Photagraphy's first lens, the Wollaston Meniscus

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Reinhold, Jul 21, 2011.

  1. Reinhold

    Reinhold Advertiser

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    Since I started playing with meniscus lenses a while ago, I've learned that they were the first true lenses designed for photography. Back in 1812, a chap named William Wollaston layed the groundwork for the glass we use today.

    It's a super simple design and gives a fascinating peek back to the early days of putting an image onto a piece of paper. Here are two examples taken with my 5x7 Deardorff using my 250 mm lens, One was wide open at f:5.6, and the other was stopped down to f:16. Both are appealing examples of photography over 100 years ago.

    Here's the lens that I used:
    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum379/93998-250-mm-f-4-3-wollaston-meniscus-lens.html

    Reinhold
    www.classicBWphoto.com
     

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  2. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Very interesting indeed.

    This raises an interesting question... what types of lenses were used on camera obscuras back in 17th-18th century?
     
  3. F/1.4

    F/1.4 Member

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    Wow! What would be really interesting is to see:

    a pinhole
    This lens wide open, stopped down
    A modern 250(ish)mm wide open, stopped down
     
  4. artonpaper

    artonpaper Member

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    I can't give you a source at the moment since my books are packed away for our upcoming move. But there were compound lenses used in the camera obscura. There were even designs to rectify the inverted image without the use of mirrors. One book that comes to mind was a book about Ver Meer's use of the camera obscura. It may have been called Ver Meer's Camera.
     
  5. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Very nice info! Would a subject, at say 10 feet from the lens, be sharp if shot wide open or would it look like that sample (ie dreamy and soft)? I love both those photos!! Thanks for the share!
     
  6. Reinhold

    Reinhold Advertiser

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    I don't have an example of wide-open portraits with these lenses that I can post. Typically I've used f:8, mostly because my subjects prefer some (relative) sharpness in their portraits.

    Here are some examples shot at f:8 ...

    Reinhold

    www.classicBWphoto.com
     

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  7. zsas

    zsas Member

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    These are glorious portraits! The one of Larry is my fav of the set! Great info and photos!
     
  8. Neanderman

    Neanderman Member

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    It appears you are using a forward mount? Have you played with turning the lens around and using it behind the aperture? That became the favored way to mount simple, meniscus elements.

    Ed
     
  9. Reinhold

    Reinhold Advertiser

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    I am using the classic Wollaston design. The meniscus lens is placed behind the aperture stop cards, with the concave face of the lens facing the subject. The location of slot for the stops is 10~15% of the focal length in front of the lens.

    Here's how Wiki shows it...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camera_lens#The_earliest_photographic_camera_lenses

    The lens barrel is quite deep, so there's a very effictive lens hood inherent in the design.

    Reinhold
     
  10. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    thanks for the link !
    and it is great to see another person using
    these old designs :smile:

    john
     
  11. Neanderman

    Neanderman Member

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    Ah. That wasn't apparent from the pictures (on your other posting about this). :smile:

    Ed
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 21, 2011
  12. pruts

    pruts Member

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    Is Reinhold Schalbe still producing Wollaston-lenses ?
    Marc / Belgium
     
  13. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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  14. Nodda Duma

    Nodda Duma Subscriber

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    Your photos are awesome. I love seeing these old lens types put to use.

    The Wollaston is referred commonly today (amongst lens designers) as the first example of the Landscape lens family.

    The lens shape is designed to fully correct 3rd order spherical aberration, and the distance from the stop is set to correct coma and tangential field curvature (uncorrected sagittal results in slight swirlyness off axis). Distortion is inherently low in the focal lengths designed for, and aperture size controls other aberrations. The Landscape lens was selected by George Eastman as the optics for the Brownie camera due to its simplicity, low cost, and relatively good performance. A well-corrected design (at the Brownie's f/16 or f/22 or so) using classic glass provides 25-micron spot sizes in the central region of the film plane for normal focal lengths, which is more than sufficient for sharp-looking images for the contact prints of the time. If I remember correctly, even towards the corners the spot size diameter is still only a couple hundred micrometers. Most modern imaging objective designs can be traced back to the landscape lens (Petzval derivations being the exception). It has seen a resurgence of late in the form of objectives for disposable or cheap point and shoot cameras, aspheric surfaces being used to better correct aberrations at faster lens speeds.

    The study of the evolution of design features developed to overcome limitations of the Wollaston forms the core of modern lens design coursework.

    AgX and I had a great conversation recently about this subject, culminating in my sending him a report I wrote on the design in college.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2017 at 9:36 AM
  15. ransel

    ransel Member

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    Probably my favorite lens for use on my Graflex RB Series D 4X5 is Reinholds 190mm.

    [​IMG]