Bill Katzenstein - PS945 Observations
Bill Katzenstein, Iconic PhotoWashington DC
January 14, 2003
The Cooke Portrait PS945 lens performed well and its effects were demonstrated in my first use on a softly lit interior. (See photo below.) The hallmark "subtle glow" at wide apertures was apparent in color, and seemed to make the scene more attractive than in life. A previous control shoot of the same scene with a medium-format lens of equivalent focal length did not display similar luminescence and looked comparatively dull. In black and white with the Cooke I was limited to Polaroids, on which such effect showed only marginally.
The setting for this trial was a teahouse. The subject was a wall of mildly picturesque tea containers fronted by a counter where customers place orders. Two bare tungsten light bulbs illuminated the scene with a dull red-brown cast. You would expect it to be photogenic but to the eye it appears bland, due largely to a uniform tonality and weak color saturation. I chose the scene because I thought it would be a good test of the claimed feature of the lens to create a soft glow or otherwise enhance areas on the margin of the plane of focus. I was also curious about the performance of the Cooke lens shooting directly into light sources-it produced excellent results-under which conditions soft-focus filters such as Zeiss have handled poorly in my experience.
For the image shown here, aperture was f5.6, the film was Fujichrome 64T with an 85B filter for light coming in through the window on the right. Color rendition is quite close to natural, but the image looks better-richer coloring and impact of the tea containers and also the bottles and cakes under glass on the counter, or call it the subtle glow. I focused on the countertop, which is not parallel to the back wall but closer to the camera on the left; with the results that the back wall ranges from slightly out of focus (right side) to visibly out of focus (left side). The light bulbs hand almost directly over the countertop, and as such were in the plane of sharp focus.
I would characterize the Cooke as a lens more forgiving than most, since wide open it appeared to blend the foreground with midground well regardless of the plane of focus. A factor to take into account is a wide range of minor shifts of effect when aperture, and especially focus. Are just slightly adjusted, meaning that you might want to take a variety of shots to ensure that opportunities are not missed. The inherent limitation to using the Cooke lens for architectural interiors is the moderate focal length, but such is the territory. I'm pleased with the performance of the lens, and believe it will add some class to my photographs of close-in and delicately lit interiors such as cafes and lounges.