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Thread: New article: Large format lenses for portraits

  1. #111

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    Re: New article: Large format lenses for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by jeroenbruggeman View Post
    For a second edition of the portrait lenses test, I'll review a 210mm Dagor, which is now on its way from Japan, and perhaps my Littman with an Ysarex 127mm, if anyone is interested.

    With Ridax I agree that Fujinon and Nikkor Plasmats' bokeh is not a pleasant sight, to the extent that I did not even take them seriously as portrait lenses (although very seriously and excellent for multiple other purposes). Therefore I refrained from reviewing them, with the exception of the 240mm Fujinon-A, which is not that bad: it's bokeh causes only mild head aches, in contrast to Fujinon-W Plasmats that cause serious brain damage. But how about his other claim that the Convertible Symmar has better bokeh than any Tessar or Dialyte? I did not test a Convertible Symmar myself, but does anyone have convincing examples in favor of, or refuting this claim? I did study thousands of photo's and tested dozens of lenses, though, and until someone proves me wrong I tend to believe that the Ysarex (a Tessar), among others, has substantially better bokeh than any type of Symmar.
    I've spent the last month retesting all the TESSAR type lenses I have at hand. Most of them are too short for LF portraiture, but I got the idea. My sincere apologies for my previous claim.... and many many thanks for the correction.

    Yes my 4.5/101 Wollensak Raptar and my 4.5/105 and 4.7/127 Tominons and my 4.7/127 Rodenstock Ysaron and my 4.5/135 uncoated Zeiss Tessar and my 4.5/190 Kodak Enlarging Ektanon easily beat my 100, 135, 150, 180 and 210 Convertible Symmars and Convertible Sironars - bokeh-vise. These tessars yield beautiful foreground blur and awful background blur at full aperture, and vise-versa from f/6.3 on. It is particularly interesting that the Ysaron, Tominon and Ektanon are enlarging lenses that certainly were not deliberately optimized for bokeh by their designers (go try an enlarging plasmat to see a really shocking ugly bokeh - both in the background and the foreground!). I wonder if the Ysarex and Ektar lenses are still better than the Ysaron and Ektanon.

    The (hard to describe) IN-focus pictorial qualities are IMHO the best in the 101mm Raptar (but only within 24x36mm film frame!), with the 127mm Ysaron very close to it. Next I'd put the old 135mm Zeiss Tessar (within 24x36mm film frame only) and the 190mm Ektanon (within 6x7cm film frame) stopped down to f/8 (both are too soft for my taste at wider apertures). The Tominons are somewhat "dull and technical" in the sharp-focus zone.

    That said, I would not use the (fantastic for a 24x36mm SLR) 101mm Raptar and the old 135mm Zeiss even on a 4.5x6cm camera as both have to be brutally stopped down to get reasonably sharp outside the central part of the field, and I like the 190mm Ektanon at f/8 and f/11 on 4.5x6cm to 6x7cm but no bigger. In fact, it was the poor field sharpness of the vast majority of the tessars that turned me away from taking them seriously, years ago....

    (Sorry I would not list all the tessar-type glass I've put my hands on; hope the above examples are enough.)

    Convertible Symmars and Convertible Sironars are still very good (and IMHO the best-bokeh plasmats ever made - though less beautiful then the best of the tessars) for background blur at all apertures, the Symmar IMHO having a very slight edge over the Sironar. The Apo-Sironar-S and the Apo-Symmar-L, if I remember correctly (don't have any of them at hand now), are to be stopped down to about f/11 for better background bokeh, this time the Sironar probably being better. I do not know of any other plasmats with good bokeh (I never tried the before mentioned 240mm Fujinon-A though).

    And as I totally agree the back camera tilts and swings are better to be avoided in portraiture (and for a lot of other subjects, too), for me, the lens' coverage gets way more important in LF - which means at least the longer of my Convertible Symmars are not going to be retied yet....

  2. #112
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    Re: New article: Large format lenses for portraits



    You might find this interesting: Click on the photo above to see a comparison of the bokeh or blur rendition of 4 different lenses of standard "portrait" length: 210mm Braunschweig Heliar, 210mm Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar, 240mm Fujinon A (a plasmat), 240mm APO Nikkor (a dialyte). I've tried to match the images in terms of tone, size and perspective. (It's a fairly large image, and your browser will probably shrink it to fit the frame, but you can click it to see full-sized.)

    These lenses represent a small sample of designs old and new, stopped down to f/11. I tried to focus on the bottle in the center of the image. The Heliar shows some focus-shift, of which I was unaware until after the setup had been dismantled. Closing the aperture to f/11 after focusing at f/4.5 shifted the point of focus closer, to the edge of the book. This may be why we see a slightly greater blur in the distance with the Heliar lens.

    My conclusion: At this aperture, the only difference we might see, could be attributed to a aperture shape - but in order to see any compelling effect, we need specular highlights: small points of bright light. For "normal" scenes at "normal" apertures, any difference in blur rendition is negligible. Wide open, the Heliar would show the greatest amount of blur, because it's designed to do just that: it's a "portrait" design where aberrations disappear at around f/9. Stopped down even moderately, it is hard to see any difference whatsoever between these 4 samples.
    Last edited by Ken Lee; 29-May-2012 at 06:06.

  3. #113

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    Re: New article: Large format lenses for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by ridax View Post
    In fact, this can be (and IMHO should be) answered. Yes I am sure any knowledgeable photographer of the modern era (like the one whose article is being criticized here) knows much more about what is necessary in a MODERN portrait camera than the camera builders and photographers of the 'golden age of large format portraiture' - just because ALL modern anastigmats are VERY different from the 'golden age' glass.

    No this was not the reason. The real reason was the curved, almost spherical field (=zone of sharp focus) of Aplanats (Rapid Rectlinears) and Petzval type portrait lenses. Imagine tilting a lens with a spherical 'plane' of focus, and literary NOTHING will change in the sharpness distribution across the image. Actually, the only change will be the fast fast running out of the lens' coverage - incredibly small compared to modern glass. With all lenses like this, why make a camera with front tilts and swings?!

    Yes the 'golden age' folks WOULD build, and gladly use, front tilt and swing cameras - if only they had a chance....
    Nice of you to speak for all those photographers, but, um...

    The Century Studio Cameras came out in 1904, (http://www.largeformatphotography.in...-Studio-Camera). To quote Jay Allen, "The Century Studio Camera took almost all the professional portraits in America for more than half a Century (1904-1960) but today's modern photographers know nothing about this camera."

    Flat field lenses available by the time the first Century came out included Tessars, Cooke Triplets, Heliars, Protars, plastigmats, Unars, Dagors, and many others. And there were field cameras with front movements available by the time the Century Studio Cameras were intruduced, so yes, those photographers did have that option, and most professional portrait photographers went with the studio cameras.

    By the way, the manufacturers could have incorporated front movements into the studio cameras, but most didn't, and the Century (by far the most popular) never did, over several decades and many models.

    So we're left with a reference article advising photographers to use narrow-coverage lenses (all of the author's recommended "favorite portrait lenses, a bunch that I call 'the seven samurai'") well off-axis. I consider this very bad advice. Vignetting will be a problem, and the sharper center of some of those lenses will be moved off-center, and for no good reason. Just a recipe for problems...
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  4. #114

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    Re: New article: Large format lenses for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by ridax View Post
    In fact, this can be (and IMHO should be) answered. Yes I am sure any knowledgeable photographer of the modern era (like the one whose article is being criticized here) knows much more about what is necessary in a MODERN portrait camera than the camera builders and photographers of the 'golden age of large format portraiture' - just because ALL modern anastigmats are VERY different from the 'golden age' glass.
    You've got to be kidding me. Are you one of those "modern photographers who knows much more than previous generations...?" How have you improved on the Scheimpflug principle (1904)? How are "modern" anastigmats different than the original Zeiss 1890s Anastigmat? Or from a Dallmeyer Triple Achromat from 1860? Relative to movements?

    Quote Originally Posted by ridax View Post
    No this was not the reason. The real reason was the curved, almost spherical field (=zone of sharp focus) of Aplanats (Rapid Rectlinears) and Petzval type portrait lenses. Imagine tilting a lens with a spherical 'plane' of focus, and literary NOTHING will change in the sharpness distribution across the image. Actually, the only change will be the fast fast running out of the lens' coverage - incredibly small compared to modern glass. With all lenses like this, why make a camera with front tilts and swings?!
    Have you ever actually TAKEN any photographs with a Petzval or Rectilinear? It doesn't sound like it. Movements are very useful for them, in 1870 and in 2012. And the RR was a radical improvement in terms of curved fields over the Petzval, that's what it's attraction was. Your statement "...all [older] lenses like this..." is absolutely wrong. You must not know about all the lens designs before the anastigmats.

    Quote Originally Posted by ridax View Post
    Yes the 'golden age' folks WOULD build, and gladly use, front tilt and swing cameras - if only they had a chance....
    Are you actually trying to say there WERE no movement cameras in the early 20th century? How about 19th century? What is the "golden era" for you, 1850? You're right, early daguerreotype cameras didn't have movements. But look at an old 1900 Sanderson or an earlier Chapman and you'll find front movements galore. My 1893 Rochester has them too.

    I suggest Ridax and jeroenbruggeman should learn to do a little more research before posturing themselves as "experts" at anything.

  5. #115

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    Re: New article: Large format lenses for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by goamules View Post
    Have you ever actually TAKEN any photographs with a Petzval or Rectilinear? It doesn't sound like it. Movements are very useful for them (...) look at an old 1900 Sanderson or an earlier Chapman and you'll find front movements galore. My 1893 Rochester has them too.
    So that little provocation was enough to see other people stating front tilts and swings were very useful and were in use indeed.

    Though the least-flat-field Petzvals were also in production well into the mid-20th century and certainly in use up to the present day - along with the fixed-front cameras, and totally within the 1850s tradition.

    I guess that's just a matter of style. And as such, it possibly should not be used as an argument on the original topic....

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sawyer View Post
    So we're left with a reference article advising photographers to use narrow-coverage lenses (all of the author's recommended "favorite portrait lenses, a bunch that I call 'the seven samurai'") well off-axis. I consider this very bad advice.
    I strongly suspect the problem is just that - taking any word written for an authoritative advice, or even a recipe, not a mere description of the writer's personal style preferences. Yes I would hesitate taking (or giving) that (as well as many other ideas) as an advice. But I would never ever object to sharing this (and the strictly opposite) as anyone's personal way of creative photography.

    The question is, has an article for this website to be constructed of well-proved universal truths only, or may it contain any concepts that some of the other photographers do not accept?

    .... My apologies for the harsh style and the one-sided argumentation of that previous post of mine.

    P.S.: Yes I have tried a circa 300mm 1850's French Petzval and a 600mm f/6 Bush Aplanat on my 8x10", offered for sale by a fellow photographer. No I did not buy any of them. Yes I admit I am an anastigmat person myself....

  6. #116
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    I've said this before. It is entirely within the capabilities of any author worth publishing to distinguish between statements of fact (which requires proofs) and statements of opinion, including the opinion of which facts are relevant for the task at hand. Opinions, when stated as such, don't demand proof. But they do demand reasoning grounded in what has been proved.

    Authors rigorous in this way usually don't get challenged, if their proofs are valid. They either write the evidence into the article, or they explain it later (if they can).

    One thing should be clear at this point: assertions are not facts, or proofs, and won't be accepted as such by knowledgeable readers.

    Rick "finding that acknowledging gaps in one's knowledge is a sure step to filling them" Denney

  7. #117

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    Re: New article: Large format lenses for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by jeroenbruggeman View Post

    Movements.

    By the way, if we would have to deal with shift only, then shifting the front up or the back down amounts to exactly the same result, so then one of them can be left off the camera.
    I apologise in advance if I am stepping on anyone's toes in this thread or that I give the impression that I know what I am talking about, but as a newbie to Large Format photography I have done a great deal of reading over the last couple of months to try to understand the various movements on the camera and how their use effects the image, and, as I understand it similar front and back shifts actually give a different result with the front shift giving a change in vantage point. Am I wrong?

  8. #118

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    Re: New article: Large format lenses for portraits

    Shift or rise/fall, via front or rear standards, net identical results. Tilt or swing, via front or rear standards, net very different results.

  9. #119

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    Re: New article: Large format lenses for portraits

    I believe you are right, Ed. Movement of the lens changes the relationship of near and far things in the photograph.
    Old-N-Feeble is also right in that if first you move the whole camera to the new lens position and then move the back back, this is equivalent to moving the lens.
    This is described well in the Time Life book series, The Studio. and is best understood (by me) in how much I am looking up the nose, in portraiture.
    Bill
    "There are a great many things I am in doubt about at the moment, and I should consider myself favoured if you would kindly enlighten me. Signed, Doubtful, off to Canada." (BJP 1914).

  10. #120

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    Re: New article: Large format lenses for portraits

    I once had the entire Time-Life Photography series I accumulated as a teen. I might still them packed away somewhere. I can't remember. IIRC, they were a very nice thorough source for information.

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