How to use PhotoLab 5 on images created with very old lenses, that have "Character"

While looking through my old Leica gear, much of it unused for perhaps 60 years I found a 35mm Summaron f/3.5 lens that was introduced in 1945. It has little in common with today’s lenses, and the things we now consider “important” in a lens were apparently meaningless in the photo world that long ago. I don’t remember how or why I even have it. I did find a fascinating article describing the lens, as seen in today’s world.

My original intent was to use this lens on my old Leica M2 film camera, expecting it to be a regular wide angle lens for black&white photography. After reading the article, I think I’ll use it on my M10, in full color.

I’m sitting here now, wondering how this very strange lens will, or won’t allow me to capture what it’s known for, when using PL5 - which is designed to correct every little detail of a camera and/or lens to create the “perfect image”. To quote from the first part of the article: “Overall the Summaron 35mm is a very intriguing lens that is well suited for black and white and artistic photography. It combines many aspects such as vignetting, softness and contrast to create some very unique looking images.

If anyone is interested, read the article I linked to. I suspect that many of us have very old lenses from so long ago, that are packed away somewhere after being replaced with modern lenses. If the weather tomorrow is nice, I’ll try it out on the M10, although it was only intended for film, as nothing else existed at the time. :slight_smile:

The advantage of developing a RAW file is that one can adjust as little or as much as one wants. So I don’t see why you couldn’t keep all of the Summaron’s imperfections in your photos. Or even add many such imperfections to an image that lacks them. I find that with PhotoLab, FilmPack, and something with filters such as the Nik Collection it’s fairly easy to start with a “perfect” image from a certain camera and lens and turn it into something with more “character.”

Not for me. I would prefer to do it in the camera. Beyond a certain point, it’s like “sky replacement” for me, which I’m not really interested in. I can’t say exactly where that point is, but it’s like with infrared, where I want to actually take an image with infrared light, not make a normal image look like it was done with infrared. I guess I spent too much of my past life with “photojournalism” ethics.

I agree with what you wrote, but that’s not something I’m currently interested in - but for other types of photography, I’d say sure - anything goes. Art and advertising are wide open for ideas like what you wrote.

Even my strange colored infrared images are just trying to do what I did years ago with an infrared filter and Kodak Ektachrome Infrared film - which what I’m trying to create now in digital.

“Character” describes well the way old lenses render images on sensors and film. I love to use 30 or 40 years old Nikkor-lenses mounted on DSLRs so I think I know what you mean. DxO PhotoLab won’t recognize those vintage lenses automatically so their optical “faults” will remain uncorrected - as far as you don’t touch any manual controls. It’s completely up to you weather or not altering those images. Maybe it’s worth a try to reduce your image editing to a minimum: Just a tad more contrast here, a little less saturation there - usually that’s my approach when using these old gems.

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Apply the “No Correction” preset and all the character (a friendlier word for shortcomings compared to current expectations) should show. Use this colour rendering as a starting point for further exploration:

Thanks @platypus - I’ve never even seen that menu. Sure, if the lens is clear enough to use, I’ll try that.

Hmm, I’ve got a box full of those old lenses that I figured I would never use again, and I was considering selling them to KEH, who won’t pay much for them. Maybe I’ll keep them, and t ry what you have been doing.

So, is it “character”, or “faults”? Until now, I never considered these issues as being “character”. The lenses may not fit on my “better” Nikons, but they will all fit and work on my Nikon Df. Until now, I would have thought “yeah, but why do it?”

But only if you want it to. As Greg has indicated, you don’t have to do anything in PL if you don’t want to and Platypus shows how to “minimise” interference but setting the “No Correction” preset and the most neutral colour rendering.

I took a quick look at an image off the lens in the article and it appears that one of its “faults” is that it is an uncoated lens, which is what gives pictures taken with it that misty, soft appearance.

This is typical of older lenses, it is known as flare and that was the subject of a 1½ hour long presentation I once endured at an LF photo conference on the subject of “Flare and how to avoid it”, where the speaker went on, and on, and on, and… about the optical science of flare, only to end up by, essentially, saying get a multi-coated lens or put up with it.

Of course, unless you include lights in the frame, you can mitigate it to some extent by using a lens hood but, since most digital photographers don’t use anything other than multi-coated lenses, lens hoods seem to mostly get ignored unless it’s on long telephoto lenses, where it becomes part of the “mine is longer than yours” syndrome :crazy_face:

Oops, I’m guilty too. I’ve got to feeling the only reason for using a lens hood was to protect the glass. Now that you’ve said that, it is so obvious. I did order a lens hood for my new 50mm Voigtlander, but it was only for “protection”. Lens flare? Ancient history… until one of us digs out our horse and buggy, and tries to use it for transportation, and then all the old “issues” come right back!

The sun is just coming up, but the lighting outside is/was very flat. I took a few photos with my M10 and this lens - this is the first.

(M) = “No Correction”
(VC1) = Neutral color, realistic tonality (Gamma 2.2) Intensity 66 as @platypus suggested.
(VC2) = just editing the photo as I normally would, nothing special.

L1003553 | 2021-11-20.dng (23.9 MB)

L1003553 | 2021-11-20.dng.dop (36.9 KB)

Export of Master

…shooting into the sun, which was hidden behind the clouds, no correction preset

When all the test photos were done, I tried to take a “real” photo, as best I could, to see what I might expect from this lens. I suspect that this photo might confirm that the lens has “stuff” inside it that needs to be cleaned, sort of like shooting through a dirty filter.

I’m underwhelmed by what I see. After all the hype, I expected more. Perhaps I just don’t appreciate what I’m seeing, but the weather outside was very clear and everything looked “brilliant” to my eyes.

That lens has character (flaws) indeed, but it’s resolution is not too bad, although I have problems finding which parts are actually in focus. I’d use the lens for portrait work rather than for repro.

Starting point with gamma 2.2 (to show what’s going on)

Just a bit of tone curve…

My guess is, that the focus is near the boats, although it’s hard to say. The bigger boat’s name can be read, resolution is not too bad…but contrast is low. Also, the shot is underexposed by about 2 stops…and I corrected this with the tone curve:

Adding some fine contrast increases the notion of sharpness, but that’s not what I’d go for with this lens anyway.

I don’t think the problem is flare from an uncoated lens as it is evident, no matter whether you are shooting into or with the light.

Have you tried cleaning the lens? :woozy_face: :wink: :rofl: If you have done the outside, what does it look like looking through it?

I did a quick edit of the master, adding 1 stop of exposure, 50 of ClearView Plus and 45 of Fine Contrast.

Talking about flare, here is a, iPhone shot of the “studio” setup for today’s Still Life pictures. Note the compendium lens hood to avoid flare from the side lighting…

Front and back are clean and shiny, although I haven’t tried anything yet because it’s too easy to damage the glass. Unfortunately looking through the lens, it looks like fog - mold? After seeing that, I’m surprised the lens worked at all.

I thought it was essentially a worthless, $50 lens, but B&H has a used one for sale for $600 !! Why? Two days ago I ordered a brand new “China-chrome” for $280, and if I don’t like it, I can return it of course.

I’m not a collector, and may just sell the old lens to someone who just wants to put it on a shelf.

What I had in mind, was a 35mm lens for my M2, for “walkabouts” emphasizing street photography. The 7Artisans version should arrive tomorrow - I’ll try it first on my M10.

I’m sorry now I even posted this thread - the lens is nothing like what I expected, and that @platypus considers it reasonably sharp is a miracle. Even if I knew how to do it, I don’t have any of the tools to disassemble it for cleaning. It has had 60 years of neglect since I got it, and who knows what anyone did before that.

I keep telling myself I should give it one more chance though, as the weather outside is so hazy, even today.

(If it wasn’t worth so much to a collector, I’d maybe try to do it myself:
RE: [Leica] Disassembly of 35 Summaron )

Two final photos, one taken when the camera indicated correct exposure, and the second one exposed more until the histogram was centered:

L1003561 | 2021-11-20.dng (25.3 MB)
L1003561 | 2021-11-20.dng.dop (11.5 KB)

and next photo, exposed more:
L1003563 | 2021-11-20.dng (28.0 MB)
L1003563 | 2021-11-20.dng.dop (11.5 KB)

Export from first photo:

And export from second photo
(I think the haze in the lens is being lit up, and that is what is causing so much flare)

I may ask the guys at Southern Photo if they can clean the lens for me. Or, I may forget the whole idea. I think I’m just wasting my time, and yours… but I guess I’m learning new stuff at the same time.

I think that the lens is reasonably sharp for a 70 year old kit. I’d not venture into DIY cleaning though. You can always invest in pro cleaning and then try to sell - or use it.

Having watched this video from beginning to end, I am very tempted to buy the same tools, and do it myself.
I wish I had learned this 20 or 40 years ago.
There is nothing in this video that seems to be beyond what I can do.
If you have time, watch the video - it’s fascinating!
(But meanwhile, I don’t see myself moving on with this lens for quite some time, unless my friends at Southern Photo Technical Service say they can do it for a reasonable cost, in the next few days…)