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Thread: Age of Wollensak 6¼" (159mm) Extreme W.A.

  1. #1

    Age of Wollensak 6¼" (159mm) Extreme W.A.

    OK, here's one that's puzzling me...

    Does anyone know how to, approximately, determine the age of a Wollensak 6¼" (159mm) f12.5 Anastigmat Extreme W. A.?

    I recently purchased an unused 159mm f12.5 Extreme Wide Angle in a Rapax shutter in the original box. Here's the eBay item listing (which will expire in about 90 days – once the lens arrives, I’ll find a place to post a better picture):

    Here's the details:
    Wollensak 6¼” (159mm) f12.5 Anastigmat Extreme W.A.
    Serial Number 736166
    Rapax Synchromatic Shutter
    The lens is "Wocoted" as designated by the trademark big "C" surrounding a smaller "W".

    There was another 159mm f12.5 Wollensak Extreme Wide Angle that ended earlier today on eBay. Item listing:

    That one is in an Alphax shutter, with the following details:
    Wollensak 6¼" (159mm) f12.5 Anastigmat Extreme W.A.
    Serial No. A84258
    In addition to the "Wocoted" symbol, this one also has a yellow dot.

    So, anyone have any idea which one is newer? I've always assumed the models in the Rapax shutter were newer as the Rapax was the most advanced shutter Wollensak made. However, a 1954 Wollensak catalog I have offers lenses in both shutter types. The two different serial number styles adds to the confusion. I originally thought perhaps they just used a separate sequence starting with the letter "A" for lenses sold in Alphax shutters. The same 1954 catalog disproves that theory as well - it shows 135mm Raptar on the cover in a Rapax shutter with a serial number A32119. Both styles of serial numbers appear throughout the catalog. Of course, some of the photos could have been old stock shots that were taken years before the catalog was published. If anyone has ANY Wollensak serial number data, that would help put this mystery to bed once and for all. Unfortunately, my own Wollensak literature collection is very sparse and of no value in sorting this out.

    In the end, it probably doesn't matter much. I'm just trying to satisfy my own curiosity. Obviously, both samples are coated and made post-WWII - most likely some time between 1946 and 1965. They are probably both equally fine performers (given that both are in outstanding condition). I'm just always trying to find clues to dating these older lenses. In addition to Wollensak serial number data, I'd also love to get my hands on Bausch & Lomb serial number info. I know, around the time of WWII, B&L switched from a purely numeric serial numbering system to one consisting of two letters followed by four numbers. The two letters are likely some sort of code (similar to Kodak's CAMEROSITY) that can be used to date the year of production. For the life of me, I haven't been able to come up with any code word that makes sense. Any ideas?


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Nov 2001

    Age of Wollensak 6¼" (159mm) Extreme W.A.

    I don't know about these lenses either, but as I have an f/9.5 version that is not coated (I think that's right), I would be interested in finding out more about the lens too. I think my lens serial number starts with an A. I'll look when I get home.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    now in Tucson, AZ

    Age of Wollensak 6¼" (159mm) Extreme W.A.

    Kerry- here's some almost relevant info. I used to have a bound copy of Popular Photography from 1945... in one there was a Wollensak ad, offering a contest to re-name the Velostigmat lens series. The winning name was "Raptar". Doesn't help your immediate question but enough trivia collected will yield either useful information, or a giant mound of trivia.

  4. #4

    Age of Wollensak 6¼" (159mm) Extreme W.A.

    Hi there,

    If it's a help, someone listed a military 15" tele-raptar, serial #Cxxxxxxx, date July 1956. Your catalog has a #Axxxxx from 1954-53. The circle/W logo started 1945. Wollensak appears to have run their serial # across all their lines, the newest serial #Exxxxx.

    Have fun with the hunt.

  5. #5
    multi format
    Join Date
    Feb 2001

    Age of Wollensak 6¼" (159mm) Extreme W.A.

    kerry -

    i used to have a military ( air signal corps ) wollensak 90mm purple dot in a rapax shutter.
    at one point i showed it to a guy i knew in boston who was a lens fanatic and he suggested that
    the yellow-purple dot system wollensak used signified different coatings they put on the lens.
    yellow dot is better than no dot, and purple dot suggested that the lens was apo-chromatic and both a yellow and purple dot meant that
    it was the best of all lenses or something similar to that. i have asked others over the years questions regarding the colored dot system, and their answers were more in the line of " they are all the same lens, and it was just a marketing tool wollensak
    used to signify newer lenses ... "
    i am not sure if the dots mean a better coating, although i would imagine if it is a newer lens the coating process would be improved from earlier coatings.


  6. #6

    Age of Wollensak 6¼" (159mm) Extreme W.A.


    Thanks for the data on the alpha-numeric serial numbers. It certainly makes sense. So, what about the numeric-only serial numbers? Do lenses with numbers only in the serial number pre-date lenses with ALL serial numbers starting with a letter? If that's the case, my lens in the Rapax shutter would be earlier than the example in Alphax shutter. As I said, my 1954 catalog has several photos of lenses baring both serial number types.


  7. #7

    Age of Wollensak 6¼" (159mm) Extreme W.A.


    I knew that Raptar was the trademark successor to Velostigmat, but I didn't know the details of the contest. Thanks for providing that interesting tidbit of trivia. Gee, I wonder if there were any Velosi-Raptar transition lenses.


  8. #8

    Age of Wollensak 6¼" (159mm) Extreme W.A.


    I've also heard different explanations for the use of colored dots on the Wollensak and Bausch & Lomb lenses. I was once told that one of the dots (magenta, I believe) on a B&L lens meant it was color-corrected and the other dot (goldenrod) meant it was coated. The dots must have had some significance, but they may have mainly been used for marketing purposes. Perhaps they followed the lead of their other American competitor, Goerz Am. Optical and used the colored dots to enhance the reputation of their products without really making any significant design changes.


  9. #9

    Join Date
    Dec 2001

    Age of Wollensak 6¼" (159mm) Extreme W.A.

    Paul Fitzgerald presented a clue, perhaps, based on the alphabetic character at the start of some Wollensak lenses' serial numbers. He also gave examples that place prefixes "A" in 1953-4 and "C" in 1956.

    It all seems so plausible.

    But I have three Enlarging Pro Raptars whose s/ns start with "D" and a Pro Raptar taking lens whose s/n starts with "E". 1957 and 1958, by Paul's logic. This doesn't seem possible, since all of these lenses are 6/4 plasmat types and the Pro Raptars are widely claimed to have been Wollensak's last gasp response to similar german lenses.

    And Wollensak made lenses at least into the late 1960s; Kingslake (see ) says Wollensak closed down in 1972. So where's a lens with serial number "F" or even "S"?

    Les Newcomer has been writing on a book about selected Graflex products for ages. He denies the existence of a relationship between Wollensak lenses' serial numbers and manufacturing dates.



  10. #10
    tim atherton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 1998

    Age of Wollensak 6¼" (159mm) Extreme W.A.

    FWIW Kerry, here's mine

    Wollensak 6¼” (159mm) f12.5 Anastigmat Extreme W.A. Serial Number 810972 Rapax Synchromatic Shutter

    also has the Wocoted" as designated by the trademark big "C" surrounding a smaller "W".
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn blog

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