Seeking Information on Old Lens

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by lou_meluso, Mar 10, 2012.

  1. I have this old lens that an acquaintance gave to me to evaluate for possible purchase. I had a thought it might be interesting to attach it to a modern film or digital camera for a vintage look. But I have little experience with glass this old. The glass is reasonably clean, some dust and light dirt inside, no scratches. Shutter works, such as it is. It's seems un-coated. Naturally, the Zeiss name caught my eye. I have no idea if it's a good lens or not. I can't see any indication of focal length. Was this on a view camera or a folder? What year approx? Any information that can be provided is greatly appreciated.
  2. here's a closer look at the rim
  3. Back view
  4. It's not that big
  5. The Bausch and Lomb name makes me think it is something used in the eye glasses industry, but I have ZERO experience with old stuff. Does the Pat date mean Feb, 24, 1903 ?
  6. I would think a view camera. I have an old Kodak lens that looks somewhat like this one. Does the rear assembly unscrew? If so, this may be so it may be attached to a lens board which is mounted on the camera body. Obviously, later view cameras use more modern lenses and shutters, but still use the lens board mounting method as far as I know.
    You should rig up a way to mount it on a camera. Might be fun to see what it can do.
  7. Check out this 1911 $65 Kodak 5 by 4 folding camera Ad. Eyeballing, it is about a 160/6.3 lens (three elements?).
  8. Some of the guys on the Large Format forum know a lot about old view camera lenses, in part because they are still very much usable with good results. You might ask your question there, too, or just provide a cross-reference to this thread.
    Kodak, used to make outstanding lenses, a fact which is forgotten now, with the result that they are excellent value on the hated auction site. Anastigmats had various optical designs-- I suspect yours is a tessar, but they also came as dialytes and triplets. You might be able to figure it out by counting reflections.
    I believe they stopped calling lenses 'Anastigmat' after about 1940, and after that used the name 'Ektar', at least for their best lenses. Yours is uncoated. The later coated lenses had a little red 'L' for 'Lumenized'. Starting in about 1941, Kodak used 'camerosity' serial numbers, so yours predates that, and someone here will know its exact age. It might be a nice portrait lens or something, if you can mount it on a bellows or a tandem camera setup.
    Zeiss was tied up with the American optics industry, and someone here will know the details. I think it was something like B & L having the license to make Zeiss products for the U.S.
  9. Before WW-I B&L made Zeiss lenses under license. The f/6.3 Zeiss Kodak Anastigmats that B&L made are Tessar Ser. IIb lenses. Tessars have four elements in three groups. They are not three element lenses, as suggested earlier in this thread.
    EKCo. last used the ZKA designation in 1915, so your lens was made no later than then. It is a #4. EKCo designations, e.g., #4, bear no relationship to B&L designations, e.g., #4. The #4 ZKA corresponds to B&L's #5K. It was fitted to #3A and #4 Folding Pocket Kodak Specials; these shot, respectively, 3.25" x 5.5" and 4" x 5". Focal length is 6.875".
    The highest ZKA serial number in my collection is 2064387. The lens we're discussing is 1215466 so it was probably made earlier than 1915. Of interest, 1215466 is in a B&L-made Compound shutter -- correct -- with an ASA flash terminal. The flash terminal is almost certainly a retrofit; none of my B&L Compounds has a flash terminal.
    I don't know why people think that Tessar IIbs produce "a vintage look." This just isn't so. I have a small pile of them, including a ZKA #4 in barrel, that produce fine images that can't be told from images made with newer designs. They are all good lenses if in good order, i.e., clean and not scratched. What makes the vintage look is film and processing and paper and processing and aging of poorly-fixed prints. People who use modern lenses (all anastigmats are modern) to get "the vintage look" are confused.
    Re coating, lens coating was invented in the mid-1930s, was commercialized for civilian use shortly after WW-II and has been universal since then. There are coated Tessar IIbs, Carl Zeiss Jena (DDR) made them and so did B&L. I have a nice coated 158/6.3 B&L Tessar IIb in barrel. B&L was one of the major US manufacturers of photographic objectives from the late 1880s to a while after WW-II.
  10. Thanks for the responses. Dan, I appreciate your detailed response and insights.
  11. There is a B&L catalog at the Camera Eccentric site. If you scroll down the left column you will find an illustration and description of the Compound Shutter. Further along is a list of Kodak cameras on which the shutter could be used.
    The shutter was used on Kodak's Premo line of folding plate cameras as illustrated in a catalog from the Project Gutenberg site.
  12. Thanks for the links, Mike. The B&L catalog is fascinating and love the pictorial results shown.
  13. Oh, and by the way, US and Canadian Kodak catalogs can be found at .
    If you want to go blind looking through them, you can find out which lenses in which shutters were standard offers when. Outside of North American, Kodak offered VP and FP Kodaks with lenses not offered in North America.
  14. Wow, what a terrific resource and look into the past. Thanks Dan, I've book marked them and will explore them later.
    Right now I have to make a decision on this lens. While fooling around with it this morning I had a bit of luck and discovered the unit, un-modified, press fit snugly into the front of my Novoflex bellows. Just to see how the lens draws I popped a digi cam on the back and did some test shots. Due to the digital capture, I won't post the results here but I can say the rendering was most attractive. Lower contrast and color saturation was seen compared to my modern lenses. Perhaps due to lack of coating. I noticed very smooth roll off of focus to a creamy background. I also noticed a shift in focus as I stepped through the apertures. There was some improvement in the image at f/8 and a noticeable jump in image quality at f/11 that topped out at f/16. This is plenty "vintage" looking for me. As Dave mentioned above, this might make a nice portrait lens on my Crown Graphic or full frame 35mm. Thanks for the information and education. I think I'll buy the lens.
    Aww, what the heck, for the curious among you, I'll just post two shots. No flames please. First is wide open.
  15. here at f/16
  16. A Tessar IIb shouldn't have focus shift on stopping down. Edge image quality and coverage will improve on stopping down, but central image quality, which is all y'r digi cam will see, should be good from wide open. A clean IIb, for example my 1912 vintage 130/6.3 CZJ example, should give very good image contrast.
    Last year I had a long chat with Ken Ruth, who remarked in passing that he thought B&L's quality control wasn't the best. And in fact I have a clean and pretty little B&L-mace ZKA taken from a Premo #12 that shoots poorly.
  17. If F stop is Focal Length divided by aperature diameter, then simply measure the opening and multiply by 6.3 to get the focal length.
  18. Arnie, looking the information up beats measuring.
  19. Thanks Louis for posting this and Dan for providing such a comprehensive reply. I have the same lens and shutter combination that I am currently restoring. The lens serial no on mine is 1581415.
    "Kodak Film Plate Special" is stamped in the the leather handle, but the badge on top has been prised out. It is a 3A sized plate. I haven't seen it a catalog anywhere but I will start looking at around 1915.
    There is one little "quirk" that I noticed, and that is that if you fire the shutter on say 1 second, the pneumatic retard will take 1 sec to travel to the end of its range and then fire, as normal. It then takes another 1 second for the piston to travel back to its start position. So if you fire more than once in quick sucession the 1st will be at 1 sec, but subsequent firings will be shorter if the pistion has not fully returned to the start. This lead me to believe the shutter was erratic at slower speeds, whereas in fact it is not, provided you wait the time for the piston to reset.
    Is this normal behaviour or am I missing a non return valve?
    Greg Nixon
  20. That looks quite nice! Putting this lens on a DSLR with APS-c or even a full frame sendor is still sampling from the central axis of coverage so there won't be all that much improvement in corner sharpness when stopped down. At least, it won't be as noticable as it would be on the full 3A sized image.
  21. Yes Tim, I can see that now. I must give this a try on my 4x5 which, I imagine for it's focal length, will be just slightly longer than normal. That should show me the entire circle of illumination. I put my Canon F-1 on it today and clearly you get the telephoto effect of just the center area. I do like the rendering of the image. I will clean the lens up this weekend and see how it looks.

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