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Thread: Help confirming identity of a no name Wollensak lens

  1. #1

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    Help confirming identity of a no name Wollensak lens

    I recently acquired a good Wollensak lens in a desperately damaged shutter which carries an aperture scale of f6 to f45. I suspect this had only been used to supply a working aperture range. The lens itself bears no markings other than Wollensak Rochester USA.
    I have been able to fit the front and rear lens cells into a good working Alphax No 3 shutter and by fitting the lens onto a monorail camera I have established that it focuses on infinity at 9" (203mm). I established the measurement of focal length by using a known focal length lens and taking the measurement from focal plane to the point on the front standard that confirmed the focal length of the known lens. I then applied the same rules to the mystery lens.
    The front and rear cells appear to be identical each showing 3 reflections (one large, one medium and one tiny). Using only the rear cell an infinity image is starting to come into focus at around 17 inches. Unfortunately this is the maximum bellows extension I have.
    Having done a lot of searching through the Wollensak catalogues on the camera eccentric website the most likely lens appears to be the Versar No 2 (which was renamed No 3 in 1922) and which had a stated focal length of 8.75 inches. Alternatively a Versar number 3 (renamed No. 4 in 1922) with a focal length of 9.5 inches from 1916. Given the margin of of error inherent in my determination of measured focal length (different lens designs) either of these may fit the bill.
    However looking at as many images of Versar lenses as I can find these all have their name and description on the barrel. Given the other slight inconsistencies I am wondering if this lens could be some other type that I have been unable to discover. One thought occurred that it may originally have had a ring around the front element giving more information. From outward appearances it looks a bit like a Velostigmat 1a with such a missing ring and the measured focal length would fit with a no. 4 Series 1a Velostigmat f6.3 but the cells look wrong for this and it does not appear to be a triple convertible like the 1a Velostigmat.
    Perhaps there was a reason for producing the lens with no description; a private contract with another company perhaps. Any ideas welcome.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails DSCF8108.jpg   DSCF8110.jpg   DSCF8105.jpg   DSCF8114.jpg  

  2. #2
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Help confirming identity of a no name Wollensak lens

    My guess is Versar. That would match the f/6 on the scale; the Ia is an f/6.3. Also, the Ia was a triple convertible, so you could check if the front and rear cells have different focal lengths, (Ia), or are the same (Versar, a symmetrical RR). The reflections indicate RR, with that weak reflection being the single cemented interface.

    And yes, Versars were usually engraved on the barrel. But most engraving for other brands (Conley, Columbia...) seem to have been done at the Wollensak factory.
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  3. #3

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    Re: Help confirming identity of a no name Wollensak lens

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sawyer View Post
    My guess is Versar. That would match the f/6 on the scale; the Ia is an f/6.3. Also, the Ia was a triple convertible, so you could check if the front and rear cells have different focal lengths, (Ia), or are the same (Versar, a symmetrical RR). The reflections indicate RR, with that weak reflection being the single cemented interface.

    And yes, Versars were usually engraved on the barrel. But most engraving for other brands (Conley, Columbia...) seem to have been done at the Wollensak factory.
    Yes both cells have the same focal length so convertible (symmetrical RR) but not triple convertible.

  4. #4
    loujon
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    Re: Help confirming identity of a no name Wollensak lens

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sawyer View Post
    My guess is Versar. That would match the f/6 on the scale; the Ia is an f/6.3. Also, the Ia was a triple convertible, so you could check if the front and rear cells have different focal lengths, (Ia), or are the same (Versar, a symmetrical RR). The reflections indicate RR, with that weak reflection being the single cemented interface.

    And yes, Versars were usually engraved on the barrel. But most engraving for other brands (Conley, Columbia...) seem to have been done at the Wollensak factory.
    I would double down w/ brother Mark on the Vesar call and having both a few 1a's as well as Vesars they are both terrific lenses.

  5. #5

    Re: Help confirming identity of a no name Wollensak lens

    Did you actually determine the maximum aperture by measuring through the front? And 203 mm is 8 inches not 9. Maybe it is an older 8 inch (5x7) pre name Rapid Rectilinear and an f/8 that is long separated from its original shutter and the replacement shutter has a totally mismatched aperture scale.

  6. #6

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    Re: Help confirming identity of a no name Wollensak lens

    Measure the width of the glass with a common ruler. Multiply times 6. I think it's a Versar too. Wollensak wouldn't issue a lens with an aperture scale that just said 6 if it was 6.3 or 6.8. Assuming the original shutter is correct to the lens, and it appears very believable your only option is Versar. The machining with the slanted decor at the front makes this very early. My guess is 1906 - ish or maybe even earlier.
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  7. #7

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    Re: Help confirming identity of a no name Wollensak lens

    Can that shutter be original to a 1906 lens?
    Bill
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  8. #8

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    Re: Help confirming identity of a no name Wollensak lens

    Quote Originally Posted by cowanw View Post
    Can that shutter be original to a 1906 lens?
    The chrome one cannot, but the black one could I think. It might have a patent date on the back. They invented the gear escapement about 1913 but that shutter in picture 4 is a pneumatic affair.

    OK went and looked in catalogs and I'm too early for the shutter. It appears about 1916. It was the cheaper option after they invented the escapement.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  9. #9

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    Re: Help confirming identity of a no name Wollensak lens

    Those look like the bones of an Auto shutter. Given that the lens barrel is black enamel and that the shutter has the earlier-style appearance, I’d date it between 1915 and 1919.

    As to the lens itself, I agree that the only Wollensak f/6 offering in this timeframe was the Versar.

  10. #10

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    Re: Help confirming identity of a no name Wollensak lens

    And 203 mm is 8 inches not 9.
    Sorry, that was my typo which has unhelpfully muddied the waters. It should read 230mm which is indeed 9 inches.
    It did occur to me that the aperture scale may not have been original to the shutter and/or that the shutter may not have been original to the lens. This combo may have been regarded as a close enough match for practical purposes by someone requiring an iris only.
    Measuring the diameter of the front cell and multiplying by 6 as suggested by Jim Galli gives (38mm x 6) = 228mm which is close enough to my measured focal length of 230mm. Translating 228mm into inches gives me 8.976 inches.
    Looking at the 1916 Wollensak catalogue on the Camera Eccentric site there is listed a No. 2 Versar (covering 5x7) with an "equivalent focus" of 8.75 inches and a "diameter" of 1.5 inches (38mm) as measured above. There is also a No 3 Versar with an " equivalent focus" of 9.5 inches and a "diameter " of 1.75 inches. So I think my lens could easily be one of these two options. However "equivalent focus" does not seem to be the same as focal length as we use it today i.e. extension required to focus a lens at infinity. Also it is unclear what "diameter" is being stated; is it the diameter of the front cell, the barrel, or something else? It is difficult to say for definite which one it is therefore. Even if it covers half plate it may only be designed for good coverage on 5x7.
    Regarding the original shutter:
    Using the chart in the catalogue it does quote the lens as available in an Auto shutter so the shutter could well be original to the lens. The rear of the shutter is badly damaged but looking at it closely through a loupe it seems to read Wollensak Optical Co.Pat AUG 18 1912. Does this tie with anyone's experience of these shutters?
    The 1912 patent date on the shutter and the 1916 date in the catalogue could be a good guide regarding the production time frame but I am still left with the question of why no description on the lens itself. I may never know for sure but I do now know a lot more about Wollensak lenses and shutters than I did before as a result of all the digging I have done. So for that alone it was £30 well spent to my mind.

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