Topic: VPK Meniscus as a portrait lens - the poor man's Thambar

In 1935 Leitz produced a legendary, magical portrait lens, the 2.2/90 Thambar, see e.g. http://www.shutterbug.com/equipmentrevi … 05classic/ . Only a relatively small number of Thambars was produced, and the price of the still existing specimens is quite high on the used lens marked, something between USD 1500 and 5000 (or even more). In addition to the high price, the Thambars have some shortcomings. They can only be used on LTM RF bodies, an essential component, the center stop filter, is often missing - and the bokeh is really horrendous due to the center filter, just like a mirror lens donut bokeh, see e.g. some of the photos at http://scottts.exblog.jp/i8 .

A VPK Meniscus lens used really wide open has a lot of spherical aberration and produces photos which are quite similar to the Thambar photos - only without the donut bokeh. I had forgot about the Thambar, but a posting on some forum brought it again to my mind and I decided to test my Meniscus as a portrait lens. Below are some shots taken during my festival trip. I have increased the contrast and applied some sharpening.

http://galactinus.net/vilva/retro/eos5d_meniscus_files/m9043_cs.jpg

http://galactinus.net/vilva/retro/eos5d_meniscus_files/m9044_cs.jpg

http://galactinus.net/vilva/retro/eos5d_meniscus_files/m9045_cs.jpg

http://galactinus.net/vilva/retro/eos5d_meniscus_files/m9049_cs.jpg

Comparing these to the Thambar example photos to be found on the web, I think my poor Meniscus is doing quite well.

  Veijo

VPK Meniscus Achromat , VPK Rapid Rectilinear, 1917 TTH Cooke Anastigmat, various 1930's Schneider-Kreuznach folder lenses
M42: Industar, Helios, Jupiter, Takumar, Schneider-Kreuznach, CZJ et al; Carl Zeiss for C/Y;
Leitz Wetzlar: 50mm Summicron-R (1st version), 60mm Macro-Elmarit-R, 90mm Elmarit-R (1st), 135mm Elmarit-R (2nd), 180mm Elmar-R, Elpro VIIa

Re: VPK Meniscus as a portrait lens - the poor man's Thambar

It would be interesting to compare on the same scenery. It is strange that the Thambar price is so high considering the limitations you mentioned.

Canon 350D, Nikkor 10.5mm 2.8,  CZ Distagon 18mm 4, Oly 21mm 3.5, CZ Distagon 28mm 2.8, CZ Distagon 35mm 1.4 HFT,  Canon 17-40l, CZ Planar 50mm 1.4 ZF, Tomioka 55mm 1.2,  CZ Planar 85mm 1.4, Canon 135mm 2 L
my galleries: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97676069@N00/,
http://picasaweb.google.com/ivmakarov,
my LJ: mr_equator.livejournal.com

Re: VPK Meniscus as a portrait lens - the poor man's Thambar

mr_Equator wrote:

It would be interesting to compare on the same scenery.

I have taken quite a lot of photos with the Meniscus under different conditions, see http://galactinus.net/vilva/retro/eos350d_meniscus.html , and there are a lot of photos taken with the Thambar to be found on the net so it is possible to make a reasonable comparison between the lenses.

It is strange that the Thambar price is so high considering the limitations you mentioned.

Well, it is a rare lens and mostly a collectors' item these days. As to the limitations, they were not limitations when the Thambar was designed -- it was designed to be used with the Leica rangefinder cameras mainly in studio settings without a distracting background. The idea was to produce dreamlike portraits, and in this the lens certainly succeeds, but similar enough results can be obtained with any lens which has a lot of uncorrected spherical aberration.

  Veijo

VPK Meniscus Achromat , VPK Rapid Rectilinear, 1917 TTH Cooke Anastigmat, various 1930's Schneider-Kreuznach folder lenses
M42: Industar, Helios, Jupiter, Takumar, Schneider-Kreuznach, CZJ et al; Carl Zeiss for C/Y;
Leitz Wetzlar: 50mm Summicron-R (1st version), 60mm Macro-Elmarit-R, 90mm Elmarit-R (1st), 135mm Elmarit-R (2nd), 180mm Elmar-R, Elpro VIIa

Re: VPK Meniscus as a portrait lens - the poor man's Thambar

This brings back memories:

Some time in the 80s, there was a sudden demand for VPKs with meniscus lens; dealers all over the UK (where I lived) shipped them in bulk to Japan. What happened was that a man there had a completely ruined VPK so as an experiment he salvaged the lens and took pictures with it, and found it much to his liking. He wrote and article in a photographic magazine, which created a demand for them: even mint condition VPKs were bought and smashed up for the piece of glass.

I have a special edition of a Japanese photographic magazine on lens mix-and-match adaptation, published in 2000 and it still contained an article on using the VPK meniscus. There again, I wonder; what if the original writer used a magnifying glass at his local dollar shop instead...

But when all is said and done, I think it can be interesting to make use of what one has at his disposal to create new uses. At another forum I proposed a home-made lens to an old Pulligny & Puyo design which was found to offer some possibilities:

Find two close-up supplementary lenses of identical strength, and mount them back to back to the ends of a suitable tube, the distance between them at one-sixth of the common focal length. Add a stop in the middle between them, if you like. I think the results would be quite fascinating.

Re: VPK Meniscus as a portrait lens - the poor man's Thambar

very interesting results, Veijo, in certain light conditions for some sceneries the lens can be very usefull.  However the boken produced by these two lenses looks different. Your meniscus lens gives a classical coma picture, in case of Thambar  the picture is more complicated which suggests more complicated optical design, may be some correction elements. I tried to google but didnt found the optical scheme of the lens. according to some it becomes very sharp, when stopped down.

Last edited by mr_Equator (2007-07-30 14:50:21)

Canon 350D, Nikkor 10.5mm 2.8,  CZ Distagon 18mm 4, Oly 21mm 3.5, CZ Distagon 28mm 2.8, CZ Distagon 35mm 1.4 HFT,  Canon 17-40l, CZ Planar 50mm 1.4 ZF, Tomioka 55mm 1.2,  CZ Planar 85mm 1.4, Canon 135mm 2 L
my galleries: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97676069@N00/,
http://picasaweb.google.com/ivmakarov,
my LJ: mr_equator.livejournal.com

Re: VPK Meniscus as a portrait lens - the poor man's Thambar

Although for a period, I do had access to a Thambar courtesy of my photo buddy. I had never find the lens any good. It might be the lens for portrait in its days with a screw mount Leica body. But I've found that many other alternative mean / lens far better. The strange Bokeh produced by the Thambar is a direct result of that special filter which is nothing more than a center silvered disk to clock light from entering and thus the image is almost . entirely imaged by the oblique entry beams which exhibit a large degree of Spherical Abbr deliberately designed into the optics.

As of today, my favorite soft focus lens ( other than my Large format Imagon and an unknown Old Brass for 8X10 and larger ) would be the Pentax SMC-Pentax 85/2.2 Soft focus. I've heard of good result from the Tamron SP Softfocus zoom and the Fujinon 85 Softfocus, but I had no experience with them. Considering how much a LensBaby cost today, I would stick with any of these older lens.

Re: VPK Meniscus as a portrait lens - the poor man's Thambar

mr_Equator wrote:

very interesting results, Veijo, in certain light conditions for some sceneries the lens can be very usefull.  However the boken produced by these two lenses looks different. Your meniscus lens gives a classical coma picture, in case of Thambar  the picture is more complicated which suggests more complicated optical design, may be some correction elements. I tried to google but didnt found the optical scheme of the lens. according to some it becomes very sharp, when stopped down.

The Thambar donut bokeh is the result of the center filter which completely blocks the on-axis rays, just the way the front mirror of a mirror lens does. Without the filter, the lens comes reasonably sharp when stopped down. NB. the filter must be removed when stopping down otherwise it becomes a visible obstruction - you can test the effect by placing a 5-10 mm wide patch in the center of a fast lens and varying the aperture. The Meniscus bokeh is quite round at the center of the frame but changes more and more towards a coma form off center.

  Veijo

VPK Meniscus Achromat , VPK Rapid Rectilinear, 1917 TTH Cooke Anastigmat, various 1930's Schneider-Kreuznach folder lenses
M42: Industar, Helios, Jupiter, Takumar, Schneider-Kreuznach, CZJ et al; Carl Zeiss for C/Y;
Leitz Wetzlar: 50mm Summicron-R (1st version), 60mm Macro-Elmarit-R, 90mm Elmarit-R (1st), 135mm Elmarit-R (2nd), 180mm Elmar-R, Elpro VIIa

Re: VPK Meniscus as a portrait lens - the poor man's Thambar

vilva wrote:

The Thambar donut bokeh is the result of the center filter which completely blocks the on-axis rays, just the way the front mirror of a mirror lens does. Without the filter, the lens comes reasonably sharp when stopped down. NB. the filter must be removed when stopping down otherwise it becomes a visible obstruction - you can test the effect by placing a 5-10 mm wide patch in the center of a fast lens and varying the aperture. The Meniscus bokeh is quite round at the center of the frame but changes more and more towards a coma form off center.

  Veijo

This explains it. placing such a spot in the Fourier plane would produce classical high-pass filter and reveal the phase information. We do exactly the opposite by closing the aperture.

Canon 350D, Nikkor 10.5mm 2.8,  CZ Distagon 18mm 4, Oly 21mm 3.5, CZ Distagon 28mm 2.8, CZ Distagon 35mm 1.4 HFT,  Canon 17-40l, CZ Planar 50mm 1.4 ZF, Tomioka 55mm 1.2,  CZ Planar 85mm 1.4, Canon 135mm 2 L
my galleries: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97676069@N00/,
http://picasaweb.google.com/ivmakarov,
my LJ: mr_equator.livejournal.com