Home Made Soft Portrait Lens

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Reinhold, Feb 21, 2011.

  1. Reinhold

    Reinhold Subscriber

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    Soft Portrait Lens

    I just finished mounting a soft portrait meniscus lens for my 5x7 Deardorff.
    I'm delighted with the results, it handles like an old 1800's barrel lens.
    And the negative it produces is just like a classic 1800's portrait...

    The lens is a simple meniscus lens of about 300 mm focal length and a 60 mm diameter, giving a maximum aperture of about f5.6.

    This is more than a patch-up collection of paper tube and duct tape.
    The barrel is machined from PVC tubing.
    The lens is seated against a machined stop and is secured with a machined PVC retaining ring.
    It's fixed onto a Masonite lensboard with stainless flat head screws from the backside.
    The next iteration will have a PVC flange so it can be attached to a lensboard from the front with small screws, just like it was done in 1880.

    For the aperture stops, a 1mm wide slot is machined into the barrel into which I drop stops cut from black 4-ply matboard.
    The matboard fits the slot nicely so light leaks are not a problem... if I don't dawdle between pulling the darkslide and taking the picture.
    At first, I draped a black sock over the stop to cut down potential like leakage.
    I'm happy to report that black socks are not required in the subdued light of a typical studio.

    For a shutter, I flip a piece of black matboard across the lens, (I don't use the traditional hat, this is the 21st century, after all...)

    I develop by inspection so each shot results in a good negative regardless of the exposure time which is somewhat imprecise, to be sure.

    The photo of Larry was shot on Arista EDU 100, developed by inspection in Pat Gainers PCT 1+45 for 6-3/4 minutes. Shot it at f8, about 1-1/2 stop smaller than wide open. It's a straight scan of the negative.

    Any interest in something like this?

    Reinhold

    www.classicBWphoto.com
     

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    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 21, 2011
  2. premo

    premo Member

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    Yeah, very interesting. I'd like to read more, and see some of your images. Thanks for your work.
     
  3. nhemann

    nhemann Member

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    Hello Reinhold,
    Interesting piece and thanks for posting. I was wondering if you could recommend any reading material regarding how you select a particular lens diameter and focal length for a particular project. I have been researching making homemade lenses on and off for a while but always ran short on information that didn't quickly ramp up to graduate level optics discussions - and the engineer in me bristles at the idea of just guessing. lol
    Neil
     
  4. Reinhold

    Reinhold Subscriber

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    Thanks folks,

    Before I post more images, I've got to get ok's from the others...

    Niel;
    Regarding lens selection, I'm working with 5x7, so I wanted a longer focal length in order to keep the subject as far away as possible. I'm not a fan of wide angle lens portraiture. Normal for 5x7 is about 210mm, so the 300mm lens I found is equivalent to a "long normal", a decent choice for starters...

    I also wanted a reasonably fast lens (this is for portraiture, after all), so an aperture of 5.6 or better was my aim point.
    I found a 65mm diameter lens that, when mounted gave me a clear aperture of 60mm and a maximum aperture of f5.0. (300mm fl / 60mm dia = f5.0)

    Using the same formula I cut a variety of Aperture stops, from f6.3, thru f16.
    I liked the f8 aperture best on the ground glass and most of my efforts have been at f8 so far.
    On the ground glass F11 looked a bit too snappy and f16 was even sharper (like those old B&J paper weights).

    In my limited reading on meniscus lens applications, the concave surface faces forward and the aperture stop is as close to the front of the lens as practical. I've got more information squirreled away somewhere, when I find it I'll post it. Unfortunately, much of it isn't graduate level optics either, but it's a start...

    Reinhold
     
  5. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    Great project and very interesting!

    Next one, you might try different distances for the aperture slot from the lens. I think that's one the variables in how the aperture works and how it's effective. Spacing that might change one type of aberation or something. I'm no expert either... I've just seen some of the commercial meniscus lenses and they all seem to have different spacings between the aperture and the glass. Things like the kalosat, kodak portrait, p&s semi-achromatic, etc...
     
  6. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    I did essentially the same process to mount a dollar-store magnifying glass on my 8x10, with the resulting lens being 325mm f3.5 and with apertures down to f42. The following photo is typical of its performance. (5x7 paper negative)

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 21, 2011
  7. Reinhold

    Reinhold Subscriber

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    Toffle: great photo.

    I too, play with Dollar Store lenses.
    I have several mounted in plastic barrels with aperture stop slots similar to this one.

    I found that I really like the image projected by a simple meniscus more to my liking for portraiture.

    Some have confused this simple meniscus as a "Petzval" lens.
    Not even close...
    Petzvals are complex lenses which have evolved over the years, as this website illustrates:

    http://www.antiquecameras.net/petzvallens.html

    What's fun about this project is that I'm able to merge photography with my ability to run a lathe and create fun things, such as an easy-to-use camera worthy lens with unique imaging character.

    It's a never-ending voyage of discovery...

    Reinhold

    www.classicBWphoto.com
     
  8. pinhole_dreamer

    pinhole_dreamer Member

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    Gives me an idea about a magnifying glass I saw at Wal-Fart and a box that I saw at Hobby Lobby. *sigh* How many more cameras can a girl make? (I have four pinhole cameras - and some of them are for my ball joint dolls. I just have to make THEM a darkroom now, too.)
     
  9. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    I have actually used the articles on that site while messing around with a box of old crown and flint elements and other mismatched bits. I have quite a few assorted elements, but not enough that match up to to anything really useful. I have replicated a sort of "Dallmeyer-Bergheim" and an "adjustable landscape" or two, but without the maths (and a little bit of engineering/manufacturing know-how) it is pretty hit and miss.
     
  10. Reinhold

    Reinhold Subscriber

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    Ok, here's another portrait using this simple meniscus lens.

    A single diffused reflector flood and a fill in panel.
    f8, 1/2+ second (sorta).
    Arista EDU 100, developed by inspection in Pat Gainer's PCT 1+45.

    Meet "Jim"...

    Reinhold

    www.classicBWphoto.com
     

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  11. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Here's one done with a lens that sounds identical to yours.

    [​IMG]

    It was the front light on a Korean War era spotting scope that a spotter for gun mounts might have used. It was in the trash, and I retrieved it and machined a 3" ABS male adapter to recieve it. The pipe threads on the male adapter just start into one of my Cooke Portrait lens flanges so it's easy to mount on the Kodak 2D 8X10 with Packard inside.

    Good soft focus doesn't need to be expensive.
     
  12. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Very nice, Jim. I figured you might have something to say on the subject. Over the past few months, I have decided I really need a Packard shutter or something that will allow me to shoot full speed film with some of my bits of orphan glass... something with up to 2 1/2 or 3" opening that would fit a 5" board. (or even 4"... is that possible?)
     
  13. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Typically the size of the packard is really close to double the size hole. ie. a 5" Packard will have a 2 3/4" opening. etc.
     
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  15. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    great stuff reinhold - !

    BINGO!



    john
     
  16. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Thanks, Jim. I've been watching auctions lately, but the prices are a little crazy these days. A friend of mine who has a camera shop has a Packard whose outside measurement is just over 6", which I could have for a song, but unfortunately it won't fit any of my cameras. (Is there any way to adapt/trim a Packard to fit a smaller board? The absolute maximum my camera could handle is 5 1/2".)
     
  17. willrea

    willrea Subscriber

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    I'm in the same boat.
     
  18. Reinhold

    Reinhold Subscriber

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    Larry, the handsome chap in my first post suggests that I design something for his 4x5 Shen Hao.
    I'll probably use something around 200mm focal length.
    (His bellows draw isn't as long as my Deardorff's).
    While I'm at it I'll probably make one for my 4x5 Tachihara too.

    Maybe I should make a few extra, just in case...
    This could be fun.

    Reinhold

    www.classicBWphoto.com
     
  19. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    Good job guys :smile:

    I'm trying to get into grinding my own plastic, acrylic and glass lenses (probably start off with soda lime glass). Trying to get some designs down first.
     
  20. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    One possibility with the bigger shutter is to mount it on a board and get one of those lens chucks aperture thingys to mount on the other side. Then the chuck holds the shutter to the front of your barrel lens. So the shutter's up front, not behind it.
     
  21. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    This is certainly a possiblility; I'm looking for something flexible that I can use with my various lens experiments. (which might involve a lot of "thingys")
     
  22. Reinhold

    Reinhold Subscriber

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    To keep from getting getting sidetracked, I opened a new thread on mounting packard shutters on the front of a lens here...

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum44/87903-packard-shutter-front-mounted.html

    Back on topic...

    Here's an example of using a front objective from some whopper binoculars.
    It's about 350 mm focal length achromat, about 80mm diameter.
    In this case I used the barrel from the binoculars, no need to make a mount.
    Aperture rings are held on with a Haagen-Dazs ice cream carton rim.

    It puts an image on the ground glass quite like Jim's photo of the toy car.
    Nice, but I prefer the character of the meniscus for portraiture.

    Reinhold

    www.classicBWphoto.com
     

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  23. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    This is exactly what I'm talking about! Pure innovation. No need to stalk the plumbing aisles at the hardware store when we can reuse/recycle from our own trash.

    Every once in awhile I hear mention of Alexander McKay, who ground his own lenses out of the bottoms of whiskey bottles. (of course, in my case it would mean changing brands, but I might be willing to make a sacrifice... :D)
     
  24. Reinhold

    Reinhold Subscriber

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    How about mounting a meniscus lens on an RB-67 ???

    Glad you asked...

    I machined a plastic replica of the bayonet mount for an RB...
    Attached it to a PVC barrel containing a 133mm x 63 mm meniscus lens...
    Added a 68mm filter ring to the barrel...

    Presto; a soft focus lens for my RB.

    Shot at f11, FP4, 1/2 second (guesstimate), straight negative scan.

    Reinhold

    www.classicBWphoto.com
     

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  25. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Reinhold,

    This is great. If more people would experiment in this and other areas instead of asking how others do everything from buying a lens to printing, they would be more knowledgeable and possibly advance the art and science of photography. Besides that, they could save a lot of money and buy more film to keep the manufacturers in the business.

    Jim
     
  26. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    I dunno... a little too sharp, don't you think? :D You're making it hard for the rest of us duffers to compete.

    (Ok, ok... I admit it's nice. :smile:)