14x17" ULF Lens Recommendations

February 13, 2015  •  19 Comments

Holy TrinityFrom left: Fujinon C 600mm f11.5, Nikor M 450 f9, G-Claron 355mm f9

Over the past year, I've been building a lens collection to use with my new Chamonix 14x17 view camera. Normal (being 560mm on this format) and wider lenses are relatively easy to find. But its at the longer end of the spectrum that the choices become more varied and its harder to make a decision. So I started by buying what I call the ULF "Holy Trinity" of modern shuttered lenses that is just about in arsenal of every serious ULF user shooting sizes above 11x14: G-Claron 355mm f9, Nikkor M 450mm f9, and Fujinon C 600 f11.5. They are relatively lightweight, small enough to fit on a Linhof Technica lensboard, have manageable filter sizes, and cast usable image circles far in excess of what is quoted by their manufacturers. Of the three, only the Fujinon C 600mm is hard to find these days.

The ULF "Holy Trinity" Lenses

Lens

Focal Length (mm)

Max Aperture

Image Circle (mm)

Shutter

Filter Size (mm)

Wieght (g)

Market Price

G-Claron

355

f9

444

Copal 3

77

855

$550-700

Nikkor-M

450

f9

440

Copal 3

67

640

$800-1000

Fujinon-C

600

f11.5

620

Copal 3

67

575

$1200-1600

 

Now if your budget won't allow for the "Holy Trinity" there is a "Second String" worth considering. The added bonus is these lenses are a little faster but they are heavier, need to be on Sinar or larger lensboards, have bigger filter rings and usually come in older Compound 5 or Ilex 5 shutters. The Symmar Convertible is particularly interesting since it can do double duty at 360mm and 620mm, potentially making it the only lens you will ever need - assuming your front standard can take almost 2kg or 4.2lbs of weight. The B&L lens is somewhat hard to find pre mounted in a shutter but more common as a barrel. Goerz Red Dot Artar 24", Apo-Nikkor 600mm or 610mm and Apo-Ronar 600mm are all pretty much interchangeable. I would pick up the first one you find in an Ilex 5 or Copal 3 shutter.

 

The "Second String" Lenses

Lens

Focal Length (mm)

Max Aperture

Image Circle (mm)

Shutter

Barrel Mount

Wieght (g)

Market Price

Symmar Convertible

360/620

f5.6/12

500

Compound 4

N/A

1,910

$250-350

B&L 14x17 Series IIB

489

f6.3

 

Compound 5

N/A

 

$600

Apo-Ronar-CL

600

f9

534

14x17" @ 1:10)

(24x30" @ 1:1)

Ilex 5

M90x1

1,563

$600-800

Apo-Ronar-CL

600

f11

 

Ilex 5

 

1,547

$600-800

Apo Nikkor

600

f9

 

Ilex 5

 

775

$600-800

Apo Nikkor

610

f9

518

(1,030mm @ 1:1)

Ilex 5

M110x1

1,450

$600-800

Goerz Red Dot Artar 24"

610

f11

(12x15@ 1:10)

(24x28" @ 1:1)

Ilex 5 / Copal 3*

 

 

$600-800

* Misses maximum aperture by 1/3 stop

Now to get a real jump up from 600mm to make a difference in perspective I would suggest you want to go up to 30" or 760mm. Personally I looked for more modern lenses that could be found in a shutter or at least mounted in one. Many process lenses can be shutter mounted and made to work. Sometimes this results in a small loss of speed of 1-2 stops as the shutter constricts the aperture but its not usually material. Older process lenses can be made in brass and be extraordinarily heavy. Likewise, their sheer bulk can make it hard to mount on a smaller lensboard and fit on a 'modern' shutter like a Copal #3 or more likely an Ilex #5. So in practical terms if the lens can be shutter mounted it will fit on a Sinar board of 5.25" square or larger. Once you have found your barrel lens, you will need to buy a shutter, a flange and a lensboard.

Shutters are often easier to buy attached to a lens. The 375mm f6.3 Ilex-Calumet Caltar is a particularly unloved lens that comes in an Ilex #5. Remember that the Ilex 5 came in several flavors, starting from the left in the image below: Kodak branded (avoid due to smaller aperture and mount), Black (avoid, oldest version), Silver Older (look for this one), Silver Newer (this is the best). Then there is one more kind, the "Syncro Electronic" that can only be fired with an electronic voltage and is basically useless otherwise.

Left to right: Kodak Ilex#5, Black Ilex#5, Older Silver Ilex#5, Newer Silver Ilex#5 Ilex5Ilex #% Shutter VariationsLeft to right: Kodak Ilex#5, Black Ilex#5, Older Silver Ilex#5, Newer Silver Ilex#5

 

Similarly the Copal 3 comes in two sizes the 3 and the smaller 3S.  Avoid the 3S as it has a smaller maximum aperture size. The regular Copal 3 comes in three versions starting oldest first: small tooth rim in silver, wider smoother tooth rim in silver, and finally black. If possible go for the black version or second best silver with wider smoother tooth rim, avoid the the other two versions.

Front left to right: Copal 3S, Copal 3 Silver Small Teeth, Copal 3 Silver Big Smooth Teeth, Copal 3 Black

CopalCopal 3 Shutter VariationsFront left to right: Copal 3S, Copal3 Silver Small TeethSilver Big Teeth (S), Copal 3 (C) Copal 3 Big Teeth Black (B)

 

Then you need to get the barrel mounted to the shutter and lensboard by an machinist like SK Grimes which usually charges around $350-450 for the honor. At the same time as you have the mounting done, I recommend that you ask your machinist to put some threads on the lens front element (if there are none) and make you a new front lens cap. The reason being that most process lenses don't come with filter threads and it can be hard to find a good fitting cap for your custom set-up. Often you have the option of a small range of filter sizes - say about 5mm plus or minus. So if possible try and standardize on some favorite sizes - like 67mm, 77mm, 95mm or 105mm.

Left to right: Symmar Convertible 360/620 f5.6/12 in Compound 4, 30" Red Dot Artar f12 in Copal 3, and 35" Red Dot Artar f12 in Ilex #5

BannerLensVariety of shuttered ULF lensesLeft to right: Symmar Convertible 360/620 f5.6/12 in Compound 5, 30" Red Dot Artar f12 in Copal 3, and 35" Red Dot Artar f12 in Ilex #5

 

The most common lenses to shutter mount are the APO-Nikkor, Rodenstock Ronars and Goerz Red Dot Artars. The APO-Nikkors get huge after 760mm and can't reasonable be shutter mounted beyond that focal length. Rodenstock makes the regular APO-Ronar and a compact APO-Ronar-CL line of process lenses. After 760mm the most sensible lenses to choose are the Goerz Red Dot Artars but you really want an aluminum version from after the late 1960s not an older brass one because of the weight penalty. The weight penalty can be offset through shutter mounting since much of the brass barrel is discarded in the process. The Carl Ziess / Doctar Apo Germinar lenses in 750mm and 1000mm come in barrels and a native Copal 3 mount.  They are some of the most modern processes lenses available but they are apparently hard to cut out of the barrel and shutter mount on an Ilex #5. Then there is of course the Schneider 1100mm f14 Fine Art XXL which even if you had the $3-5k to buy it is hard to find. Many of the longer, and some of the shorter, lenses on this list are over 3 Kg and would put a real strain on most field cameras. So while they could be feasible mounted on a shutter you are probably better off with one of the sub-3 Kg options.

The "Shutter-Mountable Long Shots"

Lens

Focal Length (mm)

Max Aperture

Image Circle (mm) at Infinity

Shutter

Barrel Mount (mm)

Filter Size (mm)

Weight (g)

Market Price

APO Germinar

750

f9

715

(1,270 @ 1:1)

Ilex 5

M105x1

 

3,900

 

APO Germinar

750

f14.5

795

(1,230 @ 1:1)

Copal 3 (Native Mount)

M95x1

 

3,900+

 

APO Nikkor

760

f11

583

(1,170mm @ 1:1)

Ilex 5

M110x1

95mm x 1

1,360

$500 +Shutter and Mounting

APO-Ronar-CL

760

f14

500

Ilex 5

M90x1

67mm

1,190

$400 +Shutter and Mounting

Goerz RD Artar 30"

762

f12.5

660

(16x20 @ 1:10)

(1,290 @ 1:1)

Ilex 5/Copal 3*

 

67mm (custom filter thread)

1,300

$600 +Shutter and Mounting

Apo-Ronar-CL

800

f9

 

Ilex 5*

 

 

3,600

 

Goerz RD Artar 35"

889

f12.5

773

(18x22" @ 1:10)

(1,510 @ 1:1)

Ilex 5 / Copal 3*

 

95mm (custom filter thread)

1,640

$1,500 +Shutter and Mounting

Apo-Ronar-CL

890

f14

 

 

 

 

 

 

APO Germinar

1,000

f12

895mm

(1,590 @ 1:1)

Ilex 5

M105x1

 

4,500

$2,000

APO Germinar

1,000

f19.5

995mm

(1,535 @ 1:1)

Copal 3 (Native Mount)

M95x1

 

4,500+

 

Apo-Ronar-CL

1,000

f14

 

 

 

 

2,500

 

Apo-Ronar-CL

1,000

f16

 

Ilex 5*

M115x1

 

5,000

 

Goerz RD Artar 42"

1,067

f14

(22x27" @ 1:10)

(1,810 @ 1:1)

Ilex 5* / Compound 5 / Alpha 5 / Betax 5

 

95mm (custom filter thread)

1,815

$1,750 +Shutter and Mounting

Apo-Ronar-CL

1,070

f14

995mm @f32 (calculated not confirmed)

Ilex 5* / Compound 5 / Alpha 5 / Betax 5

M120x1

90mm (front and back)

2,495

 

Schneider Fine Art XXL

1,100

f22 (f14 in barrel)

900

Copal 3 (Native Mount)

 

105mm

2,400

$3,000-5,000

Goerz RD Artar 47.5"

1,194

f15

(25x32" @ 1:10)

(2,050 @ 1:1)

Ilex 5* / Compound 5 / Alpha 5 / Betax 5

 

 

 

$2,000 +Shutter and Mounting

APO-Ronar-CL

1200

f14

(40x50" @ 1:1)

 

M100x1

 

 

 

APO-Ronar-CL

1200

f16

(40x50" @ 1:1)

 

M135x1

 

6,577

 

* Will lose 1 or more stops of speed when mounted. For example, a 35" Artar goes from max aperture f12.5 to f19 in a Copal 3.

Now if you are content to use a barrel lens without a shutter or have a Packard shutter of the right size lying around then you might want to consider the lenses in the "Super Long / Heavy / Big Barrels" list below. Most of the lenses are too big to mount on a Sinar board and weigh so much that they would put a real strain on just about any front standard, but hey, with lenses this size and the bellows requirements this long you are probably thinking of mounting it on the side or end of a delivery truck! Right?

The "Super Long / Heavy / Big Barrels"

Lens

Focal Length (mm)

Max Aperture

Image Circle (mm) at Infinity

Image Circle (mm) at 1:1

Barrel Mount / thread (mm)

Filter Size (mm)

Weight (g)

Market Price

Apo-Nikkor

890

f11

20x24"

1,360

M162x1.5

 

3,600

 

Apo-Saphir

900

f10

655mm

 

M140x1.5

 

4,000

 

Apo-Nikkor

1210

f12.5

 

1,750

M162x1.5

 

3,800

$1,850

Apo-Saphir

1210

f12.5

 

1,680

 

 

 

 

Apo-Nikkor

1776

f14

 

2,310

M213x1.5

 

6,430

 

Goerz RD Artar 70"

1778

f16

(36x45" @ 1:10)

3,020 @ 1:1

 

 

 

 

APO-Ronar-CL

1800

f16

 

2,500mm @ 1:1

M208

 

7,700

 

Cheaper than the more modern process lenses list above, would be to use an old process lens from one of the former major lens makers. Allen Rumme's site has an extensive list of process lenses of which a bunch would work for 14x17 format. In particular look at the Ross Apo Process (coated) and Apochromat Xpres (coated) lenses from 21" to 48" and the Taylor Hobson Cooke Series IX Apochromatic (coated), Cooke Series Vb Process, and Cooke Process lenses also from 21" to 48". I wouldn't consider mounting these lenses on a shutter but simply using them in a barrel stopped way down to get long exposure times you can manually execute. 

By necessity this series of tables is incomplete in places. I don't own many of these lens myself. If you have any of the missing data please leave a comment below. It will be much appreciated and a big help to the 14x17" ULF community


Comments

David(non-registered)
Thanks for all the info - nice job. It would be great if you could add ultra-wide lenses for the 14x17 format.... grandagon, SSXL, SA, computar, hypergon, etc...
Ross(non-registered)
What are your thoughts on the Germinar 600mm f9? Specifically for 1:1 — is it close to the Ronar, Artar or Nikkor? Thanks!
Angus Parker Photography
@Dan: Yes, the CL relates to a linear scale as much as I have been able to figure out but in addition, this series of lenses tends to be smaller, lighter, and with a smaller maximum aperture than the non-CL option.
Angus Parker Photography
@Dan: Good point. The official IC of some manufacturers is what they conservatively estimate is acceptable. If the lens does not mechanically vignette, in some designs the image quality falls off slowly beyond that stated IC. For ULF where most people are contact printing, the quality of the image at the corners is fine even if the IC is beyond the quoted maximum.
Dan Fromm(non-registered)
CL? Lens elements cemented in the barrel, linear aperture scale.
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