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Thread: 24" Struss Lens?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Granada Hills, CA

    24" Struss Lens?

    Has anyone seen, owned, used or heard other references to a Struss lens larger than 21"? This article clearly indicates that a 24" Struss Lens was used for a lens comparison test in 1916. Perhaps 24" Struss lens was a one-off custom? But that would be strange as this article makes no particular mention of it being a unique lens. For readability I posted a text version of the article, and I will provide the scanned link below. (the article is at the bottom of the file)

    From Bulletin of Photography, Vol. 19: July 5 to December 27, 1916
    December 27, 1916
    The Diffused Effect—A Lens Test

    The fashion of dark tonalities has somewhat subsided. Amateurs more than professionals, excepting a few extremists, have gradually extricated themselves from the lacunar of unprofitable opaqueness. Still, something has remained; it has helped to develop taste. The standard of pictorial qualities, of balance, elimination and emphasis, has steadily advanced. The general tendency now is toward a lighter middle-tint tonality, which, by its very nature, necessitates a clearer definition. Darkness, if judiciously used as an amalgamator of shadows and background, may swallow up and obliterate forms with some artistic pretension, while monotony of light planes would result in intolerable and meaningless vacancy.

    What is most needed by the pictorialist of the day is a softness of focus that prevents planes from being harshly outlined, that yields with ease a broader division of masses, a subdued definition which prunes away undesirable detail without obscuring the essential facts. More tersely expressed, it is the diffused effect which is most appreciated.

    Art and science in photography are apt to complement each other; it is either the material which helps to create a new style, or the tendency toward a new style which calls forth new inventions and agencies of expression. The Struss lens seems to possess the action of blending several views of one scene into one general impression.

    On a recent visit to the new studio of F.A. Pohle Co. I discussed with Mr. A.O. Titus, who is much given to technical experiments, the character of lenses and their ability to render qualities without hand manipulation. A young lady happened to come in. As she entered, her face was rather pleasing, but as she approached, her freckles spoiled the effect and changed the first impression. The skin texture was unusually conspicuous.

    “A good model to make a lens test,” I remarked.

    “How would it strike you,” suggested Mr. Titus, “if we would make some uniform exposures of her with different lenses, always the same lighting, pose, and expression, and afterward you criticize the results?”
    This appealed to me, for I have always claimed that the photographer possessed in the lens a most pliable vehicle to control the drawing of the image, the latitude of which is greatly under-estimated. With a variety of lenses, and a knowledge of the efficiency of each, the photographer should be able to control the wide range of pictorial interpretation of a Leighton of Bougereau to the blurred manner of a Whistler or Israels. If an experienced practitioner would set himself the task of imitating a Reynolds or a Le Bruin in photographic monochrome he would surely select the lens that would come nearest to the style of definition applied in the original. In the same way the ordinary sitter could suggest a pictorial idea which would need a particular lens for the most favorable interpretation.

    In our case it was easy enough to establish a permanent light source, ordinary side lighting falling at about 35 degrees, with a reflected light on the shadow side, and to make the exposures in quick succession which would enable the model to keep her pose and expression. We decided on the simplest pose imaginable, as any embellishment or picturesque feature would distract and make the desired comparison less easy. We had to be satisfied with the lenses that were on hand, a Dallmeyer, a Voigtlander Heliar, an old-fashioned Petzval portrait lens, a Carl Zeiss portrait Unar, a Verito and a Struss. We were sorry not to have a Goerz or a Smith at our disposal, but at the same time a few images more or less would not have materially helped the test, as too large a number of comparative exposures might prove confusing. In the use of the lenses we strove for naught but to do justice to the subject before us, and to render the head and face as much as possible of the same size in each image. The prevailing light conditions and the distance of the sitter (about eight feet) decided the stop opening, and the exposure varied from one-half second to five seconds according to the speed of the lens and the stop used.

    Each image was to bring out the average qualities of the lens employed, following standard regulations such as an expert demonstrator of a lens might recommend. The idea was not to get a diffused effect, but to ascertain the normal interpretative quality of various lenses, and in that fashion to find out which one produced by its own natural action the most pictorial result.

    The negatives were developed and printed in a uniform way without any manipulation. The results are highly interesting, technically.
    If I had a preference for correct and precise drawing (actual line work) I would surely use the Voigtlander (Fig. 1). The lines are accentuated at the expense of the modeling, and yet not as conspicuous as in the Dallmeyer (Fig. 2) which seems to yield the best illusion of rotundity. Roundness is produced by stronger shadows and is accompanied by heavier or deeper line definition, while a face less well modeled is flatter and the lines easier assert themselves. The single combination of the Petzval (Fig. 3) gives the most contrasting image, as the division of light and dark is shown in broader masses. All three negatives demand elaborate retouching, as the texture of face, hair and fabric is unnaturally sharp. Still, if I wished to accentuate the beautiful curvature of a lip or the drawing of an eye, or attempt a portrait of an old man or woman a la Denner, Dou or Rembrandt, with all the wrinkles and detail of skin texture clearly shown, I surely would include the three lenses in my experiments.
    Medium results were obtained by the

    Portrait Unar (Fig. 4) and the Verito back combination (Fig. 5). In both the image is much softer, the definition less pronounced, a style of interpretation that is frequently met with in the works of Gainsborough and other painters of the English portrait school. Experiments with the portrait Unar, making one exposure diffused at /4.5—and another focused sharp at /4.5—showed but the slightest difference in light distribution, which would hardly be noticeable in a reproduction. With the Verito back combination at fS.6—the camera racked out of focus about one-half inch, and the result was rather disappointing. The light shows some concentration, but the bust and shoulders are distorted, and the hair is rendered more clearly than in any other image. Very satisfactory was the more normal use of the Verito (Fig. 6) which yielded a beautifully soft image; although the blurriness is not evenly distributed, the effect is impressionistic without any confusion of detail.

    Perfect balance of diffusion is accomplished by the work of the Struss lens. These pictures (Figs. 7 and 8) have a strange vibratory quality because the division of planes is so indefinite that they overlap one another. The Struss lens, wide open (Fig. 7), gives a luminous and pictorial image, but the double vision, or rather the blurred continuance of the outline into space, is apt to irritate the eye. It is a quality advocated by some of our most advanced painters, as only the single eye sees objects clearly defined, while two eyes, not unlike a stereopticon, combine several views of the one scene into one general impression, and the blur in pictorial representation is supposed to produce the same effect. Extenuation of distinct forms is the mechanism whereby mystery is produced, as I had occasion to point out in an article years ago. All forms that are enveloped in a haze become more pleasing to the eye, and of more poetical significance to the mind; they gain in beauty, for all beautifying processes in pictorial representation consist of the elimination of obtrusive elements and the blurring of lines.

    It is hardly believable that Fig. 7 represents the same person of whom we have seen such faithful records in Figs. 1, 2 and 3. It is a replica of the same effect which the girl's face assumed as she entered the door, surrounded by a frugally lighted atmosphere which eliminated the freckles. Both visions, the clear and the blurred one, are true to her likeness and there are lenses which can reproduce them, so it is merely a question which one is most adaptable to the aims that each individual craftsman pursues in his practice of photography. If the diffused effect is desired in portrait work, the Struss at /8 (Fig. 8) is undoubtedly a most satisfactory vehicle, even for practical pictorial purposes. Here we have the combination of clear (not sharp) definition and softness of effect, the massing of light and shadows as in the artistic but primitive process of pinhole photography, and the soft focus eliminates retouching—not a slight advantage—if not entirely, at least to a large extent, as all minor values and impurities are welded together by the all-prevalent diffusion.

    Fig. 9 is perhaps the most plastic of all. It shows the widest range of tones, good high-lights and softness in the actual drawing of features despite the depth of the shadows. It was made very much the same way as Fig. 8, only the shadows were intensified in the printing.
    Of course we can throw the image out of focus with every lens. The result, however, is not controllable. We may concentrate the blur on the part of the object we wish to diffuse, but we will find other parts so offensively diffused or so unreasonably sharpened, without any relation to distance or the point of interest, that only the merest accident could produce a practicable or artistic result. What we really want is the certainty of a reasonable degree of even diffusion over the whole picture, over and above any due to selective focusing, and which at the same time enables us to increase or decrease the diffusion at will, or to repeat any particular effect.

    Of course, this advantage we enjoyed years ago in the Dallmeyer lens by unscrewing the cell which holds the back lens just a trifle. But in the Struss lens we have a lens whose normal function consists of producing artistic diffusion; it is the practical lens for the pictorialist, for it is a natural picture maker; it will not give a scientific record nor a report of detailed facts, but it will yield a pictorial "universal focus" effect to anyone who wishes to interpret—may it be a beautiful face, a landscape with figures, the view of a building or any vista of interest.
    The person who has learned to see things in a pictorial way will find in the Struss lens a vehicle that will interpret his vision with astonishing fidelity. To those who are still struggling to subordinate confusing detail in a nature view to more artistic broader effects, the use of the Struss lens will act as a valuable helpmate and instructor.

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  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Stockton, California

    Re: 24" Struss Lens?

    Seen this article before but I've never seen nor heard of an actual 24" Struss, possibly a one-off.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 2007

    Re: 24" Struss Lens?

    I've never either. They are rarely seen at all, I'd guess just a few hundred were ever made. Typically when one is seen, it's 9" or 12".

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