View Full Version : Mystery soft/portrait lens

5-Jun-2011, 20:59
I found this strange portrait lens. It should be a soft focus, but i am not absolutely sure about it.
Unfortunately the picture i got via email is a little shaky, probably taken with a cell phone.
Marcucci was an importer of professional photographic stuff. If still in business, they should sell something else, probably consumer electronic and the like.
EDIT: they are still there, and making industrial optics. The new name of the Company is "LOBRE".
I read "Pictor No.1 4.5/32cm.". The lens looks to be immediately post-war, but it's just a guess, of course.
No other infos. The owner got it from a photographer active in the fifties; the lens was fitted on a big wooden studio camera.
Probably is a rebranded lens, but i have no clue at all about its provenience.
Any idea?

have fun


6-Jun-2011, 03:53
I can add a few minor things.

Yes, its a soft focus lens and I have seen a photo of another Pictor owned by a fellow Soft Focus enthusiast who perhaps may post more of what they may know. I believe pre WWII.

Nice lens. I hope to find out more, too.


6-Jun-2011, 06:46
I ave the same lens but serial# 3217. Same focal length and max aperture. 32cm f4.5 I was not able to find out much about this lens but didn't search all that hard. You have already found more info than I was able to find. It is a 2+2 design and symmetrical.

6-Jun-2011, 10:05
why don't you take some pictures with it and post them here ;)

6-Jun-2011, 14:32
why don't you take some pictures with it and post them here ;)

I just made an offer for the studio camera + lenses.
99% it will go in somebody's else hands... i am always too broke to compete with deeper pockets :)

have fun


23-Jul-2011, 13:13
Eventually it ended in my own hands! :)

I spent a lot more than Gandolfi's studio camera, but in the end i think that both of us got the camera for free. His Suter Aplanat is worth at least what he payed for the whole lot, and the 950 euros i payed are more than worth the "accessories" that came with my camera:
320mm f/4.5 Marcucci Pictor (very good, with flange/cap)
360mm f/4.5 Heliar (1910/11 vintage, clean, with flange/lensboard)
large diaphragm lens holder, on flange (>12cm hole)
large "Silens" shutter + two very good hose/bulb sets
two original plate holders, with adapter for 6.5x9 film and square glass plates
many boxes of glass plates (Agfa, Gevaert, Ferrania) in various sizes
one very old "Siluro" automatic enlarger, with non original base and no lens

The Pictor alone should fetch at least 700/750 USD, maybe even more, being a rare post-war soft focus lens. It's less common than, say, an O.I.P. Labor or Berthiot Eidoscope, so my guess is that it shouldn't be cheaper. All the rest should be worth at least 650 USD (a similar lens holder went on the bay for more than €200, and a 15cm one for more than €260!).
BTW, money is truly secondary in this case. When i saw the pictures of the soft lens AND of the camera, i decided that money was no objection, as long as i could afford the purchase. In the end, that was not the case: i had to borrow some money to be able to pay!

The camera was made by A. Pettazzi, Milan. Pettazzi and Lamperti & Garbagnati were the two major makers of big wooden studio and country cameras, at the time. Both were based in Milan.
I found different clues on the Web: Cecchi, the author of books about the history of Pentax cameras, and a very informed source of informations about the history of italian cameras, says that A. Pettazzi ceased their production activities on 1928, so the camera was made before that date. The Heliar was made about 1910, so the camera was probably made immediately before WWI.

I am posting the pictures that were sent to me before the purchase.
One thing not visible from the pictures: behind the front standard there is an old pneumatic shutter, those with pneumatic actuation and two plied (bellows-like) flaps. The kind of shutter that allows for the use of lenses with a very protruding back element. The metal parts and the actuator (cylinder) are in good shape, but the two flaps are almost rotten. The other shutter was probably purchased when the internal one failed, and was used in front of the two lenses.

I have some question about the camera, but i really don't know if i should continue this thread, in the wrong subforum, or start a new thread in the right place.
My main problem is with the back/film holders. The two tambour film holders, slid-in type, are made for SQUARE plates. The glass plates i was given are in rectangular boxes, so i guess that none of them should fit the holders. I have a 5x7 Ansco sliding back for 8x10" camera, that could be adapted as a quick fix.

better pictures of the SAME camera, with a different stand, was available on the bay, as "HAAKE & ALBERS 10 x 15 Plattenkamera":

have fun


Steven Tribe
23-Jul-2011, 13:31
No, no, no! These are not made for square plates! The horizontal/vertical positions are acheived by a internal frame in the square plate holders! The glass is square as it has to be wide enough/tall enough for the maximum dimension! I believe Italy used the same progression of plate sizes as Germany.

The built-in shutter sounds like the Grundner hemi-spherical - very much a standard in Studios. The "bellows" material is thin but they usually survive OK.

23-Jul-2011, 18:44
No, no, no! These are not made for square plates! The horizontal/vertical positions are acheived by a internal frame in the square plate holders! The glass is square as it has to be wide enough/tall enough for the maximum dimension! I believe Italy used the same progression of plate sizes as Germany.

Thanks Steven.

Bah, what you say is true, but only for the two internal reducers/adapters, one inside the other.
The big one is for 10x15cm plates (i took a measure), the smaller one should be 6.5x9cm, as i found inside them two metal film adapters, that were fitted with two sheet of film, that looked 6.5x9 (i didn't take a measure, though, i took it for granted).
If you remove the reducers, there are retainers (metal corners) for a square glass plate. It comes to my mind that maybe you're right, it was not meant to be used that way, but only via the two "reducers". The more i think about it, and the more i guess that you're right and that i was wrong :(
The two film holders that went with the camera have a brass plate on the top, with an indent. The ground glass has the same style of stop/retainer. You lock it at the center, focus, then slide it to the side, introduce the film holder from the other side, and slide it until it clicks in place. The width of the "channel" on which the film holder slides back and forth, allows for film holders up to 18x24cm.
I guess that there was also the option for a 24x30cm non-sliding back.
Unfortunately i have no metric film holders bigger than 13x18cm, and no films either. I have to find another solution to actually use the camera.

After some thinking, the best (and cheapest) solution that came to my mind, was to cut to size the 8x10" to 5x7" Ansco sliding back, make the two grooves with a router, and slide it in place of the original ground glass. The original ground glass assembly/film holders have a 21cm height, so it should be perfectly possible. One big problem: the only vertical pictures could be half-frame ones (5x3.5").
Not very elegant, i know :(

A small question:
did you find strange that exaclty the same camera (not a similar one) was available under two different brands, one italian and the other german?
From what i have found, A. Pettazzi was actually a camera maker, not a re-brand.
The company turned to distribution of photographic goods only after 1928. The company was a very old one, the father of A. Pettazzi started the production of cameras mid '800. BTW, at the start of the century, studio cameras were their main product. Quite unlikely that they had to import some from abroad, but i find even more unlikely that a german vendor had to purchase heavy studio cameras from Italy... Strange.
What do you think?

Thanks again for your input, i'd be happy to have one third of your knowledge!

have fun


23-Jul-2011, 19:15
One more thing.
Thanks for the information about the shutter that was originally sold with the camera.
I add a small bit of information, probably unavailable to non-italians (maybe not to you :))
The maker of diaphragm-style lens holder (in picture) was the italian company "Brandani".
I was told that they are very good. I have seen only another make, though.

Do you know the maker of the black pneumatic shutter in one of my pictures?
They are quite common in Italy, and are called "Silens".
Never found any information about make/nationality.

have fun


Steven Tribe
24-Jul-2011, 02:13
"The two film holders that went with the camera have a brass plate on the top, with an indent."

Yes there was a heavy duty locking system mounted on the back in the middle.

"did you find strange that exaclty the same camera (not a similar one) was available under two different brands, one italian and the other german?"

Not at all! Even big companies got some of "their" models elsewhere. Looking at a big Scandinavian Photo dealers catalogue for 1910, I can see 2 named makers of these big cameras, but there were over 10 other models of these, without maker's names like Daniel, Dagny, Darius and Derby - a bit like IKEA names of to-day!
I own a Century Studio Camera, which had been sold without any identifying marks as to its origin, too.


I always thought this was italian manufacture. I think it is the commonest of this type - of which there are many.

24x30cm cameras could be used for 30x30cm plates - but I don't think that many photographers would have used that size.

25-Aug-2011, 19:19
I discovered a few nice things about the camera, while working at the restoration.
As suggested, probably the sliding back is not original. The camera is made of very nice wood (blonde walnut tree), and the stand is made of a darker walnut, with a different finish. The back is made of cheaper wood (fir tree), so it doesn't go well with the camera, aesthetically speaking. The wood used for the back is seasoned, and of very good quality, though.
No trace of veneer anywhere, everything is made of solid wood.
Unfortunately the Brandani diaphragm shaped lens holder is not large enough for the Marcucci Pictor, it doesn't engage on the lens thread, it's barely large enough to fit the back of the barrel: the result is that the barrel got scratched, and that the lens is not firm.
Fortunately it still have the original flange, so i will make a new lensboard. Sooner or later i hope to find another diaphragm lens holder, of sightly bigger size, but the current prices are a little crazy. I have seen a large one going for 270 euros plus shipping, on FleaBay. I guess that a photo fair would be a better choice (for finding one at a reasonable price), but it could be difficult to find one.
I am making a copy of the back, just the base frame, in seasoned walnut.
I discovered that a Kodak 2-D 8x10" back and an Ansco 5x7" sliding back have almost the same "window". Just 1mm of difference. So the new back will have a 27.9x27.9 cm. aperture (spot-on for one of the two backs, a little too wide for the other). Just four screws to fit them to the base. If everything works well i will make another "base", so to permanently fix each back to its "base".
The original "base" has three indents, two at the base and one at the top. The new one needs six, cause it must be reversible, to allow for landscape and portrait orientation.

I found some red rubber hose for pneumatic shutter, from a local rubber shop.
I did my best to find one of those metal fittings used to connect the hose to the camera, but the only one i could find is of much larger diameter.
Which kind of shop should i try?
Is there any source on the Web?

I have found some 24x30cm film, that would sell for a nice price.
That made me think about restoring the camera to its original format, so i am looking for a 24x30 back, better if it comes with one or two film holders.
The cheaper the better, no problems at all if it's in need of restoration

have fun


Steven Tribe
26-Aug-2011, 01:13
The most available replacement for the brass fittings for rubber tubing is pneumatic power tool connections. If the external diameter is a few mms to great, you could make an improvised lathe by mounting in an electric drill bit and use tough sandpaper/file as it revolves.
Most commercial walnut is imported from ? and has a much darker colour than the typical European variety (quite a lot of variation between individual trees, though). I have found sources with old furniture which has been small and ugly enough not to command a high price.

26-Aug-2011, 04:35
Fittings are available here