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Thread: Wet Plate portrait lens

  1. #1

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    Wet Plate portrait lens

    I have achieved a bit of competence and can get good stuff 75-90% of the time doing portraits. I have two nice lenses, a no name ? Tessar 300 4.5 maybe a copy lens and a Fuji 300mm 5.6. Both render very sharp and contrasty images. Itís fine for men and children. But women of a certain age are not flattered. I donít want the misty soft focus that a filter would give me. Is an expensive Petzval my only choice?i shoot primarily 4x5 and 5x7.
    Thanks in advance

  2. #2

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    Re: Wet Plate portrait lens

    Not at all, and in my view I’m not sure an expensive Petzval is even “a” choice for what it appears you want. I might look for a projection lens (relatively inexpensive, usually fast, often a nice ‘round’ look to the image) or a triplet in general (which is often what projection lenses are). They all tend to have a sort of smooth look. Some of my favorite wet plate portraits on 4x5 were done with projection lenses, primarily a 9” Buhl or a 175mm f2.5 Leitz Hektor (although those are harder to find and a little more expensive; they also come in a variety of focal lengths). At least in my experience, the latter has also produced a slightly lower contrast that can be nice at times.

    And then of course you could explore the Heliar world, most likely in the 210 - 240mm range, with the latter probably being a better choice given that you would be using it on 5x7 as well. I also have a 300mm Heliar that has worked well on 5x7. As you may know, they are a development of the triplet, and again are known for a smooth look.

    Beyond that, soft focus lenses that adjust the diffusion not via the aperture (but which have a numbered ring you can turn to dial in the diffusion) can be nice with just a touch of softness added (I find). So things like a soft focus Velostigmat or Cooke, or a Universal Heliar, for example (although of course these can be hard to find and expensive) rather than a Verito, which controls the softness via the aperture and is too soft for my taste until stopped down to where it is slower than I’d like. Also, a 210mm f3.5 Zeiss or Xenar (and I imagine others; those are just what I have used) can be nice — and not too sharp — wide open. And the extra speed can come in handy with the wet plate process, of course.

    Anyway, just my experience. There are a lot of interesting possibilities out there, including aerial lenses like Aero-Ektars and Pentacs (the one I have has very low contrast, for example...could be good for certain purposes), etc. Good luck.

  3. #3

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    Re: Wet Plate portrait lens

    you could try taping an electric toothbrush or something to your camera to add just enough vibration to blur out fine wrinkles.

  4. #4

    Re: Wet Plate portrait lens

    Michael has provided lots of very useful information. I can understand why you've concluded that the Fuji is too sharp and contrasty for wet plate portraits, but a large aperture Tessar used wide open should be much more flattering for portraiture. Are you sure the f4.5 lens you have is a Tessar? Are you using it wide open? You should be, for portraits. Is it a coated lens? If you avoid coated lenses, you'll likely find you get more pleasing rendering and contrast for your needs.
    I have found that I get the nicest contrast (appropriate for collodion work) from my uncoated Kodak Anastigmat lenses from the 1920s and 1930s.

    I do also have a couple of Petzval lenses and I like them, but they present a number of hurdles (weight, size, lack of shutter/aperture, flare properties, etc. not to mention price!), which means they get left on the shelf more and more often as I reach instead for an Anastigmat. But here is an example of a portrait made with a 15" Lerebours et Secretan Petzval.

    Here for comparison is a portrait made with a 10" Kodak Anastigmat f4.5 lens, wide open. Used at their maximum aperture, they can be quite acceptable for wet plate portraiture.

  5. #5
    Foamer
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    Re: Wet Plate portrait lens

    For what you're wanting I think a diffused lens in the 240mm range would do it. I love Heliars but they are actually pretty sharp. Since you're doing film and not wet plate I think a lens in shutter would make life a lot easier. I was thinking of a Verito in shutter or a Velostigmat II would work but I don't see any in shutter on ebay right now.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  6. #6

    Re: Wet Plate portrait lens

    Quote Originally Posted by Two23 View Post
    For what you're wanting I think a diffused lens in the 240mm range would do it. I love Heliars but they are actually pretty sharp. Since you're doing film and not wet plate I think a lens in shutter would make life a lot easier. I was thinking of a Verito in shutter or a Velostigmat II would work but I don't see any in shutter on ebay right now.


    Kent in SD
    Kent, I believe he's actually doing Wet Plate portraits, not film. He's posted this in Wet Plate discussions, and his title says Wet Plate too, so....

  7. #7

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    Re: Wet Plate portrait lens

    Thanks to you all. Yes I’m doing wetplate. I’ll look for a Kodak Anastigmat. Paul your example is quite helpful.
    Brent

  8. #8
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Wet Plate portrait lens

    Flattery of "women of a certain age", without resorting to a fairly soft lens, is better done with softer lighting. Petzvals are very sharp in the center, among the sharpest. The reasons for going with a Petzval are the speed, the signature of swirls and curved field, and because it looks cool on the camera. Tessars are always nice, on film or wet plate. I'd suggest two of the same focal length and speed, one coated and one not. Lighting, subject contrast, and the mood of the collodion will tell you which to use. Get a Velostigmat Series II for the uncoated, and you'll have a choice of diffusion or not, and the degree of diffusion:

    https://www.largeformatphotography.i...nfo-and-Images
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  9. #9
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    Re: Wet Plate portrait lens

    Quote Originally Posted by paulbarden View Post
    Kent, I believe he's actually doing Wet Plate portraits, not film. He's posted this in Wet Plate discussions, and his title says Wet Plate too, so....

    Confused with another post! To smooth skin etc. you need a diffused focus lens. One of the best is the Verito. Another is a Velostigmat series II. These are reasonably priced. I believe they are Tessar design anastigmats but the difference is they have a selectable soft focus feature. Regular anastigmats are generally pretty sharp. Another thought is an Eidoscope #3 but those start to get expensive and are pretty heavy. I use a regular Tessar 300mm on my 8x10 for wet plate. It's good but I'm trying an Eidoscope right now for a softer look.


    300mm Velostigmat, 5x7 tin

    Kent in SD
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    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
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  10. #10
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Wet Plate portrait lens

    The Verito is a very fine sort focus lens, but is very soft wide open, (f/4). For a subtle smoothing of skin textures, you'd be working around f/8, which you may find slow for wet plate.
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

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