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LF: Zeiss-for-Linhof Sonnar 250mm f/5.6 on 4x5in

Dawid Loubser

New member
In March, I picked up an absolute rarity - a mint (literally un-used, although the shutter speeds seem perfect) Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6 for 4x5in cameras. A really large and heavy beast of a lens, said to be one of the best-performing large format lenses ever made.

Not that lens resolution matters on large-format, mind you! Still, being a sucker for LF oddities, I couldn't resist. What a lens like this was doing, basically in somebody's garage in the original box after all these years, in Johannesburg, South Africa, is beyond me.











 
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Dawid Loubser

New member
It is going to be some time still before any digital single-capture system produces the resolution, tones, and dynamic range that 4x5film does! Especially coupled with an amazing lens like this Zeiss.

For reference, here is a small section of the original scan of the first image - lens is at wide-open aperture. See if you can find the matching section in full image :)
 

Dawid Loubser

New member
For anybody curious to see the Zeiss beauty, as fitted on my old Linhof Technika V (which has given me great photographic pleasure these past 7 years that it's been my primary camera):

 

Dawid Loubser

New member
Taken with this lens, my commentary on what's happening with the beautiful old trains in South Africa:


(Toyo D45M camera, Zeiss/Linhof 250mm f/5.6 wide open, Ilford FP4+)
 

Dawid Loubser

New member
With this lens, I am simply enjoying the most exquisite 4x5in negatives I've ever made. These were from a photo shoot for Skyclass aviation, that operates some vintage aircraft in the Johannesburg area for tourism.

Made several other pictures in this assignment with other vintage lenses, but these two are my favourites with the Sonnar:





 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
For anybody curious to see the Zeiss beauty, as fitted on my old Linhof Technika V (which has given me great photographic pleasure these past 7 years that it's been my primary camera):


So beautiful Dawid! Do you have any idea of the actual resolution? Have to tried it in a portrait?

What is the shutter?

Asher
 

Dawid Loubser

New member
So beautiful Dawid! Do you have any idea of the actual resolution? Have to tried it in a portrait?

What is the shutter?

Asher
It's in a Compur number 2 shutter. Smooth like butter, with all speeds perfect. Amazing how good some really old shutters are, and others - like the 1980s shutter on my Schneider APO-Symmar 150mm f/5.6 - are less great. Sticky on the slow speeds, etc.

Do you mean, the theoretical performance of the lens? No idea.

I don't particularly care, I would have been perfactly happy with the "look" even if it was soft. All I know is that when I scan a 4x5in negative to 80MP, I could go higher... And this is with the lens at full aperture. It's pretty impressive.

Just tonight, as I was working on some other negatives, I realised how totally happy and priviledged I am to be shooting black and white on large-format film. I've been through so many digital systems, and while each has some or other impressive aspect about it, nothing captures the light like a large piece of film.

The superiority is especially distinctive e.g. when photographing a chrome aircraft body in harsh sunlight. Just endless room for highlights.

It's my photographic home, my happy place. With 6x7cm medium format (my trusty RB67, which I've had for almost 10 years now) for hand-held shots. I've all but stopped shooting 35mm film, except for when I have to sneak a small Minox in somewhere.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
It's in a Compur number 2 shutter. Smooth like butter, with all speeds perfect.
Great shutter. What is it's flash synch speed, 1/25 I guess, and fastest speed? Do you need to stack ND filters on when using it with your fav film?

Do you mean, the theoretical performance of the lens? No idea.

I don't particularly care, I would have been perfactly happy with the "look" even if it was soft. All I know is that when I scan a 4x5in negative to 80MP, I could go higher... And this is with the lens at full aperture. It's pretty impressive.
The answer, Dawid, is to print at max scanning and see how sharp
Just the central 1/3 is. That's really all I care about in portraits.


Just tonight, as I was working on some other negatives, I realised how totally happy and priviledged I am to be shooting black and white on large-format film. I've been through so many digital systems, and while each has some or other impressive aspect about it, nothing captures the light like a large piece of film.

The superiority is especially distinctive e.g. when photographing a chrome aircraft body in harsh sunlight. Just endless room for highlights.

It's my photographic home, my happy place. With 6x7cm medium format (my trusty RB67, which I've had for almost 10 years now) for hand-held shots. I've all but stopped shooting 35mm film, except for when I have to sneak a small Minox in somewhere.
Dawid,

When a man returns to real film, it's like, (so I'told), a wandering husband returns to his true love and then the whole universe makes sense again! It's very important in life to eventually escape fashion and get on one's own hard won path!

Asher
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
With this lens, I am simply enjoying the most exquisite 4x5in negatives I've ever made. These were from a photo shoot for Skyclass aviation, that operates some vintage aircraft in the Johannesburg area for tourism.

Made several other pictures in this assignment with other vintage lenses, but these two are my favourites with the Sonnar:





Is it mostly the lens or the film that gets the highlights.

I need this for my mirror polished stainless steel sculptures!

Asher
 

Dawid Loubser

New member
Is it mostly the lens or the film that gets the highlights.

I need this for my mirror polished stainless steel sculptures!

Asher
Oh, definitely the film... this was from the same shoot, but with a first-gen Super Angulon 75mm f/8 - the all-chrome ones made in the 1950s:


(Ex-SAA DC-3 "Klapperkop", Chrome Super-Angulon 75/8, f/22, Ilford FP4+)
 

Dawid Loubser

New member
Great shutter. What is it's flash synch speed, 1/25 I guess, and fastest speed? Do you need to stack ND filters on when using it with your fav film?
It syncs at all speeds, so up to 1/400s in this case.
My favourite film on LF is FP4+, so I have not needed any ND filters yet - no problems to over-expose by a couple of stops in bright sunlight so far.

It's obviously the same film as shot in smaller sizes, but somehow a really big piece of film just absorbs the side-effects of over- or under-exposure so much better.
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
It is going to be some time still before any digital single-capture system produces the resolution, tones, and dynamic range that 4x5film does!
That is not my experience. From a look at large prints in exhibitions and museums, I would say that digital MF matches 4x5 film in resolution, tonal and dynamic range. I does not quite look the same and the story is different when considering colour or B&W, but the two processes certainly give results at a similar level of quality in my eye and in the eye of the public. 8"x10" film still had an edge over previous era MF digital last time I checked, but I have yet to see the output of the latest 100 MP backs.
 

Dawid Loubser

New member
That is not my experience. From a look at large prints in exhibitions and museums, I would say that digital MF matches 4x5 film in resolution, tonal and dynamic range. I does not quite look the same and the story is different when considering colour or B&W, but the two processes certainly give results at a similar level of quality in my eye and in the eye of the public. 8"x10" film still had an edge over previous era MF digital last time I checked, but I have yet to see the output of the latest 100 MP backs.
Fair enough... let's not start a film vs digital war :) I would like to add that, if super fine-grained (copy) films are used, even 6x7cm on a Mamiya 7 has been shown to out-perform modern MF digital backs (producing over 200 usable output Megapixels), but it's for sure a lot of effort, and careful technique is required.

For "typical" usage, you are entirely right.

I should perhaps not have put my inflammatory statement in this thread in the first place, I just wanted to share results with this beautiful old find of a lens :)
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, David,

Oh, definitely the film... this was from the same shoot, but with a first-gen Super Angulon 75mm f/8 - the all-chrome ones made in the 1950s:


(Ex-SAA DC-3 "Klapperkop", Chrome Super-Angulon 75/8, f/22, Ilford FP4+)
Wonderful shots of a wonderful machine.

When I was very young (likely 4, thus in 1940) my father and I parked alongside a fence at the edge of the Cleveland Airport to watch the landing of the first DC-3 in commercial service to land there (there having been a piece about the event in one of the local newspapers).

Best regards,

Doug
 

Dawid Loubser

New member
Hi, David,
Wonderful shots of a wonderful machine.

When I was very young (likely 4, thus in 1940) my father and I parked alongside a fence at the edge of the Cleveland Airport to watch the landing of the first DC-3 in commercial service to land there (there having been a piece about the event in one of the local newspapers).

Best regards,

Doug
Thank you kindly, Doug.

What wonders you must have seen in your life if you can recall an event from 1940...

I am so glad that there are at least some people keeping these wonferful machines alive and operational, for future generations to enjoy. It won't last forever, but some ties to our past are both precious and instructive.
 
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