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View Full Version : Is the Ilex Seminat a soft focus lens?



Mark Sawyer
11-Jul-2007, 16:07
I asked this not long ago, but didn't get a clear answer; forgive my raising it again...

Another one has popped up on ebay as a "soft focus" lens:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ILEX-OPT-SEMINAT-SOFT-FOCUS-PORTRAIT-LENS-6-INCH-F-3-5_W0QQitemZ330145369913QQihZ014QQcategoryZ30076QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

I bought one a while back, but it seems to have no soft focus or pictorial qualities beyond a nice-but-not-spectacular bokeh. But this is the third one I've seen go by on ebay advertised as a "soft focus" lens.

Any enlightenment?

seawolf66
11-Jul-2007, 18:19
If you want a lens soft , and I do not care which one: get a Nylon stocking put it over the lens , either single layer or double and prick a hole in it::

Jim Noel
11-Jul-2007, 19:48
seawolf

If you have ever use a true soft focus lens like a Petzval. or Verito or others of their kind, you will know that a nylon stocking with a hole in it does not produce the same type of image. I thought it did until I started using soft focus lenses almost exclusively.

Mark Sawyer
11-Jul-2007, 23:03
If you want a lens soft , and I do not care which one: get a Nylon stocking put it over the lens , either single layer or double and prick a hole in it::

And if you want to go to bed with Audrey Hepburn, get a cheap hooker and just hold a picture of Audrey in front of her face...

Ole Tjugen
12-Jul-2007, 00:17
... If you have ever use a true soft focus lens like a Petzval. ...

A Petzval is not a soft-focus lens either.

Mark Sawyer
12-Jul-2007, 03:03
A Petzval is not a soft-focus lens either.

I think some are, though most aren't. The Verito, Veritar, and Vitax are Petzvals, aren't they? But yes, most Petzvals are just soft at the edges from field curvature, and have swirly bokeh beyond standard coverage.

I'm not sure what design the Seminat is...

Ole Tjugen
12-Jul-2007, 04:44
There are a few "Petzvals" with adjustable spacing between the two elements in the rear cell which introduces "softness".

But the vast majority of Petzvals are unbeliveably sharp in the central part, which is all that was intended to be used. Somewhere I saw scanning electron microscope pictures of a daguerreotype - the (Petzval-exposed) picture was still sharper than anything you can do with modern equipment and film!

Mark Sawyer
12-Jul-2007, 11:54
There are a few "Petzvals" with adjustable spacing between the two elements in the rear cell which introduces "softness".

But the vast majority of Petzvals are unbeliveably sharp in the central part, which is all that was intended to be used. Somewhere I saw scanning electron microscope pictures of a daguerreotype - the (Petzval-exposed) picture was still sharper than anything you can do with modern equipment and film!

Yup! And you can buy a state-of-the-art refracting telescope with a Petzval lens because that's still what's sharpest in that narrow field of view.

But no one knows what a Seminat is... :(

Ole Tjugen
12-Jul-2007, 12:06
I've been searching, and all I can find about the Seminat is "construction: Unknown"...

Jim Galli
12-Jul-2007, 12:16
Mark, you obviously don't understand Ebay. 105mm Tominon's are wide angle lenses for 4X5, and Seminat's are whatever some guy 3 years ago said they are :rolleyes:

BTW Verito's and Veritar's are NOT petzvals. Vitax and Vesta are. I don't know what a Seminat is either and I don't like Ilex lenses enough to buy one and find out. Triplet perhaps? Maybe someone will read this and tell us.

Mark Sawyer
12-Jul-2007, 16:15
Mark, you obviously don't understand Ebay. 105mm Tominon's are wide angle lenses for 4X5, and Seminat's are whatever some guy 3 years ago said they are :rolleyes:

BTW Verito's and Veritar's are NOT petzvals. Vitax and Vesta are. I don't know what a Seminat is either and I don't like Ilex lenses enough to buy one and find out. Triplet perhaps? Maybe someone will read this and tell us.

Hmmm... I was going by by Ernest Purdum's <i>Soft-Focus Lenses and Techniques</i> on the groups home page, which says,:

"A still earlier Wollensak product was the Verito. Except for the two smallest sizes, this was an f4 lens, the back group of which could be used by itself. It may have been a Rapid Rectilinear type, but more likely a Petzval."

I'm amazed by how little we know, or maybe by how much disagreement there is over such things. You and Ernest both have more knowledge than me on such things. I'm just trying to figure it all out... (One of the Wollensak catalogs calls the Verito a "rectilinear" design, so it could well be a Rapid Rectilinear...)

Yes, ebay does have some pretty bad information about things at times, but the Seminat seems to always be listed as soft focus, even by some sellers who should know what they have. From Jay Tepper, on the Belgian ebay site, another "Soft Focus Seminat" listing:

http://cgi.benl.ebay.be/6-f3-5-Ilex-Seminat-Soft-Focus-Lens_W0QQcmdZViewItemQQitemZ150106267631

Ernest Purdum
12-Jul-2007, 17:31
Well, since I am a guilty party here, I'll try to clarify the bad information on the Verito. Since I wrote that article, I've learned a lot more about Wollensak lenses in general and Verito's in particular (some learned from Jim Galli). Here we are:

Verito f4, f5, and f6. Judging by the number that show up regularly on eBay (I just found six), this must have been by far the largest production item of Wollensak's named lenses. Like the Veritar, It has a single meniscus in front and a cemented pair in the rear. It is convertible, the rear cell being usable alone. It was made in nine sizes from 5" to 18" focal length and the largest size could be fitted with an "extension lens" increasing the focal length to 22 1/4". Edward Weston was amongst the users. The two smallest sizes, designated "A" and "B" rather than by number, were f6. All the others were f4, except for some of the very first examples, which were f5. It is sometimes lumped in with Petzval types, but both the design and the results are quite different.

I'm still trying to reduce my ignorance concerning Wollensak lenses, particularly their production just before they ceased business. Any help will be most gratefully received. It will eventually result in an article on Wollensak lenses. The paragraph above is a draft for that article.

Jim Galli
12-Jul-2007, 21:28
I asked Jay Tepper the same question and he said he really didn't know, but that he'd seen them advertised before on Ebay as soft focus.......

The Verito I think is a rectilinear doublet at the back with a simple diopter in the front. I tried to make one myself with a single element from a 13" beck RR and a #3 diopter. I ended up with a very nice soft 7" lens that acted somewhat similar to a Verito but not exactly. The Wolly engineers probably introduced some other aberrations for softness. I'm just guessing here. The Veritar was supposed to be a similar design but re-corrected for good color renditions as the Anscochrome age had arrived.

Maybe if we chatter on long enough some ancient pro will chime in and tell us the seminat was just a cheap lens that the school portrait photographers liked because the freckles didn't show up much?

Mark Sawyer
13-Jul-2007, 11:45
I asked Jay Tepper the same question and he said he really didn't know, but that he'd seen them advertised before on Ebay as soft focus...

This is what I'm starting to think, that someone mis-identified it, and it snowballed...


Maybe if we chatter on long enough some ancient pro will chime in and tell us the seminat was just a cheap lens that the school portrait photographers liked because the freckles didn't show up much?

I'm hoping so, though by now I think I'd be disappointed in learning that yes, it's just another cheap general-purpose lens...

Still, for all the debate over which lens is best, there's a reassurance that even the "worst" and cheapest lenses are more than sufficient to make the most wonderful photographs. Measuring the quality of a lens in line pairs per millimeter is like measuring the quality of a person by their bank account or stock portfolio...

And there, I'd be on par with my $30 Seminat... :)