View Full Version : Lens types and effects

17-Dec-2007, 16:36
I am new to LF and have purchased a 8x10 toyo view with no lenses. I am curious to know what effects the different lens types and manufacturers have on the image. It would seem to be the logical place to start to consider the myriad of variables before considering the film etc. I am looking for a clear crisp sharp images and want to photograph people in natural settings, say outside in rural settings. I want to shoot in black and white and also in colour. Are there any books that cover the subject in detail, I am not really interested in the technical stuff regarding lenses but more the effects.
Best regards

Jim Galli
17-Dec-2007, 16:51
Hi Denis. Welcome! What you asked is a bottomless pit. Just wade through my site for a few myriad or two. But to get you started I'll tell you that in 8X10, resolution probably isn't going to be your problem. You can buy any modern plasmat type from any of the big 4 modern lens makers and get ultra sharp fine detail. So you may as well buy the cheaper ones. I'd start with searches for Caltar II at Ebay. 300mm or larger. Also any of the old Kodak Commercial lenses are excellent and hold their value sometimes better than the more modern stuff. Now back to your question, within the parameters you set out, there isn't any difference to note.

Walter Calahan
17-Dec-2007, 17:05
For full length portraits outside in a local, I enjoy using a 240mm lens (manufacturers vary - your results may differ - HA). I happen to use a Nikkor.

Pretty much any good modern lens will do.

Just what type of effects are you looking for?

Welcome to the wonderful world of spending, spending, spending.

Mick Noordewier
17-Dec-2007, 17:59
Denis' post reminds me of a slightly different question that I've wanted to ask. Posters often talk about a Tessar "look", or the "clinical" rendering of a process lens. Can someone with Jim Galli's experience always recognize the difference between a Tessar, a triplet and a plasmat, for example? If so (and I wouldn't doubt it for a moment), what are you looking for? OOF highlights, coma, fall-off? Or are there more subtle cues (not that these aren't subtle enough).

What other lens "types" are recognizable by these sorts of fingerprints?


Ole Tjugen
18-Dec-2007, 01:35
At f:11 or smaller, and certainly at f:22 to f:64 where most LF pictures are taken, there are basically no difference. Sometimes an OOF highlight will show a pentagonal outline, but all that says is that it's a modern shutter. The lens might just as well be a rectilinear from the 1870's, or an even older landscape lens, as a brand new Super XL Rally GT.

Fall-off can give a clue to the angle of view, provided the lens isn't a Super Something Wide.

Wide open there are a few more clues, but very few reliable ones.

Dan Fromm
18-Dec-2007, 03:59
Mick, I'm an insensitive clod and I can't see much difference between lens types at the apertures I normally use. But one of my friends picked a shot taken with a tessar type that was normal for the format out of several others of the same subject taken with other types normal for the format after I told him that one of the lenses used was a tessar type. Without that prompt he saw no differences. He said the tessar type, when he knew he was looking for one, was noticeably softer in the corners than at the center.

I'm going to redo the exercise this spring with a tessar type, a heliar type, a couple of 6/4 double Gauss types, a 4/4 double Gauss, a couple of triplets, and a plasmat type. All more or less normal for the format, one that doesn't quite cover. I predict that the one that doesn't quite cover will stand out but that a knowledgeable person won't be able to tell what type it is.

N Dhananjay
18-Dec-2007, 05:21
The 'look' of lenses depends on many factors including the subject matter. As stated, under some situations, you may not see much difference between lenses. I think when people talk about a 'look', they are typically referring to some combination of micro detail and macro detail - a sort of 'shape of the MTF curve' if you will.

I would say the following categories of lenses would form a good categorization to go wading through stuff. Keep in mind that differnet designs are trying to optimize different things (either coverage or resolution or off axis performance etc etc). The categroization is mostly historic in nature and follows from Kingslake's books...

1) Portrait or soft focus: Probably the greatest variation 'within-catgeory' is to be found here. The typical soft focus lens has uncorrected spherical aberration. This results in a 'glow' around the highlights (see AA's "Lodgepole Pines" for an example). The range of lenses here is vast with different lenses providing substantially different looks - brass rectlinears, Kodak SF, Wollensak had a vast stable (Veritos, Velostigmat Ser II in certain lengths, Vitax), and the most recent would probably be the Rodenstock Imagons.

2) Rapid rectilinears: Probably the most abundantly available pre-anastigmat. Noticeably softer than more recent designs, especially off-axis.

3) Anastigmats: The classic designs here are the Dagor and the Protar VII. The Dagor is 2 groups of 3 elements each - the Protar is 2 groups of 4 elements each. Similar looks - the tradeoff is The Protar is better as a convrtible, the Dagor typically gives slightly better coverage. The performance is noticeably better than astigmats. Dagors especially are reupted to provide

4) Dialyte: Artars to more recent Ronars etc. 4 elemts in 4 groups. Apochromatic performance. Known as process lenses and as wonderfully sharp landscape lenses.

5) Tessars: Widely available. Think of it as the plain vanilla. Not terribly exciting but forms a good comparison point.

6) Plasmats: More recent designs - typically bigger and heavier and somewhat 'clinical' look - at least, the Dagor folks will say there is no 'look' to it...;-)

7) Wide angles: Where recent designs have probably covered the most ground. Early wide angles include things like Protar V, Goerz Hypergon, Goerz wide angle Dagor etc. With the Super Angulon etc, you do get much greater coverage, making more wode angle designs feasible.

I'm sure other useful categorizations can be devised.

Cheers, DJ

Ole Tjugen
18-Dec-2007, 05:54
7) Wide angles: Where recent designs have probably covered the most ground. Early wide angles include things like Protar V, Goerz Hypergon, Goerz wide angle Dagor etc. With the Super Angulon etc, you do get much greater coverage, making more wode angle designs feasible. ...

Wide angle lenses are also where the most obvious differences are, as recently mentioned in a thread on a Leitmeyr Weitwinkel-anastigmat.

The Goerz Hypergon is often the easiest one to pick, since no lens before or after has come close to the 135 degrees coverage. If there is no falloff away from the center, it's a Hypergon with the fan "graduate filter".

WA Rectilinears can be surprisingly good, but when stretched beyond the limit (which they often are) they go to mush in the corners. See http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=1396906969&context=photostream&size=o for an example (3 1/4" WA Rectilinear on 4x5" Provia; cropped)

The Protar f:18 (series V in the US market) has good coverage, reasonably sharp all over, but suffers from severe falloff.

So does the WA Dagor, with less coverage than the Protar.

Double Gauss WA lenses generally cut off very abruptly at the edge of coverage. Examples are Meyer Weitwinkel-Aristostigmats, and most Leitmeyr WW-Anastigmats.

Angulons (reverse dagor with oversize outer elements) have more even illumination, and illuminate more than the coverage. Several redesigns through 60 years of production makes it easier to date an Angulon from a photograph than to determine if it was shot with an Angulon...

Super Angulons and other "wasp-waist" WA lenses are very similar in concept, and not really possible to distinguish. All have almost cos^3 falloff, as opposed to cos^4 for the smaller older ones.

Dan Fromm
18-Dec-2007, 06:37
Ole, about double Gauss WA lenses sharp cutoffs, I believe that WF Ektars have field stops. Otherwise they'd have the same coverage as Cooke Ser. VIIbs.

I'm convinced that the 75/4 Apo Rodagon D 1:1 is in the same category (not 4/4 double Gauss, limited field). It puts no image outside the claimed coverage, has MTF curves that are flat, i.e., same at the edge as in the center. To me it smells like a WA lens with a field stop.

DJ, the insensitive clod in me says that you're talking about differences that aren't discernable.

18-Dec-2007, 07:24
Thank you all for the advice and warm welcome. This wealth of information would have taken ages to discover in books or else where even if I was lucky! I now have a very basic idea. There is a FUJI FUJINON-W 250mm 6.7 on ebay [$550] would that get me on my way?

I was so impressed with the look of LF after seeing some works in the local museum that I had no option but to take it up. I must admit that I was both attracted and repelled at the variables available with the system. With the expertise at hand on the forum and the great advice dispensed so freely it has certainly allayed my initial fears! This forum is such a godsend and does a wonderful job keeping these skills alive. I am now looking forward to learning and experimenting and er spending spending... Thanks again!

Best regards

Ole Tjugen
18-Dec-2007, 07:34
Denis, I believe that this whole thread can be summarised as follows: Except some very weird and unusual lenses, it makes no difference at all and even experts usually guess wrong.

so yes, a 250mm Fujinon-W should do well. Just as well as just about any other lens that covers the intended format. :)

18-Dec-2007, 07:40
Welcome from California! On the home page you will find a wealth of information. In particular there are articles on lenses and and the like.

For example: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/lenses/


Mark Sawyer
18-Dec-2007, 09:25
Throwing in my random observations on general-use lenses, most will give very similar results. The biggest difference is whether they are uncoated or coated, especially on designs with more air-glass surfaces, like the plasmat. With an uncoated lens, contrast is lost and shadow detail softened due to flare, especially in backlit situations. I like using the old uncoated optics, but others don't. The difference in contrast between single- and multi-coated lenses is relatively slight.

Dagors have fairly wide coverage, but some go rather soft at the corners. Others don't.

Plasmats do it all very well, wide coverage, sharp at the corners, and they're convertable.

Tessars are lovely, but some have narrower coverage. Then again, some have pretty wide coverage, like the 450-M Nikkor. (There's also a "wide-field tessar", but I've never seen one...) They were design in 1902, and are still in production, but then nearly all the modern lenses are pretty old designs...

Dialytes tend to have pretty narrow coverage, but are very nice if you want a longer lens. But they also tend to be a bit darker, often with a maximum aperture of f/9.

To be honest, I have quite a few more lenses than I deserve, and wish I could use all of them more. Every large format lens I've ever used has had it in it to make the most wonderful images. It's just whether we photographers can live up to their potential...

Leonard Evens
18-Dec-2007, 12:26
I hope you understand something about the fundamentals of optics.

First, you should know how to relate focal length to angle of view for the format. 300 mm would be the "normal" focal length for 8 x 10 since it is close to the diagonal of the frame. 240 mm would be a mildly wide angle focal length.

You should also understand the basics of depth of field, which is dependent both of focal length and format. For the same size final image and same angle of view, the larger the format, the less depth of field. This could create problems for portraiture. For this reason, large format photographers often do environmental photography, usually full figure well back from the camera with the local environment being an important part of the scene. This is even more true for 8 x 10 than it would be for 4 x 5. Also, longer lenses, which are often favored for closer up portraiture, may be difficult to find for the 8 x 10 format.

In case you haven't done so already, you might read Using the View Camera by Steve Simmons and/or A user's guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone.

18-Dec-2007, 17:56
Hi Leonard, I will order the users guide to the field camera as you suggest as I dont understand optics! I know my lenses react with my Nikon but couldn't get technical about it. I have a minds eye vision of what the lens will do with each combo. I will eventually [hopefully] acquire "through the lens vision" in LF by which I mean I can visualise in my minds eye an image as I want to capture it and then apply technique/equipment/luck to achieve close to desired effect. A journey of a thousand pics begins with the first I guess. Ole, I bought the 250mm Fujinon. And hi to all members from me in Oxford in cold and frosty England. Many thanks and Best regards Denis