O.k. I want to buy some old lense for the 4x5s. Something nice and soft to work with. I have some options here though
1 - A 6" DARLOT OPTICIAN BRASS (BARREL)WITH F-STPS ON 3 LEVERS (60 MOUNT)
2 - A 4.5" F8 BAUSCH&LOMB SYMMETRICAL UNICOM SHUTTER (BRASS)(35 FLANGE)
3 - A Voigtlaender Wide Angle Euryscop VII Lens
I think the last one is an 8x10, but it could work for my 4x5s.
Ideally I want something with a "holgaish" look to it. Lots of swirly stuff outside the center sweet spot.
You could also try a really old Rapid Rectillinear. Believe it or not I had a Montgomery Ward RR (c. 1897) that had the exact look you're describing (example: http://www.redhillphoto.com/portfoli...andoah8102.jpg - it's an 8x10, but a RR with a shorter focal length might be what you'd like). If you get something that covers 8x10, the "sweet spot" might be entirely encompass 4x5, which would kind of negate the effect you're looking for.
i would second rapid rectilinear.
there are a few on fee-bay right now ... - pretty cheep too
you might also think about buying a folder and pulling the lens off of it. they usually have meniscus lenses which give the effect you want ..
I do have an old 1912 Kodak Anistigmat that I am going to have mounted. COmes from the old 1A I think. But I worry that the anastigmat might be TOO good....
It's not unlikely that the Darlot is a Rapid Rectilinear design. I'm not sure about the others.
I have an old Rapid Rectilinear from a junked folder. The shutter doesn't work, so I've thought of trying the lens on one of my Speed Graphics. Trouble is, the rear element is loose - shake it and the glass rattles, shifting about 1/8" in the mount. This lens is not worth sending to a shop for reglueing, so I'm thinking of doing it myself.
Any reason a common contact cement or Super Glue wouldn't work? I also assume that the rear-most position would be correct.
I'd like to see what effects this lens produces - maybe it will be hideously interesting.
You could also take a modern lens and reverse one of the elements. The 180mm from a Mamiya TLR (I know, that's MF, not LF), if the rear element is reversed, is sharp at the center, with increasing blur towards the edges. It improves when stopped down, but is always softer along the outside. The only downside to this particular model is that it's miserable at infinity when rearranged this way.
For large format, if you were to get a copy-camera lens (cheap enough to experiment with), and rearrange it, you'd have the advantage of modern shutter and variable formula.
On the Other Other Hand, check out the book "Primitive Photography", which discusses how to make your own 19th century designs with cheap lenses and PVC pipe.