Ron Wisner on ULF portrait lenses

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by JG Motamedi, May 2, 2005.

  1. JG Motamedi

    JG Motamedi Member

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    Today, breezing through View Camera I read an article by Ron Wisner on ultra-large format lenses. He made a very interesting point, which I will try to recount.

    A head and shoulders portrait on ULF is close to 1:1. Therefore, the effective focal length is significantly increased. Example; if I shoot a portrait at 1:1 using 11x14 with a wide angle 240mm lens, the lens--in affect--becomes a "normal" 480mm lens because I am shooting at 1:1. Does this make sense? Can I shoot a 300mm lens for 1:1 portraits and expect it to act and look like a 600mm lens at infinity? I understand how this works with "bellows factor", but I still can't see how they would look the same...
     
  2. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    no,

    Your 300 focuses at infinity at 300 mm and covers say 8
    x 10. Pull beyond your 300 and you have focused closer than infinity, and your film coverage increases, therefore your lens might cover say 16 x 20 in close focus (portrait distance) your depth of field of course does not go to infinity.


    ULF photographers wanting to do landscape at infinity must use a lens which will cover the film at the designed focal length for infinity..


    ULF portrait photographers do not necessarily need a lens that will cover their film at infinity.

    For still life, fine art, portrait, etc a lot of "common" readily available and inexpensive lenses will cover 20 x 24. I think that was Ron's point.

    Try for example one of your 90mm 4 x 5 lenses on your 8 x 10 or 5 x 7 and pull the bellows and move the camera until you have a wall for example in sharp focus...it will cover the format......with smaller depth of field of course.
     
  3. JG Motamedi

    JG Motamedi Member

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    I am don't think Ron (or I) were writing about coverage, but rather about effective focal length and bellows extension. Shooting at 1:1 we must open up two stops because of "bellows factor" or "extension factor"--the reason we must do so is that at different enlargement ratios, the FL of lenses varies. Consequently, shooting at 1:1 a 150mm lens effectively becomes a 300mm, but the engraved aperture scale is for a 150mm lens. So, according to Ron, if we are shooting 1:1 portraits (or anything) we can use lenses much shorter than normal, and still get the same results. One can not do this with "lesser format" portraiture because the enlargement ratios are much smaller. An head and shoulders on 11x14 might be 1:1, while on 4x5 it might be 1:3.
     
  4. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    additional thought: Your 600 mm lens focused on the same subject for portrait would have greated lens to subject distance of course that the 300 mm...If you focused your 600 at infinity you portrait subject of course would be out of focus at that near distance.

    Also I am sure you know ... if you were to use the 300 for 1:1 or whatever say you did pull the bellows to 600 mmm, the focal length is then 600 mm even though you are not focused at infinity.....If your light meter says f/8 it assumes you are shooting a lens at its designed focal length for infinity,

    the size of the f stop for f /8 for 300 is of course 300/8

    the size of the f stop for f /8 for 600 is 600/8.....so just open up accordingly or add exposure etc.
     
  5. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Ok JG I see what you are saying, I might have gotten off track a bit there
     
  6. clay

    clay Subscriber

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    Yeah, the weird thing is that if you go through the calculations, the depth of field at the same enlargement ratio would be the same with the two focal lengths. So you really can't win in the DOF department.
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Yes, in the macro range--closer than about 1:10--DOF is essentially the same for the same magnification factor, no matter what the focal length, and portraits larger than 8x10" are generally in the macro range.

    Wisner's article makes a lot of intuitive sense to me. As I go up in format, I'm usually using shorter and shorter lenses for portraits.
     
  8. bobfowler

    bobfowler Subscriber

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    Very much so. I find a 10" lens is perfect for 4X5 H&S, a 12" is great for 5X7, and 14" to 16" is plenty for 8X10.
     
  9. claytume

    claytume Member

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    Jason

    I did a half day session with a photographer who specialised in 11x14 platinum portraits at the mammoth camera workshop a few years back. He had a range of samples with him and most were head and shoulders. His standard lens was a Fuji 450 12.5 and he also used a Fuji 600 but rarely. Most of the portraits were close to 1:1 using around 700-800mm of bellows. DOF was very small and I had a lot of trouble focussing this setup although he could do it easily.

    Platinum portraits this size are something to see, the 3D quality was like nothing else I've ever seen.

    The "look" you get with the lens is relative to where you place the camera and not the focal length.

    Clayton
     
  10. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Clayton,

    That wouldn't have happened to have been Adrian Engle would it?
     
  11. claytume

    claytume Member

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    Dave

    I think so, I forgot his surname. Do you know him?


    Clayton
     
  12. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Yes we are good friends and manage to take some time off each year and get into the desert, Adrian in now is the Santa Barbara area and setting up to begin printing-he moved out from the D.C. area.
     
  13. TracyStorer

    TracyStorer Member

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    A couple points:
    1. Dave and Clayton: Yes, the 11x14 shooter in question was Adrian Engle at the MammothCamera workshop in Utah.
    2. Ron and I have talked about this a good deal, and I work with this all the time as much of my work is close-up portraiture with the Polaroid 20x24.
    Something mentioned but not in detail yet, (but important) is the working distance between lens and subject. Parallax becomes a big factor. At these close working distances, the difference in distance from the lens to the eyes and the lens to say, the neck can be quite different, with reduced depth of field, out-of-focus parts of the subject behind the focus become smaller than they already are.(worse with a short lens, worse with short depth of field, etc.) If you're not careful, you're shooting a portrait of an "orange on a toothpick" to quote Mike Myers in So I Married An Axe Murderer.
    Facial features can likewise appear a bit "distorted" when shooting with a short LF lens but it's not disortion, but Parallax again.
    Cheers all,
    Tracy

     
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  15. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Hello Tracey,

    You are the man that should know.....July/August 02 View Camera article on the polaroid 20 x 24 by Peter Legrand.......he mentions using even a 210 on the format! Must be an in your face shot!?
     
  16. TracyStorer

    TracyStorer Member

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    ULF-short lenses

    It's really one of the beauties of Large Format, you can stick just about anything on the front of the bellows! I make 20"x24" Image Transfers from 35mm slides for some of my clients, we use a 50mm Apo-Rodagon, that's somewhat in excess of 20X.
    When shooting people, I tend to use the longest lens possible for any given magnification for the reasons cited in my previous post.
    Dave, Adrian thought we should be in touch with each other anyway since we're both 14x17 shooters too.
    Best,
    Tracy

     
  17. phfitz

    phfitz Member

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    Hi there,

    A silly thought/question:

    being that the lens/camera are much closer with the shorter lens so that the distance difference is magnified would you not get noticably more depth of field with the longer lenses farther back from the subject?

    In other words, is not using the shorter than normal lens doing the reverse of telephoto compression? not just wide angle distortion but distance expansion and requiring even more depth of field.

    Thank you.
     
  18. TracyStorer

    TracyStorer Member

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    ULF/hello

    Oh, and by the way HI CLAYTON! Good to see you posting here and there!
    Best, Tracy

     
  19. JG Motamedi

    JG Motamedi Member

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    Thanks Tracy and all,

    Thinking about "parallax" helps me understand this much better.

    jason
     
  20. claytume

    claytume Member

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    20x24 portraits

    Tracy

    I had the 20x24 in the back of my mind when 1:1 or bigger (smaller?) portraits were mentioned. The mammoth camera workshop demo you did with the young girl, her face must've been nearly 3 times life size. What focal length would that have been?

    What I recall about it was lots of bellows extension and the lens a couple of feet from her face. It doesn't sound much but when I sat in the same seat to get a feel for what had just taken place it was mighty intimidating sitting in front of a giant camera and seeing nothing else!

    Clayton
     
  21. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The perspective (not parallax) is determined by the position of the lens relative to the subject. The DoF is determined by the magnification ratio.

    So a 300mm lens extended to 600mm will be at 60cm from the subject (basic 1:1 rule), which is a little too close to get a nice perspective. Even if the film is 120cm away, remember that it is the lens which determines perspective! Using a 600mm lens doubles the distance, and 120cm face-lens distance gives a far better perspective. This must be weighed against the inconvenience of working at such long bellows extensions...
     
  22. David

    David Member

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    Maybe I'm not seeing clearly enough, but when I shoot portraits near to 1:1 (bellows at about 800mm) using a 450M Nikkor with the 11x14 I don't notice the perspective 'distortions' you might expect with a wide angle lens up close. The nose, for example, doesn't seem larger in proportion than normal. I've wondered why this is but don't have a clear answer.

    One thing I did learn was to focus on the tip of the nose rather than the eyes. Given the short DOF if I focus on the eyes the tip of the nose is then out of focus. If I focus on the nose the greater DOF behind the focussed upon area catches the eyes too.
     
  23. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    David, with a 450mm lens and 800mm extension the face-lens distance will be about 1030mm - far enough to avoid the "bignose effect". One meter is a reasonable distance to see other people from - it's when you get closer than that, that it looks "wrong".
     
  24. claytume

    claytume Member

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    Tracy

    good to see you've found your way here too!

    I always enjoy reading your posts, I like the tech spin you put on them that only comes from experience.

    cheers
    Clayton
     
  25. claytume

    claytume Member

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    11x14

    David

    I'm curious to know how many 11x14 and larger shooters there are in Oz?

    Over here in NZ there are very very few.


    Clayton
     
  26. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Ole,

    As always, very informative.....thanks

    Dave in Vegas