Finding a Lens to Match your Vision

When I was still shooting mostly digital, I owned quite a few lenses.  At one point, I probably had somewhere around 8 professional lenses. Many of them were quite specialized, and did not see much use. Eventually, I decided to pair it down to only what I needed.  At about this same time, I decided to pursue large format photography.

With Large format, it is best to have a very small number of lenses — just enough to get the job done. To figure out which lenses I needed for my 4×5 camera, I used my 35mm digital camera as a guide. I found that in most cases, 24mm and 70mm (the extremes on the canon 24-70mm 2.8 L lens) were focal lengths that fit my own personal vision quite well.

What exactly does that mean? When I am composing a scene with a wide angle, I find that 24mm gives a good balance of foreground and background. There are no surprises when I look through the viewfinder.  Although the super wide angle lenses can be quite nice for dramatic shots, I find they are a bit too wide for my own vision. I purchased a 75mm nikkor lens for my 4×5, which gives about the same wide as a 24mm on a 35mm based digital body.

On the long side, I needed a lens that gives about a 70mm equivalent focal length. To do this, I purchased a 210mm nikkor. I really enjoy using this lens for detail shots of stone, or simple shots of a subject against a clean background.

When I decided to purchase an 8×10 camera, I wanted to replicate the lenses that I was using on my 4×5 camera. To do this, it is simply a matter of doubling the focal length. I purchased a 150mm wide angle, and a 450mm telephoto.

On my past trip to the Southwest, I found that there was only one time that I felt I could use a “normal” lens on the 8×10.  However, I don’t think it’s enough of a need for me to consider purchasing one.  I have found that these lenses match my own vision quite well.  Although some people might see it as limiting, I really don’t see it that way.

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