View Full Version : British lenses

18-Aug-2004, 17:55
Hi there. I'm not a regular poster here so apologies for gatecrashing. I'm looking to assemble a few British lenses for 4x5 and/or 2x3" compability (with movements). Does anyone have any recommendations?

On a more specific question, I've tried doing a search for a Ross Xpres full-plate lens. There are 2 references to a Ross Xpres 5" lens and on other sites, there are references to a Ross Xpres 12" lens.

Here goes.

Ross Xpres 6" lens f4.5 (Made in England) by Ross, London

Brass mountings, set in Compur shutter (T, B, 1-1/250 sec) and runs f4.5 - f32.

The lens fits around the shutter in a doublet and can be mounted easily on a 5x4" lensboard.

The run of of this lens is either a very small number, or the one I have is an early model (the serial number runs into 4 digits). The grade of this particular lens is excellent without lens aberrations.

Anyone here have any experience with this lens? (Yes, I know Ansel Adams used one - but not for long........). Covering power?

18-Aug-2004, 18:29
Can't help specifically, but if you haven't come across them already, you might want to contact the MPP user's Club at http://www.mppusers.freeuk.com - Ross lenses were often used on MPP cameras.


Dan Fromm
18-Aug-2004, 18:59
I'm not sure whether to blame the camera or the fact that it is front cell focusing, but at infinity at f/11, f/16, f/22 the 105/3.8 Xpres on my Ensign Selfix 820 isn't as sharp as the 101/4.5 Ektar on my 2x3 Speed Graphic. The same is true closer in, but there the Ensign has to be focused by guess or tape measure so there's the possibility of confounding focusing error with differences in lens performance.

Dallmeyer, Ross, Wray, and even Taylor, Taylor, Hobson lenses turn up from time to time on eBay.uk.co as well as on eBay.com. Keep looking, be patient.

And remember, lens quality is no respecter of nationality. There's no reason to restrict your search to UK-made lenses. 152/4.5 Ektars show up fairly often on eBay.com, as do 127/4.5s, and a good example of either will do nicely for you. So will the longer f/6.3 Commercial Ektars if you want to stick with older lenses.

FWIW, TTH Ser. VIIb lenses were made in a variety of focal lengths, are supposed to cover 100 degrees at f/32. Lots of coverage there. Big drawback may be that most of the ones I've seen were in barrel, and it isn't clear which shutter will take them.

If you don't have a copy, you might want to buy The Lens Collector's Vade Mecum from MW Classic Cameras. Its strongest on UK-made lenses, weakest on US-made. I've found it quite helpful.

Good luck,


Ernest Purdum
18-Aug-2004, 22:14
The Ross Xpres is a general-purpose lens similar in performance to a Tessar, though differing in construction in having three rear elements, all cemented. The 6" was listed as covering 4" X 5" and would allow considerable use of movements on 2 1/4" X 3 1/4". The 12 inch was rated for full-plate use.

The 5" lens you mention might be the f4 Wide Angls Xpres. Large numbers of these were made for British military use during WW II. They show up rather often, nearly always in the 5" focal length,and more often than not in an odd military barrel with no maker's markings. They were not actually all that wide, unly 70 degrees, but could be used wide open at f4, which was unequalled at the time. Burke & James apparently coated, remounted, and sold some of these lenses under their own tradenames.

Pete Watkins
19-Aug-2004, 01:00
I have a Ross 5in Wide Angle Xpress f4 lens I have yet to take a picture with it but I recall reading somwhere that it would cover 5x7. I've tried it on my 5x4 and it looks pretty sharp. I have one obscure question about this lens. It was made for the British Government as it is stamped with a crown, but the crown stamp is between the letters A & M instead of the usual WO (standing for War Office). Does anybody know which department /service the letters A & M stand for? Thanks, Pete.

Struan Gray
19-Aug-2004, 02:53
Air Ministry.

Dan Fromm
19-Aug-2004, 05:11
Ernest, my 105/3.8 Xpres doesn't agree with you. It thinks it is a tessar, with the rear cell having two, not three, cemented elements. The Xpres had a long production history, with many changes. Same goes for the Wray Lustrar, early ones are dialytes according to the Vade Mecum, late ones are tessars. Cox shows both types as Lustrars.



Ernest Purdum
19-Aug-2004, 10:41
Dan, A four-element Xpres is new to me. Well, that's what this forum is all about, passing on information.

ISO 2, I'm not entirely sure what you have in mind, but thought perhaps you might welcome information on British lenses with wider coverage than the Xpres. In addition to the Cooke VIIb that Dan mentioned, here are some others:

Ross Compound Homocentric. This lens is similar in both construction and performance to the Dagor. Like the Dagor, its coverage expands considerably as it is stopped down. The 6" is rated at 5" X 7 1/2" stopped down. A Homocentric without "Compound in its name is a different four-element airspaced design. It has more coverage than the Xpres, but less than the Compound.

Dallmeyer Stigmatic. There are several "Series" which differ in design. The Series II is an f6 five-element design. It is very unusual in being a triple convertible, but asymmetrical. The 6" was rated at full-plate size full open and 12" X 15" at f16. The Series IV, f6.3 is a simplified four element design, but also an asymmetric triple convertible.

If British manufacture, but not necessarily design, is important to you, Ross was among the several licensees for the Zeiss Protar lens line.

There are, of course, others. If you run across something you think might be desirable, but are unsure of its characteristics, you can almost surely get more information here.

Regarding "gatecrashing", questions like yours are what we want. Collectively, we know much more than any of us individually. Mutual help is the basis of the forum. No apologies necessary.

Pete Watkins
19-Aug-2004, 12:22
Thanks Struan, I feel such a pillock. Pete.

Dan Fromm
19-Aug-2004, 12:23
Ernest, I just checked the Vade Mecum, which reports that most plain vanilla f/4.5 Xpres lenses were tessar types, also the f/3.8 one supplied for, e.g., the Selfix 820. There were other versions that were five element lenses, 1 + 1 + i + 3, in the Vade Mecum's notation, as you reported. And then there were Wide Angle Xpres lenses, as for example a 5"/4 I have, that seem to be plasmats.

This all makes me think of the many flavors of Ektar.

Get a copy of the Vade Mecum. It has many drawbacks, but mine's been very useful.



Ernest Purdum
19-Aug-2004, 12:36
Dan, I've got a copy of the Vade Mecum, but hadn't thought to look up the Xpres in it. From what you provide, it seems likely that Ross changed their design after the Tessar patent expired. I imagine that there were quite a few lens makers happy to see the demise of that patent.

20-Aug-2004, 08:23
This is so helpful guys. Thanks everyone.

Dan - I presume using a focussing screen, the front cell focusing issue shouldn't be a problem, whereas with the uncoupled Selfix 820, there is a hazardous method of guessing focus. My inclination towards British lenses isn't on the grounds of superiority or anything (perish the thought, like the British camera industry?). Since I live here, I have more chance of acquiring a decent condition lens, than a 5x4 covering Ektar which the same person on the american auction site keeps beating me on.

Who suggested the Cooke?! I'd love a Cooke triplet. And a go cart or a horsedrawn one to carry my kit as well. Straun & Ernest - any idea what the serial numbers for the Dallmeyers run like? Will look out for the Compound Homocentric, although this is the first time I've heard of it.

Thanks for the detailed info on those lenses. I plan to use the Ross on 5x4" and 2"x3" for convenience when a monorail won't fit in my back pocket; I think I've got a method from Dan for modifying the lens onto a shutterboard.