Experiences with meniscus lenses?

Discussion in 'Ultra Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by TheoULF, Nov 30, 2016.

  1. TheoULF

    TheoULF Member

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  2. revdoc

    revdoc Member

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    Not with ULF, only 5x7, though the following comments can simply be scaled up to bigger formats.

    Meniscus lenses require a filter (usually yellow) and have to be stopped down quite a lot to produce a sharp image. Even then, it's only sharp over the central area, so they're limited to a fairly narrow field. To give you a rough idea, a 175mm meniscus is sharp over the central third of a 5x7 negative. To get a reasonably sharp image all the way into the corners would require a lens about twice as long, or about 350mm. (So double that for 11 by 14.)

    BTW, central sharpness is improved by stopping down, and I'd say that f/32 is the minimum. F/64 is even better. Edge sharpness isn't much affected by stopping down. It can be improved with a coloured filter, but can't be eliminated; it's an inherent property of a meniscus lens. (If you want the technical explanation, it's a combination of lateral chromatic aberration and astigmatism.)

    One critical factor is the distance from the stop to the lens. This should be about 12% of the lens focal length to produce the sharpest images.

    Having said all this, I know that not everybody wants sharpness, so I'd say try it and see. Personally, I'd try to find a low-cost surplus lens, instead of buying something specifically made for purpose. You can make a lens mount and stop out of foamcore and black paper, because these lenses are not high tech.
     
  3. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi theo

    i have used those type lenses without a filter for ulf (a 14x22 camera ) and smaller formats i didn't have an waterhouse stop
    so i used it full open, and it worked OK, a bit blown out and soft but that was what i was after. i also have
    a few 4x5 cameras that these type lenses were what they came with. they also had a "choke" / built in f11ish fstop
    to make them focus a bit. i use these 3 cameras ( sears delmar, cyclone #3 and cyclone #4 all the time and they are my favorite cameras at the moment )
    i have also enlarged negatives with the same meniscus lenses. really hard to focus, i wouldn't recommend doing this without a choke or waterhouse stop.
    reinhold's lenses are fantastic, works of art. there are folks on the largeformatphotography.info forums who use them often
    and can give you tips on the best way to photograph with them. mine have been smaller formats ( as mentioned ) or a giant camera i made myself
    with a toilet paper tube/rolled cardboard barrel lens ... worked well, but not "high class"...
     
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    TheoULF

    TheoULF Member

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    Hi revdoc,
    Thank You for Your interesting answer. One of the reasons why I am thinking about buying a meniscus lens is that I have got amazingly good results with theses with very old boxcameras ( 1890- 1930...) up to format 4x5". All these start with f16 and have up til 3 stops 16/22/32. And I used these only for black & white films.

    I was lucky and got some lenses without knowing that I got to meniscus lenses, 300 and 250mm ( both with diameter 80mm) from a working college. I mounted these on the backside of tins/cans. My Waterhouse stops are primitive black paper sheets with holes starting by f8, .. But the fact I never heared /read about that the corr distance between meniscus and f-stop (12% of focal length). I think that was the reason why the pictures were not fine. I ' ll try it again. My first test showed that both lenses covered the whole 12x 16" at infinity without stops but it was definitely impossible to see the quality of the corners on the ground glass. The pictures seen on the ground glass looked more like water color paintings.
    The paperpictures will show me the realities. This will be very exciting!
     
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    TheoULF

    TheoULF Member

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    Hi jnanian,
    Thanx for Your answer. Very interesting and encouraging! I am checking out my DIY lenses now ( please read my answer to revdoc) and must find out if these type of lenses can match my intentions. I know myself and that indicates that I ' ll need soon lenses which cover bigger formats as my actual one (12x16"). The 790mm from Reinhold will ( perhaps) solve this problem (?).
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i think reinhold's lenses will treat you will.
    good to see others using vintage large format box cameras !

    live dealers sell them !
     
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    TheoULF

    TheoULF Member

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    Hi jnanian,
    Thanx for Your answer. Very interesting and encouraging! I am checking out my DIY lenses now ( please read my answer to revdoc) and must find out if these type of lenses can match my intentions. I know myself and that indicates that I ' ll need lenses which cover bigger formats as my actual one.
     
  8. Andrew O'Neill

    Andrew O'Neill Subscriber

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    I have one of Reinhold's lenses for 8x10. Love it.
     
  9. AgX

    AgX Member

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    I do not see how in an optical system the location of an aperture as such would influence image quality (in the meaning of resolution).
     
  10. revdoc

    revdoc Member

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    In the centre of the field, it's usually not that important. However, away from the middle of the field, a range of issues arise, and in the case of a simple meniscus lens, one of the ways they can be controlled is by moving the aperture stop. One very important factor handled this way is field curvature.

    How this works is hard to explain without diagrams and a fair bit of trigonometry, but the very short version is that some parts of the lens focus better than others, and moving the stop can selectively block some of the worse parts of the lens for a given distance from the centre.

    If you Google "front landscape lens" you'll find a more detailed explanation on page 212 of "Lens Design Fundamentals" by Rudolph Kingslake.
     
  11. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Thank You. There are different editions.

    In the 1978 ed the relevant pages are starting at p. 209 , in the 2nd ed. at p. 323.
    (here in Germany one only can see certain pages, and it took me a great while to get that chapter complete)
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
  12. AgX

    AgX Member

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    The important message is this:
    Unless a lens happens to be a perfect one, a longitudinal stop shifts changes all the oblique aberration in a lens.
    It will not affect the axial aberrations, provided the aperturte diameter is changed as necessary to maintain a constant F number.
     
  13. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i don't think i am going to help you much agx :smile:

    the meniscus lenses that i have are stopped infront of the lens, not in barrel. all the box cameras i have used
    small ones that took some sort of roll film format and big ones that took 4x5 plates/film have always had fstop infront of the lens.
    to be honest, i never knew it made that much of a difference, and have imagined the camera makers that supplied these lenses/cameras
    would have wanted the fstops to be in the best place possible. i think one person's optimal is not the same optimal as another person.
     
  14. AgX

    AgX Member

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    There is a best position to minimize both axial and oblique aberrations, but there is another to give least distortion. And there is a mechanically best position too.
     
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