Interest in 'new' classic lenses.

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by wideopeniris, May 31, 2007.

  1. Alot of people are interested in the image properties of older lenses on large
    format cameras, and I was wondering if there would be a demand for new lenses
    manufactured to high qulity but using old lens formulas for their unique image
    forming qualities.

    Because these would be low volume products, they would not be cheap compared to
    the cost of a used lens for the more common lenses, but it would be possible to
    buy in new condition the lenses that are very rare or impossible to find, so in
    some cases it might be an economic purchase as well.

    In addition to reproduceing the 'old masters' of optical designs, it would also
    be possible to bring modern coating technology to these old designs to improve
    contrast and flare resistance without destroying the intrinsic qualities of the
    optical formula. Also mounting options could be improved with lens mountings
    tailored for modern shutters.

    So how many of you would want to buy such a lens and what old lens designs
    would be most desirable?

  2. Cooke makes such lenses now. I have only tried one, but it was not as good as the lenses the company of that name made years ago and cost over $3000. I found a Cooke lens on Ebay for under $100. that was better.
  3. There is a range of lenses called Congo which are Tessar designs in modern shutters. They are quite cheap, but I am not sure what sort of unique qualities they would offer. Using them wide open would probably get close to the old style look.
  4. Congo is from Japan and phonetically in Japanese the word means "jewel".

    Congo made some cheap tessar type and wide field type lenses. They were usually adequate without being prize winners.

  5. Its not prize winning perfection that is the goal here, but offering the particular behaviour of older lens designs for creative use, but in clean new and reliable forms that are easy to mount and might benefit from modern coatings if desired.

    There are plenty of 'perfect' lenses for those who desire the optimum sharpness across the frame, but there are plenty who want wide open performance or controlled and predictable abberations for a particular effect.

  6. Hi Kevin
    Here is my recent personal experience with the subject

    I tried to get Schneider to bring back the xenotar. I mean I did not try that hard just spoke a few times with the guy in charge who's name was Uli and he said the minimum deposit in escrow to start talking is 100-150G and then the minimum order is in the hundreds of units.

    I would certainly love to get hundreds of Xenotar 135mm lenses and
    hundreds of tessars provided they could be multicoated properly and retain the properties of original glass.

    Unfortunately one of the things I learned from Uli is that a few years back the regulatory Agency that could be compared to the American EPA banned a lot of the metals previously used in lens optiks manufacture and so its unlikely that a true re issue could ever be possible. lanthanum and so forth is a no-no.

    that was right about the time when they changed the Apo symmar to the Apo Symmar L.

    The only realistic choice would be to use the old designs and the modern glass techniques and compounds and have the old style optical properties and the new technology which would reduce optical error as manufacture and polishing is now computerized.

    In the present economic scenario your wish is rather Utopia but when some on my full size large format digital backs are finally made by others the demand for LF lenses will skyrocket.

    Digital feels like microwave cooking as compared to film looks like oven brick right now only because the size of the capture area in chips is way smaller than 35mm and the look of photography and selective focus is determined mostly by the optical projection and whether you use line doubling or whether you increase resolution a million times in a small capture area you will have proportionately less and less selective focus.

    Don't give up your LF cameras based on the availability of film or cost because this impasse and transition to digital being what is today is quite similar to the limitation which existed in the early day of photography where there were no enlargers and so everything had to be 1 to 1 ratio today there is no big chips so the imagery looks like fast food or fakish but that just today.

    In preparing our present inventions we placed a regular computer scanner on the back of one of our modified cameras for this purpose in the horizontal position to avoid error if the sensor would have to travel vertically and lit an indoor scene with continuous light.

    While the results did not approximate the look of film the optical qualities of large format were retained where as with the use of small chips available today it is entirely lost. this proved my theories sufficiently in order to obtain funding for these complex research and development.

    let me just say that full frame 4x5 scanning backs have been used since the 90s for still life. they are slow and somewhat inefficient but that will change.

    The planned obsolescence nature of this industry makes it like the fashion industry in the sense that one day shoes are pointy and the next they are square but the fact is no capture media electronic or via emulsion can replace the optical projection which is what counts in photography as photo which means light and graphy which means graphics .

    The film the camera and everything else takes second place to the optical projection and the rules which apply to distance from film plane as to enable differentiation.

    The lenses ; the older lenses are extremely appealing for this purpose and I have informed you of the digital future basically to
    remind you that progress goes around in circles and never moves forward in a straight line. The past is important and shall be included in the present as a solid base for the future.

    Unfortunately the word " New" is often associated to what my friend Charles who shoots TV commercials and compares it to what he calls "The appetite appeal of beer"

    "Cold luscious golden blond here it is waiting for you".

    They are going to sell you " NEW" stuff which becomes old in 6 months for the next 5 years and then they are going to tell you that they discovered that they bypassed the aspect of the size of the capture area as being the answer to selectiveness. when they do tell them to call me.

    Jokes aside the interest is out there but this has become a time of impatience and people accustomed to getting things at a click of a mouse always in a hurry to go nowhere and I doubt anyone will write you a check upfront but if you make something available and have the waiting power there is a definite niche .

    The second reason for a future need of classical lenses is another one of our inventions that enables imagery fully focused and tack sharp from focus point to infinity and beyond without the requirement or participation of a lens iris.

    If you then introduce an iris to the equation the imagery surpasses
    the expectations of traditional photography but this opens a new door for photography astronomy and filmography where quantity of light can take a second place to quality of light so that one can gently paint a indoor scene with it or walk into a room be mesmerized by
    the way a sunray lights a room selectively and not find the limitation of capture sensitivity as an aperture of 1.1 would exceed what you get today at f 11. night photography etc.

    Like I said everything goes around in circles .

    Because this invention relies solely on optical projection and without an iris unless you want to digress it depends solely on 2 things a) the presence of absolute parallelism and 2) the presence of a rangefinder which has been streamlined to the sensitivity required for use at such wide apertures .

    I did not spend the last 10 years of my life doing research so I could make a couple of hundred cameras at a time when film use is in a decline; as a matter of fact while I will use film for as long as it is available all my current and previous efforts were aimed at the future and everything I'm doing today is already prepared to implement it the minute that the new capture technology hits the market.

    The past was based on size the present is based on transition and the future will be based on size + precision so yes the interest is there and will be more so.
  7. The European Community RoHS (Regulation of Hazardous Substances) has pretty much eliminated lead from most products, including electronics (lead-free solder), and lenses (lead-free flint glasses). That said, there's still quite a selection of optical glasses out there.

    Of course, the primary source of lead in the trash stream is disappearing out of obsolescence: color cathode ray tubes. The front glass has to be half an inch of lead glass to stop the X-rays any color CRT generates. So, in that way the RoHS regulations were too late, the primary problem solved itself.

    Looking at Schott's website, they still make their lead and cadmium bearing glasses. There are functionally equivalent substitutes for almost all the lead-bearing glasses.

    The RoHS regulations do not cover Lanthanum. Schott is still making lanthanum glasses. They appear to have made a new version of one of their lanthanum glasses that is pressable, presumably for press-molding aspherics. Not that I would want another lens with lanthanum glass, I've already got two tea-brown lenses, thank you.
  8. William Litman mentioned that the Apo Symmar L came out about the time that certain metals were no longer able to be used in lensmaking. This was no coincidence. The purpose of the Apo Symmar L was to eliminate those. The Congo lenses are also sold under other names, Osaka being one of them.
  9. The Apo Symmar L offers improvements over the previous version one of them is a wider coverage.

    Anyway I'm not informed enough as to what types of glass are made or discontinued but what I do know is that the use of certain metals was involved in some aspect the process of taking certain types of glass once made and grinding them and then polishing them into camera optiks and I'm told that another aspect considered are the emissions created by the manufacturing process whether or not a particular composite is utilized.

    The manufacturing process of each company is proprietary and the fact that a certain type of glass is still around does not tell us what chemicals and compounds are involved and required to reproduce a re issue of an old lens

    Its hard to predict a need for a lens because preference is so subjective. some lenses older ones make perfect sense on paper but don't sell and some lenses are really sought despite the fact that they don't perform as well .

    I would say the most interest would be for Tessar , Plannar , Apo Lanthar and Xenotar types.

    In practical terms the gap between the interest for a lens intended for non digital usage and it being made available to the market has changed dramatically because the whole cost of R+D and manufacture and minimum order is now the burden of the one placing the order as opposed to the past where manufacturers could hope to recover the investment over time.

    Anyone will make whatever lens you want but you have to pay upfront and it may cost a lot more before it can even be made ; a lot more before it is in your hand and when you do get it its yours and you may have to commit to placing a big order before they even consider allocating valuable personnel and time to such enterprise.

    If you consider that lenses now made for digital have different properties than those made for film because of the size of the capture area and other tech aspects It is impossible to predict right now what the requirement of the new technology will be and the very nature and fast evolution of that end of the business is where lens manufacture research is headed.

    In terms of the bottom line a reissue of a basic classic lens today if you wanted to have one of the big manufacturers make it would cost the consumer the same or just about what a Cooke lens sells for.

    A few years ago there was a reissue of the 135mm Carl Zeiss Plannar in a Linhof Technica shutter ; only 500 were made it was sharper than the original issue but that shows that even a re issue by the same company before the required changes due to environmental concerns took place did not give you the exact same lens and it was costing around 8000.00
  10. That recomputation is needed is expected. Pretty much there is a glass close to the old types, so adjustments are small. Schott, for instance have brought out many new glasses (n- types) which meet current legislative requirements. Also some interesting designs have troubles like radioactive glasses - the new lens, re-computed from the same formula with modern glasses, would not have these 'worries'

    There seems to be many companies offering custom lens grinding services and competition there is enough to make prices less than impossible. The problem is one of paying for tooling costs which must be absorbed over the life of the product.

    I guess one reason for this thread is to try to gauge how many people who use 5x4 or 10x8 gear (or larger) would like to buy new lenses - hassle free, at medium prices (cant compete with schneiders and rodenstocks, but maybe less than cooke - about the level of congo for instance).

    Any company starting down these lines would have to concentrate on the most popular of the 'hard to find' old lenses, like the xenotars and planars and offer only a few products to begin with, much as Cooke have.

  11. Hi Kevin,

    I've been reading this thread and I'm curious to know what you mean by "Old Masters Designs". As a professional for 60 years and who has worked with lenses made back into the 1800's I'd like to know more about your thoughts.

    I've worked with Pinkham-Smith, several of the Petzvals, early Kodak and Wollensak (including the portrait soft focus lenses), Cooke and many of the English makers, Rapid Rectilinear, several of the soft focus, etc.

    When we created the original Caltars, I told Manny that I would like to have a really good variable soft focus and his answer was, "Sure, if you can tell me where one is and what it should be like". I was involved with original Calumet, DOI, Ilex, B&J, BBOI, Schneider, Fuji, Nippon Kogaku,and Rodenstock among others.

    I was amazed at how good the Premo, Zeiss, and a couple of other Rapid Rectilinears were in b/w and color. I've had love affairs with some soft focus lenses, nothing to be found any more.

    Anyhow, talk to me a bit.

  12. Something I would like to see is the return of the Karl Struss portrait lens. I believe this was simply a quartz meniscus with a diaphragm. Quartz passes lots of UV, and this would give an image a fairly soft look outdoors. There are a number of ads for it in the copy of the 1922 Photography Yearbook I picked up a while ago.
  13. I think the other reason for using classic lens designs is they are often very compact. For example I suggested to Cooke they should consider linking with one of the camera makers to produce the ultimate back packer kit - A camere not much bigger than it's format that folds into the smallest possible size and a matching set of small lenses - a Cooke Series VIII wide angle, a small 'normal' lens similar to the Ektar f7.7/203 Dialyt and a small 2x telephoto. What comes to mind is a modern equivalent to the old 9x12cm KW Etui camera which folds up very small.

    If one applied the intelligence that went into designing the Olympus XA series of compact 35mm cameras to Large Format, it should be possible to build a 5x4 that measured 5.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches and by using plastics it could weigh no more than a modern Digital SLR. But it would need small lenses not Plasmats.
  14. "Not that I would want another lens with lanthanum glass, I've already got two tea-brown lenses, thank you." I think you probably have lanthanum-thorium glass, which becomes tea-brown with age from radiation damage. Manufacturers had a habit of featuring the lanthanum content and forgetting to mention the thorium. You can mostly bleach away the color by exposing the glass to UV light, such as that from BLB fluorescent bulbs for many days or weeks.

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