isn't.
You need a lens with an image circle of 230 mm minimum. The 'standard' lens for this size would be a 240 or 210mm.
Most makers quote the image circle @ f/22, so you should make a little allowance if you intend to shoot at wider apertures.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), May 17, 2001.

Interesting, Stijn's dimensions (4.75x6.5) are pretty close to the actual usable film, after adjusting for masked borders, etc. I usually knock off about 3/8" of an inch off each side for these of calculations.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), May 20, 2001.

Hi, Neil, these are the actual sizes I got from a Kodak shard. actualy 4 3/4 x 6 1/2 ,as they were printed, this is wy I asked it, but as far the reactions I got, I assume that it is not so commen. I suppose it is the "inch" "cm" issue between Europe and US.

-- Stijn (s.saelens@email.com), May 20, 2001.

NO, they are two different formats. Film of overall dimensions 4.75" by 6.5" is half plate, no longer available, obsolete for 20 years or more.
13x18 cm is exactly the same as 5"x7", and film is still available in that size, as long as you don't want to use any of Kodaks colour film.
5"x7" or 13x18cm, WILL NOT FIT in a half plate camera.
Stijn, I strongly suggest you make absolutely certain of the format size of that camera before you spend any money on it.

-- pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), May 21, 2001.

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