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Thread: old lenses

  1. #11
    Charles Webb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed_Davor
    I've been hearing a lot about how older lenses from 60's and 70's can have an affect on the look of the image.
    Whenever someone is asking for advice on how to get some sort of a retro look, people among other things mention old lenses.
    ?
    I am responding to this quote with "tongue in cheek". First off, I am somewhat offended that the lenses from the 60's and 70's are considered vintage. Heck I was born in the thirties, I certainly don't think of myself as "vintage". Most all of my new lenses were purchased during those time frames and since they have not worn out or quit working I have seen no need to replace them, they are still my new lenses.

    I certainly did not buy them originally to create a "retro" look for my photography. My mentors implied that if I wanted a particular look for my images, that I would need to acquire the additional skills necessary to dream up and create that look. The camera and lens was not considered to be the foundation of a particular "look". At that same time few photographers ever looked at the out of focus areas of their photographs as contributing components to a good image. Most often heard was "damn I wish I could of
    held more sharpness in this soft area". Thousands of dollars are now changing hands in searching for the "Holy Grail" of lenses, not with sharpness in mind, but what best reproduces the out of focus areas of a scene. As I have said in the past,"it don't take much to confuse me". :-)

    I will get over being considered vintage myself, but I don't wanna hear no lip about "my new lenses" being vintage! :-) Gotta git out of here and go clean my 105/2.5 Nikkor.

    Charlie................................

  2. #12
    tony lockerbie's Avatar
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    It seems to me that the look that you are after won't be found in 60's and 70's lenses as they are mostly very sharp and contrasty. Go for something uncoated and shoot with a bright light source and the resulting coma gives a wonderful glow. I agree about the Triotar and an uncoated tessar wide open gives a marvellous old world effect. Find these on an old Rolei or Super Ikonta. Nicely rounded aperture blades make for great out of focus areas too.

  3. #13

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    Yes, 1960s and 70s lenses don't really sound like the right 'vintage' for a distinctly retro look.

    All the SLR lenses I use are 1970s Japanese screw-mount lenses, generally from less well-known but good-quality brands -- Rikkenon (Ricoh), Chinon, Polar, etc. They take wonderfully sharp and contrasty images and are also usually pretty fast lenses too -- with an adapter on my EOS film camera I'd put them up against any non-expensive new lens in terms of quality.

    The Industar 61 L/D that I use on my russian rangefinder does have a particular 'character' to the images, a sort of lovely 'glow' around the edges and in the highlights that I assume is the sort of thing that Leicaphiles have in mind when they rave about Leica glass. It's sort of a 'retro' look when shot wide-open but images from that lens are nevertheless very sharp and contrasty and if I shoot with the right film in it the results, again, are excellent by any modern standard.

    Tessar or triplet lenses are, I assume, more what people have in mind when they talk about a retro look. The tessar type lens on my Flexaret TLR produces pretty 'retro' or old-fashioned images when shot wide-open or near wide-open and is probably the closest thing that I have to that old-school look. The attached image has a sort of 'veiled' look that comes from using the Flexaret quite close to wide open and with the camera slightly facing into the sun.

    However, even that lens or the triplet lens on my Lubitel are capable of producing sharp, high-quality images when stopped down a bit and used with a lens hood. I actually went back recently and looked at some of my Lubitel negs from when I first got into shooting film about 4 years ago and they are really pretty impressively sharp given the limitations of the camera -- if I didn't tell you it was a 60 year old plastic-bodied thing with an uncoated lens, you'd never know.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails flexpar1.jpg  

  4. #14

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    I use pretty new enlarging lenses (including the last production of 63mm El Nikkor) for my negs shot with older lenses in various types (mostly Canon NFD and some non-Ai Nikkor lenses), and I like this combination. I get pretty straight results from the negs.

    And for some reason, even when I neg-scan with my Nikon scanner, I don't see much difference in the look of these images on the computer screen. So I don't go too far off either way, and I can prepare the materials and the setting before going to print in the darkroom.

    I do a lot of brain-storming outside of the darkroom, and I like the quality of what 35mm negs produce. But what affects the final look also depends on the type of chemicals and the quality of paper. So, I try to stay as flexible as I can.

  5. #15

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    interesting thread guys, but wouldn't all the other variables have just as much to do with the 'look' - exposure/development/film characteristics/filter/light quality/subject selection/paper charateristics/print developer etc/etc/etc

  6. #16
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    Kodak published all the curve data for the films going way back, it's easy to duplicate what the film was doing. There was a greater tendency for halation and scatter, of course, but good shooters made a point of KNOWING what they were doing, and a lousy image was not a charecteristic. Paper is paper. Don't think that good printing was invented in 1999, or restricted to the AZO/Pyro cult.

    3 things stand out from the vintage years ( to me, '30s - '50s ).

    - Two flawed, limited and incredibly beautifully designed lenses: Sonnar & Elmar

    - Expensive, slow, and precious film: shoot 35mm with the care of 8x10, and you're halfway to a 'vintage' look.

    - The thrill of making images in low light, and of having your camera with you... always. Wipe irony and postmodernism from your consciousness and you're halfway there.

    But the MAIN ingredient, the lenses. Learn how to exploit the strengths of an uncoated Sonnar or Elmar, and you're there.

    And for the heck of it, I shot a portrait yesterday with a 1936 Sonnar. It is NOT soft, but it muted the overlit studio in which I was working. Instead of the picture being about contemporary architecture with people in the scene, it was about an artist working in a new building. Big difference. Normal processing. Easy.

    Vintage lenses = another tool in the bag.
    "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
    and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

    -Bertrand Russell

  7. #17

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    I forgot to mentioning enlarging more than the negative will really allow. That's another way to get grain and fuzziness and all sorts of evils. For a recent example, see http://photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetc...g=200604250704

  8. #18
    df cardwell's Avatar
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    An afterthought. Many of the '70s lenses were re-designs of the '50s, using improved computational processes, new glasses, and ( important ) in consideration of efficient production methods.

    Lenses like Sonnars, which were unable to be adapted to the slight retro-focus designs needed for a 50mm to work with an SLR, had been weeded out of normal production in the 1950s. They were still found in short telephotos ( Nikon, Pentax... Hasselblad ), but had generally been replaced by Planar style lenses. In the '70s, the evolution was complete. The Sonnars were not suited to the manufacturing styles then adopted, which DID suit Planars ( and Plasmats in the LF domain ).

    Nearly all 35 mm lenses, therefore, from 50mm to 200mm were now all the same basic formula, with balancing of the design to suit either aesthetic or financial concerns of the maker.

    In other words, by the time the 1970's lenses were on the market, there were only slight differences between them. Some lenses ( 105 Nikkor or 35 Summicron, for example ) were standouts, but there were no longer 'signature' looks.

    Recently, Leica has produced some lenses ( 35/1.4, 75/2.0 ) that are significantly different in performance and appearence from the lenses of the '70s and '80s. A few lenses from Nikon ( 105/2 DC ) are a departure from the 'look' of earlier lenses.

    By the mid 1970s, most lenses were of similar design, manufacture, quality control, and varied only by price point. They should be seen as the 'baseline', rather than as 'vintage' lenses. Chances are, the lens on a new camera will be a '70s design - unless it is a zoom. And if you want a different look, dig deep into your wallet for one of the few 21st century lenses, or go back to a pre- 1970 lens.

    .
    "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
    and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

    -Bertrand Russell

  9. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by df cardwell
    By the mid 1970s, most lenses were of similar design, manufacture, quality control, and varied only by price point. They should be seen as the 'baseline', rather than as 'vintage' lenses. Chances are, the lens on a new camera will be a '70s design - unless it is a zoom. And if you want a different look, dig deep into your wallet for one of the few 21st century lenses, or go back to a pre- 1970 lens.
    I see. Could that be also true for the enlarging lenses in any possible way? How about the condenser lenses used for the condenser-heard types of enlargers?

    I mean I know the differences in some models old and new, but I wonder where the "baseline" has been drawn.

  10. #20
    Ole
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    Most enlarger lenses are either 4-element Tessar types, or 6-element Plasmats. There are a few rare 4-element dialytes too, but not many. The most "exotic" one is probably the Voigtländer WZ (2 elements soft-focus enlarger lens), but that is old.

    Some condensers are aspheric - mostly high-end 35mm enlargers. The rest are one- or two-element spherical.

    It's an interesting thought, that you have to get very new or very old to get something unusual. I think it might be correct, too. The largest variation in design and quality seems to have been the "Anastigmat explosion" in the beginning of the 20th century, when every lens maker had at least one "unique" flavor of anastigmat!
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

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