I'm looking for a new lens

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by dlw, Jul 7, 2006.

  1. dlw


    Good morning fellow Photo.neters

    I'm new to Photo.net but have been around long enough to search the archives
    before asking my question. I need your vast collective wisdom to help me make
    a sensible lens selection.

    I have a Wisner 4X5 Tech Field camera that I bought new from Wisner in 2003
    along with a Schneider 210mm Apo-Symmar L lens. I like the combination very
    much, but I'm thinking I'd like to get a wider lens for landscapes and
    occasional architecture. I've been looking at the Schneider 120mm Apo-Symmar
    L mainly because I like my 210mm so much. I don't really want to deal with
    bag bellows or recessed lens boards but would like to retain a fair amount of
    movements. I think going to a wider lens than 120mm might restrict movements
    unless I'm willing to settle for slower lenses which will make viewing through
    the ground glass more difficult.

    I've tried contacting Wisner Mfg. to get Ron's thoughts since he designed the
    camera and should know what will and won't work as well as anyone, but so far
    I've had no success. I appreciate any advise or thoughts you guys might have.
  2. Independent of the camera, my opinion is that the 120 mm Apo-Symmar L doesn't offer lots of movements for 4x5. I'm not exactly sure what you mean by a "fair amount of movements", but I'd look for a different lens for architecture uses. Schneider specs the coverage as 189 mm diameter, which only offers 25/21 mm of shift/rise with 4x5 (per Schneider's calculations). If you want generous movements in a 120 mm or shorter focal length, you need to look to a design other than a plasmat. As you go shorter, the 70 or so degree angular coverage of a plasmat type lens, which is plenty for 4x5 in the 210 mm focal length, eventually becomes inadequate diameter of coverage, which is what really matters.

    In the past I used a 120 mm Nikkor-SW and didn't find the slower speed to be a problem. (Similar lenses are the Super-Angulon and Grandagon-N.) Now I use the f5.6 110 mm Super-Symmar-XL, which is a very popular lens. To use either of these lenses to their full potential of movements would probably require a bag bellows. Of course, you could decide to use one of these lenses to the limits of your regular bellows.

    It's not clear that Wisner is still in business: see http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00GyxB
  3. David, A couple of problems. One is that Ron is either out of business or at best in limbo. No new updates in months.

    A two lens outfit with a 120 is nice for the landscape. If your interest leans more toward architecture you might want to test a 110.

    In any case it's a lot of money, try to rent or borrow that size lens before buying. The wider the lens the darker the view. The slower lenses are nice if you have to work a great distance from the car. Lot's of trade-offs. Good luck.
  4. Mr. Wisner has written that he has retired.

    Regardless, you will find good information here.

    If great coverage is a concern, may I suggest the 121mm or 120mm Super-Angulon? It has ~288mm image circle. I can't imagine a 4x5 application that would exceed that coverage. The lenses are quite reasonably priced - used, of course.
  5. Take a look at Kerry Thalmann's web page. http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/

    The 120 APO-Symmar (or Symmar L) would be good for field use, but I don't think would be particularly handy for architecture. The previously mentioned 110-XL would be perhaps ideal, with the accompanying big price tag. A 120 Super-Angulon would work, but is pretty big. While I can understand your wanting to avoid changing bellows, a recessed lens board is really not a problem in practice, nor is a slower lens at the focal lengths you are considering.
  6. To help visualize the coverage of the 120 or 121 Super-Angulon, see this: http://course1.winona.edu/jstafford/120mm.gif

    Even with fall-off, that's huge coverage for 5x4".
  7. I use a Nikon Nikkor SW 120mm f8. Its coverage is so great that it will cover an 8x10
    negative (with no movements). Thus, the potential for movements with a 4x5 camera is
    vast. I have yet to encounter a situation which I could not handle with the 120 Nikkor. It is
    my favorite landscape lens. A good second choice might be a Schneider Super Angulon
    120mm f8. This lens has lesser coverage than the 120 Nikkor, but is still more than ample
    for 99% of most people's needs. All modern lenses from Nikon, Schneider, Rodenstock and
    Fuji are of super-high quality as far as sharpness, color, contrast, etc. are concerned. All
    IMHO, of course.
  8. dlw


    Thank you all for the quick responses. You've given me some good things to consider. You guys are awesome! John, the visual aid is quite helpful. Thanks.
  9. David:

    If you go to www.schneideroptics.com, and look to the rightmost menu under Vintage (think that's it), you might find a PDF file that graphs all their lens' coverage.

    If I were to buy all over again, and had the money, there would be very few Schneider lenses in my toolkit; I'd be looking to Rodenstock.
  10. My first lens was a 210. It's still my most used length (although I now use the very small 200 M Nikon lens). The 135 is almost as wide as the 120. Very good 135 lenses are quite plentiful and reasonably priced. I have found the 135 to be my second favorite lens length. The 135 does not have the huge covering power of the 120 super angulon type lenses, but I have found it very adequate. Like you, I do landscapes and occasionally architectural photos. (If your budget allows it, the new 110 lenses sound excellent.)

    I bought a set of "infrared bellows" from Ron Wisner years ago. They extend to almost eighteen inches, noticably shorter than the regular red bellows. These are black, made of more ordinary materials, and were very reasonably priced. They work much better with lenses from the 105 to 210 range. They are much less "bunchy". Since I bought the IR bellows, neither the regular nor bag ballows has been on my TF. (I have never used IR film.) I recommend contacting Ron Wisner to see if he might have a set in stock. Even if you should happen to prefer the longer bellows, the IR bellows are a very useful and reasonably priced backup.
  11. David, Also consider the superb Apo Claron lenses. If you can live with a smaller viewing aperture (I think my 150mm is f/9 "wide open"), you will get superb results, and I think they make a 105mm. They're also dirt cheap usually. The 210 Symmar is certainly the benchmark for comparison!
  12. With a Wisner and a 210mm APO Symmar L, I think you have the budget to get a good lens. The 120mm Schneider does not have the coverage that you are seeking, and the 120mm Nikkor and Super Angulons are pretty large lenses comparatively speaking.

    I would recommend that you get either the 110mm Schneider Super Symmar XL - a fabulous lens with very large coverage (almost enough for 8x10) that is still relatively compact; or that you get the 135mm Rodenstock APO Sironar S, which while not having the same massive coverage of the 110mm, has plenty of coverage for good movements.

    Both lenses are commonly referenced as being among the best lenses available today. In fact, Kerry Thalmann (referenced earlier in this thread) states that these two are the last lenses that he would give up - I believe he used the phrase "pry them out of my cold, dead hands".
  13. If you'd like a relatively compact lens relative to the 120mm wide angle designs (like the
    Super-Angulon or Grandagon-N), take a look at the 120mm Super-Symmar HM. It has an
    image circle of 211mm, significantly larger than the Apo-Symmar L, but not as large as
    the true wides. I love mine. It is one of the best optics I have ever used in any format. The
    newer 110 Super-Symmar XL has a much greater image circle and is also tack sharp,
    though I believe it exhibits greater illumination fall-off.
  14. The 110mm Symmar XL is an architectural photographer's dream lens. And landscape photographers love it too, because it is small and light. If you intend to do architectural interiors, you'll appreciate an f/5.6 lens over an f/8 lens for the ease of focussing. A 135mm would be a nice gap from your existing 210mm, but no 135mm has very much coverage. The 120mm Super Symmar HM suggestion is a good one.
  15. David,

    You do not mention budget or use. Do you backpack? Is size and weight something to consider? If that is the case I would recommend reading http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/lightwei.htm.

    Maybe a 135mm will be the answer. I have a Rodenstock 135mm sironar N that is really fantastic, sharp, enough coverage, light and small.

    Otherwise look at http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/future.htm and take your pick. Loads SH on ebay and LF shops.

    If you have the wallet....spend wisely.

  16. More on some of the lenses that I and others have mentioned....

    People frequently call the 110 mm f5.6 Super-Symmar XL "small and light". It is smaller, but it a rather dense lens. Comparing to a lens like the 120 mm f8 Nikkor-SW, you get a faster lens for less weight, but not that much less. If you are on a budget, you will get excellent results from a Nikkor-SW, Grandagon-N or Super-Angulon for less money.

    The 110 mm SS-XL weighs 425 g, the 120 f8 Nikkor-SW 610 g. So there is real weight savings since the SS-XL weighs 70% of the Nikkor-SW and is faster to boot. But the difference is only 185 g.

    The 110 mm SS-XL takes 67 mm filters, the 120 mm Nikkor-SW 77 mm filters, so the diameter of the Nikkor-SW is a bit bigger, with a consequent increase in filter cost. But the 110 mm SS-XL has a design deficiency: regular glass filters will contact the front element. You either have to use the more expensive B+W brand EW (Extra-Wide) style filters or a step-up ring to a larger size filter (but then you have switched to a larger filter size) or perhaps a spacer ring (could be made by removing the glass from a filter, but might risk vignetting). The last two methods move the filter slightly forward.

    The biggest difference in dimension is the length: 60 mm for the 110 SS-XL, 93 mm for the 120 Nikkor-SW.

    The 115 mm Grandagon-N has an intermediate speed: f6.8, but also an even larger filter size: 82 mm.

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