I've taken the time to write down some remarks two or three other times about lenses that are out of the mainstream.  I'm deeply interested in bokeh, and how it can be understood and applied to large format portraiture.  I'm no analyst.  Rather than study mathematical formulae about circles of confusion my method is far more simple.  I buy the lenses on Ebay, and I make photographs with them.  Lately I've immersed myself in this to the point that I'm questioning whether I'm an artist or a collector!  It will take several years to get proficient with just the stuff that is waiting in the wings to make it's first photo on my cameras.  But Labor day I did get to use a couple of them.

One seems a standout to me for a couple of reasons.  It's a Wollensak 12" Velostigmat.  To be honest most old Velostigmat's go un-loved.  I bought this sample for $75 thinking I would use the Wolly Studio Shutter on one of the Verito's that doesn't have one.  Plus it came with a Packard shutter and lensboard and those are going for 2/3's of the price I paid for the whole outfit.  When it arrived, it was indeed a hoary mess.  You couldn't have aimed a photon through the disaster if life depended on it.  Dirt, and fungus amongus.  After a good bath and a very minor tune up on the old studio shutter, it actually looked pretty good.  Luckily the fungi were surface only and hadn't attacked the glass.  I decided to see if there was anything to the claims that these are supposedly excellent for portraits.

For our usual family re-union on Labor Day I took the 12" Velostigmat, a 15" Bausch & Lomb f5.6 Plastigmat Portrait, and a Wollensak Series A f5 8X10 Petzval along.  All of these are small enough to not tip a Kodak 2D over on it's face.  Many of the bigger portrait lenses are studio camera with 9" lensboard only.


Yesterday I got to print a couple of the pictures from the Velostigmat.  I'm bowled over by the quality.  The picture of my niece Annie was done in portrait mode.  Just slightly closed from full.  Between f4.5 and f5.6.  The image on the ground glass was peaches and cream, and the image on film is the same or better.  There's a tremendous range of what the different portrait types can do.  Verito's can be extremely diffuse.  Too much so for my tastes.  The Plastigmat is somewhere in the middle.  Like a Verito but more of an edge glow.  While the Petzval's have a signature extreme sharpness that fades immediately to complete defocus at wide open.  What the Velostigmat does is very subtle.  It's just smooth.  Creamy smooth.  Sometimes that's going to be the best solution.


Another surprise is how sharp it can get stopped down.  The picture of the '40 Ford farm truck was done at f32.  The light was difficult at best.  Something would have been lost if I'd done this with the clinically sharp 12" f9 Nikkor.  This is a lens that's fun to use.