My Graflex Speed Graphic and Dallmeyer Pentac 8in f2.9 aerial lens are finally an item! and, I’m delighted to say that I’m pretty happy with the results. Following on from my post here, I purchased a custom made lens board from Jo Lommen to mount the huge aerial lens on to the camera. It’s fair to say that the resulting combination of camera and lens is perhaps a bit on the cumbersome side and the possibility of hand holding has diminished somewhat but mounted on a solid tripod it’s real nice to use!
I shot the image below just a couple of days back on some Polaroid Type 51 film that expired in 1999. The positive images are unusable but the negatives turn out just fine. Due to it’s age I’ve been rating it at 80 asa and developing it for twice the suggested time. The picture (of my wife) was snatched in a bit of a rush at the end of the day, the exposure was 1/30th at f2.9 (wide open) and was shot using a very sturdy pod. I wasn’t expecting wide open performance to be as good as it is and was pleasantly surprised at how sharp it is, I think it renders the background quite nicely too – I wasn’t entirely sure just how smooth the bokeh would appear. I focussed on the ground glass with a loupe – the Kalart rangefinder could be calibrated but it’s unlikely I’d ever shoot that way and it’s a slight pain to do if you have as little patience as me.
I’ve read reports of varying quality with these aerial lenses. It seems some were produced in a great hurry during WWII and consequently were better (or worse) than others. Mine was made by the National Optical Company (NOC) in Leicester which I believe was a sister factory of Taylor Hobson, it doesn’t carry the Air Ministry badge on it and is made of brass. I’m really happy with it. I was concerned that it wouldn’t perform so good at portrait distances since it was probably designed to shoot best at infinity but I’m really quite pleasantly surprised! I’ve added a lens hood in the guise of a Mamiya 77mm effort that covers up to a 350mm lens and it seems to shade the lens nicely and happens to be a well made hood – good quality heavy rubber.
So, in a nutshell I’m pretty impressed with my first test with this combo. It’ll be interesting to see how it performs with colour stock which I’ll try and shoot soon, I have some nice Portra lying in the fridge waiting on some nice light and a suitable subject. Thanks for reading and feel free to ask me any questions here on anything photo related!