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.
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.
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.