I think you're onto something there..how do we get in?..
Just about everybody who made lenses in the wet-plate era made Petzval type lenses. The most famous (or infamous) case is Voigtländer, who was sent a sample by Petzval for assessment. Realising that the patent was only for Austria, Voigtländer quickly set up production in Germany, and rapidly forced Petzval out of the market and into poverty. And that's also the reason for the many lenses marked "Voigtländer & Sohn - Wien & Braunschweig".
Originally Posted by David White
There were other portrait lenses too, but none as successful as the petzval design.
Incidentally I jumped to a conclusion without checking the available evidence a few posts ago: I associated the 25x30 format with the German 24x30, while it is most likely the Imperial 12x10". This is extra embarrassing since I have a Lancaster & son "Patent Rectilinear" 12x10" sitting in my collection...
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
When surfing to see what was available, I was quite taken with this:
A good alternative to a Petzval lens for an "old" look would be a rapid rectilinear lens, otherwise known as a doublet or symmetrical lens and easily recognized by its maximum working aperture of f8. It would be a little easier to find one of these to cover a big film (say 8x10") and if an example is in good condition it will give good sharpness and contrast in the center at full aperture, falling away markedly towards the edges, which improve considerably on stopping down if desired.
Also known as Aplanat, available in various versions: Portrait-Aplanat of about f:4 to f:5, Universal-Aplanat f:7 to f:8, and Weitwinkel-Aplanat usually f:16 to f:18. Good Aplanats are cheap, I paid £10 for an 1870's Steinheil #6 which has about 450mm focal length. Shorter ones are often even cheaper.
Originally Posted by David H. Bebbington
"Reisekameras" like http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.d...MEWN%3AIT&rd=1 are a great way to use these lenses. I would prefer a German 13x18 one to a half-plate purely for the availability of film. Note that the camera cost me less than the usual selling price of the iris lensmount
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
This thread has induced me to take a brief tour of Victorian lens design! There was considerable confusion of terminology, mainly because makers felt able to use any name that made their lenses sound good!
In the beginning was the Petzval lens, designed specially to work at a large aperture over a narrow angle for portraits. A revised version of this by Steinheil had the name "Antiplanat", while the name "Aplanat" was also applied to the type of lens known in Britain as a rapid rectilinear (and in this form almost always had a maximum aperture of f8). This was of symmetrical doublet design, a design which was stretched out to an "extra rapid" f5.6 (but was probably rather poor at this aperture) and was also produced in a wide-angle form (maximum aperture a mighty f16). The reason I recommended a rapid rectilinear is that they are relatively common and cheap and have image characteristics which might well suit a portrait in the style of Howlett (reasonably sharp and crisp in the center even at full aperture, noticeable fall-off out to the edges).
Last edited by David H. Bebbington; 07-23-2007 at 04:18 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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The only problem is that the Dallmeyer's Rapid Rectilinear wasn't available until 1866 ( Brit. Patent 2,502/66 ). Steinheil's Aplanat' is identical, and appeared simultaneously (see Rudolph Kingslake, A History of the Photographic Lens. Academic Press, Boston, 1989.)
Howlett was long dead.
It still seems the best guess for Howlett's lens was a Voigtlander. I have no evidence that any other firm but Voigtlander made the Petzval design AT THIS TIME. ( Of course, my resources, as my scholarship, is limited. )
In a few years, everybody made a copy of the lens, and it remained a fixture in portrait studios until the 1920s.
According to Kingslake, the Petzval-Voigtlander breakup was after a 5 year partnership, the quarrel taking place in 1845. The Voigtlander Braunschweig factory was not established until 1849. The Vienna factory was not closed until 1866.
Petzval lost interest in optics after the failure of his second manufacturer in 1862. He continued as Professor of Higher Mathematics at the University of Vienna, and was appointed a member of the Hungarian Academy of Science in 1873.
( Kingslake attributes this information to J.M. Eder, History of Photography, trans. E. Epstean. Dover, New York, 1978)
"This suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts !"
I quite agree! My suggestion is, however, that if you want to take a picture which LOOKS like the Howlett picture of Brunel, a rapid rectilinear is going to be much easier to find than a Voigtländer (although I surprised myself with my e-bay search at finding 2 or 3 Petzval-type lenses by various makers).
Originally Posted by df cardwell
I'm leaning more and more towards a landscape lens... A simple doublet behind the (brass ring) stop. Especially after considering the size of a Petzval lens to cover 12x10" with that good sharpness at any stop - what a 480mm RR could do would take an 800mm Petzval. At f:4 it would need a 20cm front lens - that is one serious piece of glass! Anything in that era shot with something approaching "normal" focal length would either show some very serious swirlyness in the corners, or be shot with a much simpler and smaller landscape lens.
Just my 2d (pennies, pre-decimal)
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
Don's comments are spot on.
I took a look at the picture again, as well as some better quality reproductions I had in books, and am pretty sure I see the tell-tale signs of Petzval coma in the corners. Chances are a stop (a front washer type, water house stops were probably invented in the late 1850s) was used, which would account for its apparent lack of "bokeh".
In the 1850s there were a number of lens manufacturers, notably Voigtländer, Ross, CC Harrison, Holmes Booth and Haydens, Lerebours, and Jamin.
Originally Posted by Ole
I have a Dallmeyer 5A (f4) from 1870 which was rated by Dallmeyer for 15"x15" plates. This lens has a 127mm front lens. Dallmeyer recommended 19" lenses for 10x12 plates, so we can assume that this lens would have a 120mm front lens. Still quite big...
When stopped down, the petzvals cover without too much coma. So Dallmeyer even sugggested in the 1870s that a 19" lens for 10x12 stopped down a could cover 12x15. I am not quite sure that I would agree with Dallmeyer here, as my experience suggests that Petzvals illuminate a field slightly less than their focal length.
Attached is a Anthony's catalogue from the early 1870s (provided by Sean MacKenna) which lists coverage for Dallmeyer 'D' type f/6 Petzval lenses.