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Thread: How do I achieve Minolta Autocord image quality with a view camera?

  1. #1

    How do I achieve Minolta Autocord image quality with a view camera?

    A recent review of my favorite images surprised me when I realized the majority of them had been shot using a humble Minolta Autocord TLR and NOT my medium-form at view camera. Laugh if you must but the Autocords that I own have the ability to capture a bitingly sharp image yet also impart a rounded, almost 3D-like qua lity that I am unable to duplicate when shooting with my view camera.

    Obviously, it must be the lens that's responsible for this quality and to that e nd, I've tried a variety of older uncoated, single-coated and multi-coated lense s, all without success. Recently, I have bought and rented a handful of modern lenses and while they've been able to yield an impressive degree of sharpness, t he "3D" quality that I want simply isn't there.

    What's the secret? I enjoy the process of shooting with a view camera and would hate to give mine up but unless I can find at least one lens that can capture a n image with Autocord-like qualities, it'll have to go. Ideally, I'd like to fi nd a few lenses to cover the 55mm to 150mm range, but if I'm limited to just one , it would need to be in the 75mm to 100mm range since this is what I use most o f the time.

    Any suggestions or pointers will be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2

    How do I achieve Minolta Autocord image quality with a view camera?

    Jeffrey:

    There have been a number of discussions of medium format vs. LF lens sharpness on this forum. Most of the responses are subjective. I have just finished testing a 55mm Apo-Grandagon on an ArcaSwiss 69FC. Resolution maxed out at 75 lp/mm which is not only outstanding, but is also just at the diffraction limit at the corresponding f-stop.

    Medium format lenses peak at wider f-stops, but for most of my scenic work, I need the smaller stops for DOF anyway, so the MF lenses don't hold any advantage.

    Some tips:

    You need to find the "sweet spot" f-stops for your lens. For my 55, it is f/11-f/16... so I try to use no smaller than f/16 unless DOF demands.

    Use good, modern roll film holders (Toyo, Linhof, Horseman, Wista). Old graflex goodies from the parts bin just don't work as well.

    We all have a built in bias for our "old favorite" images. For a fair test, you must shoot the Minolta side-by-side with the view camera using the same film and lighting. Then do an honest blind test to see if the "3D" quality is really from the Minolta, or from your favorite subjects.

  3. #3

    How do I achieve Minolta Autocord image quality with a view camera?

    Some more info: I'm using a Toyo 23G with Toyo's 6x7 and 6x9 backs. I have modified a dark slide to mask off a 6x6 area and often shoot this way because I like the square format. I've shot direct comparisons to my Autocords -- real images, not test targets or newspapers -- and the "sweet spot" for my three is f/8 through f/16, with f/11 being perhaps the absolute sharpest of all.

    I know lenses designed for medium-format cameras are generally sharper than large-format lenses but a lot of the lenses I've used were really medium-format lenses in disguise because they couldn't cover much more than 2x3. I have also shot with a (rented) 55mm Grandagon and while I was also floored by its sharpness, it doesn't have the 3D quality that my three Autocords seem to have in abundance. Only one lens that I've ever used has come close -- a 100mm/f2.8 Zeiss planar -- but sadly, it wasn't for sale. I eventually found another one but it didn't perform nearly as well as the one I'd borrowed so I sold it.

    Unlike many people, I can get by with a fairly small image circle as I shoot primarily 6x6 and 6x7 and use only a small range of movement. I have thought about gutting an Autocord for the lens and then having it mounted in a shutter (or adapting the existing shutter to work outside the body) but haven't done it because I don't think the image circle's large enough to allow much, if any, in the way of movements.

    Lastly, the Autocord images that I referred to are not "old favorites" but ones I've shot as recently as last week. Over the past two years, I've found myself reaching for an Autocord increasingly more often and my Toyo increasingly less often. Like I said, I'd really hate to give up on using a view camera but despite the Autocords' many limitations, they're the cameras that are coming up with the results these days.

  4. #4

    How do I achieve Minolta Autocord image quality with a view camera?

    I wonder if the 3D quality you notice is due to subtle flare. Flare does not lower sharpness (hence, your Autocord images are sharp), but it can give a "romantic" quality, much like a weak fog filter. I also have an Autocord. I wonder if a weak fog filter, such as a Tiffen or Harrison 1/2 grade, would reproduce the 3-D quality with your view camera.

  5. #5

    How do I achieve Minolta Autocord image quality with a view camera?

    I think I know what you mean by the 3D impression that some lenses impart - when used in the correct manner. I've had a few lenses that give me the same "wow" factor - a 6 element 35mm Summicron (not the last pre-aspheric, but the one before), a Rollei 2.8F Planar, an 80mm Rollei Planar PQ, a Zeiss 100mm/f2.8 Planar for the Graflex XL, the Grandagon 58mm/f5.6 for the same camera, and, to a certain extent, the 100mm/f3.5 for the Fuji 690 (the old one, a Tessar), and a Nikkor- M 105mm/f3.5 (also a Tessar). None of the large format lenses that I have owned (with the exception of the Nikkor-M) have given the same impression (which I favor). It may have something to do with how you use these lenses. For example, the Summicron mentioned above was great for this when used at closer distances (3m-10m) at moderate f- stops, but definitely did not maintain this performance at infinity or wide open. Many "view camera" type pictures are the "Get it all in focus" types...for which every lens I've ever used doesn't give a "3-D" impression. Something to do with the sharp parts of the picture that contrast with unsharp areas, perhaps. View cameras tend not to be used this way. Medium format SLRs and TLRs, on the other hand, are often used for portraits and other types of photos which value an unsharp background, which makes the sharp foreground look more "3-D" (perhaps). Could this be what's going on?

  6. #6

    How do I achieve Minolta Autocord image quality with a view camera?

    Hmmm ... I don't think flare is an issue (I always use a lens hood and also shade the camera with my hat during each exposure) but Dan may be onto something with his observation about focus distance. Most of the images I shoot with my Autocords are focused much closer than infinity but then, that's also the case with my view camera since I shoot about the same way (slow and very methodical) with either camera. I shoot a lot more close-in detail shots than grand panoramas and I'd guess that most of my shots are of subjects in the 5m to 30m range. <img scr=http://www.mindspring.com/~audidudi/PHOTOs/Sunflower-Mine-Smelter- detail.jpg> Although it suffers greatly by comparison to the original, the image I posted above is a good example of the kind of subjects I like to shoot -- fwiw, the focus distance was ~1.5m -- and it also gives you a brief hint of the sort of "3D" quality I'm after. Perhaps I should try some lenses designed for macro work instead of general purpose ones?

  7. #7

    How do I achieve Minolta Autocord image quality with a view camera?

    Oops ... I guess that didn't work. For the curious, here's a link to the image: http://www.mindspring.com/~audidudi/PHOTOs/Sunflower-Mine-Smelter-deta il.jpg

  8. #8

    How do I achieve Minolta Autocord image quality with a view camera?

    Here's hoping that the third time's the charm...


  9. #9
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    How do I achieve Minolta Autocord image quality with a view camera?

    I think you just need to find the right lens for your view camera.

    I find that Heliar-type lenses are very good at producing that stereoscopic effect. Try a Voigtlander Heliar (coated if you can find one) or if you can find a defunct Kodak Medalist, take the 100mm/3.5 Ektar from it, which is an excellent coated Heliar-type lens. I have a Heliar 360/4.5 that I like for 8x10" portraits, and a 250/4.5 Heliar for 6x6cm. I've also adapted the 100/3.5 Ektar for 35mm use. There are some test shots at:

    http://www.smu.edu/~rmonagha/mf/medalist/

  10. #10

    How do I achieve Minolta Autocord image quality with a view camera?

    Yes, I believe that the Kodak heliar-type lenses are very similar in formulation to the Planars found on Rollei TLRs (and also to the 100mm/f3.5 Planar for the XL that I mentioned above). Interestingly, the XL Planar that I had produced this sort of effect, but only in the right lighting conditions, and, again, at certain distances and apertures. I don't think it is surprising that lenses have a "sweet spot" for aperture, but it is perhaps interesting that they have the same thing for focal distance. I would also seek out the aforementioned Nikkor-M, which is a medium format view camera lens (no longer produced). If you get a good sample, this sort of effect can be seen. You won't be surprised by how good a Tessar can be, given your experience with the Autocord, but some people may. If you can find a good sample of the Grandagon 58mm/f5.6, that may be worth investigating also (don't ask me why this lens seems to be so good, despite being 30-40 years old and single-coated, but my 90mm/f8 Super Angulon MC was nothing to write home about).

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