Wednesday, May 23, 2018

CORRECTING A MISTAKE IN PORTRAIT LIGHTING





I took this portrait some time ago with a Leica Digilux 2 and I thought it didn’t turn out too bad.  Since then I have posted it several times and always received very positive comments on it.  Not so when my sister saw it a while back.

We both followed in the footsteps of our father in becoming professional photographers.  Since then she has turned into a very accomplished portrait photographer with numerous award winning photographs.

Her comment regarding this photograph was “Nicht sehr gut.  Lichtzange.”  Nicht sehr gut (not very good) caught my attention.  Unfortunately, the emphasis is on the word Lichtzange which is one of those words for which there is no direct translation.  After all, what does “light pliers” mean?  It refers to lighting where two light sources are competing with each other by illuminating the subject from opposite directions.

One basic approach to lighting her portraits was always that there is only one sun.  Because of that we are all accustomed to see things with light coming from only one direction.  She has always followed her studio lighting along that principle and so have I - usually.

Of course, studio lighting allows for considerable variations, and her approach certainly is not carved in stone.  But her comment made me take another look and I have to say, she is right.

Looking at the original result, it is obvious that I used two light sources from opposite direction.  The result is that the left side of the model (the right side of the photograph) is much too light.  It totally contradicts the more dramatic lighting on the right side.

I have always promoted to set up portrait lighting by visually controlling it.  Preconceived ideas and lighting by numbers (lighting ratios) will never take the individual in front of the camera into consideration.  That is one of the reasons why I consider modeling lights so very important.  They allow you to see what the lighting actually looks like.  They prevent a lot of trial and error work.


Well, this is one instance where I didn’t see what I was actually doing.  So is this something that can be corrected?  The answer is “sort of”.  I don’t agree at all looking at Photoshop as a means to correct mistakes.  It is always preferable to avoid mistakes in the first place.  But I gave it a try.  After all, the mistake had been made.  So I darkened much of the left side of the model to make the fill light much less pronounced.  In addition I worked on the right side of the face by lightening the shadows, again to lessen the effect of the fill light.


The result is far from perfect.  That would require correct lighting in the first place.  But I think it is a definite improvement.  What do you think?  Comments are very much welcome.


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Monday, May 21, 2018

BIOTAR – A NEW ALTERNATIVE LENS WORTHY OF A LEICA



One of the best reasons to use a Leica are the Leica lenses.  But they all come at a premium price.  It should come as no surprise that many are looking for alternatives without entering too much of a compromise.  As of late a popular approach has been to resurrect some of the famous lenses of yesterday.

An international team of engineers and manufacturers joined forces to return the famous Zeiss Biotar 75/1.5.  It is probably the most legendary lens ever produced in Jena, Germany.

It is a six lens gauss type optical scheme whose design dates back to the year 1927 when famous lens designer Willi Merté developed his first Biotar which was designed for cinematography.  In the 1930th Merté continued to improve the Biotar lenses among which the 75mm/1.5 reached legendary status. The Biotar 75/1.5 was first introduced in 1938, sales began to pick up with a presentation at the Leipzig Spring Fair in 1940.

But due to second world war and to its high price at the time it remained a very special lens for the selected few. Until today it has become one of the most expensive vintage lenses easily selling for over a thousand dollars – if you get a usable one.

Even during its time in production it was an unfulfilled dream for most photographers as it took a two month salary for an average engineer of its time to buy this lens. Very few were actually produced but their quality was so outstanding that some are still in use today.




Its sharpness at the center in conjunction with a dramatic swirly bokeh is legendary. At open aperture the Biotar 75 is as sharp as can be in the center of the image and it renders the famous and sought after swirling bokeh to the side. The image gets an almost three dimensional complexion with the object stepping out in front of the viewer. The feel of the image is at the same time somewhat delicate which generates great contrast in available light situations with clear shadows and lights in the background.



The “swirly bokeh” is an outstanding feature of this lens. This means that out-of-focus highlights in the background are subdued and at the same time rendered in a circular fashion. You can see this effect clearly in the following image.  This specific feature of the lens creates an eye catching effect and the impact on the viewer is almost surrealistic.


Already at f2.0 contrast goes up dramatically and at f 5.6 to 8 the optimum sharpness is obtained. It is better than many so called modern high end lenses of today. The color correction of the lens is outstanding. There is no lateral chromatic aberration as it is almost apochromatic in its effect. Talking to photographers they start to rave about the lens and its abilities not only in portraiture photography but also for landscaping and nature.

The Biotar 75 was considered the fastest portrait lens of its time and not many faster ones have ben build over time. Due to its high price, which would translate into something close to eight to ten thousand dollars today, the lens was manufactured in relatively small numbers. But over time photographers around the world cherished the lens not only for portraiture but for so much more, especially fashion, sports, wedding, architecture and even macro. But see for yourselves.



The Biotar 75 is legendary but it was the goal to maintain the exact Biotar characteristics while carefully improving the mechanical aspects and making it feasible for modern camera equipment and different mounts. So at the center of the development was to ensure the lenses ability to produce crystal sharp images at the center of the picture with a dramatic but not overly aggressive swirling bokeh at open aperture and its crystal overall sharpness at f 5.6 or f 8.0. It took several iterations to reach this goal. 

Furthermore the design of the lens was slightly changed. The later versions of the Biotar had a somewhat different look and it was the goal to come closer to the early versions with a straighter silhouette than the later ones and a very fine surface with a silver shine like it used to be in the thirties of the last century.

The goal was not to create a “looks like a famous vintage lens” but to follow the legendary imaging abilities of the Biotar and gently change the mechanical design of the lens and reach a more modern but still classic design that pays respect to this legend.

By using modern glasses and hi-end coating some disadvantages of the earlier Biotar lenses due to reflections on the surfaces could be avoided while maintaining all advantages. The 15 aperture blades of the new Biotar support the creation of the swirly bokeh and are of course made from steel and with a special anti-reflective coating.

The lens will be available in the Leica M mount with rangefinder coupling. 

optical construction of the Biotar 75mm




For complete information go here


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