Cooke Series II F4.5 Variable Soft Focus Lens First Print

December 21, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Cooke Series II F4.5 Variable Soft Focus Lens First Print by Tim LaytonCooke Series II F4.5 Variable Soft Focus Lens First Print by Tim Layton The Taylor, Taylor & Hobson company of Leicester, England and later of New York, began their production of soft-focus lenses about 1898.

The first model was the Cooke Series II which was first sold about 1898 and this is the lens that I own.  

You can learn more about this lens on my Cooke Series II page where I share the history, background, and additional details about this lens.

Based on the fact that the Series IIA lens was introduced in 1910, I know my lens was most likely made between 1898 and 1910 making it over 100 years old at a minimum.

Cooke Series II F4.5 Soft Focus 13 Inch Large Format Vintage Lens by Tim LaytonCooke Series II F4.5 Soft Focus 13 Inch Large Format Vintage Lens by Tim Layton One of the things that I love most about this lens is that I can get two different looks from this one lens. 

I can create the vintage soft focus Pictorialist style image or a very sharp image, however, the sharpness and contrast is different than you will find in modern day contemporary lenses. 

For this first print, I shot the lens wide open at F4.5 and applied the maximum soft focus effect.

I wanted to see how it would perform wide open and I was really impressed. 

The design and engineering of the Cooke Series II is still a marvel in the 21st century in my opinion.  As photographer's we are able to control the amount of diffusion with this lens and at any setting it is applied evenly edge to edge. 

I find the sharpness of this lens to be more like what the human eye resolves which is a natural rendering of a scene versus the clinical and possibly over-sharpened style of contemporary lenses.  Some modern lenses are so sharp that it starts to border on too sharp, depending on the key subject. 

Cooke Series II Maximum SharpnessCooke Series II Maximum Sharpness If you refer to the 1898 advertisement to the left, notice by unscrewing the back lens exactly 3 turns, the maximum definition is obtained!

For this first print, I unscrewed the rear element three times and also applied the maximum soft focus effect by fully rotating the front element in the clockwise direction. 

The Cooke Series II lens utilized the same diffusion principal as the Dallmeyer Patent Portrait lens, that is, by moving a lens element in relation to the other elements to add varying degrees of spherical aberrations to the lens.

I feel like the unscrewing three turns method is like a secret the designers created and unless you are knowledgable about the lens, you would never know that was possible. 

I have the lens mounted on a Sinar type lensboard which I frequently use on my Chamonix 8x10 View Camera and a Sinar Copal Shutter.  This shutter allows me to use faster speed sheet films with my vintage barrel lenses, and even for longer exposures, the shutter eliminates the need for me to use my lens cap as the shutter. 

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8x10 Large Format Contact Print

Cooke Series II @ F4.5 Contact Print by Tim LaytonCooke Series II @ F4.5 Contact Print by Tim Layton

Free Analog Photography Journal by Tim LaytonFree Analog Photography Journal by Tim Layton I used my Chamonix 8x10 large format view camera loaded with Arista EDU Ultra 100 B&W film. 

I wanted to try this film to see what I thought about it.  I thought since I have about 40 or more lenses to test on my Vintage Large Format Lens Project, it would give me a very good sense of this film and how it performs. 

I used a Sinar Copal Shutter mounted behind my front standard on the 8x10 Chamonix camera to allow me to use this vintage barrel lens that has no shutter. 

Using modern panchromatic sheet film at EI 100 wasn't in the plan in the late 19th century. 

For this first print, I wanted to expose the image wide open at F4.5 and dial in the maximum amount of soft focus effect. 

I focused on the lens of the 5x7 vintage camera in the scene to ensure the center of the image was sharp.  When you see the print in person, you can read the very fine writing on the lens that is located right above the center element.

If you look close, the brass plate below the lens is completely out of focus as is the bottom half of the plate holders and the brass lens to the left of the camera. 

Cooke Series II Variable Soft Focus Lens by Tim LaytonCooke Series II Variable Soft Focus Lens by Tim Layton   Arista.EDU Ultra 100 Negative With Cooke Series II F4.5 Variable Soft Focus Lens by Tim LaytonArista.EDU Ultra 100 Negative With Cooke Series II F4.5 Variable Soft Focus Lens by Tim Layton

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