Super wide angle lenses for 4x5 field camers : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Can you advise me of the widest angle lenses that can be used on field cameras. i am considering buying either a Horseman 45FA or Wista 45SP because of the ability to use 4x5" fromat as well as 6x9 and 6x12 fromat. i will use the camera for architectural photography and like the idear of using 6x9 format with roll film for most of my work with some 4x5" now and again. what are the widest angle lenses that can be effectively used with the rise and fall movement and provide full coverage on a 6x9 image. i like the Horseman because of the qaulity. are there any other options?

thanks for your help.

Graham Abrey

-- Graham Abrey (, July 08, 2001


The widest lens useable on a 45 (but not fully filling the 45) is the 35mm Apo Grandagon but I doubt you could use it on either of your choices. The 35mm will work on a Linhof TK45S with a special lensboard and a bag bellows or on the Master Technika 2000 with a board with a cone and, of course, the standard bellows.

-- Bob Salomon (, July 08, 2001.

Graham, I'm fairly sure that the widest lenses you can use on the cameras you list are probably in the 65-75mm range. The 35mm Rodenstock is the widest lens available (I believe) that will cover up to 6x12 and (with some vignetting) 5x4. I would broaden your choice of camera if you intend utilising the wider angle lenses. I don't know what your budget is or whether you intend buying the horseman/wista new, but if you intend spending around the 1500 mark, then take a look at the Ebony RSW45. This camera is designed by ebony for Robert White od Poole in Dorset. It is a stripped down SW45 and is designed for architecture/landscape work. Robert White is offering the camera for about 1200 or with a schneider 90mm f8 for approx 1650 both inc VAT. This camera uses lenses from 35mm to 180mm (longer with an additional extension back or panel) Check out his web site if you need further details or send me an email Regards Paul

-- paul owen (, July 08, 2001.

Graham: Just a word of warning from experience. Flatbed field cameras are difficult with lenses wider than 65mm. I used a Horseman VH (same front, smaller back) for 6x9 work and found it difficult to use wide lenses. Recessed lensboards for the Horseman are rare and awkward. With the Wista, you would have the ability to use a recessed Linhof style board. You should look at the Toyo 45AX/AII. The lens axis is higher above the bed, and the lensboards are a bit larger making recessed boards more viable. With all of these cameras, keeping the bed out of the image requires attention.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, July 08, 2001.


Sounds like you're trying to milk a pig. While a pig might be a perfectly good farm animal for some purposes, you'll get more milk from a cow.

I agree with Glenn - flat bed field cameras are not the best choice for someone who wants to extensively use ultrawide angle lenses. I think a good, compact monorail like an Arca Swiss F Line, Toyo VX125 or Linhof Technikardan would be a better match to your intended application. All of these work with roll film backs in 6x9 and 6x12 format, have interchangeable bellows, recessed lensboards, etc. In other words, they are designed to easily accomodate ultra wide angle lenses. Most field cameras are not. Although some may "support" lenses this wide, using such lenses on them is at best a huge compromise (assuming you intend to use movements). Also, depending on which make and model you get, it might not weigh or cost much more than the Horseman or Wista.

So, why are you only considering "field" cameras when a lightweight, portable monorail would be a better match for your intended application?

As far as lenses go. The 35mm APO Grandagon with an image circle of 125mm would be fine for 6x9, but BARELY hits the corners of 6x12 and won't come close to covering 4x5. The new 38mm Super Angulon XL, with an image circle of 137mm gives you enough coverage for movements on 6x12, but again won't hit the corners of 4x5. The widest lens capable of covering 4x5 is the 47mm Schneider Super Angulon XL with an image circle of 166mm.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, July 08, 2001.

A Canham DLC will let you go down to a 47mm Super Angulon with a recessed board or a 58mm with a standard board, and this is without a w/a bellows, and even though it is a folding field camera with a bed, you won't have problems with the bed being in the picture or need the additional set of movements (drop the bed and then raise the lens) you'll have to do with the cameras you describe.

An Arca Swiss 4x5 FC, F-Line or Discovery camera will let you use down to a 45mm APO grandagon with the standard Arca board, but you'll need a wide angle bellows, switch to recessed board and you can possibly use down to a 35mm (I haven't tried it but have heard it can be done.

A Linhof TK45s with a bag bellows & recessed lens boards will offer you the same versatility.

Any of these cameras will let you use rollfilm backs and 4x5 and are at least as well built, if not better built with better ergonomics than the Horseman or the Wista cameras you asked about.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, July 08, 2001.

Guess I should have been more specific about what I meant by "flat bed camera". Perhaps "drop bed" would have been more appropriate (where the bed drops down when opening the camera). The Canham DLC is a unique animal (neither pig nor cow). It LOOKS more like a field camera than a monorail- and was designed to be used in the field. However, if you look at the bottom, it's not really a bed - at least not a solid bed like a traditional wooden field camera (Deardorff, Wisner, etc.), and certainly not a drop bed design like the Horseman FA, Wista VX or Linhof Master Technika. If you look at the bottom of the Canham, what you'll discover is two short rails side by side. One moves forward (the one with the front standard) and one moves back (rear standard). I don't know if split monorail is an appropriate term, perhaps bi-rail.

Whatever you call it, it certainly is a unique design. For field use, in a reasonably lightweight camera that doesn't require add-on accessories to accomodate a wide range of lenses (from ultrawide to 720mm telephoto), it is possibly the best compromise available. It certainly is nice to be able to shoot with wide angles without having to swap bellows and tie the camera in knots. However, although the stock bellows are VERY flexible, if you want to shoot primarily with lenses shorter than 90mm, I'd recommend the optional bag bellows. The problem is not so much that the stock bellows aren't flexible enough, it's just that when "scrunched up", especially when attempting front rise, they tend to force the tops of the two standards apart. Thus, introducing unwanted tilt. Both of the standards on the Canham are only attached at the base (a necessary compromise to get such a lightweight, flexible, compact camera). This allows them to separate at the top when pressure is applied. I have seen the tops of the standards pushed apart when attempting to use a 75mm with front rise. I can only imagine it would be even worse with shorter lenses.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, July 08, 2001.

I agree with other posters, that a monorail camera would be more appropriate for ultra wide lenses. However, I use a 65mm on a Wista VX. Wista has a unique lens board for wide angle lenses that is much more convenient to use than the traditional recessed board. The Wista board mounts BEHIND the front standard, and allows easy access to the shutter controls. A bag bellows must be used with this special board.

-- Chris Ellinger (, July 10, 2001.

Graham, I routinely use a 55mm Rodenstock on my Toyo 45. Droping the bed and using a center filter are mandatory but this lens really covers the 4x5 format and it's very wide and very good! OK, bellows do not allow a lot of movement but neither the lens too with this format. When it comes to roll film this is another story : more movements become possible from the lens point of vue but bellows still resist. Then if architecture is your main purpose a monorail is a better solution.

-- Jean-Marie Solichon (, July 11, 2001.

I'm asking many of these same questions. I've pretty much decided on an Ebony SW45; I can't see any advantage to White's RSW 45 except price. The SW45 is fairly stripped down as-is. I'm planning to use 65mm, 90mm and 120-150mm but I'm not sure which lenses will give me enough coverage for movements. I'll be using this camera primarily for historic architecture and some landscape.

-- Arthur Gottschalk (, July 18, 2001.

Arthur My opinion is that a 75mm is a good starting point : IC is about 200mm, allowing for some decent movements (if you need more there is the 72 XL Schneider), plus you do not need a center filter. 90mm is not that wide to my eyes. And with 65mm and wider lenses you need center filter plus IC becomes a limiting factor for movements. Just personnal opinion.

-- Jean-Marie Solichon (, July 18, 2001.

On the Wista SP; I use the 90mm regularly without problems. The 75mm can be used with some manipulation especially at studio distances. I have taken some photos with my 65mm but it is hard work.

-- Pat Raymore (, July 18, 2001.

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