View Full Version : Chadburn Brothers Sheffield - Brass Petzval Lens Question

anton orlov
7-Oct-2015, 00:33
Hello and thanks for looking at my inquiry,

I recently got a lens and I am trying to place a date on it, + or - a few years of course.

It's a brass Petzval by Chadburn Brothers of Sheffield. Marked with an engraving: Quick Acting, logo (pretty neat-looking), and Portrait Lens Patent. Serial number is 14xxx. It appears to be an 8in f3.5 The image is great - very sharp with a large sweet spot, covers 5x7 and has a ton of swirl (yes, I know some people don't like that and think it's a fad, but hey I like it, it's not for every image of course, but if used right it could be very attractive IMHO)

Looking around the web I see ZERO photos of other photographic lenses by these guys, though there are quite a few examples of telescopes and other optical equipment. I do see that they were in operation from 1822 to 1894 or so. I also see a few ads from 1940s and 50s mentioning photographic lenses, but no real catalogs or illustrations of such lenses.

So, what would you guys guess as far as a decade at least? 50s, 60s? For example, when did the term 'Quick Acting' first start appearing? Seeing how the serial number is pretty high and there are NO photos or even other references to their photographic lenses online, do you think it's safe to assume that they numbered everything coming out of their shop consecutively no matte if it was a microscope or a lens?

Steven Tribe
7-Oct-2015, 02:59
Photo please!

Chadburn are not mentioned in "earlyphotography.co.uk" but get conderable mention in Webster's database of Instrument makers. There were a large family of instrument makers in Sheffield, UK? Chadburn Brothers were active from 1837 - 1884.

Mostly Barometers sextants and microscopes. So they had both the experience and workshops to make photographic optics.
My guess, though, is that didn't start production, but just imported French lenses from someone like Gasc & Charconnet. They are known for their quick acting Peztval (F3.2?) - Bryant was the usual (later?) UK agent. French lenses from this time usually have pencil/ink marks on the lenses, whilst UK makers didn't often do.

This isn't the logo you mention by any chance?
It could explain the mysterious V & A on the logo as Chadburn was supplier to Prince Albert!

Steven Tribe
7-Oct-2015, 04:22
I may have underestimated Chadburn Bros' contribution!

They had an extensive exhibit at the UK Great Exhibition at the Paxton Crystal Palace in 1851 including lens production and Magic Lanterns. There is good account of their activities (amongst lots of other stuff) which can be seen in a contribution dated 6 october 2011 in a section called Professional Photographers in Sheffield and Rotjerham at Sheffieldhistory.co.uk.

anton orlov
7-Oct-2015, 10:15
Hi Steve and thanks for your input - that's exactly the logo on the lens (of which I'll try to put a picture up when I get home). I'll also check to see if there's any markings on the glass (actually I already checked the read elements, but didn't check the front - there's nothing on the rear). And yes, it may be f3.2 and not 3.5 as per my initial calculation - I'm going to further test that today.

Gasc & Charconnet made good lenses, so I wouldn't be at all upset if it did turn out to be an import, but would they still have put 'Portrait Lens Patent' engraving on the barrel if indeed it was an import?
And what about the possible date? (unless of course I find it on the glass...)

Steven Tribe
7-Oct-2015, 11:13
It is therefore definitely a Gasc & Charconnet lens. If the VA means Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, then it means it was made in 1861 or before as Albert died of a stomach complaint in that year.

The early US agent for G & C was Geo Bryant of Boston who started with James Sawyer & Co (Daguerrotype Apparatus and Stock) around 1855. Later, Benjamin French became the big guy in Boston with his agency for Darlot and Voigtlander.
Bryant had a fancy engraving on "his" lenses too.

7-Oct-2015, 14:21
Definitely a Gasc and Charconnet. But I would not subscribe to the belief the VA will help you date it. Many references to monarchs were continued for years after, or it could stand for something else. I have a few G&C lenses, and guess they are from 1870 to 1877 if the G. Bryant is on it. If not, (or with another importer like yours), it's hard to tell the date. I can make educated guesses looking at them, there are a few clues to give a rough period.

Laverne bought G&C in 1877, then Clement and Gilmer bought him out, in the late 1880s if I recall. I'm saying all this from memory.

As far as useablity goes, they are very good lenses. As an example, I have a 9" Quick Acting, and a 14" regular, and even a little 7" one. I keep them, and sell any Darlot I find.

anton orlov
7-Oct-2015, 18:33
Interesting thing that I discovered while trying to see if there's a signature - the front element group is cemented in and the back is stamped in, no way to unscrew anything. Edges of the glass look back because of the glue and there doesn't seem to be any sign of pencil or ink marks. ow that I think about it I guess I didn't yet get to the rear group either - I just tried and the ring holding down those elements is super tight - turns about 1/10th of a revolution and stops, I'll try to fiddle with it more later. In the Casc lenses that I do have (one signed by them and another nameless lantern lens with their initials on the glass) the front element is not stamped in. Does anyone have a Gasc lens with the front that is non-removable???

Here are the shots of my new baby.



P.S. Garret - I like my 4-4 and 2-4 Darlots - I don't know how much sharper one needs lenses to be while making wet plate positives... The 4-4 is also ultra fast - probably faster than 3.2 actually. If you ever find an 8-4 Darlot you know who to sell it to ;)

anton orlov
7-Oct-2015, 18:34
Umm.... very sorry for the photos being upside down...

Steven Tribe
8-Oct-2015, 00:24
Lots of Petzvals have this lathe turned down mount for the front achromat, not just magic lantern lenses.

It looks to me like the trademark engraving was made by G & C whilst the Chadburn signature looks like the engraving they made on their usual range of brass instruments. The WHS cut out looks a bit odd, but the engraved sleeve IS to one side.
This first one suggest an addition and the other that the WHS system was in use (after about 1857). I'll check this on other G & C lenses.

8-Oct-2015, 08:16
Here is my favorite G&C lens, a Bryant imported 14"


Oh, Steven, your Euryscop II is on the way, should be about half way there now!

Steven Tribe
8-Oct-2015, 09:00
More than halfway - just 33 kilometers away with Customs!

My first Bryant G & C should arrive at the same time.

8-Oct-2015, 09:25
What a world traveler that lens will be! Made in Paris, imported to America and probably used in a wetplate studio, and now off to the great white north to you!

anton orlov
8-Oct-2015, 17:47
Ummm... and where's my Euryscope?.... :'(
Hehe - it's ok - I have #5 and #7, so I'm fairly well set.

That 14" G&C does look impressive! That's what I need to find now - any 14"+ Petzvals. I somehow ended up with 4 full plate ones that are all about 8-10in... I'd probably be willing to trade two of them for a 14in...

8-Oct-2015, 18:45
It's true, the bigger ones are more rare. In the 1870s, I'd say for every 50 quarterplate lenses, there were 10 wholeplate ones sold. Probably only 2-3 "double wholeplate" or approximately an 8x10 lens. Then anything longer than 14 inch would be extremely rare. Anything longer than 20 inch would only have a couple sold each year.

For several years I sourced Petzvals for people. Often, photographers just learning about wetplate would contact me, and say "I need a Petzval to cover 11x14, but I want a fast one! Needs to be faster than F3.8. But I want a good price, I don't want to spend much..."

I started saying with Petzvals you can have:

- Fast Speed
- Large Coverage
- Low Price

....pick any two above!

anton orlov
8-Oct-2015, 19:05
yeah... that's about how it seems indeed. I mean, I'm not a big speed fanatic, f4-5 is plenty for me, but I like a slight swirl (and sometimes like it stronger than slight) and with Petzvals it seems to go away more the slower they are. But yeah, I ain't some retired lawyer or doctor or god knows who with disposable thousands... So, I'll have to wait for a miracle (like winning a lottery, which would truly be a miracle since I don't buy tickets....)

8-Oct-2015, 19:06
Nah....just keep looking, you'll find one on some camera in some dusty antique store sometime.

anton orlov
8-Oct-2015, 19:56
HA! Antique stores around where I live SUCK BUTT! Southern California is NOT a place where this stuff exists - period. But yeah, it'll come my way :)

9-Oct-2015, 15:13
I had a 13" f 4.3 ish G&C petzval that was complete. It was a Bryant as well. It was really cheap as the seller had listed it as 10 inch. It was really beautiful lens with a dark patina. Perfect glass too. no separation. It wasn't getting enough use as I wasn't shooting that much 5x7 back then so I sold it. Wish I had kept it. It was really sharp. You will be happy with it Anton.

9-Oct-2015, 18:04
Here's how much I like my big G&C, I sold my 13" Vitax, because I know I'll always reach for the French lens instead. And Vitaxes are very good.

anton orlov
16-Oct-2015, 16:05
Quick update - so far loving the lens. Only shot it with the one Waterhouse stop I found in my stash that fir perfectly (about f5.6) and the results are excellent. Need more portrait shoots to try it on...