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Thread: LF Lens dilemma

  1. #1
    Adrian Twiss's Avatar
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    LF Lens dilemma

    Some time ago when I bought my first LF Camera (a Linhof Technica IV) I then rather hurriedly put toghether a collection of lenses viz

    90mm Superangulon (late model Multicoated)
    150 Symar (again multi coated)
    180 Linhof select Convertible Xenar (single coated)
    270 F5.5 Tele Xenar (1950s single coated)
    120mm Angulon (Tiny lens single coated allegedly covers 5x7)

    For reasons I won't bore you with I never go into LF until recently when I bought a Shen Hao. I sold the Linhof quite some time ago.

    Now here's the rub. Having used the 180 and the 120 over the last few weeks although the lenses are sharp I find them a bit underwhelming in the contrast stakes. Before I go down the, I suspect, very expensive route of upgrading them I would like some views.

    a) Is my impression of these lenses correct or have I not got my sheet film processing fully locked down yet. I know that using the 180 at its other focal length (305mm) would lead to disappointment. Steve Simmons suggests that this lens' performance suffered considerably when the front cells are removed.

    b) During my researches many posters have been almost rapturous in their praise of Goerz Dagors and Atars. What's the deal with these lenses?

    As an LF neophyte I would welcome any insights and advice. Even if its telling me to stop writing such boring posts.

    Many thanks

    Adrian

  2. #2
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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    "180 Linhof select Convertible Xenar" Tessar designs aren't convertible, do you mean Symmar ?

    I use some single coated lenses and find the contrast is not very different to my MC lenses, the biggest difference is when I use an uncoated lens. You would probably find that a good lens hood/shade might help enormously.

    The Dagor's were once amongst the best lenses available, I'm lucky to have an excellent 12" Dagor that the original owner bought just before WWII and had factory coated after the war. I was very surpised by the quality of the negatives made using the lens so use it all the time on my 10x8 camera.

    Ian

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    Adrian,

    I agree a good lens hood would help, and that my single-coated lenses are sufficiently contrasty. Are you comparing them by shooting the same scene? Some scenes are flat, others are not. Also, is the glass clean? old lens haze will flatten a lens out noticeably IMO. Shine a tungsten-bulb pocket flashlight trough the lens at full aperture. If you see any haze at all, clean it before you criticize the lens.

    To me, Dagors aren't all that special except they have a very desirable balance between weight, size, and coverage, and they were made in focal lengths that many other lenses weren't. Other than a Dagor design, it's not that easy to find a coated lens as small, with as good coverage. In almost every attribute, you can find lenses that outperform the Dagor but few do all things as well. Modern lenses have more sharp coverage but are larger and have smaller overall illumination (more important if you contact print). They also seem to have a nice tonal rendition on black and white film. I also will speculate that if the modern Rodenstock and Schneider plasmat offerings were f:6.8 lenses, Dagors would not be nearly so popular.

    Artars are very sharp but have relatively small coverage. I have a few I've picked up and like them very much. My semi-long 4x5 hiking lens is a tiny custom-mounted 10-3/4" Red Dot Artar. In the longer focal lengths (over 24"), the Artar is really the only ball game in town. Others were made, but are relatively scarce.

    Cheers,

    Steve

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    keithwms's Avatar
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    If it is contrast you covet, then perhaps you'll need to go with modern MC lenses. You are hooding/shading, right?

    But can you say more about what you mean by contrast? Do you mean edge contrast, i.e. is this a high frequency sharpness issue, or are you not getting satisfactory broad (low freq) tonal contrast? I ask because some of these things are easily remedied by development, and some are not....

    My entire LF lens collection is almost 100% Nikon now (the major exception being the schn. 90/8 SA, which I adore). For a couple of reasons. One is that once you know what to expect from them (contrast etc. are quite consistent across the board) then you can move on to other issues. The other thing is that Joe Nobodys like me can actually afford all the Nikons. So my shelf is full of them now.

    My current thinking is that if you have a lens collection from different sources and with production dates all over the place then you are going to have to think about the contrast of each lens individually, which can be a pain. Thus there is something to be said for a consistent lens collection. Especially if you want to mix new with old then you are going to have to sweat the characteristics of each and every lens, IMHO. Might be all well and good to mix oldies for portraits etc., but what if you (like me) are shooting landscapes and macro etc. on slide :rolleyes: then you have almost no contrast control at the dev stage and the lens had better give you precisely what you want.

    ... just the idle musings of an enthusiast (as opposed to a professional)....
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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    Adrian Twiss's Avatar
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    Ian - I goofed it is a 180/305 Symmar. Keith - I am thinking of Tonal Contrast as opposed to Edge Contrast. These three responses are certainly getting me thinking. My interests are landscape and architecture and, Keith, you are quite right. Only two of my lenses were made in the same decade. The Tele Xenar was made around 1954 and I have not done any research on the 120 or the 180. Time to check those serial numbers. Steve, I have given all my lenses a gentle clean with a microfible cloth on both sides of the front and rear elements. However I will do the flashlight check tonight. Maybe some gentle cleaning fluid is needed. I can't see any evidence of scratching.

  6. #6
    Ole
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Twiss View Post
    ...
    a) Is my impression of these lenses correct or have I not got my sheet film processing fully locked down yet. I know that using the 180 at its other focal length (305mm) would lead to disappointment. Steve Simmons suggests that this lens' performance suffered considerably when the front cells are removed.
    I think I have one multicoated lens, and can't see that that gives any more (or less) contrast than the single-coated ones.

    A 180mm Symmar coverted to 305mm is not bad at all - there will be some chromatic aberration in the corners, but less than on the 150/265mm I have used converted several times - even on colour slides. I have also used a 240/420 on 5x7" with absolutely maximum front drop (limited by the mechanics of the camera, nit the lens) and got one of my favorite photos from that. Don't dismiss it until you've tried it.

    b) During my researches many posters have been almost rapturous in their praise of Goerz Dagors and Atars. What's the deal with these lenses?
    I have no idea. Personally I prefer Plasmats (like the Symmar) and reverse Dagors (like the Angulon and the Zeiss doppel-Amatar).
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

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    Adrian Twiss's Avatar
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    Ole

    Could you clarify one thing for me. My camera has a max 315mm of bellows extension but when I remove the front element I can't get infinity focus. I'm sure that Steve Simmons said in his book Using the View Camera that you convert by removing the front element.

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    As Ian and almost everyone else has mentioned, a good lens hood or shade, if you're not already using one, will help a lot. It could also be a development issue, especially if you are processing the sheets in trays. Liquids in open trays cool down pretty quickly compared to the same volume of liquid in a closed tank. That slows down development, and if you're not compensating, will lower the contrast.

    You could, if so inclined, make this complicated. Chances are it's something simple.
    Frank Schifano

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    Don't blame your lenses

    If you need more contrast, just develop longer. All the lenses you mention are good performers (although I did have a Scheider convertible lens that was prone to flair...)

    What are you comparing the lenses to? If you cannot really say that Lens A is less contrasty than Lens B, it is probably just your processing. Some older, uncoated lenses can have lower contrast than more modern coated lenses, but, again, you can make up for the difference with developing (some have "compensation factors" for different lenses). Single coated lenses with relatively few elements are often just as contrasty as multi-coated lenses with many elements.

    Best and good luck,

    Doremus Scudder
    www.DoremusScudder.com

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Twiss View Post
    Ole

    Could you clarify one thing for me. My camera has a max 315mm of bellows extension but when I remove the front element I can't get infinity focus. I'm sure that Steve Simmons said in his book Using the View Camera that you convert by removing the front element.
    I'm not Ole---I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of prewar lenses and casket sets. But I can tell you why it's pointless for you to try to use your 180 without the front cell.

    When you use an ordinary LF lens, if you extend the front standard 150mm from the rear standard, you can focus a 150mm lens to infinity. That's because the nodal point of the lens is pretty close to the center of the lensboard.

    When you remove the front cell of your lens, you essentially throw the nodal point some distance in front of the front standard, and you need extra bellows extension to get to infinity. For your 305mm converted lens, it might be 350mm--maybe 400mm--depends on the lens. In use, it's like you have the reverse of a telephoto design: you need more bellows extension to use it rather than less.

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