Equipment for still life

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by christian_balslev_van_randwijk, Aug 5, 2008.

  1. Hi guys,
    thank you so far for the answers to some of my lens questions. I'm developing another project, however,
    namely a still-life project. I'm in doubt as to what equipment I'll need/want.I'm not sure I want to go 4x5,
    maybe I'll keep to rollfilm, maybe 6x9. However, I guess I'll need something with shift ability to control
    perspective. Also, I'm not sure which lens to use. I would like something that compresses the perspective a bit,
    maybe a 90mm or longer lens, but what is the close focus distance on such lenses on a bellows-mounted field or
    mono-rail camera? Do I need to use special macro lenses, or would any longish lens suffice? I would really
    appreciate any comments from people with still-life experience.
  2. To compress perspective you want a normal or long lens for the format -- this gives you a distant view. So first you need to decide on your format. 90 mm would be too short for compressing perspective with 4x5. I'd try something from 150 to 210 mm with 4x5. At one time I used a 240 mm lens, but I found that it took too much room -- between the space between the subject and lens, the bellows extension, and space for the photographer behind the camera, the space required for photographing even a small object was quite large. Another reason not to go too short is that it will shorten then lens-to-subject distance and may make lighting harder, with the camera getting in the way.

    Assuming that your still lives aren't table top size, you aren't into the true macro range, or even that close too it. The precise meaning of macro is making images that are larger than life size, so with 4x5, a subject that is smaller than 4x5 inches. There are many lenses that are reasonably priced that will work well in the intermediate range of closeups: images that are smaller than lifesize, but the subject isn't at a distance of many feet. Usually general purpose plasmat lenses will work well enough at these distances. Many symmetric lenses such as G-Clarons handle all reproduction ranges well. If you want the very best, Rodenstock designed their Apo-Macro-Sironar for tabletop scale photography rather than true macro. The Apo-Macro-Sironars is optimized for subjects larger than the image size, unlike the other modern macro lenses, which are usually optimized for 1:1.
  3. Hello. I have done a lot of tabletop, and macro. Pictures of boots , watches and a lot more. I always used a Sinar with a
    210 Rodenstock Macro-Sironar(not apo). In the eighties I used A 210 Schneider Symmar. I felt that the macro-Sironar
    was a huge leap in quality. I used a 6x9 rollfimholder a lot, or I used 4x5 inch. The Sinar has a rail that can be fitted with
    extension, which I did use. About 40cm rail is needed to focus this lens 1:1, and a bit more to mount bellows shade(You
    can use bars and clips for bellowshade,dont really need more rail). The 210 Macro-Sinar is reversable. If you swop the
    back and front lenses, you can choose optimation for smaller or larger than life. I think this lens is a supersharp
    nondistorting performer.When focused 1:1 the lens to subject distance is about 40cm, and the subject to film about
    80cm. You can go closer with more extension. You do not need a macrolens, but I did love mine so much that I bought
    myself one this winter, when rebuying 4x5 equipment after selling it all in 1999. I think the Symmar was poor larger than
    1:2. I also think Briggs are telling the right things. About what Briggs says about room and 240 - my comment is that I
    was very comfortable with the 210 Macro Sironar . So there is a difference between 210 and 240.
  4. "Rodenstock designed their Apo-Macro-Sironar for tabletop scale photography rather than true macro. The Apo-Macro-
    Sironars is optimized for subjects larger than the image size, unlike the other modern macro lenses, which are usually
    optimized for 1:1."

    No, the Apo Macro Sironar 120mm and 180mm, like the earlier 210mm Makro Sironar and the 300mm Makro Sironar,
    were/are developed for scales that include 1:1. The 120 and 180mm are corrected for 1:5 to 2:1 The 120mm Apo Macro
    Sironar is corrected for the same. The 210mm Makro and the 300mm Makro Sironars were corrected from 1:3 to 3:1,
    depending on how the elements are mounted.

    But all of them are corrected for 1:1.
  5. I described the design goal of the Apo-Macro-Sironar, which distinguishes it from similar LF lenses of other brands. From Rodenstock's brochure on this lens: "The Rodenstock Apo-Macro-Sironar optimized for the scale of 1:2 (half life-size) ensures excellent image reproduction properties within a practical range of 1:5 to 2:1 .... As a result, practically all shots in 'tabletop' photography can be taken...." The distinguishing feature of the Apo-Macro-Sironar compared to other so-called macro LF lenses is the optimization for 1:2 rather than 1:1 so that the range is slide towards larger objects -- rather than having the range as say 1:3 to 3:1, it is 1:5 to 2:1. This is probably more useful for most LF photogarphers. Being able to go to twice lifesize doesn't make a true macro lens in the classic meaning of the term, of being designed to make images that are a factor of a few larger than life size (e.g., Photars, Luminars, M-Componon).
  6. What follows is beside the point, but I have a 1985 Calumet catalogue with a brief third-party review of the 210 Makro Sironar. The author (David Brooks) found it was excellent at infinity (comparable to his Sironar N), as well as at close distances. It seems like a balanced review, not a gushy sales pitch.
    You can read the review here, unless the moderators think I'm violating 23-year-old copyright.
  7. Dave,

    David Brooks is a good friend but he is wrong - or has a problem with his N.

    The Makro lenses simply will not equal a quality general purpose lens like the N or S nor will the N or S equal the macro
    lenses at tabletop to greater then lifesize.

    One problem in doing reviews like this and making comparisons is the subject matter. If one were doing a landscape with
    no important matter at the edges and the corners then all of them will test well. If there is meaningful detail at the edges
    then the purpose designed lenses are going to perform best. It also will make a difference in what quality level you
    expect and accept from your lenses for the purpose and the way you shoot.

    It is also important to point out that David wrote this for Calumet who imported the lenses and who is selling the lenses
    on the same page at the end of the article. It is not exactly a test report. It is a selling article or, as it is commonly
    known, an advertorial.
  8. I own the 180 Sironar-S, 180 Sironar-N and the 180 makro Sironar. I have tested all three lenses at infinity and I can tell you as a
    statement of fact that the 180mm makro is not acceptable for infinity focus. Compared to the other two at infinity it is quite soft, period. As
    a macro lens, it's great.
  9. Macro Sironar 210mm at a bit longer distance.
    I also did use this lens for reproduction of art . A print that measured 110x 160 cm was perfect sharp all over with no distorsion and no visible problems at f 11 on 4x5". I have never used it at infinity, but guess that it is worth a try.

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