View Full Version : Any info. on Suter lenses

Anthony Lewis
3-Jun-2009, 01:43
I have just bought my first oldie lens. Inscription on the barrel reads, 'E. Suter Basel, No. 32658, Rapid Portrait lens No.5, F3.75'. The rear of the lens is 90mm in diameter and it has provision for waterhouse stops. There is no focusing. It was described to me as a petzval, about 280mm focal length, and circa 1900. The glass is very clear with just a few dust spots. No dents in the body. Condition looks very good.

It was up for auction, I had to buy it then and there, without the benefit of research, so I hope I haven't done my money. I cannot find any information on Suter lenses on the internet. Hopefully someone can fill me in on the details and confirm if the description is true or not.

I intend to use it on a Sinar 4x5 and 8x10. Is there a shutter that could be used with this lens? Any information would be greatly appreciated? If it is what I hope it is then I look forward to my first shots with great bokeh and swirl. If not, then you will see it on fleabay pretty quickly.

3-Jun-2009, 04:31
i have a very nice suter lens that is an aplanat. awesome lens. it is very old with a low serial #. the best part is it is complete with the hood, flange, and waterhouse stops in the original case. then i found another one. same lens just 20,000 # later in the serial #. the second one has an iris. beautiful lens as well. i sold the second on the camera i got with it.

when you get your lens check the rear elements. if they are cemented together it is an aplanat most likely. if it is it is still an awesome lens with nice coverage. you may still want to try it. it may not swirl but it will make some beautiful photos.

below is from the vademeum:

E. Suter, Feierabend Strasse 32, Basel, Switzerland.
UK Agents: J.R.Gotz, 19, Buckingham St. Strand, London. (1880's-1890's)
Staley, Thavies Inn, Holborn, London EC. (1900 and on?)
Suter seem to have been most active about 1890-1900, as McKeown refers to camera models from 1890-
1895, and Oldtimer has 1889 and 1901 listings. FBB mention two items in 1894 and 1895, one an RR. B. Coe
mentions a Suter Focal Plane camera from 1903, and E. Lothrop refers to a catalogue of 1900. There was an
active agent in Mr Gotz in BJA 1889. But few later products are known. One cause may have been as follows.
Suter were Zeiss licensees for anastigmats in the 1890's but it seems to have been a fairly short lived
arrangement, ended by 1900, and few such lenses have been seen: in fact two Series IV f12.5 eg at 112mm
No44,47x are the only ones. It is a semi-wide field lens and probably is a faithful version of the Zeiss Series IV.
In fact the few lenses seen have seemed earlier, being an RR and a meniscus from the 1890's. If they did not
succeed in finding an anastigmat to produce on their own account, they may have concentrated on other
types of product. A Swiss source suggests they were a meticulous firm with very high standards but too small
and not well enough capitalized to compete with the big German firms. One interesting fact is that two Suter
Rudolph Plasmat lenses from the inter-war period were reported from a Switzerland fair, showing the firm were
still active in the 1920's, and probably the Plasmat lisencees for Switzerland and possibly elsewhere in parallel
to Meyer.
In 1889, there were 3 rapid series, probably all RR versions.
Extra Rapid Aplanatic f6.3, for indoor and outdoor use.
Rapid Outdoor, f8.0 This had great flatness of field and covering power. (ie a normal RR)
Universal Lens, f5.6? U.S.2, This was the most Rapid of any of the portable lenses. (ie It may have been a
Portrait RR but also designed for general use.)
(Anon) Aperture f12, for 90° This was a medium wide angle lens with great depth of field and freedom from
flare. (ie a Portable RR)
Aplanatic Lens RR made in 6.75-14.25in about 1890.
Landscape Lens No2 size seen as a meniscus of about 10in focus No9,12x and it seems a normal
achromat with a rather deep curve. In 1888 this was listed as f16, 6.75-22in. In 1889, there were 1 series of
Fig 027 036 Suter Basle Landscape meniscus, c.10in or 11in No9133.
Portrait Lenses
In 1889 there were two series of these, and these were probably a long lasting feature as listed below.
By 1891, the then UK agent, J.R.Gotz said that more than 10,000 had been sold since their introduction a few
years ago. He showed a very neat "Multum in Parvo" casket set in Birmingham in 23/07/1888. It had three
rapid doublets to give 6 foci (6.5-18in).
Casket Set for 13x18cm, eg giving 6.5-18in focus, with RR type cells. (B.J.Photo. 17/08/1888). Eder also
mentions them as a source of Aplanat sets.
About 1900 the list still had non-anastigmat type lenses:
Rapid Aplanat f5.0 for 60°.
Rapid Aplanat f6.0 for 60° 5.25-36in.
Aplanat Type B f8.0 This was seen as a No 3 lens of about 10in focus, U.S. stops at
Aplanat Casket sets These were made for 13x18cm with 5 cells but no details of the type are
available: it was probably based on the f8.0 series. Also see above.
Wide Angle Aplanat f12
Rapid Portrait Lens f3.2 6.75-14in This was probably a Petzval.
Rapid Portrait Lens f3.75 This was probably also Petzval.
Anastigmat type lenses:
Universal Double Anastigmat
This was made in several series as lenses such as f5.0, f6.3 and f7.2 with 4+4 glasses and as casket sets:
Series 1 f6.8/f7.2/f7.7/f8 This type was made in 2.125-36in from about 1900, with 4+4
glasses in a symmetrical pair. The layout is in Sut001, and it covered some 80° and the design can be seen
as a version of the Dagor with 1 extra rather thin glass in each cell. Users in fact seem to think it is a Dagor
from the appearance.
The example seen certainly covered a wide angle, and had two reflexions very near together as the thin
parallel sided glass would give. It was in an old Wollensak shutter, and had slight balsam failure, and was a
175mm No2 Series 1, No24,98x, made under Swiss Pat. No21,872, and was in a brass mount. This type
covered up to 80° as it was the slimmest design perhaps of the 3 series. It was suggested to use 18.5cm for
An f7.2 was a 175mm lens at No26,22x in Compur 815,86x (c1926). This shutter was defective and
comparison shows that Suter may have chosen to use his own mounting threads as it has not been possible
to transfer the cells to other Compurs of the period.
Another noted was an f6.8/62mm at No30,51x and a third was fitted to a Sinclair Una 1/4plate.
One marked '270mm ?US 4' ie f8 seemed extremely squat and small and covered a very wide angle, even to a
24in circle on 18x16in format and seemed to be a good performer. This just may suggest the f7.7 was
modified as a wide angle f8 series.
There may be an earlier series as a f7.7/175mm Series I in a barrel has also been noted as well as an
f8/270mm in a shutter. This would have been a likely product to compete with the early f7.7 Series III Goerz
An f8/270mm lens was No20,88x in barrel mount.
Extra Rapid Series 11 f6.3 This was an extra Rapid version of Universal. Also 4+4 design, and
covers 70°. It was suggested to use 18.5cm for 13x18.
Series 111 f5.0/f5.61.55-8.75in (Sut002) Here the elements seem considerably thicker
than in the Series 1 but the design is basically the same. Frerk says these are very well corrected lenses. It
covers 60°. It was suggested to use 17.5cm for 13x18cm. These seem not to have been still available in 1926.
"Universal Rapid" Series 111a f5.6 1.55-16.25in
Anastigmat Casket Sets f6.8/f7.23-lens sets, Series 1 for 1/2 and 1plate sizes.
Universal Wide Angle f18 for 110° It was made in 3.375-10.5in. This may be the longest continued
of the lenses made under the Zeiss licence.
Stellar Anastigmat This was noted in 1919. A big example at f5/360mm has been noted in barrel
Telephoto Attachment (adjustable type) This was made in 3 versions of different focal length for 5x6, 7x9
and 10x11in approx.
The next item may come as quite a surprise to those who only know the famous Plasmats as Meyer lenses,
which is the better known series. But several Suter examples have been seen at sales in Switzerland and that
area, and there must have been a substantial production of them.
Plasmat f4 The example noted was for 7in+12in as single cells and was in a barrel to
give an f4 combination, with the names Suter and Rudolph Plasmat gold-filled. It was an impressive and
valuable item. Unless it was made during WW1, it must be after 1920 when Rudolph began to license the
Plasmats. (And this just could be an explanation.) It was No45,59x in Compur 885,60x.
f5.5/f5.6 These were 135mm pairs, with a 230mm rear cells at just about the
same serial number as the above and was mounted in a dialset Compur. Lenses were Nos 45,27x and 45,22x
in dialset Compur shutter No678,65x and 454,67x respectively from about 1925 and 1921 and 1929 perhaps.
(The rear cell seemed oversize in the second example and the unit may have been exchanged from a different
shutter: it was adjusted to screw home by reducing the diameter of the innermost section of the barrel of the
lens mount by about 0.2mm. This suggests it was not in the original shutter).
Only the front cell seems to be numbered

i hope this helps.

3-Jun-2009, 12:35
It should be a nice petzval (at below f4 it would have to be), they were a very reputable company in the day.

Anthony Lewis
3-Jun-2009, 20:20

Thanks for such a detailed reply - I was never expecting this avalanche of information. Looks like I might have a good petzval - we will find out. Thanks goamules as well.

Does anyone know if there is a shutter I can fit on this lens? The rear diameter is 90mm.

4-Jun-2009, 07:30
keep us posted on if it is a petzval for sure....would love to see a photo of the lens as well.


4-Jun-2009, 07:35
A 280mm Petzval will be large, so your option for shutters will be packard shutters or other similar period shutters. There were a few curtain type on British cameras (thorton pickard) that may work, but I've never used one. A focal plain shutter on a larger Graflex would work, if the lens will fit.

Struan Gray
4-Jun-2009, 12:28
There are a couple of older threads in the archives here about Suter Aplanats, which include some information about the portrait lenses.

If you have a Sinar shutter you can use it behind lenses with quite large rear elements without the vignetting becoming objectionable. If you mount the shutter reversed on an intermediate standard you can snug the shutter blades up to the rear glass of the lens and reduce vignetting even further. I have used mine with a 12" Verito this way with no observable ill effects on the images, despite the rear glass being larger than the shutter opening.

Anthony Lewis
4-Jun-2009, 14:10
Thanks for the replies guys. I will do research on the packard shutters. I had ruled a Sinar shutter because of the rear element size. But that might be a good option for me if it does work - thanks for the tip Struan.
Attached are some shots of the lens

8-Jun-2009, 10:52
Eddie's post make good reading.
I have an 'E.Suter Basel "Stella" F=36 c/m No.44339'. It is a very soft lens.
When I had a Sinar, I could stick it in front of the Sinar shutter. Nowadays I use my bowler hat (yes, I still have my bowler hat from the fifties).
Here is a bunch of flowers at F6.3 on 8x10 TMY in pyrocatechin. I couldn't move the hat fast enough to do F5.6 - which might have appealed more to the bokeh freaks.

8-Jun-2009, 11:08
Here's the Suter Stella

Steven Tribe
4-Jan-2010, 10:19
Our Australian friend (e**y) has one (Stella 290mm) listed at the moment. So there is a grain of truth in his listing!

4-Jan-2010, 14:57
Our Australian friend (e**y) has one (Stella 290mm) listed at the moment. So there is a grain of truth in his listing!

be careful with him.....it is a Stellar Anastigmat. the ebay seller has a "stella".....knowing that guy i would be very suspect.....he make s claim that it is a similar design to a eidoscope and a perscheid.....both very incorrect to say the least.

(he should know better as he lurks here on this forum as well.....)

Steven Tribe
4-Jan-2010, 16:29
I know his/her listings well enough to know that writing without spelling mistakes is not a skill he/she masters - it suggests word blindness, in fact. But I am sure it is the Stellar (note the F.5) in this case. I spent 2009 buying soft lenses and 2010 is mostly for using them. However the image posted in this thread does seem to suggest this is an attractive type.

In spite of a cousin of mine moving to Australia decades ago and having 7 sons - I have no personal knowledge of this seller!

12-Sep-2010, 04:00
Do someone has a data of Suter lenses?

I need help in identification of two lenses: the formula lens and coverage.

1). E.Suter Basel Anastigmat Serie (rest I can not read) 500mm lens. It's huge brass with iris diaphragm f4-128, pat. 21872.
Two cemented groups, each contains 3 cels with one thin outer glass (like a Dagor?)

2). E.Suter Basel Anastigmat Serie IV F:112mm F.18 No.2. It's small, probably wide angle.

Steven Tribe
12-Sep-2010, 12:48
Check again! This should be be refined 4 + 4 copy of the dagor. This will be the US F.4 meaning F.8 which matches data in the VM.

Ole Tjugen
12-Sep-2010, 13:05
I don't trust the VM much when it's German or Swiss lenses, and I also don't think Suter used US aperture markings. More likely Stoltze - I'll have to look it up when I get home in a couple of days.

12-Sep-2010, 14:22
I don't trust the VM much when it's German or Swiss lenses, and I also don't think Suter used US aperture markings. More likely Stoltze - I'll have to look it up when I get home in a couple of days.

Thanks Ole, I will look forward to it.
The front glass diameter is 65mm, so 500/65=7,7. Close to US f4 markings...
Lens has 18 blades.

I have L.Renaux Basel Extra Rapid Aplanat lens that has US apreture markings: f2-100.

From VM about E.Suter Anastigmatic:

"Series 1 f6.8/f7.2/f7.7/f8 This type was made in 2.125-36in from about 1900, with 4+4
glasses in a symmetrical pair. The layout is in Sut001, and it covered some 80° and the design can be seen as a version of the Dagor with 1 extra rather thin glass in each cell. Users in fact seem to think it is a Dagor from the appearance".

13-Sep-2010, 02:24
Check again! This should be be refined 4 + 4 copy of the dagor. This will be the US F.4 meaning F.8 which matches data in the VM.

I checked again and yes, there are 4 + 4!
I will order brass mounting ring and will put this beautiful Suter's "Dagor copy" for sale to find it's home.


13-Sep-2010, 04:34
.. :)

Steven Tribe
13-Sep-2010, 09:22
These giants must have been a Swiss contribution to Process lenses - given the size and the original aperture control on your "small" version Eddie.

13-Sep-2010, 10:13
.. :)

eddie, how much your "giant" covers? 500mm should be near. Did you shot with it?

edit: ok, just saw you put it for sale.

Emil Schildt
13-Sep-2010, 11:56
These giants must have been a Swiss contribution to Process lenses - given the size and the original aperture control on your "small" version Eddie.

I have a very, very heavy Series II 520mm F 6.3, and it doesn't strike me as a process lens...

what to use it for... I don't know yet....:rolleyes:

10-Oct-2010, 07:33
Has E.Suter's ever built Anastigmat lens with 6 lenses in 2 groups (3x3)? I have checked mine 500mm again (Pat. 21872) and it seems it consist 3x3 (see photo). VM says nothing about Suter Anastigmat 3x3... only 4x4.




Steven Tribe
10-Oct-2010, 08:33
Thanks for posting! The closed off plate for extra stops/filters suggests a process design. Couldn't there be an extra "balsam join" at the front "corner"?

10-Oct-2010, 09:17
Yes, there is a small balsam separation on edges of the front lens. I think the lens was coated in the past. Not easily, but it can be seen on right anglel of lighting. So it's 3x3 Suter's process anastigmat? The bottom cell looks very big/bulky. Do this process lenses differ to common Anastigmat Series I?

Steven Tribe
10-Oct-2010, 13:06
They are a lot bigger and very much more expensive!
The x section of this lens is shown as Suter 001 at the bottom of vademecum. Note there is an edge lamination which may be difficult to see!

10-Oct-2010, 13:28
just small balsam separation on one part. What about 3x3? Could this lens be 4x4 design? I am going to sell it and do not want to mislead.



Steven Tribe
10-Oct-2010, 16:03
Everyone says this is a 4 + 4 design. A modified Dagor - but probably no better (not necessary, either!).

11-Oct-2010, 01:05
Some say it could be a Simon Octanar copy.

Steven Tribe
11-Oct-2010, 02:31
Which is also a 4 + 4 (Octa = 8) and also probably a Dagor design!

Ole Tjugen
11-Oct-2010, 09:39
There are several different 4+4 designs, like the Protar VII. Some were possibly made to get around the Dagor patent, but the available (and actual) variations are so great that this is rarely the case.

It's actually easier to design a well-corrected 4+4 lens than a 3+3 lens.

The Simon Octanar, the Zeiss Protar VII, and the Suter 4+4 all seem to be independent designs.

Steven Tribe
7-Dec-2011, 15:46
I have seen Ole's 1910 extract from a Suter catalogue here and the VM which mentions an F5 Aplanat. But it appears the the series A and series B seem to dominate!
Well I have actually now seen this super fast - near Euryscope speed - aplanat.
Marking is very discrete - just Rapid Aplanat.
This is size no. 3, which should be 38cm according to Ole's list.
Mounted on the usual Görlitzer type Studio Camera.

Steven Tribe
13-Feb-2012, 13:55
I will report back on the lens posted in the previous post as I have bought it.
An identical lens was sold on e**y just after I started on a break in Spain.
This must have been the best buy of the year - for somebody (Eddie?). 300654367482. £88.

It took me a long time to find Ole's old post on focal lengths for the various Suter Aplanats - so I reproduce it here. So I can refind it easier. No. 3 of the F5 aplanat should be 380mm efl.

Rapidaplanat f/5: 20, 27, 38, 42, 50, 65 and 80cm.

Rapidaplanat Serie A f/6: 13, 21, 24, 30, 42, 48, 55, 65 and 90cm.

Aplanat Serie B f/8: 13, 17, 23, 28, 36, 48, 55, 65 and 75cm.

Steven Tribe
7-Apr-2012, 12:28
Before I forget, I have done a test of the no. 3 of the F5 series aplanat.
The EFL for size 3 given in Ole's list must be an error as the glass diameter is 63mm. I make the focal length to be about 32cm. It certainly gives a brighter image than the Series IV Euryscope and the Series A Aplanat - both F6.

5-Feb-2015, 23:20
Hi for a long time, I have a question about E.Suter Basle Rapid Aplanat No.1, serial is 4096, and it seems to have engraving 8x10. How these serial numbers went? Lens does not have any markings A or B.

Steven Tribe
6-Feb-2015, 03:02
I have tried to post photos of 4 different Suter aplanats covering the serial numbers 577 to 35072 showing the various engraving styles, but without luck. I'll try again later to-day.

If you measure the focal length (from the waterhouse stop/iris) and diameter of the max aperture, this will give you the approximate F value, which will be about 6 for the A series and 8 for the B series. A photo of the engraving would help.

Steven Tribe
6-Feb-2015, 03:23
It was temporary problem!

Note: it is very rare that I have 4 versions of the same/similar lens! It just so happens that the fast Suter aplanat was a very popular cabinet size lens in Scandinavia and a bit more handy than the much more bulky Dallmeyer 3B!

6-Feb-2015, 06:52
Thanks, the lens looks very similar to this one

Need to say, that I haven't bought it yet, but I really consider it :)

Steven Tribe
6-Feb-2015, 09:54
The lens you mention is a 21cm F6 Aplanat A, with an older F scale engraved. And corresponds to the list given earlier in this thread.

Note that Suter aplanats have both quality glass and brass workmanship - but are often with balsam faults needing attention. The first one I illustrated is getting both cells done at the moment and the 2nd and third ones have already been done (just a single cell on each).

6-Feb-2015, 14:20
Okay, thank you very much. I think that I do not buy it, as the price is quite high, 350€ it was 1100€ and I have similar lens already