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Voigtlander Heliar ..is this the lens with "Bokka"

GreyWolf Phillips , Mar 11, 2003; 08:05 a.m.

Hi Everybody,

I remember reading about a lens that has the "bokka" (spelling?) that some photographers find to enchance their pictures. This lens is presently on Ebay and I am seeking your opinion if this is the one people are referring to?

Thanks for your opinions.


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Brian C. Miller , Mar 11, 2003; 09:23 a.m.


This is supposedly a Japanese word which refers to the areas of a picture which are out of focus. (At the moment I can't find the word in an online Japanese-English dictionary, but boke and bokke produced this, and a wild card search produced out of focus)

This aspect of the lens produces things like out-of-focus highlights being either round or pentagonal, depending on aperture blades, in-lens reflection due to various coatings, etc.

I wouldn't rely on "bokeh" to make or break a picture, though.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi , Mar 11, 2003; 09:30 a.m.

Bokeh means 'fuzzy' or out-of-focus in Japanese. A connected word is Bokeru, which means to senile.

Ole Tjugen , Mar 11, 2003; 09:33 a.m.

There are many versions of the Heliar lens, but the LF ones at least seems to vary only in focal length and coating. I'm sure someone will correct me ;)

Which one are you thinking about? There's a 10.5cm, two 15cms, a 210mm, and a 30cm at the moment...

I bought mine (15cm, uncoated, spotless, perfect shutter) attached to a Voigtländer Bergheil 9x12 plate camera - possibly cheaper than the lens alone would have been - or even the shutter! Nice lens, and I'll be testing it extensively in a few weeks...

Jason Greenberg Motamedi , Mar 11, 2003; 09:37 a.m.

Sorry, that was supposed to be "to be senile". GreyWolf, the Heliar, at least the one I use does have a very nice Bokeh. Note however that there are many different types or models of Heliar: From what I have read I think that the design was changed significantly three times, and some of the earlier designs weren't so great. I can't tell you is how to tell the difference between them. I have a coated 300mm, which I am very happy with. Jim Galli might know more...

Ted Harris , Mar 11, 2003; 10:22 a.m.

The concept of bokka or bokeh is one that dates back some 15-20 years if memory serves and needs to be modified with either 'good' or 'bad.' The whole idea being that lenses with good bokeh render the out-of-focus portion of an image in a most pleasing fashion that adds to the overall composition and attractionof the image. Bad bokeh on the other hand tends to work against the rest of the image (says the theory). Now, how do you tell when you have good bokeh and when you have bad bokeh? Totally subjective. Although when you reach a point that a large number of people find a particular lens delivers good or bad then maybe, and stress the maybe, you have reference point worth considering.

All of this is way more important in smaller formats. If you are using yoru movements properly then you should be able to selectively create both the type and quality of the out-of-focus areas of your image.

Bill Mitchell , Mar 11, 2003; 10:53 a.m.

It's not just the OOF areas that are Bokeh. The Heliar is much like an Elmar -- it doesn't appear sharp, but no matter how big you blow up the image it doesn't seem to deconstruct. I like it much better for color than B&W.

Chad Jarvis , Mar 11, 2003; 11:03 a.m.

Not to be confused with bukkake...

David Goldfarb , Mar 11, 2003; 01:07 p.m.

The Heliar produces a sharp image at the point of focus and renders out-of-focus areas very smoothly. The separation between the in-focus and out-of-focus area is sharply defined and can almost seem three dimensional. I like them.

Jim Galli , Mar 12, 2003; 01:44 a.m.

Bokeh is a concept that is rather un-defineable as to which is good and which is bad. It's pretty subjective. As someone above has said almost any modern LF lens will render very fine bokeh because they are un-encumbered of all of the zillion corrections that are necessary in lenses that are restricted to a set back-focus. Perhaps the older lenses with the beautiful multi-blade irises have a slight edge. My picture of "New Tulips" that I just posted over on Todd Caudles post "No Words: Plants" is an example. Done with an ordinary 210 Symmar. You have to see the original to actually see the smoothness that the few sharp edges blend into unfocused shapes. The Heliar's are special. They have an effect in the highlights that when you study with a loupe you can see a fuzzy blur outlining the sharp edges. It has the same effect as an unsharp mask in a way. It fools the eye into seeing it kind of 3D. I've got a favorite picture of a stark bright winter denuded chinese elm against a near black sky. If I move my head from side to side I'll swear those branches are 3D. Done with a 240MM Heliar on 5X7. I'm no expert on Heliars. I buy the latest coated one's I can get.

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