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Thread: Commissionned new lenses, foolish ?

  1. #1

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    Commissionned new lenses, foolish ?

    This is something i've been thinking about for while, and with Schneider releasing two new "monster" lenses aimed squarely at the fine arts community, with the brass engravings and surely the price tag to go along, it got me thinking...
    And I know that it might spark some interest in this group...

    Modern lenses are not aimed at ULF shooters, very few of them have coverage larger than 8x10, and to go larger usually requires to use process lenses or old lenses, or extremely costly modern lenses...

    Now, using old lenses is fine, and in fact from the end of the 19th century there have been lenses designed to cover quite a bit more than 8x10 (mammoth plates, anyone ?) but those old lenses are now ridden with problems, after more than a century, no shutters, watherhouse stops, fungus, scratches on uncoated glass, etc, etc, etc...

    What if we were to revive one of those old lens design, put it in a good shutter with coated glass, and put it on the market ? Cooke optics did it with their soft focus lens and their convertible plasmat, Wisner did it with their casket set, (and in theory with the Hypergon...), so why don't we do it with a more "conventional" lens design ? Something long enough and with moderate coverage to act as "normal" lenses for the ULFers ?

    I know that many optical corporations (Jenoptics, Dokter, Cooke, Angenieux, Zeiss, Nikon, etc...) offer "on commission" lens designs and production, usually for scientific or technichal applications, but would it be possible to commission a few "old design" lenses (so no devloppment costs...), get a production line going and get ourselves new lenses for our big cameras ?

    Do you think that it's feasible ? What do you think the cost of such a thing would be ? Would you be interested in getting a brand new "old design" lens ?

    If people are actually interested, i might just launch a new line of lenses "Classics, by Jan Van Hove"...

    PJ VH
    "The heart and the mind are the true lens of the camera..." - Yousouf Karsch
    Mamut Photo, The Ultra-Large-Format photography homepage

  2. #2
    Řyvind:D
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    Commissionned new lenses, foolish ?

    The materials are different (no lead), and WE have more computing power, so there is no reason to use old formulas. Find someone who is willing to spend a few hours on his computer and programs to develop several new lenses. That is what Hasselblad almost did whit their 2x converter in 94 or 95.

    I want something like a 150/1.4 on my 4x5" made from two lenses, and it should not be that difficult to find the right people.

    I believe the hardest part is to design the lens in to a shutter! But what do I know? I have no expericence with:

    ZEMAX runs under the current versions of Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/XP
    256 MB minimum, 512 MB recommended RAM
    Physical Optics Analysis may require more RAM
    200 MB or more of free hard disk space
    Parallel port or a USB port for hardware key depending on key option
    CD-ROM drive
    Minimum display resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels

    Řyvind

  3. #3

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    Commissionned new lenses, foolish ?

    Jan,

    Coated dagor lenses mounted in modern shutters would be good for short focal lengths on ULF cameras. Coated artars would be fine for "normal" focal lenghts. These designs were manufactured by many different firms--I have a 16.5" dagor made by The American Optical Company, for example. Lenses like these were manufactured in the not-too-distant past. Whether a run of such "revived" designs could be cost effective I don't know. It is interesting to see the new Schneider "fine-art" lens offerings but one problem will be the range of focal lengths different photographers will want. Even if I could afford the Schneiders, they are much too long for my work even with 12x20.---Carl

  4. #4

    Commissionned new lenses, foolish ?

    I'll second the desire for a fast 4x5 lens, something like a 150/2.8 would fit in a copal 3 shutter. I think that would be a really fun lens to shoot with.

    The only "old" equivalent I guess would be the xenotar 150/2.8, but I've never actually seen one in real life, they're quite rare, and I'd imagine that with todays technology a better design (well, that gave better results at the large apertures, which is the whole point of a fast lens) could be made.

    Oh... I guess there are the aero-ektars as well, but you can't put those in shutters (at least, not that I know) and those are, like Jan said, often pretty beat up, and maybe not the greatest design to begin with.

    Admittedly though, these are somewhat far-fetched desires... in that case, while we're at it, I want AF. 4x5 AF. Think I could get someone to build that on comission? Maybe a phone call over to SK grimes is in order?

    -Tadge
    http://tadge.net

  5. #5

    Commissionned new lenses, foolish ?

    The best chance is to have someone become an organizer of required optics who would then approach mfg firms with a proposal. It would then come back in the form of a quote to make so many at a certain cost or a different quantity at a different unit cost.

    Once payment was received, the production process would be started. I am afraid that this would be a pay in advance project to insure the lensese would be sold. That means the end users would forward cash to the ordering party who would then purchase the lenses and distribute them. Actually this might be a small business opportunity.

    ULF`ers need to organize.

  6. #6

    Commissionned new lenses, foolish ?

    "The best chance is to have someone become an organizer of required optics who would then approach mfg firms with a proposal."

    Linos (Rodenstock) as well as Schneider both have OEM lens divisions.

    All you need to do is contact them with requirements and quantities. They would then give you costs and delivery times.

    They are not looking for 1 up orders.

    Linos's OEM division in the USA is in MA. Schneider's on LI.

  7. #7

    Commissionned new lenses, foolish ?

    Fast ULF lenses will require large elements, and good optical glass is remarkably expensive. Do it as a labor of love. Get some knowledgable amateurs together with Zemax or one of the other less expensive optical design programs, and you could probably come up with a design. Have the elements made by some small custom optical shop, and housings made by some similar small machine shop. You could probably assemble something rather good for a few kilobucks each. If you have a traditional lens company do the whole job, you'll have to have a huge quantity made, relatively speaking, or the price will be way out of line. No idea how you'll shutter it- those solutions just aren't available off the shelf. It wouldn't hurt to have the job quoted by various lens manufacturers- if business is slow, or they have a photo enthusiast on board, they might offer a good deal just for the fun or PR from doing it.

  8. #8

    Join Date
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    1,798

    Commissionned new lenses, foolish ?

    "What do you think the cost of such a thing would be ?"

    How much do the Skgrimes people charge just to mount a barrel lens ? Now imagine if you asked somebody to hand make a small run of lenses. You're not going to get any of the benefits of mass production.

    It wouldn't suprise me if the final cost won't be close to what Scheinder is looking for. Worse you'll have to front all the money since I doubt anybody would do this without a large deposit.

    The only way I could see saving money would be to find a supplier in a low wage country. They I'd expect you to have be the QC department.

    The other choice would be to put together a group of committed buyers with money in hand. Then you might be able to get a more reasonable price but even then I doubt it'll be cheap.

  9. #9

    Commissionned new lenses, foolish ?

    I don't wish to be a nay-sayer, but the costs of one-up or small run new lenses will be prohibitive. Have you see the list prices for the Schneider "Fine Art" lenses? Several years ago in a flight of whimsy, I had a discussion with a friend, an optical engineer, about making the equivalent of a 300 f/3.5 Planar. He guesstimated the price well over $8,000, even if he were to do the design for free, have the glass ground by a Chinese firm. Instead I found a 343mm f/3.5 lens on ebay for $300. For the most part, we are far better served by the used market. Most of the lenses we are looking for--19" Dagors for instance--are uncommon, perhaps even rare, but do not sell even in mint condition in the price range of the equivalent new lens.

  10. #10
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Commissionned new lenses, foolish ?

    The last time something like this happened, I would guess, was the run of about 100 Zeiss T* 135/3.5 Planars for 4x5" aimed at the Japanese collector market.

    I have one of the normal Linhof 135/3.5 Planars, and it's an outstanding lens, and I'm sure the multicoated one is even better, but it's not cheap. If you can tap the collector's market and the Japanese economy isn't in too bad shape, maybe it's a possibility.

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