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Thread: High contrast films and low contrast lenses: Good?

  1. #1
    Randy Moe's Avatar
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    High contrast films and low contrast lenses: Good?

    J. Lane Dry Plates just said his plates are 'high contrast'. Most say X-Ray and older film are also high contrast.

    Does using an older, uncoated lens have softer contrast performance on the above high contrast emulsions?

    And if this is true, perhaps damaged glass may also soften HC films. Scratches, fungus, etc both front and rear.

    I mean sharp glass not purpose built SF.

    No, I haven't tried it yet. Thoughts?

  2. #2
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: High contrast films and low contrast lenses: Good?

    I doubt it'd help. High contrast means there is less difference in the ends of the histogram near near-black and near-white. A needlessly low contrast lens would simply butcher those parts of the histogram. I'd try for softer light or weaker developer.

  3. #3

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    Re: High contrast films and low contrast lenses: Good?

    Agreed. There are no cases where a low-contrast lens is a good thing, really. low contrast = low resolution. No one deliberately designs a lens for low contrast.

  4. #4
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: High contrast films and low contrast lenses: Good?

    Depends. I often admire a degree of flare in 19th C prints from blue-sensitive film.

  5. #5

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    Re: High contrast films and low contrast lenses: Good?

    I find that today's films can be quite contrasty, modern LF lenses very contrasty, cold tone printing papers contrasty, film development/exposure can be contrasty, filter use contrasty, daytime sunlight light quality can be contrasty, images with good acutance hard, so everything is leaning towards contrasty results... I realize that a slightly harder image can have a greater apparent sharpness, but I'm wondering at what expense???

    We also have room to explore the entire scale of the materials, not just the ends...

    If we are getting mushy results, we are doing something wrong, but trying to "flamethrow" everything with contrast (at expense of finding nicely rendered mid-tones) is too much...

    To me, older optics can have a smoother tonal transition and can tame some films that are a little too depressed in the shadow region (but hopefully the design + glass do not "bloom" the highlights so much that there is a "compression" in the higher tonal regions)...

    Before ortho, blue sensitive materials were contrasty, and the lenses of the day tamed them...

    It's our choice to the type of tonality that works with the subject matter, but I like to listen to what the subject is telling me about how it should be rendered... ;-)

    Steve K

  6. #6
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: High contrast films and low contrast lenses: Good?

    Randy, if you've got any LF Zeiss Tessars lying around, try them. I've always found the Tessars to have lifted shadows. It's not that they are overtly low-contrast, it just seems like they throw some flare into the shadows - similar to pre-flashing the film overall.

    I don't know what it is about certain lenses, designs, or whatever. My APO Lanthars also seem to have a bit more shadow detail, despite modern glass and coatings.

    Overtly low-contrast lenses, in my experience, seem to be kinda grey and blah all around, as opposed to just having enhanced shadows. I think there may be some fine distinction here between global contrast and what is commonly referred to as "micro-contrast."

    I haven't tried my Tessars on the JL plates, but you've prompted me to give it a go next time.
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  7. #7
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: High contrast films and low contrast lenses: Good?

    Ditto. When I want to work in that mode, I reach for a Zeiss tessar and place a deep blue filter on it. It's very sharp with excellent gradation, but gives a different look.

  8. #8
    Jac@stafford.net's Avatar
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    Re: High contrast films and low contrast lenses: Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    Ditto. When I want to work in that mode, I reach for a Zeiss tessar and place a deep blue filter on it.
    That was something taught to me by a former Vietnam combat photographer - a mild blue filter under the triple canopy jungle pleased the processing folks.

  9. #9

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    Re: High contrast films and low contrast lenses: Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jac@stafford.net View Post
    That was something taught to me by a former Vietnam combat photographer - a mild blue filter under the triple canopy jungle pleased the processing folks.
    Green is good for this too with pan films...

    Bringing out the blue where only skylight penetrates works, but at the expense of reds, yellows etc (where they peak in direct sunlight)...

    Steve K

  10. #10
    Randy Moe's Avatar
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    Re: High contrast films and low contrast lenses: Good?

    Bryan, no Zeiss Tessars, but some Jena.

    I like seeing your results and tech explanations.

    Don't forget I'm also making a cargo trailer RV, so I have too many projects...

    The Darkroom is also lagging. I develop in a dry closet.

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