Inexpensive new 4x5 lens recommendations for Graphic : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Fellow photo.netters,

I need advise on purchasing a new lens. I'm very new to LF photography, having just purchased a 4x5 Speed Graphic this summer. However, I am hooked. The 127mm Kodak on the Graflex, however, is a sorry thing, full of fungus, scratched up, and the shutter gets wildly inaccurate on the slow settings. So. I bought another 127mm Kodak f/4.7 on eBay... and the seller shipped me a projector lens in the same focal length. So I bougth a second one. Its shutter was completely inoperative. (I feel like the King of Swamp Castle in that Monty Python movie, constantly building castles) So I bought a THIRD one, this time on eBay, and not only is the shutter inoperative (only fires at 1/400), but it has strings of fungus that go from one end of the internal elenments to the other. And of course the seller, like the first three, refuses to refund my money. ("Lens was sold AS IS!")

So by now I've dropped over $200 on useless lenses, and have vowed to never, ever, buy a used lens of eBay again. But now I'm stumped: the selection of new lenses in 4x5 is staggering. What I need is a medium wide-angle for landscapes, a kind of new variation that old Kodak tessar, that will fit on my old Graphic. It needs to be a shutter lens, 'cause the focal plane on the Graphic is a bit dodgy. You guys have been doing this for a long time; if you could go back in time to when you were first starting 4x5 LF, but knew what you know now, what lens would buy to serve this need? Or even, what brand?

Thanks in advance. -mb

-- Mark Bentley (, November 20, 2001


I would suggest getting your first lens from a reputable dealer - check out and and www.thefstopshere if you are in the US. In the UK, Robert White seems very highly regarded. For a medium wide angle, look at the 127 Ektar (cheap but not much room for movements), the 150 Ektar, anything in the 135mm length - lots of good, reasonably priced choices available here (I would suggest looking at the 135 mm convertible Symmars as a first lens - they will be very good at 135mm and will convert to a passable 265mm or so by removing the front element - but any 135mm will work very well and not break the bank). Good luck, DJ.

-- N Dhananjay (, November 20, 2001.


What a shame! I've had nothing but good luck with Ebay. If I had to recommend a new lens and it is slightly wide: Rodenstock 135mm Sironar-S f/5.6. I think it it is in the low to mid $600 range. The lens is OUTSTANDING!!!! Very sharp, contrasty and great coverage. There really aren't any inexpensive lenses for large format that are new. If you check B & H Photo's website (has extensive large format lenses for sale), you will see what I mean. The Rodenstock Sironar-S is a bargain for a lens that is considered to be best normal lens by many! The 127mm Ektar was quite popular but it really doesn't cover 4 X 5 adequately (esp. at infinity and wide open!). All Ektar lenses are quite reputable, even by today's standards. However, I really think the lens should perform well at all settings...period! Especially with the high cost of large format film and processing. Best of luck!

J. P. Mose

-- J. P. Mose (, November 20, 2001.

You're on the right track. With a new lense you can nail down your exposures and all the rest and at least not wonder if the shutter gave you a tenth or a half. Schneider G-Claron 150 is a great place to start!

You'll be able to leave it on the Speed when folded too. Also excellent but a bit more is Fuji 180 f9A, a personal favorite. And 135 Sironar is hard to beat and faster than what I've suggested if you can get the price where you want.

Newer stuff in Copal with some kind of guarantee of satisfaction on Ebay is usually safe. I sell there and will absolutely provide that guarantee whether asked ahead of time or not. Good luck to you! J

-- Jim Galli (, November 20, 2001.

Sorry to hear about your bad luck on eBay, mine has been pretty good. I have also received lenses with non-functioning shutters but I just returned them to the seller for a refund. You might to eMail the seller and ask him is the shutter is working. If he can't or won't determine that for you, don't buy from him - there will be more lenses listed tomorrow.

Have you considered trying to clean the fungus from one or more of your lenses? From your description of them it sounds as it you have little to lose.

The lenses can usually be disassembled using a hose clamp as a wrench - put a rubber band under the clamp. Often just Windex will remove fungus but check Ed Romney's web page for more vigorous cleaning solutions should the Windex fail.

-- Ed Balko (, November 20, 2001.


I have shyed away from buying anything on Ebay unless from a seller with 99.9% positive feedback and allows returns if not satisfied. When I purchase from these individuals the item has always been as described. Of course, the item will probably be a bit more expensive than what you were paying.

The second option is to buy from a good dealer of used lenses. i second the suggestions of Midwest Photo Exchange and Lens and Repro. They seem to always have great reviews for return policy and service. Third, if you choose new, Badger Graphics seems to have the best prices. I also have a Speed G i bought at an estate sale for a spare 4x5. Lens I use is the aforementioned 135mmSironar. Also keep in mind when considering the price any well used lens will require a CLA which adds a minimum of $100 to the cost.

-- James Chinn (, November 20, 2001.

Mark, A good option for you would be the Caltar II-N 135mm/5.6 from calumet this is the same lens as the rodenstock sironar-N, even comes in a rodenstock box with a big sticker that says "caltar"... this is a very sharp lens, has more than enough movements for the speed-graphic, and cheaper than the rodenstock.ithink that calumethad it on sale a while ago, maybe they still do? NB - this lens is very very smallin size and fold up inside the graflex with no problem. (it also folds up inside the shen-hao i just got) hope this helps

Hagai Kaufman Tel Aviv

-- Hagai Kaufman (, November 20, 2001.

I had great results with a 135mm Rodenstock Ysaron I adapted to a Graphic from a Polaroid 110A or 110B. I have seen the camera, with lens, for sale for about $60 in the past few eeks at the Boston used camera show (the PHSNE show). The lens is sharp and covers 4X5 with enough image circle to suit the limited moves of the Graphic.

-- Jim McDonough (, November 20, 2001.

Maybe having the best one you already have overhauled would be cheaper. The 127 Ektar is very capable. Check with Steve Grimes about a CLA here:

-- Ron Shaw (, November 21, 2001.

120mm f6.8 Osaka or Congo (same thing). Tessar design, small, inexpensive, sharp, multicoated.

-- David Rose (, November 21, 2001. currently has a fuji f/5.6 125mm that I'm told almost covers 5x7. It was written up in View Camera recently as a bargain. It's small, light, very sharp and inexpensive. Mpex's price is 299.


-- Andy (, November 21, 2001.

I am always amazed at the quantity and quality of answers one gets from This resource is truly the best friend an amatuer photographer can have, and it's the PEOPLE that make it so. I thank every one of you for your replies and help.

So it looks like I have some more research to do. Getting one of the existing Ektars cleaned up is a good idea, I will start there. I guess what threw me at first -- I told you I was a newbie; I have 25 years experience in 35mm but just this year branched out into MF (fun little $100 eBay Yashica Mat) and LF (the aforenmtioned Pacemaker Speed) -- was the fact that, apparently, any LF lens can be used on any LF camera (within limits, I understand that the wides and super- wides run into bellow and lensboard considerations). All this time I've been looking for OEM Graphic lens and it turns out I can mount just about anything. Wow. Time to start reading up! And of course once I outgrow the Speed and get a Toyo or build a Bender or whatever, I can keep the same lenses... makes sense to buy something nice now.

Thanks again for all the help. My horizons have been widened.


-- Mark Bentley (, November 21, 2001.

Mark, the 125mm f5.6 Fujinon at MPX has been sold.

-- Pat Raymore (, November 21, 2001.

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