In the last article we discussed the various capabilities in using old lenses on modern digital cameras, MILC to be exact. In this article we'll go through the complete process of developing RAW files with an eye on how to correct or enhance the unique look of these optics using the Pentax Q and Kern Paillard lenses from the late 50's.
What you see above is my Pentax Q with a C-Mount adapter to use the Kern Palliard (KP) SWITAR 25/1.5 lens. C-Mount lenses cover a 16mm film frame and currently are available in two types - motion picture and CCTV. Now while the modern CCTV lenses are multicoated affairs, they are optically inferior to their motion picture brethren. The KP's (the one on the camera is from 1956) are considered to be the Leica of 16mm motion picture lenses, with incredible optical quality. The downside of using vintage motion picture lenses is they are made of either single or uncoated optics that can cause a bit of chromatic aberration that can be difficult to correct for. In this case we have a single coat optic.
Since this article is about dealing with these sort of optics let's just dive right in. Above is a shot of Cory Nova from the Q shot using the KP. As you can see the contrast is a bit low and the color a tad cool. What really stands out though is while technically sharp the lens due to being single coated has a certain softness. The first thing we must address is the color and contrast.
First off we address the color by shifting it just a tad warmer. We also drag down the highlights and bump the shadows up ever so slightly. Oddly we decrease clarity and do nothing in the contrast. The clarity drop is to give the skin a smoother look. Increasing contrast is not done as that would tend to contract the histogram, giving less leeway when doing post production in Photoshop. Please note this is the ACR control panel, not Lightroom. We'll delve far more into that application when I publish my 645Z articles. So if I didn't add contrast how did the contrast increase ever so slightly?
In the latest versions of ACR and Lightroom there is an FX tab that has a wonderful feature when dealing with the "haze" that single coat optics have on digital sensors - DeHaze. This is a bit different and not as destructive as just cranking up the contrast slider. The idea here is not to use too much. A small amount goes a long way. One thing you'll note is that I did not address the "sharpness" of the image yet. I don't in the ACR, but do in Photoshop. At this point I export out a 16 bit TIFF and move to the next step.
One reason I use Photoshop over Lightroom is the extensive retouching one does in much of the work I do. It is by adapting the technique I use for retouching images I can increase the "sharpness" of the final image. Above you see the final exported image. The next step is prepping this image for retouching by making two duplicate layers.
The first layer is what we call a "low frequency" layer. It is created by duplicating the original image onto a new layer then applying a slight gaussian blur. This is the layer we use to correct color and such.
The next layer is the "high frequency" layer. This again is a duplicate layer, this time applied to the low frequency layer and creates a grayscale image that contains all the detail information for retouching. At this point I do all my retouching work. Once done I duplicate the high frequency layer leaving the blending option at "Linear Light".
Much like the ""high frequency" layer this adds detail. I drop the opacity to around 50% so as not to over sharpen the image. From this point I flatten the image and carry out my final post process procedures. Now while this may seem a bit long and involved it really isn't. About the best way to perhaps save time in this process is to create a custom lens profile for the ACR module. Now since this is just a small MILC and not a Medium Format legacy camera like say a Mamiya RZ or Hasselblad 500CM using a Phase One back, I really see no reason to go through all that. In the future however I will do an article on this in case any of you do want to do this. I'll leave you off with the final image to enjoy and hope you all join me here for my next article.
Feel free to ask any questions below.