View Full Version : Wollensak 135mm optar lens question

11-Jan-2010, 21:47
I am brand new to large format and I have a Wollensak 135mm optar lens without a shutter release cable. Is there a certain type (thread pattern, size, etc.) that I need for this particular lens? I am a pure beginner, so specifics would be great.
thanks for your help

Mark Sampson
12-Jan-2010, 05:44
Any standard cable release will work. Most of those lenses came in a Wollensak "Alphax" shutter; I'll assume that that's what you have. (Some larger sized shutters require a long-throw cable release from Gepe.)

Dan Fromm
12-Jan-2010, 06:44
Mark, the Alphax is a press shutter, usually large.

Optar isn't a Wolly trade name, it is a Graflex trade name usually appled to lenses made by Wollensak. Optars were usually delivered in Graphex (a Graflex trade name) shutters. Graphex shutters are cock-and-shoot, are rebadged Wollensak Rapax shutters. Very different from Alphaxes.

Ivan J. Eberle
12-Jan-2010, 07:45
I think the Wollensak Optars/Raptars 135mms are terrific but for some reason they tend to get a bum rap around here.

Hundreds of thousands of these lenses were sold are many are still in circulation-- they couldn't have all have been dogs! They were standard equipment on Crown and Speed Graphics, and in slightly different badging, graced innumerable Busch Pressmans and Meridians and other cameras of the 40's and 50's.

In fact, both of my Meridians came sporting Raptar/Rapax versions. (Including a rare prototype camera.)

First of all, the focal length is just about the ideal for starting out. These lenses are tiny and lightweight. The relatively fast f/4.7 makes the image bright on the ground glass and easy to focus for the shallow depth of field. They're single hard-coated and do just fine with color film. Except in the very corners, 135mm Optars/Raptars tend to be razor sharp. Possibly both mine are better than some copies, but they're at least as sharp and maybe sharper than a couple of my much much more exotic lenses. Like all Tessar lens designs, though, they do need stopped down to f/22 for optimum performance. They also don't have much room for camera movements. (If you have a camera with back tilts and swings, as I do, you can often get away with a smaller image circle.)

The Graphex/Rapax shutter is a very good one indeed, but all are +/- 50 years old and will probably need a CLA and timed, particularly if you plan on shooting color transparency films which are more demanding of closely-timed exposures. (It's commonly accepted that a LF shutter need not be right on the money of the marked time. But you'll want to at least be assured that it's consistently wrong and in what direction so you know how much to compensate).

The worst that can be said about them is that shutter parts are not available new anymore, and the lens cells don't fit modern shutters.

Mark Sampson
12-Jan-2010, 07:46
That's an early-morning mistake on my part... but a standard cable release will still fit.

Glenn Thoreson
12-Jan-2010, 11:14
Any standard cable release will work with your shutter. You don't get one when you buy a shutter/lens. If you can't find the cable release socket, check to see if it has a screw in plug. It would be a little knurled thing about 3/16" diameter, near the release lever. Some shutters came with one right from the factory. I guess it was intended to keep dust out. It just screws out, giving access to the cable socket. Good lens, too.