my favorite lenses i use every week:
schneider-kreuznach componon-S f-5.6-45/300 mm
rodenstock rodagon f-5.6-45/210 mm
schneider-kreuznach componon-S f-5.6-32/100 mm
rodenstock apo-rodagon f-4-22/ 80mm
rodenstock rodagon-G 2.8-16/50 mm
schneider-kreuznach apo-componon HM f-2.8-16/40 mm
i just really like good optics. in my everyday i enjoy all sorts of light from different sources. but when i'm working in my darkroom i like clean light, and by that i mean photons going through pieces of glass that have been expertly grounded. as a photographer i am always asked what cameras and lenses i use, but as a printer, well, no one -few exceptions- ever asks me what lens i use to print. yet, if i may, in analog printing the lens is pretty much the only thing between a negative and the paper. actually, it is the only thing. so yes, it's pretty important to me. and by now i know which f/stop works well what print size, or what type of grain is on the film. it's not an exact science, but it's based on my experience by looking at -and making- thousands and thousands of prints over the years. i have preferences of course, and i apply them to different situations. it's a matter of paying attention to what happens to the grain through a certain lens at a particular contrast and different densities. this is an exercise i practice on a weekly basis when i try to figure out the best way to print whatever neg at whatever size on whatever paper in whatever developer. i know, it's a lot of whatevers, but there are so many variations it takes years -for me at least- to understand. on my own images it's quite easy: i know what i like and how to get there. many a times i've used my findings on other people's negatives. i learn by doing, and there is a always a new puzzle to solve. so when i'm asked how i think this image should be printed, i have an opinion. when i loupe a neg i can tell you at what size the grain will start to change based on the contrast i would probably use. but all this is just talk, and visual artists need to see, this is why there is a service called and i quote 'test strip at size'. artists lean toward one look or another, i put their words into values, sometimes i can almost hear their inner-monologues. no, not really, but when i get a negative with a note saying 'you'll see, it's pretty straightforward', or 'you know what to do', also 'you remember what it looks like, you printed it once 3 years ago', then i know i've earned the trust of the person i print for. if i'm off in my guess, it's back to zero... this is one of the reasons i like analog printing. that is also one of the reasons i need to know my lenses so well. coating on the front lens varies, the result being more or less contrast. no lens is necessarily bad, it might just be more appropriate to a different puzzle.
and for large prints something else is between the light and the paper besides the lens, the 2 pieces of glass that sandwich the negative. anti-newton, regular, one of each, different groves etched into the glass, not every combination is right for everything, and sometimes no glass is best -but very difficult on a large print with long exposures- 20x24 in. and under i print without glass, instead i let the acetate expand and retract with the heat from the enlarger, so i re-focus every time i make an exposure. i look at grain through loupes at every size and contrast, so i learn still, every day.
aldo sessa next to a 56x70 print
(matte toned sepia btw)
we had a good day.