Wollensak Raptar 135mm f/4.7
So here is the thing about how I got into large format photography: I never really intended to get into large format photography. But, leave it to the humble 135mm Wollensak Raptar to muck it all up.
Back in 2002 while I was taking a photography course in college, I decided to take a semester and dedicate it towards shooting pinhole photographs. While many people who dabble in pinhole seem to embrace the sloppier aspect of making a camera, I went a bit overboard trying to make a perfect pinhole camera. I spent a lot of punching pinholes into thick aluminum foil and then scanning them to assess if they were perfectly round. Then using the scans to measure the width of the pinhole to the nearest hundredths of an inch to calculate the camera's exact f-stop.
After dabbling with a cardboard box for a camera, I decided I wanted something nicer to help load film without such a risk of light leaks. I went on eBay and looked around for old, cheap large format cameras that I could use for my pinhole adventures. Figured it would be even less expensive since I didn't need any fancy lens.
What I ended up scoring for $50 was a Burke & James 4x5 press that had a 135mm Raptar bundled with it. I adapted the camera for pinholes that semester, but since I ended up with a lens, I tried it out for non-pinhole large format photography.
Thus, the Wollensak Raptar became my first lover in the land of large format.
Eventually, I fell into using my Raptar equipped 4x5 cameras for night photography. Looking back, this was oddly the lens's strongest point in my experience of it with photography.
I'm not sure if it was the ten-blade aperture that makes a decently round aperture iris, the simple lens design, or a combination of both, but this lens rendered point lights in some of the most amazing ways I've ever experienced. I tried using some modern lenses for night photos, but kepts coming back to the Raptar because of this.