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Thread: Vintage Portrait lens for 4x5 view camera

  1. #1

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    Lightbulb Vintage Portrait lens for 4x5 view camera

    Good evening Gents,

    Any thoughts on which lens renders better portraits between the Voigtlander Heliar 21cm (210mm) f/4.5 in Compur Electronic #3 shutter or Kodak Commercial Ektar 8 1/2 (216mm) f/6.8 in Ilex/Acme Synchro #3 shutter? I never shoot portraits in a studio. I always photograph out in about in the field so I'm looking for a lens that is fairly light in weight and can render tones in Tri-X 320, T-Max 400, and Kodak Portra 400 on 4x5 sheet film the best. Any other pertinent info out there would be greatly appreciated such as image circle at f/22, angle of coverage, etc. Trying to do a series on Workers of the 21st Century in the like of August Sander. Cheers

  2. #2

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    Re: Vintage Portrait lens for 4x5 view camera

    The best is an unknowable unknowable. But my Commercial Ektar is too sharp for me most of the time; My Heliar gives more of the qualities I look for after the fashion of a 1920's-1930's look. Every answer will be different.

  3. #3

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    Re: Vintage Portrait lens for 4x5 view camera

    Use an uncoated lens, a good choice is allways a Tessar style lens and it is available for small money.
    F.ex. Xenar, Tessar, Ysar 4.5/210mm in a Compound shutter are great for your works.
    At full open this lenses are more soft than sharp and perfect for portraits but when stoped down you have the option to make a sharp picture when you need it.
    Special soft focus lenses are very expensive and rare, maybe a Rodenstock Imagon is a choice but very special, like all soft focus lenses.

    An interesting way is to use an achromatic lens, a cemeted two element one or a triblet with three single elements like a Trinar, Radionar, Trioplan.

    Very cheap are the two element achromatic lenses, a simple close up lens can be use and you have a shutter already to mount it in.
    You will be surprised how good it will work and you can drive the image quality in a wide range with the aperture,

  4. #4
    multi format
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    Re: Vintage Portrait lens for 4x5 view camera

    hi zbvision

    you might consider doing test portraits with each lens and seeing which one you like the best, you might appreciate the way one draws your image in black and white and another in color... have you decided on the lighting? and the film? they might define the project, more than the lens you decide to use...

    good luck ( have fun) !
    John
    Last edited by jnantz; 17-Nov-2021 at 18:23. Reason: added more to the salad..
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  5. #5

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    Re: Vintage Portrait lens for 4x5 view camera

    The Heliar and Ektar are quite different from each other - are you going for vintage sharpness or vintage softness? Also worth considering are the Verito/Veritar and Kodak Portrait lenses.

  6. #6
    (Shrek)
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    Re: Vintage Portrait lens for 4x5 view camera

    Quote Originally Posted by zbvision View Post
    Trying to do a series on Workers of the 21st Century in the like of August Sander. Cheers
    If you're looking for sharp images in the tradition of the great portraitists, I'm going to recommend the Commercial Ektar just for tradition's sake.

  7. #7

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    Re: Vintage Portrait lens for 4x5 view camera

    Heliar is not a magical lens that produces portrait excellence all on it's own, same could be said for any lens. Heliar as a lens today has gained legendary mythical status as being magical. It is just one of many large aperture LF lenses with good out of focus rendition. Others and more common at far lower cost would be of the Tessar lens formula, Kodak Ektar, Schneider Xenar, Fujinar, Zeiss Tessar and many others.

    Expression is likely THE most important aspect of portraits, then lighting, then composition. All that lens/camera/film/post print making tends to follow these image goals.
    Essentially, don't obsess over the lens alone as there are other more important aspects of portraiture.



    Bernice

  8. #8
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Vintage Portrait lens for 4x5 view camera

    Shutters will be your problem

    I suggest a Packard shutter inside the camera

    and try a Xenar 4.5 180mm, cheap really nice lens, many FS under $75

  9. #9

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    Re: Vintage Portrait lens for 4x5 view camera

    Quote Originally Posted by zbvision View Post
    Good evening Gents,

    Any thoughts on which lens renders better portraits between the Voigtlander Heliar 21cm (210mm) f/4.5 in Compur Electronic #3 shutter or Kodak Commercial Ektar 8 1/2 (216mm) f/6.8 in Ilex/Acme Synchro #3 shutter? I never shoot portraits in a studio. I always photograph out in about in the field so I'm looking for a lens that is fairly light in weight and can render tones in Tri-X 320, T-Max 400, and Kodak Portra 400 on 4x5 sheet film the best. Any other pertinent info out there would be greatly appreciated such as image circle at f/22, angle of coverage, etc. Trying to do a series on Workers of the 21st Century in the like of August Sander. Cheers
    A Heliar would be a nice fit, but you could probably get a pair of matched vintage 150 and 210 mm f/4.5 Xenars for less $$$ than a 210mm Heliar alone... Or convertible Symmars for that matter. Having a second, wider lens at hand for situations where you can't back up might be more useful than having one lens with the "best" rendering. In Sander's work, you see a lot of full body poses as well as small groups showing a bit of the surroundings.
    With normal (as in not tele, not process) lenses of 150mm and longer, you rarely need to worry about coverage. Especially at portrait distances where the image circle is noticeably larger than at infinity.

    Your biggest challenge working in Sander's style might be not the lens but the light in today's workspaces. Where Sander had beautiful shafts of light falling from windows and doorways into relatively dim workshops, you are more likely to encounter overhead banks of fluorescents, LED floodlights, glowing screens and signs and the like.

  10. #10

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    Re: Vintage Portrait lens for 4x5 view camera

    I use Heliars with my 5x7 and let me tell you - they are the silver bullet... that is the one lens that just nails it

    you will never be unhappy with the rendering (B&W anyway)

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