View Full Version : Voigtlander Portrait Petzval, but which one?

22-Aug-2013, 07:21
I found the lens pictured below a few days ago. It is a large(ish) Voigtlander Petzval lens that, according to Dan's list of serial numbers, can be dated to 1863.

The lens is 28 cm tall (11") and the hood is 15 cm across (6"). The glass elements measure 10.6 cm (4 1/8") at the front and 11.5 cm (4 1/2") at the rear. These measurements were made with the elements mounted in the brass encasings. Given are the actual diameters of the glass as light passes through the lens.

Mounted on my Century its focal length appears to be 16 inches. Measured from the ground glass to the Waterhouse slot when focused at infinity. Back focus is 12 inches. I am estimating the speed of the lens at f3.7 or f3.8.

I have looked through several threads about Voigtlander Petzvals, but I am still unsure what I have found. Data and catalogs provided by Steven Tribe and Dan Colucci tell me that it is either a #6 or a #7 portrait lens. In a book Steven refers to #6 is a 14" lens and #7 a 17 1/2" lens. Mine is 16". In the book the diameter of the front lens for both #6 and #7 is 10.6 cm, as is mine. So that does not help me either.

There are no markings on the barrel, except for a tiny 7 at the bottom near the flange thread. This marking is invisible when the lens is mounted on a camera. But on the circumference of the brass glass encasings, someone wrote what looks like a 6 with a pencil.

In Dan's 1864 catalog pages I can find no #6 or #7, only smaller lenses. In his 1890 catalog I can see a #6B and a #7B. One is 11" and the other one is 14". So that does not help me either. In a post by Eddie on big Petzvals he pictures a Voigtlander that is exactly 16". But his lens looks completely different from mine.

The image on the ground glass my Voigtlander projects is wonderful. This even though some moron during its long life flipped the rear flint glass. The flint protruded beyond the barrel because of this. Of course this moron (or another one) saw no problem in repeatedly putting away the lens on its glass surface. It is badly scratched now. I reflipped the element and the image looks perfect now, so I may keep it.

Why do people flip these elements? There should be a law against that.

Thanks, Maurits

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22-Aug-2013, 07:34
Hi Maurits,
Thanks for the help on my French lens. On Voigtlanders, I always say they changed their number systems, speeds, focal lengths, and formulas often. So a number 7 one year may be 16" Petzval like yours, and a number 7 in later years may be a Rapid Rectilinear and 11". The early ones are the hardest to figure out. They didn't even engrave (or probably use themselves) the "Quick Acting" or "Extra Quick" terms the British and Americans did! Just numbers, and later, adding a letter "A" or "B". But they were different every few years, even with the same number.

Here are some pictures of a 6B I had. It was engraved 6B, and was an 11" lens, so it happened to match the catalog I show. But yours may take a lot of digging, the catalogs in 1863 didn't have nice pictures and tables of specifications! Either way, Voigtlander made fantastic lenses, and you have a good one.


22-Aug-2013, 08:54
I found the lens pictured below a few days ago...Why do people flip these elements? There should be a law against that.

Thanks, Maurits

I know, I've had a few damaged like that. Too back they didn't mark the edge of the glass with an arrow or something, similar to how well marked Darlot/Jamin cones are marked for Portrait and Landscape modes!

Steven Tribe
22-Aug-2013, 08:57
The book only has the listings of the "fast-worker" F3.2, but I remember that the sketchy catalogue posted by Dan has some slower Petzval series.
Garret's 6B fits in well to the "Schnellarbeiter" series as 6B is listed as 12", front glass diameter 3.5" and full plate size.

The early Voigtländer, pre-ca. 1877, where very "thumb" fixated! They were described as "2 inch, 3 inch, 4 inch etc. - referring to the size of front glass.

22-Aug-2013, 09:56
Thanks Garrett and Steven. So, only half a thumb up for old Voigtlander catalogs :p

Jim Fitzgerald
22-Aug-2013, 11:33
Thanks Garrett and Steven. So, only half a thumb up for old Voigtlander catalogs :p

At least it is something to go by!

22-Aug-2013, 13:35
At least it is something to go by!

Jim, I know. And I am thankful for that. But somehow I had expected German lenses to be documented better. Simply because they are, well, German. And this is meant in an absolutely positive and respectful manner.

Jim Fitzgerald
22-Aug-2013, 13:51
Maurits, I agree. It is a beautiful lens and one that should be used and used often. Voigtlander's have a wonderful look to them. I too agree that it would have been nice if they had some consistency in their documentation.

22-Aug-2013, 14:08
Hmmm, I may have to rearrange my lens hoarding priorities. I have a museum quality Hermagis in its original box that I never use. But this Voigtlander ticks many more boxes from a photographer's standpoint. Hmmm... :confused:

22-Aug-2013, 14:13
If you check this page http://www.antiquecameras.net/blog92.html the entire 1864 Voigtlander listing is posted including the larger sizes and numbers 6 and 7 listed with their specs (also see below). The number 6 and 7 have the same glass diameters as your lens, but 6 is faster than 7 (shorter focal length). Note they list "combined focus" in the specs. Not sure if thats back focus or focal length or some other measurement. But if your back focus is 12 inches, I think its a # 7, otherwise its a 6 :p.

Because Voigtlander did make number/model changes over time, you need to match your serial number to catalogues of the correct period.

Hope this helps



22-Aug-2013, 14:25
PS - what is the measure of back focus, plus distance to waterhouse slot? And distance from back focus to middle of the barrel ? You mention 16" focal length, but I am curious how you go that.

22-Aug-2013, 14:37
Hi Dan, combined focus confuses me too. I think what is meant is the focal length measured from the Waterhouse slot. That is where I got my 16" focal length from. The distance from the slot to the ground glass. For back focus I measured the distance between the exit pupil (rear lens) and the ground glass.

Even the 1864 catalog disagrees with my 1863 lens. But I am more inclined towards a #6 now than to a #7.

22-Aug-2013, 15:26
how does it disagree? I bet the measurement of back focus plus middle of the barrel is going to be about 18" which is why I think its a # 7

23-Aug-2013, 04:08
Dan, measuring extra carefully back focus is 11 5/8".

If I add the distance to the slot (3 1/2") focal length is 15 1/8". That is much closer to a #6 (14 5/8") than to a #7 (18 3/8").
If I add the distance to the middle of the barrel without hood (3 3/4") focal length is 15 3/8". That is still much closer to a #6 than to a #7.


The above plus what is written on the side of the front and rear groups makes me sure this is a #6 Petzval Portrait.

23-Aug-2013, 07:44
One thing's for sure, you have precise measurement of the actual focal length! And that's whats important with Voigtlanders. If we say, "I have a Dallmeyer 3b" everyone knows what that is and covers. If we say "I have a Voigtlander 6" no one knows. Because again, it varied every couple years. To me, saying "I have a 15" Voigtlander" is clearer, the only question would be do you mean measured to the nodal point/waterhouse slot. Which is what 99% of the people figure today, at least the people I deal with don't mess with "back focus."

23-Aug-2013, 08:41
[ ... ] at least the people I deal with don't mess with "back focus." No, I measured from the ground glass to the Waterhouse slot.

Yesss, I have a 15" Voigtlander! :)