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Thread: Large Dallmeyer Lens

  1. #1

    Large Dallmeyer Lens

    After taking over a studio, I found a large brass lens (building has had photo studios in it since pre-1900) marked with the name J H Dallmeyer engraved in script on the barrel. Other identification marks include: No.83004 / London / 4B / Patent 1866 & 1909. Also has a marking engraved "Turn For Soft Focus" with an arrow indicating direction. Top of the lens barrel has a slot which I assume is for whatever was used to create the Soft Focus effect. The lens is mounted on a nice cherry or mahogany mount, and I believe the unit might have been used on a 8x10 Ansco view camera that is still lurking upstairs. Overall length of the lens is about 9 inches, and the front glass diameter is about 4.5 inches. The leather front lens cap still fits, and other than looking a bit dried out, is in decent condition.

    It's an interesting piece of equipment, and nice looking - I plan to keep it clean and sitting with my other vintage items.

    I'd appreciate any information on the lens, manufacturer, and uses of the lens. Since this has been a portrait studio for many many years, I guess that it was used for that purpose.

    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Large Dallmeyer Lens

    Bill-
    It sounds like you've found a Dallmeyer soft focus lens. The slot you mentioned in the lens is most likely for waterhouse stops, not soft focus filters. The lens itself is optimized for soft focus, acting like a modern spot filter (soft all around and tack sharp in the center). These lenses were designed for portraits.

    Check out this link. It's a Dallmeyer catalog from 1931. Pages 19,20,21 and 23 feature their soft focus lenses.


    http://www.cameraeccentric.com/html/info/dallmeyercat/dallmeyercat.html


    Hope this helps.

  3. #3

    Large Dallmeyer Lens

    Bill,

    Your lens is a modified Petzval type lens, used, as you surmised, for portraiture. The Dallmeyer was patented in 1866, and was in production until the mid-1940s. The 4b came in two sizes a 13.5" f/3 model or a 17" f/3.8 model. Both were usable for whole plate (6.5" x 8.5"), although according to the literature, the smaller model was intended for Cabinet Portraits (roughly 4x6). You could probably use either lens for 8x10 without much of a problem.

    In either case, the lens had a soft focus feature, which by rotating either just the rear element or the barrel (depending on the model of the lens), could be adjusted by inducing spherical aberration by increasing the separation between the members of the rear group.

    According to the serial number, your lens date from roughly the 1910s.

    I have two of these Dallmeyer lenses, a 3B (11" f/3) which use on 5x7, and a 5A (22" f/4) which someday I will use for 11x14. These lenses BEG to be used; they really make terrific portrait lenses, and (IMHO) it is a shame to keep them on the shelf. If you have the camera, give them a try, I think you will be amazed at their quality.

  4. #4

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Harbor City, California
    Posts
    1,748

    Large Dallmeyer Lens

    Keep looking around, maybe you'll find the Waterhouse stops, though it's almost traditional that they get separated from the lens.



    I gather that you afre not familiar with them. You can see what they look like at eBay item 3864575151. Too bad those are too small for your lens.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Posts
    176

    Large Dallmeyer Lens

    S.K. Grimes makes waterhouse stops in case you can't locate any original ones.

  7. #7

    Large Dallmeyer Lens

    Although Grimes's shop makes very nice waterhouse stops, they can very easily be made out of thick flat-black mat-board and a utility knife, or--if you have the tools--out of 18 gauge metal sheet, and then painted black. While figuring out the actual size of the aperture can be a difficult task for modern lenses, for Petzval designs they pretty much follow the rule f_stop= focal_length/aperture_size (ie; for my 22" Petzval, f/8 is an aperture of 2.75", 8=22/2.75).

  8. #8

    Large Dallmeyer Lens

    Wow! Thanks for all of the information! This is a very interesting forum, and I plan to keep an eye on the topics. I cut my photo teeth on 4x5, but it's been a long time since I've done any work with a large format camera. The "relics" laying around this studio aren't just cameras - I'll have to get the darkroom in the basement running again and start doing some FUN things.

    Best Wishes!

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Noth london
    Posts
    15

    Re: Large Dallmeyer Lens

    Here's the result from using a Dallmeyer 4A:



    This is from a 10x8 wet collodion negative.

    Sean

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Location
    Tonopah, Nevada, USA
    Posts
    6,145

    Re: Large Dallmeyer Lens

    Most of the Dallmeyer's with the "turn for soft focus" arrow have built in aperture. What a great lens! Think about adding a "high end" alternative to the same as every other digital services. I've got some things done with a similar Dallmeyer on my web pages. Good luck.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

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