View Full Version : Petzval with diaphram

7-Nov-2009, 18:35

I'm in the market for a petzval lens of some description to take a portrait or two on 4x5. I would like to have it in shutter with a diaphragm and be multicoated .... but I'll have to compromise ...

I've got the shutter thing covered. One uses a 'Packard' shutter on the front. But the aperture diaphram thing? I've been watching EBay and reading some of the old catalogues at cameraecentric and I can't remember seeing a production lens with an aperture diaphram. As I understand it the aperture diaphragm appeared sometime around 1900? And the Petzval style of lens was made in fewer numbers from that time on as well.

Can someone enlighten me to the name/s of lenses suitable to the task? I've got a 4 inch lensboard limit (Shen Hao 5x7). I really don't want to fiddle with waterhouse stops and one EBay dealer told me to use a card with a hole in it!! (I don't even know whether this would work. Isn't the position of the aperture important?)

There is a lens dealer here in Aust on EBay who, in my opinion, doesn't give very good descriptions nor photos and I'm thinking they might be copy lenses?!? (is this possible?). They do not have any markings apparently?!? No names nor serial nums ...

Its a bit of a minefield this vintage stuff isn't it!


7-Nov-2009, 19:02
Not to worry, there are several excellent petzval portrait lenses with adjustable irises. Two that come to mind are the Wollensak Vitax and Vesta, F3.8 and F4 respectively. I'm pretty sure the later Dallmeyer A, B, and D petzvals had irises too. Check the Cameraeccentric website.

7-Nov-2009, 19:30
Thanks, goamules.

I haven't looked at the rest of the website. Just the docs that came up in a search.

I think the Dallmeyer brand gets a fair bit of attention.

There is a lot of interest in the subject at present which makes buying particularly risky. I have problems shelling out big bikkies for unknown items!


Jim Fitzgerald
7-Nov-2009, 19:49
Well, I am the fortunate owner of a Darlot 15" Portrait lens with an iris. It will be a bit big for you due to it's size and weight. About 4lbs and covers my 11x14.


7-Nov-2009, 20:09

Just covering 4x5 is what I want ...


Joe Smigiel
8-Nov-2009, 16:36
I have a black enameled Dallmeyer 1A Patent Portrait lens with adjustable diaphragm. They were made, but may be difficult to source.

8-Nov-2009, 19:17
the latter dallmeyers have irises....some are even coated.....you will pay handsomely for them.

you can easily make water house stops from cardboard as the seller said. you just slip them into the existing slot. no worries.

goamules gave you some good leads. buy from this forum and avoid unscrupulous e bay sellers. the people here are mostly very honest...only a few bad apples. post a WTB in the for sale section.


PS. all you need is a bigger camera:


you will probably pay almost as much for a small lens to fit your 4x5......:)

14-Nov-2009, 16:07
Thanks Eddie and Joe,

I believe the Dallmeyer lens may have been made in an un-named / unbranded fashion? The 1A sounds about right as far as coverage is concerned.

With the un-named brands I guess one goes by the size.

I just bought an un-named petval-looking thing ... I now have the task of discovering it!

I based my guess on the assumption that petzval lenses very commonly have the adjuster wheel. I wonder what other types of lenses from that time had those wheels?


14-Nov-2009, 21:15
The last petzval was the Rembrandt, a coated lens manufactured by Boyer for Burke and James. They had irises and were usually mounted with Packard Shutters. I have never seen one in a speed shutter. Note: not all "Rembrandt" lenses were petzvals.

Ernest B.
15-Nov-2009, 00:30
"As I understand it the aperture diaphragm appeared sometime around 1900?"

No, actually it was introduced more than four decades earlier.

The iris diaphragm appeared in lenses manufactured in 1857 by the Americans C. C. Harrison and Joseph Schnitzer. They were awarded a patent for the basic design, which hasn't really changed much, the following year (1858).

A brief history, with a copy of their design and original patent, is posted online at the "Antique and Classic Cameras" site:

Peter K
15-Nov-2009, 03:42
As I understand it the aperture diaphragm appeared sometime around 1900?
The iris diaphragm itself is much older. But Nicéphore Niepce (1765 - 1833) has used an iris diaphragm in one of his cameras made 1816, as shown at the Musée Denon in Chalon-sur-Saône, France. Also the iris diaphragm was buildt in the lenses made by Ch. Chevalier in 1840 for cameras used by Louis Mandé Daguerre (1787 - 1851).

Ernest B.
15-Nov-2009, 05:21
"The iris diaphragm itself is much older...Also the iris diaphragm was buildt in the lenses made by Ch. Chevalier in 1840 for cameras used by Louis Mandé Daguerre (1787 - 1851)."


That's interesting. I didn't realize the further background. Was the legitimacy of the award of the U.S. patent to Harrison and Schnitzer contested?

A quick, followup Google search seems to indicate that Chevalier's early role was not completely clear-cut, and was only asserted retroactively, in the same year the U.S. patent was granted to others:

...In 1858 Chevalier makes a claim that he used an iris diaphragm 18 years earlier (1840). Nicephore Niepce had used an iris diaphragm.

source: extract from the timeline found at:|lang_de

Are you familiar with the whole story? Was there more to it?

Ernest B.
15-Nov-2009, 05:31
The timeline/source link I gave above (for Chevalier/1858) seems not to work. An effective address for the same page is: http://www.precinemahistory.net/1850.htm

15-Nov-2009, 05:33
While the iris diaphragm does go way back and Harrison didnt "invent" it, Harrison was the first to use an adjustable iris shaped diaphragm inside the middle of the lens and was adjustable outside the lens barrel, which was to become the standard of how lenses were constructed.

Attached is Niepce's camera which shows the iris outside the camera box.


Ernest B.
15-Nov-2009, 05:43
"Attached is Niepce's camera which shows the iris outside the camera box."


That gives clarity. Thanks.

16-Nov-2009, 02:37
anyone have tried this to their pretzval lens?


Steve Wright
18-Nov-2009, 10:35
I'm watching that too. Might be a good way to attach an old lens and add a shutter.