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Wednesday, 21 October 2020


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Gorgeous! Such a small, jewel-like lens!

Like you, I preferred 35mm to 40mm lenses on my 35mm film cameras. I found a 135mm lens on a 4x5 to be ideal for most of my work. I believe that you will too.

Mike, that is super! I recently bought a 135mm ƒ/5.6 Caltar-S II, which is older than your lens and sourced from Schneider. Mine is single-coated and uses a 49mm filter. So far, it is very satisfactory. It replaced a 135mm Xenar lens, which I liked but did not have enough coverage.

By the way, the little Schneider Angulon (not Super-Angulon) 90mm ƒ/6.8 lens is very nice for B&W film. Your chart above shows that it has plenty of coverage. I use this and the 135 most of all.


Just looking at the lens that you are holding got me rather excited. These old beauties are value for money and - just thinking aloud - they must have lots of play factors left in them. Just curious if Rodenstock still makes lenses?

Of course Butters looks good too!

Dan K.

Your Sironar-N 135mm looks like a sweet lens. The e-45mm focal length will provide a relaxed, easy-on-the-eye framing. And, yes, it sure is tiny.

Rodenstock states that the image circle of 200mm at f22 provides a maximum rise of 32mm and maximum lateral shift of 28mm for a horizontal 4x5 frame. Which likely matches well to your camera's capability, and is useful. I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with it.

I just did the arithmetic and based on the diagonals the 135mm focal length is e-38mm.

e-38mm is right in your zone.

After all these years and all these lenses you’d think I would develop a sense of sophistication, but alas, it’s looks so very pretty, with such lovely glass.

I hope it gives you years of enjoyment.

I,for one,am enjoying your LF quest! Having fallen in with a crew of five Graflex cameras, a fellow LF photog is encouraging. ;) I'm on the smaller end, 2x3's and 3x4's. Keep up the good work.

Nice. This was my favorite lens, the Rodenstock labeled version, on a series of view cameras and field cameras.

If you are ever looking for cheap 100 year old lenses for your 4x5, investigate the old Kodak 118 folders. I took this lens (Kodak Kodar 173mm f/7.9) off a damaged Kodak 3A (118 film) and tried it out on my Chamonix 4x5 (No sleeves I'm afraid). Even though 118 film was 3 1/4 x 4 1/4, the lens covers 4x5 at infinity.
Kodak Kodar lens

Re wide angle: As Brooks Jensen said, “You don’t know if you’ve gone far enough unless you’ve gone too far.”

My prewar CZJ Tessar 135/4.5 in an early Compur shutter was always my favorite general purpose lens on my 4x5. I have to get my digital hack back together again (cat, thump, crash, sigh... :)

I look forward to your results.

Hi, Mike I know from the comments that you are receiving a lot of advice. At the risk of being presumptuous, I'll add a bit to the pile, having done a variety of ISO target and practical tests of 40 old and new lenses in the past year, including storied Goerz Dagor and Zeiss Double Protar VIIa optics.

The suggested Schneider Angulon is a nice wide-angle lens for 4x5, but only the 1960 or later models seem to be reliably good - Schneider increased its quality control over time. This is a very small lens.

The more modern Fujinon 75mm/8 and 90mm/8 SW multicoated lenses are sharper and with better contrast overall. Prices are very good.

Even better is the multicoated 90mm/8 Nikkor SW, a small (relatively speaking) superwide lens with excellent resolution and contrast. It uses 67mm filters, but that's smaller than most SW 90s. This one is rightly considered a classic and a little more expensive than the Fujinons.

A 90mm Caltar II N would be a relabeled Rodenstock Grandagon, a very fine lens. Calumet was very good about getting some of the best optics for their rebranded lines. Caltars are starting to become appreciated for their high quality and so they;re appreciating in price commensurately.

On the long end, Caltar II-N and Sironar N are, as you point out, very very good. So is the Fujinon 210/5.6 NW multicoated Plasmat-design lens but it's bigger than one might expect. A 210/9 Schneider G-Claron is definitely smaller but good copies are just as sharp as the Sironar Ns.

One of the nicer aspects of large format is the ability to mix and match cameras and lenses almost without limitation.

Large format is also a thoughtful antithesis and complement to the current run and gun digital styles.

Used a few late series Caltar II's and was surprised at how sharp...especially a 300mm I borrowed for 8X10!

Rodenstock here too. On my (seriously under-used) Canham 4x5 it's a Sironar N 210mm.

I always prefer "wide normal" (40mm-e) or "long normal (60mm-e) over normal-normal, and in large format I ended up with long-normal. Talking of long-normal, I do like the Voigtlander 40mm on my Fujis.

It’s interesting that you chose this focal length, though not the FOV. As a “40” guy I initially found the 150 (I have the Fuji 150/5.6) on 4x5 to be a bit weird. I eventually concluded that it wasn’t so much the actual focal length, but the aspect ratio of 4x5, which is so much different than 35mm. So 135 makes a kind of sense, although I’ve grown very comfortable with the 150.

However, I’ve been going to extremes lately. I traded my 90/8 for my now beloved Rolleiflex and went for the Nikkor 75/4.5, which I absolutely love. I guess that’s not surprising since my favourite wide for 35mm is the Zuiko 21/2. And I have a Fuji 240/9 A on the way, which I have wanted for a long time, ever since Kerry Thalman sent the prices into the stratosphere 🤣

One of the big reasons I pulled the trigger on the 240 (besides the good price on KEH) is that as I age and mobility with a 4x5 kit becomes more problematic, I just want a longer lens to keep me closer to the car, sidewalk, etc. At some point, art (or attempted art) has to become practical.

I have that lens and it's the sharpest 135mm for 4x5 I've owned. One thing to be aware of, though, is that the coverage gets choked off severely if you use 40.5mm filters. It's necessary to employ a step-up ring and larger filters if you're in the habit of using movements requiring nearly the full image circle.

Even that approach imposes some restriction. To maintain the full 200mm image circle, I had S.K. Grimes make a permanent slip over adapter (secured by a set screw) that accepts 52mm filters.

With my first 4x5, I spent over a year with one lens. I got to know the Fuji W 210 f/5.6 quite well and for me it was just about the ideal focal length, sharp with lots of coverage. I believe it actually covered 8x10. I quit 4x5, with some regret (for the camera-not the incredible amount of darkroom work required to make a really good image). At that time I had a lot of beautiful lenses, too many in fact, actually I still have a couple, for which I paid handsomely in the day. I found that unless it involved movements, I could make equally sharp images with a medium format camera that was quite a bit easier to carry around and use. Good luck and have fun.

I bet that will fit fine closed inside your Wista. Great lens, looking forward to your work Mike.

If I had that lens for my 4x5 the first accessory I would buy would be a
40.5mm to 49mm filter step up ring. The larger filter size is common whereas 40.5 is not. Filter step rings are available from vendors on ebay, one of the safe purchases from that platform.

Re Lynn's question:

As Mike said, hmmm. That statement sounds like a distortion of the advice to buy lenses with image circles large enough to cover the next format size up in case you ever wish to switch to that next size up. I disagree with that advice because it just makes the decision overly complicated.

Unlike smaller formats, in large format photography we are able to choose lenses based on two variables: focal length and image circle. Larger image circles enable us to capture large subjects at close range with the camera level, making for some of the most distinctive and memorable photographs of architecture and large natural landscapes.

There's really no mystery to the different image circles available if you refer to the manufacturer's own lens brochures and datasheets. Home-made lists one sees on the internet that bundle all lens brands and types together using only focal length just make it confusing. It doesn't have to be.

The datasheets from Schneider and Rodenstock helpfully list their lenses within the various design group across a series of columns for the various format sizes. These tables make it easy to see how much upwards or sideways shift one can achieve on each format with each lens.

Anyway, for wider wide angles on 4x5 (meaning 90mm and shorter), there is only one game in town: the nearly-symmetrical design that Schneider called Super-Angulon, Nikon called SW (super-wide) and Rodenstock called Grandagon (derived from gon, meaning angle).

The last - and supreme - iteration of this wide angle design was the Super Angulon XL (for extra-large image circle), introduced by Schneider at Photokina in 1994. The XL lenses spray light rearwards at 115 and 120 degrees yet retain excellent image quality to their edges, an extraordinary achievement. The shortest for 4x5, the XL47mm, is e-12mm. The most useful on 4x5 are the XL72mm and XL90mm, offering 50mm and 67mm of rise of the 90mm high horizontal frame.

Architectural photographers working in tight locations are always fighting for larger image circles so they can fit the building in the frame, despite having their back up against a wall.

Mike—I don’t have any trenchant lens info for you. I have a rag-tag collection from 90mm to 300mm, fave being a Schneider 120mm. (I had to go find it to sketch in the brand). I can tell you this, using my 4x5 remains a great joy. And if you’re ever lonely, set it up somewhere and people will talk to you. Can be a challenge to be polite when you’re chasing daylight!

To Lynn's comment, didn't Fred Picker suggest just that? He suggested a 90mm Super Angulon type and a 210mm Symmar class, both of which would cover 5x7.

He was pretty influential back in his day, I even owned (very briefly) one of his Zone VI cameras (4x5 just wasn't my thing) But I did end up owning the equivalents for the 8x10 format.

But how often do we actually use that much movement? I am not sure. And as I took more pictures, that 270 I had for the 8x10, I think that got more use, despite coverage issues. And maybe the 210 Dagor got even more use.

I have a Fuji 125mm 5.6 on my Wista and really like the combination. It adds a lovely depth to the images without being obviously wide angle if that makes sense. Only downside it fits inside the Wista when I fold it up but only if I reverse the lens so the front element points towards the ground glass. So sort of ruins the point of keeping a lens on the camera!

You should have no problem buying an actual threaded step-up ring from 40.5 to whatever? I've seen off-the-shelf 40.5 to 67mm step-ups. I had S.K. Grimes make me actual threaded step-up rings from whatever my Red Dot Artars "fronts" were, to 67mm. Sal mentions he got the "slip-over" model from Grimes, but I didn't think they would hold the weight of a gelatin filter holder.

BTW, I've seem a lot of people on this and other web-sites talk about using glass filters over view camera lenses, and I have to say, from "Day-One" of my career, in 1974, I was taught by large format ad-shooters who specialized in sheet film NEVER to use a glass filter over a view camera lens! When I asked "why", they always said there's something about the lens design or the way it's used that causes the filter to detract from the sharpness.

I was also taught never to use any filter on the back of a wide-angle lens. Whatever minor flaws are in the filter will show as a shadow on the film, as the back of the lens is close to the film. We actually taped gelatin filters on to the back of lenses with black tape for anything normal and beyond.

I remember having an argument with a "photographic educator" (who never did a professional job in his life) back in the 2000's, who was glad digital came along because his architectural pictures were always "soft" and he would be able to shoot digital, sharpen, and correct all the angles. When I looked at his rig, he was using a glass Tiffen over the front of his Nikon 90mm. I told him about what I learned about filters and view camera lenses, and he laughed, refused to believe it, and wouldn't test it. I walked away.

BTW, I did an A/B test back in the 90's using a Hasselblad and my sharp 150mm lens, with a "dyed in the glass" 81A filter, and a Tiffen filter, whose color correction filters were gels glued in between glass (many, many surfaces). Would you be surprised to know that I could physically see the difference in sharpness between the two? Never used another Tiffen color correction filter after that!

The Sironar-N lenses are wonderful general purpose lenses. I don't and didn't have the 135, but I do have the 150 and 210. I do have a Fujinon 135/5.6 which has a bit larger image circle which I required for my architectural photography, and combined it with a Nikkor 90/8 (the only slower, lighter 90 with a larger image circle), a Super-Angulon 58 XL and an Apo-Ronar 240 in my fanny pack 4x5 outfit with an Ikeda 4x5 and Graphmatic holders. The Ikeda is thin enough and the bellows flexible enough to make full use of the 90's and excentrically mounted 58's image circle. Add a lightweight carbon tripod and you're set for almost anything.

But as a basic universal lens, it's hard to fault the 135 S-N.

Re Martin’s comment, I recently bought the CV 20/3.5 and 40/2 - 2nd hand - for my Nikon D750. And have been enjoying trying to get to know them. Not enough time spent yet. They do seem to have some EV variation by aperture and metering mode.
Say, wasn’t there an earlier post by Mike saying he’d bought the CV 40mm? Tried a quick google search on ph, but nuffin. How’s that going Mike?

Oops, I forgot. If you have any series VI filters or hoods at home, a Tiffen 602 adapter will fit your 40.5mm thread.

Personally I think this is a perfect choice for you for so many reasons. My favourites are your preference for rodenstock enlarging lenses and you love for the 40mm. I had this lens and I took my most recognisable photograph with it. Mike I hope you love it, and look forward to reading about it. And seeing what you create.

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