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Voigtlander Bessa III / III Wide Celebrating the two modern Voigtlander 120 film cameras, the 667 Bessa III and Bessa III Wide.

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Too contrasty?
Old 06-29-2010   #1
Jamie123
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Too contrasty?

I love to take pictures with my Bessa III but DAMN this lens is contrasty! Even with 'neutral' color film the contrast is pretty strong in sunlight. It's not necessarily a bad thing but I'm starting to wonder whether this kind of look is not something I can also get from my DSLR (blasphemy!). I shoot medium format film for the soft gradations it produces, not for the resolution.

Anyways, I'll thoroughly put the camera through it's paces on my vacation to the US in August. After that I'll have to evaluate whether or not I'll keep the Bessa or whether I sell it and 'downgrade' to a Mamya 7II.

Just some of my late night thoughts. Maybe I'll change my mind tomorrow
What do you guys who also have the camera think about this?
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Old 06-29-2010   #2
Juan Valdenebro
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I don't have the camera but for sure that sharp contrasty lens must produce great results under direct sun with low contrast color negative film generously exposed... I meter Portra 160 NC at +2/3 with TTL camera metering: at ISO 100 with or without warming filter. And for more precise incident metering (and warming filter) at ISO 40. If you don't like the warming filter under direct sun, test a roll at ISO 50 incident: great color and controlled contrast...

Cheers,

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Old 06-29-2010   #3
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I have seen lots of high contrast examples from the III - can you easily edit it out in post?
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Old 06-29-2010   #4
John NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie123 View Post
I love to take pictures with my Bessa III but DAMN this lens is contrasty! Even with 'neutral' color film the contrast is pretty strong in sunlight. It's not necessarily a bad thing but I'm starting to wonder whether this kind of look is not something I can also get from my DSLR (blasphemy!). I shoot medium format film for the soft gradations it produces, not for the resolution.

Anyways, I'll thoroughly put the camera through it's paces on my vacation to the US in August. After that I'll have to evaluate whether or not I'll keep the Bessa or whether I sell it and 'downgrade' to a Mamya 7II.

Just some of my late night thoughts. Maybe I'll change my mind tomorrow
What do you guys who also have the camera think about this?
What kind of pictures are you making that you think it is letting you down on, subject-wise?

I seem to recall you have a Hasselblad also? I've not used a Mamiya, but it doesn't have the same lens signature syrup as the Hasselblad, from the shots I've seen.
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Old 06-29-2010   #5
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In the limited time I had Australia's 'Travellig Bessa' I liked the camera but not so much the lens. Sharp and contrasty but not really a lot of character IMO.

I supect with long term ownership and more chance to experiment with different films that opinion might change ... two weeks is not long!
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Old 06-29-2010   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John NYC View Post
What kind of pictures are you making that you think it is letting you down on, subject-wise?

I seem to recall you have a Hasselblad also? I've not used a Mamiya, but it doesn't have the same lens signature syrup as the Hasselblad, from the shots I've seen.
I actually use it for everything from portraits to general street or landscape stuff. The thing is I'm using Portra 400NC (my standard film) but the colors are really punchy and the highlights are a bit too bright.
I used to have a Hasselblad but sold it and bought the Bessa III. The lenses on the Hasselblad were great but it was a bit too bulky a kit to lug around and I wanted to shoot 6x7. I know the Mamiya lenses don't have the same lens signature as the Hasselblad lenses but going back to Hasselblad is not really an option for me as I don't want to be restricted to the square.
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Old 06-29-2010   #7
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Originally Posted by akremer View Post
I have seen lots of high contrast examples from the III - can you easily edit it out in post?
It's a lot easier to increase contrast in post than to decrease it. You can dial down the saturation and recover some highlights by doing multiple scans with lower light intensity but it's a hassle.
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Old 06-30-2010   #8
Arvay
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Try to increase gamma value before scanning.
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Old 06-30-2010   #9
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Over exposure might help a bit. Tends to even out most of your scene and give you some even contrast. I normally rate my 400 NC at 250 and get some decent results.
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Old 06-30-2010   #10
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Originally Posted by kzphoto View Post
Over exposure might help a bit. Tends to even out most of your scene and give you some even contrast. I normally rate my 400 NC at 250 and get some decent results.
I'll definitely try overexposure. Actually, the Bessa's meter tends to underexpose a bit so that might be one of the reasons why I'm getting so much contrast.
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Old 06-30-2010   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kzphoto View Post
Over exposure might help a bit. Tends to even out most of your scene and give you some even contrast. I normally rate my 400 NC at 250 and get some decent results.
Yes, agree. Over-exposing Portra NC is really the "look" that most people think of when talking about Portra NC.
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Old 07-01-2010   #12
Harry Lime
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I've tamed high contrast lenses with a 2-bath developer. The compensating action gives you endless tonality. For anything up to 400 asa try Barry Thornton's 2-bath.
Completely idiot proof, costs pennies to make and produces outstanding results.
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Old 07-01-2010   #13
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Originally Posted by Harry Lime View Post
I've tamed high contrast lenses with a 2-bath developer. The compensating action gives you endless tonality. For anything up to 400 asa try Barry Thornton's 2-bath.
Completely idiot proof, costs pennies to make and produces outstanding results.
Does it do color C-41?
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Old 07-01-2010   #14
Juan Valdenebro
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As Harry, I thought you were thinking your lens produces high contrast in general, and not that all C-41 films produce high contrast in general... Now seriously, that 2-bath development goes beyond pulling, and can be decisive when both sunny and shadows areas require a good tonal range... As in a church with a light beam through a window, where more exposure and less development just aren't enough to make it... Forum member charjohncarter has posted great examples...

Cheers,

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Last edited by Juan Valdenebro : 07-01-2010 at 14:34.
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Old 07-01-2010   #15
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Remember that with negative film, there's a printer or scanner between the neg and what you see... The lab setup affects the output.

Over-exposing C41 films about a stop does indeed reduce contrast a bit, increases shadow detail and overall smoothness and color saturation.
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Old 07-01-2010   #16
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I share your pain about the weight of the Hassy. I finally gave up on carrying mine on a strap and found a little side case for it at the thrift store. It works much better that way, as long as it's on one of those wide elastic straps. Nothing I did got it to hand properly on a strap.

Are you scanning your own negs? It's a simple process to turn down the contrast in Photoshop, and/or desaturate the shot at the same time. There's also some Fuji films out there (someone will have to help me out on this because I seldom shoot color, but I know it's available) that have a less saturated look. That's generally the first area to look at. Switch films and see how that goes.
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Old 07-01-2010   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Juan Valdenebro View Post
As Harry, I thought you were thinking your lens produces high contrast in general, and not that all C-41 films produce high contrast in general... Now seriously, that 2-bath development goes beyond pulling, and can be decisive when both sunny and shadows areas require a good tonal range... As in a church with a light beam through a window, where more exposure and less development just aren't enough to make it... Forum member charjohncarter has posted great examples...

Cheers,

Juan
Harry is right about the two bath method. It does reduce the 'too contrasty' problem. But I think Harry and I, although we use slightly different methods, will use these methods with any lens (not just 'too contrasy' lenses). Of course, Harry and I are talking about B&W film.

My problem with the OP statement is that I'm not sure that C-41 is inherently high contrast. My experience is even with a high contrast lenses C-41 will produce acceptable results. I recently took these in Mexico under blazing sun with a very cheap camera (Canon AS-6):

Shady side, into the sun:



Heavy sun but shaded side is still not blocked:



Just a note I did find a few complaints about Bessa III and a high contrast lens. Just how significant that is, is out of my knowledge level.

Last edited by charjohncarter : 07-01-2010 at 17:58.
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Old 07-01-2010   #18
Jamie123
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Juan Valdenebro View Post
As Harry, I thought you were thinking your lens produces high contrast in general, and not that all C-41 films produce high contrast in general... Now seriously, that 2-bath development goes beyond pulling, and can be decisive when both sunny and shadows areas require a good tonal range... As in a church with a light beam through a window, where more exposure and less development just aren't enough to make it... Forum member charjohncarter has posted great examples...

Cheers,

Juan
Oh, I wasn't trying to suggest that all C-41 films produce high contrast in general, I was really just talking about this lens. What I meant was, while a two bath developer sounds like an adequate method for black&white film it doesn't do me much good because I almost exclusively shoot color c-41.
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Old 07-01-2010   #19
Jamie123
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Originally Posted by Steve M. View Post
I share your pain about the weight of the Hassy. I finally gave up on carrying mine on a strap and found a little side case for it at the thrift store. It works much better that way, as long as it's on one of those wide elastic straps. Nothing I did got it to hand properly on a strap.

Are you scanning your own negs? It's a simple process to turn down the contrast in Photoshop, and/or desaturate the shot at the same time. There's also some Fuji films out there (someone will have to help me out on this because I seldom shoot color, but I know it's available) that have a less saturated look. That's generally the first area to look at. Switch films and see how that goes.
I'm scanning my own negs on a Nikon 9000ED so I have quite a lot of control over the process. I'm also sufficiently proficient in PS to do the required adjustments in order to get the colors I want. My problem however is that I'm starting to feel that I can't quite get the soft gradations I'm used to with medium format film with this lens. For me this has always been the 'medium format advantage' and it's the reason why I'm still shooting film next to digital.
As for the film I'm pretty set on Kodak Portra 400NC which is pretty neutral.
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Old 07-02-2010   #20
John NYC
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Originally Posted by Jamie123 View Post
As for the film I'm pretty set on Kodak Portra 400NC which is pretty neutral.
I've got a roll of 400NC in my Bessa III right now. I'll let you know how mine turns out. Believe it or not, this will be the first time a roll of Portra NC has been in this camera for me!
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Old 07-03-2010   #21
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Just some of my late night thoughts. Maybe I'll change my mind tomorrow
Yesterday I came across this discussion, it looks like Alpa MF camera owners had a similar desire and Alpa responded to it:
http://photo.net/medium-format-photography-forum/00AM2W

The Technicar discussed there is a rebranded Rodenstock Ysarex, the same lens type was used on the Polaroid Pathfinder 110a/b but 127mm then. It had and still has a good reputation as a portrait lens. A converted Pathfinder 110b may be a good alternative if it has to be a folder. Bigger though.

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Old 07-03-2010   #22
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Originally Posted by Jamie123 View Post
I'm scanning my own negs on a Nikon 9000ED so I have quite a lot of control over the process. I'm also sufficiently proficient in PS to do the required adjustments in order to get the colors I want. My problem however is that I'm starting to feel that I can't quite get the soft gradations I'm used to with medium format film with this lens. For me this has always been the 'medium format advantage' and it's the reason why I'm still shooting film next to digital.
As for the film I'm pretty set on Kodak Portra 400NC which is pretty neutral.
The Nikon 8000 that I use + wet mounting the films tends to keep contrast high. Main problem the shadow parts in negative films with normal exposure. So I expose longer, 3/4 to 2/3 the ISO number of color negative and B&W film. But that is with older Tessar type folder lenses. No way I can hold detail and tone in shadow ranges when someone brings me a Hasselblad Planar negative at normal ISO setting. I then switch to the Epson V700 + wetmounting, that is a more contrast reducing scan workflow.

I think something can be gained with a slightly difusing glass in the Nikon wetmounting holder I have right now but have not experimented yet with that. I would then switch to having the film underneath the glass instead of on top.The Minolta Scanhancer solution is related but in that case it was to solve a pepper grain effect, for contrast a slightly less drastic method should work.

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Old 07-03-2010   #23
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The Nikon 8000 that I use + wet mounting the films tends to keep contrast high. Main problem the shadow parts in negative films with normal exposure. So I expose longer, 3/4 to 2/3 the ISO number of color negative and B&W film. But that is with older Tessar type folder lenses. No way I can hold detail and tone in shadow ranges when someone brings me a Hasselblad Planar negative at normal ISO setting. I then switch to the Epson V700 + wetmounting, that is a more contrast reducing scan workflow.

I think something can be gained with a slightly difusing glass in the Nikon wetmounting holder I have right now but have not experimented yet with that. I would then switch to having the film underneath the glass instead of on top.The Minolta Scanhancer solution is related but in that case it was to solve a pepper grain effect, for contrast a slightly less drastic method should work.

met vriendelijke groeten, Ernst Dinkla

Try: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Wide_Inkjet_Printers/
I think one possible way to reduce contrast with the Nikon may be to adjust the Gamma setting as suggested in an earlier response.
While I have also noticed the blown out highlights issue with the Nikon in comparison to my Epson 4990, I don't see why the Nikon should have any technical shortcomings in this regard. I think the reason why the Epsons don't blow out highlights that quickly is that the light source is too weak to begin with so all. The Nikon light source can be adjusted manually so one should be able to get this right.

I also started saving the Nikon scans as .NEF files so I can adjust them to my liking in Adobe Camera Raw with the fill light and recovery sliders.

I will start overexposing the negs a little, though, to see if I can get less contrast with the Bessa.

As for lenses, I loved the look of the Hasselblad lenses back when I still had one. Not too contrasty at all in my opinion.
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Old 07-03-2010   #24
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I think one possible way to reduce contrast with the Nikon may be to adjust the Gamma setting as suggested in an earlier response.
While I have also noticed the blown out highlights issue with the Nikon in comparison to my Epson 4990, I don't see why the Nikon should have any technical shortcomings in this regard. I think the reason why the Epsons don't blow out highlights that quickly is that the light source is too weak to begin with so all. The Nikon light source can be adjusted manually so one should be able to get this right.

I also started saving the Nikon scans as .NEF files so I can adjust them to my liking in Adobe Camera Raw with the fill light and recovery sliders.

I will start overexposing the negs a little, though, to see if I can get less contrast with the Bessa.

As for lenses, I loved the look of the Hasselblad lenses back when I still had one. Not too contrasty at all in my opinion.
Well I went that way too by saving 16 bit RAWs from Vuescan. So before any gamma choice is made. In essence that plus the shortest exposure per sample possible with Vuescan doesn't do it. One way or another, the little density differences visible in the negatives are blown out on the Nikon, simply not there in the Raw scan. Wetmounting probably making it worse in that case.

The Epson certainly doesn't have the dynamic range of the Nikon so a compromise has to be found on contrasty negatives but with subtle definitions of shadows in the negatives it makes the better scan. The kind of negatives that were preferred for the darkroom to keep grain small and hold sharp detail are easier done on the Epson than the Nikon.

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Old 07-04-2010   #25
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I will start overexposing the negs a little, though, to see if I can get less contrast with the Bessa.

As for lenses, I loved the look of the Hasselblad lenses back when I still had one. Not too contrasty at all in my opinion.
The overexposing helps as more have mentioned here. Doesn't make (aliased) grain smaller though.

On the choice of an alternative camera I thought about the Chris Perez article that compared the Hasselblad etc with the Mamiya 7. The last will not bring back what you had with the Hasselblad = that not too contrasty negative. Of course there's a choice of lenses but more limited with the Mamiya.


http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/test/fourcameras.html

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