View Full Version : The Character of Old Enlarging Lenses?

Kevin Crisp
14-Feb-2008, 13:33
For all the discussion of the character of old taking lenses there seems very little information available on old enlarging lenses. (There is more information out there on their use as taking lenses as compared with their original purpose which was printing.) Are there enlarging lenses that produce diffused and interesting highlights versus simply a flat print, for example? Is anyone using, for example, an uncoated anastigmat projection lens to print with, and, if so, how does the print differ from one made with a modern enlarging lens? The coated Ektar taking lenses still have excellent reputations; were the similar enlarging Ektars good? What difference would you see in a print versus a modern lens? Thanks.

Mark Sampson
14-Feb-2008, 13:48
The Ektar enlarging lenses are considered to be quite good; high resolution but with lower contrast than modern optics. They don't use the common 39mm mount so it seems that few people use them now. The Wollensak Enlarging Raptars that we once used where I work seemed ok until we put them up against a modern EL-Nikkor. The prints looked so much better, even to office-bound managers, that we replaced all the Wollys right away. Those Ektars and Raptars are museum pieces now, or would be if I ever made up a display for them. Personally I don't want my enlarging lenses to get in the way of whichever lens was used to make the negative. A transparent, faithful reproduction is what I want- even if the image is from a 60-year old single-coated lens. Of course, there are lots of old enlarging lenses out there at garage-sale prices. So if you'd like some different-looking results, some testing is in order.

Ole Tjugen
14-Feb-2008, 15:43
The only intentionally soft-focus enlarger lens is the Voigtländer W.Z. 180mm. Precisely why it was made is unknown, but it may have had something to do with a photographer by the name of Walter Zilly...

Ernest Purdum
14-Feb-2008, 20:36
There is a difference in character between diffusion introduced onto the negative and that occuring during enlargement. Onto the negative, diffusion spreads light into the shadows. Onto the positive, darkness is allowed to encroach into the highlights.

It has been suggested that this effect is best employed for portraits of the Addams Family.

Kevin Crisp
15-Feb-2008, 07:44
That makes sense. I'll consult with Uncle Fester as soon as I get his head out of the enlarger. I imagine "Thing" would be a great help for dodging and burning.