Just got a LF camera! :) Could use some advice though.

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Kim Catton, Feb 10, 2011.

  1. Kim Catton

    Kim Catton Member

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    Hi all

    I just got Crown Graphic in excellent condition. The bellows look almost replaced.. and the camera seems like it was new. I have now shot about 4 sheets of color (portra 160 nc). The lens that came with the camera is a 135mm Optar made by Wollensak for Graflex.

    I got myself a LF camera because I am looking for the possibility of sharpness and high "resolution" ( I do art photography and in certain projects this is required because of the certain look and feel I am looking for). I am sure that this lens is pretty sharp and I will need to do a lot more test-shots..BUT right now I would love to hear some thoughts on the lens. Is it known for being a bit "soft".. contrasty - sharp - not so sharp... etc. What F-stop would make this lens perform it's very best?

    Also. What kind of lens would you guys recommend for sharpness. Some newer "modern" lenses will perhaps yield this?

    I would like to see a discussion going. I am hungry and eager to learn more about this wonderful new format!

    (I do mostly color and have access to color lab for negs and also enlargement)

    - kim
     
  2. onnect17

    onnect17 Member

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  3. Kim Catton

    Kim Catton Member

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    I will take a look at the the site http://www.largeformatphotography.info which is mentioned in that thread you posted Onnect17. Its looks like a good source for information on LF. Anyone out there who have used a Crown Graphic for a long time?
     
  4. onnect17

    onnect17 Member

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    Kim, I would recommend the book mentioned in the thread ("using the view camera") by Steve Simmons.
    http://www.amazon.com/Using-View-Ca...3534/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297453010&sr=8-1
    Look for a used copy.

    Also the information outside the lfphoto.info forum is quite useful but is not as organized as a book. I also started 3 or 4 years ago with a Graflex I found in a yard sale for $15. Like any other lens yours should do the best job around 2.5 or 3 stops down, so if the lens is a 4.7 then between f11 and f16. It's a good camera to get you started.
     
  5. dhosten

    dhosten Member

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    With your 135mm f/4.5 Optar, your best aperture for sharpness/resolution is f/22.
    http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/testing.html#100mm_thru_163mm

    Lots of info there about lenses for 4x5 and so on.

    The LF forum that was mentioned before is a wealth of information...and characters. There is a contingent of Scandinavian LF photogs there too. It may be worth your time to join in and read what people have contributed, as well as ask questions.

    Congratulations on your new graphic. One of the best pictures I ever took was with a graphic.
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi kim

    i have used a speed graphic ( like a crown graphic but it has a focal plane shutter so i can use
    non shuttered lenses &C ) since about 1988. your camera is a workhorse of a camera. they were
    originally used by newspaper photographers ( "press camera" ). it has a drop-bed so you can
    use wide lenses or do make-shift "tilt" if you want to attempt to do perspective control, but for the most
    part there are very little if any movements to be had with press cameras. when toyo bought
    the rights, they turned it into their toyo field view later on, which included a film-plane that popped out
    so the user could do perspective control &C for architectural photography.

    your optar was standard issue on press cameras. if you divide by 3 you will see its relative focal length
    ona 35mm camera ... you can see if it is coated by looking for a "C" with a "w" inside ( stood for wolly-coat ).
    it isn't a bad lens, wollensak optars had a wide range, some were good performers, some as good .. if you
    stop it down to around f16 - 22 or so, it will be nice.
    if you search the archives here, and on the large format page for "optar" you will see what people have to say about them :smile:
    another book you might look for is graphic and graflex photography by morgan and lester. it has all sorts of "stuff" about your camera ..
    and http://www.graflex.org is THE place to go to when you have a graflex camera ...

    you are lucky you have a lab near you that can process your sheet film,
    no labs are left near me :sad:

    have fun with your new camera!
    john
     
  7. Kim Catton

    Kim Catton Member

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    Jnanian. I will try and do some tests at 16-22. See how it goes :smile: Do you have any advice on a sharp (perhaps more modern) lens somewhere around what would be a 80mm in 35mm? I will be doing some shoulder portraits and I think this lens Ive got now is a biiit too wide for that.

    I will be looking through the sites you mentioned.

    Onnect:

    I will try and see if I can find a copy! Thanks a lot for the information

    dhosten: I am looking at the link you posted. Thanks a lot to you too :smile:

    Will make sure to post my experinces.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 14, 2011
  8. philosomatographer

    philosomatographer Subscriber

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    The last thing you ever ever ever have to worry about in large format photography is lens sharpness. Unless you are specifically using soft-focus (or very simplistic, i.e. meniscus) lenses from 100+ years ago, any lens that is not actually damaged or incorrectly assembled will yield great results.

    As an example, I took this shot though an early 1950s vintage Schneider Symmar 150mm f/5.6 lens (convertible version). The kind people throw away, or sell with old large format cameras "just so that there is at least a lens". It was taken wide open (f/5.6) and with quite hefty lens movements, as is evident in my image.

    [​IMG]

    I printed this image to 16x20in in the darkroom, and it is as sharp as any image I've printed. On the top-left you can see a screw on the lamp. In the print, not only is the detail on the screw head visible, but the concentric lines in the lamp are critically well defined. In short, you could not ask for more in a print this size. Note also the complete lack of ghosting / flare / abberrations form the bright daylight streaming into the shot from the right.

    By comparison, there is no way even a $6000 Leica lens on any 35mm film or digital camera would approach this level of final-output quality in a single shot. So rest easy, any $100 single-coated LF lens you pick up will do better than you, the photographer. In LF, we are definitely not limited by our equipment. Just another example through this same 60-year-old lens (this time at f/22, however, but printed to small size of 8x10in, folowed by a crop from my scan of that small print):

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Have fun! Large format is an often-frustrating, difficult, but amazing journey when you get into it.
     
  9. Kim Catton

    Kim Catton Member

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    Wow. See I knew that something must have passed my head on the road to largeformat. These images looks as sharp as youre describing. I am looking forward to mastering this format in all it's glory :smile: It makes sens with nearly all lenses yielding sharp results!
     
  10. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi kim

    the symmar convertibles are pretty nice lenses, but you will always hear
    people say that converted they aren't very good as they are unconverted.
    i have a 210/370 symmar convertible and i haven't ever had sharpness issues with it,
    but the issues i do have, are that the nodal point changes when it is converted, so it takes
    a huge amount of bellows to focus with it. with a 150/270 you probably won't have trouble focusing .. but there is a slight chance you might ...
    if you don't mind a telephoto style longish lens ( like a 10" ) you might look into finding a
    10" teleoptar. from time to time they can be found in a shutter ( maybe an alphax shutter ? )
    but they are nice and crisp and i think coated ( not sure )
    there are tons of 10" / 250mm out there, and i am guessing that most of them will be good
    stopped down.
    i have to admit, i don't shoot many of my portraits stopped down, i'm not into sharpness and pretty much
    shoot everything i have wide open ( unless it is a photo documentation for a job, then i stop down to f16 ) ...

    lenses are pretty inexpensive these days, so you can play the field a bit :smile:

    one of the reasons i like my speed graphic ( and graflex slr ) is that it ( they ) have focal plane shutters
    so you aren't tied down to shuttered lenses. barrel lenses, even old brass ones, can be quite beautiful shot wide open
    and sharp as nails stopped down.

    if you get bitten by the vintage-lens-bug don't fret, you can always get
    a packard shutter and a universal iris :smile:

    have fun !
    john
     
  11. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    Generally improvement in modern lenses had to do with coatings, although improved designs thru computer number crunching was certainly a big plus. I believe the Optars came uncoated as well as coated. If your shooting "art" at close range you may be interested to some extent in a macro lens optimized for short distances. If you need to use flash check the synch on your lens, unless you use hot lights. My single coated Optar has bad contacts, so it's used for landscapes as it's not worth the repair expense over an improved lens.
     
  12. djacobox372

    djacobox372 Member

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    The standard 135mm optar is fairly sharp when stopped down, but the contrast isn't that great--which might not be a bad thing if you're shooting contrasty film-- IMO it's easier to add contrast in printing then to reduce it.

    I replaced mine with a Schneider Symmar-S 150mm f5.6 multi-coated lens, contrast was greatly improved as was sharpness at the wider apertures; although I don't think there's any more sharpness at f16 or smaller.
     
  13. Kim Catton

    Kim Catton Member

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    I just found this: http://i.imgur.com/QxZMg.jpg

    I am thinking of bidding on the thing but how much would be responsible to spent on this glass? Also.. I am not sure if this plate will go on my graflex?
     
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  15. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    When you get to large format "sharp" becomes a relative term to some degree. The lens that you have is somewhat of a loafer, but stopped down to 16 or more it is still going to blow a smaller format out of the water all the while it's loafing along. It's like having a V8 engine. It doesn't have to turn that fast to make a lot of horsepower. Your perceived sharpness will in the beginning rest much more on your abilities, than the attributes of the lens. That said, there is nothing wrong with good glass, so long as you resist becoming a gear head. The best piece of gear you can have is you. The world is full of mediocre photographers with the "best" equipment.
     
  16. graywolf

    graywolf Member

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  17. Kim Catton

    Kim Catton Member

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    I am completely aware of myself being the most important piece of "equipment". I do a ton of photography and depending on the task ahead I will choose the right equipment. I see my cameras as tools. Sometimes I need no more than a simple screwdriver - at other times when the task demands it, Ill pull out precision laser guided instruments and diesel powered hacksaws! well.. you get my point. I am also on a budget and the "best" equipment will seldom reach me :smile: But hurray for analogue still. Good things come cheap these days.

    The reason to my question about sharpness is simply because I dont know this format too well (yet). I have now done around 30 sheets of 4x5 on the lens mentioned. At 16/22 it yields the kind of sharpness I need for the project I am working on right now. Now I just need something that will give me less angle (for portraits) and coming from medium format and 35mm I bring with me experience of VERY different qualities of glass. I am however happy to have learned that largeformat glass in many ways will "always" yield sharp results.
     
  18. dhosten

    dhosten Member

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    I'll add my 2 cents Kim. Large format lenses, by and large, are not anywhere near as sharp as 35mm or quality medium format lenses. That's because the needed degree of enlargement is so much smaller. A 16x20 print from large format looks sharper than most 8x10s from 35mm (doesn't matter if Nikon, canon or Leica).
    What LF does offer is the large neg/chrome which gives greater size prints, better tonality, and often allows for movements, and decent sharpness. My favourite portrait lens for 4x5 (Graflex) used to be the 210/370 convertible Symmar already mentioned... I have a picture using that lens in the gallery. It may work for you, or you may prefer a 250mm lens. btw The Kodak 203mm Ektar is cheap and sharp, you'll get great portrait results with it too.
    That's about it. Good luck and happy shooting.
     
  19. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I hope you enjoy you're new camera!

    Jeff
     
  20. mrosenlof

    mrosenlof Member

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    The lensboard shown at http://i.imgur.com/QxZMg.jpg will not fit your graflex. It looks like the board (plate) for a Linhof Technika, Wista, and several other cameras. It is not difficult to find a board for a graphic and to switch the lens. It usually involves unscrewing the rear element group from the shutter, removing a retaining ring that mounts the shutter to the lens board, then reversing the process on the new board.

    In the U.S. keh.com and skgrimes.com both sell graphic lens boards. Keh is used equipment, Grimes machines new ones from aluminum. I'm sure you could find one on your side of the ocean.

    I can't help too much on price, KEH can give you some idea, as can eBay completed auctions.

    Like others here, I believe if you stop your Optar down to f/16 or f/22, you'll find the results to be quite sharp. I recently replaced my old Raptar with a 150mm G-Claron, but I did it more for a modern shutter and flash sync than for the lens. The Claron will be a little better, but few will notice. Probably including me.
     
  21. Kim Catton

    Kim Catton Member

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    Thanks a lot for helping me with the lensboard. I think I will go for the lens and see if I can win the auction. Afterwards I will look for the needed lensboard. Iv'e actually bought one or two things from KEH and they are really nice people to trade with in my opinion.
     
  22. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Velkommen til APUG, Kim.

    With any kind of large format camera there is a seemingly infinite number of different lenses that can be used, since the only kind of incompatibility is if the lens is physically larger than your lens board.

    For portraits I suggest you look for something around 210mm focal length. By the "divide by 3" rule this is a little shorter than you might think you want, but at portrait distances the needed bellows extension will make this behave more like a 240mm giving you just about the angle of view you were after.

    There are literally hundreds of good 210mm lenses you can use. Anything post WWII will be coated, and give good results. Multicoating isn't that necessary with LF lenses, since they have far fewer surfaces than a modern zoom kit lens! So size is the only limitation - and I think even an old f:4,5 Xenar in the #3 Compound shutter will fit on your lens board. A newer f:6.1 Schneider Xenar is a great lens, the (so far) only modern one in my list of favourite lenses!
     
  23. wootsk

    wootsk Member

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    Actually it is multiply by 0.299 for 4*5 coverage compared to a 135 format. Divide by 3 seems a bit too rough.
     
  24. Kim Catton

    Kim Catton Member

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    Tak for velkomsten Ole

    Jeg har dog nu været til stede på APUG siden 2006... jeg har bare ikke deltaget i LF forummet indtil nu :smile:

    Did you see the lens that I've posted as something that I will perhaps buy? It's aa Caltar II-E 210mm F/6.8.. Rodenstock I believe. I will try and find a lensboard that will fit too. Anything to add on this piece of glass? 6.1 Scheider - I will have to check out that one as well.
     
  25. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Ah ja - jeg så visst litt "skevt" her!

    Most of the lenses I use are from "old" to "ancient", the only modern lenses I have are ultrawides. The Xenar 210/6.1 is modern in a way, but it's still the good old Tessar construction. And single coated, if I remember correctly. But as I said the difference between single and multiple coating is very minimal with most LF lenses having eight or fewer surfaces (the Tessar has six, Plasmats eight, Dagors four - compared to a modern zoom lens which could well have more than 40).

    Generally Tessars offer less angle of coverage than Plasmats and "dagors", but any Tessar-type lens will cover the format with the diagonal equal to the focal length with a little bit of wiggle room.
     
  26. Pupfish

    Pupfish Member

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    The Wollensak Optar/Raptar 135mm f/4.7 have their best performance at f/22. Being Tessar designs, they really need to be stopped down this far to control chromatic aberrations and off axis coma (like any Tessar). Stopped down, however, these lenses can be spectacularly sharp. A bigger potential issue with them is that the shutters they fit have not been manufactured for nearly 40 years and they will usually be slow on the higher speeds, and need a thorough cleaning at best. If broken, they're not really worth repairing. Good news is that these lenses were extremely abundant back in the day and many good examples still survive.

    135mm Tessars don't have very large image circles or sufficient excess to allow for large LF moves. In this regard Plasmat type lenses are superior. I'm also very pleased with Caltar IIN lenses, which are Plasmats built by Rodenstock, which are identical to their APO Sironar-N line, but usually can be found cheaper and in better condition due to Rodenstocks being the "pro" moniker and Caltar IIN tending to be bought by students on a budget. I have both the 135mm and 210mm f/5.6 versions. The 210mm ones can often be found used in excellent to mint condition in good Copal shutters for under $200 USD.