View Full Version : What to do when you can't (or won't) pay for an early Voigtlander Petzval?

Steven Tribe
5-Dec-2013, 15:00
The early Voigtlander Petzvals are well worth what they cost but paying more than four times what I have paid for other "equivalent" seems to encounter a personal deep psychological barrier.

I have been able to put off the acquisition by using the argument that they are difficult to work with because of the non-matching visual and chemical focus - but the money involved has been the real problem.

I have registered the other Viennese makers of the 1840's and 1850's - many of whom where either Voigtlander's competitors (and enemies!) or ex-collaborators or employees. They were all smaller manufacturers, who didn't seem to benefit from Voigtlander's exit to Braunschweig. The names are:


Dietzler seems to have made quite a few lenses and has been mentioned here a few times. I have followed a few auctions of these without being lucky.
There is a very attractive sequence of these lenses from Vienna on small specialist website Photohistory.at under Objektive 1841.

Which brings us to EBay 261339586287. Which was a Franz Xavier Waibl 3 1/2" Petzval from about 1855. The lens has a few obvious problems, apart from the fact that the lister standard items show a odd interest! Certainly Bupapest is a likely ending-up place for a lens from the Austro-Hungarian empire's capital. I'll report back whether my need for an early Petzval has been satiated!

5-Dec-2013, 16:58
It is my understanding that Petzval after his "falling out" with Voigtlander went to Vienna and made his original petzval design for Dietzler. I am sure someone will correct me on this. So some would say that the only true Petzval lenses are the Early Voigtlanders and the Dietzlers made by Petzval. The debate of whats a real Petzval lens can now continue. i personally have a no name petzval lens that I shoot on 4x5 and I think it's amazing, but I am not a collector so to me it's just about the final image.

Mark Sawyer
5-Dec-2013, 17:27
I have been able to put off the acquisition by using the argument that they are difficult to work with because of the non-matching visual and chemical focus - but the money involved has been the real problem.

The difference in visual and actinic focus is an issue only with blue/UV-sensitive films and plates. Modern panchromatic films have an actinic range that closely matched the visual range, so no correction is needed with any achromatic lens (which the Petzval qualifies as). Even with non-achromatic lenses, focusing is pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get, with some softness as the different colors focus in different places.

Sorry, Steven, but unless it's for wet plate, Daguerreotypes, or the like, you have to buy more old lenses! :)

John Kasaian
5-Dec-2013, 17:56
Salvage the Petzval off a wrecked Magic Lantern?

5-Dec-2013, 18:57
Important buying tip: When you list other makers that are just as good as an expensive one, more buyers start looking for those other makers. And their prices go up too! But I commend you on learning about some of these early European makers, which probably turn up fairly often in Europe. In America, we only had a few 1850s petzval makers, and most went out of business just after the end of the Civil War. Then there was a "dark age" when no US companies made them - we imported them all. Finally around the 1890s a few American optical companies started making them again.

Steven Tribe
6-Dec-2013, 03:07
Mark, I have actually ventured into colloidion (well 2 images, anyway) thanks to assistance from a kind local member.
I do understand the argument about modern emulsions but still feel the panchromatic sensitivity range will lead to a "mushy" build-up of sharp and unsharp definition!

I don't think publicising these names will do anything to influence demand. Sales were very much restricted to the old Germanic areas of Europe ( Old German States and Austrio-Hungarian Empire) and I have never seen them (apart from a few Dietzlers) elsewhere than at the very established Auction Houses in that area. Most of these makers were very very small and the chances of getting a hit using a search engine would be frustrating infinitesimal. It would like doing a search for the elusive maker Soleil (which I have never seen for sale anywhere) on French EBay!

The whole question of domestic manufacturers and local/international sales of the portrait lenses of the 19th century is quite complex and very interesting. I am sure that the US Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War had a lot of influence.

Steven Tribe
6-Dec-2013, 05:22
I forgot to mention that the Austrian website was found by our own Dan/CCHarrison and that there has been a mention of Wiengartshofer in an earlier posting.

Mark Sawyer
6-Dec-2013, 12:58
...I do understand the argument about modern emulsions but still feel the panchromatic sensitivity range will lead to a "mushy" build-up of sharp and unsharp definition!

Only in the case of chromatic aberration, and the Petzval design has an achromatic doublet up front to handle that!

Emil Schildt
7-Dec-2013, 17:57
Steven: what do you need for your new adventure?
Does it have to be Austrian?

I have so many lenses and so little time (and space) so ....

John Kasaian
7-Dec-2013, 18:47
You can always smear the outside edge of your lens with K-Y lubricant and hope for the best :rolleyes:

Pete Watkins
7-Dec-2013, 23:19
Hi John, I always wondered what that stuff was used for ;-))

8-Dec-2013, 00:25
I have so many lenses and so little time (and space) so...

Planing to sell some 8" ones?

Steven Tribe
8-Dec-2013, 02:05
Emil, My Petzval situation is that I have a reasonable set of UK versions ( Ross CdeVs 1 -3, Ross Cabinet 3 and Dallmeyer 3B) and a largish non-cone Jamin-Darlot , but was on the look-out for either a Busch Quick-Worker or a Vienna Petzval.

I have my own problems of space - but this is caused by too many studio camera sets rather than the bulk of lenses!
Get in touch if you have any current students who need a studio set on the Eastern side of the country.

Steven Tribe
13-Dec-2013, 05:41
The Waibl turned up to-day in the kind of condition I didn't deserve!

It is different from what I expected!

Lens mounting has very different features from French and UK contemporaries (1854). The rear pair are mounted from the rear with a screw thread and the inner glass rests on a turned brass edge. There are no GG edge pencil marks.

Extremely fast - around F2.3. Focal length is 200mm and aperture is 85mm. Just right for the last few years of the Daguerreotype era.

Steven Tribe
13-Dec-2013, 08:15
Another difference!

It has a super heavy duty mounting flange which is 6mm thick. There are 2 mounting holes at the top which are threaded (M5?). There is a mark on the surface brass which shows there has extra flat section which has connected the male mounting screws.

I can only think that this has lens has been connected to a substantial metal frame - either a magic lantern or an early type metal camera - something like the early Voigtlander metal camera, which has been made as a copy many times since the 1840's.

Steven Tribe
16-Dec-2013, 09:54
A bit more trivia about Waibl. Useful if someone does a search on Waible in the future!

Waibl lenses have one of two addresses engraved on the sleeves:

Gumpendorf Schmidtgasse 108 and
Laimgrube Hauptstrasse No. 184.

These follow the logical (for the post-office) Town, street, house number in street.
So Gumpendorf and Laimgrube ("clay pit") are small villages which became part of Vienna in 1850. Laimgrube is/was a very small section of Vienna, whilst Gumpendorf is somewhat larger. Hauptstrasse 184 is drawn in on a map of the area from 1830, just 50 meters from the Imperial Engineering Academy.

Of known lenses, about 10, only 2 have the Laimgrube address. The question is: Which address is the first one? Photohistory@at suggests that Laimgrube is around 1854-57, whilst Gumpendorf is considered correct before and after this date. As Laimgrube was given up as an address by the authorities in 1850, I would guess this is the first address from the late 1840's whilst the Gumpendorf address continued until the end of Waibl as a lens maker around 1857.

The street numbering is No. 184 in the Laimgrube address, whilst this has become more abbreviated (modern) 108 for Gumpendorf.

Apart from Waibl, Laimgrube was home for Beethoven, Liszt and a certain notorious WW1 Corporal!

13-Feb-2018, 08:33
Sorry to resurrect this old thread but I've also acquired a lens from Waibl and living in Vienna, actually in the same district(Gumpendorf) where he worked, I was tempted to find out more.
Laimgrube Haupstrasse No. 184 roughly corresponds to today's Mariahilfer Strasse 18 and Schmidtgasse got renamed into Webgasse in 1862. Both are located along the same street with Laimgrube being the more noble and expensive address even back in the days.

Steven Tribe
13-Feb-2018, 10:10
I researched the old maps of Vienna at the time and found the street layouts and house numbers!

You may find your particular lens in the Waibl advert which is at photohistory@at. It was period when the usual sale was of a camera and a particular lens. Is it a Laimgrubbe ("claypit!") engraving?

14-Feb-2018, 04:35
It is a Schmidtgaße one and was built without a waterhouse slot. Apparently somebody used it for landscapes and they manually cut two slots in it. I know Peter Jonas(photohistory_at) and he said that many lenses from that era have been retrofitted with waterhouse slots to be used with faster processes.

Steven Tribe
14-Feb-2018, 05:47
It is not just Austrian (sorry austria-hungary!) lenses which have been mostly modified to WH stops, it is very common elsewhere. Thre was a sale of one on ebay some time ago where an engraving was almost lost - just a few single letters/numbers at the edge gave away what the full address (and maker) was. I don't know whether mine was born with the lens hood insert system for reducing aperture as the brass lens hood was gone. Fortunately, it is not WHS converted.