Fast Lenses : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Howdy all...

I have been experimenting (and having a LOT of fun) with very short depth of field in pictures. I use tilts and swings to isolate a person's eyes and something in their hands in a portrait, etc.

And then I remembered that Speed Graphics had some lenses faster than modern lenses. 3.5, 4.5, something like that?

For people who know these camera and lenses, what's a good one to start with that at least covers 4x5 and is as fas as possible? I'm not worried too much about movement coverage since I am going for memory-like edges anyway.

And are there lenses that even barely cover 8x10 that are just as fast?



-- David G Hall (, May 28, 2002


David: There were some older lenses in the 4.5 range made for 8x10. I believe Zeiss made some tessar formula 300mm 4.5 lenses and perhaps B&L. Some of the old aerial lenses also open quite wide. You want shallow depth of field, you got it. There may have been some 4.5 14" lenses made for 8x10. Look on e-bay and check with Midwest Photo Exchange. Also, you might want to purchase a wheelbarrow to haul the lenses around.


-- Doug Paramore (, May 28, 2002.


Scheider made the Xenotar which has a f/2.8 aperture. You mostly see the shorter focal lengths which were used on the 6x9 Linhofs but there is a 150mm which is said to cover 4x5.

-- Colin (, May 28, 2002.

Voigtlander Heliars for large format were usually f:4.5 (smaller format versions may have been 3.5). I have a 360mm/4.5 for 8x10" and it's HUGE.

-- David Goldfarb (, May 28, 2002.

Oh.. and yes there are the f/2.9 Pentac lenses which were 8 inch air reconnaissance lenses used by the Royal Air Force. These are easily found in the UK but are of very variable quality due to hasty war time production. Some were also used over the desert with resulting sand blasting to the front element. They can be found as barrel lenses in aluminium mounts and usually uncoated. There are good ones but let the buyer beware.

-- Colin (, May 28, 2002.

i Have dallmyer 300 3,8/ Aero ektar 7 inch f. 2.5/ telexenar 500mm/f 5.5, tessar 360 f 4.5, dallmeyer 14 inch 4.5, dallmeyer 9 inch f 3 they are a lot of fun... Look on e-bay and also i can give you te e-mail address of a guy in Iyaly that can help you

-- domenico (, May 28, 2002.

Voightlander Heliar's are "made" for what you're describing. The 4.5 5 element lenses are just creamy wide open and the bokeh is beautiful. 15 and 21 cm are pretty common in the older compound shutters, and 18 and 24cm are a little less common but available also. Used my 21 for some close-ups in the Bristlecone's this past weekend. I feel they're sleepers for what they fetch on Ebay.

-- Jim Galli (, May 28, 2002.

The Wollensak 300mm 4.5 is really nice. Mine is very sharp with decent contrast. It covers with no problem. The betax shutters of this size are pretty easy to fix too.

-- Eric Mims (, May 28, 2002.


Other than the lenses mentioned above, there's a 135mm Schneider Xenotar f/3.5 and a 135mm Zeiss Planar f/3.5. They both cover 4 X 5 and have about the same performance (although the Planar is much more expensive than the Xenotar). Good luck.

Best regards,

J. P. Mose

-- J. P. Mose (, May 28, 2002.

Several have already been mentioned - Zeiss Planar 135mm/3.5, Voightländer APO-Lanthar 21cm/f4.5, Schneider Xenar 150, 210 and 300mm/f4.5, Schneider Tele-Xenar 360mm/f5.6...

The main problem with long, fast lenses is the shutter size. A Schneider Xenar 300mm/f4.5 covers 8x10", but it is a huge lens, in a #5 Compound shutter. If my shutter should die, I doubt I could get it replaced...

-- Ole Tjugen (, May 28, 2002.

There 135mm Schneider Xenotar f/3.5 and a 135mm Zeiss Planar f/3.5 are good choices. The Zeiss is the better of the two (sharper at the wider apertures) but is more expensive. There is a multi-coated version of the Zeiss in modern compur for those with deep pockets, and is a truly a perfect lens for portrait.

-- Pat Raymore (, May 28, 2002.

I have two fast lenses, the rear elements of both fill the Sinar lens board:

Aero Ectar 600mm 24" f6.0 Wray 900mm (36") f6.3

These are both arial reconnaisence lenses, and cover a great deal more than 10 x 8 (stacks of movement on roll film)

-- Dick Roadnight (, May 28, 2002.

I have two Xenars, 80mm 2.8, and 135mm 3.5. I wouldn't sell either of them. It is nice to have a bright screen and they are fine wide open or stopped down. I use them for mostly closeup and if you like shallow DOF these will groove you plenty!

-- Emile de Leon (, May 28, 2002.

Also I have a 210 3.5 Xenar that is uncoated but a great look to it esp for shallow DOF portraits in the old style. I dont use it too much as it is only in barrel. Would definatly use it more if it was in a shutter.Will go on a Graphic though with the in camera shutter.My Dad used it a lot in the forties.

-- Emile de Leon (, May 28, 2002.

A lot of the lenses mentioned in the answer do not cover 8x10 -- most are fast lenses designed for 4x5.

One fast lens that will cover 8x10 is the 12 in / 305 mm f2.5 Kodak Aero-Ektar. The rim data lists "9X9" as the negative size (in inches). These were lenses made in the 1940s and 1950s for aerial reconnaissance, including at night time with flash bombs.

The 12 inch version is probably the second most common version. It is HEAVY, about 10 pounds. To use it with a view camera will almost certainly require two tripods, one for the lens and one for the camera. This might work with a camera that has back focus so that the front can be stationary.

Today these lenses have reduced light transmission because some of the glass has turned brown from self-induced radation damage. While you won't get the full optical throughput of f2.5, you will get the depth of field of f2.5.

I have a webpage with some more information:

-- Michael Briggs (, May 28, 2002.

One of my lens is a Schneider Tele-Xenar 360mm/f5.6 and I love it. Great compression and they are relatively in expensive in good condition. The Compound shutter is around a Copal 3 but it fits fine on my Linhof Tech III.

-- Scott Walton (, May 29, 2002.

One of my lens is a Schneider Tele-Xenar 360mm/f5.5 and I love it. Great compression and they are relatively in expensive in good condition. The Compound shutter is around a Copal 3 but it fits fine on my Linhof Tech III.

-- Scott Walton (, May 29, 2002.

I measured the image circle of a 14 inch f/4.5 Ross Xpres. It illuminated an 18 inch diameter circle at f/11. Recently I sold it as I did not think I would ever use it. (No shutter , weighs 6 lb,huge).

-- Colin (, May 29, 2002.

David, A few years back I bought a 360mm f/4.5 Tessar (Zeiss Jena) from Brooklyn Camera Exchange. It is a modern design, covers 8x10" at infinity and is very sharp wide open. They show up on Ebay from time to time in either new or used condition. The diameter is huge (3.25") so you need either a focal plane shutter, a Packard style shutter or a lens cap and a fast hand. If you are shooting outdoors and wide open, you will need the focal plane shutter to get the short shutter speed necessary with any modern film.

-- Andy Eads (, May 30, 2002.

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