Lens in the 100mm to 150mm category.

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I look to buy a double coated (perferred) or at least single coated lens within the stated size limit and under F6.8. My current 135 Optar isn't coated and I would like to improve on it's performance. I shoot both B&W and color positive film. I plan on using the lens on both my 2x3 and 4x5. (the 2x3 wil take a #1 board) I would like to stay under $475. I see quite a few lenses in Shutterbug around the size I need and around F5.6, as well as a new Xenar lens from Schneider, but would like a rec from shooters before I go forward. My cameras prevent much architectural shooting due to movements (front only) but some leeway in shooting the 4x5 would be nice. Common subjects are street shooting and flowers with the 2x3 and landscapes with the 4x5. My aim is for better color performance.

-- Wayne Crider (waynec@apt.net), May 27, 2001



There's a lot of good choices in current and recent multicoated lenses in this focal length range from the "Big 4" (Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikon and Fujinon). Any of these would offer better sharpness, contrast and more coverage than your 135mm Optar. All are f5.6 lenses. For the best new prices, check Robert White and Badger Graphics.

Robert White has some exceptionally good deals on APO Symmars at the current exchange rate. For example, a 100mm APO Symmar will set you back about $405 + shipping and duty (but will not cover 4x5). The 120mm APO Symmar will be $429 + shipping and duty - it will cover 4x5, but barely. Not enough for architectural work on 4x5, and even tight for landscape use. Too bad, I think this is the best focal length choice in this range for combined 6x9 and 4x5 use. The 135mm and 150mm APO Symmars will both run about $448 + shipping and duty. The total will be a little beyond your $475 budget, but not much and both of these have adaquate coverage for most 4x5 work (although you may find the 135mm still a little limiting for 4x5 architecture).

Robert White also seems to have the best prices on new Rodenstock lenses these days, but by the time you include shipping and duty, anything capable of covering 4x5 will be above $475. The 100mm APO Sironar-N is $407 + shipping and duty, but like the 100mm APO Symmar will not cover 4x5. The 135mm and 150mm APO Sironar-Ns are $453 + shipping and duty (which will push them over $475). The 135mm APO Sironar-S is $552 and has a little more coverage than the APO Sironar-N or the APO Symmar. If money weren't an object, this would be my choice in this focal length (and even though $600 isn't cheap, I think it's a great deal for a new lens of this quality) This is a wonderful lens, but unless you get a really good deal on a used one, it will be beyond your $475 budget. Ditto for the 150mm APO Sironar-S.

Personally, if it was me, I'd either save up an extra $125 and get a new 135mm APO Sironar-S from Robert White, or shop around for a really good deal on either a used 135mm APO Sironar-S or a used 120mm Super Symmar HM. The 120mm Super Symmar HM is a wonderful lens, but it has been discontinued and replaced with the 110mm Super Symmar XL (also wonderful, but over 2x your budget and more coverage than you'll likely need). Even used, the 120mm Super Symmar HM will probably be substantially more than $475 (more like $650 - if you can find a really good deal). The 120mm focal length makes a nice moderate wide angle on 4x5 and a nice slightly long on 6x9/6x7 (about like a 210mm on 4x5). This lens has a 211mm image circle, which is substantially larger than the 120mm APO Symmar (179mm). The 135mm APO Sirona-S also has pretty good coverage (208mm image circle), and it is also much smaller and lighter than the 120mm Super Symmar HM.

So, that's my thoughts on a one size fits all (or at least two) lens in this focal length range. Of course, also check out the offerings from Nikkor and Fujinon (the 125mm Fujinon CM/W is a nice focal length with reasonable coverage - 204mm image circle), and watch for good deals on used lenses from Midwest Photo Exchange, Badger Graphics and on eBay. Although I mentioned my two favorites (120mm Super Symmar HM and 135mm APO Sironar-S), as I stated at the beginning, ANY of the current or recent multicoated f5.6 plasmats from any of these manufacturers will be quite outstanding (far surpassing your 135mm Optar). So, shop around and get a good deal.

For a little more on the subject, you might want to check out:


My favorite 4x5 lenses (including the 120mm Super Symmar HM and the 135mm and 150mm APO Sironar-S)




These are my lightweight lens recommendations for backpacking with 4x5 - would also make good choices for someone wishing to shoot both roll film and 4x5 with the same lenses.

Let us know what you get and how it all works out.


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), May 27, 2001.

A 135mm Apo-Symmar might be a good choice. It's a moderate wide-angle for 4x5, and it's also a reasonable lens for 6x9. You could obtain an inch rise or shift at f22 on 4x5. You might be able to find a used one on EBay that's within your price range.

If 135mm works, then so would a 150mm. For the latter, consider the single-coated Caltar-S II, which is the same lens as a Symmar-S. These lenses are reasonably priced. The Apo-Symmar in this focal length would be sharper, but not by much.

If you were thinking about getting a new camera sometime, a used 121mm single coated Super Angulon would be within your price range. You would get all the movements you could possibly handle for 4x5, and if you're not doing huge enlargements, it might work for 6x9. I've used S.A.'s for 6x9, and I've been pleased with the results. But, I don't do much more than 3x enlargements.

If money weren't an object, the 110mm Super Symmar XL would be fantastic. You could grow into a new camera with this lens, it would be a good focal length for both 6x9 and 4x5, and it would be sharp enough and have sufficient movements for just about any application.

Rodenstocks have their equivalents, but I'm partial to Schneider. See their web-page at www.schneideroptics.com. (Rodenstock doesn't have an LF web-page.)

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), May 28, 2001.

Kerry and Neil, thank for pointing me in the right direction. After some consideration I have determined that it would be in my best interest to forgo my budget, save the money, and make plans to buy a lens that I can grow with. I don't necessairly see selling the 6x9 but can see upgrading the 4x5 in the future for a camera with more bellows. As such, the 120mm HM or or the 135mm APO SS may be the answer. The quetion is, is whether the 120mm Schneider HM lens will fit my Century Graphic? BTW, the 110XL is not out of the question. I don't mind making an investment in the tools to do the trade, but it does come down to making a decision as to what end of the photographic spectrum I would like to concentrate my efforts. This is the main reason I set a budget.

-- Wayne Crider (waynec@apt.net), May 28, 2001.

Your Century Graphic, (like mine) will not accept a rear lens element larger than 49mm unless you unscrew the rear element first with the bellows collapsed. New lenses are nice, but if your using a Century an older 135mm or 150mm Symmar in a No. 1 Compur will fit the Century better. I bought a 150mm Technika Symmar from Midwest Photo Exchange for 250 dollars that performs excellantly! I don't believe that any of the new wonder glass designed for 4 by 5 camera's these days will fit your Century as the rear elements are very large. With the exception of the 105mm Symmars and equilvalents. But then you can't cover 4 by 5!

-- Guy Ulrich (mav7077@yahoo.com), June 01, 2001.

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