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View Full Version : antique lenses for 4x5 - a technical enquiry



Simon Liddiard
16-Sep-2012, 13:06
Hi all,

I'm hitting the big 30 next month and thought I would spend some visiting the Wolverhampton Camera Fair to purchase an antique lens for my 4x5 monorail.

My query is a little circuitous so I apologise in advance!

I'm assuming that in the early days there were a broader range of formats than 4x5 and 8x10, based on both the metric and imperial systems.

I am under the impression that most antique lenses of the petzval variety were designed for optimal use on formats larger than 4x5.

I have certainly read many posts on the forum regarding antique lenses, and there seem to be a great many 4x5 shooters using them. The images in the quoted thread show some vignetting on 4x5 using a petzval-derived projection lens, indicating that some antique lenses using the petzval arrangement might have been designed for a smaller format?

http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?47181-please-post-your-petzval-shots/page2&highlight=petzval+tone


I've posted these in other threads before, but here they are again, 145mm f2.0 projection lens that is some sort of petzval.
All of these shot on a 4x5 speedgraphic, uncropped.

http://www.buckshotsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/rileys_13.jpg

http://www.buckshotsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/lily_01.jpg


Would I be right in saying that swirlies and other peripheral distortions are a result of pushing the limits of a lens' ability to cover a particular format? If I use a lens with a smaller format than it was designed for then the propensity for peripheral distortion e.g. swirlies would be reduced, but the contrast, sharpness and DOF would remain unchanged?

Finally, if I used a lens to project circle of light on a wall - adjusting the circle until it is sharply focussed - then would I have an accurate indication of the lens's coverage?

Cheers, and happy Autumn (or Fall) everyone :cool:

Simon (20 posts, no pictures!)

Emil Schildt
16-Sep-2012, 13:24
Would I be right in saying that swirlies and other peripheral distortions are a result of pushing the limits of a lens' ability to cover a particular format? If I use a lens with a smaller format than it was designed for then the propensity for peripheral distortion e.g. swirlies would be reduced, but the contrast, sharpness and DOF would remain unchanged?

Finally, if I used a lens to project circle of light on a wall - adjusting the circle until it is sharply focussed - then would I have an accurate indication of the lens's coverage?

Cheers, and happy Autumn (or Fall) everyone :cool:

Simon (20 posts, no pictures!)

yes.

(swirlies come when you use your lens for bigger formats than designed for (sometimes... I have a medium format camera with a fixed lens , and that swirls also...) (+ a choise of background that can actually swirl...)

Your circle on the wall is not the lens coverage, but the illumination of the lens.. (afaik)

C. D. Keth
16-Sep-2012, 14:11
I have certainly read many posts on the forum regarding antique lenses, and there seem to be a great many 4x5 shooters using them. The images in the quoted thread show some vignetting on 4x5 using a petzval-derived projection lens, indicating that some antique lenses using the petzval arrangement might have been designed for a smaller format?

That is exactly correct. Petzvals were developed to have a faster lens for "instantaneous" exposures for portraiture. They're fast. The drawback is that they have quite poor sharp coverage for the physical size of the lens. Some of those big soda-can size lenses were really designed for quarter plate (3-1/4"x4-1/4"), carte de visite (2-1/8"x3-1/2") sizes or even smaller.

The strongest swirls are mostly in the portion of the lens that was designed not to be used. In the two photographs you reference, imagine one of those cheesy "rule of thirds" grids superimposed. Then look at the very center portion of that grid and you can see something closer to how that lens was intended to be used.

goamules
16-Sep-2012, 15:21
...I am under the impression that most antique lenses of the petzval variety were designed for optimal use on formats larger than 4x5...

You have a good understanding of edge effects, optimum center section, and etc. above. On the question about common sizes for Petzvals, actually 4x5 and smaller were the most common sizes for decades. Petzvals came out to reduce the sitting time of portraits, and these were usually tiny 1/9th, 1/6th, and 1/4 plates. The 1/4 plate is 3 1/4 X 4 1/4, the others smaller. If you look at all the daguerreotypes and tintypes from the 1840s through the 1870s, most were those sizes, and most studio cameras had those size lenses. The CDV size also became widely popular around the civil war, and it used a slightly bigger Petzval lens. For every one wholeplate or larger Petzval I find, I find 20 quarterplate size.

If you haven't done so, check out http://www.flickr.com/groups/868027@N25/ where over 380 people have posted petzval shots of all sizes.

Simon Liddiard
21-Sep-2012, 05:25
thanks for your replies everyone, much appreciated, especially the background to historic formats.

So, the coverage is something I would need to test, or at least discuss with a seller?

thanks once again,

S

Scott Davis
21-Sep-2012, 12:34
You can certainly ask about it, but you'd be best served doing a lot of research in advance to have a good idea yourself what it is you're looking at, as many sellers don't have a clue and will tell you what they think you want to hear ("sure, it covers 11x14 with movements! And it will swirl on 4x5, even when stopped down to f32! It's an f1.4 lens!"). Learn how to calculate the f-stop of the lens as many Petzval lenses were equipped with waterhouse stops which are highly likely to have gone on walkabout, and if you're so fortunate to find them with the lens, they're probably marked in an arcane system that does not directly correspond to modern f-stop measurements.

IanG
21-Sep-2012, 13:19
Wolverhampton's very hit and miss for LF lenses, there can be bargains and others are expensive, but worth a visit. PM me if you'd like to meet up, there's one or two others off this forum there usually.

I bought a Petzval (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?93322-help-identify-first-Petztval) very recently off someone who has a stall at Wolverhampton - but at a flea market :D

http://www.lostlabours.co.uk/photography/cameras/images/petzval03sm.jpg

http://www.lostlabours.co.uk/photography/cameras/images/petzval07sm.jpg

Should add I just beat another stall holder from Wolverhampton in buying it, or it might have been for sale there in a couple of weeks :)

Ian

dperez
21-Sep-2012, 14:39
You did an excellent job cleaning that lens.

-DP


Wolverhampton's very hit and miss for LF lenses, there can be bargains and others are expensive, but worth a visit. PM me if you'd like to meet up, there's one or two others off this forum there usually.

I bought a Petzval (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?93322-help-identify-first-Petztval) very recently off someone who has a stall at Wolverhampton - but at a flea market :D

http://www.lostlabours.co.uk/photography/cameras/images/petzval03sm.jpg

http://www.lostlabours.co.uk/photography/cameras/images/petzval07sm.jpg

Should add I just beat another stall holder from Wolverhampton in buying it, or it might have been for sale there in a couple of weeks :)

Ian

CCHarrison
21-Sep-2012, 14:40
On the question about common sizes for Petzvals, actually 4x5 and smaller were the most common sizes for decades. Petzvals came out to reduce the sitting time of portraits, and these were usually tiny 1/9th, 1/6th, and 1/4 plates. The 1/4 plate is 3 1/4 X 4 1/4, the others smaller. .

I'd like to add my two cents. American Daguerreotype cameras came in 3 main sizes, 1/4, 1/2 and whole plate. There are some rare exceptions, but 95% are one of these three sizes. 1/4 Plate being the most common, 1/2 plate next and whole plate the least common. Petzval lenses follow this pattern as well. 1/4, 1/2 and whole plate being the most common sizes during the 1840's to the mid 50's, again with 1/4 being THE most common of the 3 sizes. Over time, double whole plate and mammoth lenses were made, but these were exceptions, not the rule. Daguerreotypes smaller than 1/4 plate were still taken with 1/4 plate equipment (camera and lens), it was just the holder was reduced for sizes like 1/6, 1/9 etc... at least in America*.

Dan

*If you'd like to read Matt Isenburg's in depth essay on Dag equipment, shoot me an email (dcolucci AT aol.com )

goamules
21-Sep-2012, 17:01
Thanks Dan, I've read it, good stuff. It seems the quarterplate cameras in American were also used to shoot smaller 1/6 and 1/9 plates, with different holders. He said he'd never seen a camera smaller than 1/4 plate.

Simon Liddiard
26-Sep-2012, 05:38
Thnaks again everyone.

I will certainly do my research before dropping on a lens. Truth be told, I enjoy researching a product before purchasing it just as much as I do completing the sale!

I found this useful link in my quest to metricise references to plates:

http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_early/1_early_photography_-_sizes.htm

S :)