Accidental 8X10 purchase : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

For some reason I ended up as owner of an Agfa/Ansco 8X10 view camera -- just the basic frame, bellows and ground glass. One of those late-night Ebay things.

I'd like to ask basic advice on lenses. What would be the experienced photographer's choice for a wide-angle lens for 8X10 -- not too wide, but wider than standard -- for someone on a very rigorous budget? I'd like a shutter, but I'm willing to use a Packard-type shutter or even a lens cap if I have to, in return for image quality and a bit of flexibility on lens/film movements. Also, advice for a longer than standard lens. The wide angle to be used for landscape but also some architecture, the longer lens primarily for still life. Again, what is the best all round value, rather than the the best lens in the world? I like sharp, crisp lenses, but having said that I've had some of my best results with a 1930s uncoated 105mm Zeiss Tessar on 6X9 b+w film. In other words, I'm open minded.

Also, should a beginning large format photographer spend money on modern dark slides, or buy old gear?

I'm sure there are many experienced LF photographers out there that have faced exactly these challenges, and have wisdom to communicate.

Richard Walker, London, UK.

-- Richard Walker (, May 16, 2002


two ideas come to mind. the first is a wide field Kokak Ektar in 10 inch.

Second, think DAGOR.


-- Kevin Kolosky (, May 16, 2002.

what about a process lens. i hear that nikon's process lenses are unbelievably sharp. i saw a couple go by on ebay a coupel days ago for under 200 (though i didn't follow through until the end of the auctions).


-- michael (, May 16, 2002.

Hi Richard,

I've had good luck with used film holders. Check to make sure the dark slide is not cracked, and then check to make sure the tape holding the bottom locking piece is still OK.

I'd recomend looking for a lens that is in a shutter. Also, you have to ask whoever is selling it to you if the speeds are on the mark in the range of 1 sec. to 1/25th of a sec should get you started. If they don't know, don't buy it. Looking around I've bought nice and interesting lenses very cheaply and in working shutter. As above, some of the older DAGORs might be fine. But there might be some fine older English or German lenses too. For mild wide angle, maybe 10'/250mm or there abouts. But you might want to just experiment with a 12" for a while. I think you can do a lot with 12". Good luck. Have fun. David

-- david clark (, May 16, 2002.


Yes, what is it about late night Ebay ? There should be a health warning.

You may not find many dagors in the UK so you would have to resort to ebay again ! In the UK a good place to pick up older and odder stuff is the photographic collectors fairs. These are advertised in the mags esp AP.

For the best value I would think you might look for older barrel lenses without shutters. Just check them carefully for faults before buying.

In the UK the Ross Xpress is a home grown Tessar copy and is usually good esp the post war coated ones. Also the really old rapid rectilinears still make good portrait lenses and many were designed for big whole plate cameras so might well cover 8x10. Ross and Dallmeyer made them but they sometimes aren't called RR but some other name. They sometimes have the plate size conveniently engraved on the barrel.

-- colin (, May 16, 2002.

A Schneider 240mm g-claron, an f6.7 Fujinon 250mm, or the 250mm wide-field ektar as your moderate wide-angles. In the past few months, I've seen some 240mm g-clarons at very reasonable prices on EBay.

For something a little longer than normal, a 360 Commercial Ektar is a possibility. I think these are a little old-fashioned, though. To improve contrast, I would look for something more recent. While it's a huge lens, Schneider Symmar-S 360mm (same as Caltar-S II) have been selling for some reasonable prices. Another possibility between this and the Commerical Ektar would be a 360mm Schneider convertible Symmar.

-- neil poulsen (, May 16, 2002.

In the spirit of late night eBay and Michael's suggestion about a process lens, perhaps you might consider a process lens by a different maker.

"NuArc" lenses often sell on eBay for under $20 (often astonishingly wide field, usually coated as these can often be 10-15 years old). Combine this with a used Packard shutter (similar price range) and you'll have quite a usable lens/shutter combination.

-- Ed Balko (, May 16, 2002.

I'll go with Kevin's first post--10" Wide-Field Ektar as a moderately wide lens with loads of room for movement. Then get an inexpensive longer Artar in barrel and you can front mount it on the Ilex #5 shutter with a simple threaded adapter. I have a 10" WF Ektar and I use a 12" Gold Dot Dagor and 19" Apo Artar on the same shutter in this way with great results and at low cost (fortunately, they both use the same adapter). While this may seem like a kludge, it actually works quite well if the shutter is roomy enough for the lens, it lets you carry more lenses in your kit without the weight and bulk of a big shutter for each one, and you get more consistent shutter speeds in the bargain.

Alternately, look for something like a Turner-Reich triple convertible, which would give you three focal lengths at reasonable cost to start with.

Filmholders can be costly--about $115/pair new. You can find used ones in excellent condition for around $40 each. Wooden ones are even cheaper, but they will be older and subject to warping, so don't buy any you can't check out personally. You can get started with 3 holders.

-- David Goldfarb (, May 16, 2002.

Richard, FWIW the 8x10 Ansco was a favorite of Ansel Adams. For lenses, I agree that the 10" Wide Field Ektar and 10 3/4" Dagor are worth while(both were Ansel Adams favorites as well) but finding a good one, especially the Dagor, on a budget might take awhile. The 270 and 240 G-Clarons from Robert White aren't all that much more (perhaps they are if you have to pay VAT) I think something like a 12" Commercial Ektar in a good Universal shutter for $275-325 would be a good place to start---a sharp, single coated lens that you should be able to get your money out of should you want to trade it in later on(personally I use a 14" Commercial Ektar and just move the tripod foreward or back if I want either a "wide" or "long" shot. Most of the time this works just fine. For film holders I've had better luck with the old wood Eastman- Kodak- Graflex than either the wood Agfas or the Liscos(both new and used ones.) If you can find them locally you'll be better served. Midwest Photo Exchange is where I purchased my last batch, but I find that most come from studios and have often been well used. Any given batch of old Kodaks will usually have a few "stinkers" that need to be returned. Might be a pain if you have to send them overseas. The prices for these on Ebay seem way out of line to me, but I subscribe to the philosophy that says if you can't steal it don't buy it on ebay. What you're probably going to need is a rock steady tripod that can hold the wieght of your Agfa-Ansco. The mathematical formula to look for is: Used+Big+Heavy=Cheap.Remember: 8x10---its not just a format---its an adventure! Good luck!

-- John Kasaian (, May 16, 2002.

Hello, I would like to suggest that you not ever turn down a good deal on a good process lens(no more than a few hundred bucks for a lens in good shape--I paid $35.00 for a 21.25" Kodak copying Ektanon;one of my favorite lenses, $200.00 for a brand new 455mm nikkor process lens in the box,$100.00 for a 240mm apo-ronar and $100.00 for a 35" apo-ronar----all far sharper then really necessary for contact prints). For a shutter I use a patterson roll film developing tank. It will fit over all of my process lenses from 240mm ronar to a 47.5 inch artar(yet to be used). I seem to only use these lenses in situations where I need a lot of depth of field so my exposures are almost always long and the tank works great. It is better than a lens cap because it is bigger and easy to remove without moving the camera. I have a piece of gaffers tape on the side that I use to attach it over the lens while I remove the dark slide. If you can find a large lot of film holders you may get some bad ones in the batch but you'll be able to strip parts off of them to repair the others. You really don't have to spend a lot of money to get into 8x10 photography, although you may have to be a little more determined.

-- David Vickery (, May 17, 2002.

For normal and long lenses I can't see how you can beat a process or enlarging lens. Mr Cad ( and Robert White ( both had enlarging/process lenses for very low prices last time I looked. Mr Cad has a whole load of enlarging lenses on clearance, although the top-notch long glass has gone. Modern German and Japanese glass is more expensive than UK (Wray, Ross) US (Ektars, B+L) or third-party re-badging (Durst, Agfa). I got a 18" Wray APO lustrar for only 80, from RW and it covers 12x16" well enough for my purposes.

The wide-angle process lenses would make good low-budget medium wides too. The g-clarons get the most press, but Apo-geragons are as good, and for some reason sell for much cheaper prices.

-- Struan Gray (, May 17, 2002.

I'm suprised not more people have mentioned G-Clarons for wide use. Ron Wisner swears by them. I have a 210mm for my 8x10, and although the specks say that it won't cover, it will. Not to mention it's extremely small. Great for carrying it into the field, saving weight and space. You're hearing a lot about process lenses and the like, well if I'm not mistaken, I think the g-claron was designed as one. It has very high definition also. My sharpest lens.

-- joe freeman (, May 17, 2002.

Thank you for these many informative replies. I see that I need not only to get some equipment, but also to make mental preparation for large format photography. Am I ready, I wonder ...

Richard Walker

-- Richard Walker (, May 17, 2002.

Hi Richard,

I got in to 8x10 the same way you have, and boy did I make a lot of mistakes. The one thing to keep in mind is this: 8x10 film is very expensive, and the time spent on each shot, from lugging the damn camera around to focusing it to processing the film, is A LOT more than it is with your other cameras. What this means is you have to make decisions based on the fact that there are certain fixed costs involved that aren't going to be affected, except negatively, by the fact you have a 35 dollar camera.

This is most assuredly NOT to say you should go out and buy expensive gear. Far from it! It is only a warning to keep in mind when you decide what to use your camera for and how to use it, that you are going to rack up more costs with a packard shutter, for example, because you are going to screw up more exposures. And your old film holders (all of mine are old, fyi) are going to have more dust in them and are going to need more testing to determine if they leak light and where they leak light, and each time you screw up an exposure because of something like this, there goes a lot of time and a little bit of money.

Same thing goes for bellows, rickety cameras, two-and-a-half-legged tripods, and all the rest.

So when you get down to deciding how to use your camera, keep these things in mind. I use a packard shutter on many of my lenses. But I sure am happy when I can make a 1 second exposure instead of trying to guess a 1/10th second exposure. And using flash in the studio is better still. If you can work it out so your exposure is consistent (like in the studio) there isn't so much need for a "real" shutter. If you are shooting in all kinds of light outdoors, it may make sense to spend the cash on a shutter and a lens that will accept filters and all the other business.

One thing 8x10 cameras let you do is fool around with a lot of bad lenses. You can get some really interesting pictures with one scratched up old biconvex element from a lens you found in a box someplace, that you taped to a lensboard in front of a packard shutter. And you can do it for next to nothing, and make glowing contact prints, and have lots of fun. If you have any talent, you can even get famous doing this. Or, you can do what I did, and struggle mightily to take outstanding, crisp landscape prints from atop a glacier somewhere with a 100 dollar camera, shredded bellows, and a shutter that works about 1/2 the time.

These days I take it pretty easy on the landscape stuff, and use a modern lens in a copal 3 to do that stuff, but I have lots of fun with my camera and old lenses in other fields.

The proper use of a 100$ speed graphic and a modern lens will beat out an 8x10 and an ancient lens for crisp, contemporary landscape photography. But then I don't really care for all that proper use business, (or contemporary landscape photography, either).

As for lenses: I don't know what your interests are, but many still lifes require quite a bit of bellows draw, and shorter lenses are more suited than longer ones for this because the minimum focusing distance is closer. I would suggest you consider your uses and start looking for a Goerz Dagor if you want to shell out a little bit of money for something in a shutter. You'll need at least 9.5 inches to have much in the way of movements. The G-Clarons from Robert White are insanely cheap for a modern lens in a reliable shutter; the 210 offers some small movements.

There are a lot of 300mm lenses in reliable shutters on ebay. Old Tessar designs that will make exceptional photographs. I have one that in low flare situations cannot be distinguished from my Fuji 300mm.

For process lenses and a packard shutter, Get out thirty bucks and the sky is the limit. Remember many won't have the coverage of taking lenses. Also remember you can mount the shutter right inside the camera, semi-permanently. Be sure to get a good bulb and hose; you can't get away with a cheap one.

Good luck with your camera.

-- Erik Ryberg (, May 17, 2002.

Richard, The important thing is: Don't be intimidated! This forum is probably the best resource going. I think Large Format is very similar to being Pregnant. No amount of reading or watching others go through it is really going to prepare you for whats coming---you just have to get out there and learn by doing---and nothing is every going to be quite the same afterwards(of course I've never been pregnant:that would be anatomically redickelwurst, its just an observation made by an ol' married guy!)

-- John Kasaian (, May 17, 2002.

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