Rapid Rectiliner and the search for a unique look

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fhovie

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I am building a collection of lenses for my 8x10. I once thought my lenses for 4x5 would be useful but NOT. So - I have an acceptable 210WA lens and am trying to score a decent portrait lens. Now I am at a cross roads. I will only be contact printing and I am considering getting some lenses with personality. There must be a point where it is not worth it. I would think at least a sweat spot in the middle would be the minimum required. Otherwise - I can just get a pin hole. So what is a good choice. What is an affordable choice for a modern good lens in the range of 350mm to 480mm?
 

steve simmons

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Posted: Sat Jan 24, 2004 1:07 am Post subject: Rapid Rectiliner and the search for a unique look

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I am building a collection of lenses for my 8x10. I once thought my lenses for 4x5 would be useful but NOT. So - I have an acceptable 210WA lens and am trying to score a decent portrait lens. Now I am at a cross roads. I will only be contact printing and I am considering getting some lenses with personality. There must be a point where it is not worth it. I would think at least a sweat spot in the middle would be the minimum required. Otherwise - I can just get a pin hole. So what is a good choice. What is an affordable choice for a modern good lens in the range of 350mm to 480mm?
_________________

The 355 G Claron might be a good bet. The Apo Ronars might work as well if you don't need too much extra coverage for movements. I think they come in a 360 and a 450-480.

steve simmons
www.viewcamera.com
 

Deckled Edge

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Will you only do portraits with your portrait lens? Or will you train it on a tree and and demand to see every pine needle? Portrait lenses do not need to be needle sharp and almost any longish lens (400 - 480 mm) from the 20th C will do. There have been some interesting lenses offered cheap on e-bay just this week. You can always fall back on the trusty 14 in. Commercial Ektar. One of my faves.
 

cjarvis

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I think it's more important to know what "unique look" you're demanding before making any decision. Any hand-designed, hand-figured lens from 1900 or before is going to have a sweet spot, but other characteristics come into play to be certain. I would suggest looking at the work others have done and examining the technical data to start.

Simple meniscus ans Petzval designs would be a good starting point. You might end up with a rapid rectilinear or a rectigraphic, but there are plenty of other options.
 

Jim Chinn

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Remember that old lenses especially from the 19th century will be in barrel and may use waterhouse stops for for light control. Of course one could use a Packard shutter and get a reasonable shutter speed 1/10 to 1/25 of a second wide open.

I would suggest going on EBay and purchasing a inexpensive lens, old brass barrel and see if it is going to work. I see some of these lenses go for $50 or less. Look under classic and antique cameras or search antiques. You can always try to get something a little nicer later. I would direct technical questions about old lenses to the other LF forum. There is always someone there who will now about a particular lens.
 

Seele

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fhovie,

I have been thinking about what sort of final result you're after on the print. Bearing in mind the first "portrait lens", viz. the Petzval was designed for speed at the expense of everything else, indeed it had a central "sweet spot" but it's not a design criteria at the time, so it's more of a drawback as far as J.M. Petzval was concerned.

If we are going to nail it down, perhaps you are hoping to achieve the kind of look as seen in wet-plate era portraits, where the plane of focus is sharp but has a smooth transition to softness away from it. This, I think, is a special characteristic of Petzval-type lenses; I have two, and still use an original one by Voigtlander produced in about 1863, and to approximate the "look" as intended, I have to shoot at full aperture and through a very strong filter; something like a sharp-cutting blue, but sometimes I cop out and use a No.15 orange instead. The other is a British one by Andrew Ross of shorter focus which I will re-mount for a 6X6 camera.

With modern panchromatic materials, the aberrations of a R-R lens would be perceptable. J.M. Cameron used an R-R lens for her famous portraits which can never be said to be sharp anywhere, even on collodion, but she "modified" the lens by ripping out the stop in the middle which made the lens work at f/8, so as to get more light through but in the process also upset the design of the lens.

For my money, I would really be looking for a Petzval-type lens; as the design was not patented widely many makers produced copies of it, "no-name" examples, or those with less highly-regarded names can still be found at prices far lower than those bearing the more illustrious names such as Voigtlander, Dallmeyer, Ross, etc. Many "magic lantern" projector lenses were made following the Petzval design and they should be quite satisfactory as well.

However, another factor worth considering is that, the Petzval has a very narrow coverage. In order to cover 8"X10" you might need to track down a very large one, and be sure that the camera has enough extension and sheer strength to hold it up. Back then the studio cameras were massively built so that heavy lenses presented no problem at all.

Looking at my notes, for a "boudour" format picture, 4.5" X 7.5" on 5.5" X 8.5" mount, a Voigtlander Series I lens (which is practically a slightly revised Petzval) will need a lens of 15" focal length. The 14" Dallmeyer's Patent Portrait lens, which can be considered as a wide-field variant of the Petzval, can cover whole-plate. So you do the sums.

Good luck!
 
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