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  1. #1
    Kim Catton's Avatar
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    Just got a LF camera! :) Could use some advice though.

    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

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  3. #3
    Kim Catton's Avatar
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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. #4

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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-Cam...7453010&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. #5
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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/testin...0mm_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. #6

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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
    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

    have fun with your new camera!
    john
    im empty, good luck

  7. #7
    Kim Catton's Avatar
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    Jnanian. I will try and do some tests at 16-22. See how it goes 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

    Will make sure to post my experinces.
    Last edited by Kim Catton; 02-14-2011 at 06:35 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  8. #8

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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.



    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):





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

  9. #9
    Kim Catton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by philosomatographer View Post
    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.



    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):





    Have fun! Large format is an often-frustrating, difficult, but amazing journey when you get into it.
    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 It makes sens with nearly all lenses yielding sharp results!

  10. #10

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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

    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

    have fun !
    john
    im empty, good luck

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