View Full Version : Cheap lens for 4x5 with movements?

04-15-2006, 12:41 AM
I've managed to make room among the unfinished projects for a monorail camera project. I've read about a couple 127mm lenses: Kodak "Special" in Supermatic (from a Six-16 folder) and Polaroid 110/110a lenses. Anybody know how well they'd cover movements on 4x5? My first thought was to just go with 2x3, but I figure it'd be worth the extra effort in order to have a better view on the GG. Are there other good and cheap choices? Thanks in advance!

04-15-2006, 02:50 AM
I've heard some of the 116 folders with B&L Rapid Rectilinear might do well, just uncoated.

I'd like to keep my eyes open for Kodak 3A type things, but I probably don't need one that badly.


Jim Jones
04-15-2006, 11:00 AM
. . . I've read about a couple 127mm lenses: Kodak "Special" in Supermatic (from a Six-16 folder) and Polaroid 110/110a lenses. Anybody know how well they'd cover movements on 4x5? . . .

Kodak recommended the 127mm lens for up to 3.25 x 4.25 use. That's what the Polaroid lens was also designed for. The 127 was popular on 4x5 press cameras where corner sharpness (with no movements) was unimportant, and the wide coverage was sometimes useful. I haven't tried either lens with movements on a 4x5, but wouldn't expect them to be satisfactory. Older wide angle lenses for larger formats do provide enough coverage for front movements, but often aren't ideal performers. I sometimes use a 165mm Angulon on 4x5. Since it was designed for 8x10, coverage is no problem. An old, but good, lens is the Kodak Ektar 203mm f/7.7. The earlier uncoated version, Kodak Anastigmat f/7.7 8", uses the same design. Both were designed for 5x7, and permit some movements.

04-15-2006, 01:21 PM
The Ektar 203mm is a good choice. Also the symmar convertable will give you lots of room for movement. Both can be had for a reasonable price, and are excellent performers.

135mm-150mm tessar types can sometimes be found on the cheap side, But they will give you only a little movement on 4x5. These are optars, raptars, tessars, xenars, and ektars.

If you want something for less than $100 with good coverage, you will have to accept certain compromizes. Uncoated lenses, lenses in barrels, damaged lenses, or slower lenses like f9.

04-15-2006, 02:13 PM
In general, unless the lens is a special wide angle design (typically adds a zero to the price), a 135 mm is the shortest that will decently cover 4x5 without movements, though the 127 mm Ektar was known to do so (as suggested, with reduced sharpness in the corners, but news photos were normally printed at contact size in the paper, so sharpness was only of limited utility). Most 150 mm triplets and Tessar type lenses will allow a useful amount of movements on 4x5. And any lens will give lots more coverage when focused close; the coverage *angle* is fixed by the design of the lens, but the *area* is set by the effective focal length, which gets longer as you focus closer. I've used a 135 mm with significant movements on 4x5, focused at about 1:2 (that is, film image half life size). Even at portrait distances, you'll get significantly improved coverage, though shorter lenses have other drawbacks for portraits (body distortion can be very subtly disturbing even if it's hard to pin down).

I'd suggest watching for inexpensive plate cameras without ground glass or plate holders (often seen with useless film pack adapters -- there's been no film to fit those in almost 25 years). While most 9x12 cm size will have 135 mm lenses, one occasionally sees them with 150 mm or even 165 mm Tessar-class lenses, for less than the cost of buying a lens in shutter. Resell the camera as "parts", clean up the lens and CLA the shutter (or pay Carol Miller at Flutot's Camera to do it), and you'll still typically be into the lens/shutter for less than you would in buying a more modern set -- and give up *nothing* in image quality, unless you shoot against the light and get flare from the uncoated glass.

04-17-2006, 04:42 PM
Thanks yall--that's exactly what I needed to know. Now I'm back to contemplating 2x3 :D

I've done occasional searches for plate cameras but so far have netted mostly collector-priced stuff. I'll devote some brain cells to a better search string.

04-17-2006, 06:52 PM
One search I have that brings up a lot of plate cameras is "compur" -- that name is on the shutters of many of them and shows up on the listing even if the seller has no clue what the camera actually is (because it's on the front by the lens), and it's one of the shutters from the 1920s that you can almost certainly still get a CLA for, or find instructions to do it yourself in a few different places. You could add the names of many of the lenses you want, if you like; Tessar, Skopar, Xenar, Dominar, Ektar, just to name a few that generally share the same configuration and overall performance.

In fact, there are a bunch of lens and shutter lots up right now for under $10, multiple lenses and multiple shutters from which, if you're not afraid to open up a shutter and clean it yourself, you could easily get what you're after.

Try Cameras & Photo, Lenses & Filters, Film Camera Lenses, For Large Format for just the lenses and shutters. I see a couple under $50 with ending times in the next few hours, perfectly suitable for a homebuilt flatbed or monorail. For plate cameras in general, try Cameras & Photo, Vintage, Cameras, By Type, and then Folding or Other. You're going to miss the Ihagee (listed as Thagee) for $12.50 with a few minutes to run, which has a perfectly suitable lens and shutter, but there are some like this ending every day.

04-18-2006, 12:17 AM
Yow, thanks IM! That really helped. There's another Ihagee folder ending tomorrow (spelled with an I and with a couple bids) and if not that then enough to choose if not wisely then at least foolishly in an informed manner. :P

04-18-2006, 09:57 PM
In case it wasn't obvious, that's one of my common haunts, which is how I managed (over the past four years) to wind up with *four* 9x12 cm plate cameras, three usable... :)