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Thread: John Vilt 13x18 Portrait lens

  1. #1

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    John Vilt 13x18 Portrait lens

    I appear to have bought a brass rack & pinion lens marked "John Vilt", "Portrait" and "13x18". This according to the seller who did not know what it was. I don't even know how large the lens is. But it's on its way to me now.

    I hope it's a Petzval-type lens. It has a slot for waterhouse stops and on both the front and rear end there are glass elements. The name "JOHN VILT" is engraved in capitals.

    I'd guess this lens is from the 1880's or thereabouts. I have googled the name, but it is clear to me that it's a rebranded lens from one of the "mainstream" lens makers (like Darlot, Emil Busch, Hetc.). John Vilt may be a camera maker, but I have found only one example so far: http://collectiblend.com/Cameras/Vil...ld-Camera.html

    That's about it. I've found no other interesting/applicable information regarding John Vilt. Anyone knows more about this maker and the approximate date of the lens?




  2. #2

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    Re: John Vilt 13x18 Portrait lens

    This is surely a petzval type. I don't see any family resemblances that would lead me to say who it's maker was. Maybe John had visions of giving Voigtlaender a run for his money and built 10 lenses before he went broke. It looks like 1860's - 80's to me though.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  3. #3

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    Re: John Vilt 13x18 Portrait lens

    Thanks Jim! So my idea of its age appears to be correct. However, I have an additional question: at that time, was it common for lenses to be rebranded? I often see wooden field cameras for sale with no maker's name on them, but only a tag of the shop where they were bought. Did the same happen with lenses around the 1870's?

  4. #4

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    Re: John Vilt 13x18 Portrait lens

    Quote Originally Posted by spotmatic View Post
    Thanks Jim! So my idea of its age appears to be correct. However, I have an additional question: at that time, was it common for lenses to be rebranded? I often see wooden field cameras for sale with no maker's name on them, but only a tag of the shop where they were bought. Did the same happen with lenses around the 1870's?
    Not entirely sure. By 1890 it was very common for the big retail houses to put their names on. Walzl in Baltimore is an example of an early adopter. I have a lens the same age as yours with his name on it. Hopeful that others will comment also.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  5. #5

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    Re: John Vilt 13x18 Portrait lens

    Well, I just received it! I have disassembled it a bit and it looks like it's a Petzval design indeed (the back element is almost flat; the front is a cemented pair). I have not disassembled the back elements yet because I don't want to rush too much

    It's a nice lens though. No apparent scratches, a bit dirty glass but that cleaned up nicely. The focusing mechanism works fairly smooth. What else can I ask for?

    Here it is, standing next to my SMC Pentax-FA* 85mm F1.4 [IF] for size comparison:


  6. #6

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    Re: John Vilt 13x18 Portrait lens

    So far I have not found anything about this mr. John Vilt. Nothing, I only found my own topics regarding this lens

    By now I had the lens completely disassembled. And it's indeed a Petzval: a cemented doublet in front and two airspaced glasses in the back. No writings on the rims of the elements, sadly. The black ring on the front of the shade does not appear to be original; I removed it and it seems it can be used as a flange. At least it screws into the screw mount of the lens.

    This "13 x 18" marking, is that supposed to be in centimeters?

  7. #7

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    Re: John Vilt 13x18 Portrait lens

    Yes, the 13x18cm is the Continental European version of 5x7" (or 7x5").
    Why a retail outlet (or import agency) would put a cm coverage on an obvious American/UK market item is a puzzle. May be a rebranded French/German Petzval rather than a B&L (etc) rebranding?

  8. #8

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    Re: John Vilt 13x18 Portrait lens

    Thanks for your reply! FYI: I'm living in The Netherlands (Europe for those who did sleep during their geography classes :P) and the lens was bought here also. The seller did not even know that it was a lens.

    Is it an obvious UK/USA market item because of the name and "Portrait"?

    I have been searching through old Dutch newspapers, but to no avail. I'll try to search through English newspapiers.

  9. #9

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    Re: John Vilt 13x18 Portrait lens

    I have seen your previous postings elsewhere - nice images.
    I think I have solved the question of origin.
    We need a German speaker/reader to clear it up, though - through german language google. In spite of the "John" there was a John Vilt in Austria (the old empire remember!) who was born in Austria about the middle 19th Century. Vienna, and elsewhere in Austria, had lots of small camera makers and objective makers.
    My guess is he was a small camera maker and this lens was mounted on one of his 13x18 cameras. English text? Export reasons, perhaps?

  10. #10

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    Re: John Vilt 13x18 Portrait lens

    Thanks again Steve! Living next to Germany it's not rare for us to have been teached German at high school, so I can read German perfectly. Thanks for the lead, I'll now try the German Google! Of course, if I know more I'll post it here.

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