What Lens To Buy

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Not having dabbled in Large Format (4x5) since the '60s I thought I might reactivate a Crown Graphic by getting a Kodak single-sheet film holder to use with those labor-saving, self-contained emulsions now available and shoot some landscapes on Ektachrome 100VS from my heavy duty tripod. Rather than jump right into a $2200 Wisner or Horseman, I'd like to "dip a toe" first. (I usually shoot medium format.) Now if I was going to replace the 135mm f4.7 Xenar with a more modern lens in the 150mm to 180mm range for $500 to $800, what lens and shutter combination do you large format affectionados recommend?

-- C.Peter Jorgensen (cpj@firemagazine.com), April 03, 2002


How about a Caltar II N (Rodenstock) f/5.6 for $449 new from Calumet?


I picked up a used one not too long ago in perfect condition.



-- Steve Hamley (sahamleyNOSPAM@netscape.net), April 03, 2002.

It depends on the sample but the Xenars are sometimes (oftentimes) very sharp and people who shoot color (I don't, yet) indicate they work well, so don't assume it's not a user. It doesn't have enough coverage for you to use much front rise. All the manufacturers make very nice 150's and 180's, and you can get a mint used example for a lot less than you're talking about. The Schneider-S multicoated lenses (not all the S's are multicoated) can go for $290 to $325 in this length. A G-Claron 150 in a Copal "0" is probably small enough to fold up in the camera and would do the trick at a very reasonable price. It would have plenty of image circle for your camera, but maximum aperture is f:9. If you've got the Kalart (side) rangefinder you could adjust it to work with a 150 lens.

-- Kevin Crisp (KRCrisp@aol.com), April 03, 2002.

If you want a new lens, I second Steve's recommendation. The Caltar II-N lenses are manufactured for Calumet by Rodenstock. This is no secret, they even come in Rodenstock boxes! The Caltar II-N lenses are the same as the Rodenstock APO-Sironar N series, which are very highly regarded lenses. You can't beat the price of the Caltar lenses. You can spend more in your price range, but the lens would not be any better than the Caltar II-N.

If you want to spend less money, and dip even less of your toe in the water, you can buy a Caltar II-E lens. Calumet sells a 3 element multicoated 150mm f/6.3 lens, which is the Caltar version of a Rodenstock Geronar. I have the 210mm version. In my opinion, very underrated, at a great price. The biggest price you pay is loss of image circle. This, however, might not be a problem with a Crown Graphic, due to its limited movements. If, however, you think you are going to move into a camera with more movement capability, the Caltar II-N is probably the way to go.

By the way, don't forget to consider used versions of these modern lenses. You can save a lot of money that way without losing any quality. Just make sure you can have it checked out and return it if any problems are discovered.

Best of luck.

-- Dave Karp (davekarp@ix.netcom.com), April 03, 2002.

Save your money,use the Xenar!Stopped down this lens will give any modern glass a run for the money!

-- Edsel Adams (mrchippy628@aol.com), April 03, 2002.

You may want to check out the 125 f5.6 Fujinon CM-W, or the 135 CM-W. Either of these lenses will match well with the Graphic now and can be used later when you upgrade to a 4x5 camera with more movement capability. Midwest Photo Exchange (Mpex.com) has a large selection of these lenses in stock, and prices are low due to the depressed value of the Yen. Ask for Jim.

-- Eugene (TIAGEM@aol.com), April 03, 2002.

You might just want to keep your Xenar...I have two of them and they are great...maybe just buy a 90mm for a different point of view.Dagors and Ektars are good too.

-- Emile de Leon (knightpeople@msn.com), April 03, 2002.

Yes, definitely keep the Xenar. It is light and sharp and gives good contrast and you will not get much for it anyway. Its main drawback is the limited image circle so if you want anything by way of movements you get vignetting. But as a spare lens it would be worth a lot more than what you would get for it.


-- Colin Carron (CICarron@aol.com), April 04, 2002.

I would just get one of the new Kodak single sheet holders, a box of 100VS readyloads, and go out and shoot a few times with the Xenar. Then decide what to do. For years, I've had a disease called, "if I just had a $%^&R$%^%&^%^$%^, all my problems would be solved and I would make great pictures." Glad I'm over it. Or will be as soon as I get one of those great Gitzo carbon fiber tripods...

-- John Sarsgard (sarsgard@yahoo.com), April 04, 2002.

Peter, I bought the 150 Rodenstock Apo Sironar S at B&H for $679 last August. I have made enlargements of 30x24 inches, the lens quality is superb, and I am really not easy to please in that respect. I highly recommend that lens.

-- Marcus Leonard (marcusleonard@yahoo.com), April 04, 2002.


If you insist on buying a new lens, I would buy a Sironar-S in 135mm or 150mm. The 135mm, as your camera currently has, will provide a wider view. The image circle of the 135mm Sironar-S will surpass the movements on your Crown Graphic. All research tends to qualify the Sironar-S as the sharpest "normal" lens available today. Good luck.

Best regards,

J. P. Mose

-- J. P. Mose (j.p.mose@lmco.com), April 04, 2002.

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