Which Portrait lens with Toyo 4x5 field

HenriLon

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Hi,

After successfully started my journey in LF photography I want to take portrait photography.
Mixing all my researches, I'm almost ready to order my new lens but I want to have your advice on it based on the above criteria:
  • The lens has to work on a toyo 4x5 field without the use of extension.
  • Sharp.
  • A bonus would be a compatibility with 8x10 LF camera.
Saying that, my ideal portrait lens would be between a 240m - 270mm Schneider, Fuji, Rodenstock, Nikon.

Here is my list of lenses I found:
  1. Schneider Tele-Arton 270mm f5.5 Multicoating Lens Copal No.1
  2. Fujifilm Fujinon W 250mm F6.3 Large format Lens Copal No1
  3. Rodenstock 240mm f/5.6 Sironar-N MC in Copal 3 Shutter AS-IS
  4. Rodenstock Apo-Ronar f9 240mm (can't find a lens on eBay)
  5. Nikon NIKKOR-W 240mm f/5.6 COPAL No.3
Which one would you recommand based on my above criteria?

I very much like the Schneider Tele-Arton but looks like it is only working and compatible with 4x5 inch LF.
The Fujifilm would be my second choice because at decent price, good aperture, followed by the Rodenstock and the one I wouldn't take would be the Nikon due to a lot of comments I found about sharpness and quality.

Thank you for your advice.
Henri
 
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Ian Grant

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Missing from your list is the 240mm Symmar S an excellent range of lenses.

I bought a Nikkor W 240mm a few years ago mainly because of the price (it was cheap) there was a slight ding in the filter thread area easily fixed. I've only started using it this year but it's superb. I use it for 5x4, on my 7x5 as a long standard, and also as a slight WA on my 10x8 cameras. It's on a Linhof/Wista lens board and I've made adapter lens boards for my Kodak Specialist 2 (half plate/7x5) and Agfa Ansco 10x8 cameras to take the Linhof/Wista boards.

A downside might be the Copal #3 shutter's top speed is 1/125. You might also think about a 210mm,a the Rodenstock Geronar 210mm f6.8 was sold as a modern MC Cooke triplet type portrait lens, softer at wider apertures but as sharp as any other lens at f22 for critical work, they were budget lenses so inexpensive.

I'm not sure there's any benefits from the 270mm Tele-Arton, it'd be no cheaper than a 240mm that can also be used on a 10x8 camera.

Ian
 

HenriLon

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Thank you Ian for sharing those precious information.
The 210 won't be very different from the 150mm I have and I love my 85mm lens on my 35mm camera for portrait. I'd like to find a similar rendering and depth of field with a my LF :)

Henri
 

David M

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The Copal 3 shutter is very much bigger and heavier and the lens cells are generally heavier too. It seems sensible to check how comfortably they work for you on your 5x4 camera.
You will certainly need to check that you have ample bellows extension, not just for the pictures you contemplate now, but for what you might do in the future. A close head shot might need a lot of extension. Despite what you say now, you might find you need some kind of extension. A stretched bellows can subtly alter the lens-to-film distance as you divert your attention to loading the dark slide. (How do I know this?)
The tele options avoid this. They will cause the image to move if you use swing or tilt, but this is no worse than when using base tilts (or a top hat). But are there any tele lenses that will work on 10x8 and 5x4? You might have to settle for most of your ambitions, rather than all of them.
There will be a difference between f5.6 and and f9 on the viewing screen.
May I ask why you hope that a 5x4 camera will reproduce the effect of your 85mm lens? There will inevitably be differences – less grain, greater detail, smoother gradation, different out-of-focus effects and less depth of field. More subtly, but nevertheless real, the effect of a view camera on the subject will change the nature of the images you make. For some, the different proportions of the formats have an effect on their composition of the image.
When you've settled on a lens, it's probable that your choice of film, processing and printing, as well as your own individual style will have much more effect on your images that the slight differences between individual lenses. I hope so, anyway.
 

Ian Grant

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I don't think a 240mm Nikkor/Symmar/Sironar will be an issue on a Toyo Field camera which is more robust that my Wista 45DX particularly front standard stability and I have no problems with my 240mm Nikkor W on it. It focusses to approx 42"/106cm on a normal flat lens board, the Toyo field cameras have a fraction more extension than my Wista (324mm as opposed to 300mm). My estimate is a head and shoulders portrait would need about 9"-10"/23cm-25.5cm extension which keeps a camera nicely balanced.

Even using a telephoto you'll need to use quite a bit of extension for a head and shoulders portrait, by nature of their design Telephoto lenses don't focus that close, so while the 270mm Tele-Arton has a flange focal distance of 152mm at Infinity it needs more extension for a head and shoulders portrait probably around the same as a standard 240mm and you'll have lost the benefits.

If you were closer I'd suggest coming and trying my 240mm.

Ian
 

Alan Clark

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... and I love my 85mm lens on my 35mm camera for portrait. I'd like to find a similar rendering and depth of field with a my LF :)

Henri
Hello Henri,
I have to agree with David M who said there will be big differences in the final print between 35mm and 5x4 formats. Take a look at the environmental portraits by Chris Killip, done with a 5x4, and compare their overall appearance to the environmental portraits done by James Ravilious with a 35mm camera Neither is better than the other. But their tonalities and overall look are like chalk and cheese. (So is the subject matter but that is isn't what I'm talking about. )
Regarding focal length, you seem keen on the equivalent of an 85mm on 35mm format. But it always amazes me that wondereful portraiture has been done with a whole range of focal lengths. I have a superb book; Vanishing Ireland. Photographs by Richard Fitzgerald. He used a 35mm camera and 24mm, 85mm and 105mm lenses to photograph the rural communities of the West of Ireland. James Ravilious did his informal portraiture with 35mm and 50mm lenses. Jane Bown is famous for her 85mm lens. That's a big range. I have the feeling that focal length choice may not be the most important thing at work here.
You say you have a 150mm lens for your 5x4 camera. I wonder what this isn't giving you that you think you will get from a longer lens.

Alan
 

Ian Grant

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Personally I've chose a 210mm f6.8 Geronar my main portrait lens, but that's for closer work. With my Mamiya 645 cameras I often shoot with a 45mm particularly for environmental portraits, and I've used my 90mm Grandagon in the same way with 5x4. However that's just one way of working and sometimes a normal or longer than normal FL is better, I use a 105mm on a Spotmatic but actually an 85mm would be enough (I have used one in the past).

If we look at specifically at "Portrait" lenses made and sold for 5x4 they tend to be in the 210mm to 270mm range in terms of FL. The only current lens of this type is the Cooke Portrait PS945 lens which is 229mm. The Pinkham Smith Portrait lens for 5x4 was 9" (230mm).

One factor not discussed is the effect of the distance of the lens from the person sitting for the portrait and distortion. An example exploiting distortion to the maximum are the Bill Brandt nudes shot with a WA lens. It's generally accepted that there's a degree of distortion with close portraits with a standard lens in any format which is why we have the so called Portrait lens focal lengths, generally in the 75mm to 90mm rage for 35mm cameras, 110mm to 150mm for MF, and 210mm to 270mm for 5x4. One lcatalogue suggests 10" to 12" for distortion free portraits on 5x4, but a 240mm is not far off and also close to Cooke's 229mm choice.

When comparing it's more important to look at the range of focal lengths used for the same format, in our case here 5x4. We make do with the lenses we own but they might not be ideal in some circumstances.

Ian
 

David M

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Ian is right. At close distances, the nose is significantly nearer to the lens than the rest of the face and is rendered as larger than we like. The ears may be noticeably smaller. We don't find this objectionable with close-ups of flowers, but the human face is a special case for human observers. Strictly speaking, it isn't distortion, but we see it that way. Presumably, we all carry a Platonic ideal meta-portrait in our subconsciouses.
There may be more than focal length involved in a "portrait" lens. Some lenses are designed to reduce the effect of wrinkles and skin texture and many sitters prefer to have these reduced. Henri says that one of his criteria is "sharp" but I wonder if biting sharpness is desirable for portraits. Henri will know what he wants, of course, much better than I do.
There is software available to remove what we may consider to be either defects or character, but I know nothing more about it. I believe there are filters, too.
 

Ian Grant

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We also have hardware tools for removal of defects, retouching knives and spotting brushes, plus bleaches, dyes and pencils ;D

I'm not one for soft focus lenses or filters, although I have used soft focus filter on two occasions in 50+ years of photography, to good effect on both occasions.

Perhaps another point missed is out of focus rendering, the areas we deliberately don't want sharp, or as the Americans say "Bokeh" something partially due to lens design and also the shape the aperture blades form. Surprisingly the 150mm f2.8 Xenotar renders unsharp backgrounds messily. The Cooke triplet type designs are the more pleasing followed by Tessar types and then modern plasmats.

Back in the mid 1970's I shot some portraits with a Rolleicord and Triotar and that was my first experience of a Cooke triplet, the background rendering was different compared to my Mamiya C33 & 80mm Sekor. It's not a coincidence that TT&H sold a great many Series II Cooke triplets many as portrait lenses. It's not that Triplets and Tessar type lenses aren't sharp rather that sharpness falls off faster at wider apertures particularly at edges and corners which can be beneficial for portraits.

Ian
 

David M

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I remember spotting and knifing and crossing my fingers with ferri. They are all still available of course. I suggest that digital tools are easier to get good results with. Easier to get bad ones, too of course.
It was seeing the out-of-focus part of the image that first got me interested in big lumpy cameras.

[And a point of information, Mr Chairman: I think it's the Japanese who say "Bokeh" and the Americans who copied them. Like that other Japanese word, "umami," it's a useful and convenient label.]
 

HenriLon

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Thank you all for your contribution to this discussion! I'm very happy to read each of your advice.

I'm reconsidering my choice and I'm sure the Fujifilm Fujinon W 250mm f6.3 Large format Lens Copal No1 will be a great fit to my Toyo field.

Few thinks I need to clarify, I was comparing the the 85mm I have on my 35mm camera not for the quality. I know on the 4x5 it will give me a better satisfaction. My point was to be as confortable as this one while taking portrait. I don't need to be too close from the subject, nice bokeh, perfect for portrait head, shoulders, or even the all body with enough distance.

The 250mm I think is the right one at a very affordable price according to my latest online research.
And I shouldn't need a bellow extension for it.

Lens, size, format at the end very subjective and a personal decision.

Thanks
 

Ian Grant

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Registered User
The dreadful word Bokeh is credited to Mike Johnson in the March-April edition of Photo Technique, and as you say comes from the Japanese word Boke (blur) which is supposed to have been used to describe the out of focus lens blur from around 1996.

I came to large format because I need total sharpness throughout an image, that was for work primarily. It's more recent that I'm working differently for some images and moving towards portraits.

Henri, the Fujinon W 250mm is as good a choice as the other options and will be useful on a 10x8 camera as well.

Ian
 
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