Using an enlarging lens on view camera?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by jdrose, Oct 9, 2009.

  1. Hello,
    In your opinion would it be possible to use an inexpensive darkroom enlarging lens on a 4x5" camera?
    If so, any recommendations?
  2. It is possible. You need a way of either attaching it to a shutter, or using it at night where you have some control. To my knowledge, the 39mm standard thread size of an enlarging lens does not correlate to any standard shutter threads (e.g. a Copal 0 is something like 29.5mm, and a Copal #1 is 40mm. So you would probably need an adapter.
    Recently I bought a 39mm -> Nikon F adapter off fleabay. I can tell you from shooting with some enlarging lenses on my Nikon DSLRs recently, that the so-so brands were pretty intolerable for image quality, but my higher end Schneider lenses were quite good. So a cheap lens? You probably are not going to like the results.
  3. Depending on the enlarging lens model it may transmit more UV light than a normal camera taking lens. This may produce some unexpected results on color film and digital sensors. I've used enlarging lenses with homemade bellows on 35mm cameras with b&w film and the results appeared normal, but my experiments were limited. Trying this on a dSLR has been on my to-do list for awhile.
  4. If you look around, you can easily find a good enlarging lens in shutter, and it won't break the bank. The cells were AFAIK designed to screw into the M39 plastic barrel we know and love, or into standard shutters. I have a couple of enlarger lenses in shutters, but in practice I never use them.
    A decent enlarger lens will make good negatives for all close subjects, not just in the macro range. A Componon, for example, was optimized to enlarge from 2X to 20X, which means as a taking lens it is optimized from 1:20 to 1:2. On 4 x 5 film, this means up to 2.5 meters on the long axis. Some people here have used them at infinity, with small apertures, and got acceptable results.
  5. Enlarger lenses are not designed for infinity and so don't look near as good as even the cheaper regular view camera lenses, but they do make good macro lenses.
  6. Not to jack the OP's thread, but I have a somewhat on topic question: I was not aware that enlargers use the M39 mount? So is it possible to use enlarging lenses on screw mount Leica's? (granted whether they'll focus or not is another story I would assume)
  7. Mike has identified the key problem.
    The question, however, is not "is it possible?", but more properly "is it useful?"
    The answer depends on what you're doing with the lens on the camera.
  8. Here an enlarging is lens is used all the time on a 4x5; but is used at closer ratios; ie for shooting artwork with a 4x5 scanback. The 135mm F5.6 Schneider Componon -S here fits into a standard 4x5 Speed Graphic lensboard; the standard ring on the lens secures it. This settup has been used for about 12 years; a typical fstop is F11 withratios of 10,5, 3, 2 etc; ie subject size to size in the sensor back. If I need a lens with lower distortion for mapping; I use a 150mm F9 Apo Ronar at about F16.
    The same 145mm F5.6 Componon-S at infinity has a lessor performance at infinity than a standard LF lens; but still is not really a dog as always preached as the canned dogma. Here is an actual digital scan with a 35 megapixel scan back thru a window;and storm window; plus thru a IR filter; with Componon set to between F8 and F11.
    Here is the same cropped view; shot with a better lens corrected for infinity the 178mm F2.5 Aero Ektar shot at F11 in infrared. The lighting is better; higher contrast the sun was still up. The buildings are 5km away. Thus if you are using a lens on a B17 or P51 mustang for bombing runs; an Aero Ektar is better than an enlarging lens. If one is just making a 11x14 or 16x20 print from a 4x5 negative; even a dumb enlarging lens can make a tack sharp print with an infinty shot. The first lens I used one my first Speed Graphic was a dumb triplet tired enlarging lens;the shutter was the focal plane.
  9. Whether an enlarging lens is good enough for your application at infinity usage depends on what you are doing. You might just be making moderately enlarged prints and thus it doesnt matter as much. OR you might be using a flatbed and it already low passes the high end detail; thus a Symmar might not help much.
    An actual test is what matters.
    In some past threads some folks seem to preach than an enlarging lens is horrible as a taking lens; put there is not actual images posted. Many seem to think an enlarging lens is just above a pinhole camera.:) Such is life.
    A lens or wrench salesmen will have you buying 6 point Snapon tools and a torque wrench to assemble a Walmart garage can cart or BBq grill; or buying a Symmar and an Ebony. :)
    All tools have their limits; whether harbor Freight; Craftsman; or Snap On Tools.
    An enlarging lens is not technically the best lens for infinity usage; it is not corrected for there unless a rare mural variant. In a pinch an enlarging lens will make an image at infinity; whether it is good enough depends on what you are doing.
  10. dog as always preached as the canned dogma​
    I guess it's a dog eat dogma world...
    (I am truly sorry, but I could not resist).
    Seriously, I would hope that a lens that can image "from" a flat piece of film could do a respectible job imaging "to" a flat piece of film. Light flows both ways.
  11. I think it could be used to very good effect for portraits certainly. For landscapes, no.

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