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View Full Version : Kodak Ektar lenses: Tessar Vs. Double Gauss with respect to their rendering of images



Dustyman
3-Oct-2017, 15:30
Besides coverage, does anyone have experiences of how the signature differs between Commercial Ektar lenses (Tessar) and the Wide Field Ektar (double gauss) lenses? Especially in similar or equivalent focal lengths covering 5x7 and 8x10. Maximum aperture differences aside, do they render images discernibly differently from each other? Sharpness, quality of out of focus areas, contrast, "atmosphere" etc. Do they have different signature "looks" ...and how would you describe it?

Again, I am not interested in talking about coverage. Just how they compare regarding their rendering signatures.

Thank you.

Mark Sampson
3-Oct-2017, 19:08
Those lenses were all designed to satisfy a demanding professional clientele, and it shows, even after seventy years. I've used many different Ektars; f/6.3 Commercial Ektars, f/4.5, f/4.7, and f.7.7 (plain) Ektars, and f.6.3 Wide Field Ektars. (A couple of f/11 Copying Ektanons too, here and there.)
To answer your first question in short- no. They are all quite sharp, and if they have a signature 'look', it's merely that they have lower contrast than modern multicoated designs. If you're shooting transparency film in the studio for commercial reproduction (as few of us do any more), this may be an issue. If you're shooting negative film to print optically or scan and print digitally, then it's a non-issue. I've happily used modern Nikkors next to Kodak lenses for decades and never thought that the Ektars were inferior (except shooting straight into the light, which I rarely do). I've never cared about the out-of-focus rendering (I try not to have significant OOF areas in my pictures) so can't speak to that.

In short- quite sharp, pleasing tone rendition, lower contrast than a multi-coated lens. Perfectly usable in all normal circumstances.

(Disclaimer: I worked as an industrial photographer for Kodak and then ITT for 25 years, and was based in the building where those lenses had been made- so I am both experienced and biased.)

Dustyman
11-Oct-2017, 14:20
Thank you, Mark. I appreciate your detailed answer regarding your first-hand Ektar experiences.
Anyone else out there who would like to chime in?

I currently have a 14" Commercial Ektar that I am very happy with. I am wondering if the 250mm Wide Field Ektar, will give me similar rendering. Again, it's a Tessar vs. the Double Gauss design.



Those lenses were all designed to satisfy a demanding professional clientele, and it shows, even after seventy years. I've used many different Ektars; f/6.3 Commercial Ektars, f/4.5, f/4.7, and f.7.7 (plain) Ektars, and f.6.3 Wide Field Ektars. (A couple of f/11 Copying Ektanons too, here and there.)
To answer your first question in short- no. They are all quite sharp, and if they have a signature 'look', it's merely that they have lower contrast than modern multicoated designs. If you're shooting transparency film in the studio for commercial reproduction (as few of us do any more), this may be an issue. If you're shooting negative film to print optically or scan and print digitally, then it's a non-issue. I've happily used modern Nikkors next to Kodak lenses for decades and never thought that the Ektars were inferior (except shooting straight into the light, which I rarely do). I've never cared about the out-of-focus rendering (I try not to have significant OOF areas in my pictures) so can't speak to that.

In short- quite sharp, pleasing tone rendition, lower contrast than a multi-coated lens. Perfectly usable in all normal circumstances.

(Disclaimer: I worked as an industrial photographer for Kodak and then ITT for 25 years, and was based in the building where those lenses had been made- so I am both experienced and biased.)

Alan Gales
11-Oct-2017, 16:21
PM John Kasaian. He owns both and thinks highly of each.

http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/private.php?do=newpm&u=2586

Mark Sampson
11-Oct-2017, 18:20
Well, not to step on Mr. Kasaian's toes, or anyone else's, but here goes again. When I was last shooting 8x10 for myself, in 2010/2011, I used both a 14"/6.3 Commercial Ektar and a 10"/6.3 Wide Field Ektar. Of the work I did then, I doubt that you could tell which lens made which picture, unless you have a very good eye for perspective. (For the record I was shooting Kodak Tri-X Pan 4164, developed in PMK Pyro, and contact printed.)
They are both fine lenses; circumstances required that I sell my 8x10 kit and I'm sorry that I had to.
I think that you should try the 10" WFE; a season's shooting with the lens will answer your question better than I can. I'm boldly predicting that you will like and keep it.

Dustyman
11-Oct-2017, 21:20
Ok Mark, I went ahead and bought the 250mm WFE. Whatever happens, it's your fault : )
I attach a recent shot with the 14". Easy to fall in love with this lens.

170811



Well, not to step on Mr. Kasaian's toes, or anyone else's, but here goes again. When I was last shooting 8x10 for myself, in 2010/2011, I used both a 14"/6.3 Commercial Ektar and a 10"/6.3 Wide Field Ektar. Of the work I did then, I doubt that you could tell which lens made which picture, unless you have a very good eye for perspective. (For the record I was shooting Kodak Tri-X Pan 4164, developed in PMK Pyro, and contact printed.)
They are both fine lenses; circumstances required that I sell my 8x10 kit and I'm sorry that I had to.
I think that you should try the 10" WFE; a season's shooting with the lens will answer your question better than I can. I'm boldly predicting that you will like and keep it.

LabRat
11-Oct-2017, 23:25
Lenses in general were made traditionally to look as good as possible (within cost restraints, etc) for the general or specialized applications they were designed for, so in that context, there are no "bad" lenses, only better or worst than other offerings for specific applications and price points... (Not meaning all lenses are great, though...)

The WF Ektar was for those who needed the extra coverage, at some expense to the speed, or as wides... So very slightly dimmer on the GG while focusing, but Kodak pro lenses tend to have a consistent "family" look as pros expected, for their commercial uses... (But no big jumps in "look" than their others, just another in their "family")...
And lenses were produced to match the materials + style of the period they were produced...

I think the biggest difference was the postwar period, as pro lenses tended to be made very sharp/hard/contrasty as some types of pro subjects (like in product photography) needed lenses that would produce the sharpest images under most conditions, where some items being shot could look mushy or even OOF due to the materials of the product being shot (some materials like ceramics, plastics, fabrics, finishes etc, high/low contrast conditions will never photograph too sharp), so studio lenses were made to be brutally sharp under these conditions... Later lenses most tend to be made to produce that look, but can be a little severe on subjects that have more "delicate" features... So there is also a choice of lenses of an era, for the desired look..

I shoot with the WF and Comm Ektars, and like them both a lot!!! Good Choice!!!

Have Fun!!!

Steve K

Dustyman
18-Oct-2017, 10:24
I received the 250mm WFE, but was heartbroken to see the rear element had a large mass of fine micro scratches dead center, about the size of a half dollar. See attached picture. I contacted Focal Point (who polishes and re-coats if the scratches aren't deep) at the suggestion of Adam Das of SK Grimes. John at Focal Point was hesitant to offer a quote without seeing the lens, but said it would likely be around $250 plus shipping both ways. Anyone ever use this service?

Anyhow, I am going to return the lens, sadly. My search for a 250mm WFE continues.

171047

Will Whitaker
18-Oct-2017, 19:44
Fwiw, the book Cape Light by Joel Meyerowitz was shot entirely with a 250 WFE lens according to the author's notes. I would suggest you find a copy of that book as a start to learning about that lens. I would also suggest you find a copy simply because his photographs are beautiful and capture so well the feel of Cape Cod.

neil poulsen
19-Oct-2017, 06:30
You might try them with E6 transparency film. Professional level Ektar lenses were optimized for Kodak Ektachorme films that were available at the time.

Tim V
20-Oct-2017, 02:03
I'm sitting with a copy of the new edition of Cape Light now. It's certainly a look of its time; a bit of an overly romantic romp in parts, but great none the less. The notes say he shot everything at f90, which I find very odd considering he's talked about printing big from the negatives. I would have thought diffraction would kill the detail a that aperture. Beside the obvious in terms of increased depth of field, why shoot at that aperture? The hazy look? The contemporary pigment prints from drum scans are sized approximately 20x24", and from what I understand they were originally printed as dye transfers and later optical C-Type prints, maybe a little bit bigger. Anyone seen the exhibition prints in the flesh?

I ask because I like have seen a friend working with the same Wide Field Ektar and he spoke of the look of the lens, and it is striking in his prints and resembles Meyerowitz's look, only he's shooting at the 'conventional' f45.

http://www.beetlesandhuxley.com/exhibitions/joel-meyerowitz-cape-light.html

Mark Sampson
20-Oct-2017, 07:37
I doubt that Mr. Meyerowitz shot that entire book at F/90. Probably more a figure of speech emphasizing the slow nature of view-camera work. (My copy is packed away, so can't analyze the quote). But I have used the WF Ektars for a long time, in different focal lengths. When I used the 10'/6.3 most of my exposures were at f/32-45. But the pictures shot stopped down all the way don't look much different from the others. I've only contact-printed those images, but they all would stand up to enlargement.
I'm sure Meyerowitz's first 'originals' were contact prints on Ektacolor paper. The Phillips Collection, where I work, has some of these and a few of them were on exhibit last year. Part of the way those prints looked is due to the nature of the available process then; the only color neg film that would work was Vericolor Type L 4108. There were only two Ektacolor papers for the EP-2 process, and they weren't much different from each other. So he used the limited characteristics of his materials to shape his color vision, and did so very effectively. Of course the images may have been printed many ways over time; I have never seen any larger prints from that series, so can't comment about those.

Bernice Loui
20-Oct-2017, 08:30
Kodak Wide Field Ektar does not stop down past f45.


Bernice

Drew Wiley
20-Oct-2017, 09:41
It's not about sharpness. Some portrait photographers will still spend big bucks for large aperture tessars due to the gentle rendering of background blur. Commercial Ektars might be sharper, but were so-so in this particular characteristic, including WF versions.

Drew Wiley
20-Oct-2017, 09:49
I've seen both the early 8X10 Meyerowitz contacts and up to 30X40 enlargements. Have the book too, where he did claim routine f/90 stops. Maybe he slid it smaller than the official markings, but it was allegedly an attempt to exaggerate diffraction and not just depth of field.

Tim V
20-Oct-2017, 14:18
That's what I was wondering, if the extra diffraction – which at the claimed aperture I'd assume quite a lot – led to a slightly different rendering. More depth of field, yes, but a more dreamy glow?

The pictures I've seen of the Wide Field Ektars all go max f45 aperture, but Meyerowitz does claim to have used f90 for most exposures. Either way, I'm interested in what Mark has written about materials and processes used to lead to a particular result. In the generally digitally homogenous world we now exist in, people often forget about materials. Or at least they often forget where particular 'looks' and particular visual languages come from and why. Good information, thanks.

Mark Sampson
20-Oct-2017, 18:29
Well, I admit being influenced by 'Cape Light'. I first saw the book in 1981, when I had just been hired by a custom lab (remember those?) as a b/w printer. That led to learning to print color on the job, and then for myself. I bought a 4x5 camera at the same time and began to play around. One of my colleagues (who taught me to print color) was doing the same thing. Since we were in Rochester, Kodak film was the only brand we thought of. Vericolor Type L 4108 was the only sheet color neg film that would tolerate long exposures- although meant for tungsten light. So we exposed it in daylight @ EI50 with an 85B filter. (Meyerowitz did not, and corrected the color, as far as possible, in the printing process.) I contact-printed or enlarged onto Kodak Ektacolor type 74 paper, N (semi-matte) surface, processed in roller-transport machine using EP-2 chemistry. Standard practice at the time. Shooting E-6 (as most of the lab's professional customers did) yielded beautiful chromes on the light table, but were difficult to print. Internegatives were a PITA and our lab didn't offer Cibachrome. The RIT professor who taught dye transfer was a customer, but that process was pure rocket science- not for mere mortals like me. So I used the materials to hand and learned as I went. I haven't done any serious color work since ITT shut down the color lab I ran in 2009, but I hope to go back to it someday; it's an appealing, quite different world now.
...I should add that the only other sheet color neg film in those days was Vericolor II Type S, 4107, which was the film for studio portraiture. It was lower-contrast, balanced for skin tones and meant for flash exposure. It would only work for exposures shorter than 1/10 second, so impractical for outdoor view camera work. (I'd exposed miles of that film in 70mm in my previous job as a portrait shooter, but that's another story.)