View Full Version : A guide to antique and barrel lens

13-May-2007, 22:27
Hello all. I am fairly new to the whole barrel lens game and I am looking for some information regarding said lenses. My head is filled with words like symmar and goerz and scovill and anastigmant etc. etc. I was wondering if anyone knows of a book or a website that details all the ins and outs of these great lenses.

Please, let me know.


Ole Tjugen
13-May-2007, 23:02
I don't know of any one book, website or similar that is detailed enough.

There's "The Lens Collector's Vade Mecum", sold on CD, which contains a lot of information. Sadly it's incomplete, occasionally incorrect, often infuriating, and always indispensable.

And "A History of the Photographic Lens", by Robert Kingslake.

And "das Auge meiner Kamera" by dr. Helmut Neumann (if you read German).

I also have "Photographisches Hilfsbuch für ernste Arbeit" by Hans Schmidt, which provides a thorough discussion of everything available in Germany in 1910.

http://www.cameraeccentric.com/index.html has lots of scanned catalogues of old lenses.

And all the information buried in the dicussions on this very forum...

John Schneider
13-May-2007, 23:20
Henney and Dudley's Handbook of Photography is IMO even more detailed than Kingslake, albeit of an earlier era (1939).

Neil Purling
14-May-2007, 00:34
If you are looking at barrel lenses do you therefore have a Speed Graphic or a Packard shutter affixed to the lens panel of your camera. You can get modern lenses like G-Clarons in barrel too. I have had a 150 and 210mm re-mounted in shutters.
A re-mount can come expensive when the cells of a old optic require special spacers to fit into a new shutter.
I have got some barrel lenses. I ought to look at Packard shutters, particularly for my Petzval.

Uli Mayer
14-May-2007, 03:07
Indispensible, but only covering German lenses (a wide field):

Where I look first:
Hartmut Thiele: DEUTSCHE PHOTOOPTIK VON A - Z, Munich 3rd ed. 2007
(mainly lists, incl. pat.numbers, designer names, manufacturing numbers, etc.; in German, but easily accessible even with a minimum of German knowledge; much more reliable than the VM in my opinion)
for European buyers: http://www.lindemanns.de/
for U.S.: http://www.camerabooks.com/

For the ones who read German:

Hans Harting: PHOTOGRAPHISCHE OPTIK, Rudolf A. Lang Verlag, Pössneck, 3rd ed. 1948, 4th ed. 1952, 165pages)
(my favourite; written by the man who designed the Heliar and other famous lenses, and whose positions included head of the optical departments of Vogtländer and later of Zeiss, and of the German Patent Office. Not too difficult to read for the one who has no background in optics, and still to be found via abebooks etc.)

Almost impossible to find, but the classical book - in German:

Willy Merté, Robert Richter, Moritz von Rohr: DAS PHOTOGRAPHISCHE OBJEKTIV ; Springer Verlag, Wien, 1932
(for the optically minded reader who loves to compare complete lens descriptions, aberration diagrams etc. and who wants to go in depth; concentrates on German lenses which might be considered as a bias or just reflecting their actual importance at that time)

Easier to find, but even more technical in some ways:

Johannes Flügge: DAS PHOTOGRAPHISCHE OBJEKTIV; Springer Verlag Wien, 1955
(if you want to know how to design a lens and how its performance is to be tested, or how to make best use of supplementary lenses, or ... - this is the book. Hard stuff, nothing for math-phobes. It has 60 pages of detailed image aberration analyses for classic lenses, and includes a survey of the best-known lenses in the fifties.)

And if I may add the book that is my favourite all-in-one book, covering the whole field of photography of older times, and which includes very useful lists on lenses (30pages), cameras, gadgets, developer recipes a.s.o., it is:

Ludwig David: PHOTOGRAPHISCHES PRAKTIKUM, Lehrbuch der Photographie; Wilhelm Knapp Verlag, Halle, 8th edition 1931.
A marvellous book, rich of illustrations and written by a retired general. If more German generals had preferred writing books (on non-military topics) to sable-rattling and worse, the world would have been spared many disasters.

This book has more than 800 pages, a lot of advertisements, and is not too hard to find.


Ole Tjugen
14-May-2007, 03:55
Thanks Uli, there will be some additions to my library soon. :)

Arne Croell
14-May-2007, 07:01
Just a small addition, there is a reprint of the book by J. Flügge still available, it came out in 2004 in an edition of 300. Lindemann's book store (see link at the top of Uli's post) was the publisher for the reprint and is also the seller: http://www.lindemanns.de/4DCGI/1287351343/TitelAnzeige/350071
Price is €78,00.
And I agree with Uli that Harting's book is very good. The last edition (4th I think) came out in the early 1950's, a few months after Harting's death.

Uli Mayer
14-May-2007, 10:02
Flügge's book is great. But I am probably not in a position to say this because it includes so many pages full of equations that make me dizzy and sleepy (my Mr. Sandman).
Since you know Harting's book and appreciate it, too, you might also know Hans-Martin Brandt's "Das Photo-Objektiv" that I have mentioned in an earlier thread. My impression is that Brandt has ( how to say it politely?) generously nurtured off Harting. The positive side of it: That's at least well-chosen..
Cheers Uli

Dan Fromm
14-May-2007, 10:44
HM Brandt's book is also available in English, for those of us who never learned German. The Photographic Lens, IIRC.

14-May-2007, 12:58
Thanks all for the information. Ill look into some of these books. Cheers!


justin mueller
14-May-2007, 14:15
If you have no shutter don't despair : "one elephant, two Elephant...." (cap in hand)

14-May-2007, 21:08
One last thing, I do know German but it has been a long time since I have used it. I could probably wade through the aforementioned books but Im sure that I will end up more frustrated in my horrid memory of the language than enligtened from the information inside.

Hell, its worth a try, right?

Ole Tjugen
14-May-2007, 22:50
Hollis, I find technical books far easier than literature in half-familiar and even unfamiliar languages. I've even read French and Russian technical literature, but have no chance at all with a newspaper.

Well - maybe in French. Since I can read a bit of Italian, which I haven't ever learned either. :)

Uli Mayer
15-May-2007, 00:39

I guess, by knowing 50 German terms ( Brennweite = focal length ...) you'll unfold at least 80 percent of Thiele's lens data collection. Add another 10 percent that can be inferred from context , and the short-coming is (almost) gone. Don't worry.

Dan Fromm
15-May-2007, 04:45
Hollis, you might also want to look here: http://dioptrique.info/

Eric has posted analyses of > 225 lenses, many of them very old types.

17-May-2007, 19:21
To those of you with the helpful suggestions, thank you. To those of you who suggested the Henney/Dudley Handbook of photography, Im grateful. It arrived on my doorstep today and has amazing information regarding most all types/makes of older lenses. The charts are quite something and I can post them on here without fear of copyright since my copy is older than the 50 years that copyright applies for text. Just let me know if that would be appreciated.

Jim Noel
18-May-2007, 09:28
Try this link: