Photography

How I Tamed the Humongous Aero Ektar Lens


A man sitting with a large format camera

I met Carlo a few months ago as I was looking for some honey. I discovered this passionate beekeeper lived only half a mile from my home.

As we got to know each other over time, I found out that this amazing 84-year-old was a true genius in building anything out of wood and metal in his well-equipped workshops.

I asked him to help me tame the biggest and heaviest lens I own so that I could finally mount it onto a 4×5 camera and give it some use.

A man with his hands around a camera lens on a large format camera

A few years ago I actually devised a way to mount this beastly lens, but I was never entirely satisfied with the results, as they lacked the solidity such a heavy piece of glass demands.

Carlo was able to quickly solder together a metal cone, permanently attached to a clone of a Plaubel lens board (which he cut and carved by hand !) where the heavy 12-inch Aero Ektar f/2.5 lens would snugly fit.

A large Aero Ektar lens mounted to a large format camera

The lens was to be further supported by a metal bracket that Carlo created, inspired by a plastic telescope lens bracket I had shown him earlier, but much, much sturdier than the original one.

Now came the shutter: we opted to drill a hole in a pine wooden board the size of the large Packard shutter we were going to use (1/10th of a second maximum speed!).

A homemade shutter mechanism for a large format camera

A homemade shutter mechanism for a large format camera

To attach the “shutter board” to the lens, Carlo hand-carved a slot of exactly the same diameter of the lens front element rim on the back. Once the rim slid into this groove, a couple of elastic bands were sufficient to stabilize and firmly attach the entire contraption to the camera body.

An Aero Ektar mounted to a large format camera

Photographer Giovanni Savino with his Aero Ektar and large format camera

The heavy 12-inch Aero Ektar Lens can be a wonderful tool, giving you a very shallow depth of field and a creamy bokeh at a great focal length for portraiture (with a 12-inch focal length, this lens does cover 8×10 although I prefer using it on 4×5 and even 6×9, something I am able to do on the old Plaubel Supra camera by just changing the back).

It’s just that the lens is freakin’ big and heavy to mount anywhere but on a military aircraft!

Carlo was able to find a really good and elegant solution (in a retro-post-industrial style) that I truly love!

A man sitting with a large format camera
My friend Carlos with my camera and his custom creation for my lens.

A man sitting with a large format camera

A man sitting with a large format camera

Here are some photos captured with the lens:

A photo of a man playing a guitar

A photo of a woman looking at a candle

A photo of hands holding flower petals

A black-and-white shallow depth of field photo of a woman standing outdoors

A photo of a man deep in thought

A black and white portrait of photographer Giovanni Savino

My heartfelt thank you to this wonderful and genial inventor friend of mine!


About the author: Giovanni Savino is a photographer based in Italy. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Savino previously lived in New York City, where he ran a Large Format Portraiture Studio in Manhattan for twenty years before the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to shut down his business and move across the ocean. You can find more of Savino’s work on his website.



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