best lenses, twofold

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by geert_de_keyser|1, Apr 22, 2006.

  1. Two questions about top lensing. What are simply the best lenses in
    the world (what brand and maybe what lenses within that brand) for 4x5
    work when money isn't a criterium? Same question now but with a twist?
    What are the best lenses in the world when money is a criterium and
    when you're not simply looking for the best but for the best
    price/quality relation?
  2. Probably the Schneider digitar lenses but not all of them really cover 4x5. I do believe there is someone here using a couple of the larger circle lenses on 4x5 though.

    There are also a few very good very expensive older zeiss lenses from what I have read.

    The second part of the question is more difficult and varies.

    90mm, probably the Nikon 90mm, and it might be so for both cases.
    150 and up I like the G-Claron lenses.

    There are a lot more good lenses too that are moderately priced.
  3. It is a bit old nowadays (2000), but Kerry Thalman has a page of lenses he describes as future classics.
  4. All of the big four (Fuji, Nikon, Rodenstock and Schneider) make superb lenses. Each has at least one lens which is unique in some way. The differences in image quality between these lenses made after approx 1975 tend to be small. The main thing is to select the best lens for your needs. For example, there are several different lens types available for 150 mm, some better for 4x5 photographers, other for 5x7, other for 8x10.

    "Sharpness" tends to be less of an issue in LF photography because the enlargement factor to the print tends to be smaller. The new issue compared to smaller formats is coverage. For shorter focal lengths, some designs are better because of their larger coverage.

    If you want the very best and without regard to cost so that you won't worry wether you lens is limiting you photos, then I suggest either the Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-S or Schneider Apo-Symmar-L for your standard focal length lens. Both have a bit extra coverage compared to most other plasmat designs and the Rodenstock (maybe the Schneider?) uses ED glass for reduced chromatic aberrations.

    For quality per price, there are many lenses to choose from on the used market.
  5. Schneider 110mm F/5.6 Super Symmar XL

    Nikon, Rodenstock, or Schneider 210mm f/5.6

    Nikon 300mm f/9 M-Nikkor
  6. If money (and also size/weight) is not an issue:

    Ultra-wide angle: Rodenstock APO Grandagon

    Wide angle: Schneider Super Symmar XL

    Normal and moderately long: Rodenstock APO Sironar-S or Schneider APO Symmar-L

    Long: Schneider APO Tele Xenar telephoto

    The above lenses are state-of-the-art for 4x5 film, and will work well for virtually all applications, either in studio or the field.

    If money becomes a criterium then price/performance becomes incredibly subjective and depends on what type of subjects are involved (landscape, portraits, architecture, etc.), whether you are working in studio or the field, and how much weight you are willing to carry. For landscape or architectural field shooting, I would use the wide to normal lenses mentioned above, but replace the longer lenses with the smaller/lighter Fuji 240A, Nikkor 300M and Fuji 450C (assuming your camera has sufficient extension for this lens).

    I frequently shoot color film and also like to shoot near or into the sun, so I prefer multi-coated lenses. If you stay away from the sun and shade your lens well, then single-coated lenses such as the G-Claron's can work quite well.

    Portraiture is a different animal and depends on what type of "look" you want. The Cooke PS945 is the newest and possibly most expensive portrait lens available, but there are many classical portrait lenses that are also quite popular.
  7. If its a Standard Lens for 4x5" you are after, then I have had them all, from Nikon through Rodenstock, Schneider, etc. all ok.

    a 135mm Rodenstocks Sironar S was my best standard for awhile,
    BUT THEN...
    a late version Zeiss Planar 135mm (Linhof Select) absolutely thrashed it in a test I did. It was dramatically better in resolution, and 1.5 stops faster! Incredible lens.

    be sure to get the later one with the 67mm filter, not the early one with a 58mm filter. They are also multicoated, though not T*.
  8. What are simply the best lenses in the world (what brand and maybe what lenses within that brand) for 4x5 work when money isn't a criterium?
    How much money are you willing to spend for the "best"?!
    There are lots of "affordable quality" lenses everywhere. These are better for "normal" LF camera work as focus and film flatness (unless you are going to use a digi scan back) would be the limiting factors.
  9. The best lens is the one you have...

    I've tried lenses from just about the entire history of photography, and unless you're going to make billboard-size enlargements and examine them from 2" they're all good.

    The main differences are in coverage, and between coated and uncoated lenses. My own personal favorites are the Voigtlander APO-Lanthar (I even like the slight yellow discoloration in mine) and the Schneider Symmar. The Lanthar because it's d*mn good, and the Symmar because it's believed to be less good than the newer lenses. That brings the price down so far that you can (as I have) buy several lenses in different focal lenghts for less than the price of one new lens. As it is I can choose between 180, 210, 240 and 300mm Symmar lenses. No modern lens is so much better that a crop from the center of the film will show as much detail as the whole film shot with a slightly longer lens!

    I've also tried to find really crappy lenses - without success. The center sharpness of an Aplanat from 1869 is equal to the best modern lenses as soon as you stop down to f:16 or so!
  10. Best Price/Quality relation: Older used Fujinon W series lenses with EBC coating. In my opinion these are plain excellent and usually available at very reasonable prices. The new CMW series has replaced these, so not being current, they are priced accordingly.

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