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Thread: Lenses for shooting 8x10 and making contact prints

  1. #1

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    Lenses for shooting 8x10 and making contact prints

    Last fall met a photographer (unfortunately I forgot to exchange Emails) who was shooting with his 8x10. We got talking and had a great conversation. He told me that he makes 8x10 contact prints from his negatives. At the time he was using a Schneider Kreuznach Super Symmar HM 210mm f/5.6 MC... that was the first time that I had ever seen a Super Symmar HM in person. We got to be talking about lenses and he said that he used the Super Symmar HM to get the "sharpest possible contact prints".

    Got me thinking recently... I shoot 8x10 with a 250mm Fuji W. Would the Silver contact prints that he made with his Super Symmar HM be any sharper than than the ones made with my 250mm Fuji W lens at the same apertures? Surely the developers and development techniques we both use would influence the apparent sharpness of the negatives. The LF negatives that I process in Daifine A+B certainly have to differ from the ones that FORUM member Steve Sherman developes with his Minimal Agitation technique. And what about contact prints on hand coated Platinum/Palladium paper... Consulted the Platinum/Palladium print books that I have collected, and couldn't find a comparison of image resolution of fiber based Silver prints verses hand coated Platinum/Palladium. Personally have subjectively experienced very different apparent visual image resolutions when printing Platinum/Palladium depending on the paper I was using.

    Also have read that the "rough rule of thumb is that the viewing distance should be 1.5 to 2 times the diagonal length" of the print... So the viewing distance should be between 18 to 24 inches. My 70 year old eyes aren't the best, but with glasses, my vision is 20/20. I have put a contact silver print next to an inkjet print of the same image and honestly I can't see the difference unless I get up really, really close to the prints which from personal experience is generally frowned upon in Museums.

    I might note that years ago I was at the Eastman House and actually handling some of Eugene Smith's final prints. You didn't need a X5 loupe to see that some of them weren't all that sharp and I swear he spotted some of them with India ink.... are some of us too hung up on image resolutions rather than on the actual image captured in the photograph?

    comments very welcome...

  2. #2

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    Re: Lenses for shooting 8x10 and making contact prints

    The developer, concentration,temperature, agitation method and schedule will have more effect on the sharpness of your negatives than the minor differences in modern lenses. Then you have the same plus other variables contributing to the sharpness of your prints.
    Yes,I think some of us are too hung up on sharpness and image resolution than on the actual image and its presentation. The most modern lens I own, but rarely use, is a superb Fujinon 250, I prefer the look of the older lenses.

  3. #3
    Jac@stafford.net's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses for shooting 8x10 and making contact prints

    The lenses you post make no difference for contact prints whatsoever. Why should they?
    .

  4. #4

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    Re: Lenses for shooting 8x10 and making contact prints

    Following a current thread (about masking) that mentioned Barry Thornton regarding sharpness, I bought Edge of Darkness and have been reading it this week. Apparently, Thornton was the god of sharpness, and though the book is interesting, I was mostly inspired by the examples in his book, which are deadly awful. And seeing how he further mangled his bad photos with masking--if one is to go by the photos in the book--I'm losing my interest in masking, too. So this weekend, at least, I'm inclined to second Jim's comment suggesting the importance of good photographs over exotic technique.
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format: http://flickr.com/michaeldarnton
    Mostly 35mm: http://flickr.com/mdarnton
    You want digital, color, etc?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stradofear

  5. #5

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    Re: Lenses for shooting 8x10 and making contact prints

    Smith shot 35mm and sometimes heavily manipulated prints to get the drama he wanted.
    The handsaw jammed into the corner of a pic of Albert Schweizer may be the grossest example- not that it jumps out of the image.
    To coin the old phrase- he had vision and wasn't afraid to use it
    As for the Fuji - I had only a few minutes to take an 8x10 or two at a wedding. I have a 16x20 of the bride with texture in her dress. I based the exposure etc on experience.
    That and dumb luck was all it took

  6. #6
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    Re: Lenses for shooting 8x10 and making contact prints

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg View Post
    At the time he was using a Schneider Kreuznach Super Symmar HM 210mm f/5.6 MC... that was the first time that I had ever seen a Super Symmar HM in person. We got to be talking about lenses and he said that he used the Super Symmar HM to get the "sharpest possible contact prints".
    Except that per Schneider's own MTF data, the 210 SS-HM *isn't* sharper than the ordinary 210 Apo-Symmar (and most likely not sharper than the corresponding Rodenstock, Nikon and Fuji plasmats either). The SS-HM is bigger and more expensive because it has a larger image circle; in fact, it trades off some sharpness to achieve that. So I have to wonder whether this photographer is fooling himself, seeing what he wants to see based on a simplistic presumption that the bigger and more expensive a lens and the more exotic the optical formula, the sharper it must be.

  7. #7

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    Re: Lenses for shooting 8x10 and making contact prints

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    So I have to wonder whether this photographer is fooling himself, seeing what he wants to see based on a simplistic presumption that the bigger and more expensive a lens and the more exotic the optical formula, the sharper it must be.
    That was the impression I left with after talking with him...

  8. #8

    Re: Lenses for shooting 8x10 and making contact prints

    I contact print 8x10 and agree with the comment above that the lens you use is not the primary driver in a well executed contact print. Optimal contrast distribution within the print (ie. exposure and development) is also a highly desirable attribute as is edge effect that come from specific developers and developing techniques. Two things I would also recommend. First is be very judicious in knowing precisely where you place your focus plane and be consistent with this process when you make photographs until it becomes second nature. Howard Bond has a fabulous article describing the proper technique with graphics. Only use what movement is necessary so as to not induce unnecessary vignetting which also needs to be checked on the GG. Secondly, only stop your lens down as far as you need to attain the necessary focus for your photograph. Many times photographers stop down far more than necessary and add diffraction effects to their photographs for no reason.

    Although I have a dozen 8x10 lenses in my case, I find the 355 G Claron is my most used lens for both macro and longer images because of the enormous coverage (never have to be concerned when using movements) as well as the sharpness and contrast balance. The 450M, the 600C and the Doctor 240mm fill the rest of the most used dance card.

    Although I have a load of Azo and continue to use it for contact printing, recently I have been contact printing using my Durst 138S enlarger with an Ilford 500 multi contrast head for illumination on Ilford warm tone paper for 8x10, 11x14 and 8x20. The ability to use control panel to select a paper grade in 1/2 grade increments is invaluable. At the end of the day it is all about results.





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  9. #9

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    Re: Lenses for shooting 8x10 and making contact prints

    Quote Originally Posted by mdarnton View Post
    ...the importance of good photographs over exotic technique.
    This is a common refrain. I disagree with the premise. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

  10. #10
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses for shooting 8x10 and making contact prints

    If you are only contact printing, you can get down to f90 and or use lenses with blurry corners. These things don't work so well when making enlargements from 8x10.

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