Portrait lens for whole plate

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Anton Lukoszevieze, Oct 6, 2007.

  1. Anton Lukoszevieze

    Anton Lukoszevieze Subscriber

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    Hello all,

    what would be a good focal length for a whole plate portrait lens?
    14 or 16"?
    Thanks
    Anton
     
  2. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I have a Seneca Portrait lens for whole plate. Exact focal length is not indicated, but it appears to be a Wollensak Vesta in other clothes, which is an 11 1/2" FL. The lens is somewhat odd in that it also works as a convertible - take the front element off, put it behind the diaphragm, remove the rear element completely, and you have a 17" lens. Really, just about anything over 11-12" would make an acceptable portrait lens for whole plate. Bear in mind that portrait lenses with their famously large apertures are going to get massive the longer you go. I have a 16" Bausch & Lomb F4.5 portrait lens for 11x14. The front element is over 4" in diameter and the whole thing in brass barrel must weigh over 10 lbs. You may have a hard time finding a whole plate camera that can handle that big of a lens.
     
  3. Anton Lukoszevieze

    Anton Lukoszevieze Subscriber

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    thanks a lot,
    I have a 12" Goerz Dagor, i think that could be OK, only way to find out is to try it of course..............f-stop is 6.8 though, a beautiful lens.
    A
     
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Harry, I use a 12" Dagor on my 10x8 camera and it's superb, very sharp and great tonality, I'm lucky the original owner sent it back to Goerz for factory coating after WW11. (Goerz Am. Opt).

    f6.8 isn't bad at all remember modern 300mm are f5.6 which isn't significantly faster. You should get some great images with the lens, so good luck.

    BTW my Avatar is the Dagor.

    Ian
     
  5. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    The 12" Dagor will give you a nice large image circle if stopped to f 22 or smaller. I have on on the 7x17 which covers easily at f 32.
     
  6. Mark Sawyer

    Mark Sawyer Member

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    One thing to remember is that as you extend the bellows for closer focus in a portrait, the lens takes on the perspective of whatever the bellows extension is, ie, if you have a 12" lens cranked out to 17", it will give the look of a 17" lens.

    Dagors are beautiful, sharp lenses, and many wonderful portraits have been made with them, but the designation "portrait lens" often carries a soft-focus (Verito/Imagon/Pinkham & Smith...) or soft-corners/sharp center (Petzval-design) connotation. (Sorry if that's pedantic!)
     
  7. JG Motamedi

    JG Motamedi Member

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    Traditionally a whole-plate f3.6 Petzval had a focal length of 16", smaller aperture versions (f5 to f6) were usually 14".
     
  8. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Not quite right at a given distance between the camera and the subject the perspective remains the same regardless of the focal length of the lens used, only the magnification and field of view changes.

    Try it, use an extreme wide angle and a telephoto, enlarge the centre of the wide angle shot and compare the two, the perspective is identical.

    Ian
     
  9. Mark Sawyer

    Mark Sawyer Member

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    Well, a telephoto lens is a whole `nother beast, as it focuses closer than its effective focal length...

    But look at it like this... A lens has a given angle of view at infinity, let's say 30 degrees corner-to-corner on 8x10. But as you extend it outward to focus closer, the coverage increases and that 30 degrees now covers 11x14, and you're cutting the 8x10 middle out of it. At closer distances with more extension it gives the perspective of a longer lens.

    To put it another way, a 120mm lens would be an extreme wide angle on an 8x10, with all the "stretchy" perspective look. But cranked way out to macro distances, it loses that "extreme wide angle" effect.
     
  10. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Only distance affects perspective.

    Stick two cameras side by side both with 150mm lenses on, say one on a 5x4 and the other on a 35mm camera, the perspective is identical, only the angle of view changes. Then stick a 50mm lens on the 35mm camera without moving it, the angle of view changes and becomes closer to the 5x4 cameras, but the perspective is still identical.

    Now stick a 17mm lens on the same 35mm camera, the angle of view is enormous but again the perspective is the same.

    Ian
     
  11. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    The Dagor will work focal-length wise. You may find it to be too sharp for portraits. Only way to find out is to shoot it and see.
     
  12. Mark Sawyer

    Mark Sawyer Member

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    Maybe we'll have to agree to disagree...

    I'd say in this particular matter, the angle of view affects the perspective. Or to put it another way, the distance *behind* the lens (from the lens to the film) matters too, as that determines the angle of view. Other things that will affect the perspective are movements of the camera, whether whether the lens is rectilinear, curvature of the film surface...

    When you run a 150mm lens out to 300mm to do a close-up, the angle of view captured on a given format decreases to the same angle as a 300mm lens focused at infinity.

    On a 35mm lens, the extension changes almost imperceptibly, if at all, as moving elements within the lens change the focus distance. So on a 35mm system, you'd be right, but we were talking large format here...
     
  13. Anton Lukoszevieze

    Anton Lukoszevieze Subscriber

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    dagor

    Thanks for the advice and info. everyone,
    here is a quick pop print of my daughter shot on 5x4 with the dagor 12" using a reducing back on my whole plate, not too sharp I think?
    Will try the dagor on 6.5x8.5 now
    A
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 27, 2008
  14. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    OK sticking with large format.

    I can see what you are saying about the angle of view.
    "When you run a 150mm lens out to 300mm to do a close-up, the angle of view captured on a given format decreases to the same angle as a 300mm lens focused at infinity." But that's irrelevant, as one lens is focussed at 1:1 the other at infinity. However I have realised how you've got muddled.

    Forget format lens type etc the perspective is always controlled by the distance of the camera from the object, but the relevant part of the camera is the nodal point of the lens.

    So now as you move a 12" lens with your words "let's say 30 degrees corner-to-corner on 8x10. But as you extend it outward to focus closer, the coverage increases and that 30 degrees now covers 11x14, and you're cutting the 8x10 middle out of it." You are also effectively moving the camera nearer to the subject by your actions.

    So now two options, the camera stays fixed the lens gets closer as you focus so yes the perspective is changing but actually in the opposite way to your assumption. - ("Perspective becomes like a 17" lens") instead as you say yourself the overall coverage is increasing - a wider perspective because the lens is closer to the subject, the image cropped to the film format.

    Second as the camera is focussed if the lens object distance is kept fixed, perspective remains identical.

    This is why it's far easier to focus and use a 10x8 or larger format camera with back focussing when shooting close up.

    Ian
     
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  15. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Harry, you seem to be struggling for depth of field, it'll take a bit of getting used to. If that's an available light image you've not done too badly. Good luck it should be a very capable lens.

    Ian
     
  16. Anton Lukoszevieze

    Anton Lukoszevieze Subscriber

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    thanks Ian,

    the light is available, window light. I should have stopped down more for better depth of field yes?

    H
     
  17. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Yes Harry, one of the problems with using larger formats is the longer the lens the less depth of field at any given aperture. But because the negatives are so much larger faster films can be used as grain is far less of an issue.

    So yes stopping down would help but its also important to choose the right point of focus. Of course a little bit of unintentional subject movement between focussing and exposure might be just enough to make a big difference.

    In reality the image is only marginally off, and probably its a combination of lens fairly wide open and slowish shutter speed. You ought to go and look at Jim Galli's website he has a number of LF portraits there shot with older lenses.

    Ian
     
  18. Zebra

    Zebra Member

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    Harry,

    your daughter, the picture and the overall feel of the photo which is what I look for in any lens question is beautiful. With a daughter like yours you couldn't pick a bad lens.:smile: As to stopping down for more depth of field with portraiture I actually prefer less stopping down and shooting wide open. I've included a picture of my 4 year old son I have posted before done on a 20 x 24 camera with a razor sharp Schneider lens, but shot wide open at f11 it renders the hair, backdrop and other points of less interest out of focus in a way that I like. That's what is so nice to me about shooting wide open it tends to draw peoples attention to the area you want them to look. Of course all of this is completely subjective and open to a wide range of personal interpretation. I also enjoyed the vast negative space to her left being put on the light side of her face, metaphorically speaking to her future, outlook, and overall disposition right? Or you got lucky!!!! Either way it is a wonderful portrait that I would have been proud to take.

    If you do think you might like the wide open look then you have a wide range of older lenses to look into. Some of my personal favorites would be an 11 1/2 Verito, some of the old Darlot or Dallmeyer lenses, Kodak's soft focus versions etc. You might check on www.Kerik.com for some excellent examples of the use of these lenses.

    Once again well done,

    Monty

    Zebra
     

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  19. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    With a portable full plate camera your lens board will likely be your limiting factor. I agree with zebra that I am drawn to the wide open look for portraits. Obvioiusly to get that look you are looking at lenses that open to f4 and wider. The math is simple. A 16 inch f4 lens must have a piece of glass 4 inches wide. The antique lens makers were very generous with brass. A 4" light will have a 5 1/2" housing which will have a 7" flange. You see where I'm going. The 11 1/2" Verito might be an excellent trade off. They aren't too physically horrible and they give 2 focal lengths, the other being about 18" iirc.
     
  20. Anton Lukoszevieze

    Anton Lukoszevieze Subscriber

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    Thanks for all the input everyone. An education.
    Zebra, I love the photo of your son, we are both blessed indeed. I understand a bit more now about using lenses for portraits.

    H
     
  21. wfwhitaker

    wfwhitaker Member

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    Harry,

    What size are the lensboards on your Gandolfi?
     
  22. Anton Lukoszevieze

    Anton Lukoszevieze Subscriber

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    They are
    4 7/8" x 6 2/8".

    There is the same camera on *bay right now,
    but it is sans a whole plate back. Must be frustrating for all those WP fans.......may be I need 2!!!!!!!