One of the nicest things about a long soak in the bath is that it forces me to put aside all electronic devices for an hour or so. Normally, I have an iPad almost permanently attached to my right hand - it's without doubt the best value item I've ever bought in terms of a cost-usage ratio.
Some (fool)hardy souls actually take their phones or tablets with them when they're having a bath. But just try having anything done under warranty if there's ANY sign of water ingress, even if it's just condensation that's made it into the case via capillary action. Being the cautious type, I always go for a book or magazine and enjoy turning real, actual pages again - something that I hardly ever do nowadays.
With a stock of old photo magazines, there's always the chance that I'll come across something that will make an interesting post for the blog - and so it proved tonight. It was a 1980 copy of Practical Photography that I was reading and towards the back of the mag was an article entitled Enlarging Lenses Revealed: How to Find Sharpness You Never Knew Existed. A total of 16 lenses were tested including a camera lens and a couple of old British optics from the post-Jurassic period.
Sharpness I never knew existed? Well, that's a pretty impressive promise so I eagerly devoured the contents. I can't say the article lived up to the hype but there were a few wee nuggets in there that made it worthwhile.
DIYHave you ever thought of using your 35mm camera as an enlarger? Can't say I have. But the guys at Practical Photography decided to do just that to test a Cosina standard camera lens. They put a Cosina CT-1 camera on a tripod, opened the back, loaded a roll of negatives and set the shutter on "B". Then they shone an angle poise lamp from the back and enveloped the whole thing bar the lens in a lightproof changing bag.
The negative was focused onto a baseboard and a red filter swung into place beneath the lens allowed them to position the printing paper. Ingenious - at least to me. Maybe you're all sitting there thinking, "Well, duh…" (The first person to leave a comment below saying "Well, duh…" is banned.)
And the results? From this jerry-rigged affair - bearing in mind there are 16 lenses on test here - the prints were adjudged to be the third best! All the others were used on enlargers. Phil Rogers arrived at a similar conclusion a while back when he did the same sort of test with a couple of enlarging lenses and a 50mm Elmar from his Leica M2.
So it just shows you, doesn't it? If you're keen enough then you can knock out some good prints using nothing more than a camera, a tripod, an angle poise lamp and a changing bag. Better still would be a copy stand to make sure the camera is parallel to the baseboard and an old, cheap and broken SLR like a Pentax MV with the shutter removed and the lens reversed. A grid of cheap LEDs would be a better, cooler light source as well and very easy to put together. You could get fancier still by adding a bellows unit between camera and lens for rough focusing, using the camera lens for fine focusing. In fact, somewhat ironically when enlargers can be picked up so cheaply nowadays, there's probably never been a better time to build a DIY version.
|The Janpol with built-in filters. A great idea but well|
executed? Read on...
A Noble BritThe second surprise was the performance of an old Dallmeyer 3.75" enlarging lens. They didn't say how old it was but it predated the metric sizing. It would have been an odd 83mm. Although they felt it was cheating in a way to use a medium format lens for 35mm negs because you're only using the sharper central portion of the lens (not everyone would agree with that. If you go here to a pdf book written by Ctein and scroll down to page 80 you can read his alternative theory although he does sort of agree where older lenses are used) the Dallmeyer came in sixth ahead of some Schneiders and a Rokkor.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, was provided by a cheap Phago 50mm f4.5 TE lens (an own brand from the old Polysales in the UK I think) which finished third. The magazine writer said, "We were astonished by the sharpness given by this lens, not just in the centre but even at the edges of the print - and even at the widest aperture, too!
"Perhaps it was a lucky fluke so we looked back to a test we ran in September 1972. And there we found that a Phago T was rated excellent, just one notch down from a Nikon f4.
"We couldn't believe it then, either, and asked for a second sample to try. And that was just as good."
Blurred visionPhagos can be picked up on Ebay for a tenner or less if you're lucky. The TE version has a sunken mount which takes the rear element closer to the negative. Some enlargers don't allow the lens to get close enough to the neg for proper focus on giant enlargements so this could be a useful feature.
For the record, the best lens on test was the 50mm F2.8 El-Nikkor followed by a 50mm f4 Schneider Componon. Bringing up the rear was a Janpol 55mm f5.6 which has built-in contrast filters but was "fuzzy" at every stop - with or without the filters in the light path!