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Thread: Kodak 12" Ektar f4.5 questions

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    Kodak 12" Ektar f4.5 questions

    Does anyone have experience with the Kodak 12" Ektar 4.5 (not the apparently more common Commercial Ektar 6.3)?

    I understand that it is a continuation/renaming of the Kodak Anastigmat lens design after it was put in a shutter, in this case an Ilex 5. I have also heard that is supposed to be an excellent performer, which would make sense, as I am a big fan of the Kodak Anastigmats I have. Sadly though, I have been using the one that came with my B&J 8x10 and am somewhat disappointed. Looking through the ground glass the image never appears terribly sharp, and I had originally chalked this up to needing new ground glass, but the small number of frames I have had the chance to shoot on FUJI HR-U X-ray have all been very soft, despite being as sharp as possible on the GG. As for the lens itself it is cosmetically beautiful, no scratches, haze, fungus, coating loss, etc. I took it apart and the insides are as nice as the outsides. All elements are in their correct positions and the lens was assembled properly.

    I did a small test to try and determine if the issue was with the film, the GG, or something else, not expecting to be questioning the lens itself, but after holding my Fujinon-W 180 5.6 and Dallmeyer 8" Pentac which I love but is not known for its sharpness per se up to a lens board in front of the front standard (not properly mounted and not likely light tight) I found that the Fuji was tack sharp on the GG and even the Dallmeyer performed far better, even wide open at 2.9. So I am wondering if there is something else that could be going on or if I just have a bad copy of the lens.

    Thoughts?

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    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Kodak 12" Ektar f4.5 questions

    I have one, a great lens. It was Kodak's top-of-the-line Tessar at the time, but they made more f/6.3 Commercial Ektars, which were also great lenses, but the f/4.5 was the more expensive and arguably more desirable lens in its day. But there was a 14-inch f/6.3, and therefore Commercial Ektar, which is the most popular, and (I think) accentuated the Commercial Ektar's reputation.

    Had Kodak made a 14-inch f/4.5 Ektar, would it have eclipsed the 14-inch CE? But there wasn't a timed shutter being made big enough, so Kodak didn't make one. Too bad, because Tessars seem to get better the longer they are. Wollensak made the longest f/4.5 Tessar I know of, 19.5 inches. I'm lucky enough to have one, and it's spectacular.
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

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    Re: Kodak 12" Ektar f4.5 questions

    I've never seen a bad Ektar, and I've used quite a few (if never the 12" f/4.5). Your lens is at least 51 years old- who knows what may have happened to it? Mechanical damage is not always obvious, and it's also possible that Kodak did send out a bad one. Maybe you could find another example and do an A/B comparison. Without that, or sending your lens to a good repair shop, you may never find out.

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    Re: Kodak 12" Ektar f4.5 questions

    I have a 1930s 3x4 Graflex SLR. Its 6" Kodak Anastigmat barrel lens was a little hazy, so I took apart the front cell and cleaned it. When I put it back together, the resulting image was really mushy. I finally realized that I had installed the rear element of the front cell BACKWARDS. Assembled correctly, it is a fairly sharp lens. Could that be what happened to your 12" Ektar?

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    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Kodak 12" Ektar f4.5 questions

    BTW, Kodak got into serious lens making first with the Kodak Anastigmat, which encompassed several designs including the f/6.3 and f/4.5 Tessars. Then they re-named them the Kodak Ektars, which also encompassed multiple designs and speeds. The Commercial Ektars were among the last, and all CEs were f/6.3 Tessars.
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

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    Re: Kodak 12" Ektar f4.5 questions

    Have two of these 12" f4.5 Ektars, sharp enough at f4.5, by f6.3 - f8 lens performance is Very GOOD..
    This focal length combined with the large aperture of f4.5 makes a really GOOD 5x7 head & shoulder_ish portrait lens.

    Very possible there is something not proper with the example in question or something not proper with the camera, film holder and other related factors.



    Bernice

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    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Kodak 12" Ektar f4.5 questions

    I agree with Bernice, there's something wrong with your particular lens. Kodak had very good quality control, and I doubt they'd let a bad lens out. I'd guess it's misassembled or an element is out of alignment.
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

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    Re: Kodak 12" Ektar f4.5 questions

    Thanks everyone.

    Im not sure what the issue is. I have a number of the earlier anastigmats and love them, especially their sharpness and quick fall off wide open. I was hoping/expecting the same from the 12" 4.5 and from the sound of it that expectation wasn't wrong.

    Im not sure where to go from here. The outside has no damage, even cosmetic, and even if it did it should not effect optical performance. I have unscrewed the front and rear cells to inspect them, but both look very good. Not scratches, haze, fungus, bubbles, separation or anything else that should effect image quality. It also doesn't look as if the cells themselves have ever been taken apart and the elements do appear to be positioned properly. Until I get/make another couple lens boards for my B&J I won't be able to do any side by side comparisons with my other lenses to rule out other factors (film plane, holders, film, etc), but honestly, seeing how I am noticing the difference and softness on the ground glass itself Im thinking maybe I just got a less than perfect copy.

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    Re: Kodak 12" Ektar f4.5 questions

    Could be a spacer was lost over the years? I'd try not fully threading the front element in and see if it improves the sharpness, if so, make some spacers and add as needed until optimal sharpness is found.

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    Re: Kodak 12" Ektar f4.5 questions

    Quote Originally Posted by blue4130 View Post
    Could be a spacer was lost over the years? I'd try not fully threading the front element in and see if it improves the sharpness, if so, make some spacers and add as needed until optimal sharpness is found.
    I have not known Kodak to use spacers in their lens designs, at least not on any of their other lenses I own or have used, but I was worried that maybe one of the elements was too loose or too tight, so that was one of the first adjustments I tried. Made sure both the front and rear elements were screwed in hand tight (normal tightness for a lens) then slowly loosened each element one at a time while checking the ground glass for sharpness. The lens performs at its best with both elements tightened properly.

    Until I have some time for side by side comparisons with my other lenses to completely rule out other factors involving the back or holders I won't know for sure, but Im thinking I may just have one of the rare less than optimal lenses that slipped through Kodak's quality control.

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