View Full Version : This lens in my parent's closet

Ramiro Elena
25-Jan-2010, 08:37
It suddently came to my mind I had seen a brass lens somewhere... either at my grand partents' house in Argentina or at my parent's house in Spain. So I emailed my mom about it to which she replied "your dad is holding it in his hands right now."
I went to pick it up this morning with little hope it would work on my Toyo Field.

It is quite large and it used to be attached to a wooden box. The wheel moves up and down uncovering what appears to be a waterhouse opening.

I made a quick cardboard lensboard and shot what was nearer:
It is underexposed since I am not used to not have a shutter (I used the back cap for a Hasselblad lens).

This is what the lens looks like:
I opened it to clean it a bit and found it has a front element with two lenses and a back element with just one (or the other way around). The thick glass has "WM" written on the side with pencil.
It is very clean, there was superficial fungus I got rid of. No inscription whatsoever in the barrel.
I thought it would be a rather long lens but it looks pretty wide once mounted on the camera and it doesn't need much extension to focus at infinity. The photo of the flowers was taken 50cm away from the subject.

Any ideas?

25-Jan-2010, 09:04
You may find it underexposed, but I think it is a great shot! What a nice find!

P.S. I know nothing of old lenses, but find them interesting to read about in these posts.

Steven Tribe
25-Jan-2010, 09:46
"The other way around" - the thicker achromat sould be the front lens and the two thinner lens should be at the back. This is a Petzval. I'll try and find the maker - but this is a difficult one if it is (probably) a projection lens.

John Kasaian
25-Jan-2010, 09:46
Beautiful! What a discovery :)

Steven Tribe
25-Jan-2010, 10:02
OK it has a waterhouse stop! So this will be in the right position when the barrel is reversed. The wider lens hood should face forward. Dimensions of the optics would help?

Steven Tribe
25-Jan-2010, 10:07
Be careful! It looks like the thread is just glued/screwed into the lens board with no flange.

Steven Tribe
25-Jan-2010, 10:16
Is this a WM or a Wm? Wm could mean William (written as Wm) Hume who made lots of "thin" petzvals ( and with waterhouse stops) for horizontal enlargers. Info in VM. As his name was all over the tinplate/wood body - he wouldn't have need for further identification.

Ramiro Elena
25-Jan-2010, 10:26
The two element glass is 5,5cm aprox in diameter, the one glass is the same.
The whole piece is 12cm in lengh.

I shot with the two glasses in front, the one single glass being in the back, inside the body of the camera as if it were a regular rear element.

At first, I thought the single glass element had to be the front of the lens since it seemed like it had a lens shade but if I unscrew it and place the lensboard in between it works perfectly.

Now that I made an aluminum lensboard I see it does need a retainer ring :(

I though the wheel was supposed to move the inner lenses somehow to achieve focus variations. With this it looks as if just covers or uncovers the waterhouse opening.
Is there any way to know what the focal lengh and aperture is?

Jim Galli
25-Jan-2010, 10:31
I concur with Steven. It is a petzval, and a grand find. The bigger part with the lens shade goes at the front, and the one we can see in your picture is the back. This may change the focus and sharpness at center a bit. If you took out the rear lens and re-tried it with just the front lens mounted at the rear facing the film like it is now, you would get a focus at about 12 inch and an even softer glow.

Steven Tribe
25-Jan-2010, 10:49
Take the barrel ( the integral tube with the tracking rail) out of the 1/2 section with the wheel drive. You may have to unscrew the remaining 3 screws (1 has been lost!) at the base of the foot of the turning wheel assembly - careful, as they may not have turned for a 100 years - and put this wheel section to one side. Clean all the gears and give them a very light covering of oil from a rag. The set the tube with lens into the 1/2 section FROM THE OTHER END. Turn the lens tube until the geared tracks in the middle of the opening in the 1/2 section appears in the middle of the wheel assembly hole. Remount the wheel section - do not overtighten the screws as the there isnt much thread. Someone else will tell you how to do the focal length thing and f value!

Ramiro Elena
25-Jan-2010, 11:33
I am confused... where does the lensboard go then?

Is it feasible to shoot with the lens reversed? (like I just did :P)

Steven Tribe
25-Jan-2010, 11:40
As you found out - it does "work" to some extent the wrong way around. Jim Galli mentioned this in his post. In summary, the central brass tube with the lenses has to face the other way for the desired optical effect, to get at the waterhouse slot and to use the lens shade correctly.

Jerry Bodine
25-Jan-2010, 12:06
Here's a video that demonstrates how to determine focal length and f-stop:


Ramiro Elena
25-Jan-2010, 12:46
I flipped the elements and tried the hood in the front. The first test I did was a portrait of my wife and I was stunned at how sharp the image was. It falls quickly towards the edges but the center is sharper than I expected.
This is the third test:

I've found that widest aperture has to be f4.5 (at least that's what the meter read and the exposure seems correct)
The focal lengh is 150 pistaccios or pretty darn close. My Xenar 150 displayed the same frame in the ground glass.

I really had no idea George Clooney knew so much about photography... and tortellini. Great video!

Steven Tribe
25-Jan-2010, 13:50
The Petzval design is about as sharp centrally as they get - in its original design. Coverage was, however, limited. The "soft" image of Petzvals arrived with the Dallmeyer redesign of the rear elements.

25-Jan-2010, 14:29
At first, I thought the single glass element had to be the front of the lens since it seemed like it had a lens shade but if I unscrew it and place the lensboard in between it works perfectly.

As pointed out, the outer tube is mounted correctly onto your lens board, but the inside part has to be reversed.

You can still shoot them backwards, as you have found, but they get softer all-over and the focal length might change (I'm not positive here, since with mine I had to readjust focus partly because of the way its mounted on the lens board). If you want a sharp focus point, you should be shooting it the right way around.

You can friction mount these into appropriately sized holes, too. In that case you might not need to bother with the outer tube (focusing mechanism) and you can just jam the rest of the assembly through a hole. I did this with a projection petzval I own and then just wrapped the lens around each side of the lens board with a bit of tape to make sure it would never slip out.

25-Jan-2010, 15:27
That is a nice second shot, but I suspect the two rear lenses are not assembled correctly. Petzvals fall off in sharpness quickly, but not that quickly or erratically. Here is a picture of the correct configuration, the rear is on the right. Hopefully you have the metal spacer that goes between the two lenses.


Ramiro Elena
25-Jan-2010, 15:59
I think I got it right this time. According to the drawing, the last lens was reversed. I'll shoot my last two Polaroids tomorrow morning and post them.
Do you guys think it is worth polishing a little?

Also, is it alright if nothing is inserted in the waterhouse opening?
One last thing, the pencil handwriting is WH or HM.

Ok this is really the last, appart from the Jim Galli Patented Shutter is there other option out there?

Steven Tribe
25-Jan-2010, 16:40
Search this site - there are many other options, but it depends on your experimental urge and your pocket.
Polishing is not an option for the amateur - you have to make a polishing tool which exactly matches the surface curvature. 1 for each surface - a total of probably 6 in this case ! And the polishing needs years of practice before the scrap rate drops and requires a lot of spitting!

WH could be William Hulme - but is far more likely to be Hugo Meyer (HM). I

26-Jan-2010, 07:40
Glad you got it assembled right.

Trying to find the maker based on these scant pencil marks is not reasonable. Sometimes the actual glass grinder put his initials, so WH could be "Willy Henry" or whatever. If we were going to play a guessing game, and I'm not saying we should, it should be based on facts. For example, I don't believe Hugo Meyer even made petzvals. And the features of this lens are way too late to be Hume.

Whatever it is, it will shoot fine pics for you. Have fun.

Ramiro Elena
26-Jan-2010, 08:21
Correct configuration:
Over-exposed, I was attemping a 1/30.
Under-exposed, this lens is very sharp... or much sharper than what I expected.

Steven Tribe
26-Jan-2010, 10:12
Of course, interpreting lens ink marks is speculative - but great fun!

Goamules: Is the period 1889 -1914 wrong for this objective in relation to William Hume - he made/sold a lot of Petzvals in connection with his enlarger speciality with just Waterhouse stops. And Hugo Meyer did make Petzvals - Studio "Fast Worker". Sources: contemporary adverts and VM.

I am afraid ink marks on Petzvals front achromats will eventually become a source of salesmanship - to put it nicely! The temptation to bolster an anon. lens will be too great.

Ramiro Elena
2-Apr-2010, 03:04
Re-floating the thread for some advice/opinion. I have been putting the Petzval to test in diferent situations. So far I am very happy with it.
There is although an issue that troubles me and I haven't been able to figure its origin.
The lens seems to perform great when used in studio with strobes.
(Never mind the fuziness, I reversed the lens on purpouse.)

In my first field attempt I got back with what it seemed light leaks.
Notice the dark shape in the middle of the frame.

I thought it was a matter of masking the lens. A closer inspection at home revealed the lensboard was leaking, black taped the hell out of it. There's also a minimum gap between the two barrels that form the lens that lets some light in aswell and the waterhouse stop opening. Is this common in brass lenses?
...anyway I endep up black-tapeing the whole lens and went out for another test.

Lighter, but still there.

Finally, I am left with the doubt. If it were light leaks, the shapes would have to be light, not dark. Unless the dark is the correctly exposed part and the two lighter shapes to its sides are light leaks.
This seems to happens only in long exposures (1 to 8 secs.)
The film holders are okay, I have used them for years. The bellows are new and already checked for closely and extensively at home with a flash light.

It only happens with this lens. Next thing I will do is put a piece of tubular black foam around the whole lens but the questions still remains. Why is it dark and not light?
Any ideas?

Thank you.

2-Apr-2010, 06:31
I've never seen the gap between the actual lens barrel and the focusing barrel to be a problem. Yet, in the day they were filled with felt. Perhaps it's not the lens, but maybe a reflection from inside the camera. Is there anything shiny or white inside, on the lensboard rear perhaps? I've heard of that. How are your screwholes? I had a pinhole once beside my flange. Is the inside of the lens barrel blackened?

Louis Pacilla
2-Apr-2010, 06:39
Glad you got it assembled right.

Trying to find the maker based on these scant pencil marks is not reasonable. Sometimes the actual glass grinder put his initials, so WH could be "Willy Henry" or whatever. If we were going to play a guessing game, and I'm not saying we should, it should be based on facts. For example, I don't believe Hugo Meyer even made petzvals. And the features of this lens are way too late to be Hume.

Whatever it is, it will shoot fine pics for you. Have fun.

Hugo Meyers most Certainly DID make Portrait Petzval lenses In fact one of the finest & fastest at a true f3 at 16" . It was never officially imported into the states but a few made it in through B&J.
Here's my prized Hugo Meyers Portrait 16"f3 . The second photo has a 16 1/2 Dagor in Compound. I would sell my Dallmeyers before this one. The last photo is my Century Penny camera w/ 8" f3 Hugo Meyers Petzval Portrait

I have a thing for Hugo Meyers lenses so when I reading a professional photog mag from 1928 & ran across a article on Hugo Meyers lenses. At the end of the article they made short mention of three lenses never officially offered here in the USA(for the European market only the f3 Petzval Portrait). Well I thought I sure would like one. I now own two. 16"f3 & 8" f3 both almost unused.:D

David McNiven
2-Apr-2010, 06:41
Is it possible you had a double (partial) aperture?
I've seen similar results from damaged diaphragms causing more than one oddly-shaped aperture.

Ramiro Elena
2-Apr-2010, 07:56
It is feasible I had leaks from the lensboard/flange part in the first photos. Then I added black tape to the back of the lensboard and around the lens since I don't have a mounting flange... a lot of tape. I then took the back of the Toyo off and looked into the bellows with a black cloth for a while. I saw some light coming in from the waterhouse slot aswell as from the barrel. I covered that with duck tape.

The inner side of the lensboard is painted black with black tape over it, absolutelly no shinning parts there. The only thing I can think of is the flange; mainly because, if you look at the shapes in the photos, they all seem to have a )( shape. So it has to come from a rounded part of the lens/flange/board.

What puzzles me is the fact that it is a dark shape instead of light. Or is there such a thing as dark light leaks? I mean living in Spain with such screwed economy maybe the leaks cannot afford to even be light? :D