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View Full Version : Anyone wish to share field experience of the Cooke Series XVa Triple for 'landscape'



duff photographer
14-Jul-2018, 15:23
Howdo all,

In my seemingly never-ending rationalisation and thinning down of my gear, I have been toying with the idea of replacing a couple of lenses with that of the Cooke Series XVa Triple Convertible. I really need to put this idea to bed so it no longer wastes my time. :o

I have a Nikkor M 300mm and an Apo-Symmar 480mm - both very good lenses and do what I require of them (I currently shoot up to 5x8, and in the future 5x10). They're used for landscape (mostly stopped down) and select focus (i.e., using fairly wide apertures) of mid distance stuff down to say 10 metres. I don't do portraits.

My attraction to the Cooke XVa...

1. I'm not concerned so much by weight but by space - the 480mm is not small. An average size lens that can do the job of 3 lenses is attractive.

2. I have heard, and to some extent seen, that the Cooke has excellent bokeh, a smooth transition from in-focus to out-of-focus, a look I and my very few clients like. When the lens is used properly it points to a more 'artistic' image quality than the relatively 'clinical' quality of the 300mm and 480mm. Nothing wrong with either look but the 'artistic' quality appeals more to me and my customers.

My concerns...

1. From the very few images I have seen and a little of the feedback, the lens performs excellently at its native 311mm - (as good as or better than a Nikkor M 300mm?) but image quality with the cells on their own (e.g., rear cell 476mm), while still very good, may not be up to the standard of a full-on 480mm. Is this so?

2. That bokeh appears not to be visible so much in landscape shots where there are out-of-focus areas. Obviously bokeh improves/becomes more apparent when the lens is opened up but I'd be interested to know how it compares with other standard lenses when select focused at mid distance (the usual Schneiders, Rods, etc. can be used to good effect in their own right of course). Images taken with the other Cooke lens, the PS945, have that bokeh I really, really like (for example - https://www.flickr.com/photos/32131681@N00/7064968733/) but it only covers 4x5. Is that bokeh present to some extent in the XVa and, if so, is it still apparent when the cells are used independently?

3. While it's going to be beyond my price range, I'd be interested to read from anyone who has used the second Series XVa lens set - what is the quality of the rear/rear (273mm) and front/front (368mm) combo' compared with equivalent focal lengths by the likes of the big 4 (okay, 273mm is perhaps a bit too close to 311mm to bother with but, you know...)?

4. A rhetorical concern. Something that can't be changed - the price. But I'm figuring I might be able to get close to half of the retail price by selling the 300mm and 480mm.

Ultimately, if there's no significant image quality advantage to having the Cooke over what I already have, I'll stick with the Nikkor and Schneider.

Any experience and thoughts greatly appreciated as always. :)

Many thanks.
Duff.

Jim Fitzgerald
14-Jul-2018, 22:05
Duff, I just received my Cooke XVa #235 a day or two go. I have not shot with it but hope to very soon. The reason I bought mine is that I shoot 4 formats. 8x10, 8x20, 11x14 and 14x17. The lens will work extremely well I feel for all formats. The contrast is amazing and the Bokeh is typical Cooke creaminess. The out of focus areas are well defines but creamy soft. Now mind you this is on the ground glass wide open on both the 8x10 and the 14x17. For the 14x17 I used the single component 476mm. Wide open it covers with room to spare and is so bright at F-11. I have no doubt it will give me the contrast boost I need for my work.

I think the thing to consider is how do you print? I only contact carbon transfer so both the 19 inch component and the 25 1/2 in component will work awesome on my ULF cameras. I'm selling off lenses because I strongly feel that the way I work this lens will give me the sharpness I desire when I'm seeing that way. I still have my soft focus lenses as well. I'm downsizing and this lens is the best for my needs. I'll post some images when I can but remember I only post carbon prints not negative scans so it may be a while.

duff photographer
15-Jul-2018, 06:37
Duff, I just received my Cooke XVa #235 a day or two go. I have not shot with it but hope to very soon. The reason I bought mine is that I shoot 4 formats. 8x10, 8x20, 11x14 and 14x17. The lens will work extremely well I feel for all formats. The contrast is amazing and the Bokeh is typical Cooke creaminess. The out of focus areas are well defines but creamy soft. Now mind you this is on the ground glass wide open on both the 8x10 and the 14x17. For the 14x17 I used the single component 476mm. Wide open it covers with room to spare and is so bright at F-11. I have no doubt it will give me the contrast boost I need for my work.

I think the thing to consider is how do you print? I only contact carbon transfer so both the 19 inch component and the 25 1/2 in component will work awesome on my ULF cameras. I'm selling off lenses because I strongly feel that the way I work this lens will give me the sharpness I desire when I'm seeing that way. I still have my soft focus lenses as well. I'm downsizing and this lens is the best for my needs. I'll post some images when I can but remember I only post carbon prints not negative scans so it may be a while.

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the reply. Carbon printing would be something I'd like to try one day (given time and space) but for the time being I'm producing (or having produced) inkjet prints up to 4x8 foot (rarely), but mostly half that size, both colour and b&w although mostly low grain b&w for the larger stuff.

Yes, please do post images as and when. I'd be interested in seeing the general look of the image. Thanks for that :)

Cheers,
Duff

rorye
16-Jul-2018, 17:52
Hi Duff,

I've been using #206 for about 5 years. I love the lens.

I use it mostly at 476mm, then 311mm, least of all but still fairly often at 646mm. It's incredibly sharp at all 3 focal lengths. Obviously one has to be careful of movement more than ever at 646mm and with fully extended bellows the pinholes are more obvious, but that's more about the bellows than the lens.
As Jim said the contrast and bokeh are great. I'm mainly contact printing 8"x10" on silver paper. I'm very much looking forward to making a 20"x24" at some point just to see how it looks, but contact prints speak to me.

If you do get it I recommend ordering the spare caps from Grimes. The one drawback for me is that it was very expensive and I get a bit nervous having it out in the elements so the spare caps are great when not using one of the elements. And I do realize that it's cheaper than many 3 lens combos, just alot to tie up in one (beautiful) piece of glass.

If you're interested in seeing some images my website www.contact49.com has a few under "Landscape", specifically "Fort Point", "St. Teresa", "Doorway, Bodie" and in the blog section under "New Years Day". Of course these are just JPegs and the real prints are what you need to see but anyway, it's something.

All in all it's my favorite ever lens, that's my 2 cents.

Best,

Rory

karl french
16-Jul-2018, 20:10
https://www.flickr.com/search/?sort=date-taken-desc&safe_search=1&tags=xva&user_id=26027328%40N00&view_all=1

I've been shooting with one (No. 195) for about 4 years now. It's amazing at all 3 focal lengths. Definitely get a rear cap from SK Grimes and a 62mm UV filter for use in front of individual cells. Yes, the fact that it's expensive is a concern when I'm out in the field switching cells. Just be careful.


I find the tonality and bokeh to be lovely, in addition to being really impressed with the sharpness. It's quite sharp without being clinically sharp (i.e. 355 G-Claron.)


Definitely that last of my lenses I would sell. When I'm in my dotage I'll be shooting with my 8x10 Deardorff and the Cooke XVa.

Jim Fitzgerald
16-Jul-2018, 21:28
I might add that you should buy a lens with a newer Copal 3 shutter in it and use it for Grimes to mount the lens. They mounted mine for 65.00. If you order one in a shutter it will add another $1500 to the cost of the lens. I saved about 1200 or so doing it this way. The extra caps from Grimes are good to have as well. If you shoot a lot at 600mm a Fuji 600 will set you back 3,000.00. Other focal lengths to match the quality will be expensive as well. All in all I think it is a bargain for what you get.

duff photographer
17-Jul-2018, 15:21
Thanks Karl and Rory for your thoughts, and links to your images - some nice ones there!

Good point Jim. I'll keep an eye open for a cheap(ish) lens in a copal 3. I did see one on its own a few months back and thought to myself "that'll be useful". Hey-ho, that's hindsight for you. :)

Cheers,
Duff.

karl french
17-Jul-2018, 16:45
Yes, I picked up a 300mm Symmar-S with a bad case of Schneideritis to rob the Copal 3 for the Cooke XVa. $250.

William Whitaker
22-Jul-2018, 08:53
Not exactly the same lens. But damn close!!...

Take a look at Ansel Adams' Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs and take note of the entries for Moonrise, Hernandez; Mount Williamson; Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake; Aspens (and probably others). All iconic landscapes; all made with a Cooke Series XV triple convertible by the master himself.

Now, this was not the Series XVa, but the XV, which preceded it. But you probably won't find so clear an account of that lens. And certainly none so beautifully illustrated.