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Thread: Meandering discussion about the utility of aerial lenses

  1. #1

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    Meandering discussion about the utility of aerial lenses

    I was first introduced to the magic of repurposed aerial lenses seeing an Aero Ektar on a 4x5 camera. These seem to give a lot of sharpness for the investment and some have wide apertures to give multiple uses from portraits to documentation and landscape.

    Show your aerial lens and it's pictures!

    I am looking at some Wild and aus Jena lenses and want to see what else isworht considering the won't break off the front standard of my beautiful Chamonix 8x10, (with 4x5 reducing back if need be).

    Thanks,

    Asher

  2. #2

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    Re: Aerial Lenses! Show your best pictures with each lens!

    Asher, you're out of your mind. Few of the lenses fitted to aerial cameras are worth the trouble and expense of bothering with. The 7"/2.5 Aero Ektar and 8"/2.9 Pentac seem to be exceptions. Ignorant barbarian that I am, I see them as cult lenses.

    As you may know, I've had a number of lenses from aerial cameras, including several recommended in A Lens Collector's Vade Mecum. If you don't have the VM, get a copy. Dan Colucci, who posts here as CCHarrison, will sell you one for $15. If you already have one, or when your copy arrives, read the section "Military Optical Ordinance" in file 008lm.pdf. I concur fully with their analysis.

    You can read about my adventures with aerial camera lenses in http://www.galerie-photo.com/telecha...2011-03-29.pdf . I've found only three -- oddly, the VM likes 'em too -- really usable. They are:

    Item, 38/4.5 Biogon ex-AGI F135. Wonderful lens, not LF. I use mine on a Century Graphic even though it doesn't cover 2x3. Semi-retired in favor of a 35/4.5 Apo Grandagon that puts image, not black, in the corners.

    Item, 4"/2.0 TTH Anastigmat (2 1/4" x 2 1/4"). Wonderful lens, not LF, in barrel, short back focus, can't be put in shutter, and no better from f/5.6 down than a 100+/- f/5.6 plasmat. I've used it on a 2x3 Pacemaker Speed Graphic. Retired in favor of a plasmat, and I've rarely hit situations where I could shoot wider than f/5.6.

    Item, 12"/4 TTH Telephoto. Fine lens on a Speed Graphic or, perhaps, a Sinar, otherwise useless. Too short back focus to be used on a Graflex or other 4x5 SLR. The longest lens that fits comfortably on a 2x3 Speed. Retired in favor of a 305 Apo Nikkor 'cos with the tele the front bellows frame cuts off the ends of the image.

    Re breaking front standards, investigate crutches. Easier to implement on a monorail than on a flatbed camera like your Chamonix.

    Re Wild lenses, I've handled the late Charlie Barringer's 44/5.6 Super Aviogon. I believe one could be mounted on a 4x5 Speed, expect that focusing would be problematic. Keep an eye on Westlicht auctions, I believe that its there now. Will probably be expensive.

  3. #3

    Re: Aerial Lenses! Show your best pictures with each lens!

    I guess we may agree to disagree on that one Dan

    I had excellent experience using a 180lpm TOPOGON (same Charlie had) on a 8x10 and there are a few others, such as a WILD 8/100, Lamegon 8/100 and a few Biogons which I would need to dig out the results. That actually agrees with results a friend of mine had using same or similar lenses - we had them all on the optical bench for testing.

    P.S.:; shouldn't it read "idem" instead of "item" ?
    Klaus

    http://www.macrolenses.de for macro and special lens info
    http://www.pbase.com/kds315/ for UV Images and lens/filter info
    http://photographyoftheinvisibleworld.blogspot.com/ my UV diary

  4. #4

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    Re: Aerial Lenses! Show your best pictures with each lens!

    Klaus, I didn't say all lenses for aerial cameras were bad ideas for general use, rather that most are.

    Charlie's monster Topogon was an enlarging lens, not an aerial camera lens. I've held it, or rather, dandled it on my knee. Big, heavy, not easily or inexpensively put in shutter, if at all, and as I recall it had an integral red filter.

    The problem with using aerial camera lenses on terrestrial cameras is not that they're bad lenses but that longer ones are large, heavy, not in usable shutters, and expensive to put in shutter if that can be done at all. Most of the shorter ones that come to market are for MF cameras and have such short back focus that they're hard to use. The alternatives -- lenses made for press, technical, or view cameras -- are usually more cost-effective.

    Go read my lens diary, the link is in post #2, and you'll have a better understanding of why I so unenthusiastic about 'em. Also, be aware that all being well a 200/2 S.F.O.M. should turn up on my doorstep fairly soon. I can't see a good way to use it, except for bragging rights.

    Re idem, it has the same sense as loc. cit. Item, as I used it, means "Here's an example."

  5. #5
    joseph
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    Re: Aerial Lenses! Show your best pictures with each lens!




    I bought this lens as a surrogate for any big, heavy lens.
    It wasn't expensive, well, not as expensive as postage from the UK...

    I'm building a big camera, and wanted to get an idea of the weight that I'd need to be able to hang on the front-
    should I ever feel the need to hang a big number Petzval, or some other heavy antique there-

    In the meantime, this one is usable, although I haven't used it beyond testing it a little-
    I haven't built the camera yet, but I have attached it to the 8x10 (and 4x5) just to see what kind of pictures it makes.

    Or rather, I've attached an 8x10 and a 4x5 to the lens and made some pictures-
    I'm sure a similar setup could easily be made for any camera and lens combination,
    provided the rear element is about the same size as the front bellows opening.

    This one has a Packard mounted in the rear, quite a large one-
    I've also tested it on a DSLR, for convenience-

    Dan, that's a nice piece of research, nicely presented-
    I'm not sure if it's quite fair to compare a long lens used on medium format to a long lens on a format that can better be presented as a contact print. True, they are ridiculous things, but ridiculous exists on a sliding scale, and for a lot of people, ridiculous would have been reached way before 4x5.
    The idea that any of these things are suitable for general use might be an idea challenged by anyone not already a patient here...

    Would I recommend it? Probably not, not unless your curiosity couldn't be sated any other way- but that's your call-


    Although, as I mentioned, I haven't done much with it, there are some pictures of it and from it here-


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/joseph-...7625401037924/

  6. #6

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    Re: Aerial Lenses! Show your best pictures with each lens!

    Joseph, around the time I was contemplating getting one of those monstrosities for my Baby Bertha I came across an affordable 900/10 Apo Saphir. Process lens, not an aerial camera lens, and better, I hope, than good enough for the likes of me. Only a little over 4 kg.

    You're right, there's ridiculous and then there's ridiculous. Here's ridiculous. http://www.surplusshed.com/pages/item/t1524.html Swelp me, when I met it -- Surplus Shack isn't that far from my home -- it was being used as a coffee table.

  7. #7
    joseph
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    Re: Aerial Lenses! Show your best pictures with each lens!

    Yes, I had seen that one-
    Hopefully, that's one of their many Military Secrets,
    and they're prevented from exporting it to me, by law...

  8. #8

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    Re: Aerial Lenses! Show your best pictures with each lens!


    elevation wheel


    white coffee mug

    Both done with Air Ministry 14" f5.6 TTH Cooke Aviar

    A lovely lens but very heavy.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  9. #9

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    Re: Aerial Lenses! Show your best pictures with each lens!

    Dan,

    What an encyclopedic knowledge you have collected! I atually read through your entire adventure and wonder how on earth your family dealt with all the arrivals!


    Joseph,

    That hernia giving lens is a sculpture!



    Jim,

    Yours are beautiful! I like the images and the characteristic soft periphery you are infamous for! Shows one of the 2 great values of these aerial lenses: wide open for art or portraits or even landscape. You have excelled here! How heavy is heavy? Is this bigger than a Visual Quality? This might be fun to shoot with.


    Klaus,

    Here's my hypothesis. "There might be an deal combination of aerial or survey lens and camera format with film that could deliver exceptional resolution and color in one of the common Large camera formats."

    Obviously, using 8x10 and a great modern lens I already can acquire a lot of detail. But going down to just 5x7 where some of the better aerial or surveying lenses might cover, it could be that one ends up with more detail.



    So, Guys,

    Where is the sweet spot for the most refined aerial lenses for landscape or macro with 8x10, 5x7 or 4x5 format that can be tamed to a practical relationship with the camera for the highest resolution for available B&W and or color film film in that format.

    I see Lumnars in a yellow 5x7 surveying camera minus the surveying frame that are asking $4800 or so!

    Using a glass plate is hardly practical for these shots to match up with the precision surfaces, unless the plates are readily available. Same with 5" rollfilm to match the lens MTF. What's practical. I have no problem getting a 5x7 back or else a second camera if the lens could delver stellar performance.

    The guy who sells the Jena and the like aerial and survey lenses appears to be nice interesting fellow and dedicated but I have not found any pictures to match the selling prices and there's no Jena or Czech Republic factory to call and get brochures, LOL! Who has had these lenses. Why are there no pictures? Why only one eBay seller of the Lamogen and most of the relatives?

    A pity Zeiss Jena closed! What a huge loss!

    Asher

  10. #10

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    Re: Aerial Lenses! Show your best pictures with each lens!

    Asher, it took quite a while for me to accumulate my heap of lenses. By the standards of real collectors it is quite a small heap. I had -- he died last year -- a neighbor, Charlie Barringer, who was, relative to me, a major collector. When I remarked on that to him, he commented that he knew collectors whose heaps made his look small. Two of Charlie's lenses are mentioned here: http://www.westlicht-auction.com/index.php?lang=3

    As for getting astounding resolution on film, see these: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nesster...44296/sizes/o/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/nesster...44224/sizes/o/ See also the Perez/Thalmann lens tests. It isn't easy and can't be done consistently.

    See also http://www.largeformatphotography.in...ic-bullet.html

    There's no magic lens that will rescue you from poor technique. Most decent anastigmats that will cover large format (define it as you will) deliver more resolution on film than you can use. Just get a decent set of lenses and work on your technique. That's where gains can be made.

    Don't obsess about lenses. Charlie didn't. He concurred with one of the major points I made in my lens diary. Lenses are good enough to use or not good enough to use. Good enough is good enough. The differences in performance among lenses that are good enough are minor.

    Zeiss Jena didn't close. The firm was absorbed by the Carl Zeiss Foundation.

    Re macro lenses and what can be done at high magnification, again technique, not optics, is the big problem. And there are very real limits to what can be accomplished. See Gibson, H. Lou. Close-Up Photography and Photomacrography. 1970. Publication N-16. Eastman Kodak Co. Rochester, NY. 98+95+6 pp. The two sections were published separately as Kodak Publications N-12A and N-12B respectively. Republished in 1977 with changes and without the 6 page analytic supplement, which was published separately as Kodak Publication N-15. 1977 edition is ISBN 0-87985-206-2. Gibson's Photomacrography is absolutely terrifying.

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