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Pinkham Smith 1928 Catalog


Contributed courtesy of Jim Galli, Tonopah, Nevada

Posted on Friday, November 7, 2008 at 01:15AM by Registered CommenterJim Galli | Comments8 Comments

Reader Comments (8)

Jonathan will have much to say I'm sure. This catalog was a delight to read in it's entirety because it was a confirmation of a voice from 80 years ago that agreed perfectly with the "trail" we have been blazing in the darkness in 2008. We have had many discussions about what we were learning about the characteristics of these unique lenses, what kind of light works, how they react, how the focus (I think belt was the exact word Jonathan kept falling back on) works, etc. etc. It makes it fun when you find something like this and the experts that were using them back in the day, affirms and agrees with everything you've learned the good old fashioned hard way.

I hope as time progresses more and more info like this will be "un-earthed" and brought back to light for us modern day soft focus practitioners.

November 7, 2008 | Registered CommenterJim Galli

Hi Jim,
thanks you very much for sharing this catalog. It is very interesting and from now on I have a plan how to focus and will not swim around for good luck.
All the best
Stefan D

November 7, 2008 | Registered CommenterStefan D

Thank you Jim for your efforts!!!

This is wondrous, your uploading this, and the catalog itself, as you mention the people who've written in this catalog, speak across a century as to what they intended w/these lenses and they were after the same nuance we've been trying to track down.

What really hits me hardest is their pronouncement that a lot of the images resulting from the mis-use of these lenses were pawned off as pictorialism, w/many folks from our time period considering those early mistakes as something intended by both the folks who created the Pinkhams and the folks who really knew how to use them then.

The voices speaking from this catalog of around a century ago clarify what happened then, as it all too often happens now, that not all of the work done w/these lenses, then or now, is representative of what these lenses were intended to do in the right hands.

Paying the money and slapping the lens on, and expecting magic w/o working a up a sweat as you fought your way up the learning curve w/this kind of glass didn't work any more then than it does now. These lenses were not intended to create mush, as anyone looking at the MasterPortrait crafted by Paul Cloud can plainly see.

Looking at this 'head & shoulders' portrait, there is wonderful 'counterpoint' between the clarity of her face and the transition from her face to lightness and softness.

What's said/shown in this catalog, particularly the Paul Cloud portrait(which is a Masterwork), shows that masters executed good work w/both the Semi-Achromatic and the VQ. I don't think we'll ever really know who used what, but I find it curious that at least one individual as evidenced by a catalog entry returned their their lens to Mr. Smith who then sold it to somebody else.

Both the SA and VQ were great lenses, and they were both used by Masters and this catalog is proof of that, despite the cache of the more famous legends, folks like Coburn who used the Semi-Achromatic.

Now you'll have to excuse as I spend the next few days reading all this treasure at least TEN times!!!!!!!!!!

November 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Brewer

Thanks for the brochure Jim. I found the method used for focusing very interesting. I will try that with my Verito.

November 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Nicholls

I saw on the testimonials page, the testimonial of Bachrach Inc, Baltimore Md. and then the caption below where they mention that since the testimonial Bachrach Inc. made a purchase of 56 lenses!!!!

A single purchase of 56 lenses!!!

What does that say about Pinkham's production ability, and these are handmade lenses???


I just noticed Underwood & Underwood w/their 36 lenses, that's 92 Visual Qualities just between these 2 outfits.............HOT DIGGGATTEEE!!!!!!

November 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Brewer

I found it very interesting to read how one should focus a soft focus lens as that has always confused me. I try to use a loupe, and SF lenses just don't focus easily with a loupe -- there are so many places where one can consider the image to be "in focus."

I'm going to try to dispense with the loupe and focus using the "belt" method and see what happens.

Thanks, Jim for posting this! What an eye-opener.


November 8, 2008 | Registered CommenterGeorge Bogatko

George............These musings might be the result of too many years of drinking Japanese beer, but here goes......

I have an Apo Tele-Xenar on my 612 camera, It is SHARP!!!.....rack over to focus on anything and the change from out of focus to crystal clarity is dramatic, and then when you get to where you want to focus, you get a final snap focus....and the sharpness is unmistakable.

These Soft Focus lenses don't do w/the Apo Tele-Xenar does, the Apo Tele -Xenar focuses one image, my Semi-Achromatic Ser III presents TWO images at any point you try to focus at.....A sharp version of the image overlayed w/a softer version of that image.

Rack over to another point in the image to try to make that plane of focus sharp, and you also DRAG the soft version of the image to where you're trying to focus. Wherever you try to focus, there'll be the soft and sharp version of the image, and the sharp version of the image is faint, sometimes very faint inside or under the soft version. There isn't going to be any such thing as snap focus w/these lenses

This is what the catalog is talking about, when they say 'belt', they're talking about a belt or a strip or a zone which is inside or between a point nearest the lens and a point farthest from the lens. A belt or zone or strip w/ an front edge closed to the lens and a back edge farthest away from the lens.

Everything from the front edge of the belt or zone, to the back edge of that belt or zone looks the SAME/almost the same.

Wherever you focus there's going to be softness, and that's what confuses.

With my Semi-Achromatic, I've used it enough now to know that when I get in the ballpark of where I want to focus..... and where I want to focus is somewhere inside this 'belt', or 'strip', or 'zone', that the combination of the sharp image underneath the soft image, is SHARPEST toward the 'back', and just inside of the far edge of that 'belt' or 'zone'.

At a particular plane of focus, I try to find an edge, something in a small section of the image that has a defined edge that I can rack back and forth slowly and until I see the sharpest version of that edge inside all of the softness. Sometimes I can 'eyeball' this, sometimes I have to find some small section and rack back and forth looking at this w/the loupe, it just depends.

Keeping in mind that my lens places the sharpest point of focus near the back of the 'belt' or 'zone', that the Pinkham catalog is talking about. They refer to all this stuff in their lingo, and what their lenses do when they talk about a zone of focus instead of a specific point like a regular lens would do w/the focus. They mean that a lot of in front and behind where you tried to focus looks almost the same because of the softness overlayed on top of all this. Makes sense, and they're right.

Another thing that tripped me up when I first started shooting w/the Ser III, if your illumination is too intense, the bright light will OVERPOWER the very faint sharp version of the image at any particular point of focus, and thus the sharp version will DISAPPEAR.

If you light's too bright you won't be able to see the sharp version and you can rack focus forever and not find it. I found this out one night shooting w/ the SA, where I had too much light, could not focus where I wanted to focus, and then redid the lighting(lowered the intesity) and the sharp version of the image at that focus point magically appeared.

So I believe that with some of these lenses that you do get two versions, a sharp and a soft version of the image, but w/too much flare/halation that this will disappear, in which case you're stuck w/just the soft version.

Look out fo this, so you won't spend all night looking for something that's not there like I did a coupla of night until 2:00am in the morning!!!

This is what I'm tangling with, when I use my Semi-Achromatic Ser III, but I feel I'm starting to define what my problems are w/this lens, and it's mostly focus.

I hope this helps.

November 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Brewer

Maybe a simpler way of saying this...........is that w/my Semi-Achromatic and regarding the 'belt of focus' the Smith catalog is talking about, is that at a certain point of focus, I can rack back and forth along this 'belt of focus', and nothing changes, everthing pretty much looks the same.

I know that as I rack focus back to the rear of this belt, and just before it goes out of focus at the rear, that somewhere in this area, is where my lens is giving the sharp version of the image which is under the soft image, and this is where I should look.

November 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Brewer

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