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Thread: My lens experiment today surprised me.

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    My lens experiment today surprised me.

    I had a few minutes to spare today and finally got around to do a little lens testing that I've been meaning to do for a while. Admittedly, this is far from a scientific or controlled test, it was meant to satisfy my curiosity more than anything else and ended up leaving me more confused than when I started!

    By way of background, I shoot with an older medium format back attached to a Cambo Ultima 23 view camera. As I mentioned in another thread, at the time of purchasing my digital system in 2006, my budget did not include additional funds for new lenses, so I kept moving ahead using the view camera lenses I'd acquired in my film days. 100mm 5.6 Rodenstock, 135mm 5.6 Fujinon, 90mm f8 Schneider Super Angulon. Sold off the 210 which had been my 'normal' in 4X5 as it was simply too long for the kind of work that I do.

    My 'traditional' film lenses have always provided the kinds of images that I expected. Good color/contrast/sharpness, etc. without any noticeable flaws as seen both on the monitors that I use as well as in the finished printed (off-set) finished pieces.

    Today, I decided to do a little experiment to see how my Fujinon 135 might stack up against a different lens that was in the studio. Not sure what (if anything) this means, but I didn't anticipate the results and thought some of you may find this of some interest.

    Both test images were captured with a Leaf Valeo 22 MP (vintage back) Note that in the test images, the plate was moved slightly in the time that it took me to change lenses as the client reached in after the shot to take his own image and he rotated the plate a bit....so they're not 'exact'.

    Now, on with the show...

    Let me introduce you to the camera back:



    And now, the Fujinon 135:



    And the result:



    Now, the image with the 'new' lens:



    And the 'new' lens itself, first from the rear:



    And now, from the front:



    Here it is again:



    And lastly, from where it was sourced:



    As best I can tell, this is a Kodak 'Autograph' camera (it has a small stylus for burnishing a message onto the negative through a trap door). THe latest patent date on the inside reads 1919. This camera has sat out in my studio for 25 + years collecting dust, not to mention all of the fry oil that circulates through the studio on any given day. It seems to be a simple single element lens and obviously is anything but sophisticated. I put the lens on 'B', killed the modeling lights and with the Fuji still connected to both the back and strobe used the Fujinon to fire the back and strobes, and then closed the Kodak.

    I was half expecting some some quirky 'vintage' look (whatever that might be)...some color fringing maybe, or a little vignetting...certainly some edge softness? But nope...the image looked pretty good, especially considering that it was some 65 or so years behind the engineering/manufacturing curve of the Fujinon. I looked at both images at 100% and while the Fuji looked as I expected, the Kodak wasn't noticeably inferior and a further scan of the Kodak image didn't reveal any obvious shortcomings. My assistant said "Wow...that's a keeper"!

    Both of these images are processed through the Leaf software with whatever the default sharpening is (which is our typical starting point before an image goes on to further editing.)

    I dunno...maybe the Fuji is a dog...maybe the Kodak is a hidden jem, maybe I don't need new 'digital' lenses afterall...maybe I just need to spend more time in antique shops
    Last edited by FoodShooter; 25th November 2013 at 18:31.
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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: My lens experiment today surprised me.

    Awesome report! My guess is it's an older 5" (127mm) tessar design, which was predecessor to the more renown Ektar ultimately becoming popular beginning in 30's era press cameras. Pretty impressive performance from an uncoated vintage lens!
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."
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    Re: My lens experiment today surprised me.

    Just make you wonder why you spent so much money for that new-fangled lens. Just stamp "digital" on the front, and you are ready to go.

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    Re: My lens experiment today surprised me.

    I'll sell it cheap (by digital lens standards).

    Jack-
    I think the focal length might be a bit shorter than 5". These images are cropped for a variety of reasons. The original Kodak image appeared to be maybe on the order of 75% of the Fujinon focal length...somewhere in the range of 3.75 or so. As I said, this was far from an exact *test*...more just killing time and curiosity. Even the aperture was a guess, I set it between 3 and 4 on the lens scale, again only as a guess, but got very close in exposure on the first and only try (the Fuji was set to 22 1/3).

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: My lens experiment today surprised me.

    It could certainly be shorter -- they made several in the 3 to 4 inch range back then.
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Senior Member EH21's Avatar
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    Re: My lens experiment today surprised me.

    Nice! And that helps put things in perspective doesn't it!

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    Re: My lens experiment today surprised me.

    Quote Originally Posted by EH21 View Post
    Nice! And that helps put things in perspective doesn't it!
    In some ways, yes.

    I'll most likely play around a bit further when time permits. I'm curious to see what this lens does in the OOF areas....maybe that's where it'll look 'vintage' or show off something that I didn't see in the single image that I took.

    It's certainly not a practical lens for me to use as there's no X-synch, and the apertures would need calibrating etc. And while I had some limited corrections on the camera, they weren't extreme.

    As I mentioned, this was really just playing around, but truthfully, I was awestruck when the image came up on the monitor as I wasn't expecting this at all.

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    Re: My lens experiment today surprised me.

    Quote Originally Posted by FoodShooter View Post
    In some ways, yes.

    I'll most likely play around a bit further when time permits. I'm curious to see what this lens does in the OOF areas....maybe that's where it'll look 'vintage' or show off something that I didn't see in the single image that I took.

    It's certainly not a practical lens for me to use as there's no X-synch, and the apertures would need calibrating etc. And while I had some limited corrections on the camera, they weren't extreme.

    As I mentioned, this was really just playing around, but truthfully, I was awestruck when the image came up on the monitor as I wasn't expecting this at all.
    And what was you expecting before that image shows up on the monitor?
    Tareq

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    Re: My lens experiment today surprised me.

    I've used my AFi-ii 12 back on my Linhof Technika af few times via the Leaf AFi/Hy6 to graflok adapter and it's quite amazing what some of the old schneider glass can do. Some of my LF lenses are very old but perform very well. You see the differences with flare, and also zooming in to 100% - not as sharp, but for smaller prints, magazine, etc they have a very nice look. Lower contrast overall, but that's not so bad as you can add in contrast easily.


    Quote Originally Posted by FoodShooter View Post
    In some ways, yes.

    I'll most likely play around a bit further when time permits. I'm curious to see what this lens does in the OOF areas....maybe that's where it'll look 'vintage' or show off something that I didn't see in the single image that I took.

    It's certainly not a practical lens for me to use as there's no X-synch, and the apertures would need calibrating etc. And while I had some limited corrections on the camera, they weren't extreme.

    As I mentioned, this was really just playing around, but truthfully, I was awestruck when the image came up on the monitor as I wasn't expecting this at all.

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    Senior Member EH21's Avatar
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    Re: My lens experiment today surprised me.

    And wrt - putting things into perspective... There's been a lot of talk about incredibly tight tollerances for back placement, lens fitment, lens shimming, etc over the last few years. Some of by the Tech camera makers, some of it by other groups, and when you read it you kind of buy into it. Yeah 80mp yeah okay, this requires special CNC machined mounts and factory measured hoohahs that cost a lot of money - $2k for lens mounting, etc. Then you go pull out a dirty 50 year old lens, pop it on a lens board, and slap your digital back onto a camera with a totally imprecise film back style mount held in by springs and make wonderful images. That's what I mean by putting things in perspective.

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    Re: My lens experiment today surprised me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Professional View Post
    And what was you expecting before that image shows up on the monitor?
    One of my first thoughts was that color photography wasn't even considered a possibility when this lens was designed and manufactured, so my expectations were that there'd be some kind of color issues at a minimum. I also expected when this image popped up that it would be 'obvious' that it had been taken with the Kodak as opposed to the Fuji. Neither of these happened.

    A bit of further background on how this came to pass. The night before, I'd searched ebay for 'Cambo' stuff as I will do fro time to time just to see if anything of interest pops up. Within the Cambo listings were a number of antique lenses, one of which had the description 'vintage look'. That notion stuck in my head and when I got to the studio the next day I had it in mind to see what a vintage lens/vintage look might be. So, going into my little experiment, I did have some expectations that the image would be a little quirky/vintage/...somehow different from what a more modern lens would produce.

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    Re: My lens experiment today surprised me.

    I love this, being of very limited funds and having many old old lenses it gives me hope.
    Thanks!!
    Robert

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    Re: My lens experiment today surprised me.

    Quote Originally Posted by OlderThenDirt View Post
    I love this, being of very limited funds and having many old old lenses it gives me hope.
    Thanks!!
    Robert
    Glad I could help!
    (Gives me hope too )

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