Sharp photos with an old RF Bessa Voigtländer 6x9?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Erik Petersson, Sep 25, 2009.

  1. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

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    Recently I bought a RF Bessa Voigtländer 6x9 that I guess is from the 1930-ies. After having had some service on it, I have put a roll of t-max 100 through it. The pictures do not come out very sharp, I am afraid. The out-of-focus areas are just beautiful, though. The camera has a helomar lens f3.5, which, although not being the best lens still would give sharp pictures at smaller apertures, I hoped.

    Maybe I am doing some wrong, such as handholding. But should that not be ok on higher speeds? My camera lacks a cable release, it only has a lever on the lid, which probably does not help. I so much would like this camera to be sharp, so if anyone has any advice, I would be grateful.

    thanks!
     
  2. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    Perhaps the rangefinder is out of adjustment. You can check by opening the back and setting the shutter on "B". With the shutter open you can place a strip of frosted scotch tape across the film plane check the image focus against the rangefinder setting.

    Jon
     
  3. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

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    Jon,

    I don't think its the rangefinder really. The photos are not too sharp even in their best areas. It might help when I use the camera on f3.5 of course.

    Erik
     
  4. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    I am sorry if this is obvious and you know all this, but:

    I think you need to try it on a tripod, stopping down the lens a bit. If the camera was serviced, is it possible the lens was assembled in the wrong way? Another idea would be trying some other sort of film. T-Max is very sensitive to development temperatures and overdoing the agitation (for example) would give you problems that would seem to be camera-related. Are you looking at the negatives only, or actually see the outcome on a wet print? If you do wetprints, what size?
     
  5. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

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    Jerevan,
    the negatives. Unfortunately I do not have access to a scanner right now to show an example. Neither do I have access to a darkroom.
    I am hoping to be able to use the camera handheld. That would make it very portable.
    Now, the pressure plate seem to be a little loose. Maybe I should try to stabilize it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2009
  6. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The Helomar is the budget "Triplet" lens from Voigtländer so this will be one reason why you're not getting great sharpness. But I think you're aware of that :smile:

    I used a Triotar on an early Rolleiflex and that was only really sharp stopped down to f16. Another factor may be how the glass has aged, I have Novar lens on a 1930's Ikonta and the glass has hazed slightly, I've seen the same on Tessar's and it happens with some Leica lenses too. New glasses were used in the 30's, older lenses don't suffer in the same way.

    Try it on a tripod stopped well down.

    Ian
     
  7. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

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    The camera exposes very well - the aperture and the shutter seems to be consistent - so I will bring a roll of Velvia 50 and a Provia 400f with me on a trip this weekend. The positives will be easier to evaluate.

    The camera might also be usable for portraits and other pictures that do not need to be über-sharp.
     
  8. Andy38

    Andy38 Member

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    Perhaps film is not enough pressed against pressure plate .
    I have old Super Ikonta C 530/2 and 531/2 (6x9) and now I always wind the film after opening camera and just before shooting : so film is less loose .
    If film is not correctly plane , results can't be sharp .
     
  9. JPD

    JPD Member

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    As said, it could be many things. The first thing you ought to do is to open the shutter on "T" and check if the lens is cloudy. The next thing is to dissassemble the lens and clean the glass, and assemble them again. In the front, the mounts for the first and second element are screwed together, and if the mount for the second element isn't screwed in correctly the pics won't come out sharp.

    Doesn't the shutter have a cable release thread? It should.

    My RF Bessa with Heliar performs nicely. The negatives are sharp. Only a little less so than a post-war and coated Tessar, and the difference can only be seen in high enlargements.

    It could be that your Helomar is bad. All lensmakers had (and have) some variation in quality between examples. I once had a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 6x9 with a Tessar that wasn't sharp. Stopping down only changed the DOF, but still wasn't sharper than a box camera meniscus.
     
  10. JPD

    JPD Member

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    Sample variation. I have many Rolleicords with Triotar, and they all are very sharp already at 5,6 - 8. The corners improved by stopping down a stop or more than that, of course. The only Triotar I have that is a 3,8 on my Rolleicord I, type 2.

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3301/3491576396_f638b456ab_o.jpg

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3393/3491585196_60e4bb7a28_o.jpg
     
  11. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    To clarify, by "not very sharp" do you mean "doesn't achieve critical sharpness when carefully examined", or "nothing in this photograph looks like it's in focus"? The first could easily be a limitation of the lens and the camera---as you noted, the Helomar isn't the highest-quality lens in the world, and there's the possibility of sample variation, and 6x9 folders often aren't superb at film flatness.

    But the second one would be more likely to be a symptom of a mechanical problem---pressure plate not working right, misaligned standard, something like that. (I've got a beautiful Rollfilmkamera that's completely unusable because the front standard leans by a good couple of degrees away from vertical. Obviously it's in pristine condition because no previous owner has been able to use it!)

    It might help to hold a ground glass against the film rails and experiment with the focus by eye.

    -NT
     
  12. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Looking at your example I'd say it's probably no better or worse than my Triotar which should still be around but I can't find it, I had to scrap the camera due to severe corrosion. It's corners sharpness that's usually the problem and your image it's not at all important, I'm usually after overall critical sharpness and I really shouldn't expect to much ftom a Triplet.

    Ian
     
  13. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

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    Things are in focus. The film just lacks the wonderful detail that I know that T-max 100 can achieve. I have used the film a lot in 35mm. The negatives would exceed a 35mm negative when enlarged, but I would expect such a large negative to do much, much better.

    Then again, the lens would maybe not match the Nikkors that I use in my 35mm system even in ideal conditions.

    Hmmm, a ground glass. I might be able to remove the ground glass from my Kiev60 to check.
     
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  15. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    Hi,

    I have just returned from my holidays with 8 films to develop (if I can tear myself away from APUG long enough to do some developing!!!) all of which were taken hand held in a variety of folding roll film cameras: Ikonta, Nettar, Isollette, Agifold - even an ICA plate camera with a roll film back. If the majority of them don't give me images which look reasonably sharp at at least 8 X 10 I will be very disappointed!

    Obviously an old uncoated 1930s triplet lens can't possibly give you the sharpness of a modern 35mm computer calculated coated optic - but the fact that the enlargement is so much less can make up for a lot. What size prints did you produce? I see you don't have a darkroom. If you have had prints done by a pro lab at the usual sizes, 5 by 7 inch or so, they should be plenty sharp enough.

    You said you'd had the camera serviced? All the advice given about fungus / cloudy optics / lens out of alignment etc are all very valid comments, but wouldn't this have been spotted in the service? Who serviced it?

    I recently bought a Perkeo II from eBay and the first film through was terrible. The reason was someone had done an amateaur 'service' and when the front element was re-fitted, they didn't set up the distance scale. It was a mile off. I used a peice of ground glass and a small bright bulb at a measured 20 feet to set this up again - and the camera was restored to taking sharp pictures.

    I'd get it on a tripod in a dark room with a bit of ground glass across the film gate (no need to dismantle the Kiev... as someone has mentioned stick frosted scotch tape or tracing paper onto plain glass - or spray some glass with a thin coat of matt varnish) At full aperture, shutter open on 'T' , stick a black cloth over your head and focus on something very bright (a bare light bulb?) 20 feet away. It is a bit fiddly and takes patience - but rock back and forth until you get the best position and use a loupe if you have one - then check the lens scale and see if it is near the 20ft mark. Try it at 10ft, too. This is easier than checking infinity as then the depth of field is too great, especially with a slow lens. Trouble with very close distances too is that then the depth of focus increases at the film plane - which also makes it tricky to find the point of sharp focus.

    Let us know what you find.
     
  16. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

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    Thank you all for your advice. The other day I loaded the camera with some Provia400F, and will try to take photos on a tripod with a small aperture in the weekend, taking caution that the film is winded. I also have stabilized the pressure plate. When the result is scanned in a few days I will post it here.

    Unfortunately I do not have the possibility to set up a darkroom in my small apartment. Still I enjoy a lot to use old equipment like this.

    When you write 8x10, I assume that you mean inches, so that would translate to approximately 20x25 cm. Is that right? I would have hoped to be able to make very sharp prints at double that size or more, but I now understand that this lens may not be up to that.

    The camera was serviced at LP-Foto in Stockholm, the place that everyone recommends for such jobs. They told me that the rangefinder is ok, although it is not vertically aligned. The best sharpness also seems to be where I expect it.
     
  17. elekm

    elekm Member

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    What I would check first is collimation of the lens. That is, the lens should be set to focus at infinity and only at infinity.

    When the camera was serviced, if the person pulled the shutter, it's possible that the lens is no longer collimated.

    The simplest way to check this is to get some frosted tape, open the camera back and put several strips across the film plane. Then, set the shutter to "T" and lock open the shutter.

    Now, get a camera lens (or loupe), set the lens to infinity and point the camera toward a distant object while inspecting the image on the tape. It should be in focus.

    If it's not in focus, it means the lens needs to be collimated. If the image seems soft and with a glow, it means that one of the lens elements is reversed.

    If the image is sharp, you'll also want to ensure that the rangefinder is calibrated. Again, set the focus dial to infinity, point the camera at a distant object. The images in the rangefinder should line up vertically and horizontally. If they don't, then it needs to be calibrated.

    However, I suspect the lens needs to be recollimated.
     
  18. elekm

    elekm Member

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    I should mention that I own this camera with this lens (Bessa 6x9 + Helomar) and have gotten very good results (i.e.,sharp photos).

    I've also found the Triotar to be a well-designed triplet and have taken some nice photos with a Rolleicord II and also the Zeiss Ikon Super Nettel, as well as the 85mm Triotar for the Contax.
     
  19. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    Yes, sorry. I live in the UK which is suppossed to be metric, but for some reason a few things have stuck as imperial, paper size being one of them.

    8 by 10 inches is about 20 X 25 cm.

    From 35 mm that is an enlargement of about 8 times (roughly)

    To get something similar from 6 by 9 cm means only about a 3 times enlargement (depends how you crop it, of course, but near enough...) which really isn't very much.

    A lot of factors affect sharpness, especially camera stability. Stopped down to something like f8 and with the camera fired by a camera release on a good solid tripod and you should be able to get a reasonably sharp picture at 40 by 50 cm (16 by 20 inches) - we are always talking less than half the enlargement of a 35mm lens. You might not get the razor sharp contrasty nose-sniffingly up close sharpness that you get from modern coated Nikon 35mm lens - but yes, sharp enough.

    I'm off to do some printing now - and most of my negatives are 6 X 6cm taken on folding cameras with triplet lenses. I'll see if I can get an example enlargement scanned in by the end of the day.
     
  20. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I'd look at buying the coated Skopar that's for sale in the classifieds here and fitting that to a Bessa 6x9. it'll be significantly better.

    An alternative was an excellent f2.8 105mm Xenotar that went unsold with an opening bidod £0.99 10 days ago, now relisted it's atracting more interest :D

    At the moment I'm waiting to find a 6x9 folder to fit a 105mm coated Trinar too.

    Ian
     
  21. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

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    Thank you, I will be looking forward to that. I plan to scan and post some slides from this camera myself after the weekend.
     
  22. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

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    This is interesting. The Helomar on my camera is easy to screw on and off. How do I know what lenses are possible to fit to the camera? I imagine that it would be important to calibrate the distance from the lens to the film.
     
  23. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Well the Skopar most probably came off a more modern Bessa 6x9 as it's front cell focussing . As the same camera was often sold with a choice of lens it's probable that the mounting flange is standard. In some cases the dealers fitted the lenses to certain cameras.

    That looks like a Compur 0 shutter with the Skopar, which is the same as my 105mm Trinar (again front cell focussing) so there's a very good chance it would fit, perhap with a shim to tweak it.

    Ian
     
  24. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Ian,

    The 105mm Color Skopar on my Bessa II does not focus by moving the front cell but by moving the entire lens. My understanding is that this was standard on all of the Bessa II cameras, regardless of date of production, and for sure mine is probably a fairly early production Bessa II as it lacks the built-on accessory shoe, though I do have a shoe that detaches.

    Sandy
     
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  25. elekm

    elekm Member

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    The Bessa (now often called Bessa I) uses unit focusing. It uses Voigtlander's favorite focus-by-dial method.

    My camera has a hinged pale yellow filter that can cover the lens for b/w. The Helomar in my camera sits in a Compur shutter, and it shouldn't be too difficult to replace that with a Skopar. If you're a purist, you would want to replace it with an uncoated lens. If not, a coated lens might work very nicely. I'm not sure what work would be involved, and whether a postwar lens would be in synch across the rangefinder focusing range of a prewar camera.
     
  26. JPD

    JPD Member

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    Mike, the Color-Skopar on the Bessa I is front cell focusing. At least mine was.

    Erik, It should be possible to replace the Helomar with a Color-Skopar from a Bessa I. Since it's front-cell focusing you could adjust the infinity focus just by turning the front element instead of using shims.

    Here's the only photo taken with a RF-Bessa (Heliar) I have online, scanned from a 10x15cm print. It's a tad underexposed, but sharp enough.

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2393/2579461755_65a98acbed_o.jpg