View Full Version : Brass Lens found in house clearance, please help identify???

17-Aug-2014, 02:52

Please see link below to view pictures I have taken of the lens:


I would like to know as much as possible,please, lens type, age etc.

Your help would be much appreciated!


Andrew Plume
17-Aug-2014, 04:40
Hi Dawn

it's a Parisian manufactured Petzval, pre-1900 I would expect - I cannot with 100% certainty identify the maker's name (even though I'm sure that I've seen one before)

Steven Tribe on here will almost certainly post with exact confirmation of it


17-Aug-2014, 07:47
Like Andrew says, It's a common French portrait petzval lens, a Darlot. About 1870-1890, it was made for a camera (as apposed to a magic lantern). This size, estimated, would be for about a 5x7 sized camera. The cameras of the 1880s came without lenses, you selected the type you wanted, so it could have been on any camera from France, UK, America. They take good pictures, and are popular with large format and wetplate shooters. Not worth that much, it's missing the hood. But would still work.

17-Aug-2014, 08:00
Thank you both , for your help, does the serial number engraved on the lens have any significance in determining the date, also on the other side someone has wrritten on it 13.A.1.1?? The lenses both have darlot paris pencilled on the edge of them and one has a number 7. Any ideas? How would I get in touch with Steven Tribe?

17-Aug-2014, 08:45
No, there is no database really for Darlots and dates. They started and stopped the numbers several times, so the numbers are meaningless. Occasionally, but usually on the earlier ones, there would be a date on the glass rim. All I can tell you is from my experience of owning and handling hundreds of them. It's about 1880. Steven is on the board, and will answer at some point.

Steven Tribe
17-Aug-2014, 13:19
Mostly agree with what people say. Late 19th Century!

BUT, I have the feeling that this may be a modified Projection lens, which Darlot sold a lot of. Many magic lantern lenses have been converted to Petzval portrait lenses in the generations before us. It takes just 5 careful saw cuts. If the saw cuts are completely perfect - then it is modified projection lens.

The main reason I am not sure about this is the odd "flange" - which looks like something used to connect the lens to the brass condenser lens housing.

No-one knows whether there is any difference in the optical qualities of Darlot's photographic and projection products. The brasswork is certainly made to the same standards.

I am certainly not the Darlot expert here!

Steven Tribe
19-Aug-2014, 04:34
If the saw cuts are completely perfect - then it is modified projection lens.

Sorry, error here. What I thought I had written was " If the saw cuts are NOT perfect (especialy at the corners) - then it is a modified Petzval Projection lens".

There will be plenty of completed sales on Ebay with auction prices. So just find a couple which are about the same size as yours. Whilst long term members here are utterly reliable, be cautious of those who have registered recently and have few contributions!

19-Aug-2014, 07:09
No prob, thanks "always on the ball" Denny!