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  1. #1

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    Tessar distortion

    Hello all,
    I just got print taken with my beloved Rolleiflex T, and there's something that spoils a bit the photos.
    The lens is, of course, a 3.5/75 Tessar; I hadn't noticed it before but it seems there's a slight cushion distortion on my model, her face seems to be, well, not as thin as it normally is.
    The camera was 1.5hm (5ft) from the model.
    Have anybody noticed anything like that with a similar camera? Is that kind of distortion normal for this focal at this distance?
    thanks a lot
    stephane

  2. #2
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rolleistef
    Is that kind of distortion normal for this focal at this distance?
    One-word answer - yes! This is why most portrait photographers working with rollfilm wil use a lens of around 150 mm focal length - this allows a greater working distance and gives flatter perspective.

    Regards,

    David

  3. #3
    Donald Qualls's Avatar
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    I agree with David on this one -- that's not barrel distortion, it's just geometry. To make a face look normal, you really need to back up to around twice that distance -- which either means cropping a lot, or using a longer lens. I like the effect of a 105 mm on 6x4.5, and happen to have a 6x9 camera with mask that lets me shoot that way, but for 6x6 you'd be looking at 120 mm or longer to get a decent portrait from far enough back to avoid the "fat face" or "big nose" effects of being too close...
    Photography has always fascinated me -- as a child, simply for the magic of capturing an image onto glossy paper with a little box, but as an adult because of the unique juxtaposition of science and art -- the physics of optics, the mechanics of the camera, the chemistry of film and developer, alongside the art in seeing, composing, exposing, processing and printing.

  4. #4
    ZorkiKat's Avatar
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    Stephane

    Not only is it normal with the 75mm on the Rollei, but the same happens with any "normal" lens used in close-up portraiture. When used at closer distances, the lens will make things closer to it look larger and objects that are progressively farther seem to pull away. That explains larger than usual noses or in your case, the impression of a fatter face.

    As David and Donald have said, longer lenses are the key for better looking perspective for close-up portraits. Longer lenses magnify the image, so they can be used at farther distances and avoid the sort of distortion which occurs when shorter lenses are used up close.

    The 75mm in the Rollei is indeed a bit short for 6x6- so distortion is a bit more exaggerated. Careful posing can make the distortions look less. Or you could try to live with it and appreciate it If you look at many Richard Avedon or Irving Penn portraits (many shot with 75 or 80mm lenses on TLRs), you'd note that many have the sort of "distortion" you got. I think Avedon was quite aware of this and exploited this effect.

    Jay
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  5. #5
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    It is quite correct that Richard Avedon and Irving Penn (not to mention David Bailey and many others) have exploited the "distortion" of a standard lens used close up to take portraits. In fact, even a 120 or 150 mm lens still has some "distortion" but not as much and gives what is usually regarded as conventionally pleasing result (the only downside is that it does make people look a bit fatter than they really are, so care is needed with subjects with a tendency to largesse).

    Strictly speaking, a lens of three times the "standard" focal length or more (250 mm or more with 6x6 cm film) gives correct perspective, but in practice the results can look a little flat and lifeless. Whenever possible, I like to take portraits on my Keith twin-lens 4x5" camera, this has 10-inch lenses, roughly the equivalent of 150 mm on 6x6 cm.

    Regards,

    David

  6. #6

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    ok thanks a lot everybody.
    I'll try not to be that close next time
    stéphane

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by David H. Bebbington
    I

    Strictly speaking, a lens of three times the "standard" focal length or more (250 mm or more with 6x6 cm film) gives correct perspective, but in practice the results can look a little flat and lifeless. Whenever possible, I like to take portraits on my Keith twin-lens 4x5" camera, this has 10-inch lenses, roughly the equivalent of 150 mm on 6x6 cm.

    Regards,

    David
    In my neck of the woods 2X the normal fl was considered a portrait lens. This also reflects in your own choice of lens for portrait, 250mm on 4X5 is appx 2X normal of 135mm isn't it?
    Strictly speaking of course, rules are made to be broken aren't they?
    Heavily sedated for your protection.

  8. #8

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    yup, you're right John, but sometimes, noses are big enough in the real life and don't need to be enlarged

  9. #9
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Koehrer
    In my neck of the woods 2X the normal fl was considered a portrait lens. This also reflects in your own choice of lens for portrait, 250mm on 4X5 is appx 2X normal of 135mm isn't it?
    Strictly speaking of course, rules are made to be broken aren't they?
    Rules are indeed made to be broken, and fashions in portraiture change too. I have a book on "artistic photography" from before World War One in which the author advises using a lens of twice the normal focal length for everything and states that he finds the perspective given with a "normal" lens to be extremely disturbing. The first portrait studio I entered at about the age of 14 had a 12x15" wooden camera on a large wooden stand about 15 feet from the sitter's chair, which was obviously never moved. As you remark, present taste is for the perspective given by a normal to almost twice-normal focal length, while the results with longer lenses, as I said, are felt to be flat and dull without modeling.

    Regards,

    David



 

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