View Full Version : Pricing beat-up soft focus lenses

Tim Meisburger
8-Oct-2012, 02:42
I travel a lot for business in Southeast Asia, and after a while the cities and hotels all start to look the same. Over the last few years to combat boredom between meetings I've been seeking out antique stores looking for old LF stuff, and have now accumulated a dozen or so old brass lenses. Some of them would be valuable if they were in good condition, but most are pretty beat up, I assume because they were used in these developing countries long after they would have been set aside for 35mm stuff in developed countries.

Some of them are too big or long to fit my camera and, while visiting the US at Christmas I am thinking of selling some of them to fund a new camera, but wondering how to price them given their condition. For example, I have four soft focus lenses and am thinking of selling three, but if their condition means they are not worth much, its probably better to just keep them, as I am unlikely to run across similar lenses in the future, and I may some day want to move to a bigger format:rolleyes: They are:

- an aluminum Dallmeyer 6D. I have loosened all the elements now but one set, and I think I will be able to do that in the US where I have access to better tools, and the elements themselves are in good shape, but the soft-focus ring is stuck, and the black paint of the outside is in poor condition, and it is missing a flange.

- Voigtlander Universal Heliar 1:45./30cm. Also missing a flange, and the paint is far from perfect, but most worrying is that the lens coating is clearly missing in visible patches, Also it has some small rust spots on the diaphragm (although it works fine).

- Cooke Portrait Anastigmat No. 415841 10 Inch 270mm Series II E f4.5. Outside the varnish has been rubbed off and some of the paint on trim rings and there are numerous little nicks in the brass. The knuckler is wobbly, and the aperture ring stiff. Inside there are some tiny nicks in the rear element, and the central element has patchy coating.

Would lenses like these be worth half what a excellent example would bring? Less than that? What is the best way to sell them? I would be happy to sell them on the forum, but it would seem that ebay is a better venue to establish an unknown value. I could then do a little video of each one so people could better assess their condition. Does that sound a reasonable plan? (I've never sold anything on ebay).

Advice is welcome!

Cheers, Tim

8-Oct-2012, 04:12
i see a complaining individual on ebay.....looks like it would be a perfect avenue for someone to extort you in some way.....at the very least to leave you with negative feedback.

not sure how you should price them with out seeing them to asses how bad they really are. bad glass, damage and missing flanges does not sound good.

hell, you may as well sell them on e bay.......you will g et "market price" for them....i would sell them from the USA so your location does not say BKK....i am sure a BKK location and damaged stuff will hurt you when added together.

there is a guy from india that sell some (nicer) stuff. see how he does to try and get a handle on what india and BKK may do to your asking/bidding prices.

alex from holland
8-Oct-2012, 04:51
Tim, please drop me a message at collodion-art at onsmail dot nl
your message box is full



Tim Meisburger
8-Oct-2012, 07:24
Thanks Eddie. I'll try to post some pictures or a video tomorrow if I can figure out how to do that. Alex, I cleared out my inbox.

Tim Deming
8-Oct-2012, 12:22
Quite a few desirable, but poor condition, vintage big barrel lenses have sold for lots of money recently on e-bay. Dont know why, collector mania? ignorance? In any case, list the items as "for parts, non working", post detailed pictures that show the condition, and I think you will do fine



Tim Meisburger
9-Oct-2012, 17:20
Thanks Tim. I made a video of the lenses and posted it here: http://youtu.be/pPLqKZSvk6g

Its not nice like Eddies are, but does give a better idea of the lens condition.

9-Oct-2012, 17:41
Those doesnt look that bad at all, I would have no problem buying them, if I had the money :P

Steven Tribe
10-Oct-2012, 01:45
Tim, these are absolutely acceptable.
I have seen lots of "deep storage/unloved SF" lenses in Europe in exactly the same "below average" condition - which will still give modern pictorialists wet dreams.
All aluminium alloy lenses shed their black enamel - it is not something to do with the Monsoon in SE Asia.

Tim Meisburger
10-Oct-2012, 16:14
Thanks Steven. That is good to know. When I got them they were all remarkably filthy, especially considering that in several cases the considerable energy had been expended to polish the brass. I still have not gotten the 6d completely apart yet, but getting all the components loose but one has given me confidence I can do the other as well when I have the right tools (which I think are correctly sized oil filter wrenches padded with leather).

alex from holland
10-Oct-2012, 23:05
Tim, be aware the using an oil filter can damage the glass. One part has very thin glass inside. To much pressure would crack it.
Just leave it that way. Nobody is using the sf function of a dallmeyer because it isn't a real sf function.
It just isn't worth the risk

Joe Smigiel
11-Oct-2012, 06:40
The front element group of a Petzval like a Dallmeyer Patent lens is a cemented doublet. Don't try to separate it.

alex from holland
11-Oct-2012, 14:30
Joe, he's talking about the rear element which contains the softfocus function.

Joe Smigiel
11-Oct-2012, 16:58
Joe, he's talking about the rear element which contains the softfocus function.


In the YouTube video he starts talking about the black aluminum 6D around the 2:40 mark. At 3:10 he says "This is the front piece" and at 3:28 says "I think there's another piece (that) comes off there." Then he shows the diaphragm and proceeds to take the rear group off. At 4:18 he separates them and you can clearly see both rear pieces have a lens element in them. So, he is talking about the front cemented doublet when he removes the first set of elements from the barrel, at least in the video.


Tim Meisburger
11-Oct-2012, 23:57
I have the rear section apart, but the soft focus is still frozen. The front section doesn't look like a cemented doublet. It looks like there is an air space between the two elements, but perhaps that is wrong. If it is, then there are stains on the lens surfaces that do not come off with ordinary cleaning. In the photos below the arrows point to the two locations where I think the lens may separate. The second photo shows some of the haze on the lens. Some is just surface but some inside, I think.

Steven Tribe
12-Oct-2012, 01:13
What you think is an air space in the front element is the balsam layer - in degenerated condition.
The inner thread (with the arrow) needs to be loosened (difficult?) to remove the achromat from the cell for rebalsaming - which is not a difficult operation . The bigger the achromat - the easier the recementing exercise!

Tim Meisburger
12-Oct-2012, 05:20
Thanks Steven. Which arrow do you mean? The upper one (A) or the lower one (B)?

Regarding the balsam, do you happen to know anyone that does that sort of work? This lens could use a CLA. I guess I could do it myself if it is not too difficult.

Steven Tribe
12-Oct-2012, 07:52
The upper one (A).
I do this sort of work (balsam) but on a non-commercial basis - but don't tell anyone else!
Or I could send you enough Canada Balsam to do the job (well, enough for two attempts).

Tim Meisburger
12-Oct-2012, 08:22
Hmm... I think you live in Frederikshavn. I could send it with my friend to Varde....

Thanks for showing me where to unscrew it. I'll give it a try when I get the proper tools. In the meantime I think I'll try it out. The glass looks fine as long as its not pointed towards a light, and it projects fine on the wall. I don't think I can mount it on my Ikeda Anba, but I'll throw it on the junky 5x7 tomorrow and see what I get. I tried the 3b and loved the look of that lens.

31-Jan-2013, 10:04
Just one more opinion from one who is divesting - I let the market decide the value through that big auction site. Many others put unrealistic reserves or minimums on their items and they do not sell. Include your video and some very good pictures and be happy.