View Full Version : 300 Wollensak Velstigmat Variable Focus lens

Jonathan Brewer
29-Mar-2001, 00:36
A number of you were quite helpful to me with suggestions with what to do and wh at to get for my foray into LF. I've been a portrait photographer for close to 27 years now in 35mm and MF. I've spent close to a year now auditing this forum and others reading about LF.

I've let all this advice and these articles soak in and it became clear to m e in a flash what I wanted and the price I wanted to pay it.

I purchased a 360 Doctar Optics F6.7 Tessar from Mr Cad for $737 U.S. I pur chased a 300 F 4.5 Wollensak Velostigmat VF from equinox for $285. I've attempt ed to purchase a Toyo 810M or a 810MII but have been unsuccessful so far. When I do get the 810M,I'll be using this combo to contact print pop paper.

Anyone have the history of the Wollensak Velostigmat? Mine was obvioulsy us ed and used a lotk, so I know the photographers that used this lens loved it sin ce it has not been abused. Its brassy and old, but just handling it gives me vi sions of this lens in action in an oldtime studio. I now the front rotates from a value of 0-5 but I can also rotate the front of the lens in front of the shut ter and I need to know it this normal. I cannot get the lens to open or close, so can anyone clue me in on this?

I know that this was considered a true soft focus lens, but would love to kn ow more the history behind the people who designed and the people who used it.

This is a great forum and thanks to all who steered me the right way for the right price.

Chad Jarvis
29-Mar-2001, 07:33
I used a Wollensak Variable Focus Velostigmat Series III 300mm for a while, and I really liked it. (This comes from a fan of the Velostigmats in ALL forms, so forgive my gushing.) It EASILY covers 8x10 and gives the added advantage of being a sharp or diffused-focus landscape or portrait lens. I think it was in Adams' Examples - The Making of 40 Photographs that he described the properties of the true soft focus lens as allowing the front elements to be varied in their spacing, producing the pictorialist look he so loathed. I, on the other hand, really like that look. So, "0" is the sharpest, and "5" is the softest. I used mine a lot more on "0" than "5", and I found the focus sweet. Mine was mounted in a raggedy but functional #5 Alphax - big shutter, but big lens. (My Alphax stuck open; the Betax will do the same. Talk to Steve Grimes if you are intimidated by shutter repair.) Remember a 300mm f/4.5 lens is over 2.5" in diameter, and these are low contrast, hand-made, uncoated, usually bubble-filled lenses where the rotation of the front element creates an air space, enhancing flare and further reducing contrast. If you use it for landscapes, plan on developing a lot of film at N+2. Portraits of Granny, on the other hand, at f/4.5 on the "5" setting are tough to beat.

C.W. Dean
29-Mar-2001, 11:11
I agree with Chad, this lens has a most pleasing image even at the zero setting and I use it often in my professional portrait business. I use the 12" with 4x5 and 5x7 and mostly don't use the diffusion dial above #2. Portraitists and pictorialists had different reasons for wanting a soft-focus image. The pictorialists wanted their photographs to resemble wall art where the portraitists had a more economic agenda--to diminish retouching. I have scanned a page from Wollensak's 1916 catalog describing this lens and it's use and I'll leave it on the server for a couple of weeks at:


(Maybe someone can tell me how to code the above to make it a hot link?)

Let me know if it doesn't work...........and good luck!!!!

Wayne Campbell
29-Mar-2001, 11:39

I, too, have this lens but my outer ring with the #1,2,3,4,5 settings is frozen at 0. I have tried to move it but nothing happens. I even used one of those blue rubber grippers for jar lids and still no movement. I am afraid of getting too brutal or trying any chemicals or WD-40 so I guess I'll live with it unless someone has some secret or there is a secret button or lever somewhere that I don't know about.


C.W. Dean
29-Mar-2001, 11:48
Wayne, there's a pretty good chance someone has worked on the lens and secured the ring so it won't move--probably a commercial photographer who didn't want it accidently slipping into the diffused mode. A lens technician like the venerable S.K.Grimes may be able to return it to it's original state.

Chad Jarvis
29-Mar-2001, 14:55
Hey, CW, try this (you'll have to view the source: Velostigmat docs (http://users.erols.com/cwdean/velo.jpg).

Jonathan Brewer
29-Mar-2001, 17:13
Looking the lens over, I think I have the Series II Velostigmat. The front of the lens rotates alright but I cannot make out the zero-five settings so I will probably send this lens to S Grimes for a CLA of the shutter and also see if I can have something done with the engravings.

The part of the lens in front of the shutter, that is, all of the lens in front of the shutter can be rotated and is this normal or something that needs to be fixed/addressed? In other words, the front of the lens, and the lens itself can be rotated even though I accidently did this once and only once,for fear this is not as it should be. Being new to LF, I have no idea if this is normal or not. Incidently HOW DO I GET THIS LENS TO OPEN AND CLOSE?

After about a year of reading about soft/soft focus/pictoral lenses, I was in a dilemma about what lens to go after. I had not purchased Jay Allens book on soft focus lenses, but I happened to see a people/portrait on the F32 website shot by you, Chad Jarvis, taken with the Wollensak and that sold me period.

If any of you folks out there are interested in checking out my style of people/portrait work, go to www.focalfix.com, click on gallery, and then either J Brewer-digital or J Brewer-carnaval.

Thanks in advance to any who can answer my questions about the operation of Wollensak

Clive Warren
27-Jul-2001, 08:36
Was just directed to this thread from the Large Format list and also have a 300 F 4.5 Wollensak Velostigmat VF in a studio shutter. If your lens is in a studio shutter then there is only one set of blades for both shutter and aperture - if that's what you mean by being unable to open and close the lens...... When you fire the shutter it opens to the set aperture then closes again.

Would be very interested in reading the Wollensak literature on the lens that someone else posted - the link is now dead. Would be delighted to give the literature a permanent home on the f32.net large format web site.

Does anyone have a new link for the document or perhaps they could send it as an attachment?


Clive www.f32.net (http://www.f32.net)

Dave Rutherford
11-Dec-2001, 13:21
Check out: http://www.f32.net/Images/Equipment/velostigmat.jpg