What does "Macro" mean in LF?

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I am trying to learn enough about LF to decide whether to wade in further. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Question 1: Given two LF lenses of the same focal length, what does the designation “macro” mean? Is there a movable internal element? Is less bellows extension needed for a macro?

Question 2: I am considering the Horseman FA and the Walker Titan SF. One of the pictures I want to be able to take is a 1:1 close up of a typical phalaenopsis orchid -- which is approximately 4.25” wide, 3.6” high and 1.4” deep. Keeping depth of field in mind, but not wanting to distort the image too much with a super wide-angle lens, what would be a great LF lens for that shot? And would the standard bellows extension on the Horseman (272mm) be adequate for that shot with that lens?

Question 3: Love the look and idea (design concept) of the Canham DLC45, but have read too many posts about the rear standard moving when it needs to stay put. Any experience? Other camera suggestions?

Thank you.

-- John Hartung (hartung@post.harvard.edu), April 19, 2002


Can't answer questions 2 or 3, can answer 1.

"Macro" means designed for best performance at near focusing distances. A lens can perform best at only one distance. Choose your distance, near or far.

Floating elements in LF lenses? No. Think a little about the problem of telling the lens the distance at which it is focused.

For a given focal length and magnification (including ~ 0, as when the lens is focused at infinity), telephoto lenses require less extension than 'normal' lenses. The difference between tele and 'normal' is that in tele lenses, the position of the nodal points/principal planes is reversed, i.e., rear node is in front of the front node; in 'normal' lenses the rear node is behind the front node.

I put normal in quotes because, by convention, a normal lens is one whose focal length is equal to the negative's diagonal.

Hope this helps,


-- Dan Fromm (76266.333@compuserve.com), April 19, 2002.

Re question #1; usually "macro" means "designed to be sharp around 1:1." I don't know of any LF lenses w/floating elements. Mechanically it would be very difficult. Bellows extension is a function of lens fl and how close you focus. There's no way around it. At 1:1, bellows extension will be 2x the marked focal length. Perhaps for this reason, some "macro" lenses are shorter than "normal" for the format- witness the Nikon 120mm AM-ED lens for 4x5. Using a wideangle lens for extreme closeups could well bring the subject within millimeters of the lens' front element. The only "macro" lens for4x5 that I have used is the Schneider 150mm f/9 G-Claron, a superb lens.

-- Mark Sampson (MSampson45@aol.com), April 19, 2002.

Hi John,lenses designated "macro" by the manufacturer are simply optimized for that type of shooting. ie. near 1:1. I'm no expert, but I do know the lens designers have to pick a magnification where all 3 colors will focus on a single plane. For a macro lens this is 1:1. For general use lenses it is likely at infinity. That can be important if most or ALL of your photography is only at one place or the other.

However, that said, it doesn't render either lens useless for "other than." For instance the G-Claron mentioned above may be optimized for reproduction at or near 1:1 but there are thousands in use for everyday applications. I used a 150 G-Claron last weekend on my 8X10 camera to make a 4X10 panorama where virtually everything was at infinity because of my perch high up on a cliff. (Didn't quite cover 4X10 by the way!) At f16 1/2 that lens is incredibly sharp for that type of photography. I could enlarge those negs 6-8X and the pics would be sharp. What I'm saying is with some things you can kind of have your cake and eat it too.

Schneider G-Clarons in 150mm f9 210mm f9 would be worth considering, as would Fujinon 180mm f9 and 240mm f9. I own all four of the above and interchange them regularly for both near and far. For color things where flare might be a concern, the Fuji's may have a small edge because they are both multi-coated where the G-Clarons are single coated.

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), April 19, 2002.

With respect to your question about the specific orchid, remember that 1:1 on 4X5 is going to be different from 1:1 on 35mm.

The 35mm frame is 24X36mm and will crop in on the ceter of the flower. On 4X5, the flower will be fairly large on the ground glass with a little space around it -- about an eith of an inch. 1:1 on an 8X10 will show a lot more space around the blossom. The elements of the flower will all be the same size on the respective negatives, however.

I think someone has already mentioned that 1:1 happens when the lens is extended to twice its focal length. That means the longest lens you could use with 272mm of bellows draw is 136mm.

-- Jerry Flynn (flynn68@attglobal.net), April 19, 2002.

That's "center" and "eighth". I depend way too much on my spell checker.

-- Jerry Flynn (flynn68@attglobal.net), April 19, 2002.

Hi John,

I do a lot of flower shooting (especially orchids) and while most of the time I use medium format, I happened to use 4x5 a few days ago :)

I don't have a large format macro lens, so I used a Schneider 110XL, which allowed plenty of magnification (my bellows has 590mm extension), although I didn't use anything close to that...the largest magnification I used was a little over 2:1. The results were sharp, but less so under a 6x loupe than the results that I get from medium format (Contax 645 with 120mm macro and Fuji GX680, which doesn't have a dedicated macro lens but allows close focus with any of its lenses...they are astoundingly sharp).

Obviously, the magnification that you need will depend on whether you want to frame several blossoms, a single blossom, or part of a blossom. I usually frame for the latter, so you'll want capability of doing up to 3:1 or so. Prepare to stop down a lot for DOF at this magnification!

Many examples on my website - www.dannyburk.com - "Flower Portraits" gallery :)

Best regards, Danny

-- Danny Burk (foto28@aol.com), April 19, 2002.

John--While I am certainly no expert, I did take a similar shot with a Walker Titan and a Schneider 135 Symmar lens a couple of weeks ago, of some new leaf growth, about the same dimensions as you describe. The extra bellows were handy, and, at that extension, there was not any unpleasant distortion, at least to my eye. Good luck in your decision making. I think you will be pleased no matter what you get. Tom

-- Tom Perkins (Thomas1592@msn.com), April 20, 2002.

For macro lens selection, I would recommend you talk to Bob Salomon of HP Marketing. He has often commented on what lens is best for 1:1 images. He says that you will see a distinct improvement in resolution and saturation in side by side comparison if you use what the manufacturer markets as a macro lens (120 or 180 mm) than a process lens, such as Apo-Ronar or Claron G, when taking images of three dimensional objects; the process lens are optimized for copying flat plane objects at 1:1. There is something else to consider. If you are choosing between Rodenstock N and S series of lenses, he says that the S series provides better resolution. For a universal lens that is both compact and lightweight, capable of focus at infintiy and closeups, the process lenses are very popular among field photographers. The widest aperture f-stop is f9 among process lenses. In the bulkier macro lenses, you can get a f5.6 that aids focusing in dim light. For camera selection, I recommend you flip through the latest View camera issue, in which Jack Dykinga (a famed photographer) discusses the Arca Swiss and Wista. He favors the approximate 3 lb Wista for expeditions and the 6 lb (est.) Arca-Swiss for short trips. The Arca Swiss is to photography as Harvard is to education.

-- David (caldw@aol.com), April 21, 2002.

The macro lenses that Bob S recommends are undoubtedly good lenses, but the idea that a lens optimised for flat objects is somehow worse for three-dimensional subjects is bure marketing speak. The only exception is when the field curvature of the non-flat field lens is optimised to a known, curved subject or film plane, as in some aerial mapping lenses.

In theory, optimising a lens so that it has a flat field will increase other aberrations. In practice, and especially once you take into account the finite resolution of film, the differences are of no consequence to photographers. If chosing a lens from the specs, the reproduction ratio for which it is optimised is ovewhelmingly the most important feature.

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), April 22, 2002.

I'll go to the third question. I'm a DLC 45 user, and yes, the rear standard is locked in one axis, without any other support (you can see a the complete article in this site). The folding cameras usually have an axis point and another higher point to lock. This cameras don't have the "elastic" (just psychologicaly unpleasant) feel that the DLC have on the rear standard.

In the real use, with my DLC, I focus with the rear standard, and I feel that after locking the screws (knobs) of the camera, it doesn't moves anything if I don't force it (why to force it???) and I take the photograph with success.

Only with shorter lenses (75mm or shorter), I must be more careful tighten the knobs because the bellows will be more compressed -only- if I use -real-extreme- movements. I never had a problem also in this case (on the other hand I believe that a folding camera can't make this kind of "contortions"...)

I like very much the DLC, the Arca Swiss models and I find the folding cameras faster to set up, but with limited abilities (this abilities is that I'm looking for in LF).

Hope this helps,

-- jose angel (acquatek@teleline.es), April 22, 2002.

I'm sorry, perhaps I believe that the DLC is an UFO, you know that I want to mean folding cameras as the Linhof Master Technikas...

-- jose angel (acquatek@teleline.es), April 22, 2002.

"The macro lenses that Bob S recommends are undoubtedly good lenses, but the idea that a lens optimised for flat objects is somehow worse for three-dimensional subjects is bure marketing speak. The only exception is when the field curvature of the non-flat field lens is optimised to a known, curved subject or film plane, as in some aerial mapping lenses. "

No - that is experience with leading studios doing high quality advertising work for leading deaprtment stores for reproduction in glossy high quality cqatalogs.

You have opviously not compared jewlery photography between process, general, wise ange and macro lenses. Or flower photography.

You just make unwarranted and unproven personal assumptions.

Why not instead go out and speak with the authoroty of personal exxperience by doing your own comparison tests just like those pros did?

Then you would see why they use macros for near 1:1 on 3 dimensional original objects.

-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmarketingcorp.com), April 22, 2002.

You're right Bob. I've opviously not done any of those things. I did however spend some time doing X-ray lithography and collaborated with some people who put lenses through tests that catalogue photographers wouldn't even begin to understand.

Read my post again. For photographic practice it's the reproduction ratio that matters, not whether a lens is 'flat field' or not. The differences between lenses from good manufactuers - like those you represent - are measureable but get lost in the noise once you convolute the lens' performance with any modern pictorial film.

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), April 22, 2002.

"Read my post again. For photographic practice it's the reproduction ratio that matters, not whether a lens is 'flat field' or not."

That is the point. There is a big difference in performance between process lenses used for 3 dimensional 1:1 and Macro lenses. Just as the process lens is superior for reproducing art work at the same ratios.

-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmarketingcorp.com), April 23, 2002.

OK Bob, give us some details. You are making a specific claim about optical science which contradicts both common sense and the experience of the professional physicists I collaborate with. Name the macro lens which is obviously superior to process lenses of equal manufacturing quality at 1:1 and name the aspects of the image which make it superior. Quantify them too, so we can compare them to the finite resolution and colour descrimination of film.

I agree wholeheartedly that for a specialised and specific use like macro people should do their own tests and see which lens works best for their particular application, budget and workflow. You however want to claim more, and are trying to promote a ridiculously simplistic view of lens design. That's not science, it's salesmanship.

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), April 23, 2002.

"OK Bob, give us some details."

Be happy to mail you the brochures but the proof is for you to try them and see for yourself. We can perhaps direct you to a rental dealer in the US where you can make your own comparison.

Or you could visit Rod at Photomark who keeps a set of comparison chromes to show the differences. He is in Phoenix.

Otherwise the brochures are redily available from us to anyone in the US and from Rodenstock distributors around the world for customers in other countries.

-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmarketingcorp.com), April 23, 2002.

Does the brochure address the specific claim you are making?

No, of course it doesn't.

I have no beef with you Bob, and in general think your internet presence is a benefit to the online photographic community. Some time ago you were kind enough to help me with some questions when there was no prospect of any benefit to yourself or the companies you represent. But this sort of behaviour is just daft.

You made a specific claim about optical science, but when challenged all you have done is offer to send brochures to other people, brochures which have no bearing on the claim you made. If your knowledge of optics is sufficient to support the contention you made, please say so. If not, would it be so hard to admit the fact?

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), April 23, 2002.

"No, of course it doesn't. "

Actually it does. It gives MTF, Color and distortion curves. Of course tyhe best way is to try it yourself and see why commercial catalog houses prefer them for small object work of 3- dimensional objects.

The proof is in the film and that is easily seen if you take the time to try rather then just talk.

-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmarketingcorp.com), April 23, 2002.

Of course the original poster is very fortunate. He can prove it to himself as a major LF rental dealer is right across the river in Boston. So he could get personal hands-on experience.

-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmarketingcorp.com), April 23, 2002.

"It gives MTF, Color and distortion curves"

None of which relate to field curvature.

"The proof is in the film and that is easily seen..."

Yet somehow you are unable to say just what it is that is so easily observed, much less how the observation is related to whether the lens has a flat field or not.

You are welcome to have the last word Bob. It is clear you are not going to make any real attempt to defend your nonsense in any meaningful way. In one thing we agree: John can make his own mind up.

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), April 23, 2002.

Sharpness, contrast, range of useable apertures, etc. Everything you look for to make a superior photograph.

-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmarketingcorp.com), April 23, 2002.

For relatively inexpensive "macro" LF lenses you might also look to the Goerz APO Artar (NON-red dot) that are optimized for 1:1 and favored by many LF shooters -- frequently available in a variety of focal lenghts on the auction site that dare not be named -- they perform quite well at infinity not unlike the Claron.

-- Donald Brewster (dpbrewster@prodigy.net), April 24, 2002.

THANKS to EVERYONE!!! I got the idea that I would do well to have a macro lens . . . and that there are no internal moving parts.

-- John Hartun

-- John Hartung (hartung@post.harvard.edu), April 26, 2002.

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