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Thread: Old lenses and optimal performance

  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2018
    A Scottish Island

    Old lenses and optimal performance

    I have some fairly early (1860s) lenses which I am trying out. I have been surprised to find that whilst their infinity (landscape) performance can be mediocre, as anticipated, they seem to perform much better close up. One (see attached at 1/3 life-size from it) from 1865, has a obviously later made conical mount and I have a suspicion that once its original role as a stereo lens was over, it may just have been given a new lease of life as an enlarger lens. Does anyone have any observations of similar performance behaviour?

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Common Orchid  Paul Kay.jpg  

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Tokyo, Japan

    Re: Old lenses and optimal performance

    I haven’t tried my 1850’s A.Ross portrait petzval yet, but having used a TTH cooke portrait and Dallmeyer 3A with color transparencies at portrait distances, they are wonderful lenses with good sharpness at the focal plane and great bokeh that cannot be achieved by modern lenses.

    I’m really into old brass lenses these days, selling modern lenses and buying old brass lenses.
    It seems strange at first at the point that the newer is better, but I think only the practitioners know the truth….

    Check this site too.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    South Dakota

    Re: Old lenses and optimal performance

    Most of those lenses were designed for portraits, so close focus performance would be the priority.

    Kent in SD
    In contento ed allegria
    Notte e di vogliam passar!

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Feb 2009

    Re: Old lenses and optimal performance

    Petzvals are a special case but perfectly symmetrical lenses such as Aplanats / RR's and the early double anastigmats are naturally better at 1:1 than at infinity.

  5. #5
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Stuck inside of Tucson with the Neverland Blues again...

    Re: Old lenses and optimal performance

    Also keep in mind that nineteenth century lenses were made for contact printing and direct-to-plate imagery like Daguerreotypes, tintypes, and Ambrotypes. Their results were never meant to be enlarged.
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Re: Old lenses and optimal performance

    Direct back to image goals.

    Vintage lenses like these are good and good for what they are intended to do. Some image makers are much into this, all part of the current alternative process image making via contact printing and such.

    There is a Photography fashion believing large format view camera is much about this "vintage look" or what defines images made using a view camera.. Except this is NOT correct. This is only on facet of the universe of sheet film view camera image making process and results.


  7. #7

    Join Date
    Feb 2009

    Re: Old lenses and optimal performance

    A couple more thoughts about the close distance vs. infinity image quality:-

    At close distances the angle used is smaller, and the outer portions of the lens field are outside of the film. As non-anastigmatic lenses are usually quite good in the center but less sharp at the edges, their close distance performance is often better. (And in the picture in the first post of this thread, there are simply no in-focus subjects at the edges of the frame itself.)

    Another reason is the human perception which is way more demanding in a landscape and especially in an architectural view than in a picture of a close-up subject so that the same level of sharpness often seems to be poor for distant views but excellent for still life subjects and even somewhat excessive for portraits.

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