Voigtlander Heliar ..is this the lens with "Bokka"

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by james phillips, Mar 11, 2003.

  1. Hi Everybody,

    I remember reading about a lens that has the "bokka" (spelling?)
    that some photographers find to enchance their pictures. This lens
    is presently on Ebay and I am seeking your opinion if this is the
    one people are referring to?

    Thanks for your opinions.
  2. "bokeh"

    This is supposedly a Japanese word which refers to the areas of a picture which are out of focus. (At the moment I can't find the word in an online Japanese-English dictionary, but boke and bokke produced this, and a wild card search produced out of focus)

    This aspect of the lens produces things like out-of-focus highlights being either round or pentagonal, depending on aperture blades, in-lens reflection due to various coatings, etc.

    I wouldn't rely on "bokeh" to make or break a picture, though.
  3. Bokeh means 'fuzzy' or out-of-focus in Japanese. A connected word is Bokeru, which means to senile.
  4. There are many versions of the Heliar lens, but the LF ones at least seems to vary only in focal length and coating. I'm sure someone will correct me ;)

    Which one are you thinking about? There's a 10.5cm, two 15cms, a 210mm, and a 30cm at the moment...

    I bought mine (15cm, uncoated, spotless, perfect shutter) attached to a Voigtländer Bergheil 9x12 plate camera - possibly cheaper than the lens alone would have been - or even the shutter! Nice lens, and I'll be testing it extensively in a few weeks...
  5. Sorry, that was supposed to be "to be senile". GreyWolf, the Heliar, at least the one I use does have a very nice Bokeh. Note however that there are many different types or models of Heliar: From what I have read I think that the design was changed significantly three times, and some of the earlier designs weren't so great. I can't tell you is how to tell the difference between them. I have a coated 300mm, which I am very happy with. Jim Galli might know more...
  6. The concept of bokka or bokeh is one that dates back some 15-20 years if
    memory serves and needs to be modified with either 'good' or 'bad.' The
    whole idea being that lenses with good bokeh render the out-of-focus portion
    of an image in a most pleasing fashion that adds to the overall composition
    and attractionof the image. Bad bokeh on the other hand tends to work
    against the rest of the image (says the theory). Now, how do you tell when
    you have good bokeh and when you have bad bokeh? Totally subjective.
    Although when you reach a point that a large number of people find a
    particular lens delivers good or bad then maybe, and stress the maybe, you
    have reference point worth considering.

    All of this is way more important in smaller formats. If you are using yoru
    movements properly then you should be able to selectively create both the
    type and quality of the out-of-focus areas of your image.
  7. It's not just the OOF areas that are Bokeh. The Heliar is much like an Elmar -- it doesn't appear sharp, but no matter how big you blow up the image it doesn't seem to deconstruct. I like it much better for color than B&W.
  8. Not to be confused with bukkake...
  9. The Heliar produces a sharp image at the point of focus and renders out-of-focus areas very smoothly. The separation between the in-focus and out-of-focus area is sharply defined and can almost seem three dimensional. I like them.
  10. Bokeh is a concept that is rather un-defineable as to which is good and which is bad. It's pretty subjective. As someone above has said almost any modern LF lens will render very fine bokeh because they are un-encumbered of all of the zillion corrections that are necessary in lenses that are restricted to a set back-focus. Perhaps the older lenses with the beautiful multi-blade irises have a slight edge. My picture of "New Tulips" that I just posted over on Todd Caudles post "No Words: Plants" is an example. Done with an ordinary 210 Symmar. You have to see the original to actually see the smoothness that the few sharp edges blend into unfocused shapes. The Heliar's are special. They have an effect in the highlights that when you study with a loupe you can see a fuzzy blur outlining the sharp edges. It has the same effect as an unsharp mask in a way. It fools the eye into seeing it kind of 3D. I've got a favorite picture of a stark bright winter denuded chinese elm against a near black sky. If I move my head from side to side I'll swear those branches are 3D. Done with a 240MM Heliar on 5X7. I'm no expert on Heliars. I buy the latest coated one's I can get.
  11. GreyWolf,

    I have read that the large format Heliars were designed as portrait lenses and could be adjusted in their degree of softness by rotating the back lens element. This adjustment capability was built into the lens. You should verify this information. Or perhaps someone can offer a correction here if my information is wrong.
  12. That's certainly not the case with my 15cm...
  13. The Universal Heliar, which was designed with adjustable softness, has a moving middle group. These lenses however are less common than the regular Heliars and are usually quite expensive.

    Moving the middle element back and forth isn't the same as moving the rear element back, however, if it works, who cares! I will give it a try.
  14. That's correct. All of my Heliars (including a 100mm/f:3.5 Ektar from the Kodak Medalist, which I've adapted for 35mm use--a coated Heliar design) are standard Heliars, rather than Universal Heliars with the moving middle element. I'm not really interested in soft focus lenses in general (well, maybe I'd like to try a Pinkham-Smith at some point).
  15. Thanks for all the help folks and the insight on these lenses.

    I'm still watching and time will tell.
  16. FYI the Universal Heliars came only in 300mm, 360mm and 420mm focal lengths and only in barrel. They are listed, along with 150mm, 210mm, 240mm and 300mm regular Heliars in Linhof Preizliste #46 dated 1969 but my German is not good enough to figure out how Linhof suggests using the barrel-mount lenses --- possibly the infamous Linhof focal-plane shutter? Who knows?
    I purchased a 240mm Heliar from a gentleman in Hong Kong and it is a lovely portrait lens for 5x7 head and shoulders. Will be shooting some side by sides with a 250mm Imagon for comparison.
    David Blocher
  17. Hi everybody, if you are interresetd in a Heliar 4.5 360mm The Universal Heliar, which was designed with adjustable softness, and has a moving middle group. I have one for sale.
  18. And yes its a cult lens and get better und better prices on ebay!!!!

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