voigtlander universal heliar

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by jim_bright|2, Jan 14, 2003.

  1. If anyone has any experience using the voigtlander universal
    heliars or regular heliars for B&W contact prints I'd like to hear
    your impressions. What is the fastest usable f-stop. How does it
    compare to your other lenses for B&W work? Is there significant
    focus shift? Does it produce pleasing images? Are these better or
    worse lenses than the Dagors?
    I see an occasional snipet of praise for these lenses and would
    like to hear from someone who can compare the results they get with
    thiers to the results they get with some of their other lenses.
    Thanks for any responses.
    Jim Bright
  2. Jim I'll bite. I like Heliars. They have an unquantifiable quality to them that I'll try to illustrate. A nice balance of contrast and resolution but on studying what it is that gives the effect I like, If you look at your images with a 40X scope you'll find that the Heliar causes a certain point transfer in the highlights that gives a glow not unlike what an unsharp mask will cause. A halo effect. But only in the highlights (or likely only noticeable there). They are "useable" at f4.5 if that is the look you are after. That's why portraitists have sought them. As you stop down things sharpen up significantly so that you would consider it among your sharpest lenses but even at f22-f32 I'm still seeing the luminescent "glow" in highligt edges. I haven't answered all of your questions, only put forth what I've observed in use. Better or worse than my other lenses? NO. Yes. Different, and sometimes I'll grab it because I know that it will give an image the luminance I'm looking for.
  3. I'll try the upload again.
  4. And again again..
  5. Without being able to quantify, I gotta say that the Heliar is particularly good for color photography, and imparts what is generally thought of as the "Leica look", while it's B&W performance is probably below that of the Tessar (or Scopar). Coverage is average. No focus shift with the 15cm uncoated lens I used for many years. I have a very soft spot for Dagors, so am unqualified to comment on the comparison.
  6. I like both Heliars and Dagors, but for different purposes. I think Jim Galli described the Heliar "glow" quite well. Tonal transitions are rendered very smoothly with the Heliar, with nice out-of-focus rendering, and at wider apertures the separation between the in-focus and out-of-focus area produces a strong three-dimensional effect. Stopped down, they are very sharp, but not quite as crisp as a later, coated Dagor.

    But, Heliars are big and heavy, and the 360mm won't fit in any standard shutter, and they have a rather narrow coverage angle, so they are most useful as portrait lenses or for photography in the near field, particularly with selective focus technique.

    Dagors are small and compact by comparison, they are very sharp with a smooth look, but not quite as smooth as a Heliar, I would say. They have a large coverage circle, so they can be used as wide angle lenses or when generous movements are needed. With only 4 air-glass surfaces, even uncoated Dagors have pretty good contrast. In a pinch a Dagor can be converted to a bit less than twice the focal length of the combined cells by removing the front cell. They do show some apparent focus shift, so it is good to recheck focus at or near the taking aperture.
  7. The Heliar and the Universial Heliar have similar optical designs: five elements in three groups. The Universial Heliar adds the feature that the position of the center element can be changed to control the degree of softness. Zero is the sharpest setting.
  8. I frequently use a 300 Heliar on 4x5 and 5x7 as a portrait lens, and I love it. A few weeks ago, as part of an on-going project on lens resolution at wide apertures, I did resolution testing on this lens at f/4.5. The results were a bit odd. The resolution at f/4.5 was mediocre (20 l/mm center 14 l/mm at edge), but at 100x magification, the test showed what I think is lateral chromatic aberration, that is there was a slight but noticable color banding around the testing black bars. I think that this may somehow account for the 'Heliar-look' which Jim describes.
  9. Thanks for the responses everyone. The shared knowledge on this forum is a great resource. Thanks for posting an example Mr. Galli, it was your response to my question about lenses and film for contact printing that prompted this post.
    Jim Bright
  10. I surmised I was likely the guilty snipettor. Ô¿Ô jg

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