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View Full Version : why are there no "modern" super fast LF lenses?



koh303
23-Nov-2014, 11:36
Just came across a Xenotar 150mm f2.8, and wondered, why are there no "modern" ultra fast lens designs or at least something more recent then the xenotar?
Maybe the lively lens designer thread will shed some light here as well.

mdarnton
23-Nov-2014, 11:47
How many LF lenses are in production at all? Five, maybe? Who's still making shutters? The days of what you want are looooooooong past. Your question is like asking why no one's making a steam-powered roadster.

Bob Salomon
23-Nov-2014, 11:54
Between Rodenstock and Schneider there are 3 large format lenses in current production. The 135, 150 and 210 Apo Sironar S. All others are discontinued.
Rodenstock/Sinar make the eShutter, but only in a 0 size. No one currently makes a mechanical shutter in any size, Schneider has either ended or are about to end their shutter and the manufacturer of the Rollei shutter went in to bankruptcy in August. Packard might still make a shutter but that isn't a real replacement for a Copal or Compur or Prontor shutter.

Over the recent past 25 or 30 years, at least, the demand was not for speed. It was for coverage and performance. The days of news work with a large format camera is decades behind us. So was the demand for the high speed lenses, especially since the vast market for lenses were using them at optimal aperture rather then open aperture. And, if they needed the effect of a high speed lens wide open, art directors and clients accepted small formats shot that way.

paulr
23-Nov-2014, 12:01
Also consider that in terms of depth of field, f5.6 on 4x5 is somewhere between f1.4 and 1.8 on 35mm.

And on 8x10, f8 like f1.2 on 35mm.

Dan Fromm
23-Nov-2014, 13:26
What do you mean by "modern?"

Size and weight get large very rapidly as focal length increases and so does the difficulty of making shutters fast enough to use such lenses near wide open when the light is bright. They might be usable on low ISO wet plate. Is that what you have in mind?

To give you an idea of weights, the 6"/1.9 Dallmeyer Super Six I sold years ago weighed 3.5 pounds. The 200/2.0 S.F.O.M. I sold last year weighed around 15 pounds. Both cover 4x5. The 500/2.5 Uran-15 (1944 design) weighs 15 kg. It covers 8x10.

USAF bought several long fast lenses that cover 4x5. 6"/1.5 Perkin-Elmer, 10.7 pounds. 12"/1.5 Perkin-Elmer, 76 pounds.

Good luck finding any of them. And be careful if you get one. These aren't lenses to be dropped on feet.

Old-N-Feeble
23-Nov-2014, 14:00
Dan, one of THOSE dropped on one's foot is better than dropped on concrete. Bones heal... rare glass does not.;)

Jody_S
23-Nov-2014, 14:40
There are lots of modern, multi-coated superfast lenses in sizes that cover LF. They're just not designed for LF, they're all projection lenses. I currently have lenses of f1.2 (145mm), and f2.0 (305mm) that cover 4x5 and 8x10. I have mounted the 145mm on a 5x7 camera to check out coverage and image, it's actually pretty useless for doing photography. I have not yet bothered wasting a sheet of film on it, though I might try this week. I'll have to use the hand-fired flash method, at night so I don't get too much stray light through cracks around the window. And I'll have to set the flash on the lowest setting and bounce it off the far wall, I imagine. The only reason it's on the 5x7 studio camera is because it's the only smaller-format camera I have with a large enough lensboard.

I should add: I've never paid more than $25 for one of these.

Bill_1856
23-Nov-2014, 15:36
There are no modern superfast LF lenses because the military doesn't need them anymore.

Dan Fromm
23-Nov-2014, 16:24
Dan, one of THOSE dropped on one's foot is better than dropped on concrete. Bones heal... rare glass does not.;)

Ok, the next I get will be dropped on your foot. I think that will change your mind.

gleaf
23-Nov-2014, 16:28
Once the world supply of digi era babies arrived in the management work force began the trend of digital images as acceptable. Who needed real negative truth you could gather information from the image characteristics formed in the emulsion layer. When sortta OK is OK then real quality has no funding.

Old-N-Feeble
23-Nov-2014, 16:35
Ok, the next I get will be dropped on your foot. I think that will change your mind.

Only if the financial loss comes from your pocket. if it comes from my pocket I'll take the broken bones.:)

Bob Salomon
23-Nov-2014, 18:48
Once the world supply of digi era babies arrived in the management work force began the trend of digital images as acceptable. Who needed real negative truth you could gather information from the image characteristics formed in the emulsion layer. When sortta OK is OK then real quality has no funding.

Not sure I follow this.

Sal Santamaura
23-Nov-2014, 18:55
Not sure I follow this.Simple Bob. Yet another digital trasher putting down everything but film-based imaging. :mad:

Bob Salomon
23-Nov-2014, 18:56
Simple Bob. Yet another digital trasher putting down everything but film-based imaging. :mad:

Wish I could follow the reasoning.

Corran
23-Nov-2014, 20:38
6"/1.9 Dallmeyer Super Six I sold years ago weighed 3.5 pounds.

Did you sell it for 5 figures? I don't know who would actually buy this, and why:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/311152774528

Bernice Loui
23-Nov-2014, 21:33
How fast is "fast" ?

Beyond the DOF problem, there will be film flatness problems, camera alignment problems and more.
There are more than a few fast lens made that will easily cover 4x5 and larger. Once happened upon a 200mm f0.85 made by Diffraction Optics. This was one of the largest refractor optics I have EVER seen, figure no less than 50 pounds with barrel. Imaging the shutter and camera needed to support this monstrosity.

Fast LF lenses are out there, most were designed and made for the military specifically aero recon or night vision with image intensifiers.


Bernice

Corran
23-Nov-2014, 21:44
Also, I've found that some medium format optics cover 4x5. Figure out a solution for the shutter and you're good to go.

John Kasaian
23-Nov-2014, 22:08
Most get into large formats because they want to slow down :rolleyes:

richardman
23-Nov-2014, 22:22
Most get into large formats because they want to slow down :rolleyes:

Yes, 1/125 is 7 stops as fast as 1 sec. Just think how much faster it makes your photo safari be. Instead of hiking for miles, take minutes to set up the camera and focus on the ground glass and wait a whole second for the exposure, you can now cut the last part down to 1/125!! XD

jbenedict
23-Nov-2014, 22:32
I shot my HS 40th reunion this last summer with digital.(Nikon) I put them up in web resolution and, because I wasn't doing it for money, I didn't watermark them. I let everyone know that any photos they bought would be high resolution and the price was lower than a discount store (I took no cut myself). There were 150 people and I put 75 online including a beautiful group picture that looks outstanding at 16x20 and, of course, available smaller. Three people bought a total of five photos and, otherwise, downloaded the web resolution and put them on their phones. I talked to a couple of guys who also shoot groups and found that this behavior is kind of typical. Smartphone camera pictures are good enough. Wish I hadn't taken pictures and just enjoyed the party myself.

Liquid Artist
24-Nov-2014, 01:15
Dan, one of THOSE dropped on one's foot is better than dropped on concrete. Bones heal... rare glass does not.;)
There was a time that I would have agreed with you.

However the second bone I ever broke was a toe. That was in 1992. It still often bothers me, when going for hikes and walks. I will often have to end a hike early just because of it.

I have also broken a collar bone (4 years earlier) plus my back in 2 places, several left ribs plus my sternum all at once in an accident in 2003.
These old injuries very rarely, if ever bother me.

So these days if I have a choice between a rare broken lens and another broken toe guess which one I will take.

IanG
24-Nov-2014, 02:11
Aside from military fast lenses most fast LF lenses were designed for press cameras where the end results didn't usually require the highest definition but getting an image in poor/low light was important.

My 1/4 plate Dallmeyer Press reflex (actually a very light re-badged Houghton Ensign) has a 6" f3.5 Dallmeyer Press lens, I've a 13.5 cm (135mm) f3.5 Tessar) on a Ihagee camera (dual shutters so you can switch between the FP shutter of the Compur). I've nearly bought a 165mm f2.8 Tessar twice now once in a Compur the other in a Barrel but most of the fast per-WWWII lenses Ive seen looked a touch cloudy and low contrast. I was offered an f2.9 Dallmeyer Pentac a few months ago but felt it was poor, one on Ebay at the moment looks even worse. Most of the fast lenses (for reflex cameras) don't stop down past f16.

The best post WWII choice is the coated Xenotars but they fetch premium prices. I'm quite happy with the f3.5 lenses I have but it's interesting what Zeiss Jena say about the various Tessars they offered. The best for critical performance were the f6.3's, best all round compromise and most common the f4.5's, best for low light levels the f3.5's and the later f2.8's, coverage decreasing with the faster lenses. It's not a coincidence that Schneiders last 150mm f5.6 Xenar was the best they made.

Ian

Dan Fromm
24-Nov-2014, 04:45
Did you sell it for 5 figures? I don't know who would actually buy this, and why:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/311152774528
No, back then they brought low 4 figures.

Sal Santamaura
24-Nov-2014, 10:19
Wish I could follow the reasoning.There is no reasoning. Just emotional blindness.

EdSawyer
24-Nov-2014, 10:35
Military lenses (stuff like 6" f/2.8) were made as late as the late 80s/early 90s, are still fairly easy to find. Most are semi-reasonable in size, but shutters are usually difficult - speed graphic or other focal plane shutter being the easiest choice I think. The longer lenses get bigger fast, e.g. 12" f/2.5. 300mm f/4 is still pretty reasonable, size-wise. I have one that is no bigger than an aero ektar overall, 6 element plasmat-ish design. Look at military and/or aerial stuff on ebay. There's also a couple of 150mm f/4 enlarging lenses that might work as taking lenses.

It would be cool if Schneider would resurrect the Xenotar. I bet they could make a killing on it, given what old ones go for. I have the 135 and 150 xenotars, and they definitely are nice lenses, probably the best overall combination of speed/size/ability-to-be-in-shutter.

Dan Fromm
24-Nov-2014, 11:50
Ed, re 6"/2.8 lenses for aerial cameras, see http://archive.org/details/USAF_lens_datasheets. I had one of the small (for 6x6) 150/2.8 Elcans, back focus 1.6". Unusable except on a 4x5 Speed Graphic, if you want to use a 4x5 Speed to shoot 6x6. The large 150/2.8 Elcan (for 4.5" x 4.5") has a much larger back focus, might be usable on a Speed.

Re 300/4, I have a very nice 12"/4 TTH tele that's supposed to cover 4x5. Very short back focus, but not impossible, ~ 85 mm. It was designed by the legendary Gordon Henry Cook. To see one on a 2x3 Pacemaker Speed Graphic http://1drv.ms/1q8erQb. The apparently naked man in the out of focus background isn't, he's a canoeist putting in.

pierre506
24-Nov-2014, 17:03
Just got a 340mm F2.4 lens from a movie equipment.
The barrel size and weight made me a headache.
The diameter is 190mm.

Drew Wiley
24-Nov-2014, 17:24
Just look at what still sells quickly at a good price these days - mostly ultralight portable field camera lenses for outdoorsy types like me. Ergonomics is almost the
mantra of the day in many types of equipment, not just camera gear. Yeah, there are a few overpriced monster "cult" lenses hypothetically for sale on the auction site, but most of these kinds of offerings seem to stay there for a long long time. There are cheaper places to buy bookends. And making anything new and big with modern glass would be obscenely expensive, even if shutter could still be provided. And really desirable fast studio lenses seem to be kept until a career is actually over.

Nodda Duma
24-Nov-2014, 20:56
The demand does not justify the cost.

High-resolution needs are no longer met by making the film larger. They are met by making pixels smaller and having a lot of then in a manageable format. A 25mm f/1.4 is much cheaper to make than a 250mm f/1.4...especially if you can get the same resolution.

Although if you want something fast and large, and you have the money to pay for it, then it can be done.

goamules
25-Nov-2014, 06:51
I agree with you, there are LOTS of super fast small format lenses. But they were made in the 1950s until today. Currently I shoot a Kern 25mm/1.4, and I've had a 25mm/0.95 Angenieux. I shoot a Canon 35mm/1.8 and a Olympus Pen-F 38/1.8 all from the 1950s except the Olympus Zukio. Today, Fuji makes outstanding 23mm/1.4 and 35/1.4 lenses. In 50mm, the fast ones I like are the Sonnars, at F1.4 of 1.5. I have the Canon F1.2 also. All 1950s. But there are modern, fast 50mm lenses too.

Really, there weren't a lot of LF super fast lenses, other than the petzvals, because we use tripods, not hand held. Also film obviated the need to "stop sitter motion blur" common in wetplate. That's why there are no modern F3 LF lenses - no one needs them.

Bob Salomon
25-Nov-2014, 08:59
"Really, there weren't a lot of LF super fast lenses, other than the petzvals, because we use tripods, not hand held. Also film obviated the need to "stop sitter motion blur" common in wetplate. That's why there are no modern F3 LF lenses - no one needs them."

Maybe you meant today we use tripods, Did you ever see pictures of the way sports photographers worked up through the late 50s or early 60s covering a major league ball game on the field? Or news photographers from that same period? No tripods allowed when shooting Jackie Robinson stealing home when you shoot it on the field!

Dan Fromm
25-Nov-2014, 12:20
Bob, there's a discussion of Bertha's in general and a link to an article about how the AP was going to shoot the 1952 World Series in my Baby Bertha article.

Here's a link to the Baby Bertha story: http://www.galerie-photo.com/baby-bertha-6x9-en.html. Berthas used relatively slow lenses, many of them military surplus telephoto lenses. Most of the really fast longer aerial camera lenses were designed after WW II.

For those who want to read only about the AP, http://books.google.com/books?id=SiEDAAAAMBAJ&pg=RA3-PA213&lpg=RA3-PA213&dq=graflex+%22big+bertha%22&source=bl&ots=_VcMhKgMjf&sig=N2OK-7ZgsY-6QKRmttDCfDqa0tU&hl=en&ei=9brNSpLIGMfR8Aa4yID5Aw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=37#v=onepage&q=graflex%20%22big%20bertha%22&f=false

Bob Salomon
25-Nov-2014, 13:32
Dan,

Growing up in the metropolitan NYC area with a father who was a publisher and a next door neighbor who was Circulation Director for the NY Times had the neat result that when we went to Yankee or Giants games (from CT who knew where Brooklyn was) meant that we had press box tickets to the games. And that meant that we could watch the press box guys with their Big Berthas in the box as well as the on field guys shooting with hand held Speed Graphics. And here is a picture from that era. Note the hand held guys in the press box in the background.

http://www.largeformatphotography.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/big-bertha-camera-photographer.jpg

Dan Fromm
25-Nov-2014, 15:08
Bob, thanks for posting the link. Post 35 was to you but for the people who expressed strong desires for long fast lenses. I hope they look at your link and see how the two Berthas are supported. Tripods, indeed!

I can't help thinking that the nice people who want fast long lenses have no concept of weight. Long slow lenses are too heavy.