The Cooke Portrait PS945 is a modern classic large format lens, designed to recreate the soft focus look of the classic lens of old. At an aperture between F8 and F11, it is sharp where it counts, with a 3-D rendering that rolls off into the out of focus area like butter.
Of course the soft focus effect is best demonstrated with a large aperture opening, something at F4.5 to F5.6:
Dreamy… but wait, that’s not an image from the Cooke PS945!
What is this? It’s a Pinkham and Smith Visual Quality Series IV (PSVQ IV from now on) No. 2 lens, on a 100 years old Kodak 2-D 8×10 camera, and their spiritual descendants, the Cooke PS945 on a Gibellini 4×5 ACN45 camera!
The above image was indeed taken on the PSVQ IV at F5.6!
What is the PSVQ IV? From the Cooke’s webpage describing their PS945 lens.
The original design of this (Cooke PS945) lens is from the vintage Pinkham & Smith Visual Quality Series IV Soft Focus Lens used by early 20th century master impressionist photographers. These talented photographers made soft focus photography an art form using, most notably, Pinkham & Smith lenses, yet today, this original lens design offers much more. [...] The original Pinkham & Smith lenses achieve their distinctive soft focus in a manner different from other lenses. Using the traditional glass available at the time, craftsmen hand-corrected multiple surfaces of the lenses to achieve their unique soft focus look. The introduction of aspherical surfaces gave Pinkham & Smith lenses a higher-order spherical aberration that results (when the lens was used fully open) in an image with both very high resolution and a self-luminescent quality. Cooke has reproduced the unique performance of these hand aspherized lenses using modern design techniques that duplicate this unique soft yet high-resolution performance exactly.
So how does the Cooke PS945 compare at a larger aperture?
The 3-D quality, the luminosity, the buttery smooth background bokeh, from these two lenses, are simply unmatched by other lens.
Overall, from my testing, the Cooke PSP45 recreates the looks of the PSVQ IV lens quite well. As more than 90% of my 4×5 portraits are taken with the Cooke PS945 lens, I am quite pleased that I could have the same image quality on the 8×10 format with the PSVQ IV lens.
One last note: the diameter of the PSVQ IV is about 3 1/2″, and does not fit in a modern shutter. For this set up, I am using a behind the lens Packard shutter on the lensboard that Jim Galli built. As the Packard shutter has only two speeds: approximately 1/20th of a second, and B, it’s a bit challenging using it as 1/20th second is not fast enough to use the lens at F4.5 or F5.6 for the 8×10 films I have on hand. I took a few test images as is and compensated for the over-exposure by changing the film development times, and they look decent enough. However, for this particular shot, I held a 3 stop ND filter in front of the lens by hand, and as you can see, it works quite well.