View Full Version : Tessar, Plasmat or .... ?

8-Aug-2012, 17:15
I shot some still life set ups recently with an older [Wollensak 162/4.5] and have to say I was quite underwhelmed. Shooting distance was about 2-3 feet but the resolution was quite poor. The same lens for a landscape is outstanding, every bit as good as any lens I have, beautiful definition and sharp corner to corner. I understand the basics of image size, magnification etc but was disappointed at the lack of performance of such a top performer otherwise. It does demonstrate for me at least this lens is no good for closer still life.

Would you say this is a characteristic of Tessar lenses. Also do you have a preference for a particular lens type for closer still life work.

Dan Fromm
8-Aug-2012, 17:48
There are f/9 tessar type repro lenses that are good at all distances. The best lens I have for work in the range 1:8 - 8:1 is an f/6.3 reversed tessar type. I suspect you've hit an f/4.5 tessar limitation. There are tessars, and there are tessars.

8-Aug-2012, 18:08
Usually a "general use" Tessar doesn't shine at close range.
While there were Tessars with reversed layout, and macro-optimized ones, it's a project which can't perform at the highest level with greatly different magnification ratios.
Your personal experience seems to confirm it.
There are other symmetrical (or semi-symmetrical) projects which fare much better from 1:1 to infinity.
A vintage lens which is often mentioned is the 7.7/203mm Ektar.
BTW, there is a less known optic which is a copy of the Ektar: it's the Wollensak 7.5/203mm ( 8" ) .
AFAIK all examples are coated, and it should perform as well as the 8" Ektar. As an added benefit, it should have the same colour balance of your Wollensak, the same (good) shutter, and on top of that, it should be much cheaper than the Ektar(mine was).

have fun


Mark Sawyer
8-Aug-2012, 19:55
Since your Tessar does well at landscape distances, you might try turning the lens around and seeing if it improves.

Your enlarging lenses might also do well, and the repro/process lenses Dan mentioned are a very good inexpensive option. I like the Konica GR-II's and Eskofot Ultragons.

9-Aug-2012, 22:45
Here is an image I shot with a 1920s uncoated 15cm f/4.5 Zeiss Tessar wide open at about three feet, plus a 100% crop. I was surprised at how sharp it turned out to be.

Shot with an ICA Universal Palmos 9x12cm camera and Efke PL100 film.




10-Aug-2012, 00:33
There's definitely a variation in Tessar type lenses, I did some close up shots recently with an old coated Ilex Paragon 6" and a 203mm f7.7 Ektar (a dialyte) and the results from the Paragon were unusable, the Ektar images were excellent. I've use my coated 150mm f4.5 Tesssar (CZJ) for similart close up work and it's not quite as good as the Ektar byut still wat ahead of the Paragon.

Mark's comments about using enlarger lenses is worth while trying particularly as Schneider once sold Componons as macro lenses fitted in shutters. A 135mm Componon will fit a Compur/Copal/Prontor/Epsilon #0


Ken Lee
10-Aug-2012, 02:07
Be sure to use a focusing loupe or reading glasses, and avoid camera shake. It's easy to spoil a shot and get confused over lens performance. At close range, the depth of field of a 162mm lens can be quite shallow, and a little camera vibration can go a long way.

I have several different Tessars and they are quite good at close range. Tessars have (comparatively) limited usable coverage, so be sure to use the central part when possible.

If you want to shoot close, then get a macro lens or a process lens. Optical designers are pretty smart people, and they know how to correct for close focus.

Another alternative is a Fujinon A lens: miniature plasmat design, corrected for closer-than-normal but not macro per se. Extremely sharp at all distances. No need to reverse.

10-Aug-2012, 02:30
I certainly believe it is a particular design limiting thing with my Wollensak as for general images it is exceptional. I have a collection of 135 - 162mm enlarging lenses so will mount a couple and see how they perform.

Ivan J. Eberle
10-Aug-2012, 17:09
Bear in mind also that in closeup range your marked f/22 becomes at a 1:1 reproduction ratio an actual f/45, f/32 is now f/64. Both will be deep into diffraction limits to resolution and lens design won't make as much of a difference as you might expect. A lens optimized for wide open sharpness like the Dialyte Ektar and Wollensak Optar 203mm might perform better on flat subjects than a stopped down Tessar. If you need to carry a whole lot of DOF with small apertures the real estate advantage of LF film starts losing ground to smaller formats--and especially to focus-stacking with digital.