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Thread: Petzval Lens Recommendations

  1. #1
    Cameron Cornell
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    Oct 2016
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    Washington State
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    Petzval Lens Recommendations

    Greetings-

    I am going to begin setting money aside and in a yearís time I should have around $1800 to spend on a lens (plus another few hundred for shipping and a new Packard Shutter and a lens board). I would like to ask you gentlemen for recommendations for the best Petzval lens that you think I might find at around that price. I would like a lens in excellent working order with a flange so that I can mount it to a lens board and make photographs with it. I am eager to know the history and the stories behind these lenses, but I am not a collector - I canít afford to be. I want to actually use this equipment.

    I shoot portraits, mostly in natural, cloudy bright light on an 8x10 Ansco Studio No. 5 that takes 9Ē lens boards.

    Currently I use a 14Ē Rodenstock Sironar-N, a 10Ē Kodak Commercial Ektar, and a 7.5Ē Gundlach. Recently I bought a 1907 Voigtlander Heliar 4.5 / 360mm that Iím about to put into service (I posted a question about this lens a couple of weeks ago).

    Iíve read everything I can find about Petzval lenses, including Dan Colucciís excellent article. I was feeling pretty sure that I wanted a Voigtlander Euryscop next, but since it will be quite a while before I can afford another lens after next year, Iím thinking now that a Petzval lens layout will throw an image that is more dramatically different than the Heliar, and so would be a more interesting contrast to the lenses I already own.

    If you have this information, please include as many details as possible in your recommendations (manufacturer, model name, model number, focal length, aperture, etc.) because from what Iíve seen, the names and numbers and series of these lenses can be quite convoluted, and sellers often donít seem to know much about what they are selling.

    As ever, thank you for your input.

    -Cameron Cornell

  2. #2

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    Re: Petzval Lens Recommendations

    My favorite 8x10 lens is a 16 inch f4 Dallmeyer 3A Petzval. I have hundreds of examples of wet plates with it if you want to see. Bausch and Lomb make a petzval modeled after the 3a in f4 and f5 under many different names and are a little easier on the wallet and easier to come across on here and the auction site. I have about 8 petzvals from 8.5 to 19 inch FL. I shoot all of them for portraits. Good Luck.

  3. #3
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Petzval Lens Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Cameron Cornell View Post
    I was feeling pretty sure that I wanted a Voigtlander Euryscop next, but since it will be quite a while before I can afford another lens after next year, I’m thinking now that a Petzval lens layout will throw an image that is more dramatically different than the Heliar, and so would be a more interesting contrast to the lenses I already own.
    Keep in mind that nearly all lenses with a strong signature only display that signature at very open apertures. At f/16, a Petzval will have a look much like your Heliar, Commercial Ektar, or Sironar-N. Hence, the faster the better, i.e., the faster, the stronger the signature. You'll need at least a 14" to cover 8x10 at portrait distance, 16 inch would be better. The standard rule with Petzvals is "Long focal length, wide aperture, reasonable price, pick any two..."

    Beyond that, after your first 30 days go by, you can post a WTB on the forum here. You'll be able to buy from someone who knows what they're talking about!
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  4. #4

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    Re: Petzval Lens Recommendations

    Over the past few years, here's how I found my Petzval lenses. At the auction site, do searches for "brass lens" but without the word "Petzval" in the heading. If the word "Petzval" is in the heading, you're probably looking at multi thousand dollar starting prices. Many times non-photographers are putting up for auction brass lenses that they know nothing about. They are very happy to auction off the lenses for only hundreds of dollars. Catch is that you won't be sure that the lens is a Petzval optic till you get the lens and take it apart. I won a Darlot brass lens with a full set of professionally machined waterhouse stops for little over a hundred dollars. Seller didn't even know what the term "focal length" meant. Was on pins and needles till the lens arrived and I took it apart.... I was lucky, it was in fact a Petzval optic.

    Bought another Petzval lens by searching the words "Photography lens". The brass lens had no writings on it. Again took a chance and I'm sure the seller was also quite happy with getting his buy-it-now price.

    Coverage of a lens bought this way, you will have no way of knowing till you mount it on your camera. Once bought a 90mm WA lens that research led me to believe that it had 120 degree coverage... it only had 80-90 degree coverage. But then also bought a 5.9” Gray Periscope lens that covers my 11x14 at infinity!

    Great article on Petzval lenses at
    http://www.antiquecameras.net/petzvallens.html

  5. #5
    Foamer
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    Re: Petzval Lens Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg View Post
    At the auction site, do searches for "brass lens" but without the word "Petzval" in the heading. If the word "Petzval" is in the heading, you're probably looking at multi thousand dollar starting prices. Many times non-photographers are putting up for auction brass lenses that they know nothing about. They are very happy to auction off the lenses for only hundreds of dollars.

    I look at both "brass lenses" and "Petzval" every day. No way I'm the only one doing that. I buy about one Petzval per year, and my criteria are age & FL. I now have six that predate 1860. Anyway, my advice is this. A 16" Petzval from a major maker during 19th C is going to be quite expensive. It will most likely be a bit over your budget. I would point you to the Bausch & Lomb (B&L) Petzvals from around 1900. I'll include the Wollensak Vesta, another American made Petzval. These are often found at reasonable prices and are just as good as the more expensive ones. I shoot Petzvals on a 4x5 and now also 5x7. Mark (above) is right--stopped down a Petzval looks just like most other lenses. I always shoot mine wide open or not more than f5.6. I do have a Packard shutter on the 5x7 but have found it to not be all that useful. The shutter is something like 1/30s, but even with ISO 25 film I find I still need plenty of ND filters to shoot it wide open in daytime. I don't see the point of using a Petzval at f16, myself.


    Kent in SD
    Die Gedanken sind Frei

  6. #6

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    Re: Petzval Lens Recommendations

    8x10 is a problem as it was a Portrait size well above the usual. There are lots of Petzvals for up to full plate size, but not many designed for the next size up. Weight goes up to over 3 kilos and they are a drain on the wallet, too!

    The Dallmeyer 3a is a very good suggestion. I would be careful with the B&L portrait series as they have a close tolerance design with synthetic iris blades that come loose and snap. Better with good solid, low tech, Waterhouses stops. Many french lens makers (Derogy, Gasc, Francais and Lerebours) made equivalent lenses to the F4 Dallmeyer 3a. Problem is, as you mention, identification! You should look for a focal length of 14-16", a weight of approaching 3 kilos at least, lens diameter of around 90mm. I would follow the auctions of Breker and Westlicht. The winning bids have been more user orientated, rather than collector determined of late.

    It would be a good idea to look through recent completed auctions.

    Do not base your gestimate on the repeated listings of a certain Austrian ebay lister or the well-known Parisian Boutique! Lenses with obvious small problems like ugly brass or inconsequental rear lens edge flaking makes the prices more reasonable but they produce just as a good a result.

  7. #7

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    Re: Petzval Lens Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Two23 View Post
    I look at both "brass lenses" and "Petzval" every day. No way I'm the only one doing that Kent in SD
    Truth be told, probably dozens of photographers searching the auction site daily for Petzval lenses.

    Up here in New England 3 weeks a year we have the Brimfield Antique Show
    http://brimfieldshow.com
    Over 6,000 dealers at the show. I only spend part of a day wandering around, but last time picked up a 4x5 Box camera complete with glass plate holders and an unopened box of Eastman (glass) plates, and a 225mm Brass single meniscus Waterbury Scoville which I use on my whole plate camera... both for little money.

  8. #8
    Cameron Cornell
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    Re: Petzval Lens Recommendations

    Does anyone have any thoughts on the following lens: Rodenstock Portrait Objectiv No. 5? It is a brass Petzval that measures 20 cm long with an element that is 8 cm in diameter. I've found old auctions for No. 4 lenses with slightly smaller dimensions that were listed as 3.7/280 mm. The auction I'm looking at for this No. 5 (1100 Euros) claims that it covers 8x10 and the focal length is 300 mm. I cannot find any Rodenstock catalogs online that are old enough to get the specs.

  9. #9
    Cameron Cornell
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    Re: Petzval Lens Recommendations

    One of the forum members here pointed out to me that this particular "Rodenstock" lens may well be a forgery, given that the engraving on the lens does not match the engravings of the other Rodenstock Petzvals that are out there, and that the engraving includes a misspelling: the German word Objektiv is written Objectiv (substituting the Germanic 'k' for the Anglo et al 'c').

    It sounds like getting a good Petzval for 8x10 requires some combination of knowing the right person and luck and deep pockets. You gentlemen seem to agree that a longer focal length of 16" or greater is essential for 8x10. I assume that the multiple lenses with shorter focal lengths that I've seen advertised as covering 8x10 would do so with over-dramatic (granted, a subjective term) fall-off at the corners. It did occur to me after I posted the original question that my Ansco Studio No. 5 has a 5x7 reducing back that I often forget about because, why bother with 5x7 on an 8x10 camera? But I may have an easier time finding a lovely Petzval that would cover 5x7 and maybe 8x10 only if I wanted that aforementioned over-dramatic effect.

    Thank you fellows for your responses. I really appreciate it.

    Cameron Cornell
    Whidbey Island, WA

  10. #10

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    Re: Petzval Lens Recommendations

    there is also some Voigtlander fakes on the market....do a lot of research on the engravings of the real lenses and you should have no problem.

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