« Sunday Support Group: You Have to Adapt | Main | How Is This Time Different? »

Tuesday, 06 October 2020


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Now all you need is a digital back for it...

Well, well ... maybe something’s in the air? I just finished writing up this ...

I’ve been photographically stagnant for over a year. The physical effects of aging, the psychological and emotional influences of pandemic isolation and other factors have been some of the inputs.

So it was somewhat counterintuitive that I suddenly, and seemingly out of the blue, decided to sell off my Fuji X100F and accompanying wide conversion lens. It’s the easiest of my cameras to use in terms of portability, instant results, yadda yadda. After taking a few snapshots on the weekend at a socially distanced, outdoor gathering with friends, it finally dawned on me that I just didn’t bond with the camera. The X100V would probably be a better choice, but “trading up” wasn’t something I was willing to invest in.

But the ultimate trigger was finding a BGN grade Fujinon 240/9 large format lens on KEH for a price I could afford, and would be significantly less than the trade-in value of my X100F kit. It’s been a bit of a “holy grail” lens for me, but eBay prices for the Fujinon are consistently over $600 plus tax and shipping. And typically one has to interpret descriptions from sellers in Japan that are often suspicious, with inscrutable “ratings” of EXC+++++ - whatever that means. Even with return privilege, it’s a trans-Pacific hassle.

So I’ve started the process with KEH, which surprised me - a lot. Even though my 4x5 Chamonix and carbon fibre tripod kit is light by LF standards, it’s still a lot more to wrangle than a fixed lens digital camera. And for some time I’ve had the subliminal idea of setting up a small studio to do still life (think Weston-ish shots of peppers from my garden) and portraits of friends and family. The Rolleiflex can be my “miniature” backup camera when I can’t be faffed to open up the Chamonix.

I suppose it’s my deep-down love of film and the slower process of 4x5 that finally clicked in my often dense cranium - do what you love, even if you have to adapt.

There aren't that many 'bad' large format lenses, are there?

I happen to like the Nikkor 90mm f8.0. (It is easy to forget Nikon's involvement in high quality medium and large format lens design and manufacture).

Good for you, Mike!!

How about a Symmar? 180 or a 210 will throw a big enough circle for a field camera and in LF land 5.6 is fast enough.
Excellent lens with no bad habits and quite affordable. Skip the APO or S versions and spend the change at the pool hall.
By the way, if you are looking for a project why not do a large format series on empty pool halls?
Go past all the film noir "hustler" cliches and show us why you love them so.
A 4x5 contact print in the middle of an 8x10 is just fine to my thinking or cobble up a copy stand and shoot your negatives on a light box and reverse them in software if you don't have a film scanner big enough.

Got into 4x5 backwards. Noticed a box of photo stuff at a garage sale, for five dollars. The carton contained six 4x5 film holders. So.....how to use them? Cheaply.
Build a camera, repurpose a lens, shoot photo paper as negatives.
The lens is a 130mm f7.7 Kodak Anastigmat from a 1930ish
folder. It will *just* cover 4x5. Great fun, all the darkroom work can be done under safelight and paper is about 25 cents per shot. Either contact print or use my digital camera to convert to something that can be inkjet printed.
Another advantage is that turnaround can be quite quick if you like.

hummmm I suppose this pretty little Wista will stay atop a table, showing her beauty...for long...
(just kidding)

Almost forgot Fujinars mounted on old shanel shutters are pretty, have creamy bokeh and cost little money.

I had 3 lenses when I tried this. An old 90mm Ektar, A Fujinon 150, and a 240 G-Claron.

I liked them all---the 90 was the "weakest", but the one I loved was the Fujinon.

The 8.5 inch Kodak Commercial Ektar has the optical character you want, except those Acme shutters are getting old and need service. Look for a (older, non-S) Scnieider Symmar or Rodenstock Sironar in Copal shutter.

Do you have a formal goal for this experiment?

If so, what is it? And if not, how will you determine the success or failure of your efforts?

Mind you, I'm not being critical -- "just because" works for me! -- merely curious...

I look forward to reading about your adventures in lenses, developing and using your large format camera. I got into 4x5 because of the cool handheld Graphic cameras and Weegee, but I continue because of the smoothness and "roundness" of the images. I have a Graphic and some inexpensive press lenses, but during covid, I broke down and added a Graphic View monorail camera and 180mm Symmar lens, largely because of the styling and red bellows. Now I'm pushing myself to find subject matter where I can exercise the movements. Honestly, every lens I've used, even the $75 Optar WA 90mm lens, looks great when stopped down to f32. Start with something cheap and cheerful like a Xenar 135mm press lens. It has room for movements if you are doing tabletop close ups.


Mike, only really 2 focal legths to worry about with 4x5 — 120mm for pictures ABOUT things ( undistorted context) or 210mm for pictures OF things (isolated portraits if you will).
Should the latter be your preference then you could do worse than an older Rodenstock Imagon without the perforated aperture inserts and shot wide open which yields a very distinctive glowing wall-to-wall Bokeh of back- or side-lit motifs given the creamy tonality of the negative real estate ...... especially when contact printed, Walter

Kodak Ektar 127mm f4.5. It was intended for 3x4 but covers 4x5 well enough that I used it for architecture. Nice focal length, small size, great color rendering, lots of character, and they're actually pretty cheap. My all time favorite for large format.

My return to the view camera when I was 78 years old-

My first view camera was a 5x7 Deardorff, that I had when I was 17.

While my wife was doing a zone system class a classmate offered me a loan of an beaten up Toyo Metal view camera and a old Schneider 135mm lens. I had no experience with using a 4X5 and little knowledge of zone system. The first photograph I took with this camera set me on the path of 30 year love of photography. Here is that photograph (the first on on this website - Foxtails,Pescadero) https://www.haddowphoto.com/california.html

I did eventually move from a 4X5 to something smaller but every now and then think about going back.

This was my first (on 5x7). I truly miss using that camera and shooting film. As much as I relish doing it again, I remember hours of developing and scanning which I didn't really enjoy and don't really fit in my life at this point. But I was happier interacting with people when I had the camera.

I still like this picture a lot.


Zeiss 135 3.5 Planar - just a little stopped down, the most gorgeous lens I've ever used. Deeply miss FP3000 instant peel-apart film, partnered with this lens made for amazing people shots.

Not much room for movements, but I don't fiddle with movements much, so who cares!

I would second Commercial Ektars (Both regular & wide field) though it is hard to find ones without cleaning marks--but even those are good. and of course older Series III Dagors. They both have the Look you want. Older convertible Symmars work too.
Or you could go old school and get a Zeiss Protar, about the size of a 50 Cent piece with great coverage.
I have a Wollensak Extreme WA (about 3 1/2" which is just a nice wide field one 4x5) I think it is f/12.5, Alphax Shutter

The nice part about 4x5 is that you can make contact prints.
You can also scan and print digitally.
Any modern flatbed scanner with a transparency adapter that can accommodate 4x5 will produce great results. (Get Vue Scan)

Modern VC lenses will have the super sharpness you don't want.

Non coated lenses will act to reduce contrast on sunny days which you can control to some degree with a flag (dark slide)

Wista and several other companies made clip on 5x7 extender backs.
A bit of a kluge but 5x7 makes a beautiful contact print size.
They are sometimes available very cheaply. If You can find a used 5x7 reversible back, you or a local woodworker can make the adapter quite easily.
Good luck

In your lens search, seek lenses small enough to be stowed inside the folded camera. While it's not a big deal to mount and un-mount larger lenses, it is nicer to have something that is ready as soon as you open the camera.

Good for you Mike. I went through a major largeformatitis phase in 2018-19. It turns out that what I wanted was camera movements, not film. It wasn't for me anymore, but it might be exactly right for you.

All the lenses from the majors are good, but if you want excellent but economical lenses, I highly recommend Fujinon-W. They're often inexpensive, and the quality is top notch. The 125mm f/5.6 is small, sharp, and a bit on the wide side. I bought all my Fujinon-W lenses from eBay in Japan, where they are plentiful. The -CW versions cost more, but optics are the same (so the -W lenses are just fine).

You're going to need to develop your film, and I can highly recommend a nifty daylight tank: the Stearman Press Revision 4 SP-445. It works a treat. All you need is a change bag and a sink. Watch the videos to learn the importance of squeeze the sides of the tank before you put the top on!

Jeez! Well I really hope you have some fun with that big ol’ 19th century lumberyard of a camera, Mike. Really. I’ve always wanted to try one, but never enough to actually buy one. (My motto: never buy a camera that might catch fire.). How in the world are you going to process that film?

I’m certainly guilty of indulging photographic whims, and this pandemic hasn’t helped. This spring/summer I went way, way out on a toot. After selling lots of gear I turned around and bought Hasselblad’s XCD system. The -whole- system, the X1D2 camera, the 907x, the CFV II-50C, and every lens, Crazy, eh? (It’s definitely a smooth, unique system...like a big Leica.)

So I certainly understand and condone self-indulgence!

I’m eager to see some of your images from the lumberyard!

The first 20-ish years of personal photography for me was done with a Toyo 45A field camera and my normal lens for it was a Nikon 180mm f5.6 lens. 210mm always seemed too tight to me, but the Nikon lens was just right. That lens was plenty sharp, but had a nice rendering quality. I never felt the need to use anything else. The other lenses I used were a Fuji 75mm f5.6, a Fuji 90mm f8, and a Fuji 250mm f6.7. The Fuji lenses were very nice as well and I used the 250mm as a medium wide-angle for the 8x10 I had for a while. All that equipment is long gone, and I occasionally miss it, but the price of 4x5 film is kind of scary now. Good luck!

Waiting for the print sale of your best effort!

Hey, Mike. I recently began my own search for 4x5 lenses with "character,'' specifically in search of one to duplicate the wonderful look of the Planar on my 60-year old Rolleiflex. To date, I have found two that I like, a 210 mm Jena Tessar f6.3 (East German Zeiss before unification). The other is a 180mm Jena Tessar f4.5. Both are in older shutters with absolutely round apertures for lovely out of focus areas. Unfortunately, I don't have a darkroom, either, but have developed a workflow based on self-developing 4x5 in tanks in my kitchen, then scanning. When I want to print, I do so digitally. (Purest will cringe, but fortunately, I ain't one of those. "Needs must," as they say in British movies.) Have fun with it!

Get a 3A Autographic Kodak or 3A Special Kodak with Kodamatic shutter and f/6.3 Kodak Anastigmat lens. If the bellows is shot, it should be cheap if you're persistent. Kodamatic shutters are tanks, and it's a perfectly nice old lens. Will cover 4x5 just fine.

The older 3A's with Wollensak Optimo shutter can also have fine old lenses. Optimo shutter is pretty reliable.

Congrats! I agree with Walter about the two focal lengths - but lens choice depends on if you plan to use a lot of camera adjustment. A 100 Wide Field Ektar would be great for straight-on shots, but the 135 would allow some camera movements. Most modern wide angles are still pretty expensive, if in good condition, but there seem to be a number of cheap 90mm f8 Super Angulons out there (just don't get the 00 size shutter). 200 to 215mm is great too, with lots of vintage options to pick from. Two of my old favorites were the 210 f6.3 Tessar and the more modern 210 f5.6 Fujinon-L. I have been testing some c.1920-40's lenses (Amatar, Dagor, Plasmat, Tessar) on digital with nice results. Sharpness is very good, as is color, its the contrast that needs tweaking. You also might consider scanning the 4x5 and printing a larger size negative on transparency film to contact print. Works well for platinum/palladium prints and no big enlarger needed.

Truly loved Kenneth's photographs. My kind of stuff! My part of America! Thanks for sharing it.

I often use a Kodak Ektar 127mm from a Speed Graphic on my 4x5 camera. I don’t have the Speed Graphic any more, but I kept the lens because I like the look and it’s beautifully small and light. Not much coverage mind if you’re planning majestic tree trunks, perfectly vertical shot from below, ten yards away.

I shot a lot of 4x5 for many years. Mostly color transparencies.

Small sample here: https://www.mikepeters-photography.com/Category/4x5-Portraits-1979-2000/

My favorite lenses were the Rodenstock Sironar line, not the APO's though as they were too sharp. Calumet used Rodenstock Caltar's as their own branded Caltar and Caltar II lenses. They were very affordable and had very neutral color and contrast characteristics. Highly recommended. If you want just one, get the 150.

I regret having sold my last camera, a Calumet Ultralight 4x5, it was a great solid camera, and even better with a fresnel installed. I also had a Wista back in the 80's, but again sold it when I needed a studio monorail camera. Regret selling that too.

Oh well. Have fun!

Don't worry about your lack of developing equipment. You don't need much for sheet film. Yes, you could go whole hog and get one of those Jobo roller machines or tanks and hangers, but you don't need the fancy stuff. Keep it simple.
Use ordinary print developing trays.

Most recommendations when I was getting into 4x5 sheet film developing called for 8x10 print trays. But I thought that was awkward and ended up using 5x7 print trays for 4x5 film, and never had a problem with that as long as I used enough developer for the number of films. Also, most recommendations are to develop emulsion side up to avoid scratching, but I found that caused scratching and switched to emulsion side down.

Anyway, good luck. My learning curve for large format was long and I made lots of mistakes, but it was worthwhile. The thing was that in those days (before digital got really good) if you wanted superior image quality in terms of low grain, high resolution, fine detail, smooth tonality, large prints, and the benefits of camera movements, you had to use a view camera. Now we can do it all with digital, and it's so much easier. And lighter, faster, and cheaper.

I really like Kenneth's photographs. I agree that he has a knack for getting people to cooperate, though I suspect that some of that can be attributed so showing up with a very old fashioned looking huge camera--they intrigue people. I find that happens when I shoot with my Rolleiflex. While I like the people photos, I also really like some of the ones without people. All summer I've been trying to figure out how to take a compelling photo of a corn field (pandemic available subject, ya know), and Kenneth has just nailed it! Also like the yard sale/Marilyn Monroe photo. Great work and inspiring!


After you get some nice negatives from the Wista Field LF camera, you will set up the darkroom next, no? See, you have found the solution to a seemingly boring winter ahead.

I am struggling with French lessons, a language which is more complicated than English. Maybe that is one reason why the British won at the Battles of Waterloo and Trafalgar.

Dan K.

"So look what I got:"

Nothing whatsoever to do with LF.
Speaking of lenses with unique rendering:

[I love that lens...did you get one? --Mike]

Mike, you have talked about a 35mm lens being your "home" focal length in 35mm land. Trouble is, a 120mm LF lens always seemS to be a large, Biogon type. How about a Fuji 125/5.6? The Fujis were always a bit on the smaller side compared to the Schneiders and Rodenstocks and were/are super performers. I doubt the Wista would close up on it, but you are going to have so much gear (tripod, light meter etc.) that carrying the lens separately is not too much of a bother. If I recall, the Caltar II-N's were off brand Rodenstocks. There are a 125mm Fuji and a 135mm Caltar at KEH right now for what seem like reasonable prices.


If you can live with single (and soft) coated lenses, I always loved the Kodak Ektars. The 127 is _tiny_ (originally designed to fold up in a Speed Graphic). It doesn't give you a ton of movement on 4x5, but I always liked mine a lot. I tend to make pictures of people though, and so didn't twist my view cameras into pretzel-y shapes in actual use. If you want to try one out, I'd loan you one for the winter. Downsides: Series filters and an older, if reliable, Kodak shutter.

In sum: choose a focal length that "sees" the way you do in terms of angle of view. Your post inspired me. I think I got to get out a couple of the toys to play.

[Off topic: My summer project involved building two 4x8 foot theater "flats" that I could set up at an angle in my backyard for an outdoor, fair weather somewhat portable (lug-able or drag-able, maybe?)studio. I was going to have all manner of friends and acquaintances come and sit for portraits this summer, with food thrown in. Sadly, Covid-19 put paid to all those plans. BUT! I took pictures of some friends and their one-year old this weekend. What a joy to engage like that again (even if socially distanced)! In that spirit, I applaud your large format impulse -- you have to make sure to feed the things you value, particularly during troubled times.] BRAVO!


Great move Mike. I was close to selling off my Toyo Field 4x5 and three lenses (all Nikon 90mm/150mm/210mm) when I discovered this Melbourne based group about three years ago http://friendsopg.org/ https://www.facebook.com/friendsofphotographygroup/. It got me shooting LF film again (usually with a 6x12cm roll film back but also 5x4 sheet film). The discipline and technique required with LF film really does make you look harder and more intently at the world around you. The lens I use the most is the 90mm, but then I mainly shoot landscapes - but I also use the same lens close for detail work. Cheers Keith Mallett.

PS. This may also be of interest https://viewcameraaustralia.org/

As a life time sheet film professional, I've never seen view camera lenses cheaper than they are now! Most of the studios I worked at back in the dawn of time, had very sharp Schneider's that were "pandas" i.e silver fronts, black backs. You can buy these really cheap now. Later Schneiders? Not so good until maybe the late 90's.

I used to use a single-coated "panda" Schneider 90mmm f/8 for architecture, and I've never had a sharper lens, not even the beloved Nikon 90mm f/8!

People forget the rise of Nikon view camera lenses, most of which were wonderful, was predicate on the fact that in the 70's and later, Schneiders seems to go off the rails. We wouldn't buy one from our "pro" dealers unless we could test them, which you could do back in the day, and many Schneiders were nowhere near as good as the Nikons! Rondenstock fans? Sorry, back in the 70's and 80's we considered the Rodenstocks primary use to be as a door stop! I've seen 4X5 transparencies shot with Rodenstocks that you could see color fringing around objects with the naked eye on a light table!

The only Nikon I ever had a problem with was the 450mm M I bought to replace a 19 inch Red Dot Artar, and it was no where near as sharp as that Artar, and in fact, was "fuzzy" close up (of course, the Red Dot was "set" for close up, and the Nikon was "set" for infinity). Since I used virtually all my lenses "close-up", this is why I started collecting Red Dot Artars, and now own every one between 8.25 and 12 inch, in Compur Shutters! BTW, I never owned a sharper 300mm than the Niokn M, close up, far away, whatever, so go figure!

Fuji fans? Sorry, I actually bought into Fuji in the late 70's and 80's and never had a sharp one, especially the wide angles! I still have a 240 A, and it's OK, but not "stunning", like everyone always says it is. It does cover 8X10,, tho, but I have a single-coated 240mm Schneider "panda" from the 60's which is better!

Someone mentioned an Ektar 127mm? Fantastic! I owned one, had the Supermatic shutter rebuilt to near perfect, BUT, after a while, it was just a hassle to use an older bi-pole shutter, and try to get gel filters on the tiny front. Sold it sadly, but if you could find one mint and didn't care about the stuff I did, you won't be disappointed! I consider the 125mm/127mm size for 4X5 to be one of my favorite. Fuji is the only company that made a 125mm for the format, so reasonably sized, but had such disappointing results with Fuji, I wouldn't take the chance when they came out!

By the 90's, all these lenses may have been better, especially the Germans, but since you're buying used and not knowing what actual years your going to get, I would stick with clean looking used Nikons, you can't really go wrong if they were taken care of!

One thing to remember when you are using 4X5 "self-casing" view cameras (the preferred term). Most are built to remain small, so they only have "double bellows", which for that size means 12 inches. In the 4X5 format, if you're taking a portrait and want the compression of an 85mm lens on 35mm, your going to have to use a 300mm, AND will need "triple bellows" of around 18 inches to focus it! One of the reasons I always wanted to buy the "Walker" Titan. Too much for me now!

Maybe I've been reading the site for too long, but this just seems like the right move for you. If you find a lens, I have an unopened box of Polaroid Type 55 and a couple of Polaroid 545 backs I'd be happy to send you. As a stop gap until you get developing equipment, and a thank you for the columns. It's not much -- and while the film has been legitimately refrigerated since I bought it in 2007 -- it may not work. But...what do you think?

My father was an Army Air Force photographer during WWII. He mainly used Speed Graphic cameras, and at least one of those was in our home when I was young. On vacation a few years ago I saw a nice Crown Graphic in an Arizona antique store, in seemingly good condition, and bought it, an impulse purchase to reconnect my father and me with our family's photographic past.

Later on that trip I found myself in Monument Camera in Tucson and bought what else I needed to use that Crown Graphic to produce some negatives, thinking I'd then use my scanner, computer and printer to turn those into prints. It seemed a great idea. But once the excitement wore off the difficulties of large format film photography got the best of me and I never followed through.

But that Crown Graphic sits on a shelf behind me as I write, along with a photo of my father and his WWII Speed Graphic. And some of his other cameras, various Rolleis in particular, including a Rolleicord that provided my first real experience with a camera. Even though I haven't used the Crown to produce a photograph I'm glad I have it. My father is now gone but the artifacts of his photographic life have a lot of meaning even if they're no longer used. Those cameras, and my father, got me started.

@Gordon Haddow

VERY well done

Thank you

Someone already mentioned the 120mm & 210mm focal lengths
I used those for years, but if you like 120 which is 32mm Eq on 24x36, Schneider made a beautiful small Angulon in 90, 120, and I believe 210.
A 120 mm Angulon f/6.8 is a lovely small lens which will cover 5x7.
There are a bunch on eBay including a nice older one in a German Compur for $125 bucks

I can't believe I'm reading this today. Last night I had a dream that for some unknown reason that I went out and purchased a LF camera. Like many things in dreams, it wasn't a specific LF camera, but it was one. I happened to view a couple of Ansel photos earlier in the day, so maybe that's why. In any event I enjoyed your first photo Mike, and also Kenneth Wajda's photos. While cliche, they truly all have a reach-out-and-touch-me tree-dinmensional character to them that I don't often see in digital or even smaller film cameras. There is also that feeling they could have be taken any time in the last 60 years. Lastly, I don't know if it's true, but there is a sense that LF cameras are more an American tradition than elsewhere. Perhaps that owes to the greater number of wide-open spaces in the U.S. where the f64 crowd understandably made their reputation. In any event, this has resonated with me, but I'm so far resisting the urge ... I think ...

During 1943-44, when I was a freelance photographer for a weekly paper in Detroit, I used a 5x7 Deardorff, using open flash, for the newspaper photos. The 5x7 size film allowed me to make contact prints in my home darkroom.

My personal choice of lenses for 4x5 view cameras is 120mm, my Schneider 120mm ƒ5.6 Symmar is relatively small and light. I used a 120mm lens for about 80% of my landscape photography. It also comes quite close to a 35mm lens on a 35mm film camera although the aspect ratio is different 4:5 vs 3:2. Looking at the frame horizontally from side to side the 120mm and 35mm are close in perspective but from top to bottom the 120mm lens is more like a 28mm lens.

The other lenses I like to use is a Fuji 180mmƒ9, (like a 50mm lens on a 35mm film camera) which is very small and compact, and a Schneider G Claron 270 ƒ9, which is quite compact for a lens of that size, the 270mm is more like a 75mm on a 35mm film camera, enough of a telephoto for me, It also cover 8x10. I have used a 300mm Scheider Symmar ƒ5.6, but it's a big heavy lens, too big for the front standard of most 4x5 field cameras.

I have also enjoyed composing in 4:5 format, it seems so natural at least for landscapes as the natural elements of earth seem to just fall in place naturally. I find it a little challenging using full-frame digital cameras with their 4:5 aspect ratio, I have found my own workaround for my way of seeing composition as I tend to see things in 4:5 ratio.

I laughed about your plan B.
A 4x5 shelf queen?
I had a client who bought an old studio camera,
it is extended on the floor with a glass plate on top.
Makes a great coffee table in his office and a good conversation starter.
Looking forward to seeing the results

Large format fans can become a bit intense about their optics. Over the past year, I've done some approximate tests of several dozen classic and modern large format lenses and formed a few opinions that have at least some data behind them.

Among modern large format lenses from Schneider, Rodenstock-Calter, Nikon, and Fujinon, there are virtually no bad models. They're all good and most are diffraction-limited at the normal f16-f22 large format working apertures.

Older classic lenses are quite variable. Among the classic lenses, the most reliable are probably the Post-WWII Kodak Ektars and Goerz American Optical Company Dagor and Red Dot Artar lenses. Assuming a working shutter with a recent clean-lube-adjust and no visible damage, these should be among the most satisfactory classic lenses. Later factory-coated Ektars, Dagors and Artars are likely best as those classic designs were supposedly recomputed using modern glass.

Protar VIIa lenses were also among the more decent classics, but my sense was that post-WWII factory-coated Ektars, Artars, and Dagors were better.

However, in terms of modern "clinical" sharpness and good contrast, the later "outside writing" Fujinon W lenses are excellent and cover well, but so do most others.

The Fujinons are undervalued and I've gotten some really excellent ones out of Japan for quite low cost. I have dealt with many Japanese sellers through EBay and all have been honest and, if anything, under-rated condition of the lens.

Unless you need the widest possible coverage, the later multicoated (EBC) Fujinons with the writing on the outside of the lens barrel, seem best and don't cost any more.

The 125mm/5.6 W Fujinon mentioned by others is a great 4x5 lens and nearly covers 5x7. The later models use 52mm or 55mm filters. Similarly, the 150mm W and 210mm Fujinon W lenses have been very satisfactory lenses. Most likely the longest standard lens that you'll be able to use on the Wista will be about 250mm and in that range, an early Fujinon 250mm/6.7 would work well, as would a 240mm Schneider G-Claron.

Similarly, the Nikon superwide angle lenses are very well-regarded, especially the 90/8.

Most recent Copal shutters used only five aperture blades and may not give you a desired sort of bokeh.

The fairly common and affordable Kodak 203mm/f7.7 Ektar, factory-coated, is always a favorite and optically excellent, although most Kodak Supermatic shutters really do need a good CLA. The Kodak 203/7.7 versions made in England in a Compur or Prontor shutter are at least as good. This lens was reputedly a favorite of Ansel Adams on 4x5, was very light and compact.

Mike, I am not making this up. When I executed a Google search today for TOP, there was a random TOP image that caught my eye mid screen. When I followed it back I came upon this webpage: https://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2011/01/the-single-use-device.html There, I found your new resolution posted: "...my New Year's resolution this year: 50 sheets of WP film in '11." I was seriously considering emailing you about this and then I encountered your latest posting and learn you've already gotten yourself another new view camera. Nice coincidence! I'm looking forward to some view camera related stories coming from this.

BTW, Mike Peters, I looked at your stuff and like it a lot. Love it when people work on 4X5 for portraiture! Reminds me a lot of Jennifer Greenburg's Rockabilly photographs, all taken on 4X5 in Chicago:


Just a few observations:

Back in the '90's, I helped curate a series of photographs someone did from the 30's to the 80's. It was a local person who was quite a political player back in the 40's and 50's, and he considered himself a photographer. He started out shooting pics in the 30's with a sheet film folding Voigtlander, and then slowly went through 120 and then 35mm as he aged. Whether he spent more time taking the sheet film pics, or they were easier to "self-edit"; almost all the sheet film stuff he had was saved for the collection and fabulous! By the time we were identifying pictures to investigate and were going through the 120 and 35mm, we'd be lucky to select maybe one a contact sheet, and most of the 35mm's were "toss aways", probably because he had so many pics on a roll, he was just blasting anything!

When I was mentoring kids in college classes about photography, I always told them they could have a wonderful hobby in photography just shooting with a twin-lens, a tripod, a light meter, and a 120 roll developing tank. Making people sit and pose for photos, and working with the one lens you had, could really be rewarding. Ditto for 4X5. Plus, since I started in the old studio system, I can tray process 4X5 film in a 5X7 tray, probably 4-6 sheets at a time, and no damage! You wouldn't even have to own a tank!

I was busy for a day and you post this!

I'm gladdened that my earlier urgings to get back into 4x5 made an impression on you. It's for your own good!

I really do hope you enjoy this adventure.

My biggest recommendation is to buy a reflex viewer such as the copy of the Cambo T-20 made by Shen-Hao to fit Wista.

A reflex viewer will radically upgrade your 4x5 experience: It frees you from struggling with a loupe against the ground-glass under a clumsy dark-cloth AND allows you to use the camera at a lower, more comfortable height AND rights the inverted image. I can even focus reliably using just the inbuilt 2x magnifier, despite wearing glasses.

Here's a sampling of my 4x5 from Morocco, Tunisia and Iran:

But this one goes up to 23: "Camera In Camera" https://placesjournal.org/article/camera-in-camera-the-photography-of-abelardo-morell?cn-reloaded=1

"Abelardo Morell's Camera Obscura photographs are enchanting and also disorienting, as the spectacle of public life is overlaid upon the realm of private experience, and the two are shown to be inextricably linked." Lens unspecified.

Sample image: https://placesjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Campbell-Camera-4-1020x764.jpg

Photographer's site: https://www.abelardomorell.net/project/camera-obscura/

You're too young for impulse buying, Mike. It's the legitimate province of the elderly still clinging on and trying to reinvent the past. I know this, because yesterday morning I picked up my brand new Nikkor 1.8/85mm G.

A week or two ago I knew there was no way I would spend money buying more glass that would probably join the ranks of the other unused superannuated junk in the cabinet. I'm just as sure I won't be rash enough to get the D780 that formed part of my recent little lust group.

I had to live beside LF equipment when I was an employed photographer: I hated it because it represented the wrong kind of work, Avedon et al. notwithstanding.

Print look. Yes, you do get less grain with LF formats, no question, but even more important is the printer's ability to print. That you can't buy off any shelf unless you are buying the printer himself at the same time.

I've written this before - possibly here - but there certainly is a difference in look between lens manufacturers. Now whether that's a difference visible to someone who has not been doing the printing is something else. Prints from my last employer's Leica 21mm (can't recall which version - that was back in '65!) were an example, but printing his negs from 4x5 through Nikon and Mamiya, using exactly the same papers and chemicals, those Leica negs gave me something else. No, I wasn't a fanboy; don't think many of us were back then. It was just what it was with that 21mm.

It's my belief (experience x1) that the more unwieldy the equipment, the less likely that it gets put to use. I own a massive Gitzo. Beside it lives a light Slik. The Gitzo is covered in dust, despite being a far more expensive and better tool for holding cameras steady.

I hope your energy level is far higher than is mine!

Good luck!

Beautiful camera, Mike! When I moved on to a more versatile 4x5, I couldn't part with my Wista 4x5 because it was the first LF camera I owned. You don't mention what focal lengths you're looking for, but this is what I bought for mine:

* Fuji Fujinon-W 125/5.6 (inside writing)
* Fuji Fujinon-W 150/6.3 (inside writing)
* Calumet Caltar II-E 210/6.8 (you might opt for the Rodenstock version)

All are sharp enough and all three could probably be bought for $300 - $400.

Boston MFA had a Weston show back in the 90s with a full sized replica of his darkroom. It was basically some trays, chemicals in jars and a notebook full of formulas, a glass contact printer and a bare light bulb on a string. Extraordinary humbling, and a reminder that there is no substitute for believing in yourself. Now, with YouTube, we can all see it:
Good luck and enjoy the jump start Mike- I can relate.

I second the recommendation of the 210mm f/5.6 Fujinon L, a Tessar type. Not clinical, but sharp enough.

A similar alternative would be a 210mm f/6.1 Schneider Xenar or the equivalent 210mm f/6.1 Caltar Pro. The Caltar will be cheaper. There is also a 150mm version of the Xenar/Caltar Pro. I had one of these until the shutter went bad. I picked up a 210 Fujinon L for less than the cost of a shutter repair.

Both the Fujinon L and Xenar/Caltar are single coated. They come in a Copal No. 1 shutter.

If you want a semi-wide lens, I suggest a 125mm f/5.6 Fujinon. It is small, covers 4x5 with a bit of movement, and is available in single or EBC multicoating. The single coated "W" version will have the lettering on the front ring around the outer lens element. The "W" version has a larger image circle than the "NW" version, which is EBC multicoated. The "NW" will, inexplicably, be marked "W" on the outside of the lens barrel. I guess the boxes and literature were marked "NW." These lenses come in a No. 0 shutter.

I have too many lenses, but the 210 Fujinon L and the 125mm Fujinon NW are probably my most used 4x5 lenses.

LOL Mike, any relationship between this and maybe getting rid of your tube amps and whatnot stereo equipment from the '70s is purely coincidental.

For a number of years, I only had one lens, a spectacular SCHNEIDER 210MM F/5.6 SYMMAR-S COPAL I used on my Cambo 4x5, shooting mostly landscapes. I have scanned the results I like best; they are at https://largeformatfilm.blogspot.com/.
Now I only shoot digital, but I still sometimes wish for a darkroom!
Good luck, Michael.

"[I love that lens...did you get one? --Mike]"

That pic is of the box the like new one I now have came in. Now comparing its special 3D rendering to other lenses.


Congrats. It's a special one. Stopped down a bit and with careful technique it will reward you. --Mike]

Congratulations! Good for more than a couple of reasons..in addition to everything you mentioned, photographing with a view camera today provides a level of "forms/seeing discipline" that helps all other seeing. As a fluid, 4x5/5x7/8x10 B&W photographer before the digital Tsunami, I kept my 5x7 and still use it today along side my digital gear. There is nothing like having to sloooww down, see the forms, feel the composition before taking the picture to help strengthen photographic seeing. Make sure you have good magnifying eyeglasses!

regarding lenses, I would suspect that a 135mm for your 4x5 is a good start - fits your 42mm on 35mm perfect lens vision. For me, 305 on 5x7 is the ticket...

you can tray develop film in a jiffy and scan..

Best of luck in your endeavor.


Some great advice already.

Go your own advice, Mike. I quote you to others all the time.

One lens

One film

One developer

Contact print

A goal each week of ??? many contact prints

I find two exposures a day a huge ask. One? Or say four to ten each week.

Oh, only one shot per composition helped me. No back ups.

If you recon 35mm in 35mm then a 120- 135mm lens is your best guess.

I’d go small light weight sharp and decent image circle. Fujion, Schneider or Rodenstock. My personal preference has always been Schneider. Perhaps the Kodak one everyone mentions might be your cuppa tea.

For me sharpness and image circle with movements were part of my large format love. Others it’s swirly bokeh and soft lenses. Only you can answer that one.

Me I love 150 or 180mm but my preference is always 50 or 55mm on 35mm

This is exciting news. I hope you pull off a year at least with it. It took me ten to get my head around it fully.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007