One of the main limitations and things to look out for when buying lenses for LF is the image circle of the lens. Because there are several formats, not all lenses are made for all formats. Many lenses that look like large format lenses are also made for 6x9cm roll film so that they cannot even be used on 4x5. The term image circle refers to the size of the image that the lens projects onto the film. Image circle is typically measured in millimeters of the diameter at f/22 when focused at infinity and should be larger than the diagonal distance of the film to cover fully. If your image circle is smaller than your film size you will see the corners vignette or go completely black. Note that most lenses have a significantly larger image circle when stopped down. Also note that a lens produces a larger image circle when focused to a short distance than when focused to infinity. This means that if you only take portraits, a lens with a smaller image circle can be used. A chart of the image circle specifications for most popular LF lenses can be found HERE, or by googling “spec for new large format lenses”. If your image circle is significantly larger than your film size, camera movements can be used - essentially recording a crop of the projected image circle on film.
Minimum image circles for the different formats:
4x5” - 154mm
5x7” - 209mm
8x10” - 313mm
Currently, large format is the only category where you still have a good selection of new camera bodies - about 10 producers around the world produce new cameras in many different categories. Among them are; Chroma Camera and Intrepid in the UK, Gibellini in Italy and Chamonix and Shen Hao in China. Some of these also produce new film holders. Shutters and lenses are not yet being produced and many shutters you find on the used market are therefore old and inaccurate unless they have been checked and repaired like the ones we sell.