Origin of Really Big White Lenses?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Jun 16, 2008.

  1. "Call me Ishmael...." Canon has made their top-of-the-line L lenses in white for some time now. Minolta, Sigma, and others make or made a big lens or so in white. It obviously makes a lot of sense for big lenses out in the sun. But who did it first? I'm hoping there is a photographic historian out there who actually knows, but in the meantime, my thoughts were pushed in this direction by a Sterling-Howard advertisement in the June, 1959, issue of Popular Photography. Part of it that caught my eye was the listing for a 1000mm German-made Astragon lens in a "HEAT REFLECTING barrel" This is the first ad below. A September, 1960, Heiland ad also offered the 1000mm Takumar. It's hard to tell from the ad, but the color of it is lighter compared to the other lenses shown in the same ad. The illustration is shown below that for the Astragon. The Nikon 2000mm Reflex-Nikkor of 1961 seems to have been white. A number of early Canon lenses, like many others, were silver metal, but so far as I can see, the first white Canon lenses were in the FD series in the 80s. Does anyone actually know the history of this feature?
  2. That's serious money in '60.
  3. Very interesting. So who was the first to go black? Seems like the first ones were brass or chrome. Besides, anything but black just isn't right<g>.
  4. JDM, I can;t give you a specific example but I have noticed that the World Wars
    of the 20th C seemed to have an effect on the colour of optical equipment. (OK,
    they had a few other effects as well but lets stick with the trivial for now!).

    I have an old surveyors level of about 1910 which is in gleaming lacquered brass.
    Once WWI started all these instruments are only available in matt black. Not
    difficult to work out why. You don't want to be a target because of the colour of
    your equipment. WWII gear is likewise black and I imagine all big lenses from
    around that time are military in origin.

    So my guess is that white came in as a fashion after the end of WWII as a
    statement that these lenses are not military but new, forward-looking, civilian
    instruments. I remember during the early 60's that you could get ex-military optical
    gear for astronomical work. This was all balck and dull brass. The purpose made
    civilian telescopes were all white.
  5. Big black lenses - a British 36 inch f6.3 WWII photo reconnaissance lens. Not white.
  6. That Tak looks ridiculous. It's like the grown-up version of the newspaper-rolled-into-a-
    cone telescope from when you were a kid.
  7. In the case of astronomical telescopes the white colour is a practical measure designed to reduce air movement due to convection currents. Here are a couple of pictures from 'Charles Franks Book of the Telescpe' published 1964. The ex-mlitary spotter scope is black while the nice new astro telescope is white.
  8. Just as an aside, the satellites being caught or tracked in these instances began with the Sputnik -- the first artificial satellite in 4 October 1957.
  9. By the way, Colin, love that 36 inch-complete with the broad arrow!
  10. I am still looking for a packard shutter big enough for it!

    Searching through the Vade mecum the first white lens noted is the Goerz Series III Dagor which does not vome into your 'Really Big' class. It also notes some post-war Dallmeyer Pentacs in white finish but no date attached. Again post-war there seem to be a selection of short white lenses from Schact and Carl Zeiss Jena in Germany and Sun in Japan. These are all late 50's to mid 60's. The only Really Big White Lenses mentioned are the Russian FED 500mm and 1000mm MTO 1000 mirror lenses and these later changed to a black finish.

    And thtat's all from the Really Big White Lens VM search.
  11. Olympus's 1000mm f/11 OM lens was black in the 1970s till they discontinued it I believe. But I'm willing to bet that it started with large telescopes.
  12. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    The first Canon "white" (they are actually a very off white almost light tan color). Were the 600mm f4.5 S.S.C. and the 800mm f5.6 S.S.C. marketed first in July 1976 Followed in May of 1979 with the 500mm f4.5L S.S.C. (I have one of these awesome lens)

    later in the nFD line a whole bunch of "White" lenses came in.
  13. The first I recall is the Hale Telescope. It was faulted for it's hand-holding results.

    All kidding aside this is an interesting find. I looked through some of my old magazines and saw an ad from the same company with this lens in all black. It is the Popular Photography May 1956.

    They show a series of lenses in this style but all in black.There was a 400mm f/5, a 500mm f/5, an 800mm f/5, and a 1000mm f/6.3. I really wonder if they cover the full 35mm frame.

    I also did a search and saw the 800mm version for sale on Ebay. This looks like one serious lens.
  14. At least with the Hale, you didn't also need to buy a tripod ...
  15. The originl white lens isn't white. It was grey. I have a Birns ad Sawyer 1000mm f:4.5 Omnitar. It was manfacture by Astrogon in Berlin. My lens was originally owned by NASA and still sports the original NASA ID tags. Jim Headley
  16. the old ExaktaVX mirror lens is greyish white from 50 years ago; of thermal reasons; copied off of a typicall 1930's refectling telescope tube idea; copied from earlier telescopes. Its been known for thousands of years that white objects get less hot that a typical black object; even lizards understand this before man. Canon jsut copied Nikon's old mirror lens color of the early 1960's that was white /grey; they copied Exakta; which copied telescopes.
  17. The basic "how to" books about building your own telescope that were from the 1930's era mentioned painting ones homemade tube white; thus I find that this "concept" of white being used around long focal length optical items really very ancient and really nothing new. If anything its just new to newcomers. <BR><BR>Maybe on car.net folks are "discovering" that a white car gets hotter in the summer than a black one! <BR><BR>Maybe on shirt.net folks are discovering that a white shirt is cooler than a black one while out in the sun!<BR><BR>Thermal effects with telescopes are a centuries old problem
  18. Telescopes for spotting artifical satellites were called "moon watchers." Usually they were low power, wide field refracting scopes. One common way to make them easy to use was to have a large 1st surface mirror at a table. The observer would point the telescope into the mirror for a view of the sky.
    To the original question- I had heard that the white color was an advantage for fast telephotos (especially those with fluorite elements) because an increase in temperature could cause minor focus shifts. More importantly (and irrelavant of color) these lenses could be focused beyond infinety to further compensate. Mirror lenses are especially susceptible to focus shifts with temperature so they focus beyond infinety too.

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