PDA

View Full Version : Lens advice sought...



Ian Arthur
27-Aug-2013, 12:21
I stopped using my 5x4 about 12 years ago, but last year I started to use it again as I've really had my fill of digital - and I'm a full-time photographer...! Besides landscapes I've started to shoot some portraits but I don't like them. My Schneider lens is too sharp, too clinical and too precise. Then I had a biblical moment when I realised that there was other lenses besides modern lenses - which is when i discovered that those lovely old portraits with lots of edge aberrations were taken with Petzval type lenses.

So digging deeper I learnt that after the Petzval and Achromat lenses evolved, and behind them came the anastigmatic lenses. And then I learnt how expensive and rare Petzval-type lenses are. Alas, in the UK we're not allowed to sell blood, organs or family members, so the quest is to find something affordable: but what....?

So, my first question is: Usually antique camera dealers list lenses as anastigmatic or non-anastigmatic, so is a Peztval type lens a non-anastigmatic lens?

My second question is: In looking to buy an "affordable" lens in order to recreate "some" of those old aberrations, would I be right that I should be looking for a non-anastigmatic lens, or an non-anastigmatic lens maybe before the 1930's, and before lenses became coated?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Bob Salomon
27-Aug-2013, 12:59
Did you ever look at the work done by Monte Zucker, Tibor Horvath or Schmactenburg? They all used the Imagon for portraits. On 45 that would be the 250mm.

I should have mentioned. Tibor Horvath, the photographer from Toronto, not the one from AU. Also this link will take you to some of Monte's work:

http://www.montezucker.com/newhorizon.html

goamules
27-Aug-2013, 13:11
A Petzval is non anastigmatic, non-coated, and full of aberrations like you saw. It can also be extremely sharp, they are not soft focus lenses as some novices believe. And you could get one for 4x5 relatively easily, by looking for about a 6" focal length magic lantern lens. Many of these are Petzvals.

As you move forward in time, lens designs had less and less character and aberrations. Finally, the Anastigmats were invented which make practically flawless prints to the naked eye. Some were sharper than others though, so some "character" remained! The last "flaw" of lenses was flare or low contrast. Once coating was invented, even that was no longer a problem.

So it just depends on what level of "flaws" you like!

lenser
27-Aug-2013, 13:12
It's not quite the same, but have you considered trying the old soft focus portrait standby techniques such as nylon stocking pieces stretched between two filters, one whole and others with eraser sized holes burned into them for varying effects of softness, or a single glass filter with a few drops of model airplane glue like the bumps on a Hasselblad Softar. Definitely not the same as the optical aberrations you are looking for, but darned close and certainly a good temporary fix while you do your search for your heart's desire in the optical world.

BarryS
27-Aug-2013, 13:36
It can take some hunting to find a reasonably-priced Petzval lens, but they're out there. A less expensive alternative is the rapid rectilinear/aplanat lens. Long focal length aplanats used wide open, make very nice portrait lenses and yield a vintage look. As a bonus, you can sometimes find them in working shutters.

AtlantaTerry
27-Aug-2013, 14:03
It's not quite the same, but have you considered trying the old soft focus portrait standby techniques such as nylon stocking pieces stretched between two filters, one whole and others with eraser sized holes burned into them for varying effects of softness, or a single glass filter with a few drops of model airplane glue like the bumps on a Hasselblad Softar. Definitely not the same as the optical aberrations you are looking for, but darned close and certainly a good temporary fix while you do your search for your heart's desire in the optical world.

I have long made my own soft focus filters as you describe. To date I have not used model airplane glue, I use cheap clear fingernail polish. I will try model airplane glue in the future, thanks for the tip.

As an inexpensive medium (and one that itself degrades the image) is to have my local glass shop cut squares of glass that fit into a filter holder. I then modify my glass squares with the aforementioned fingernail polish or sand paper or cuts made with files, etc. If one of those DYI filters turns out to be disappointing, I put into the town recycle collection and try again.

I make my own versions of Softar filters by putting small to medium dots of fingernail polish on the glass squares in random patterns. When the polish dries the dots become small lenses and break up the image. With time one, learns how many dots to use and how large.

Rather than use film to test the results, I use my Nikon D3S with Nikkor 85mm or 180mm lenses.

So, Ian, keep using your Schneider, just add a filter holder and get creative making your own image softening filters.



For those who would rather use manufactured filters, take a look at the Cokin Z-Pro line which will attach to filter threads up to 100mm:
http://www.cokin.co.uk/pages/cokinZ.htm

For really large lenses, Cokin offers the X-Pro line which will attach to lenses with up to 130mm filter thread:
http://www.cokin.co.uk/pages/cokinX.htm

The filters themselves are here (L = Z-Pro / XL = X-Pro):
http://www.cokin-filters.com/creative-system/filters/

Cokin U.K. kindly provides before and after examples of the filters in use:
http://www.cokin.co.uk/pages/pastels1.htm

IanG
27-Aug-2013, 14:44
You're in the Uk so why not try a Tessar at moderate apertures they only gain maximum sharpness at f22 but are close at f16, however at f8/f11 might suit you.

Petzvals can be found at reasonable prices in the UK but they have no shutter, although TP shutters are cheap here and far better than the US Packards. I paid 20 for an 8" portrait Petzval and 5 for a large TP shutter which will sit on the front, could mount it between the lens and lens board if needed.

If you want a modern multi-coated lens with an old fashioned look maybe go for the Rodenstock Geronar these are triplet lenses, I have a 150mm & 210mm, I bought both as elements (cells) only but they were sold in Copal shutters, mine are now in Compurs.

Ian

Lachlan 717
27-Aug-2013, 15:09
You could also look at one of Reinhold's maniscus lenses. Cheap option.

Steven Tribe
27-Aug-2013, 16:12
Ian - you live in the right country for getting hold of a variety of price-right pre-anastigmatic lenses.
Like IanG, I have a large number of interesting lenses bought for very little as recently as this year.

You can burn a lot of money on the "branded" soft/pictorial lenses, but most of these are just too big (weight, volume and focal length) for the average 4x5 set-up. They do exist in small sizes, but the bulk of these were for 5x7 and 8x10 on Studio cameras.

Lancaster and "no-name" meniscus achromats are suitable for both landscapes and portraits and are the lens I should have started with!

Struan Gray
27-Aug-2013, 23:59
I am a fan of cool bokeh too, but I don't like the bullseye centered look you get from Petzvals used on formats too large for them.

Somehow I never found a Tessar I really liked either. I know that puts me in the minority.

What I have found I like are the 4-4 dialyte derivatives. This includes sharp modern wonders like the Apo-ronars and similar process lenses, and there are famous continental versions like the Celor and Dogmar. But in the UK in the first half of the C20th there were a number of local manufacturers who also made this type and pattern of lens, and they tend to be very cheap. My favourites are an uncoated 12" Ross Homocentric and a postwar coated 12" TTH Aviar. The Homocentric gives a very distinctive washed out pastel look when used with colour film. Both have a nice combination of sharpness across the image field and interesting bokeh out of the focal plane.

Ian Arthur
28-Aug-2013, 01:14
Wow. Thanks very much for the advice. What led me to post was that I spoke to a "lens specialist" shop and he was adamant that the anastigmatic lenses I was interested would be no good for me and that I should buy one of his "barrel lenses" for a few hundred pounds more.... I also realise that I should have put this post under LENSES... Sorry guys.

A couple of points: Monte Zucker. Never visited his website. I have now. Interesting....!

I never considered using something over the lens - like a bit of nylon stocking or a fllter. Its what used to do with my Blad when shooting weddings in the 80's and 90's, making soft filters and putting varnish on clear cokin's - but since I stopped using a Blad - its something I forgot all about. Definitely worth consideration....!

As for Petzval lenses - I think by using a 5x4 that these lenses are just too big for this format. Maybe if I get a 10x8 (considering one maybe next year for collodians) then I'll revisit a petzval lens, but for the moment I'll look for something cheaper. Maybe a magic lantern lens, or maybe a Tessar, a Ross, a Lancaster or a meniscus lens.

One thing I have realised is that as much as I love the big linear or circular aberrations that I've seen from Petzval type, I've realised that I am on the wrong format for that. For the moment I am quite happy to try something else to get a really nice bokeh, and as much as I have tried with my Schneider, its still too clinical, so I will try something less sophisticated in terms of lens design. I won't sell my Schneider Symmar though, as its great for landscapes and just about anything else, which is what it was designed for...!

yes, you are right Steven, there are quite alot of cheap lenses available in the UK. Fortunately. And at least if I buy a lens and don't like it, then I can always sell it and try something else.

Thanks for your help, guys.

TheToadMen
28-Aug-2013, 02:05
Hi,
Check out the site of Reinhold Schable: http://www.Re-inventedPhotoEquip.com for ideas.

He makes excellent new "old" lenses. It's a soft focus meniscus lens design, invented by William Wollaston (England, 1800).
You can have one for under $100 to experiment with. Just mail Reinhold and he'll be willing to hellp you to find the right lens for you. I received mine just this week: a very large 790 mm lens for a very large camera I'm going to build ...

And don't forget to have fun while shooting!

Bert from Holland
http://thetoadmen.blogspot.nl

Steven Tribe
28-Aug-2013, 02:51
There have been periods in the last few years where a "loan" section has been established and run fairly succesfully for sometime. This has to be organised within the USA or the EU because of insurmountable problems with nasty VAT extortion across trade barriers with expensive admin costs.

Of course, this is in no way a competition to the many offers in the "for sale" section which you will soon have access to.

Ian Arthur
28-Aug-2013, 10:26
Thank you Steven, my paypal account is twitching with anticipation about the "for sale" section..... ;-)

Ian Arthur
28-Aug-2013, 10:39
Bert, thanks for the link. I love those "modern" meniscus lenses. I think I will buy one. I love your BLOG, too. I love the wet plates, and your pinhole pictures.

BrianShaw
28-Aug-2013, 11:13
When I had the same feeling as you are having, Ian, I played unsucccessfully with a few old lenses and ended up using a 12 inch Kodak Commercial Ektar (wide open) and a Fujinon SF to get around the clinical look of modern lenses.

Bob Salomon
28-Aug-2013, 11:54
......
I never considered using something over the lens - like a bit of nylon stocking or a fllter. Its what used to do with my Blad when shooting weddings in the 80's and 90's, making soft filters and putting varnish on clear cokin's - but since I stopped using a Blad - its something I forgot all about. Definitely worth consideration....!


An important consideration about soft focus and diffusion.
A soft focus lens always diffuses the highlights into the shadows, a lens attachment diffuses the shadows into the highlights creating a different feeling alltogether. Also, most attachments change the effect with aperture and when you get to apertures needed for portraiture to keep apparent sharpness from the tip of the nose to the base of the ear may not be adequately sharp when you get to f8 to 11. A soft focus lens like the Imagon will always be properly sharp so the effect does not look like it is simply out of focus rather then soft focus.
Lastly you need good control of your lighting ratios, usually 5:1 rather then 3:1 and don't use an umbrella for the main light. Best results come from elliptical reflectors, beauty dishes or soft boxes. Without that high ratio the results tend to go somewhat muddy. Especially with any type of umbrella.
If you like the halo effect that comes from the strong lighting ratio.
Lastly, soft focus requires lots of testing and playing to properly master it.

Ian Arthur
5-Sep-2013, 15:10
I've just bought two "old lenses", both being simple lenses: one being a WW2 vintage british lens, the other being a pre-war german lens. I'm looking forward to giving them a try.

John Kasaian
6-Sep-2013, 18:05
Another "cheap" lens you might enjoy playing with is a Wollensak Velostigmat---wide open soft & stopped down sharp.

Jac@stafford.net
6-Sep-2013, 18:59
Another "cheap" lens you might enjoy playing with is a Wollensak Velostigmat---wide open soft & stopped down sharp.

Indeed! I followed Mark Sawyer's 'cheat' to take the lens' softness adjustment way beyond the built-in limitation. See this link (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?57385-Velostigmat-Series-II-Info-and-Images&highlight=Wollensak+Velostigmat+modification). It was very easy.