Info needed on Cooke Amotal 2 inch f/2 LTM

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by l._david_tomei|1, Oct 1, 2005.

  1. Hello,
    I just bought a Leica III with an f/2 Cooke Amotal lens. I haven't
    found much on the lens other than that a similar six element lens was
    put on B&H Foton cameras in the late 40's. Cooke was then owned by
    Taylor Hobson but the focusing mount is engraved "Made in Italy".
    However, the Leica III was made in 1935, so I doubt that the lens is
    contemporary with the body. The glass was a bit dirty when it arrived
    but looks great after cleaning, no scratches or fungus. Also, no
    coating. It has a 12 blade diaphragm that stops smoothly down to
    f/22. The external aluminum is undamaged but has the usual minor
    oxidation staining.
    Any information on the lens would be very much appreciated. I'm
    planning on shooting a couple rolls to see how it behaves.
    (Rome, Italy)
  2. David, Taylor Hobson -- short for Taylor, Taylor, & Hobson -- was a lens manufacturer. The firm, now named Cooke Optics, still exists and makes very high quality lenses for 35 mm cine cameras ("Hollywood"), TV cameras, and large format cameras.

    Taylor, Taylor, & Hobson licensed a triplet designed by H. D. Taylor (no relation to the Taylor brothers of TTH) for T. Cooke and Sons, a microscope manufacturer. TTH sold many versions of the triplet engraved "Cooke" and slipped into engraving "Cooke" on other designs. For example, I have a 6"/9 Cooke Copying Lens that is in fact a tessar type. Good lens, too.

    To answer your question, here's what The Lens Collector's Vade Mecum says about your lens:

    "Amotal f2.0 50mm This was TTH's first lens for 24x36mm and is an item of major interest. It seems to have occurred in at least 3 and probably 4 versions as follows.

    (a) This was designed as the standard lens for the Foton. These were ELC coated, and this was a fine lens but the buyers did not respond to the T-speed engraving used. A Foton mounted example is No300,768. Next there was a series with both T and F stops, described as 'a jungle of numbers,' an early number being No297,28x. Thus the range can overlap real Foton numbers. Late examples are just in normal f-stops. No 300,54x was a late one and was remounted in Italy for M39x26 in a very soft alloy mount. The optic was made on 27/09/1947. Some 16,000 Fotons were said to have been made before production stopped suddenly. (The camera price was very high at $700, later $500, so that sales were limited apart from any question of the iris engraving.) This seems to have left a supply of Amotals in the production line and lead to some 3 variants. First, Peerless in New York arranged for the USA excess supply to be remounted in Italy (some only are engraved 'Made in Italy')and sold off for M39x26TPI ie Leica. Thus it is a lens most easily found in USA. This mount occurs in two or more like three versions recognized by enthusiasts, but with the lens heads which seem to be the same type, with f2 engraving not T stops."


  3. Thanks for the information, Dan. I just looked at the lens more carefully and the quality of the ELC coating must be great because I cannot see anything on the lens surface including slight variations in reflection or flaws at the surface just looking at the light coming off at the grazing angle. I honestly didn't think it was even coated. There are the F stops, not T, and the serial number is 299128.
  4. When I first got seriously interested in photography back in 1961 an older friend of mine had one mounted on his Leica IIIf. He swore that it was the sharpest 50 he ever saw.
  5. David, I've had a few TTH lenses, most coated. Most of the coated ones are coated a very light blue that can be hard to see. When my 4"/2.0 arrived I stared at it a while before deciding that it was, after all, coated. Now, for some odd reason, I find its coating easier to see.

    Please shoot with your Amotal and report back on how well it does for you.


  6. I'll shoot a roll this week and compare the results with my Summicron. I'm really curious how the f/22 compares with it wide open. This thing stops down to what looks like a 1 mm opening.
  7. I had one of these lenses a few years ago and found it to produce nice results.

    Personally speaking, I thought it produced more pleasant photos than its
    more illustrious successor the collaspible TTH Cooke 2" f2 for the Reid but I
    guess that could be down to batch variety.

    Either way, you've found yourself a nice little lens. Loathe though I am to say
    it, nice bokeh too.
  8. Since I don't shoot resolution charts my opinion may be questionable, but the one I had was an exceptionally fine optic. However, the size of the bezel and odd filter size was inconvenient, and it was not rectilinear so, since I wasn't using my 50's very much at the time anyway I parted with it. Many have carped at its cheap aluminum mount. It had lousy cosmetics that didn't seem to interfere with its performance. I would rate it about the same as the contemporary Kodak Ektar and the Schneider Xenon. Other than the stated inconveniences I was quite happy with its performance. A friend who has the same lens on his Foton swears it is better than my Summicron, but he is a better photographer though he brags a lot.
  9. FWIW, the Vade Mecum also quotes a lens expert as saying that TTH were
    second only to Zeiss in terms of top notch lens production.
  10. I have 3 of these lenses, 1 on my Foton, & 2 in LTM. They are indeed superlative performers (unfortunately the 1 I have on my Foton has many cleaning marks, making it more susceptible to flare than normal). Here are some of my pix taken w/these lenses:
  11. I think that it was originally designed for the British Reid (Leica knock-off during WW2).
  12. No, it wasn't designed for the Reid. TTH designed a collapsible lens for that. I
    think that was was in the early '50s.
  13. One thing for sure, the external metal is a soft aluminum alloy. However, it breaks down easily for effortless cleaning and the internal mounts appear to be of a harder metal. Cosmetically, it isn't impressive.
  14. I have one that came with a Canon V-T. Lovely image quality with good "B," but an ergonomic disaster IMHO. Amotals in unusual mounts command a very high price.
  15. They're still making lenses. Here's a web site:
  16. Thanks to their American owner, Cooke are enjoying something of a revival. A
    couple of years ago I was in contact with Barbara Lowry, at Cooke, in a hare-
    brained effort to persuade them to re-enter the 35mm stills market.

    At that time, Zeiss Ikon hadn't announced their line of M lenses and I thought
    that Cooke could come up with something fabulous along the lines of their
    series IV movie lenses but in a stills mount.

    They did give it some thought and they did take a look at some stuff I'd shot
    with some of their lenses that had been converted to 35mm stills usage.

    Sadly, nothing came of it as their manufacturing base isn't big enough.
  17. Thanks to each of you for contributing information and background on this interesting lens. However, does anyone know why the LTM mount is engraved "Made in Italy"? I live in Rome, so I am very curious.
  18. David, you're forgetful. Reread my first response "First, Peerless in New York arranged for the USA excess supply to be remounted in Italy (some only are engraved 'Made in Italy')and sold off for M39x26TPI ie Leica."

    A US firm commissioned an Italian machine shop to remount some ex-Foton Amotals. Why wouldn't they be engraved 'Made in Italy?'
  19. I'm looking for a basic skylight or UV filter to protect the lens, but I'm not sure whether it's a 33 mm or 34 mm. My ruler method is rather crude. I haven't seen specs on the lens that mention it (Dan: did you tell me already or what?) I'm planning on shooting with it in London on Sunday. Some nice touristy stuff.
  20. It's a 34mm thread, but I don't believe it has a standard pitch. The only hood I've found that really works is the original Bell & Howell one made for the Foton lenses, which is also nice because it separates to allow the mounting of Series IV filters. Good luck finding 1 of those (took me 2 years)--you might have better luck having a custom 1 made by SK Grimes or an equivalent operation.
  21. Sorry, I made a typo above: it should read "Series VI filters," not that it really helps you.
  22. I was afraid of that. I appreciate the fact that finding any accessories for a B&H is difficult. Your right about the pitch being different. My 34mm filters just don't fit but I couldn't tell whether it was due to mismatched threads or the possibility that the diameter was 1mm too large. It's the pitch. Perhaps some of these mounts were used on cine cameras?

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