PDA

View Full Version : Petzval Lens Recommendations



Cameron Cornell
15-Nov-2016, 13:53
Greetings-

I am going to begin setting money aside and in a yearís time I should have around $1800 to spend on a lens (plus another few hundred for shipping and a new Packard Shutter and a lens board). I would like to ask you gentlemen for recommendations for the best Petzval lens that you think I might find at around that price. I would like a lens in excellent working order with a flange so that I can mount it to a lens board and make photographs with it. I am eager to know the history and the stories behind these lenses, but I am not a collector - I canít afford to be. I want to actually use this equipment.

I shoot portraits, mostly in natural, cloudy bright light on an 8x10 Ansco Studio No. 5 that takes 9Ē lens boards.

Currently I use a 14Ē Rodenstock Sironar-N, a 10Ē Kodak Commercial Ektar, and a 7.5Ē Gundlach. Recently I bought a 1907 Voigtlander Heliar 4.5 / 360mm that Iím about to put into service (I posted a question about this lens a couple of weeks ago).

Iíve read everything I can find about Petzval lenses, including Dan Colucciís excellent article. I was feeling pretty sure that I wanted a Voigtlander Euryscop next, but since it will be quite a while before I can afford another lens after next year, Iím thinking now that a Petzval lens layout will throw an image that is more dramatically different than the Heliar, and so would be a more interesting contrast to the lenses I already own.

If you have this information, please include as many details as possible in your recommendations (manufacturer, model name, model number, focal length, aperture, etc.) because from what Iíve seen, the names and numbers and series of these lenses can be quite convoluted, and sellers often donít seem to know much about what they are selling.

As ever, thank you for your input.

-Cameron Cornell

brandon13
15-Nov-2016, 15:10
My favorite 8x10 lens is a 16 inch f4 Dallmeyer 3A Petzval. I have hundreds of examples of wet plates with it if you want to see. Bausch and Lomb make a petzval modeled after the 3a in f4 and f5 under many different names and are a little easier on the wallet and easier to come across on here and the auction site. I have about 8 petzvals from 8.5 to 19 inch FL. I shoot all of them for portraits. Good Luck.

Mark Sawyer
15-Nov-2016, 16:13
I was feeling pretty sure that I wanted a Voigtlander Euryscop next, but since it will be quite a while before I can afford another lens after next year, I’m thinking now that a Petzval lens layout will throw an image that is more dramatically different than the Heliar, and so would be a more interesting contrast to the lenses I already own.

Keep in mind that nearly all lenses with a strong signature only display that signature at very open apertures. At f/16, a Petzval will have a look much like your Heliar, Commercial Ektar, or Sironar-N. Hence, the faster the better, i.e., the faster, the stronger the signature. You'll need at least a 14" to cover 8x10 at portrait distance, 16 inch would be better. The standard rule with Petzvals is "Long focal length, wide aperture, reasonable price, pick any two..."

Beyond that, after your first 30 days go by, you can post a WTB on the forum here. You'll be able to buy from someone who knows what they're talking about!

Greg
15-Nov-2016, 16:53
Over the past few years, here's how I found my Petzval lenses. At the auction site, do searches for "brass lens" but without the word "Petzval" in the heading. If the word "Petzval" is in the heading, you're probably looking at multi thousand dollar starting prices. Many times non-photographers are putting up for auction brass lenses that they know nothing about. They are very happy to auction off the lenses for only hundreds of dollars. Catch is that you won't be sure that the lens is a Petzval optic till you get the lens and take it apart. I won a Darlot brass lens with a full set of professionally machined waterhouse stops for little over a hundred dollars. Seller didn't even know what the term "focal length" meant. Was on pins and needles till the lens arrived and I took it apart.... I was lucky, it was in fact a Petzval optic.

Bought another Petzval lens by searching the words "Photography lens". The brass lens had no writings on it. Again took a chance and I'm sure the seller was also quite happy with getting his buy-it-now price.

Coverage of a lens bought this way, you will have no way of knowing till you mount it on your camera. Once bought a 90mm WA lens that research led me to believe that it had 120 degree coverage... it only had 80-90 degree coverage. But then also bought a 5.9” Gray Periscope lens that covers my 11x14 at infinity!

Great article on Petzval lenses at
http://www.antiquecameras.net/petzvallens.html

Two23
15-Nov-2016, 21:36
At the auction site, do searches for "brass lens" but without the word "Petzval" in the heading. If the word "Petzval" is in the heading, you're probably looking at multi thousand dollar starting prices. Many times non-photographers are putting up for auction brass lenses that they know nothing about. They are very happy to auction off the lenses for only hundreds of dollars.


I look at both "brass lenses" and "Petzval" every day. No way I'm the only one doing that. I buy about one Petzval per year, and my criteria are age & FL. I now have six that predate 1860. Anyway, my advice is this. A 16" Petzval from a major maker during 19th C is going to be quite expensive. It will most likely be a bit over your budget. I would point you to the Bausch & Lomb (B&L) Petzvals from around 1900. I'll include the Wollensak Vesta, another American made Petzval. These are often found at reasonable prices and are just as good as the more expensive ones. I shoot Petzvals on a 4x5 and now also 5x7. Mark (above) is right--stopped down a Petzval looks just like most other lenses. I always shoot mine wide open or not more than f5.6. I do have a Packard shutter on the 5x7 but have found it to not be all that useful. The shutter is something like 1/30s, but even with ISO 25 film I find I still need plenty of ND filters to shoot it wide open in daytime. I don't see the point of using a Petzval at f16, myself.


Kent in SD

Steven Tribe
16-Nov-2016, 04:36
8x10 is a problem as it was a Portrait size well above the usual. There are lots of Petzvals for up to full plate size, but not many designed for the next size up. Weight goes up to over 3 kilos and they are a drain on the wallet, too!

The Dallmeyer 3a is a very good suggestion. I would be careful with the B&L portrait series as they have a close tolerance design with synthetic iris blades that come loose and snap. Better with good solid, low tech, Waterhouses stops. Many french lens makers (Derogy, Gasc, Francais and Lerebours) made equivalent lenses to the F4 Dallmeyer 3a. Problem is, as you mention, identification! You should look for a focal length of 14-16", a weight of approaching 3 kilos at least, lens diameter of around 90mm. I would follow the auctions of Breker and Westlicht. The winning bids have been more user orientated, rather than collector determined of late.

It would be a good idea to look through recent completed auctions.

Do not base your gestimate on the repeated listings of a certain Austrian ebay lister or the well-known Parisian Boutique! Lenses with obvious small problems like ugly brass or inconsequental rear lens edge flaking makes the prices more reasonable but they produce just as a good a result.

Greg
16-Nov-2016, 06:48
I look at both "brass lenses" and "Petzval" every day. No way I'm the only one doing that Kent in SD

Truth be told, probably dozens of photographers searching the auction site daily for Petzval lenses.

Up here in New England 3 weeks a year we have the Brimfield Antique Show
http://brimfieldshow.com
Over 6,000 dealers at the show. I only spend part of a day wandering around, but last time picked up a 4x5 Box camera complete with glass plate holders and an unopened box of Eastman (glass) plates, and a 225mm Brass single meniscus Waterbury Scoville which I use on my whole plate camera... both for little money.

Cameron Cornell
20-Nov-2016, 07:44
Does anyone have any thoughts on the following lens: Rodenstock Portrait Objectiv No. 5? It is a brass Petzval that measures 20 cm long with an element that is 8 cm in diameter. I've found old auctions for No. 4 lenses with slightly smaller dimensions that were listed as 3.7/280 mm. The auction I'm looking at for this No. 5 (1100 Euros) claims that it covers 8x10 and the focal length is 300 mm. I cannot find any Rodenstock catalogs online that are old enough to get the specs.

Cameron Cornell
21-Nov-2016, 10:34
One of the forum members here pointed out to me that this particular "Rodenstock" lens may well be a forgery, given that the engraving on the lens does not match the engravings of the other Rodenstock Petzvals that are out there, and that the engraving includes a misspelling: the German word Objektiv is written Objectiv (substituting the Germanic 'k' for the Anglo et al 'c').

It sounds like getting a good Petzval for 8x10 requires some combination of knowing the right person and luck and deep pockets. You gentlemen seem to agree that a longer focal length of 16" or greater is essential for 8x10. I assume that the multiple lenses with shorter focal lengths that I've seen advertised as covering 8x10 would do so with over-dramatic (granted, a subjective term) fall-off at the corners. It did occur to me after I posted the original question that my Ansco Studio No. 5 has a 5x7 reducing back that I often forget about because, why bother with 5x7 on an 8x10 camera? But I may have an easier time finding a lovely Petzval that would cover 5x7 and maybe 8x10 only if I wanted that aforementioned over-dramatic effect.

Thank you fellows for your responses. I really appreciate it.

Cameron Cornell
Whidbey Island, WA

carylee2002
21-Nov-2016, 23:39
there is also some Voigtlander fakes on the market....do a lot of research on the engravings of the real lenses and you should have no problem.

goamules
22-Nov-2016, 05:18
In addition to my petzval rule of "Long focal length, fast aperture, cheap price, pick any two..." there is another factor. If you just look for any reasonable petzval, regardless of recommendations, you'll find one cheaper and faster. If you decide you want a "XYZ 14" with Flange and Nickle finish" you may be looking for a year, or more. And when one pops up, you'll be in a bidding war with a few others that also read that recommendation. My advice is to keep looking at the ones that ARE available, especially the sleepers that are NOT being recommended right now. Those fads change.

In 2006 when I started doing wetplate, the two lenses most known were Dallmeyers and Darlots, mostly by Civil War re-enactor tintypers. The "two Ds" I called them, were usually the same price. That's right, a wholeplate Darlot that cost $23 in the 1800s, versus a Dallmeyer 2A of the same size that cost $180. But since they were both thought equally capable of taking sharp plates, the prices in 2006 were the same. Over the years people have realized the quality of a Dallmeyer is just a lot higher, and the Darlots founder. Yet....still great lenses. The top of the line for wetplaters back then were American radial drive petzvals, like CC Harrison. Many famous photographers from the 1860s until the 1920s advocated for them, and I've bought a lot from closing photo studios where they were still being used in the 40s and 50s!

Other great lenses were sleepers for years, as everyone chased The Two Ds. Wollensak Vitaxes, used to sell for half what a Dallmeyer 3B cost. Even in 2010 or so. Voigtlanders, the original petzval, were sleepers for many years. I used to buy them for about 2/3 what a 3B cost, or about $800 when a 3B was $1200. Nobody wanted them from 2006 until about 2012 or so.

There are some great Petzvals still out there for under $1000, you just have to look. And be willing to find your own path, and discover that most of them shoot equally well. You don't need to chase one brand that someone else likes. To show a difference between your current lenses will be easy. It takes years and lots of shooting to discern the difference between a Dallmeyer 3B and a Cone Centralizer. And that "unknown" petzval will take plates no one could tell the difference from.