2 or 3 lens combo for landscapes

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After 20 years of shooting with 35mm, I am planning to buy my first 4x5 field camera for landscape photography and would appreciate help with the lens selection. In 35mm, my favorite lens combo is 24, 35, 50, and 85mm. My most favorite lens focal length probably lies somewhere between 35 and 50 since I tend to use those lenses most frequently. In 4x5, I can see going with either a 110-180 combo or a 90(80)-150-240 combination. I understand the 3 lens combo should give me the most flexibility in framing.

Would the more experience landscape photographers care to comment on which combo (2 or 3-lens) they would prefer and why. Weight is a consideration for me since I plan on hiking and backpacking with this equipment. I know that focal length selection is personal but I would welcome the opionions of those experienced 4x5 shooters. Thanks.

-- Nicholas Fiduccia (nfiduccia@earthlink.net), March 23, 2002


If I were to pick a three lens combo to cover your likes (according to 35mm preferences)I would suggest 90, 150 and 210. The 90 is about the same perspective of a 28, the 150 corresponds to about 40 and the 210 to about 70. You would probably like the 80 and 240 that you mentioned but these will be huge hunks of glass and extremely expensive.

-- Edward Kimball (edward.kimball@ns.sympatico.ca), March 23, 2002.


Since a 120 on 4x5 is pretty close to the equivalent of a 35 (in 35mm), I might suggest an 80-135-240 combo. The 240 Fujinon A is small, and a 135 can do everything a 150 can with the added benefit of a wider view, something like a compromise between a 35 and 50 in 35mm. The 135mm Apo-Sironar S has a large image circle and is very sharp but small.

If you don't use your 24 very often, a nice combo is 110-180-300, with the 300 being very like your current 85.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (gkroeger@trinity.edu), March 23, 2002.

Doesn't Mr. Wisner sell a convertible lens set that might fit your needs?


-- Kevin Kolosky (kjkolosky@kjkolosky.com), March 23, 2002.


I would suggest that, if possible, you rent or borrow a 4x5 camera and some lenses. That would probably make it very easy to choose which lenses you would like to use for 4x5.

-- Matthew Runde (actorm@hotmail.com), March 23, 2002.

Thanks for the responses thus far! Since I got positive comments about the 3 lens combo, I'll simply go with three lenses. I don't think I need 4 large format lenses. Now I'll address your individual comments:

Edward: Is the 150 and 210mm too close? From my calculations a 150 is equivalent to a 46mm and a 210 is equivalent to a 65mm. If I chose the 210 my next lens down would probably be a 135mm.

Glenn, yes 110 -180 - 300 sound like a good spacing. The camera I have chosen (Ebony 45S) doesn't handle 300mm but I could probably chose another camera. In 35mm, sometime I use my 24mm a lot and sometimes not at all. It depends on the scenery.

Kevin, I don't know anythink about convertables. I'll check it out!

Matt, I have used a 4x5 in school with a 90mm and 210mm. I really enjoyed both lenses but I did notice a big hole in the middle. Do you think I can translate my lens experience in 35mm to 4x5? or do the lenses feel wider? For example, a 90mm in 4x5 is equivalent to a 27mm in 35 according to my calculations using the long side of the negative. Does a 90 in 4x5 feel much shorter than what a 28 mm would in 35?

-- Nicholas Fiduccia (nfiduccia@earthlink.net), March 24, 2002.

From your description, it sounds like you enjoy using a moderate wide-angle. If the 110mm is a little expensive, consider one of the later 121mm S.A.s. It's single-coated, and can be purchased for just over $500. For me, next would be 180mm. After that, probably 240mm, like a G-Claron. Inexpensive, and light. I find the 210mm to be a poor compromise for either the 180mm or the 240mm. It's a little too narrow for 180mm like applications, and a little too wide for close-up type work. As for 300mm, there are examples of 300mm tele's out there that would work on your Ebany.

I know that others do, but I don't find too much application in landscape for a 90mm. I think it's too wide. 90mm is the most used for architecture, but for me, not for landscapes.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), March 24, 2002.


It sounds like you have more experience in 4x5 than I do. I don't know about the comparison of 24mm in 35 and 90mm in 4x5, but I currently use a 150mm in 4x5 and it isn't nearly wide enough for my purposes (urban this-and-that).

Depending on what you want to do with your photographs, you may be able to use a wide lens and then crop the image, but of course it would be better to have your favorite lens to begin with.

-- Matthew Runde (actorm@hotmail.com), March 24, 2002.

Hi Nicholas, in my experience the 4x5 equivalent of 24 in 35mm is a 75. This is my most used wide angle. Then I have a 120 Super Symmar (equivalent to 35 in 35mm)my absolute favourite. And if you only want 3 lenses that would be a 200 Nikkor M, very small, light and sharp. 75, 120 and 200 this is my suggestion. Jean-Marie

-- Jean-Marie Solichon (soliroca@monaco377.com), March 24, 2002.


When I moved up from 35mm to LF I noticed that one reason I liked superwide 35mm lenses was the DOF. With tilt, this is less of an issue, near-far compositions work well with a moderate wideangle in LF.

Since you will take the equipment for hiking/backpacking, a starting point could be one moderate wideangle in the 120-150 range that is compact and light, in case you want to take one lens only. Then add a wide lens and a moderate tele. In 35mm terms, perhaps 24-35-85. Best regards, ke

-- Åke Vinberg (ake@vinberg.nu), March 24, 2002.

I carry three lenses in my backpack, mounted on boards, that seem to handle all of my landscape and nature needs. They are a Rodenstock 90mm/6.8, Nikkor 135mm/5.6, and a Rodenstock 210mm/5.6. I purchased all of these lenses used on Ebay. All were mint+ condition, and didn't break the bank compared to new lenses.

-- Robert C. Eaves (rcephoto@attbi.com), March 24, 2002.


You didn't mention what camera you will be using. Some lightweight cameras may limit your ability to use longer lenses. So, keep that in mind.

For backpacking I generally take either three or four lightweight lenses. My three lens set consists of 90mm, 150mm and 240mm. Specifically, 90mm f6.3 Congo WA, 150mm f6.3 Fujinon W and 240mm f9 Fujinon A. These lenses are all extremely light and compact. Just about any current 150mm intended for 4x5 use (not the 150mm Super Symmar XL, for example) will be reasonably compact and light (but the 150mm f6.3 Fujinon is absolutely tiny). The 90mm Congo has limited coverage, but is a LOT smaller and lighter than any other current 90mm lens. The 240mm Fujinon A is the longest non-telephoto ever offered in a Copal #0 shutter. It is very small (52mm filters) and light (less than 10 oz.) and a wonderful performer. Highly recommended in this focal length.

My four lens set consists of the same 90mm WA Congo, 135mm f5.6 APO-Sironar-N, 200mm f8 Nikkor M and 300mm f9 Nikkor M. This is a very versatile lens set. All are quite compact and light, multicoated and in modern Copal shutters. The 135mm APO Sironar-N is also sold by Calumet as the Caltar II-N (identical lens, made in the same factory, just different name and Calumet provides the warranty). The Caltar labeled lens is generally less expensive than the identical Rodenstock - especially when Calumet has them on sale (currently on sale for $419.99). Also, if you ask at the time of your order, Calumet will include a free lensboard and mounting for any Cambo or Calumet camera (this includes Zone VI and Calumet Woodfield XM - which is basically a re-labeled Tachihara). This makes a good deal even better on these Caltar lenses.

In any case, if you are specifically interested in lightweight lenses, you might want to check out:


This is the lightweight lens section of my large format pages. It includes discussion of the lenses I mentioned above, along with several more lightweight lens options.


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), March 24, 2002.

You're going to find this hard to believe, but your experience in 35mm may have little to do with the lens preferences for 4x5. In fact, chances are good that after you invest a bunch of money and time in LF, you'll be back to 35mm within a year. LOL.

-- William (wmitch3400@hotmail.com), March 24, 2002.


Based on your 35mm preferences, a suitable 3 lens kit might be as follows: 75mm, 125mm, 240mm. The 125mm f/5.6 Fujinon CMW (or a used Fujinon W) is a very good alternative to the Schneider lenses mentioned by others. I have the older "W" version with 52mm filter ring and like it very much. My experience and that of others reporting on this forum is that Fujinons are very good lenses, good enough to mention in the same breath as Rodenstock, Nikon, and Schneider.

I have not used one, but the 240mm Fujinon A seems to be highly regarded by everyone who uses it. I have a 75mm f/4.5 Rodenstock Grandagon-N that I like a lot. If you combined that lens with the 125mm Fujinon CM-W you could use the same filters for both A step-up ring would let the 240 use the same filters. You should try out a 75mm before you buy. It is quite wide for 4x5, although many photographers like to use even wider lenses in the 55-65mm range as well!

The more I look at it, the 75 - 125 - 240 progression looks like a very good lens kit. The 125 really can serve as both your "35mm and 50mm" lens when working in 4x5, and the other lenses are significantly different from the 125 to make sure that you are not overlapping in your lens choices.

-- Dave Karp (davekarp@ix.netcom.com), March 25, 2002.


I had forgotton about the Fuji 240. The 240s that I have seen are enormous in Copal 3 shutters; completely inappropriate for field use. I have never used the Fuji but it is well thought of in this forum.

Also, on the wide side I would not go wider than 90 for three reasons: 1)to go wider than 90 you will need a recessed lensboard and probably a bag bellows and 2)they are expensive and 3) they are large.

-- Edward Kimball (edward.kimball@ns.sympatico.ca), March 25, 2002.

Edward, when was the last time you checked the Nikon 65 mm? small, light and not so expensive......

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (rossorabbit@hotmail.com), March 25, 2002.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You guys have given me a lot to think about and it is interesting hearing the thought process of others.

Kerry, I review your website so regularly that I bookmarked it! I am planning to buy an Ebony 45S but am having second thoughts as the max extension is only 270mm. I think 240mm will be enough for me. Thanks for the price leads.

A..ke, I do shoot a lot of near far compositions. Your comments about super wide angles 4x5's not being required as much make a lot of sense to me.

David, thank you for the 120 Fujinon CMW suggestion. I had missed out on that one since it was so slose to the infamous SS 110 XL. The Fuji is significantly lighter (and cheaper) than the Schneider and gives me another option.

Just to let you know I plan on keeping and using my 35mm system when I need the weight savings and convienence. I'm afraid that once I taste the large negative size, there will be no turning back. Thanks all. I'll let you know what I decide. Maybe, I should plan for 4 lenses after all! :)

-- Nicholas Fiduccia (nfiduccia@earthlink.net), March 26, 2002.

"I am planning to buy an Ebony 45S but am having second thoughts as the max extension is only 270mm. I think 240mm will be enough for me."

While 270mm is enough for general landscape use with the 240mm Fujinon A (ftf = 237.9mm for infinity focus), it doesn't allow a lot of extra extension for close focusing. Although I don't do a lot of true macro (1:1), this is my favorite lens for detailed close-ups of rock patterns, leaves, rock art, etc. In theory, this lens is optimized for close-ups (but, in my experience, it is also very impressive for distant subjects). So, with only 270mm of extension, you would be somewhat missing out on the excellent close-up capabilities this lens provides. I can get to 1:1 with this lens on my TK45S, but rarely shoot at such high magnification. I do use it very often on my Toho (390mm max. extension) to shoot in the 1/2 - 1/4 lifesize range. With the Ebony, you could focus reasonably close with an extended lens panel. With a maximum extension of 270mm, you'd be able to focus dwon to about 7 feet with the 240 A. If you could get to 300mm with the aid of an extended lensboard, you could focus to slighty under 4 feet. Not true macro, but probably close enough to your subject for most field applications.

The 240 A is a great lens, and a fantastic match for most field cameras (due to the small size and light weight). In addition to general landscape use, if you have enough extension, it can serve double duty for close-up and detail shots. Even if my camera didn't have enough extension for shooting close-ups with this lens, it would still be my choice for general landscape use in this focal length (the 240mm APO Ronar would be a close second).


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), March 26, 2002.


How does the Nikon SW 65 compare in size to the Rodenstock Grandagon 75mm f\6.8. The calter version is half the price ($1299 vs $659)of the nikon lens. This lens seems large and heavy for backpacking but I am use to using a step-up ring to use my 49mm filters.

-- Edward Kimball (edward.kimball@ns.sympatico.ca), March 26, 2002.


A few ideas:

First, don't forget to consider used lenses when you make your purchases. All but one of my lenses are used, and all are in great condition. I really like my 125mm, and it cost under $300. It looks and operates like it was not used before I bought it. If you want to pick up a fourth lens, this might be a way for you to do so without making a big (OK - even bigger) hit on your wallet. In fact, don't reject the idea of a used kit. The vast majority of my large format gear is used, and most of it looks like it was very lightly used. I would hate to add up the total cost of my kit, but the total is significantly lower than if it was all purchased new.

Second, a three lens kit would be great to start with (and perhaps never add to). After you use your camera for a while you will decide if you need or want to add to it. You don't need a big kit. I have a friend, a wonderful photographer, who is mostly retired after making a very good living as a professional photographer. For most of his career, he worked with only four lenses: 75mm, 90mm, 150mm, 210mm.

Third, given the good chance that you might want to add to your kit (we can't help ourselves), it might be a good idea to consider a different camera. For example, I started out with a somewhat wierd collection: 75mm, 90mm, and a 210mm. It became even more imbalanced toward the wide end when I purchased the 125mm. I went this way because I do a lot of architectural photography and felt the need for the wider lenses. However, after a while I found that I really wanted a longer lens, and ended up with a 450mm! I used that lens quite a bit recently, and really enjoyed the extra "reach." I think that my 5 lens kit covers all of my needs, and probably will not need another one. Thank goodness my camera can handle the longer lens.

It would be a shame if you bought what is essentially a wide angle camera, and found that you wanted to shoot longer lenses. I have heard nothing but rave reviews about Ebony cameras. Perhaps one with longer extension (more $?) would be a better bet. Of course, every photographer has a different perspective, and you might think that I am all wet.

-- Dave Karp (davekarp@ix.netcom.com), March 26, 2002.

Edward here are some comparisons: first price, The nikkor SW 65 mm is only $820 at Badger and the Rodenstock is $749, the filter size for the 65 is 67 mm for the Rodenstock 58mm. Image circle is 187 for the 75, 170 for the 65. The Nikkor is brighter to focus, but I guess the Rodenstock will have greater contrast. It is not as expensive as you thought and it is not as heavy as you think, then again I am sure your Caltar is a lot lighter if it only uses 49 mm filters.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (rossorabbit@hotmail.com), March 26, 2002.

Hi Jorge,

The lenses that require a step up to 49mm are the Rodenstock Ysaron 127mm and the Schnieder Angulon 90mm. I only mentioned the Calter as an affordable alternative to the Nikon. I can't believe the difference in price between Badger Graphics and Calumet on the Nikon lens. I got my price quotes from the Calumet website.

-- Edward Kimball (edward.kimball@ns.sympatico.ca), March 26, 2002.

Hey Edward, I know I know, after I discovered Badger I wanted to kick myself a few times because of all the money I wasted buying lenses from other dealers. Ah well, such is life, live and learn!

-- jorge gasteazoro (rossorabbit@hotmail.com), March 26, 2002.

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