View Full Version : Casket Lens sets..anybody use one?

Gene McCluney
14-Apr-2007, 08:20
I see these on auction sites, People have them. My question is does anyone actually shoot with one? What are the results like? Casket lens sets are groups of lens elements with a common barrel. By interchanging front and back optical groups in different combinations a wide variety of focal lengths can be achieved. Normally they come in velvet lined boxes with slots for all the elements. Popular in the late 19th century.

14-Apr-2007, 10:53
I asked about this before, in someone else's thread.

I wanted a small casket lens + shutter set for a 4x5 so that I only need one lensboard and all my lenses interchange from one casket. I'm not sure what the overall opinion on them was.

Ole Tjugen
14-Apr-2007, 12:52
Yes, and yes.

I have (quite) a few of these, and have shot with most of them - although not all of them in all configurations.

I have used a "Vade Mecum" type set on 5x7", one of those with meniscus lenses from 150 to 750mm in 100mm steps, combinable in pairs to form a kind of Periscope lens. Except in the "wide angle" configuration (spacer rings removed for this purpose) they are surprisingly good - almost disappointingly so :)

And on my Italy vacation (came home today) I brought a 5-cell convertible RR set, except that one rear cell is very different and gives the wildest field curvature of any lens I've ever seen (and that's a lot!). So of course I had to try it. Pictures will (with any luck) be forthcoming in a few weeks.

I've also used convertible Symmars on several occasions, and will continue to do so.

14-Apr-2007, 14:55
My Casket lens set is slightly different from the usual. It is a Dr. Staeble Polyplast, which uses a common rear element to match 4 different front elements, all bayonet mounted to a tiny little Compound shutter. The focal lengths available are 105, 135, 165, and 195mm, with maximum speeds from f:4.5 to f:7.7. The rear element used alone gives a focal length of 220mm and speed of f:23. The three included filters screw into either the front or rear lens.
The lens/shutter mounted on a Busch lensboard is 7.5 oz, and the casket box with three front lenses and filters are another 6 oz. It's almost like having a zoom lens for the 4x5.
The negative images have the character of an uncoated Dagor in sharpness and contrast. The only drawbacks seem to be that there is about 1/8" focus shift on stopping down to f:22 (all combined elements have the same forward shift, while the rear element alone has a 1/8" rearward shift when stopped down to f:44).
Mine came from that wonderful man, Dagor77, a few years back.

CP Goerz
16-Apr-2007, 00:31
yeah Bill, I always regretted selling that set!! :-)

I have a Wisner set and they are excellent, the older sets are very simple designs, mainly just single cells and on occasion rectilinear types. Performance is good for contact prints only or for portraits on smaler format negs. The barrels sometimes came with extension tubes that would give you better center performance at the expense of image circle size/usability at the edges.

The single cells alone are not so great, worse than any Carl Zeiss lens made! Its best to use the combined lenses with an orange #22 or deep yellow as the contrast tends to be a bit ower as well.

David A. Goldfarb
16-Apr-2007, 07:31
Here's a thread on my Busch Vademecum Satz II with some sample photos under different conditions--


Ole Tjugen
19-Aug-2008, 16:41
At last, a preliminary version of my casket set site is up.

It took a while to get the site moved to my "regular" web host, since I didn't have the email address I used for registering the domain. Then my computer crashed, and I lost what I had. Then I got a new computer, but...

And work. It always comes up at the wrong time! But now I've got my revenge - I've used an hour of work time to put together a preliminary site.

The next step is to do it properly, using something better for the job than MS Word.
And include pages for technical information, pictures shot with casket sets, formulas, old advertisements, get some detail pictures of some of them, get pictures of a Protar Satz, more information, a mail link/guestbook kind of thing, and...


19-Aug-2008, 20:30
Ive got a pretty sweet hermagis set that I picked up a few months ago and am trying to get my S@#% together and shoot it. Ill let you know how it goes but so far, I really like it.