View Full Version : Petzval / Dallmeyer (or other) antique lens for glowing SF HALO effects

5-Apr-2018, 22:41
Dear forum friends,

I also seem to got hooked by all your extremely beautiful fuzzy images, especially the flowers with the glowing halo.

Now I did not want to highjack any other thread and also did not find another thread which deals exactly with my questions in mind.

Obviously I am now hoping for your recommendations which lenses I can consider to buy which would achieve such effect.

Firstly I would like to see, if some (like the Dallmeyer from around 1860) lenses have this effect already as built or if a modification of lens arrangements has always to be made?
if yes, are there any instructions, what usually has to be done (swapping the rear back to front?)?

As of now I still use 4x5 but feel ready the GAS also rising for 8x10 soon.
So I am planning to consider this already and only want to buy a lens which can cover at least 8x10 and leave some space for movements.

Currently I searched already around on evil-bay and have found the following candidates:

Dallmeyer Triple Achromatic 14 inch
Dallmeyer Patent N°4
Wollensak Verito 9 Inch 230mm F4
Burke & James AJAX Petzval Portrait lens #2 10.5in f5
DEROGY Aplanat n°3 f8
Bausch & Lomb 12 Inch E.F
Bausch & Lomb 5.5" EF R.P.
Darlot Paris Antique Brass Lens 5"
Pathé Frères PARIS Lens F = 300M/M

The first one seems my favourite, also the outer appearance is not so nice anymore.

I hope you can give me some suggestions what to consider.

BTW: I am planning to use on Linhof style lens board as of now with 96x99 mm.
So can't go too big yet.

Thanks a lot and best regards, Miguel

Steven Tribe
6-Apr-2018, 00:34
Tried to put an answer together - but it would take too much space. Nice to see interest in non-perfect lens types, which in many people's opinion, is the real challenge in these days of perfect lenses and "too" perfect images - analogue and digital.

I think you should read Dan's very useful series on these lenses. Part one is here:


MAny of the actual lenses you list remain unidentified, as a Dallmeyer no. 4 , for example, could be one of a number of types. A good thing, as we try to avoid identifying lenses presently on offer!

6-Apr-2018, 00:44
Miguel, i think you're looking for a soft focus lens. from your list only the Wollensak Verito will give you the desired result. read about soft focus lenses as Steven suggested and then start looking for a lens to buy.

6-Apr-2018, 06:57
Hi Steven and Seven,

Thanks a lot for your input.

I read already roughly through the page and will study it in more details during the next days.
What I did not find on the site though, was any info regarding the glowing halo effect I am after.
Soft focus of course is one thing, but this glowing halo is what really excites me.

Do you also have insights on this particular detail?
I do not expect this will be on all of the SF lenses and rather special, hence my assumption that a modification is often required to achieve this effect?

Thanks and best regards, Miguel

Steven Tribe
6-Apr-2018, 12:26
You need to on to the next sections which deal with imperfect simple achromats, rather than "Portrait" softness.

6-Apr-2018, 14:04
Miguel, the "glowing halo effect" depends also very much on lightning.
another source you should study is http://tonopahpictures.0catch.com/ lots of great samples with different sf lenses.

6-Apr-2018, 15:55
"Glowing halo" is also often due to shooting glass plates (which have no anti-halonation coating) rather than film.

Kent in SD

6-Apr-2018, 16:23
One very overlooked lens, in my opinion, was sold by Burke & James: REMBRANDT SUPER-PORTRAIT lens. "Modified Darlot-Petzval Formula, soft-sharp quality" and "Pinkham-Smith still pictorial lenses" per B&J's 1962 catalog. Came in three focal lengths:
10" f/8
14" f/6
18" f/6.8
Not being a Name brand European optic, I've seen them going for very un-inflated, if not down right reasonable, prices on the auction site. Also try multi-dealer antique shops and "junk" shops. (Local "Junk Shop" had a large brass Petzval priced at under $100... Owner I have known as a friend for years, so I immediately told him what the actual value of his lens was.) They turn up on Craig's Lists rarely but every now and then for down right amazingly low prices.... I mean under $100. If not local, offer the seller $50 for shipping costs... trust me the seller will jump at the offer. Also offer to pay for the item with a Bank Check or Money Order verses personal check or PayPal.

Ted R
6-Apr-2018, 17:55
Glowing soft focus halo effects can also be obtained from modern lenses, and perhaps with an advantage that the quality of the effect is adjustable over a wide range. Here is an example of a modern soft focus lens image showing halo, the lens is the Mamiya RB67 150mm soft focus. There are two things going on that combine to produce the effect. The first is blur produced by uncorrected spherical aberration. The second is a reduction of contrast due to highlights spilling into darker areas.


In this example the lens was adjusted for maximum effect. There are two types of adjustment. The lens aperture is the primary adjustment. The lens maximum aperture is f4 and the effect is strongest at this setting. The effect is present equally in all areas of the image. As the aperture is reduced the effect becomes less obvious. At f8 the lens operates as a normal lens with no soft focus effect. For fine adjustment in between the available half-stop aperture settings (f4, f4.8, f5.6, f6.7) a set of three perforated discs is provided each working to reduce the effect slightly in three steps. These discs are inserted in the center of the lens which is designed for this purpose to be opened by the photographer.

There is an interesting study on the history of soft focus lenses which is available free online by Russell Young and can be found here https://research-repository.st-andrews.ac.uk/handle/10023/505

7-Apr-2018, 16:21
Wow, so may very useful information.
Thanks a lot tot everybody.
I will read through all the comments, linked pages etc. and see to get more understanding.
Once I have a full picture and finally a lens available, I will show you the results.

Nice weekend and happy light, Miguel

Jim Fitzgerald
7-Apr-2018, 16:52
The Spencer-Portland and Kodak 305 portrait lens along with Graf Variable lenses are my favorites. Is this what you mean by glow?

7-Apr-2018, 18:58
For the budget minded - Reinhold's remake of the Wollaston Meniscus (http://re-inventedphotoequip.com/Home.html) is wonderful. The 190mm is great on 4X5.

7-Apr-2018, 19:16
My choice is the common affordable Imagon but I don't like the effect of the 'strainer holes' so will only ever use the discs with those closed or the aperture built into the shutter.

8-Apr-2018, 05:55
The Spencer-Portland and Kodak 305 portrait lens along with Graf Variable lenses are my favorites. Is this what you mean by glow?

Yes, Jim. This is exactly what I had in mind.
I saw some images from Jim Galli and also a particular one on the website from Kenneth Lee and also in the thread "post in Galli-Style"... but the ones you attached also are getting me excited.

Thanks for the recommendations.

8-Apr-2018, 05:59
Oh, some further excellent suggestions.
Thanks a lot.
Looking for affordable prices, and taking the links into considerations, the early Wollensak Verito also seems to be in the ball park.

Dan Fromm
8-Apr-2018, 07:38
Moogie, this link http://www.galerie-photo.com/soft-focus-objectif-portrait-flou.html will take you to a magnificent article on soft-focus lenses. It is in French, but at the least you should be able to read the lenses' names and, especially, see what they do in the many example shots.

Tin Can
8-Apr-2018, 08:02
Moogie, this link http://www.galerie-photo.com/soft-focus-objectif-portrait-flou.html will take you to a magnificent article on soft-focus lenses. It is in French, but at the least you should be able to read the lenses' names and, especially, see what they do in the many example shots.

Chrome instantly translates

Tin Can
8-Apr-2018, 08:29
Read the whole thing and it was proceeding well until he skipped Cooke, Kodak and a few more.

His dog target was a terrible choice and in the end, we find he shot 35mm which must make a difference.

I did learn some new things!

Thanks Dan!

Moogie, this link http://www.galerie-photo.com/soft-focus-objectif-portrait-flou.html will take you to a magnificent article on soft-focus lenses. It is in French, but at the least you should be able to read the lenses' names and, especially, see what they do in the many example shots.

17-Apr-2018, 06:47
After reviewing and reading all the websites and your comments, I went now for 3 lenses.
If I keep all or sell some again and keep only the best, i will see after a longer testing period.
That's the good thing with the old lenses that you can test and re-sell for more or less same price.
1. Wollensak Royal Soft Focus F/4.5 (must be a strange version as I did not find any further info for this lens with 4.5 and it looks more like a Verito).
In fact I wanted a Verito and later found out it is probably not. Let's see. When it arrives I can send some pictures of it.
2. Burke & James Ajax Portrait
3. Modified Velo from Jim Galli

Already looking forward as the delivery to China will be with the help of some colleagues coming from holiday and so on...
piece by piece...

Jim Galli
17-Apr-2018, 12:01
I looked up the Wollensak Royal Soft Focus (https://www.ebay.com/itm/Wollensak-9-inch-1-4-5-Verito-3-Royal-Soft-Focus-Lens-Ser-II-No-4-SHP-36877-/352288235246?hash=item520603deee%3Ag%3A8o0AAOSwceNah2BP&nma=true&si=eECT20hDhrv9dxsjLM43G4RuBXQ%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557) lens that just sold on Ebay. Fascinating lens, and one I know nothing about. Now you have me very curious about it. My first thought was that it might be the immediate predecessor of the Verito, but it doesn't resemble anything written about the Bodine (http://antiquecameras.net/softfocuslenses2.html) lens.

When you have it we'll walk you through how to shine a pen light in and get an idea of it's construction. I think it was a safe buy, if that's the same lens as you have coming. I would have bought it just to find out what it is. Done dumber things than that.

Petzvals are poor as soft focus lenses. Most of us think it was just a marketing play. Petaval's are great for what they do best. Tack sharp center and rapid, beautiful bokeh as the focus range is left.

Interesting that in the ebaay pics that are still up, on the inner rim you read Wollensak Royal Soft Focus Series II No. 4, but on the flange it clearly says; Verito No. 3. Very neat lens, whatever it is.

17-Apr-2018, 16:12
Hi Jim,

OK, thanks for the input from your side.

Yes, it is exactly this lens. On the first picture of it, you can see that also on the aperture ring a "Royal"seems to be present.
I think the flange might maybe have just been lost and replaced with the Verito as sizes are same...
Looking forward not only to make photos with it but then also to check it with the pen light for the construction.

So far then probably the B&J will maybe not do what I am hoping for as you mentioned for the petzval designs.
The one from you I am confident the most anyway, having in mind the potential I saw in the photos you made with it.
If they do not come out similar, I know it's me not the lenses cause.


Steven Tribe
18-Apr-2018, 02:56
.........If I keep all or sell some again and keep only the best, i will see after a longer testing period.
That's the good thing with the old lenses that you can test and re-sell for more or less same price........

That has been been my philosophy for the past nine years! I have an additional interest in the construction which only "hands on" experience can give and which can add to our body of knowledge about period lenses. There is an awful lot of information which has got lost in the last century.

While I generally agree that the buy/try out/resell strategy usually works, you have to be aware that the market is quite small and subject to quite sudden changes. Numbers of people getting drawn into wet plate adventure influences the demand for Petzval lenses at any given time. At the moment, there is a drop in demand for both Petzvals and dedicated Soft lenses.

Price setting by sellers (both on Ebay and other points of sale/Auction) is mostly a function of how many people have owned it in the last few years. I can identify the following types:

- Clueless sellers. Bad descriptions/poor photos. These often make good prices if there are clues to the identity! I have bought some of these!

- Clueless sellers who think everything with brass and glass is an unmarked Dallmeyer patent portrait.
There is a UK lister at the moment (Actually 2) who relists his items at a round £1,000 at the moment.

- Enlightened private listers, who - because of family ownership or conscientious research - list relevant information and seem to have researched realistic prices. These are falling in absolute numbers, but here is a perfect example of a recent sale of a large French Petzval.


- People like us, with a genuine interest. We want to cover our outlay - with an interest in covering some of the high costs of large format! There are occasional and semi- professional versions! There are a few long term collectors dispersing decades of purchases

- There are still a few dedicated saleroom photography based auction houses. They exist in England, Germany and Scandinavia. Some are only interested in high value items, whilst others (especialy the UK) have a wider range. All are internet linked these days. It is a useful experience tp follow these auctions - even if not buying! It provides (like sold Ebay items) an indication of what is available and current level of interest. I can see that the number of large format items "passed" (not reaching the auction house's minimum) has increased a lot the past two years and the range and quantity of LF offer is falling.

- Active dealers with very little real connection with large format. They often write "museum quality" even though there are no museums that are adding to their inventory! Frequently, the large sizes and at prices that no-one is interested in. Their BIN prices have a way of influencing others' listings. Description is often just a few sentences.

18-Apr-2018, 10:13
I think the Verito will give the poster the best value for his money. And Wollensak used the word "Royal" a lot in their first few years, because it was the name of the lenses of the company they bought out. If I recall....

I'm surprised at how cheap Veritos have become. I remember when a 11 inch would usually cost $750 or more. And an 18" was always a thousand dollar lens. They seem cheaper now.

18-Apr-2018, 16:15
Hi Steven and Garret,

Thanks a lot for your inputs.

Yes, for eBay I also experienced it similar. It is not always easy to distinguish between them, who falls in which category, at least for me.
Sometimes I know it starlight away.

So I can hope it is an early Verito?
From the outer appearance it looks very similar.
With the further inspection of the structure it might be possible?

But at the end, the image it can produce together with me it what counts most, not what the name is :-)

Jim Galli
18-Apr-2018, 16:48
But at the end, the image it can produce together with me it what counts most, not what the name is :-)

This is the hardest lesson for all of us to learn. Silver bullet lenses don't produce silver bullet pictures any more than guns kill people. It's the person behind the object.

One more idea for you. On the AJAX petzval, you may love the look it makes, or not, but it has more tricks. If you remove the front group and mount it backwards, by itself, so the curved front faces the film it becomes a 16" soft focus achromatic meniscus. Sometimes a piece of black plastic pipe can make a barrel for it. Doesn't cost a penny more to give it a play. That one may be the softest one of all.

19-Apr-2018, 06:25
Hey, that's a cool tip Jim.
Once it arrives I can see about that and give it a try.
Probably it will take longer than I expected as I reside currently in China and always depend on colleagues travelling back home who bring the lenses with them.
As I am afraid of letting the good stuff delivered to China I chose this slower method.
Now only the Verito/ Royal SF is finding a way into the suitcase of a colleague.
As other lenses not arrived yet.

Anyway will keep all of you posted to let you know about the results coming out from all of your excellent support :-)

Steven Tribe
19-Apr-2018, 06:53
I have never had real problems posting to China - except delays! What I find best as a seller is to request an address/phone number in chinese characters from the buyer - which I print and attach to the parcel.

Jim's advice about the usefulness of the Petzval's front achromat is very good. When reversed, and in a temporary mount, it becomes an excellent pictorial image maker - but you will need some sort of front aperture to control the aberations!

There are lots of French Petzvals (Hermagis, Derogy, Darlot, Francais etc) which have a patent barrel construction which allow you to do this without having to resort to plastic tubing and the original mounting flange can be used. Plus there is aperture system provided.

19-Apr-2018, 07:55
Ah, OK. I might try this for some next items.
I also let some items already deliver to China, but only the staff with little value, except one lens from HongKong and my ShenHao from Rudi who shipped it from within China.
But for the already ordered SF lenses it's now too late anyway...

I am curious about this front reversing as I always like to try out new things.
Thanks a lot.

2-May-2018, 09:15
The Wollensak Royal Soft Focus F/4.5 just arrived some days ago and I made some first test images wide open.
The flowers with cap on/off method in relatively dim light for 8 seconds and the portrait with the "Galli-Shutter-Method"for about ⅛ second.
At the vase on the right edge you can see the halo effect of which I am so intrigued. Let's see for the future, if I can create some more strong halos with different light/ objects.
So there is a lot of learning in front of me, but I am happy to be on the hook.
Planning somewhere in summer to try to start with bromoil.

Now how about the structure determination using the flash light?
It seems to be definitely no Verito as only the front can be screwed off.
As of now, I am struggling anyway to get the flange off again as I screwed it too tight and now the ring has some problems fit into my Linhof lens boards adapter...
Ordered two lid openers already.

Happy and satisfied.


https://farm1.staticflickr.com/980/41134210824_5758d08ea0_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/25ETzMs)
The last breath (https://flic.kr/p/25ETzMs) by Miguel Buschhauer (https://www.flickr.com/photos/144562239@N03/), on Flickr

https://farm1.staticflickr.com/964/26983235057_df94f4747d_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/H7q8GD)
Partagasia (https://flic.kr/p/H7q8GD) by Miguel Buschhauer (https://www.flickr.com/photos/144562239@N03/), on Flickr

2-May-2018, 09:26
Beautiful results, you got a good lens!

Mark Sawyer
2-May-2018, 13:44
My guess, based on the "Series II" and its being an f/4.5 is it may be a variation on the Velostigmat Series II Tessar, perhaps permanently spaced for soft focus, rather than the dial-a-halo front rim. But that's a pretty wild guess, as I've never heard of one before. Can you tell us anything about its construction? Any sign of separation front or rear? How many elements in the front cell?

2-May-2018, 16:11
Thanks Garret and Mark,

I can try to look it up later when I am back fro work, but I have never done that before, so I am not sure if I will understand correctly what I see.


Jim Galli
2-May-2018, 16:33
If you can take the front group (or the rear) off so you can examine front and rear reflections seperately, take a penlight, one of those little red LED ones is best, and shine on the glass. Every glass to air surface will give one bright reflection. So a magnifying glass will have 2. A lens with 2 glasses with air in between them will have 4. Now if the lens has 2 glasses cemented together what you get is 2 brights and 1 dim. Tilt it different angles to see the different reflections moving around. A lens that has 3 glasses all cemented together (like one end of a Dagor) will have two brights and two dims. Do the front and back seperate or otherwise you'll get more reflections than are useful to figure things out. If you have some "known" types, do them first. A single group of a Symmar have 4 brights, one dim. The rear group of a Tessar will have 2 brights, one dim. The front group of a Tessar will have 4 brights. The one you bought from me is a Tessar, so that's a known quantity. Take the front or back off of it. Front will be 4 brights. Rear will be 2 brights and a dim. Do the known ones first so when you examine the unknown you'll have some practice. A Verito would have; front group 2 brights. rear group 2 brights, one dim.

3-May-2018, 08:02
Hi Jim,

I only have a headlight and the flash light of my mobile phone.
The headlight worked better.
I tried from the convex outside to inside and also from the straight or slightly concave inside to outside.
From the outside to inside worked a bit better as overall the reflections were not too bright and could be looked at.
From inside to outside the brightness was so strong that it was difficult to see from most angles.
After all, by screwing out the front I found that now also the back was possible to screw out.
The light reflections look for me not so clear yet, at least for this lens (the dagger showed more clearly 2 brights and 2 dims).
It seems for me that the front has 2 brights and the rear 2 brights and 1 dim and so could be maybe an (early) Verito.
But I got all kinds of unclear additional reflections.
For the front, depending on the angle it also looked like the 2 equally medium sized brights were relatively close together and sometimes a small dim reflections appeared far away in the back.
For the rear sometimes there also appeared a second dim and the 2 brights were most of the time not same size. One bright was always biggest and most of the time the second bright was about medium and the dim the smallest, same like the sometimes appearing second dim. But from some angles the second bright and one dim became more or less same medium size and the second im either kept small or disappeared.

So for the good news, I was also able to unscrew the ring from the board and re-assemble the whole lens and could see the three different combinations I found in an old Verito advertisement:
Regular, whole lens reversed (interchange front and rear) and only back in the rear with increased focal length. Only back in front was not mentioned and I did not try yet.
As per the view only from the ground glass, the regular setup looked most pleasing to me yet and showed the strongest soft focus effect.
The reversed and the rear alone showed less effect but I also anyway will spend some film later for further investigations and under different conditions.