View Full Version : Zeiss Protar Lenses

Roy Hammans
14-Nov-2004, 16:27
I would like to tap into the collective wisdom of this very informative group for information on three recent acquisitions.

They are three shutterless Carl Zeiss Jena Protars, all in excellent condition, details as follows:
Protar 1:18 f=32cm 341102
Protar 1:18 f=14cm 341081
Protar 1:18 f=8.5cm 340946

I am interested to know if anyone can let me know the approximate age of these? Also their format coverage - my guess is quarter-plate but correct me if I'm wrong. I am also assuming that they would not necessarily ever have been used with a mechanical shutter, but again I hope someone may enlighten me. Any other information about them would also be most welcome.

Their provenance is that they were once owned by the noted English landscape and architectural photographer Edwin Smith (1912-1971).

Thanks in advance,

Dan Fromm
14-Nov-2004, 17:01
"their format coverage - my guess is quarter-plate"

Wash your mind out with soap. These lenses cover 110 degrees. Quarter-plate (3 1/4 x 4 1/4) indeed!

All made in 1919.

Wonderful find. Did you get them for a pittance?



Roy Hammans
14-Nov-2004, 18:05
Thanks for the information Dan - I'd not encountered the Protars before and my guess was based on the fact that Edwin Smith used a quarter-plate camera for most of his work, alhough he did own a very old Thornton Pickard Ruby, which was, I believe, half plate. So, when you say they all cover 110 degrees, are you saying that they must have been used for a larger format, or that they could easily have been, having such a large coverage? Perhaps if you wouldn't mind giving a bit more detail ? - I have used a 90mm Super Angulon on 5x4 and the larger image circle permits a wide degree of camera movement. Is it not possible that these lenses were used in that way?.

I am trying to work out whether these would have been the lenses he used for the majority of his work. I acquired them from his widow, now also sadly deceased, but unfortunately the camera they were used with had gone long before. Some of his pictures were made with a very wide angle of view and I suspect in those he would have been using the 8.5 on a larger format. I used to print from his original negatives and only rarely had to deal with anything larger than 3.25 x 4.25 inches.

Ernest Purdum
14-Nov-2004, 19:15
Your lenses were rated for 15" X 12",. whole-plate, and half-plate, respectively. On smaller formats they would, of course, provide use of movements. Your 8.5cm lens is a little shorter than is considered "normal" for quarter-plate, but would provide huge excess coverage on that format. It would have taken something like a Sanderson to put the lens to such use..

Regartding the use of shutters, the small aperture, and the slow films of the time, made it easy to avoid the use of a shutter, so the majority of those now seen are in barrel. There was also a problem in that there was little distance between front and rear lens groups and many shutters could not be fitted. On the other hand, the lenses are so small that front mounting is sometimes feasible despite the very wide working angle.

Jim Galli
14-Nov-2004, 22:31
Wow! 32cm f18 Protar! If you get in the mood to do 20X24 Polaroid you won't have to rent someone elses lens! The 14cm will supposedly reach around 10X12 in a stretch. 8.5cm would cover 5X8! Nice group.

Richard Årlin
15-Nov-2004, 01:31
Try Lngubas@zeisshistorica.org he would know the exact day... cheers

Roy Hammans
18-Nov-2004, 09:46
Thank you to everyone who has responded to my request - this really is a very useful and helpful forum.

The link to Zeiss Historica was particularly welcome and I have passed my query on to that organisation, as suggested, to try and find out the approximate age of this lens group.

I am astonished at the coverage of these lenses. I only have a 5x4 MicroTechnical (MPP) Mk VII and a 5x4 Sinar P - guess I need to move up in the size world if I'm going to use these optics effectively!

Roy Hammans
18-Nov-2004, 13:24
An update, following a very speedy response from Larry at Zeiss Historica and some further research I've carried out.

The Zeiss 1921 catalogue lists the lenses as follows:

Protar 8.5 Lens for 3.25 x 4.25 inches format, image circle 8.5 inches
Protar 14 Lens for 7.5 x 5 inches format, image circle 14 inches
Protar 32 Lens for 14 x 10 inches format, image circle 31.5 inches.

Date of manufacture approx. 1914-1918

The Protar was first developed by Dr Paul Rudolph for Carl Zeiss in 1890. The front element was of standard rapid rectilinear construction but the rear was of newly formulated barium crown and flint glass types, like the Ross concentric.