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View Full Version : What good is a 17" f/4 Wollensak Planatic Series III (5x7)?



AtlantaTerry
19-Dec-2013, 19:33
Today a friend offered me a brass lens for $100 with these markings inscribed:
* Century Planatic Series III
* Wollensak Optical
* Rochester, NY
* 17 inches (roughly 430mm)
* 5x7
* f/4 to f/256
* Pat. Feb 6, 1900
* Pat. July 23, 1901

A shutter retaining ring and 3 tiny screws are included.

The lens and shutter were recently cleaned and lubed so there is little to no dust inside.

The compound shutter seems to work well.
1/1 to 1/100 + T & B

I set the shutter to "T" and aperture wide open then hand held it near a sheet of white paper. Reflections of the sun off of cars in the parking lot came into focus at roughly 8 inches. Therefore I assume this lens was from an early 20th century 5x7 folder or pocket view camera since a 17 inch bellows draw was not needed.

Question: this lens is marked f/4 but isn't that the old way of marking apertures? What would be the equivalent in today's lenses?

Question: I currently am in the market for a soft focus lens for my portraits on 4x5. What kind of quality should be expected from this lens?

Thank you.
Terry

Randy Moe
19-Dec-2013, 21:43
If I was you and I am not, I would buy it. The shutter is worth that. The joy is often in discovery.

Kirk Fry
19-Dec-2013, 23:43
U.S 4 = f8 US 8 = f11 US 16 = f16 etc. U. S. stands for "Universal System"

jp
20-Dec-2013, 08:02
If it focuses at 8", that's a good match for 4x5. It's probably worth trying.

Andrew Plume
20-Dec-2013, 08:06
at this price, there's definitely no down side, imo

regards

andrew

Leonard Robertson
20-Dec-2013, 10:32
My first thought was this is a double-convertible lens. Then I did a Google Image search for Century Planatic lens and found a couple of references to it being a triple-convertible. Search eBay #16099641435 and read the information on the lens in the description. Does the lens you are looking at have three aperture scales on the front of the shutter? If not, it may be the cells have been installed in a newer shutter and a aperture scale made for just the primary focal length. When you mention it being in a Compound shutter, that sounds like (possibly) a newer shutter than a lens marked Century would have come in. But according to one reference I looked at, the Compound was introduced in 1903, so maybe that is the original shutter. Is the 17" marking on the rear cell of the lens? That is how Turner-Reich did it with their triple-convertibles. The rear cell FL was marked on that cell, then you could figure out the front cell FL and combined cell FLs from the aperture scale.

I have no idea what the optical formula of this lens is. Probably the individual cells won't perform as well as the two used together, so maybe the single cells used at wide open aperture will be fairly soft for portraits. I don't imagine it will look like a true portrait lens though, and you will need lots of bellows draw to use the single cells.

Len

AtlantaTerry
20-Dec-2013, 11:07
My first thought was this is a double-convertible lens. Then I did a Google Image search for Century Planatic lens and found a couple of references to it being a triple-convertible. Search eBay #16099641435 and read the information on the lens in the description. Does the lens you are looking at have three aperture scales on the front of the shutter? If not, it may be the cells have been installed in a newer shutter and a aperture scale made for just the primary focal length. When you mention it being in a Compound shutter, that sounds like (possibly) a newer shutter than a lens marked Century would have come in. But according to one reference I looked at, the Compound was introduced in 1903, so maybe that is the original shutter. Is the 17" marking on the rear cell of the lens? That is how Turner-Reich did it with their triple-convertibles. The rear cell FL was marked on that cell, then you could figure out the front cell FL and combined cell FLs from the aperture scale.

I have no idea what the optical formula of this lens is. Probably the individual cells won't perform as well as the two used together, so maybe the single cells used at wide open aperture will be fairly soft for portraits. I don't imagine it will look like a true portrait lens though, and you will need lots of bellows draw to use the single cells.

Len

No multiple aperture scales.

All the engraving in the brass is on the front - either on the face of the shutter or around the barrel of the lens. The 17" marking is on the barrel of the lens. There was nothing inscribed on the back of the shutter.

Leonard Robertson
20-Dec-2013, 11:47
Hmm, this is quite a mystery. Here is another eBay listing for a Planatic - #400601288416. The description indicates it is an 8", 14", 18" triple-convertible. From the engraving I can see on the lens barrel in the pictures, that looks to be accurate. However, the Betax shutter looks to me to be much newer than the lens cells, so I suspect this isn't the original shutter. There is just a single aperture scale, but if the owner only used it as a complete lens, he may not have seen any need for aperture scales for the individual cells. I imagine that may be true of the lens you are looking to buy. A possibility is Century provided a chart of equivalent f-stops when using the single cells. So you would set a marked stop on the single aperture scale, but according to the chart, it would actually be a different f-number for single cells for calculating exposure. I've never actually heard of a lens maker doing that, although it seems possible. It would be nice to find a picture of a Planatic in an original shutter to see if that has a triple aperture scale.

Len

ImSoNegative
23-Aug-2014, 20:05
Hmm, this is quite a mystery. Here is another eBay listing for a Planatic - #400601288416. The description indicates it is an 8", 14", 18" triple-convertible. From the engraving I can see on the lens barrel in the pictures, that looks to be accurate. However, the Betax shutter looks to me to be much newer than the lens cells, so I suspect this isn't the original shutter. There is just a single aperture scale, but if the owner only used it as a complete lens, he may not have seen any need for aperture scales for the individual cells. I imagine that may be true of the lens you are looking to buy. A possibility is Century provided a chart of equivalent f-stops when using the single cells. So you would set a marked stop on the single aperture scale, but according to the chart, it would actually be a different f-number for single cells for calculating exposure. I've never actually heard of a lens maker doing that, although it seems possible. It would be nice to find a picture of a Planatic in an original shutter to see if that has a triple aperture scale.

Len

i know this is an old thread but I have a planatic in a original shutter that came with my Imperial whole plate camera it is a tripile convertible, it is a 10 1/2, 17 1/2, 23 1/2

ImSoNegative
23-Aug-2014, 20:10
here is a picture of it

John Kasaian
23-Aug-2014, 20:14
Wollensak made good stuff. Enjoy!

ImSoNegative
23-Aug-2014, 21:09
was wondering something, I am not at all familier with these shutters but it looks like a hose and bulb will fit the piston on the left, is that how it is supposed to be operated? other than the lever on top

winterclock
24-Aug-2014, 17:57
The hose and bulb go on the left, the "pump" on the right is the dashpot that controls the speeds.

Mark Sawyer
24-Aug-2014, 18:49
Sounds like a symmetrical Aplanat (Rapid Rectilinear), hence the "Planatic" name. If each cell is 17", it would focus at 8.5", about what you figured. And yes, the individual cells would be soft; perhaps nice for a pictorial effect on 8x10.