View Full Version : How to evaluate a B&L Portrait Unar

23-Apr-2013, 08:16
I may be buying one of these lenses. My research has told me it is worth bout $500 (in good condition) but, subject to damage relatively easily to sensitive internals mechanisms particular to this lens. I've never encountered a lens like this.

Any idea what I should be looking for to ensure it is in 100% working order?


23-Apr-2013, 08:43
Have them move the soft focus ring. Is it smooth? Does it look like the glass inside is moving? Then have them turn the iris ring, and ask if all the leaves are straight, not getting jammed, and close with a round hole. It's normal for them to be stiff, they're old, and you can usually lube the rings slightly to help. Make sure the glass isn't too dirty, I'm not sure how easy it would be to take apart. These are uncommon, but not hyped to the cult status. $500 would be a good buy for sure. Mine works fine, but any lens with moving internals can jam, be it a Cooke, Velostigmat, etc. I don't think they break much, they jam.

23-Apr-2013, 09:34
Thank you very much for your reply.

Should the glass move with the sf ring turning?

Steven Tribe
23-Apr-2013, 11:28
I have had stiff turning mechanisms in both Heliar Universal and series IIE Cooke lenses. Overhaul can be done with easily available handtools - unlike modern lens.
All these models have greased areas which become dry due to little use and aged/solidified grease.
The movement should be visable through the front glass.
This Unar version developed by B&L is quite unique among those who licensed the Unar model!

No flange?

23-Apr-2013, 15:05
I have an earlier one with a built in focussing mechanism, but no you can't really see the elements move, the way a Universal Heliar moves. You can perhaps see a bubble or the side of the lens move in a circle. I believe the aperture leaves are very deliate, perhaps made of paper? Eddie knows more. Check to see they are perfect. Eddie says never buy one you have not personally inspected.

Jim Galli
23-Apr-2013, 15:28
I've got a 14 1/2" (iirc) one that is missing the iris blades. They were phenolic and fragile. Not worth much but not so much a detraction for me as if I am going to use that lens, it's gonna be wide open anyways. Glass number 3 behind the aperture is the one that moves. You should be able to see it looking at an angle inside from close.

Steven Tribe
23-Apr-2013, 15:34
Comments about aperture leaves on B&L are very real. I have had 4 B&L Unikum shutters through my hands - all had problems with the "bakerlite" leaves. The pins on the leaves seem only to fixed on by static electricity!