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Thread: Advice on using a century old lens

  1. #1

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    Advice on using a century old lens

    My grandfather , born in 1885, was a keen amateur photographer, and I am thinking for trying a project based around where he grew up and worked. I am therefore planning to have a go at trying an 'older look' using Vandyke printing, and decided (for better or worse) that using a vintage, uncoated lens might help give me what I am hopping for. So I have acquired a lens which has clear glass, and apart from a bit of dust looks pretty decent although it is a bit stiff. It's marked C.P.Goerz Berlin, doppel anastigmatic serie III/I f 150mm No 80992. It has apertures marked in f stops with a 12 blade iris controlled by turning the front ring. A brass knob marks a focussing scale marked in yards from 0.5 to infinity, and this adjusts the distance between the front and rear groups of cells. There are two notches on the front lens that allow you to unscrew it. It doesn't have a shutter and is not mounted on a lens board.

    I know very little about older lenses, but from what I have gleaned from previous threads, this is a 'pre-Dagor' from somewhere around 1900 and I'm quite excited to see what look I get with it! However I have a few practical questions about this lens and how best to use it:

    1) I understand this lens should cover 5"x4' wide open and 5"x7" stopped down, but the glass on this lens is tiny in size compared to my more modern lenses. Is this actually a lens for a smaller format? If it covers LF, how close is it to the final Dagor design, or were there further refinements for the final Dagor design?

    2) I've only ever used a lens with a shutter. I would like to try out the lens before contemplating mounting it in a shutter or sourcing a camera like a Speed Graphic on which to use it. Can anyone give any advice on mounting options? The person I bought it from said they used a lens board made of corrugated cardboard and gaffer tape! I reckon I could find someone to make a lens board to size and mount it using the three holes in the lens but I am then left without a shutter, and timing an exposure using a hat or some other method will only work for longer exposure in lower light and using the lens stopped down, and I would love to see what I get with it wide open and what sort of bokeh it gives me! Any suggestions?

    3) Can anyone give any advice on the best approach for focussing? Should I set the lens to a certain distance and then use the bellows, or would it work better to adjust the setting on the lens? If so, how should I do this? I have read about focus shift but at the moment this is all theoretical for me and I don't really know what I may have to do to deal with it! Any advice much appreciated.

    4) How would you approach the issue of a shutter? Everything on the lens seems to move but it all seems a bit stiff. I would prefer to see what look I get from the lens before thinking about a shutter, or a CLA.

    Many thanks,

    Jenny

  2. #2

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    Re: Advice on using a century old lens

    This lens will show a significant shift in focus when it is stopped down. So you can't depend on getting more depth of field by stopping down -- you'll have to actually refocus at shooting aperture. Typically, it's about 1/4".
    Beautiful images from this lens.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  3. #3

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    Re: Advice on using a century old lens

    About the Dagor design, there were many redesigns. Nothing major changed, but still ... I wouldn't worry about which version yours is.

    That it is in a focusing mount means it was made for a camera that didn't focus by moving a standard. Perhaps a Goerz-Anschütz with a focal plane shutter. If you mount the lens on a camera that has one or more moveable standards, any combination of focusing by moving the standard(s) or moving the knob will work.

    It will cover 4x5 for sure. As for 5x7, well, there are disagreements about Dagors' coverage. 5x7 with movements may be a stretch.

    Focus shift. You'll want to focus with the lens at full aperture. With lenses that suffer focus shift on stopping down, the plane of best focus moves when the lens is stopped down. With them, focus and compose with the lens wide open, stop down to the shooting aperture, and refocus. That's all.

    Shutter? The lens' cells almost certainly aren't direct fits in a modern shutter. Since you have the original barrel, a decent photographer's machinist should be able to make threaded bushings that will hold the cells in a modern shutter, possibly a Compur/Copal #0 or #1, with the right spacing. Or the entire lens can be mounted as far back as possible in the front tube of a shutter, possibly a Compur/Copal #1 or Ilex #3. Costs and potential problems are best discussed with the machinist. I use SKGrimes.

    If you want the Dagor rendition, whatever that means, consider getting a later Dagor in shutter. Doing this may cost less than having the lens in hand adapted to a shutter.

    Remember that the lens forms the image. All the camera does is hold the lens and film in a stable relationship and keep the dark in. Worry about a board for the lens after you have a camera.

    Your grandfather was born in 1885. As a keen amateur he probably used relatively modern (for his time) gear.. I doubt he started photography as an infant, given the costs he probably didn't start until he was in his twenties, no earlier than 1905. By that time modern for the time gave much the same results as modern for our time lenses do now. For LF photography, the most significant changes between then and now have been in film and paper emulsions. IMO the old timey look you're after is more a result of poor exposure and prints' aging than of changes in lenses. As for Vandyke printing, by the time your grandfather was an adult it was obsolete.

  4. #4

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    Re: Advice on using a century old lens

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Fromm View Post
    Your grandfather was born in 1885. As a keen amateur he probably used relatively modern (for his time) gear.. I doubt he started photography as an infant, given the costs he probably didn't start until he was in his twenties, no earlier than 1905. By that time modern for the time gave much the same results as modern for our time lenses do now. For LF photography, the most significant changes between then and now have been in film and paper emulsions. IMO the old timey look you're after is more a result of poor exposure and prints' aging than of changes in lenses. As for Vandyke printing, by the time your grandfather was an adult it was obsolete.
    Good points. To add to them: in the early 20th century, orthochromatic film was used quite widely, with panchromatic film being the expensive option. You could 'fake' this with modern materials by using x-ray film. If you insist in printing with a process that is alternative (i.e. not silver gelatin) and at the same time authentic for the period, try carbon transfer. It was still popular when your granddad was an adult, even though most people just used silver gelatin paper.

    Just my 2 cents; even though they're probably only mildly helpful, I applaud your project and am looking forward to seeing the results. I like the idea and it sounds like a lot of fun.

  5. #5
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Advice on using a century old lens

    Quote Originally Posted by jennym View Post
    A brass knob marks a focussing scale marked in yards from 0.5 to infinity, and this adjusts the distance between the front and rear groups of cells.
    It's likely that the spacing stays the same, and it's moving the whole assembly to focus. Changing the spacing would add aberrations. Just technical nit-picking...

    Quote Originally Posted by jennym View Post
    I understand this lens should cover 5"x4' wide open and 5"x7" stopped down, but the glass on this lens is tiny in size compared to my more modern lenses. Is this actually a lens for a smaller format? If it covers LF, how close is it to the final Dagor design, or were there further refinements for the final Dagor design?
    It's small because its maximum opening is f/6.8, likely slower than your other lenses. The Dagor had a few small refinements, eliminating a little of the spherical aberration that causes the focus shift, and sharpening the corners a little. (You may notice your corners are I bit soft.) Of course one big change was adding AR coatings after WWII, but this changed the Dagor less than most designs, as it only had two inner air-glass surfaces. The BIG change was when the cemented triplets were split, allowing more design freedom to correct that spherical aberration, thus creating the Plasmat, also known as the Air-Spaced Dagor. Plasmats were very low contrast because of the added inner air-glass surfaces until AR coatings came in. Now the Plasmat is one of the standard modern LF lens deigns.

    Quote Originally Posted by jennym View Post
    How would you approach the issue of a shutter? Everything on the lens seems to move but it all seems a bit stiff. I would prefer to see what look I get from the lens before thinking about a shutter, or a CLA.
    Slow film, neutral density filters, shoot in low light, and the famous "Galli Shutter"!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICLG3HCDlhk
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  6. #6

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    Re: Advice on using a century old lens

    Many thanks for all the replies which are all helpful. Loved the video link, Mark, although I'm not confident I will develop 'Galli-esque" abilities when it comes to timing exposure.

    I learned a lot when I cleaned up the lens yesterday. The lens, although stiff, looks well maintained and nothing is locked or broken, for which I am grateful. Mark you are right that the whole assembly moves for focus, not the distance between groups of cells. I also noticed that not only did the front and rear lens have matched numbers (30) but so did the part for both the distance "knob" and the corresponding scale. So I am confident that all the parts are from the original lens! I also reckon the lens has been cared for as nothing had 'seized' and although a bit stiff, it unscrewed easily. I am left wondering whether the serial number relates to all the CP Goerz Berlin lenses produced and whether the number on the parts of the lens relates to that particular design, as the number on the parts (30) is very different to the number on the front of the lens. Can anyone comment on that?

    I have now made a temporary lens board to try out the lens, and plan to see some results this weekend. On the GG of my 5x4 it looks pretty good and it clearly covers this! But I'm actually hoping the corners are not too sharp! The lens still looks too small to cover 5x4 but it clearly will! In terms of using it, from first principles I had thought of slow films, grads and low light! But I am not sure how to try to use grads.... any advice, suggestions, solutions much appreciated. There are no filter threads on the front of the lens, but there are some threads on the rear. Were these designed to be used for filters?


    For this project I have a steep learning curve in two areas: 1) Lens rendition and use of older lenses ie the negative, and 2) how best to develop/present the image i.e. the printing. As a newbie to both it will take some time to acquire both information and experience but I'm looking forward to having a go. I know I want an older 'look'. I believe this comes from both the lens and the development of the image but I may be wrong. Hence an older lens and older process. If the two are not yet matched, then please be patient with me! Any advice is much appreciated. I know I prefer brown to blue, I want to keep it fairly inexpensive, and from a background in science the Vandyke process looked worth trying, fairly straightforward, and I reckoned I could have a go on my own. But I will look into other options like carbon transfer as you suggest, Koraks.

    All comments much appreciated. Many thanks.

  7. #7
    IanG's Avatar
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    Re: Advice on using a century old lens

    Your lens is the same as the early CP Goerz, Berlin Dagors, it was made before they began using the name in 1904. I have a 1913 120mm Dagor in a Compund shutter and it's still marked "Doppel Anastigmat Serie III" followed by Dagor. My 120mm Dagor is tiny like yours but definitely covers 5x4 at f16 and also 7x5 at f45, according to CP Goerz (Berlin) adverts I have your 150mm Dagor covers 5x4 at full aperture and 8x5 stopped down. I use a 12" Goerz AM Opt Dagor on my 10x8 camera and it's lovely lens.

    A shutter is easy because here in the UK we have Thronton Pickard roller blind shutters and it would be easy to use one with your Dagor. You're welcome to come and try one, I can show you other options as well.

    The SN of your Dagor would indicate it's pre-1900.

    Ian

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    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Advice on using a century old lens

    Quote Originally Posted by jennym View Post
    Mark you are right that the whole assembly moves...
    I'm always right, and I never lie!

    Filters were very rarely used until the 1920's, after your lens was made, so there's no provision for them. The earliest solution would be to use Series filters, which came in during the 1930's and push onto the front of the barrel. Here's a link: http://www.apotelyt.com/photo-accessory/series-filters

    A more modern solution would be something like the Cokin P filter system, which uses a universal adapter. If there's a traditional camera store around, they may have both. Take your lens along!

    Neutral density filters are just grey filters for cutting out light without otherwise affecting the image. Here's a link to a basic explanation: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tut...ty-filters.htm

    Good luck with your project, it sounds wonderful!
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  9. #9
    IanG's Avatar
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    Re: Advice on using a century old lens

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sawyer View Post
    I'm always right, and I never lie!

    Filters were very rarely used until the 1920's, after your lens was made, so there's no provision for them.
    Not sure why you think filter use was rare until the 1920s. All sorts of filters were available by 1910 including coloured graduated filters, the trigger was the introduction of colour sensitisation around 1906/7, films like Verichrome etc. Wratten and Wainwright (Croydon, UK) and their Director CEK Mees were at the fore-front of colour sensitivity and the effects of filters and had introduced the Wratten series of filters, they published leaflets and books on filter and film usage, George Eastman bought the company in 1912 to secure Mees to head up 2 new Kodak Research labs (Rochester & Harrow) which were staffed by W&W researchers.

    Even after 1920 few lenses had sufficient thread for screw on filters, that came after WWII.

    Ian

  10. #10

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    Re: Advice on using a century old lens

    Many thanks Ian for the offer to meet up. That would be really helpful. Where are you based at the moment?

    I have thought of using ND filters, Mark, and always have a set of Lee filters in my bag. A shutter may be the way to go if I can, as I can still see some logistical issues of trying to time and exposure with an ND filter on the front of the lens.

    On a different note I told my 85 year old father what I am thinking of doing and he was really touched. So that is an incentive to follow it through. Many thanks for all the comments and suggestions.

    Jenny

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