View Full Version : Help identifying giant lens

Tim Meisburger
1-Apr-2012, 01:37
I was wandering around an antique shop, where I bought a beat up aluminum Dallmeyer 6d, and the guy showed me a giant lens that had no makers name that I could find. It was about a foot tall (300mm) and maybe 9 or 10 inches across the front (250mm). It felt like it weighed about 20 pounds (9 kilos). It had a working diaphragm. It says 36" (900mm) f6.3 on the lens rim across fro the serial number. He wanted $600 for it. Here are a couple of pictures.


Steven Tribe
1-Apr-2012, 02:03
This is the dangerous "Big Bertha" from WWII.
Forget whether it is a Ross or Dallmeyer design. These were made at decentralised small workshops because of Luftwaffe problems at the time.
The 14a/***** number will give you hits in VM or google.
In my view, they are absolutely of no use in the mainstreams of photography.
Quality control was not at its best at that period. Popular sales object in ex-RAF lenses sales in the late 40's.
About as useful as condenser lenses or film pack holders!

Yes, 14a/2443 IS big bertha, telephoto design by Dallmeyer. VM says they were used for sports events in the early days after the war.

1-Apr-2012, 02:23
To add to what Steve has said, these were also made by Wray. My understanding is that they are designed for use with a strong yellow filter and will not give decent results without one. Basic telephoto design. Possible you could make some use of it in black & white work but no way I'd pay $600 for one. These come up on eBay all the time and sell for modest amounts. If you want a long, fast tele. Look for a dallmeyer anastigmat.

1-Apr-2012, 02:50
Stephen, in my view, 100% of the lenses that appear on these pages have no place in the mainstream of photography-
Have you used one of these lenses?


Here's a picture of mine, taken last week-

It' a 36" Telephoto, the length and aperture scale are engraved on the lens-
your wide angle pictures and description make it seem bigger than it actually is-

Very sharp, large circle of illumination for a telephoto, about 450-500mm at infinity.
Would be quite useful as a portrait lens for ultra large, or wet plate, I'd say-
because it's a telephoto, it only draws about 550mm at infinity.

I bought mine because I wanted a surrogate large, heavy lens, to hang out of a prototype front end of a ULF camera, which I haven't built yet.
If I can do that, I'd say I would be able to hang anything at all off the front of it-

There's more here-


Tim Meisburger
1-Apr-2012, 02:53
Okay. Thanks guys. I'm glad I didn't buy it! I don't have a camera anyway with 36" of bellows anyway. When I get home I'm going to be trying to disassemble and clean all these beat up lenses I've been buying, beginning with this aluminum Dallmeyer 6D, and I'll be back looking for help with that.

Best, Tim

Tim Meisburger
1-Apr-2012, 03:01
Thanks Joseph. Good to see that honking beast on a camera. Maybe it was smaller than I remember, but it was pretty damn heavy! I was hoping it was valued by weight, and I could buy it for 600 and sell it for 6000...

Steven Tribe
1-Apr-2012, 04:33
More likely, buy it for 600 and sell it for 60! It could be that astronomy people would find it useful?
Sorry, Joseph! You are absolutely right about the "100% of all lenses that appear...." comment. You seem to have balanced the beast nicely over the front standard and tripod.

Dan Fromm
1-Apr-2012, 05:25
Tim, the lens is a telephoto, doesn't need 36" of extension to focus to infinity.

As has been mentioned, $600 is a silly price. I've been watching one for several years now, have never wanted it enough to buy even though the asking price is down to UKP 75. Here it is, if anyone wants to watch: http://www.spitfirespares.com//Pages/misc3.html Its at the bottom of the page.

Tim Meisburger
1-Apr-2012, 05:51
Yep, that's it. If I could buy this one for $100 I would. But if I bought that one shipping would be $400!

Andrew Plume
7-Nov-2014, 02:13
whatever ones personal views on 'the qualities' of this lens........................

I'd be interested if someone could chime in with their opinion on the format covered, 20 x 24" was 'loosely' mentioned to me last year

regards, andrew

7-Nov-2014, 08:03
It lights up a huge circle, and the resolution falloff is gradual. At small magnification it seems the image circle is around 500-600mm for contact printing; the resolution in the centre is much greater and would allow for enlargement, though only thorough testing (which I haven't done) would prove how much. At 36", infinity is a long way away, so there may be some increase in image circle due to the extra magnification at even slightly closer distances.

The minimum aperture is f/16, which is not very small for a lens of this length, so unless all the subject is at infinity you're going to need a lot of movements to control focus- mostly rear movements, in practice. The lens is a telephoto, so front movements are not very convenient to set up.

If your subject is a portrait on 20x24, then you can double that circle, and you'll need around 1.4m of bellows. On my camera, with around 950mm of bellows, I can focus down to about 4m, to give an upper body portrait on 11x17. I tried it once, but the results were not publishable. I must give it another go sometime...

7-Nov-2014, 08:26
Well Joseph, it seems to me you are proving the "it's worthless" comments are wrong! It's worth something, and your moon shots are amazing. Also, knowing British manufacturing, they seldom made unusable optics. Even during the war, manufacturers still had to build to the specifications of the customer, usually a very demanding military. So if this was recon lens, or whatever, you can be sure it did the job well. The British built Spitfire fighters during the war, as well as a lot of other quality items. I'm not saying it's a $5,000 lens. But I'm saying try to get a company today to build a steel/brass/glass lens with a 6" element, for $100. Fat chance. The Collodion Bastards are exploring making a new "Dallmeyer replica" petzval, and they're being told just the glass will be about $200 per element ($800). Then you have to test it against a genuine Dallmeyer made with a century's experience in grinding, testing, fitting, etc. It's not easy. So yeah, I'd pay a couple hundred for a chunk of glass like that, if it was sitting in a local store and I needed it. Where else you going to get one?

Dan Fromm
7-Nov-2014, 09:07
whatever ones personal views on 'the qualities' of this lens........................

I'd be interested if someone could chime in with their opinion on the format covered, 20 x 24" was 'loosely' mentioned to me last year

regards, andrew

Andrew, they were made for cameras that shot 9" x 9" on 10" roll film. Actual coverage may be larger, but it doesn't have to be.

7-Nov-2014, 09:39
Thanks Garret- yes, not worthless. I'm happy to be able to use a lens that was once mounted inside a Spitfire or a Hurricane, albeit it for my own slightly less important reasons.

As usual, there's nothing like learning from your own experience, following your own process, don't believe everything you read...

Andrew Plume
7-Nov-2014, 10:09
thanks to the three of you who've replied quickly to my earlier post. I'm right in believing that this is either a pukka Dallmeyer lens or more probably one made on their behalf

Joseph - thanks for what you've added, really good stuff, from my experience (and knowledge) with the 'ex-UK AM' lenses f16 tends to be the smallest aperture

Garrett - yes, definitely not a "worthless lens", whatever quality these 'posses' or do not, a lens that covers 20 x 24" will be, err...................just a little more than what these go for (that's if one can find them) btw, the reason behind my post was that I picked one up (sic) on the auction site yesterday for 85. With the flange included, there's absolutely no down side at all

Dan - as ever, thank you

best regards to all


ian leeden
9-Nov-2016, 13:58
Andrew, they were made for cameras that shot 9" x 9" on 10" roll film. Actual coverage may be larger, but it doesn't have to be.
The lens was made for 9 x 18 coverage ..... 2 9x9 frames together for stereo . I have this lens and also a Kodak one 36inch f8 . which is actually marked 9x18 . I have also seen the viewer on which these stereo pars were viewed.

Dan Fromm
9-Nov-2016, 14:53
Ian, why do you believe that the 36"/6.3 Dallmeyer and Ross teles were made for cameras that shot 9x18? I ask because I just took a look at Roy Conyers Nesbit's book Eyes of the RAF and it appears that the largest format the RAF's roll film cameras shot was 9x9 on 10" film (F49 camera). USAF also used cameras that shot 9x9 on 10" film, but as far as I know not with WW-II vintage Dallmeyer and Ross teles.

And why do you believe that 9x18 as shot by USAF is a stereo format? In aerial photography, stereo separation is obtained by aircraft movement. Successive, or more widely separated frames, not two shots taken simultaneously with two lenses.

There certainly are stereo viewers as you described.

10-Nov-2016, 09:10
Optical Bar Cameras on the U-2 and SR-71 could be 24" or 30" focal length. But they sure weren't Dallmeyer or Ross lenses. I had a WWI Dallmeyer 5D once, they're pretty long. But by post WWII, several high tech companies were making Recon cameras and lenses. Some film was only 5" some 10". It depended on the camera, all the ones I'm talking about a huge, internal bay cameras for the classic spy planes. I'm sure other cameras were used in more conventional Battle Damage Assessment roles, but the Navy and AF jets.

10-Nov-2016, 18:59
Aero lenses use yellow filters primarily to increase contrast by cutting haze.
There's a lot of atmosphere between the aircraft and the ground and anything adds up
Even in low altitude work a lot of contrast is lost.
The f16 minimum [as in small] aperture is enough to get sufficient focus on flat objects on film which now is considered slow, at a shutter speed sufficient to counteract vibration