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Dan Fromm was born in 1944. He was educated as an economist and has worked as an econometric model builder, economic forecaster, and applied statistician. He has always refused to answer questions about share prices. Photography is one of his avocations; he took up photography to record life colors of the fishes he kept, bred and collected. In addition to photographing his fishes, he has made and presented slide shows and movies about his field trips.

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Emmanuel Bigler est professeur d'optique
et des microtechniques
à l'école d'ingénieurs de mécanique et des
microtechniques (ENSMM) de Besançon.
Il a fait sa thèse à l'Institut d'optique à Orsay
E. Bigler utilise par ailleurs
une chambre Arca-Swiss

26 chemin de l'Épitaphe
25030 Besançon cedex

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Unlikely lenses on 2¼ x 3¼ Graphics

Part 2 : Lenses useful out-and-about at normal distances

by Daniel W. Fromm

Dedicated to the memory of Charlie Barringer (1943-2010)


6  Lenses useful out-and-about at normal distances

6.1  Testing, manufacturers, process lenses and military surplus

6.1.1  Testing?

I check my lenses out informally but not that subjectively. My test target is a patch of lawn about thirty feet from the camera, sometimes my back fence. I shoot them at the apertures at which I expect to use a lens, f/11, f16, and sometimes f/22. I rate lenses on how well they separate blades of grass or show wood grain in the fence and, especially for long ones, how well they resolve the blades’ structure.

I try long lenses out by photographing the stop sign at the end of my street, somewhat more than 200 m from my shooting position. There is a “Children Playing” sign about 15 m from the stop sign. I check the image of the stop sign to see how sharp its edges and lettering are and check the “Children Playing” sign for legibility of text. My goal is to identify lenses that perform poorly at distance. The long lenses I get for my Graphics all have much more coverage than my little 2x3 cameras can use, so I hang them in front of a Nikon for testing and shoot on EB or EPP. This economizes on film and processing, still allows comparison of the lenses’ central resolution.

My test procedures are not substitutes for formal resolution testing but are informative. Their results are repeatable and allow me to sort lenses into “good enough” and “not good enough.” Their goal is not to determine which lens is in any sense best, but to help me decide which lenses not to use.

6.1.2  Manufacturers?

The modern LF lenses most commonly on offer seem to have been made by just four manufacturers, in alphabetical order Fuji, Nikon, Rodenstock, and Schneider. Most of the lenses I’ve acquired were made by other manufacturers. The big four’s lenses are very good, well-known, and therefore in high demand. This is true even of their process lenses, many of which are expensive to put in shutter. I’ve tried to buy relatively inexpensive lenses of good quality, therefore have sought lenses that are, for whatever reason, undervalued.

6.1.3  Process lenses?

Many of my longer lenses are relatively slow process or copy lenses. Since I normally shoot at apertures no larger than f/11, process lenses’ small maximum apertures are no handicap. They are usually offered in barrel and few will easily go into shutters. For this reason they’re often quite inexpensive even though good. For use on my 2x3 cameras, front mounting on a small inexpensive shutter is practical; on larger formats, though, this may not work because of vignetting by the shutter.

6.1.4  Military surplus?

Some of the very good lenses that were used on little-known military, mainly aerial, cameras can be adapted to 2x3 Graphics. I’ve bought ten or so, of which I use five; all were great values. Longer lenses for aerial cameras, though, are usually too big or long or heavy to work on my little cameras. Two of the attractive shorter ones I bought turned out to be unusable on my little Graphics because their barrels are too large to clear the front standard and their back focus’ too short to allow the lenses to be mounted entirely in front of the lens board.

6.2  Description of lenses

6.2.1  1-3/8” to 3-3/4” (35 mm to 95 mm)

35/4.5 Apo Grandagon in Copal #0. Bought used from an internet vendor. The lens mounts on the Century and focuses through infinity on it. Mounting it requires removing the rear cell and reattaching it from the rear.

2x3 Ektachromes shot with it show less darkening in the corners than I’d expected. Others may disagree, but I find it quite usable without a center filter, also not quite as sharp as I’d hoped. After having had prints made from several Ektachromes shot with it, I bought a used center filter. The Ektachromes showed good detail to the corners, but the printer couldn’t cope with the reduced illumination.

Figure 1: The shortest lens that covers 2x3: So far, the 35/4.5 Apo Grandagon is the shortest commercially available lens that covers 2x3. Its only competitor is the 38/5.6 Super Angulon XL.

38/4.5 Zeiss Biogon in Copal #0. Bought from an internet vendor who had an ex-RAF A.G.I. F135 camera that held a pair of 38 Biogons in inoperable solenoid-actuated shutters. The F135 uses 5” film, has forward motion control and autoexposure; the two shutters fire alternately, i.e., even though it has two lenses it is not a stereo camera. It was used on several aircraft types, including Nimrod, Harrier, Jaguar, and F4 Phantom.

Figure 2: A pair of 38 Biogons with an RAF lens cap: My 38 Biogons came in AGI F135 shutters, which are actuated by a pair of solenoids that extend when energized, one to open the shutter and the other to close it. The little yellow lens cap fits the F135 shutter’s barrel; someone in the RAF has a sense of humor. My 38 Biogon in Copal #0 uses custom lens caps front and rear, courtesy of the late Steve Grimes.

The late Steve Grimes charged $500 for putting one of my two Biogons in a new Copal #0. As mounted, it stops to f/32; the Hasselblad version stops only to f/22. Mine covers an 84 mm circle so it vignettes on 2¼" x 3¼" but nearly fills 2¼" x 2¾". It goes on my Century from the front -- the rear cell is small enough to clear the front standard -- and focuses easily to infinity. It doesn't make infinity on my 2x3 Speed. The kit -- Century Graphic, lens, and Adapt-A-Roll 620 -- cost much less than the least expensive Hasselblad SWC and is more useful. I recovered some of my outlay by selling the second lens of the pair.

Using my Biogon on the Century is slightly problematic. The lens makes infinity with the front standard on the inner bed rails. With the front standard on the inner rails, it is difficult to avoid unintended swing without a “chinaman” (see discussion of 4”/2.0 Taylor Hobson below). SKGrimes made one to fit my Century; the chinaman Fred Lustig made for my Speed won’t do because the Century’s bed rails are narrower than the Speed’s.

The 38 Biogon has a wonderful reputation that it fully deserves. I couldn’t make myself use any other lens for two months after it came back from SKGrimes. It took a truly horrible shot of the Mono Lake basin, all foreground and atmospheric haze, to bring me back to earth. At the moment, subject to change, the 35 Apo Grandagon has displaced the 38 Biogon from my travel kit. The Apo Grandagon puts useful image in the corners, the Biogon puts darkness.

1.75”/2.8 Elcan. Stops to f/22. Bought from Vinten’s former Engineering Manager’s son. He offered a Vinten F95 aerial camera with 98/1.4 Falconar on eBay and indicated in his listing that he had more F95 parts and lenses to sell. I inquired, we discussed, and now I have it. The rear of its barrel is stepped; its rear section is 47 mm in diameter and 32 mm long. It just clears the 2x3 Pacemaker Graphic front standard’s lens throat. Back focus is approximately 50 mm. Since my 2x3 Speed’s minimum flange-to-film distance is 2 7/16” (62 mm), this lens will easily focus to infinity on the camera. I believe it is the shortest lens that can be used on a 2x3 Speed. It, like my other two ex-F95 Elcans (see below), can be used on a 4x5 Speed Graphic.

Figure 3: Two ridiculous wide angle aerial lenses: The 1.75"/2.8 Elcan covers 6x6, isn’t competitive with the 38/4.5 Biogon, which also covers 6x6, or the 47/5.6 Super Angulon, which covers 2x3. The 100/5.6 S.F.O.M. was made to cover 114 mm x 114 mm on 5" film, is normal, not wide, on 2x3.

This lens was in use as early as 1965.
http://www.pinetreeline.org/metz/otherm1/otherm1-40.html reports that 1 Wing, RCAF received one for field trials in October, 1965. According to
http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Research/AirSci/ER-2/history.html, these lenses flew on U-2c aircraft in 1971-2 “to acquire small scale, low resolution, multispectral photography over selected representative ecosystems to simulate the Return Beam Vidicon (RBV) data system which would be aboard the future Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS; Landsat1).“

The Vade Mecum says “It covers 6x7 very well, is sharp and contrasty but does not cover the whole of 6x9 format. It is a really desirable item and the one which is easy to reuse.” Mine illuminates an 87 mm circle, i.e., not quite 6x7, with a sharp cutoff. The image, however, gets very dim a few mm inside the cutoff. Not quite a 6x7 lens, still usable on 6x9 when losing the corners can be tolerated. On the whole, I prefer my 47/5.6 Super Angulon, which covers all of 6x9.

47/5.6 Schneider Super Angulon in #00 Prontor Press. Stops to f/22. An early one, single-coated. Makes infinity on my Century, not on my Speed. Its shutter’s top speed is 1/125, so using large apertures outside requires an ND filter. Setting it up on the Century requires a chinaman. A well-known lens of very high quality.

Figure 4: Wide angle aerial lenses on their boards: The Elcan is a retrofocus lens, can be used on a 2x3 Speed Graphic because of that and its mechanical design. The S.F.O.M. is of "normal" construction, neither retrofocus nor telephoto, and just makes infinity on a 2x3 Speed Graphic.

Figure 5: How the Elcan is held to its board: I’d originally intended to glue the Elcan to its board. Adam Dau of SKGrimes, to whom all credit is due, persuaded me that a clamp would be better. The clamp is held to the board by a screw that passes through the board from the front.

Mine came from a Shackman Automatic Dial Recording Camera. Shackman’s current owner, the Unitek Group, informed me that “the camera was used by the Royal Navy for recording the results of gunnery practice by photographing a panel of dials and the camera was linked electrically to the firing of the guns. The camera was fixed to a bulkhead about 2 metres from the panel, hence the wide-angle lens. When the camera was first produced, it had a Dallmeyer lens and specially made film spools, which had to be returned to Ilford Photographic for re-loading. When this service was discontinued by Ilford, the cameras were modified to accept standard 220 roll-film, but as the film is advanced by rotation of the take-up spool, approximately the first 8 frames overlapped, but the frame spacing on the rest of the film gradually increased to give full-frame negatives. Around the same time, an expensive new Prontor shutter with Schneider Super-Angulon Lens was fitted.”

Figure 6: More wide angle lenses for 2x3: 47/5.6 Super Angulon, 58/5.6 Grandagon, 60/5.6 Hexanon, and 65/8 Ilex. All very usable.

58/5.6 Rodenstock Grandagon in #00 Synchro Compur. Stops to f/32. Graflex XL lens. Both cells have, unfortunately, separations in the inner – facing the diaphragm -- group. In the rear cell, they show as silvery spots with no connection to the elements’ periphery. In the front cell, they show as an irregular silvery rim that goes all of the way around the elements. Rodenstock lenses of its era (s/n 5 664 858, probably made in 1964) were prone to separations.

The lens came set up for a Graflex XL, i.e., in a shutter with no cable release socket, no “T” setting, and no press focus. The rear cell, 51 mm in diameter, does not clear the 2x3 Pacemaker Graphic front standard but can be inserted from the rear. The lens will focus to infinity on a 2x3 Pacemaker Speed Graphic. It was a gift for which I was asked to pay postage and a token fee.

After mounting it quite poorly and taking some trial shots with it, I had it put it on a lens board so I could give it a fairer trial. The results were promising enough to justify having a spare #00 Synchro Compur rescaled and the lens’ cells put in it. This to be able to use a locking cable release with the “B” setting for focusing. The XL’s focusing mount incorporates a cable release socket, so there’s no need for one in the shutter. And since the XL is a rangefinder camera there’s no need for a “T” speed or press focus.

60/5.6 Hexanon to fit Koni- and Rapid-Omega 6x7 cameras. In Copal #0 shutter, speeds B, 1, ½, …, 1/500, stops to f/32. The front cell has a very useful integral sliding lens hood. Bought in a junk shop.

Lenses for the Koni-Omega can’t easily be used on other cameras because their shutters are fired by the Koni-Omega body. The release lever protrudes from the rear of the shutter, connects to a linkage in the body. Their shutters have neither an accessible release lever nor provision for a cable release. Their cells have to be put in a conventional #0 shutter before they can be used on any camera but a Koni-Omega.

Reshuttering the the 60/5.6’s cells seemed problematic. The rear cell barely clears the diaphragm, the front cell barely clears the shutter. I tried the rear cell in a #0 Synchro Compur P and a #0 Copal that were on hand, convinced myself that the rear cell hit their diaphragms. Greg Weber, a specialist repairer of Konica cameras and lenses, told me that the threads at the rear of the 60/5.6 Hexanon’s shutter are not cut as deep as usual. This can’t be true since the rear cell has a step that butts against the rear of the shutter tube when screwed all the way in.

Dean Williams overhauled a #0 Synchro Compur for me and checked the Hexanon’s fit in it. He reported that the lens fit properly and that its native shutter is a perfectly normal Copal 0. He’s right; the lens fits the Synchro Compur. While Dean had my equipment I acquired another Copal 0; the lens fits it too.

My misconception is not new. See a discussion at
http://nelsonfoto.com/SMF/index.php/topic,5457.0.html that doesn’t give full detail. The problem there may be due to differences between the diaphragm’s position in press (self-cocking) and cock-and-shoot shutters.

This problem, real or not, and the similar one I had with putting my 65/8 Ilex’s cells in a new shutter (see below) make clear the importance of checking cell spacing or, equivalently, the lens’ total length when moving cells from one shutter to another. Although there are standard shutter sizes there are no standards for cells’ positions in shutters.

Another difficulty: the front cell’s barrel obscures the front of a Synchro Compur, making it nearly impossible to read the speed and aperture settings. Other lenses for the K-O (58/5.6, 90/3.5, 135/4.5, 180/4.5) all have the fat front cell problem. The solution is a shutter whose aperture and speed scales are on its side; this is why I bought that Copal #0, which came from an on-line auction (not eBay) at an absurdly low price.

The 60/5.6 has six elements in four groups in the same layout as the original f/8 Super Angulon. For a cross-section, see p. 15 of
http://www.cameramanuals.org/prof_pdf/koni-omega_rapid.pdf. It is only superficially similar to the 58/5.6 Hexanon/Omegon later made for Koni- and Rapid-Omega cameras, which has eight elements in four groups, rather like the f/5.6 Super Angulon. For a cross-section, see p. 20 of http://www.cameramanuals.org/prof_pdf/rapid_omega_100-200.pdf.

Chris Perez’ tests – http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/MF_testing.html – of three examples of the 58/5.6 Hexanon show it to be a very fine lens that probably covers 2x3. I suspected the 60/5.6 would also work on 2x3. The first test of this hope was to put the cells in a #0 (diaphragm fully open); the lens focuses to infinity on a 2x3 Pacemaker Speed Graphic with the front standard inside the box.

First test shots with the 60/5.6 were inconclusive. Consistently underexposed and hard to read, possibly misfocused as well. A second series of test shots was much better. When the first test shots are poor, suspect the operator, not the lens, and retest.

The 60/5.6 Hexanon is a little better than the 65/8 Ilex and it covers 6x9. Coverage still unknown, but enough for shooting 2x3 without movements.

65/6.8 Raptar in Rapax [sold]. This was the standard shortest lens for Century and 2x3 Crown Graphics. It will not focus to infinity on a 2x3 Speed Graphic. 4/4 double Gauss type. I never got a satisfactorily sharp shot with mine, replaced it as soon as I could. Mine may have been a bad example. Bought from a dealer who advertised it in Shutterbug magazine.

A 65/8 mystery lens received in an electric mystery shutter. Stops to f/22. The only markings on the assembly are on the shutter, whose face plate says "Opto Dynetics Inc Rochester NY Syncnetic Model 20C." The aperture scale on the side of the shutter runs from f/8 to f/45. The lens resembles a Super Angulon.

I didn't know who made it or what equipment it came from; Mr. Grimes said it was made by Ilex, who made a 65/8 Acugon. That's probably what it is. It makes infinity on my 2x3 Speed Graphic and is much sharper than the 65/6.8 Raptar that it replaced.

Remounting it in a usable shutter shouldn’t have been too costly, thanks to an inexpensive new old stock #00 Compur Rapid shutter that turned up at just the right time, but the shutter needed an overhaul in addition to some light machining. The cells screwed right in but the spacing was wrong. All that work put costs up appreciably. Still less expensive than buying a used 65/8 Super Angulon or properly badged Acugon, but a lot dearer than I'd hoped. There were three sizes of Acugons, 47, 65, and 90, all f/8 and badged Acugon, AcuVeriwide, AcuWide, and Ilex-Caltar. All have been spoken of highly on Usenet. I’ve seen a very similar Ilex lens in #1 Ilex Universal and badged Wide Field Paragon offered on eBay.

75/2.8 Anastigmat, with no maker’s name or serial number. Engraved “Anastigmat 1:2,8 / 75 Germany.” In M39x1, stops to f/32. A complete mystery. Sold as an enlarging lens, which seems unlikely. Unexpected lens design, essentially a Tessar but with three singlets in front of the diaphragm. Seems much like the Vade Mecum’s lens diagrams Sc 004, described in text as a 50/2.8 Schneider S-Xenar; Sc 047 and Ste 023, neither described in text. Vignettes on 2x3 at 40 feet.

3”/2 Elcan [sold]. Unmarked aperture scale. Ex Vinten F95. Bought with a 6”/2.8 Elcan from the internet vendor who earlier sold me a 6”/1.9 Dallmeyer Super Six and a 14”/5.6 Aviar. Seems to cover at most 2¼ x 2¾.

The rear of its barrel is 61.5 mm in diameter, so will not pass through my 2x3 Speed’s 48 mm x 48 mm lens throat. Back focus is approximately 50 mm and my Speed’s minimum flange-to-film distance is 2 7/16” (62 mm), so mounting the lens entirely in front of the lens board is not practical. The flange to end of barrel distance is approximately 53.5 mm. The lens can be used on a 4x5 Speed Graphic, whose minimum flange-to-film distance of 2 5/8” (67 mm) is much shorter than the lens’ flange-to-rear of barrel distance plus back focus. It seemed a good opportunity, but I can’t use it.

76/2.8 Elgeet Militar. Bought because I’ve been curious about these things for too long. Its glasses are tea-colored, its diaphragm is operated by a pin that sticks out through a slot in the side of the barrel. There is no aperture scale. Seems to cover 6x6, doesn’t even illuminate 2x3 at infinity.

This lens is somewhat of a puzzle. One of my friends bought one, a 76/2.8 Ektar, and a 76/2.8 General Scientific Finitar from Surplus Shack All three are in identical barrels. He understands that they came from a camera used on helicopters. I’ve seen Gordon KB-16 cameras offered on eBay with Ektar, Finitar, and Miltar; apparently it shot 70 mm film. My friend reports that his three lenses are identical on the surface but that each has a different design. This is consistent with USAF lens data sheets.

3”/4.5 Series II Velostigmat in Rapax. This uncoated lens is a complete mystery. After I bought it as new old stock still in the original box, I asked about it on
rec.photo.equipment.large-format. Richard Knoppow reported that according to Wollensak it covers 2x3. I’ve seen Wollensak catalogs that claimed that coverage for 3.5”/4.5 Velostigmat Ser. II and Raptar Ser. II, but none that even mention a 3”, so perhaps Mr. Knoppow was mistaken. I’ve put my 3” on an improvised board and shot it on the Speed using the camera’s focal plane shutter. At f/16 and f/22 it indeed covered, i.e., the corners were as sharp as the center; uniformly soft everywhere. Not as sharp as my 65/8 Acugon or 80/6.3 WF Ektar, but no worse than my 65/6.8 Raptar. It is usable, but for me not worth the expense of having its shutter overhauled. Bought at a camera show.

80/2.8 Planar, loose cells. Gift from Charlie Barringer. Normal lens for 6x6, 5/4 double Gauss type [2]. These cells are waiting for a shutter. The rear cell won’t go into an ex-CU-5 Copal Press #1 or a Prontor Press #1 because it hits the diaphragm before fully seated. It will go into a cock and shoot Copal #1 and into a #1 Synchro Compur P.

Figure 7: Two answers to the same question: fast normal lenses for 6x6 from Schneider and Zeiss.

80/2.8 Xenotar in Synchro Compur P #0. Stops to f/22. Bought at a camera show. Normal lens for 6x6, 5/4 double Gauss type. Front and rear surfaces badly scratched, shutter gummy. It passes light and forms an image but the image in the GG with the lens wide open is very bad. Unusable at f/8, severe veiling flare. Early one, later 80/2.8 Xenotars are in #1 shutters. There have been disagreements about whether an 80 Xenotar covers 2x3. Schneider doesn’t make this claim and I don’t think mine is good for 2x3, but since the lens seems to have been redesigned perhaps a later one will cover. I bought it for the shutter, which has been resurrected.

80/6.3 Wide Field Ektar in Flash Supermatic. Stops to f/32. This was the shortest standard issue lens for 2x3 and 3x4 Speed Graphics. It is a well-known and well-respected four element double Gauss type moderate wide angle (80º) lens. I’ve had two. The first, which I still use, was bought through Compuserve’s Photoforum’s swap area. I bought the second at a camera show with resale in mind and have sold it.

Figure 8: The incomparable 80 mm Wide Field Ektar: The original issue wide angle lens for 2x3 Graphics and a very good lens. Less coverage than, e.g., the similar Cooke Ser. VIIb from TTH and Weitwinkel Aristostigmat from Meyer, but probably sharper.

84/6.3 Krauss Tessar in barrel, with focusing helical. Not coated. Bought out of curiosity from a vendor on eBay.fr. If anyone else had wanted it, I’d have been outbid. Its aperture scale runs 0,4 0,5 1 2 4 8 16. According to P-H Pont (Les Chiffres Clés, 3eme edition) [3], this is the Congrès 1889 scale and corresponds to f/6.3, f/7, f/10, f/14, f/20, f/28, and f/40. Pont dates the lens to between 1905 and 1910, most likely 1906, so this may be my oldest lens. It probably came from a Gaumont Stereo Spido that shot pairs on 6x13 plates; an after-market roll film back was also available. Some Stereo Spidos fitted with 84/6.3 Tessars allowed one of the taking lenses to be centered for taking panoramic shots, so these lenses may cover considerably more than 6x6.5. The VM says that f/6.3 Tessars cover 70º; if true, an 84 mm lens will cover 117 mm, way short of 6x13’s diagonal but comfortably more than needed for 2x3. Mine covers 2x3 at f/11, is a bit soft in the corners wide open.

3 11/32”/6.3 B&L Zeiss Kodak Anastigmat in Compound, stops to f/32. Not coated. Not clear when it was made, but probably pre-1916; the words “Zeiss Kodak Anastigmat” last appeared in the 1915 Kodak catalog. Extracted from a Premo #12 that shoots 2¼” x 3¼”. As purchased the shutter worked, ran slow, and the piston tube wasn’t securely attached. In addition, the cells wouldn’t unscrew and needed to be cleaned. CLA’d by SKGrimes. The lens’ serial number is painted on the side of the rear cell, can be seen only by unscrewing the cell from the shutter. Other identification - maker, name, patent date and maximum aperture but not focal length – is engraved around the outside of the front cell.

Tiny tiny lens; I have to use it, if only pour épater les bourgeois. Unfortunately although in tests it covered 2x3 from f/11, it isn’t very good; the 80/6.3 WF Ektar is much better. For that reason the little B&L will usually stay home.

Figure 9: Four ancient Tessars in ancient Compurs: Two 85/6.3s, both made by B&L, and two "five inchers" made by B&L and CZJ respectively. I use the 130/6.3, intend to use the better of the two 85s after its shutter has been overhauled.

A second later example of a very similar lens, also from a Premo #12, also not coated, engraved “85 mm Bausch & Lomb Tessar Series IIb” that was made after 1915. Its identification - focal length, name, patent date, serial number - is engraved on the front cell’s trim ring. The two lenses are engraved with the same patent date but are not identical. The older one’s front and rear elements are larger than the newer one’s. I’ve tried to swap the newer lens’ cells into the older one’s shutter, which is in good order. The rear cells interchange, the older front cell will go into the newer shutter, but the newer front cell won’t go into the older shutter.

The newer lens’ shutter works, runs slow. The two lenses are in identical tiny Compound shutters whose serial numbers differ by about 10,400; the lenses’ serial numbers, however, differ by about 775,000. B&L probably sold relatively few 85/6.3 Tessars; all of the longer ones I’ve seen in Compound were in larger shutters than the 85s.

The newer lens shoots much better - exposures timed with my Speed’s focal plane shutter, not with the Compound it is in - than the older one. It is quite usable even though worse than the 80 WF Ektar, so when I have the money I’ll have its shutter overhauled. I should have tried both lenses on the Speed before selecting one to have its Compound overhauled. Another instance of “too soon old, too late smart.”

Premo #12s were also offered with 3½” (89 mm) f/4.5 Tessars - the most expensive option – and with less expensive lenses as well. That the Premo #12 was sold with lenses shorter than normal for 2x3 is surprising. Interestingly, the contemporary #1 Autographic Kodak Special, which also shot 2x3, was offered with 4 3/8” (110 mm) f/6.3 Tessars but with 3½” (89 mm) f/4.5 Tessars.

Figure 10: The large devour the small: Compound shutters were made in many sizes. The largest, #5, is too big to attach directly to a 2x3 Pacemaker Graphic lens board.

95/2.8 Boyer Saphir in barrel, rear threads M39x1. The barrel stops to f/16. 6/4 double Gauss type bought to see what it is and how well it will shoot. Offered on eBay.fr as an enlarging lens but made to be used as a taking lens. The cells go into a #1 shutter. Convertible lens, the rear cell alone is 133/5.3. Eric Beltrando has one, tells me that it won’t cover 2x3. I think mine does, but not wide open, also that we have different minimum standards for image quality. I’ve put the lens in a Prontor Press #1.

Figure 11: Latest acquisition and its new home: That 90/6.8 Boyer Béryl was extracted from a Chevet Wild Endoscopographe. It is in a plain barrel, so can be used only at full aperture. The cells, however, go directly into a #00 shutter. Before I can use the lens I’ll have to have the shutter’s aperture scaled for it.

6.2.2  4” to 4-3/4” (100 mm to 120 mm)

100/2.5 Uran-27 in barrel. Mixed aperture scale, 2.5, 3.5, 6.3, 8, 11, 16. Soviet (GOI design, 1952; KOMZ, Kazan Optical-Mechanical Factory, see Industar-51 below) lens for Zenit AFA-39 and RA-39 aerial cameras. These shot 70 x 80 mm on 80 mm film, flew on a variety of MIG and Sukhoi aircraft of east bloc air forces. An AFA-39 went into space in 1957. Lens is bulky, fits in a 3” cube. Not clear how to put cells in shutter; they are held in the barrel by radial setscrews that seem to be glued in.

Figure 12: Two rare fast normal lenses for 2x3: The 100/2.5 Uran-27 and the TTH 4 Inch f/2 Anastigmat (2¼x 2¼) were made for aerial cameras but can be used on 2x3 Speed Graphics. Both cover 2x3, both are heavy, and neither is superior to good slower lenses. But if one needs the speed, there are few alternatives.

I’ve discussed this lens with another owner on photo.net. He reported that his put such a fuzzy image on the ground glass wide open that he never tried to use it. Mine isn’t that bad. The 1963 G.O.I. catalog says that the lens resolves 48 lp/mm centrally and 8 lp/mm at the corner wide open. Not, on the face of it, completely unusable.

Figure 13: Uran-27 mount adapter front: the adapter is held to the lens board by four screws, screws into the back of the lens

Figure 14: Uran-27 mount adapter rear: the adapter is held to the lens board by four screws, screws into the back of the lens

The lens has been put on board by SKGrimes and will focus a very few mm through infinity on the Speed if the camera is set up carefully with the front standard as far back as possible. The lens is more than sharp enough from f/8 down, but in some of the test shots the ends of the frame are vignetted. I’ve seen this with my 12”/4 TTH telephoto, blame both problems on the bellows’ front frame.

Figure 15: Fast normal lenses on their boards: Lenses too fat to pass through a 2x3 Graphic’s front standard must be mounted entirely in front of the lens board. The Uran-27 stands out a little - no more than necessary - to allow room for the sliders that hold the board to the front standard.

100/5.6 S.F.O.M. in barrel, serial number 59. I think it is uncoated, could be mistaken. No S.F.O.M. chronology is available, but I believe it was made in the early ‘50s. Société Française d'Optique et Mécanique was a French manufacturer of optical goods, including slide projectors, lenses, aerial cameras and bombsights. S.F.O.M. was bought by Matra, may still exist as a part of EADS. I believe that the 100/5.6 S.F.O.M. was fitted to the S.F.O.M. 680 and 681 and some Omera (see http://caea.free.fr/fr/coll/vautour2b.php ) aerial cameras. The lens is a Metrogon type, covers at least 160 mm (114 x 114). Its weight makes me wonder whether l’Armée de l’Air flew battleships. Mine came from a vendor on eBay.fr, was very inexpensive. Its cone is not for a S.F.O.M. 680/1.

Figure 16: 100/5.6 S.F.O.M. mount adapter: the lens screws into a stepped cup-shaped adapter that is held to the lens board by a normal retaining ring

I couldn’t extract it from its cone; getting it out required removing a deep red filter that was jammed on. SKGrimes did that for me. Once it was out of the cone, I could see that the cone is light alloy; the lens itself is quite heavy, ~ 750 g.

I eventually paid SKGrimes to mount the lens on a 2x3 Pacemaker board and engrave an aperture scale on its barrel. It was originally delivered with an aperture scale engraved on the lens cone; in the cone, which is very wide, it won’t fit on a 2x3 Graphic. As mounted, it focuses to infinity on the Speed with a few mm to spare.

On 2x3 it is very usable. Not quite as sharp, perhaps, as a 101/4.5 Ektar and it is much heavier, larger, and in barrel. For these reasons I’ll continue to use a smaller lighter   100 mm lens in leaf shutter and the S.F.O.M. will stay in the drawer. I’m not sure how the 100/5.6 S.F.O.M. can be used on formats larger than 2x3. Its back focus is too short for it to be used to shoot, e.g., 6x12 mounted in front of a 4x5 Speed Graphic’s lens board. Its barrel is, I think, too large - outside diameter 80 mm - to pass through a 4x5 Speed’s front standard. And I don’t see how it can be put in shutter.

100/6.3 Meyer Weitwinkel Aristostigmat in barrel. Stops to f/32. A coated lens made in the late 1950s. 4/4 double Gauss. Very light. Cells won’t go into a standard shutter. f/6.3 is certainly for focusing, not for shooting. Not my sharpest ~ 4” lens from f/11 down, but usable. There are better normal lenses for 2x3, best used as a wide angle lens on a larger format. Camera show find.

Figure 17: Not really a normal lens for 2x3: covers 100°, according to Meyer propaganda. Use f/6.3 to focus, shoot at f/11 or smaller.

4"/2.0 Taylor Hobson Anastigmat (2¼" x 2¼"), stops to f/16. The Lens Collector's Vade Mecum says it is "a high quality lens” used on Vinten F95 and Agiflite aerial cameras. Both shoot 2¼” x 2¼” on 70 mm film. Some models of F95 and Agiflite have forward motion control. My 4”/2.0 came from an ex-RAF F95. The F95 could be handheld but was usually mounted in reconnaissance pods attached to a variety of aircraft types including Swift, Hunter, Buccaneer, Canberra, Nimrod, F4 Phantom, F16, Harrier, Fiat G.91, and Jaguar. Both cameras were used by many air forces. After Taylor Hobson stopped making lenses for them, Vinten bought Elcan lenses and the 38/4.5 Biogon for F95s, and AGI bought Zeiss lenses for Agiflites.

I bought my 4”/2.0 from an individual who advertised an F95 camera with two lenses on an internet bulletin board run by Warton Parfitt. I intended to use it as a fast normal lens on my 2x3 Speed. Mr. Grimes mounted it entirely in front of the board; it focuses to infinity with the front standard on the inner bed rails. It covers 2¼ x 3¼ wide open. Putting it in shutter doesn't appear practical and anyway its rear cell won't clear a 2x3 Graphic's front standard. Focusing at f/2 is very easy thanks to the bright image and shallow depth of field; image quality is marginal wide open, noticeably better by f/5.6. Mine wasn't very expensive.

Setting up the camera’s rangefinder for it required an additional part. There is room for only one infinity stop on the inner bed rails, so to make it easy to use the lens with the RF Fred Lustig made a spacer -- he calls it a chinaman -- that sits between the front standard and a pair of stops on the outer rails. One erects the stops, puts the spacer in place, pulls the front standard to it, then mounts the lens on the front standard. This squares up the front standard and positions the lens properly for the RF.

A good lens; better than the 101 Ektar, especially in the corners, but much heavier. I rarely use it because of its size and weight.

Figure 18: Mr. Lustig’s spacer

Figure 19: Mr. Lustig’s spacer in place: the spacer fits between the infinity stops and the front standard, keeps the front standard parallel to the film plane and allows the rangefinder to be calibrated for the lens.

Figure 20: Mr. Lustig’s spacer, key details: the slot in the middle of the spacer prevents it from interfering with the tab that locks the front standard in the centered position.

Figure 21: Mr. Lustig’s spacer, intended use: the spacer was made to allow the rangefinder to be calibrated for the 4"/2.0 Taylor Hobson Anastigmat

4”/4.5 Aldis Anastigmat Uno in barrel, stops to f/32. Not coated. Bought to find out what it is. It is a triplet, apparently from an Ensign Autospeed or an Ensign Focal Plane Rollfilm Reflex, later called Speed Reflex. The Autospeed is a 2 ¼ x 3 ¼ folding camera with a focal plane shutter. The Focal Plane Rollfilm Reflex is, as its name indicates, a 2x3 SLR. Both cameras seem to use the same focal plane shutter. So Uno is a trade name as well as a design.

101/4.5 Ektar in Flash Supermatic. Stops to f/32. Uncoated. Bought at a camera show with my 2x3 Speed. Graflex offered a range of normal lenses with 2x3 Pacemaker Graphics. In order of reputation, worst to best, these are: triplets, e.g., Graflar and Graftar; 101/4.5 Optar, a Wollensak-made tessar type; 101/4.5 Ektar, a Kodak tessar type; and 105/3.7 Ektar, a Kodak Heliar type. I’ve had two 105/3.7 Ektars, found that I preferred pictures taken with the 101/4.5 Ektar that came with my camera to pictures taken with them, and have sold the first. In any case, my 101/4.5 Ektar shoots so well that it is the standard against which I compare my other lenses.

Another, coated, in broken Flash Supermatic. I’ve put it into the uncoated one’s shutter, don’t think it is quite as good. This one was a gift from Steve Herman, accompanied by a 2x3 Busch Pressman that I later sold.

101/4.5 Optar in Graphex. Bought on a 2x3 Pacemaker board at a camera show for less than the going price for a board. I didn’t buy a lens, I bought a lensboard. Also a 101/4.5 Raptar in Rapax, same lens in same shutter, with Wollensak’s trade names rather than Graflex’ trade names. This one is on board, was on my second Crown when it came back to me from a friend who’d pressured me into giving him the camera. Another lens board.

Some posters on www.graflex.org swear by this lens, others say firmly that it isn’t up to the 101/4.5 Ektar. I have no opinion, don’t want to know, and intend to sell both of my 101/4.5 Wollensak lenses. I can use the boards, have more normal lenses for 2x3 than makes sense.

103/4.5 Graftar in Century. Stops to f/32. The Century shutter was made by Wollensak, is a press shutter. One, since sold, came with the Century Graphic I bought at a camera show. I never used it.

A second one also bought at a camera show. The dealer thought he was selling a lens, I thought I was buying a lensboard. I’ve tried it out; it is very competitive with my 101/4.5 Ektar from f/11 down.

Figure 22: Original normal lenses for 2x3 Graphics: These are the lenses that Graflex offered with the cameras. In my experience the 103/4.5 Graftar, a triplet made by Wollensak, is the best. Don’t reject it without trying it.

105/2.8 ERA-7. In barrel, threaded M75x1. Stops to f/16. Made by the Kazan Optical-Mechanical Factory (KOMZ). According to Eugene Kulikov, “It's an original design made by Professor Volosov, a famous Russian optician - six components in five groups, nonsymmetric anastigmatic lens. These lenses were made in very small series, and are rare even in Russia. … Your lens should be a very high-quality high-resolution process lens, dedicated for process work and delivering about 300 lpm on 1:1000 mira contrast. It shares the optical design with its small relative Era-6, but it's a specialty lens. The most probable format is 6*9, though I'm not sure about it.”

Figure 23: Era-7: pretty lens, very hard to use

Figure 24: Era-7b: its mounting threads are very far forwards and its rear won’t pass through a 2x3 Graphic’s front standard. A cup-shaped mount adapter can be made for it but would be very expensive.

I’m not as sure as Zhenya is that my Era-7 is a scaled-up Era-6. The Era-6 is a 50/1.5 that covers 24 x 36, the -7 is f/2.8. He directed me to
http://www.zenit.istra.ru/catalog/lenseslist.html, which mentions a number of Era lenses. The longer ones are all narrow angle.

Against this, Vivek Iyer says “this monster is a >200 lp/mm lens (within about 20mm circle). Not color corrected.” Vivek, however, has a 125/4 Era-12. Again, not simply a scaled-up Era-6 or -7.

Vivek was at least partially correct. The lens doesn’t come near to covering 2x3 at infinity; 6x6 at best. I see no inexpensive way to mount it for use on any of my cameras.

105/3.5 Voigtländer Helomar in Compur Rapid. Stops to f/22. Uncoated triplet bought at a camera show for the shutter. Probably ex-Bessa. Not tried.

105/3.7 Ektar in Flash Supermatic [sold]. 5/3 Heliar type. Stops to f/32. I bought this lens at a camera show because it is supposed to be the best normal lens offered for 2x3 Graphics. It had a considerably shorter flange-to-film distance than the 101/4.5 Ektar it was going to replace, so short that on my Speed the front standard’s infinity position was on the hinge. This was unexpected but, I later learned, correct. I usually shot it hand-held, was never entirely satisfied with the results and went back to using the 101/4.5. I sold the 105 because I wasn’t using it, have since decided that perhaps I should have kept it.

This evil thought led to purchase of a 2x3 Crown Graphic with a 105/3.7 at a camera show. The price was very right. This example also gives worse image quality than my uncoated 101/4.5.

105/5.6 Rodenstock Rodagon-G in Prontor [sold]. 6/4 plasmat [1] type enlarging lens intended for making murals (recommended range of enlargements 10:1 – 40:1, optimized for 20:1). Lent by Vivek Iyer, who reports that it shoots very well at infinity. Didn’t work well for me, so I returned it.

105/5.6 Boyer Saphir BX in barrel [returned to its owner with thanks]. 6/4 plasmat [1] type sold for enlarging. Borrowed from Phillipe Cas to see how well it shoots at distance. His lens’ cells wouldn’t come out of the barrel; trying it wasn’t easy.

I’ve since got one of my own whose cells come out easily from a seller on eBay.fr. They go right into a #1. Shoots quite well, as it should since it is just a rebadged Zircon. From f/5.6 down it is no worse than the 101/4.5 Ektar and 4”/2.0 TTH, so I’ve retired them. Convertible lens, the rear cell alone is 178/12. One small problem with it; a 2x3 Graphic will mount a #1 shutter but won’t close on one.

105/6.3 Leitmeyr in #0 Prontor II. Stops to f/16. Uncoated. Classic four element double Gauss WA. Shutter, a cock-and-shoot Prontor, in poor condition. Bought for $10 to satisfy curiosity. Its cells will go into the Helomar’s shutter; the spacing is correct and I believe the aperture scale is too.

Figure 25: Satisfying curiosity: I’ll never use this Leitmeyr wide angle lens, but now I know what it is. 4/4 double Gauss, for those who want to know.

107/3.7 Ektar uncoated and in unsynced Compur [sold]. I believe it is a tessar type. This lens came with a Miniature Speed Graphic I bought for its Graflok back. Camera show find. Never used, sold with the Mini Speed after I swapped its back with my 2x3 Pacemaker Speed Graphic’s Graphic (spring) back.

12 cm/4.5 Zeiss Tessar [given to Mr. Barringer]. Stops to f/32. Uncoated. An old lens – made in 1912 -- bought to be given to Charlie Barringer, but I may try to borrow it back from him.

4.75”/7.7 Aldis Uno. Uncoated, stops to f/32. The VM says it was made to cover 3¼” x 3¼”, covers up to 80º. “Uno is a very nice contrasty sharp lens and fully usable today if used with care and was a real bargain.” Tiny thing that passes light and forms a not-too-bad image. Better than acceptable at f/16 and f/22, a surprisingly useful lens on 2x3. Not quite as sharp, though, as my best lenses.

8  Notes & References


6/4 plasmat types Originally, the Plasmat is a (6/4) lens design by Paul Rudolph, the father or Carl Zeiss Planar and Tessar lenses. The Plasmat was introduced in 1918 when Rudolph had left Zeiss and worked for Hugo Meyer. It is a quasi-symmetrical design like Von Hoegt’s Goerz Dagor, except that instead of cemented triplets in the Dagor, the Plasmat uses cemented doublets and an air-spaced single element in each group of 3. It is one of the most fruitful (6/4) lens designs of all times, which inspired up to now modern top-class view camera lenses of standard focal length.


Since the first Planar design in 1896 at Carl Zeiss Jena, this registered trade name has be re-used by the manufacturer to denote numerous different lenses made of 5 to 7 lens elements. The twin-lens Rolleiflex was equipped with different Planar lenses, 5- or 6-element designs, focal lengths 75 or 80  mm. Single lens 6x6 Rolleiflex cameras are equipped with a 7-element 80/2.8 Planar lens similar to the Hasselblad’s. Dan Fromm’s Planar lens is a 5-element design, most probably similar to the 80/2.8 5-element Planar fitting the Rolleiflex TLR.


Patrice-Hervé Pont, “Les chiffres clés, de A comme Alpa à Z comme Zeiss” - 3-rd ed., 2000, Éditions du Pécari - Atlantica-Séguier, ISBN : 2-91284-814-8 http://www.atlantica.fr

13thDecember , 2010


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Dernière modification : 2011



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