I got a Pronar and a Bestar

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by David Hall, Mar 31, 2003.

  1. David Hall

    David Hall Member

    Messages:
    470
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2003
    Location:
    South Pasade
    In this area, I am quite naive.

    Lens names. Are they brand names, or category names? On another thread someone mentioned that as a Heliar a lens would be a different speed. Is that because a different company makes the lens faster or slower, or because grouping the elements differently causes it to be faster or slower?

    Funny how it took years of experience to be comfortable enough to ask the simplest of questions...

    Thanks!

    dgh
     
  2. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    David, From my limited understanding, the speed of a lens is the function of the maximum aperature diameter measurement as a comparative value of the focal length measurement. That is why fast lenses have large diameter elements and large diameter maximum iris openings. I am sure that there are other more definitive and technical explanations. But that is the way that I think of it. Hope that this helps.
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    18,000
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    They start out as brand names, but the classics, which are copied by other makers, become design names. The "Tessar" is a Zeiss brand name, for instance, for a particular 4-element/3-group design from 1902, but many Optars, Ektars, Skopars, and even some enlarging lenses are tessar designs. Ektar, however, was a name for the top quality Kodak products, and some Ektars may be tessars, but a few are heliar designs (5-element/3-groups).

    This site gives some history on many of the basics:

    http://www.panix.com/~zone/photo/czlens.htm

    It's kind of annoying to see Cosina using some of these classic names like "Color-Skopar" and "Heliar" on their new Voigtlander-branded lenses, because they are modern designs, largely unrelated to the classic designs. They may be good lenses, but they should get new names.
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    18,000
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Oh, and why are Heliars a certain speed? Well, that probably has to do with the maximum aperture at which reasonable quality could be obtained and the practicality of building a lens of a certain size at the time it was produced. My 360/4.5 Heliar is huge and weighs several pounds without a shutter! Some shorter Heliars and heliar copies like the Kodak Medalist Ektar 100/3.5 lens are f:3.5 lenses. There is also an Ektar 105/3.7, which is a heliar type.
     
  5. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    David, I forgot to address your question on lens names. The lens names (Dagor, Nikor, Ronar, Sironar, Artar etc) are assigned by the manufacturer. There are general classes of lens designs which differing manufacturers may all offer under their respective "trade" names. Each of the designs have strengths and weaknesses.
     
  6. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    18,000
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    For instance, of the four lenses Donald named, the Dagor is a Goerz lens with six elements in two groups on which the Schneider Angulon is based (not the Super-Angulon or any of the later ones, though). The Goerz Apo-Artar is the model for the Rodenstock Apo-Ronar. Sironar originally referred to Rodenstock lenses that were very similar to the Schneider Symmar. Any lens made by Nippon Kogaku is a Nikkor of some sort or another, regardless of design. The earlier Nikkors had a letter indicating the number of elements, so a Nikkor-Q (quarto) was a 4-element lens, probably a tessar, and a Nikkor-O (octo) was probably a complex 8-element retrofocus wideangle lens.
     
  7. Robert

    Robert Member

    Messages:
    747
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2002
    If you're asking about the names then it's really marketing/branding. A tessar is both a design and a Zeiss lens. You might have gotten away with copying the design [The Xenar I think is a tessar] but you couldn't use the name. That's the reason some companies continue to use older names. If they use the name they retain the rights to the name. Somebody mentioned Kodak was calling the lens on a disposalbe camera the Ektar.
     
  8. David Hall

    David Hall Member

    Messages:
    470
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2003
    Location:
    South Pasade
    Drilling even deeper into my naivete...

    Some of you rattle off groups of elements like I can rattle off films and papers. Howcome? If we're standing together at the Yosemite Tunnel View with half a dozen other Ansel Alikes, and you know how many elements and in what groups my lenses are made up of, what is it that you can tell me about my lenses or how they will see?

    The question sounds a little sarcastic...I don't mean it to. I am eager to understand, and am trying to be entertaining in my approach.

    dgh
     
  9. Aggie

    Aggie Member

    Messages:
    4,925
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2003
    Location:
    So. Utah
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    ..
     
  10. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    9,281
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2002
    Location:
    Bergen, Norw
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    The simplest lens is a single lens - like a magnifying glass. This would give a lot of aberrations, and quickly became unpopular among photographers.

    The next step was to make the lens curved, with the concave side facing the subject. This got rid of a lot of the worst aberrations, but still not good enough.

    Then came the "anastigmat": Two lens elements, one positive, one negative, cemented (usually) together. This was a lot better, and actually usable for photography. There was still a bit of chromatic aberration, though... Removing the front group of a Symmar or similar will show you what these are like: Not at all bad, but far from perfect...

    The "double anastigmat" is, with a few variations, the basis for all modern lenses. This consists of two anastigmats with a bit of space (and an aperture) between. The convex sides of both groups face out (from the aperture).

    The Tessar is a double anastigmat with the rear anastigmat uncemented - 4 elements in 3 groups.

    The Heliar (original) is a double anastigmat with an added negative element midway between the main groups.

    A variant of the double anastigmat is the "doppelte Gauss", or double Gauss lens. This uses a more extreme curvature to the elements, as well as slightly different glasses, to give wide field coverage. Angulos, Super Angulon, Wide field Ektar, etc. are all variants of this.

    Adding even more elements can refine the properties of the lens, or change them altogether. Very few LF lenses have more than 6 elements, or more than 4 groups. Very few lenses for 35mm have fewer than 6 elements or 4 groups...
     
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    18,000
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    That was a great synopsis, Ole.

    I'm interested in the aesthetic qualities of different designs.

    A simple meniscus lens, for instance, won't have a very wide circle of good definition, so they'll look sharp in the center with the particular kind of out-of-focus qualities at the edges that can be seen in some fairly early 19th-century portraits.

    Heliars from wide open to about f:8 produce a very distinctive, almost three-dimensional effect where the in-focus subject really stands out from a smooth out-of-focus background. Some Planar types, like the Voigtlander Ultron, from the 1950s have this quality as well, but not all of them (for instance, I tried a 1940s Zeiss Planar for Contax that was dreadful as far as out-of-focus rendering goes--probably overcorrected).

    Dagors, because they have 6 elements for the designer to play with, are fairly well corrected (some uncorrected spherical aberration results in apparent focus shift wide open) and have a wide coverage circle, but because they are in two groups, they are fairly contrasty, even in uncoated versions. The Planar exists in 5, 6, 7, and more element versions, and is theoretically superior to the Dagor, but because it has so many glass-air surfaces (thus inherently low contrast), it didn't really come into its own until the introduction of lens coatings. Now it is one of the most common designs. Most 50mm lenses for 35mm cameras are variants of the century-old Planar.

    The Goertz Celor is another design that was considerably improved with the advent of lens coatings. Originally it was a budget version of the Dagor with two elements removed and replaced by air-spaces acting as elements. The Fujinon C series is an updated, coated version of the Celor, and has been seen as a real success.
     
  12. Robert

    Robert Member

    Messages:
    747
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2002
    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (David Hall @ Mar 31 2003, 11:39 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>Drilling even deeper into my naivete...

    Tunnel View with half a dozen other Ansel Alikes, and you know how many elements and in what groups my lenses are made up of, what is it that you can tell me about my lenses or how they will see?&nbsp;
    </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    Likely nothing you don't know from using them. OTOH lets say you walk into a little shop one morning. It's a junk shop but in one corner is a pile of old lenses. Having a vague idea of what each design can do makes it easier to find a deal. Maybe you're looking for a lens to cover an ULF camera. Now if you aren't looking to buy a lens I'm not sure any of the trivia really matters. The lenses you own are best tested on a camera with film. Two lenses from the same manufacturer made the same year can vary.
     
  13. David Hall

    David Hall Member

    Messages:
    470
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2003
    Location:
    South Pasade
    Wow,

    Once again this forum proves to be one of the most informative resources I can think of for photography. Thank you for all the information.

    Other than Ole, is there a resource that makes it easy to understand such things? It turns out I WAS in a store yesterday, Samy's in Hollyweird, looking at old lenses in old shutters and not really having much of an idea of what I was looking at. Since I have only modern lenses (the oldest I have is a Schneider with the chrome outer ring and chrome ringed shutter) I couldn't tell which small, old lenses would cover a 5x7 or an 8x10. I kind of assumed that if a lens is 240+ mm, it would probably cover 8x10, but I really have no idea.

    Thanks for whatever you can offer.


    dgh
     
  14. Robert

    Robert Member

    Messages:
    747
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2002
    Somebody I'm sure can suggest a book. I'd suggest just surfing over to google and searching the rec.photo.equipment.large-format archives. Plenty of info is buried in there. A 240mm lens would need to be a wide angle design to cover 8x10.
     
  15. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

    Messages:
    4,518
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    Ipswich, Mas
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (OleTj @ Mar 31 2003, 10:12 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>Then came the "anastigmat": Two lens elements, one positive, one negative, cemented (usually) together.

    The "double anastigmat" is, with a few variations, the basis for all modern lenses. This consists of two anastigmats with a bit of space (and an aperture) between. The convex sides of both groups face out (from the aperture).

    The Tessar is a double anastigmat with the rear anastigmat uncemented - 4 elements in 3 groups.
    </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    You really set the brain to working on this one, Ole.

    I had workd for many moons in a company whose main product was "advanced optical systems", and that message brought back many memories.
    I cracked the books, manly to refresh my memory - and ...

    The *first* "camera" lenses - actually in use on the "camera obscura", were simple single-element meniscus lenses ... later to be called "landscape" design. Later, Chevalier designed the "Achromatic Landscape", by cementing another element to it, in 1821 - named for the fact that it corrected a lot of the chromatic abberations of the original "landscape" design.

    The "anastigmat" design (remember that astigmatism - where lines that are supposed to be straight - aren't, therefore; "a"(n)+"astigmatism") does not appear to be a separate design in itself: the first reference I have to it is in the description of the "Protar" and "Double Protar" - designed in 1891 and 1895 by Rudolph, and the "Dagor" by Van Hoegh in 1892. These were all made possible by advancements in glasses - mainly by Abbe and Schott.

    A "double achromat - with the rear two elements air spaced", would described the "Petzval" portrait lens of 1841. The Tessar is an assymetrical four-element design, with only the rear two elements cemented together - designed by Rudolph and Wandersleb, in 1902.

    Now....

    How does one tell how the photograph will look when taken with the various lenses? I really do not have a clue. I will go along with Aggies description - the "Little Genie" idea. For all intents and purposes, this WORKS.
    I've heard long deep, incomprehensible discussions; "The *fool* took this photograph with a Tessar lens ... everyone KNOWS he should have used a Dagor...."
    Uh-huh. Right. I'll file those conversations with all the others in the "Everyone Knows" file. Someday ... I'd love to set up a really valid experiment - taking various photographs with equivalent lenses - although that would not be an easy task. Other than the obvious differences due to focal length, I wonder how many photographers would be able to distiinguish the difference between the Zeiss Planar and the Sonnar - or Distagon - from prints produced with the Hasselblad?

    Would be interesting ... but until I become one of the "idle rich" - I have other things to do.

    My point, through all this, is that I don't think the modern lens design matters much.
     
  16. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    18,000
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    The standard reference for the classic lenses is Kingslake, which is hard to find and expensive. I've looked at it at the library, but don't own my own copy. There is another book by Neblette that's not too bad, but has some obvious errors.

    What can be done with this knowledge is that you can start to look for and select lenses based on the qualities you like. I've discovered that I like Heliars for portraits, so I've made a point of looking for heliar-type lenses for different formats. They're not all so great, and the effect can vary, but you can try things and sell them if you don't like them, usually without any loss. My favorite portrait lens for 35mm is a 100mm/3.5 Kodak Ektar, which is a coated heliar type lens, which I cannibalized from a defunct Kodak Medalist camera to use on my Canon F-1N. Lanthars and Apo-Lanthars are heliar-types. Leitz Hektors are generally Heliars, but are considered less desirable among Leicaphiles. I also discovered that the Canon FD 100/2.8 Macro is a heliar, but I haven't tried that one.

    It also does help you sort out the odd lenses and figure out what they might be able to do without having to test each one. A 240mm artar-type lens probably won't cover 8x10" at infinity, but a dagor-type probably will cover stopped down and should have decent contrast, and say you find some obscure 16" double anastigmat made around 1910 by an English or French manufacturer in good condition at a nice price, and you need something that covers 12x20"--it would be a good bet that it would work, and you would be very hard pressed to find a Goerz Dagor of that focal length.
    Or when someone shows you a 1912 Zeiss Planar, you'll know that despite the brand name and the big maximum aperture, this is an uncoated lens with lots of glass-air surfaces, so don't expect it to have good contrast.
     
  17. David Hall

    David Hall Member

    Messages:
    470
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2003
    Location:
    South Pasade
    Keep the guidance coming, it's great. But I am amazed tat you guys know this stuff!


    dgh
     
  18. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    9,281
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2002
    Location:
    Bergen, Norw
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Most of my information is from old German books - 1900 to 1910 or thereabouts. I came across one (Photographisches Hifsbuch für ernste Arbeit; Hans Schmidt, Berlin 1910) in a lokal bookstore, and realised there was a lot of information still valid in it.

    Any errors in my "synopsis" are due to the effect of translating from one foreign language (German) into another (English) through a leaky memory (Norwegian).

    As to "bokeh", I've just started a mini-test on this. I realised I had a 120mm Angulon, 135mm Planar, 150mm Apo-Lanthar, 150mm Symmar, and a 150mm Heliar - all "vintage" lenses. With four different lenses with such close focal lengths, I just have to test it...

    Developed the first test today, the Heliar. Did this one alone since it's on a Voightländer 9x12cm plate camera from 1934, and I didn't want to remove the lens.

    Rest to follow when I get time - and decent weather.

    Ole
     
  19. Robert

    Robert Member

    Messages:
    747
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2002
    A couple more things. If you're looking to save a few $$$ then look for lens that don't come with the big name. B&L in the US made Zeiss lenses under license. Should be the same thing but you'll hopefully end up paying less.

    Old fast lenses tended to be special purpose lenses. Either for press use or something else that needed the speed. I think the big leap I had to make when thinking about LF lenses was the 35mm view that faster is better. If you use a lens at F/16-F/32 all the time does it really matter how fast it is wide open? Or even how good wide open? Which is why I ended up just pushing things all the way to using barrel lenses.