Skip to content

ULTRA LARGE FORMAT PHOTOGRAPHY

Tim Layton Fine Art - Learn Analog Photography

RESOURCES FOR ULTRA LARGE FORMAT PHOTOGRAPHERS

If you are not already a member of our Free Ultra Large Format Photography Facebook Group, please join a thousand other ULF photographers and us from around the world.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.

WHY ULTRA LARGE FORMAT PHOTOGRAPHY?

Each photographer would have to answer why they choose to work with ultra large format for themselves; however, I will share some of my thoughts with you.

My reasons for continuing to use ultra large format photography can be summed up in the following points:

  • If I had to pinpoint a single reason why I continue to use ultra large format, it is because of the exquisite quality of my contact prints.
  • I want full control over my entire creative process, from composition to making the print. No other workflow, digital or analog, allows the degree of control that is available to me via large and ultra large format methods. This is my primary reason for continuing to use large and ultra large format methods and processes today.
  • The ability to experience and explore a scene or subject under the solitude of the dark cloth is magical. No other workflow gives me this opportunity and experience.
  • Large and ultra large format photography is simple, never changes, and can be mastered if you are willing to invest the time and effort. Digital photography is under constant change, and the narrative is driven by marketing and manufacturing companies. (Buy more/newer gear, more software, update what we sold you last year or even just months ago).
  • The ability to work with my hands using physical objects (i.e., film, paper, chemistry) and using light to make prints is an enjoyable and magical experience. The analog tactile workflow makes me feel more connected to my work.
  • My personal large and ultra large format pure analog workflow is future-proof. I make my own negatives and papers, and the chemistry that I use is generally available outside of the photography world. I have enough raw materials on hand to create new work for the rest of my life. I don’t need a single “thing” in terms of gear for the rest of my life.
  • I love that I don’t need to update, upgrade, or learn something new every month/year. I get to focus and master my workflow, and it takes years to do this. I love that I know every small nuance of every part of my workflow. Focus is a great advantage when it comes to creating meaningful work, in my opinion.
  • In technical terms, it is already well understood that bigger negatives produce technically superior prints, so I don’t need to restate what’s already been proven. Contact printing large and ultra large format negatives are the ultimate in terms of technical quality and what everything else is measured against. I don’t need to compare enlargements to contact prints because I have already done it and know that large and ultra large format contact prints are superior.
  • The ability to use lenses dating back to the beginning of photography allows me to choose the exact type of look and feel I want in my work. No other workflow offers the degree of choices of large and ultra large format optics.
  • The way analog film renders light is unique to analog film, and this also is true for calotype paper negatives and collodion glass plate negatives too. For example, if you point your digital camera into a backlit scene and do the same with a sheet of large or ultra large format film and then compare the best prints from each of these workflows, I think this will help illustrate the superior capabilities of analog film versus a digital sensor. But, in reality, it is much more than a simple test like this. The degree of separation and handling of both highlight and shadow values when compared to a digital or even analog-to-digital workflow is very obvious if you compare them. Besides the technical benefits described here, I prefer how analog mediums (e.g., sheet film, calotypes, paper negatives, collodion negatives, etc.) render highlight and shadow values. I believe the underlying reasons are likely related to how the human eye works and renders information.
  • The ability to shape and control my negatives and prints via tweaks in chemistry is not only satisfying but also offers unique opportunities to express myself. By creating my own emulsions and sensitizers and mixing my own processing chemistry, I can pick whatever paper I want for my work versus being forced to pick a paper from a manufacturer. My imagination and experience only limit the variables I have available.
  • Movements available to large and ultra large format photographers (i.e., swing, tilt, shift, rise/fall, etc.) uniquely allow for total control over my scene or subject. I can have everything sharp or a small slice that is sharp and everything else soft.
  • Being forced to work and think about a single image at a time is a tremendous advantage, not a disadvantage like the modern camera manufacturers paint it to be. The time between exposure, development, and printing in the darkroom is a time when I continue to think about my creative vision and reflect on how I want to shape the final image.
  • My sense of accomplishment using large and ultra large format workflows is realized throughout the entire analog workflow. Every step in my workflow is connected and related in some way. The entire series of steps come together into a finished product that results from significant focus, time, and investment on my part. My connection to each print is profound, and when looking at one of the prints that I admire, I replay the entire journey of how I got there. It’s a beautiful experience.
  • Have you ever directly compared an 8×10 or larger contact print to a digitally captured inkjet print using the exact same composition and focal length? If not, you should do this. That “difference” is what gets me excited and why I keep playing the slow game of large and ultra large format photography.
  • I have the option to create unique and expressive handmade fine art prints such as platinum/palladium, kallitype, silver chloride, collodio-chloride, Rawlins oil prints, carbon, gelatin chloride, and many others. These options are not available via modern digital technology. While one can make a “digital negative” to make these types of prints, they don’t produce a print that compares to a pure analog workflow based on my first-hand experience.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.


ULF NORMAL LENS & 35mm Crop FACTOR

7×17 – 18 inch (450mm) / crop factor = 0.0925

8×20 – 21 inch (500mm) / crop factor = 0.075

12×20 – 23 in (590mm) / crop factor = 0.0732

11×14 – 18 inch (450mm) / crop factor = 0.0957

14×17 – 22 inch (550mm) / crop factor = 0.0786

16×20 – 24 inch (600mm) / crop factor = 0.0665

20×24 – 31 inch (793mm) / crop factor = 0.0545

Now that you know the crop factor for each ultra large format camera, you can use it to figure out the effective focal length and apertures compared to 35mm. For example, if you want to know the 35mm effective focal length of a 600mm lens on 16×20, just multiply 600 x 0.0665 to get the equivalent focal length of approximately 40mm. You can do the same for apertures too. For example f/128 on 16×20 would be the equivalent of about f/8.5 on a 35mm camera (128 x 0.0665).

Crop factor = diagonal of 35mm film / ULF size film.

The diagonal of 35mm film can be calculated using the Pythagorean theorem, which states that the square of the hypotenuse (diagonal) of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

In the case of 35mm film, the width is 24mm and the height is 36mm. So, using the Pythagorean theorem:

Diagonal^2 = 24^2 + 36^2

Diagonal^2 = 576 + 1296

Diagonal^2 = 1872

Diagonal = √1872

Diagonal = 43.27mm (approx.)

Therefore, the diagonal of 35mm film is approximately 43.27mm.

You can use the Pythagorean theorem to manually calculate the diagonal of any size ULF film as I did for you in the above table.


THE BACK STORY

First, I should mention that I didn’t start out using ultra large format gear. It was a progression that happened over decades. If I had to pinpoint the core reason I leaped into ultra large format photography from large format, it would be because of the exquisite quality of my contact prints.

I loved the quality and experience of making 8×10 large format contact prints for decades, and after comparing my 16×20 and 20×24 enlargements from large format negatives to my current 8×10 contact prints, I wondered if the bigger ultra large format contact prints would captivate me like the 8×10 contact prints.

Spoiler alert, size matters…

I started with a beat-up 11×14 Burke & James camera, and after performing minor surgery on Frankenstein, I made some 11×14 silver chloride contact prints. I was blown away by the quality and hooked from that moment forward. I still have Frankenstein to this day.

In theory, an 11×14 print doesn’t seem that much bigger than an 8×10, but I was wrong. Once I mounted a set of 8×10 and 11×14 contact prints and hung them on the wall side by side, I was blown away at the differences. Ultimately over the course of 10 years, this leads me to my 16×20 and 8×20 Chamonix ultra large format cameras that I use today.

The 8×20 format has helped me see in new ways. It is my favorite format that I am working with at this time. I am finally starting to see in 8×20, so I will continue enjoying the fun and challenges as I explore this new format.

I think the difficulty factor of ultra large format really helped me improve my overall skills and I highly recommend any 8×10 large format photographers take the step up to 11×14 if it makes sense and if the opportunity is available.  Going beyond 11×14 without having 8×10 experience is a tough road for most people and I don’t recommend it.  Make sure you have a good reason for going bigger and if your “why” is important enough to you, it will help you push through the difficult and irritating times that are sure to happen.

There are also plenty of ULF formats, such as 7×17, 8×20, and 12×20, if you prefer more of a pano look, and more traditional formats would include 11×14, 14×17, 16×20, and 20×24.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.

ULTRA LARGE FORMAT CONSIDERATIONS

Depending on your personal situation, you may find that you may actually spend less money overall on your hobby/passion when using ultra large format. 

It seems expensive initially, but you can use the same exact gear for your entire life and never need to replace it.  Modern digital photographers have no idea of this concept.

The shock factor comes from the price of ultra large format cameras and film holders. Once you eliminate the need for high-end computers, software licenses, and enlargers, it will become apparent the total cost of ownership is typically much lower for most people.

For example, if you use smaller formats and make enlargements, then you have all of that expense associated with that workflow.  Large format enlargers and the full range of tools and supplies are typically not a cheap endeavor.  But, if you only make ultra large format contact prints, you can eliminate many other gear and expenses and enjoy a very simple and beautiful workflow.  Edward Weston’s contact printing was simple, and I think it turned out just fine for him. 

Everyone comes to ultra large format with various needs and desires, so your mileage may vary on some of the considerations I share with you.

Depending on your physical ability to lug, transport, and haul your big camera around, this may be an issue for some people.  Make sure you understand your future kit’s total size and weight before making a purchase.  Some of the smaller lenses are relatively lightweight, but others are the size and weight of a small child! If you only plan to do studio work, then the bigger size and weight are probably not an issue.

Please ensure you have a dark tent or other suitable means of loading your big film holders. If you only use silver gelatin darkroom paper as your negative, then you can load your holders under a red safelight.

If you are on the fence about getting an ultra large format camera, do everything you can to see if the new gear is what you are genuinely seeking.  For example, if you think your 11×14 contact prints will be better than your 8×10 prints, buy an 11×14 contact print from an accomplished photographer like me, or maybe try and work out a print swap deal or something similar if money is tight for you.  If that doesn’t work for you, then consider visiting your local museum and ask to see some big contact prints. 

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.

If you have the ability to make enlargements, make different sized enlargements, mount them, and pretend they are contact prints.  What size do you like the best?

Make sure you have a plan for development in trays because this is most likely how you will be developing your negatives and contact prints.

If you don’t have a proven process for developing in trays, start with a smaller format and master that first because everything is much more complex at full scale.  You could use a large Jobo drum to develop your film and even your prints if you don’t have a proper darkroom. 

If you tend to fly by the seat of your pants, then ULF might not be for you.  You will need to plan just about everything from ordering your film once a year to doing extensive research if you plan to go out in the field with your kit.  Working with larger formats requires a lot of patience, planning, and willingness to work through a series of inevitable problems. 

I personally think the challenges are worth the end results and when you get to the point of making high-quality contact prints that bring a tear to your eyes, I think you will feel the same way.


NEGATIVE CHOICES FOR ULTRA LARGE FORMAT

Buying ULF B&W film is a once-per-year event that will make you cry if you miss the annual Ilford ULF film order.  Sheet film is wonderful, but you don’t have to exclusively use film.  You have many other choices.

One good option is to use silver gelatin RC glossy paper as a negative medium.  In fact, it is one of my favorite negatives for ULF.

To get you started in the right direction, I highly recommend using RC glossy paper if you want to explore using silver gelatin darkroom paper as a negative.  The RC glossy paper produces an incredibly sharp negative and allows you to make very high-quality contact prints that are unlike film, wet plate, or dry plates.  Try ISO 3 as a place to start and adjust based on your results. 

An inexpensive way to get started with is to use Arista EDU Ultra Glossy VC RC Glossy paper as your negative and then use the same paper to make your contact prints. It is only $85 for 25 sheets making the cost per negative relatively cheap when compared to any other negative type. Check out my “Why Paper Negatives” video on my YouTube channel which should dispel any myths about silver gelatin paper negatives as being a learning tool or compromise.

Also, some ULF photographers like X-Ray film and have good success with it. Most X-Ray film is two-sided, making it sort of a nightmare from a handling perspective (nasty scratches). I am not a big fan of X-Ray film for my style of work, but it is something you should consider and at least try in a smaller format to explore if it is an option for you.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.


LENSES FOR 16×20 ULTRA LARGE FORMAT

The vast majority of ultra large format photographers will be using 16×20 or smaller, so that is why I prioritized this section first.

Most photographers are very familiar with 35mm focal lengths and inevitably most people try and convert ULF lenses to 35mm equivalents. As a general rule, if you divide the ULF focal length and aperture by 13.5, you will get a rough estimate of the equivalent values. It isn’t perfect, but it will help with planning and visualization.

For example, a 450mm F9 lens at F128 on 16×20 is roughly equivalent to a 30mm lens at F8.5 in 35mm terms.

The dimensions of the Chamonix 16×20 camera are 24″ x 25.25″ x 6.75″ (610mm x 640mm x 170mm), and the dimensions of this case are 24″ x 30″ x 13″.  This allows me to store the camera and four film holders in the case together, along with the lenses. 

A standard lens for 16×20 is considered to be about 600mm (24 in.) because the diagonal film measurement is 610mm.

My personal lenses for 16×20, 14×17, 7×17, 12×20, and 8×20 formats include the following:

  • Schneider Super-Symmar XL 210mm F5.6 in Copal 3 Shutter (500 IC), filter 135mm.  This lens is crazy wide on 16×20 with an approximate 16mm field of view in 35mm terms, and it is also one of the sharpest lenses I own. It weighs 2002g/4.41 lb. I love this ultra wide lens on my 8×20 and I have verified coverage on 8×20 [video].
  • Rodenstock APO Sironar W 300 F5.6 in Copal 3 Shutter (490 IC).  This is the sharpest lens I have ever owned, and I would really like this focal length on 16×20 or even 8×20 too, but I have confirmed that it does not quite cover 8×20 and 16×20 at infinity. I use it for closeup and macro work all the time, but not for landscapes that require infinity. [video]
  • Computar 270mm F9 (wide+, approx. 35mm equivalent = 20mm). I just purchased this lens, and I need to verify coverage at infinity. A fellow ULF photographer uses this lens on 12×20, so it will definitely cover 8×20, but I need to confirm that and also test on 16×20 too.
  • Nikkor M 450mm F9 in Copal 3 Shutter (440 IC).  This lens is about the smallest lens you will find in shutter for 16×20 and smaller formats.  It is not uncommon to find them on eBay, but the prices have really started to increase over the last few years.  This focal length is slightly wide and a good choice when you need something small and lightweight in shutter.
  • Derogy Petzval 450mm F4.5 lens is a brass-plated internal aperture control handmade lens from the 1850s. This lens is HUGE and very heavy (4000g/8.8 lbs). I had to mount it on a 10-inch lens board that I had custom-made by Chamonix, and it requires a lens support system like the one in the photo above. This lens is magical.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.

  • Schneider 35″ (889mm) F12.5 APO Red Dot Artar (in Aluminum Barrel). The 47 1/2″ lens below is “Big Bertha,” and this one is its little sister “Little Bertha”.  Massive coverage: 1:10 (20″24″), 1:5 (22″x28″), 1:2 (28″x36″), 1:1 (36″x45″). Artar lenses cover approximately 46 degrees.  It is reasonable to find the Goerz version on eBay if you watch for it, but the Schneider version is very rare and much lighter because it is in an aluminum barrel at about 3 pounds. This focal length is also a good choice for a long lens on 16×20. 
  • Schneider 47 1/2″ (1206mm) F15 APO Red Dot Artar (in Aluminum Barrel), aka “Big Bertha”. Big Bertha has massive coverage: 1:10 28″x36″, 1:5 30″x35″, 1:2 36″x45″, 1:1 48″x64″.  The Schneider version of this lens is very rare to find, and mine is in the lightweight aluminum barrel, making it extremely rare.  The regular Goerz version of this lens weighs over 8 pounds, and mine is half the weight at 4 pounds. The Goerz brand is still difficult to find, but if you are patient, one will occasionally come up on eBay. I have to install my extension board to use this on my 16×20 camera but it natively works on 20×24. Mounting hole = 105mm.  Width of Mounting flange = 137mm. My Sinar size standard lens boards are 139mm wide. This lens is mounted on my current config by 2mm! 
  • Soft Focus/Pictorialist lenses include the TT Signature Pictorial Barrel Lens 18 inches (457mm) F7.5 and 24 inches (609mm) F10, (DIY Meniscus 335mm F4.6 (510), DIY Meniscus 500mm F6.9 (810).  I have all of these and love them.  
  • Special Use Lenses: I use a 150mm Nikkor SW F8 lens designed for 8×10 mounted in a Copal 1 shutter as a crazy wide closeup lens.  With 1050mm (~40 inches) of bellows draw on my 16×20 Chamonix camera, I can do some incredible 3:1, 4:1, and even 5:1 macro work. A lot of my other 8×10 lenses can also be used as closeup/macro lenses too like the Heliar 300mm F4.5, Cooke Series II 12 inch, B&L 20 inch Triplet, and many others.

Most Common Lenses For 16×20

The most common lenses for 16×20 are the Schneider G Claron 355mm F9 IC 444mm 855g (~$1000), Nikkor M 450mm F9 IC 440 640g (~$1500), and Fujinon C 600mm F11.5 IC 620 575g ($4000+).

Schneider G Claron 355mm F9 Barrel Mounted (444 IC) or mounted in a copal shutter.  Same thoughts about this focal length as the Rodenstock APO Sironar, and this lens is affordable compared to the Rodenstock and often available via eBay and other places. 

All three of these lenses are typically found mounted in a Copal 3 shutter, but not always and they can typically be found on eBay. Depending on your goals, these lenses are a good place to start your 16×20 journey.

For example, my Schneider G Claron 355mm F9 lens is in a barrel, and I am okay with that because I shoot a lot of very slow emulsions and don’t need a shutter. It is relatively cheap compared to other lenses. and it is a fantastic lens.

My Nikkor M 450mm F9 lens is in mounted on a Copal 3 shutter and this is great when I want a sharp lens and need faster shutter speeds.  When I shoot faster films like HP5, having a shutter is always a good option.   

I sold my Fujinon C 600mm lens last year, but that was also mounted in a Copal 3 shutter as well, and the price of this lens has risen to cult status.  I was very fortunate and found an incredible deal on another one because I got seller’s remorse.  

The prices listed above were confirmed via eBay in December 2020.  Note: IC indicates the image circle at F22.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.

I personally use a slightly wide to normal lens on my camera and never had a personal need or desire for a longer lens.

The G Claron 355mm is the easiest and cheapest to find and is considered to be a mid-range wide lens, and the Nikkor M 450mm is still considered to be a little bit wide on 16×20, and it is the second easiest to find. 

The Fujinon C 600mm  is the most difficult to find and the most expensive. I owned this lens because I bought it brand new when it was in production. I sold it along with the 450 and 300 versions (holy trinity).

The price continues to change on these lenses over time.  Remember, they don’t make this stuff any more…

If you are into the 7×17 and 12×20 ULF formats, most of these and similar lenses will work as well.

The advantage of the three lenses listed above is their small size and weight.  With the camera already being huge and very heavy, toting around a small canon makes things even more difficult.

Goerz 30″ (762mm) F12.5 APO Red Dot Artar. 30 inches is a normal lens on the 20×24.  This lens will have limited movements on the 20×24.  This focal length is also a good choice for 16×20 when you want something longer than the 24″ normal lens, but not as long as the 35″.  Plenty of room for movements on the 16×20 with this lens.

In the section below, I listed some additional lenses that you can consider over time depending on your style of photography. 

I believe the Gundlach Turner Reich 11×14 Triple Convertible F7.5 Series II No 6 lens will provide coverage at the 36″ length if you have enough bellows and the shorter 15 in and 21 in will be fine for closeup work.

The sequence for conversion is: both elements 15 in, rear only 24 in, move front to rear 36 in.

Don’t forget to use the proper f scale, there should be three, one for each focal length. It is recommended you use a filter behind the lens when converted, I use a yellow. It is also recommended you focus at the f/stop you will take the picture at with the filter in place (this can be tricky, my arms are not 48 in long) so stopping down as you watch the ground glass may necessitate a helper. In the non converted state it performs like any 5 pound lens would.  In general, the Turner Reich lenses are not regarded very highly but they were used extensively on all large formats. If you are contact printing I don’t think you will find a better performer for the money.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.

Vintage Soft Focus Lenses (Coverage Up To 16×20)

Crown Anastigmat Series I 23 1/4″ F4.5 (rarely on eBay)
Dallmeyer Patent Portrait Lens Series A No.6A 30 inch F4 (very rare and expensive)

Brand New TT Signature Pictorial Lens From Tri Tran (highly recommended, I own one)

16×20 General Purpose Lenses With Coverage Wide Open (Up To 16×20)

B&L Extra Rapid Universal Series D 22 3/4″ F6
B&L Special 30″ 700mm F6.3
Carl Zeiss APO-Planar 32″ 800mm (rare and expensive)
Carl Zeiss Protar 24″ 600mm F7.2 (rare and expensive)
Goerz (Berlin) Dragor Series III 30″ 750mm F7.7
Voightlander Collinear 24″ 600mm F6.3

APO Nikkor 600mm F9 (huge image circle up to 20×24, cheap $300 to $250, razor sharp, in barrel)

There are other lenses available that are bigger and heavier.

Symmar Convertible 360/620mm F5.6/F12 IC 500mm in Compound 4 Shutter 1910g (4.4 lbs)

APO Ronar CL 600mm F9 or F11 1563g/1547g

APO Nikkor 600mm F9 775g

Goerz Red Dot Artar 24″ (610mm) F11 ($1750 in shutter 7/2021, $1095 barrel lens 7/2021, $750 without mounting flange 11/2021)

Goerz Red Dot Artar 30″ 762mm F12.5 (longer than normal lens for 16×20)

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.


LENSES FOR 8×20 ULTRA LARGE FORMAT

My personal lenses for 8×20 include:

Ultra Large Format Photography - timlaytonfineart.com/ULF

For 8×20, I like to categorize my lenses by their optical characteristics. Sometimes, I want a very sharp lens, other times, I may want a more soft and painterly feeling to my image.

The folded dimensions of my Chamonix 8×20 Camera: 635mm x 320mm x 130mm or 25″ x 12.6″ x 5.1″.

The bellows draw of my camera is 120mm to 620mm.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.

EFFECTIVE FOCAL LENGTHS IN COMPARISON TO 35MM

I use the follow focal lengths on my 8×20 ULF camera:

  • 210mm = 15.75mm
  • 270mm = 20mm (Computar Graphic-Kowa 270mm)
  • 305mm = 22.5mm
  • 355mm = 25mm
  • 450mm = 33.75mm (Nikkor-M 450mm)
  • 500mm = 38mm
  • 600mm = 45mm (Fujinon-C 600mm)

The 270mm Computar (Graphic-Kowa), 450mm Nikkor, and the 600mm Fujinon-C are the three primary lenses that I use 99.9% of the time (as shown below). These lenses are small, compact, and lightweight which is ideal for field use and backpacking.

For example, to calculate the 35mm equivalent focal length of a Nikkor 450mm lens on an 8×20 ultra large format camera, we need to know the diagonal size of the camera’s film negative.

The diagonal size of an 8×20 inch sheet of film is approximately 22.63 inches or 574.98mm. However, depending on the camera’s design, the actual diagonal size of the film negative may be slightly smaller.

The diagonal of 35mm film can be calculated using the Pythagorean theorem, which states that the square of the hypotenuse (diagonal) of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

In the case of 35mm film, the width is 24mm and the height is 36mm. So, using the Pythagorean theorem:

Diagonal^2 = 24^2 + 36^2

Diagonal^2 = 576 + 1296

Diagonal^2 = 1872

Diagonal = √1872

Diagonal = 43.27mm (approx.)

Therefore, the diagonal of 35mm film is approximately 43.27mm.

Now that we know the diagonal measurements of both film sizes, we can figure out the effective focal length when comparing the two film sizes.

Assuming a diagonal size of 574.98mm for 8×20, we can use the following formula to calculate the crop factor or focal length multiplier for an 8×20 ultra large format camera:

Crop factor = diagonal of 35mm film frame / diagonal of ultra large format film negative

Crop factor = 43.27mm / 574.98mm

Crop factor = 0.075

Therefore, the 35mm effective focal length of the Nikkor 450mm lens on an 8×20 ultra large format camera is:

Effective focal length = actual focal length x crop factor

Effective focal length = 450mm x 0.075

Effective focal length = 33.75mm (rounded to two decimal places)

So on an 8×20 ultra large format camera, the Nikkor 450mm lens would have an effective focal length equivalent to a wide-angle lens of approximately 33.75mm on a 35mm film camera.


Schneider 210XL Super-Symmar F5.6

  • This lens is super wide on any ULF camera, and on the 8×20, it feels crazy wide. (I am selling this lens)
  • The lens is approximately 16mm in 35mm terms.
  • The filter size of the front element is 135mm and if you want to use filters, you will either need to use mount your filter to the rear 67mm element or get a custom solution for the massive 135mm front element. See a video about that here.
  • I have verified full coverage on 8×20 at infinity with endless room for front and rear standard movements; see the video verifying coverage; however, there is a big but to consider. You can expect vignetting if you don’t have a center filter to correct for light fall-off. Depending on your requirements, this may or may not be an issue. Below this section, I share a photo of one of my negatives illustrating what to expect.
  • The cost of this lens is outrageous today, and while it is amazing, I can’t suggest it unless you are willing to pay the price for an extreme wide angle on ULF cameras.
  • If you are willing to buy this lens, be patient and ensure you get the center filter with it because most don’t have it, and they are incredibly rare.

Photo of an 8×20 paper negative showing the fall-off that you can expect without a center filter. Look in the lower left and right corners.

Schneider 210mm F5.6 XL Super Symmar - timlaytonfineart.com

Computar 270mm F9

  • This focal length and field of view are ideal for my style of photography on the 8×20.
  • There is another brand of this same lens, which I also own (Graphic-Kowa), as shown in the next section. Everything that I list here applies to that lens as well.
  • This lens is increasingly rare and difficult to find. In ULF terms, this lens is very compact and lightweight. I use this lens, the Nikkor 450M, and Fujinon C 600, as my holy trinity when I backpack with the 8×20.
  • In 35mm terms, the 270mm lens on the 8×20 has an equivalent focal length of approximately 20mm.
  • I have a Graphic-Kowa copy of this lens (as shown below) in a Copal 3S shutter in addition to this Computar version. The Kowa version has the convertible 270/475 aperture markings from F6.8 to F90 for 270mm and F13.6 to F90 for the 475mm focal length. See the photo in the middle below. This makes this lens even more valuable to me, with the ability to have two focal lengths in one very small package. I need to compare the quality of the Graphic-Kowa in convertible mode to the Nikkor-M 450 lens.
  • The front element filter size is 58mm. I tried to use a third-party metal hood with a filter size of 82mm, and I got vignetting/clipping. The factory hood that came with the Graphic-Kowa works perfectly for shading the front element, but it causes a slight vignette. I just use a dark slide to shade the lens in the field if needed.
  • I use traditional black-and-white filters (yellow, orange, and red) with this lens, and at this time, I am screwing them on the rear 52mm element. I did confirm with the Graphic-Kowa lens that I can put a filter on the front 58mm element.
  • I have verified full coverage on the 8×20 with both of these lenses wide open through F45, and I am working on verifying it on the 16×20. I expect it to have slight vignetting on the 16×20.

Graphic-Kowa 270mm (Convertible)

My notes and comments about the Computar 270 lens above apply to this lens as well. This specific copy that I own has the dual aperture scale for the 270mm and 450mm focal lengths, which is rare and extremely useful.


Rodenstock 300mm Sironar W APO F5.6

  • This lens is an optical marvel, approximately 22mm in 35mm terms.
  • The lens does not fully cover 8×20, but will on 7×17 and 14×17. [video]
  • It has an image circle of 490mm, so it should cover the 8×20 but it has clipping issues. I am investigating the root cause of the lack of coverage issue. It may be an obstruction issue, not a lack of coverage problem. More to follow when I have time to investigate.
  • As an alternative to this lens, I use a Graphic-Kowa (Computar) 305mm F9 lens that works perfectly.

Graphic-Kowa (Computar) 305mm F9

  • This lens has an approximate focal length of about 22mm in 35mm terms.
  • Apertures from F9 to F128.
  • This lens is difficult to find, and not many people realize this lens can cover ULF formats.
  • I have heard rumors that some copies do not fully cover 16×20 or 8×20, and I can confirm that the copy I purchased and ultimately returned did not cover 8×20. I know another ULF photographer that has a copy that covers. If you can find the Computar version, you will almost be assured it will cover. Just make sure you can return the lens if needed.
  • This is a small and compact 305mm wide-angle lens for ULF, and it is incredibly sharp and full of contrast, just like the 270mm version.


Goerz 14 in (355mm) Blue Dot F11

  • This is a new lens for me, and I need to verify coverage with some negatives. (This lens is for sale)
  • Approx. 35mm equivalent = 27mm
  • Apertures F11 to F128
  • This lens is a good alternative to the Schneider 355mm F9 G-Claron if you can find one.
  • Since this lens is mounted in a barrel, I use my Sinar Copal Shutter on my 8×20 camera.

Nikkor M 450mm F9

  • The Nikkor 450-M is a slightly wide lens on the 8×20
  • Approx. 35mm equivalent = 33mm
  • Apertures from F9 to F128
  • Front filter size is 67mm
  • Massive coverage for 8×20 with unlimited movements. Watch this video where I verify coverage with a paper negative (shown below).
  • I also use this lens on my 16×20 and 20×24 users report that it has just enough coverage on 20×24 when stopped down to at least F45.
Nikkor M 450mm F9 Lens - www.timlaytonfineart.com

Kodak Ektanon 21 1/4″ (540mm) F11

Normal+, approx. 35mm equivalent = 40mm (This lens is for sale)


Goerz 24 in F12.5 (600mm) Red Dot Artar

long, approx. 35mm equivalent = 45mm (This lens is for sale)


Fujinon-C 600mm F11.5

  • The Fujinon-C 600mm F11.5 is the longest lens I can use on my 8×20.
  • I sold my Goerz 24″ Red Dot Artar for this lens because of its smaller size and massive image circle.
  • Approx. 35mm equivalent = 45mm
  • Apertures from F11.5 to F64, but I can technically stop my lens down past f/64 (f/64, f/90, f/128, f/180, f/256)
  • The front filter size is 67mm
  • Massive coverage for 8×20 with unlimited movements. This lens covers my 16×20 as well, and I know others that use it on 20×24.

Soft Focus Lenses


TT Signature Pictorialist Soft Focus Lens 18 in & 24 in

  • Approximate 35mm equivalent = 34mm for 18-inch element and 45mm for 24-inch.

Wollaston Meniscus 335mm (14 in) F4.6

wide, approx. 35mm equivalent = 25mm


Wollaston Meniscus 500mm (20 in) F6.8

  • Normal lens for 8×20. Approximately 37mm FOV in 35mm terms.
  • Lens made by Reinhold Schable
  • Full coverage verified on 8×20 from wide open at F6.8 to F16
  • F22 has a slight vignette, but it could be good to use at times when I want that look.
  • F32 very noticeable vignette, but it could be useful in some scenarios when I want that look.
  • This lens is very low contrast compared to modern or TT Signature Pictorial lenses.
  • It is sharp in the center and falls off significantly.
  • Based on my paper negative tests, I thought F16 was too sharp for soft focus in my mind, so I think the sweet spot is from wide open at F6.8 for a sharp center and fast fall off to F8 or possibly F11, but F11 is probably starting to get too sharp for my taste.
  • I used this with the Sinar shutter on the 8×20 and it worked great.
  • See the video on YouTube where I tested coverage for this lens.

Finding a case for an ultra large format camera is never an easy task. I have typically had good luck with Gator cases that are intended to store and protect music equipment on the road.  I was fortunate to find a case that will hold the 16×20 camera and all four film holders!  Here is the link on Amazon for the case in case you want one for your camera. 

The dimensions of the Chamonix 16×20 camera are 24″ x 25.25″ x 6.75″ (610mm x 640mm x 170mm), and the dimensions of this case are 24″ x 30″ x 13″.  This allows me to store the camera and 4 film holders in the case all together along with the lenses too. 

The folded dimensions of my Chamonix 8×20 Camera: 635mm x 320mm x 130mm or 25″ x 12.6″ x 5.1″.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.


20×24 Ultra Large Format Photography

My primary reason for acquiring and using a 20×24 ultra large format camera is to make unparalleled world-class contact prints.

I don’t see how it can get any better than 20×24 ULF contact prints. I mount my contact prints with a 4-inch border making the final artwork an impressive 28″ x 32″.

Edward Weston taught us how magical large format contact prints truly and they have no equal in terms of that special x-factor. Weston worked with 8×10 and the 20×24 is six times larger! 

As contemporary large and ultra large format photographers, we have never had more creative options at any time in history.

While making digital negatives up to very large sizes is possible, I don’t find that to be a workflow I want to pursue because a chemistry-based analog process renders light in a way that can’t be imitated or matched. 

The alternative to an analog workflow is to use a digital camera, software, and computer-driven printer. The endless software and computer upgrades, not to mention the nightmares associated with maintaining large format inkjet printers, I don’t find any of this desirable.  I don’t know how other photographers choose to create their work, and I have no judgments about any of it. I am committed to a pure handmade analog workflow for the rest of my life and have no interest in digital technology for my fine art photography.

Very few people in the world are actively creating 20×24 ultra large format contact prints of any kind making them increasingly rare and unique.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.

35mm equivalents for 20×24

A standard lens for 20×24 based on the film diagonal of 31.2 inches or 793mm. The crop factor for focal length and effective apertures is 0.0545.

Now that you know the crop factor for the 20×24, you can use it to figure out the effective focal length and apertures compared to 35mm.

For example, if you want to know the 35mm effective focal length of a 47 1/2 inch (1206mm) lens like the one to the left of this text, just multiply 1206 x 0.0545 to get the equivalent focal length of approximately 65mm.

I use 35 inch (889 mm) and 30 inch (762mm) lenses regularly as well and they are equivalent to 48mm and 41mm respectively.

You can use the same crop factor of 0.0545 to calculate 35mm equivalent apertures too. For example, f/128 on 20×24 would be the equivalent of about f/7 on a 35mm camera.

To figure out the 35mm equivalents discussed above, we need to use the Pythagorean theorem as described below.

Crop factor = diagonal of 35mm film / ULF size film.

The diagonal of 35mm film can be calculated using the Pythagorean theorem, which states that the square of the hypotenuse (diagonal) of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

In the case of 35mm film, the width is 24mm and the height is 36mm. So, using the Pythagorean theorem:

Diagonal^2 = 24^2 + 36^2

Diagonal^2 = 576 + 1296

Diagonal^2 = 1872

Diagonal = √1872

Diagonal = 43.27mm (approx.)

Therefore, the diagonal of 35mm film is approximately 43.27mm.

You can use the Pythagorean theorem to manually calculate the diagonal of any size ULF film.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.

20×24 ULF Lenses

Just about any ULF 30-inch lenses and longer should cover 20×24 at infinity.  Remember that wider lenses can be used for close-up or macro work.  I do this extensively with my shorter focal lengths. For example, I have a 30-inch element for my TT Signature Pictorialist lens that covers at infinity, but I frequently use my 18″ and 24″ elements for closeup and macro work.

24-inch (wide angle), 30-inch (standard), and 35-inch (tele) lenses all cover 20×24, and they are reasonably priced and generally available on eBay.  They are super sharp as well.  They are the first lenses that I typically suggest for ULF photographers. **

** I personally own all of the Gorez lenses above and I use them on my 20×24.  I also have the very rare 47 1/2″ Goerz Red Dot Artar lens that Schneider badged.  My 35-inch lens is also a Schnieder badged Goerz lens too, which is very rare.  The 47 1/2″ lens requires 1206mm of bellows draw so this is quite a production when using this lens.

The 450mm Nikkor M F9 will barely cover if you stop down to f/45, but the image will be very soft on the corners, which is not always a bad thing. When you stop down to F90 and F128, you have yourself a wide-angle lens on 20×24 in a Copal 3 shutter.

The 450mm Nikkor is equivalent to about 24mm and a great wide-angle lens.

The Zeiss Jena 450mm F9 copy lens can be found occasionally on eBay for less than $500 typically.

The 550mm Schneider XXL will cover 20×24, but it’s crazy expensive and wonderful if you can find one and are willing to pay a ridiculous amount of money which isn’t worth it in my opinion.

Brand new Cooke Series XVa Triple Convertible (expensive $4k range in Copal 3)

Cooke XVa Focal lengths: 645mm (25″) (front cell only), 476mm (back cell only), 311mm (front + back)

The 645mm (25″) will cover 20×24, 476mm will cover 14×17 or use for closeup work, and 311mm (will cover 8×10 and also a great closeup/macro option) 

The 600mm Fujinon C will cover but not with very much movement, and its soft in corners.  These lenses are increasingly hard to find, and the prices are outrageous. 

600mm APO Nikkor will cover but not with very much movement and soft in corners

1000mm and 750mm Germinar single-coated lenses will cover at infinity.

750mm Nikkor Process lens (hard to find now)

30 inch Dallmeyer Rapid Rectilinear (good luck finding one)

Nikkor 480mm F9 APO Process Lens (Nikkor APO PDF)

Soft Focus/Pictorial Lenses

Tri-Tran 30-inch Signature Pictorial Lens (link)

20×24 Lens Guide Published by Wisner in 2007

LensFocal lengthMM ….InchesDegrees on 20×24Availability
Goerz/Zeiss Hypergon1506.0138.1very rare
Zeiss Series V Protar27510.8109.9very rare
Zeiss Series V Protar32512.8100.7very rare
Zeiss/B&L Series V, IV Protars39015.490.3rare
Goerz Am. Opt., Series III Dagors42016.586.1sometimes available
Goerz Dagors, Zeiss VII Protar48019.078.5sometimes available
Zeiss VII Protar59023.267.2available but can be $$$
Goerz American Optical Company Dagors61024.065.5rare
Zeiss Series V Protar63225.063.7rare
Zeiss VII Protar69027.259.2sometimes available
Goerz Apo Artar76030.054.6generally available
Goerz Apo Artar89035.047.6$1,000 on eBay 8/21
Turner Reich91536.046.4$884 on eBay 8/21

General Purpose 20×24 Lenses To Consider

B&L Extra Rapid Universal Series D 22 3/4″ F6
B&L Special 30″ 700mm F6.3
Carl Zeiss APO-Planar 32″ 800mm 
Carl Zeiss Protar 24″ 600mm F7.2
Goerz (Berlin) Dragor Series III 30″ 750mm F7.7
Voightlander Collinear 24″ 600mm F6.3

EXTERNAL ARTICLES & RESOURCES

  • Not ULF related directly, but since I like photographing trees, I like Spencer Cox’s article that could be adapted to ULF.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, I have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.