View Full Version : A Royal Anastigmat By Another Name

19-Apr-2012, 12:46
Last Friday I was browsing LF lenses at Ebay mainly for entertainment. I don't really need any more lenses, and haven't done anything photographic since last fall. I have other hobbies and spend time with them on a rotating basis. A listing for two old, brass lenses came up with a yard-sale-sell-it-today buy it now price. They were both in Wollensak single lever, double external piston pneumatic shutters. The smaller one looked about 4X5 size, was marked R. O. & C., and looked like a RR. The big one was a Wolly series I Velostigmat f6.8 8X10. I don't need any more lenses, but the price...I checked over the photos and descriptions for about a minute, and hit the buy it now button. I figured at the price, the listing must be brand new and not many people have seen it, or lots had seen it and didn't buy because they knew better.

While I was waiting for them to arrive, I started browsing the old Wollensak catalogs at Camera Eccentric. The 1906 and 1912 catalogs had some of the information I was looking for. The two Automatic shutters were listed in the 1906 catalog, as self cocking versions of the Regular, which I have an example of with an 8X10 RR in it. There were no Velostigmat lenses in that catalog, but there was a Series I f6.8 lens marked Royal Anastigmat. It was symmetrical and convertible, giving two focal lengths.

The 1912 catalog had a new shutter line up, and the older Regular and Automatic were absent. There was a series I Velostigmat, but the aperture was f6.3. The description mentioned that recent improvements had been made to the design allowing the aperture to be raised from f6.8 to f6.3. So now I had a fairly good date for the Wolly, after 1906 and before 1912. The series Ia Velostigmats are copies of the series VIIa Protar, and perhaps some of the earlier series I lenses were too, but I don't have any data on that. The remark in the 1912 catalog about improving the lens and raising the aperture is interesting. The 1894 U.S. patent for the Protar would have expired in 1911 if a later patent hadn't been filed, but all I have is speculation at the moment.

So the question was, while waiting for my lenses to arrive, is the f6.8 series I Velostigmat a Royal, or a Protar? Only time would tell. In the meantime, I cracked open Kingslake to see if there was anything on the Royal Anastigmat. There was a short paragraph. Kingslake thought the Royal was probably designed by Ernst Gundlach, and consisted of two cemented doublets separated by a spacer in each cell, and was symmetrical. It was produced by the Rochester Lens Co. and then by Wollensak after Wollensak bought that company in 1905. Both cells together would give an 8 element in 4 groups configuration. Kingslake also mentioned the Taylor Hobson series XV convertible designed by H. W. Lee in 1931 had a similar layout.

Yesterday the lenses arrived and I started checking them out. Both shutters more or less worked, as the seller said they did, and even the slow speeds worked, although a bit sticky. The small lens was marked R.O. & C. Co., probably Rochester Optical and Camera Co., and was also marked 5X7 symmetrical. Probably a rectilinear, but not rapid, as I think the max aperture is f11 on a modern scale. I set it aside for the time being and turned my attention to the big lens, the one I was really interested in. I opened the iris, got the shutter open on T, and looked through it into the light. It was very hazy, blotchy haze, and the haze seemed inside the lens, between the front and rear elements in each cell. Didn't look very promising. The cells unscrewed easily enough, and I noticed the back of each cell could be unscrewed also. I think Wollensak should get big kudos for this easy disassembly for cleaning.

I got the cells apart, and...it's a Royal Anastigmat! Each cell contains two cemented doublets separated by a spacer ring, and almost all the haze was on the internal air/glass surfaces. I verified the construction by counting reflections of a bare light bulb in the ceiling. Two bright and one dim reflection for each group. After some considerable cleaning with alcohol, Windex, Q-tips and a soft cotton cloth, the haze was gone and the glass was clean save for some tiny scratches from previous cleanings. I held up the re-assembled lens and looked through it at objects about a foot away. I could see them clearly and sharply, with very little apparent loss of contrast. The shutter didn't come with a flange and is missing the aperture scale plate and screws, but I found a flange that fit and got mounted on the 8X10 Seneca. I set up looking through the doorway of the garage so I could look at the GG without a dark cloth.

Well, there was an image. I was late afternoon, overcast, and raining slightly, but what I could see didn't look too bad. More testing to follow.

While looking through the 1906 Wollensak catalog, I might have discovered something that has escaped attention so far. Under the listing for the Royal Anastigmat, there was another listing for a Royal Anastigmat Wide Angle, f9.5. Looking down the lens table, the No. 5 lens was listed for 8X10 format and had a focal length of 6-1/4". Hmmm....those numbers look awful familiar....8X10 lens, f9.5, 6-1/4" focus, made of 4 cemented doublets. How about the series III Velostigmat and later series III Raptar that were made for so many years? The 1957 Wollensak lens and shutter guide at Camera Eccentric has some lens diagrams, and the the f9.5 wide angle clearly shows 4 cemented doublets. I have a series III Velostigmat in a Betax #3 shutter that I got cheap because the seller knew it was very hazy. I was able to clean off all the haze, and in disassembling it for cleaning, it is clearly made of 4 cemented doublets. I could see the cement lines in the edges of the elements and counting reflections gave two bright and one dim reflection for each group.

I think I may have discovered the antiquity and pedigree of the little f9.5 wide angle. I think it was being made as the Royal Anastigmat Wide Angle no later than 1906, and possibly earlier. The question remains on when it first appeared. Was it designed by a Wollensak optician after they bought the Rochester Lens Co and the rights to the Royal Anastigmat in 1905? Was it designed by someone at the Rochester Lens Co. after Gundlach left in 1898? Was it designed by Gundlach himself when he designed the Royal Anastigmat before he left the company? According to an online article written by Kingslake on the Rochester Camera and Optical Companies, Gundlach left his first company in 1895, the company that manufactured the T-R triple. He founded another company in 1896 that went through a couple of name changes and was renamed the Rochester Lens Co. after he left in 1898.

It's going to be interesting testing and using Gundlach's other, more obscure LF anastigmat lens along side his more famous T-R triple.

Louis Pacilla
19-Apr-2012, 17:16
If you read through Kingslakes paper on the history of photographic manufacturers of Rochester NY. You'll read about both Wollensak and Rochester Lens Co. and how Wollensak bought Rochester Lens Co in 1905 for thier Royal lens line up.


20-Apr-2012, 12:53
For decades, Wollensak's most popular LF lenses were copies of expired Zeiss patents. But I think they may have had a couple of original designs that they probably never got credit for. The catalogs at Camera Eccentric are just snapshots through the years, and full of gaps, but there is much interesting information there.

The series II f4.5 Velostigmat first appears in the 1912 catalog. If it was a Tessar copy, it was an illegal one because the Tessar patent was still very much in effect. I have no idea how it was constructed. I'm pretty sure the later series II lenses were Tessar copies, after the patent expired.

The series IIIa f12.5 Extreme Wide Angle is supposedly a Zeiss Topogon copy, but Wollensak would have needed H. G. Wells' time machine to pull that one off. It first appears in the 1922 catalog, and according to Kingslake the Topogon was designed for Zeiss by Robert Richter in 1933. I think it's highly possible the later IIIa lenses were, in fact, Topogon copies.

I would very much like to see diagrams of the early examples of these lenses, and they are probably buried in the patents. But a lot of lenses were patented in the early 20th century, and I'm more inclined to work on other things now. I understand the U.S. patents are searchable online, but viewing the documents requires a Windows plug-in I can't run because I'm using one of those geeky free open source operating systems downloaded from the internet.

9-Apr-2014, 13:46
Does anybody know if Senca Anastigmat Series I lens has the same lens formula as Wollensak Velostigmat Series 1?

9-Apr-2014, 18:29
If it's the lens that recently sold on Ebay, it might be. Wollensak later made a Tessar type f6.3 lens, but the cells on the Tessar copy are a bit deeper, I think. If you have the lens there is an easy way to tell.

10-Apr-2014, 00:17
If it's the lens that recently sold on Ebay, it might be. Wollensak later made a Tessar type f6.3 lens, but the cells on the Tessar copy are a bit deeper, I think. If you have the lens there is an easy way to tell.

I do not have one, just wonder if this is the same lens... I have seen one with f/6.8. Wollensak could made this lens (Series I) for Seneca with "Seneca" name? Seneca cameras were often fitted with Wollensak lenses.