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Thread: Ilex Photoplastic back cells, where is the inscription?

  1. #1
    cyberjunkie's Avatar
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    Ilex Photoplastic back cells, where is the inscription?

    I have taken the chance to buy an Ilex Photoplastic f/4.5 10.5" without actually knowing which cell is fitted to the back of the Ilex No.5 shutter.
    In fact, i did ask the vendor, but he replied that i could not see any inscription on the back cell.
    The lens was fitted on a battered 5x7 Ansco camera, the model with sliding rail.
    To make a long story short, i decided to take the plunge and bid: i eventually won the camera as a "second chance" (the winning bidder didn't pay).
    The price of the entire set was not so bad, but i couldn't make me renounce to the grey Ansco tripod + head (see picture), so i am paying for a very bulky parcel (about 111 USD for the shipment).
    In the end, it's not big money, but not exactly cheap
    I'm awaiting to lay my hands on the lens, to see if i made a mistake, or not.
    I have made a quick forum search, and also looked for infos elsewhere, but i still don't know where i should look, to ascertain which back cell is mounted.
    The vendor wrote me that he did his best, but couldn't see anything. Should i look on the inside? Any special code that identifies the three different cells?

    P.S.
    I am attaching a picture of the back of the camera.
    As soon as i get it, i will try to restore it to its full functionality.
    If somebody owns the same camera, please send me a PM. I need a couple of advices.

    have fun

    CJ

  2. #2
    Deardorff Sales and service
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    Re: Ilex Photoplastic back cells, where is the inscription?

    Just at first glance, The front cell looks like a front cell. Does the lens throw an image?
    Many lenses have no inscription on the rear cell. Sometimes a Serial number. Of all the Ilex lenses I've seen I've never have seen this one. It looks like a Tessar. If thats the case the front cell will not throw a image. The rear cell will act like a magnifying glass.
    Test it!!
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  3. #3
    cyberjunkie's Avatar
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    Re: Ilex Photoplastic back cells, where is the inscription?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheDeardorffGuy View Post
    Just at first glance, The front cell looks like a front cell. Does the lens throw an image?
    Test it!!
    The parcel will be shipped one of the next days. Of course i had no chance to test the lens! I hope to do it within one months, if everything goes the right way.

    The Ilex Photoplastic is a "soft focus" lens, not so common in the US, from the scarce references i found on this forum, and almost unheard of where i live (never seen one, just a few pictures!).
    From the limited informations i found online, the lens was sold with 3 different back cells, giving a different degree of softness. At the time, the cells could be purchased separately, as an after market accessory. As far as i understand, the lens is not a convertible (i.e. the front and back cells must be used together), and its "character" varies a lot, depending on which back cell is fitted. From what i've read online, there were three versions of the back cell: sharp, soft, very soft. Of course the amount of softness can be also controlled adjusting the aperture. I don't know if the lens, with "sharp" back cell and wide-open, could be still considered a "soft focus".
    That's exactly my problem: i purchased the lens for that reason! If i end up with another sharp lens, it would be a huge disappointment. My bad... it wasn't sold as such, but i decided to take the chance. What's done is done, i'm just trying to learn as much as possible. I know, i know, i should have asked BEFORE, not AFTER
    As i clearly wrote in my original post, i don't even know how could i recognize the different cells...

    have fun

    CJ

  4. #4

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    Re: Ilex Photoplastic back cells, where is the inscription?

    This is the ad from around 1924.
    As you can just see, the 2 extra cells do have engraving on the side. Sometimes ad drawings do not look much like the sold articles! Perhaps there will be just 1, 2 or 3 stamped on it. I doubt there are many complete sets of these around. There is no indication that their was a basic set with the additional soft elements as optionals. The "regular" back element may have have no engraving.

  5. #5

    Re: Ilex Photoplastic back cells, where is the inscription?

    The rear elements are marked. I wrote a bit about this lens here

    http://antiquecameras.net/softfocuslenses3.html


    Dan

    Antique & Classic Camera Blog
    www.antiquecameras.net/blog.html

  6. #6
    cyberjunkie's Avatar
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    Re: Ilex Photoplastic back cells, where is the inscription?

    Quote Originally Posted by CCHarrison View Post
    The rear elements are marked.

    Dan
    Thanks.
    So you think that even the "least soft" or "sharp" or whatever is called, should be inscribed in some way.
    I think that the only answer to my curiosity will be given by the lens itself, and only when i could lay my hands on it
    I was afraid that an unmarked cell would mean that it's standard (i.e. "sharp"), but i am getting, from what you wrote, that ALL cells were marked in some way.
    Preparing myself for the worse, i am guessing which degree of softness i'd get, with the "sharp" cell, and the diaphragm wide open... but i think that the only forum user who actually tested a Photoplastic objective, did it with the "softest" option.
    If i remember, there was somebody else who asked for spare back cells on the Buy/Sell sub-forum. I don't know if he is still active, but i'll try to send him a PM asking for details.
    Anyway, it looks to be a fairly uncommon glass, or maybe it's just a lens for which there is scarce interest. It would be easy to understand: i suppose that it should be quite difficult to find a complete set! So there is little talking about it, even between the soft focus aficionados.
    I don't think it was a mass production, though: the two serials visible in the pictures we have posted are 395 and 621!

    have fun


    CJ

  7. #7

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    Re: Ilex Photoplastic back cells, where is the inscription?

    I have the 8x10 (16") version and the rear cell is not marked in any way. I still haven't got around to testing it so I don't know how soft it might be.

  8. #8

    Re: Ilex Photoplastic back cells, where is the inscription?

    unmarked, I believe, is "regular definition"

    The 2 soft cells are marked Medium and Extreme

    Dan

    Antique & Classic Camera Blog
    www.antiquecameras.net/blog.html

  9. #9
    cyberjunkie's Avatar
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    Re: Ilex Photoplastic back cells, where is the inscription?

    Quote Originally Posted by CCHarrison View Post
    unmarked, I believe, is "regular definition"

    The 2 soft cells are marked Medium and Extreme

    Dan
    That's exactly what i feared
    I will do my own testing as soon as i get the camera. I have an Ilex No.5 flange on a spare Kodak 2D lensboard, so everything is already arranged for the test...

    While i am a little sad that the supposedly soft lens turned out to be a not-so-soft one, i guess that the purchase still makes sense: 260 USD for the Photoplastic, a "project" Ansco 5x7, and a Packard shutter, should be a perfectly fair deal.
    On top of that there were delivery charges, of course, but i see the $111 i had to fork out for the shipment as an acceptable payment for the Ansco tripod with its large reclinable flat head, that should work more than well with my Calumet C1. I will strip the ugly marine gray enamel, and finish the wood with oil and wax.
    Just a small curiosity, do anybody know which wood was used?


    have fun


    CJ

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