Expanding the herd

I decided to show my little collection of large format lenses. And I smuggled a few 6×7 cm lenses in too. About half of these lenses are barrel lenses, meaning they have no shutter. But, you can shoot them pretty easily if you’re shooting black and white film. I plan on making a video showing how to shoot them that way, it’s really simple and much fun too!

An oversight photo of the lenses on lens boards that I currently own. They all get use, although some more than others. I have described them all below, so you can hopefully get inspired to find your own lenses and shoot them on 6×7 cm, 4×5 inch or 5×7 inch like I do. But some of those lenses would cover 8×10 inch

A circular lens board?

Yup, you saw that right. And to the left of it is a little leather case that contains the slide-in lens stops for this lens too. Front: an R+J Beck Recti Focus lens, marked 9 inch, 8×5″, W.H. Walmsley&Co. Philadelphia, sole American agents. Mounted on a circular mahogany lens board for a Joshua Billcliff 8×5″ camera from Manchester, pat. 1885. This camera still is a restoration in progress and will be used to shoot images from my home town Assen.

First row: Metal lens boards for the Horseman 970 Press camera

Left to right, 1st: Isco-Göttingen Westanar 75mm 2.9. Off a 6×6 folding camera that came from a flea market. 2nd: Doppel-Anastigmat Rexonar 105mm 5.4. Came from a 6×9 camera, not sure which. 3rd: Agnar Apotar 85mm 4.5 off an Agfa 6×6 folding camera. Those are pretty impressive lenses in B&W that almost cover 4×5″ and they are cheap. It has a rubber band contraption to keep it open at Bulb for focussing. 4th: Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 105mm 3.5 which is my ‘standard’ lens on the Horseman 970. This camera I solely use to shoot 6×7 cm images because they are identical in aspect ratio to a 4×5 inch image and close to a 5×7 inch image.

Second row: big lens boards

These are two lenses I bought online to use on a home built 4×5″ camera that you can also see on the front page of this website. It is a ‘Sliding Box’ principle where you can slide two wooden boxes in and out, not needing a bellows to focus. These lenses have no shutters. I either stop them down a lot, or use Cokin P-sized filters in a filter holder, once I have stacked a few Neutral Density filters to get an exposure into the double digit seconds it is very easy to shoot them.

1st: Minolta Rokkor-QF 200mm 5.6 lens from a copying machine. Came with it’s metal mount that I cut down a bit to save at least some weight. This lens has no aperture so it usually gets filters strapped to its front with large rubber bands. It is coated and contrast is sufficient for B&W copied documents. 2nd: Dallmeyer Serrac 8.5″ 215mm 4.5. This is a favorite. It is also a macro lens when you take the front element off it. It has a nice low contrast rendering that is pretty sharp for an 100-year old lens. Uncoated of course.

Second row: small lens boards

These lens boards came with a handmade camera that I bought from some Spanish photographer on eBay. He supplied these with people attending a workshop if they did not have a camera, and apparently he had one too much and sold it on eBay. I cancelled my Intrepid 4×5 inch view camera when I saw the Spanish camera, it had similar functionality but was only half the price.

The lens boards were the first in this size I got but all the other small lens boards on the table are similarly sized so they can go on three cameras I own.

1st: an amazing lens, that is often overlooked, heads up here because it can be had cheap if you’re willing to spend some time looking for one! Kodak Ektar Anastigmat 203mm 7.7. This lens is probably the sharpest vintage lens I own, apart from the other identical lens in a barrel mount. This one is shuttered, in a Prontor SVS shutter. It covers 5×7″too! 2nd: Schneider-Kreuznach G-Claron 150mm 9.0. This is similarly sharp to the Ektar 203mm but it’s not a vintage lens. These two (and the next one) were chosen for size, the little 4×5″ they go on is very small and lightweight too. Since I usually shoot this camera outdoors in bright light, I have no issues with the small maximum apertures, they leave plenty of light to focus and once I’m shooting, I’m always stopping down quite a bit. 3rd: a ‘character lens’ that still needs a sharp modern sister, this is a Boyer Paris Beryl 90mm 6.8. It is similar to an older Super-Angulon but can be had for less if you’re prepared to look for a while. The lens is in a Synchro-Compur P shutter, which is more reliable than the older shutters on Super-Angulons (can’t quite recall what brand these often were).

Third row: lenses with no lens board yet

For these lenses, I haven’t made my mind up yet what camera to use them on, or they are doubles to an already existing lens on a board. 1st: The Elliott’s Extra Rapid, London. I made an f32 lens stop from a tin can for it, still need to add a few more stops. The slot is just slightly too narrow for the other set of lens stops from the R+J Beck lens but they can be used as templates for a tin can replacement. Not sure on the actual focal length and unstopped aperture of this lens yet. Has a modern made lens mount with it that fits perfectly. 2nd: Rodenstock Apo-Gerogon 150mm 9.0 barrel lens. A reproduction lens, and a double to the G-Claron 150mm really. 3rd: Another Kodak 203mm 7.7 lens, this one is marked Anastigmat and has no shutter but it’s basically identical to the Ektar 203mm. The mount is stuck to the lens thread. 4th: Agfa Agnar 85mm 4.5. Yup, double to the Agnar Apotar 85mm. This has a 25-50-200 Vario shutter, the other one has more speed settings. Selling it is ridiculous since it will probably fetch a fiver at most…

Fourth row: wooden lens boards galore

1st: Stanley London Bridge SE. approx 230mm, takes the same lens stops as the R+J Beck. And yes, this is the company that later went into production of tools, amongst which the world-renowned Stanley knifes, they still exist today. 2nd: Rodenstock Apo-Gerogon S 270mm 11.0. Stops down to a puny 90.0, this is a flat field reproduction lens for cartography etc. Easily covers 8×10″. No shutter. And it would be very unforgiving for portrait work, nothing escapes this cyclops. 3rd: Unknown maker lens, but very interestingly engraved A. Donker, Amsterdam. Extralineaire Extra Rapide suggesting a French maker, but an Amsterdam seller. I have never seen such a lens engraving before so I had to have it, only finding out it was missing an element from a group… I ripped several old SLR zooms apart before I found the front element of a Tamron Adaptall 70-150mm was a near match so now it’s functional again, at approx. 150mm though which I think is too short really. It covers 4×5″ easily. 4th: totally unmarked barrel lens with a revolving disk aperture. Approx. 200mm 8.0. Covers 5×7″. Very early and probably French but nothing to be certain about. This one also has a modern made brass mounting flange. All the smaller brass lenses came from the same Polish seller last December. 5th: Euryscope Anastigmat, City Sale & Exchange, 54 Lime Street, London E.C. Approx 230mm, 6.0 to 44.0 aperture. Also covers 5×7″. This has its original mounting flange and a snake leather cap!

Fifth and final row: the MPP Mark VIII lens boards

On the final row, three lenses for the MPP Mark VIII metal 4×5″ camera from the 1960s and 1970s. A pretty impressive tool.

1st: is not for that camera (yet) though. It’s an Leitz Elmarit P 150mm 2.8 projector lens with it’s rear cut to allow the image to cover 4×5″(I think). I’ll be cutting a cardboard lens board for it shortly so it will fit the MPP and if it does perform as expected, I’ll make a lens board from brass sheet metal for it. It’ll function as a bit of an Kodak Aero-Ektar on the cheap I hope! 2nd: Another Kodak Ektar, 127mm 4.5. Should be a nice lens but I haven’t shot it much since somebody oiled it up real good and the oil needs to be cleaned from the shutter blades with acetone every time before I use it. Which is a bit of a pain… 3rd: a Fujinon-W 150mm 5.6. I find its sharpness is lacking, it may just be my copy of it…? 4th: the best of the bunch yet for the MPP, a Schneider-Kreuznach 90mm 8.0. This lens needs to be mounted on a cone due to the design of the Mark VIII. When the cone plate came, the lens’s rear element was too big to fit through so I had to cut the hole bigger. The lens board itself is plastic (the cone is metal) and the plastic had a real nasty sixties kind of smell when cutting it, the kitchen reaked of burning plastic for three days afterwards… yikes…

Share your own collection, or share this page!

So that’s the overview of the current collection of large format lenses. I’m planning to expand on this troupe, because it’s fun to shoot those lenses that others consider dogs, or useless because they’re unshuttered. And also, because it’s fun to build them from scrap lens elements, hunt for them online, you name it.

Do you have a collection of large format lenses yourself and want to share it with me? Post to the comments, so I can have a look! Really like to get inspired by your personal collection of large format lenses! Think this can help others to find their new favorite lenses? Share the page on social media etcetera!

Thanks for reading!

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