Portraits with the Hermagis Eidoscope

I think I wrote previously about the Hermagis Eidoscope soft-focus portrait lens I have on loan. Here are some results from it. As the lens is on loan to me and not mine, I have not sent it off to have replacement waterhouse stops made for it. It was expensive enough modifying my camera to fit the lens – I don’t want to spend more money on accessories for a lens I’ll have to return. That said, as the only waterhouse stop I have for the lens is the wide-open f5 stop, that’s the only one I’ve been using. It’s not only the maximum amount of light but also the maximum soft-focus effect. I’ve been told that if you stop the Eidoscope down past f8, it becomes a much more regular, sharp lens. But this is what you want to see with this lens anyway – the soft-and-fuzzies.

Wanchuk, close-up
Wanchuk, close-up

I know the lens is flattering to women – I did not know if it would be too much for male portraiture though. I think my example here bears out the fact that it works well for both genders. Here is another portrait of my friend Wanchuk, this time a half-length shot with a different outfit. The soft-focus glow is especially apparent in this image, with the bright denim jacket giving lots of flare around the cuffs of the sleeves.

Wanchuk, denim jacket
Wanchuk, denim jacket

These were shot on Ilford FP4+, with the lighting being just one 1000w Fresnel tungsten lamp and a silver reflector. I bought a pair of these cheap Chinese knockoffs of ARRI fresnel lights ($125/ea as opposed to more like $600/ea for the ARRI lights) for the purpose of teaching my large format photography class. Since I had a need for something that would work without needing electronic synchronization (the Hermagis has no shutter, therefore no flash sync), I broke the fresnels out again for this lens test. Proof positive that you don’t have to have massive, fancy, expensive strobe lighting setups to create great portraits. That said, I wouldn’t try this with my 14×17 using hot lights – there’s just not enough light to be had without literally cooking both subject and photographer.

As I mentioned previously, the Hermagis Eidoscope does not have a shutter in addition to not having an iris diaphragm for the aperture control, so I used a pair of spare dark slides from an old 5×7 film holder, held in a V configuration, as the shutter. I was able to pull off a roughly 1/30th second shutter speed by keeping the gap between the dark slides relatively modest (about a 20 degree wedge). Eventually I’ll print these in platinum/palladium.

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