I like used lenses because you can get some great deals on fabulous high quality optics - new lenses can be very expensive. I love finding old quirky lenses with that "je ne sais quoi" optical quality. They produce photos with that unmistakable uncoated, crapy low contrast, mediocre vintage look. Just kidding. You'd be surprised how some vintage lenses surpass modern lenses in creating memorable images. It is all subjective. You'd also be surprised to find that some of the old brass lenses are fetching well over a thousand dollars because of renewed interest in wet plate photography.
Below is a Deardorff 8x10 field camera with a vintage Carl Meyer 305mm f/4.5 with an iris but absent a shutter. It's a large lens with almost 3 1/2" diameter. How do you control time exposure without a shutter?
|My Deardorff V8 8x10 with a Carl Meyer 305mm f/4.5 shutter-less lens|
|The hose connects to the bottom of the piston.|
You can get them with sync capabilities which allows you to use flash. You can get them with a pin that permits what they call "instantaneous" mode, which is an exposure of approximately 1/25 of a second. Without the pin you get "Bulb" mode. Squeeze the bulb and it stays open until you let go of the bulb.
These shutters have been around for a long time as seen in the patent document below, but you can still purchase a brand new one from the Packard Shutter Company.
|Click to see larger|
|Wollensak 13.5" f/3.8 Vitax Soft Focus Portrait Lens is a Petzval lens. Average price today, over $1000.|
There was a need to create a fast lens to cut down exposure time for photography. In 1840 The Society for the Encouragement of Industry in Paris, offered a prize for this elusive lens and the race among designers of optical instruments was off.
It was Joseph Petzval, a professor of mathematics at the University of Vienna who would design the lens that would revolutionize photography.
|Petzval revolutionized lens design|
The French Society for the Encouragement of Industry did not give Petzval the first prize, although his lens was much faster than any of the other lenses submitted. Petzval's "second prize" winning lens became the dominant portrait lens for nearly a century, while the "first prize" lens would prove to be a commercial failure.
Lens design was mostly trial and error at the time. The Petzval portrait lens, purported to be the first lens designed using mathematics, would change the science of lens design. Petzval lenses were as much as 20 times faster than the lenses in use at the time.
What attracts modern wet plate photographers to Petzval lenses? They are mostly big brass lenses without shutters and many don't have irises. It's the look. These vintage lenses have a unique look. The center can be focused very sharp while the edges have this incredibly swirly soft bokeh. It's a look you can't get from a modern lens.
Lens designers have refined and perfected lenses. They make them so they are crispy-focused all the way to the edges. Lens manufacturers are always trying to remove all imperfections, aberrations and distortions out of modern lenses. Ask the lomography crowd why they like photography with low-tech, no fidelity and crappy optical quality. It's the look!
|Wonderful example of swirly bokeh from a Petzval lens in this picture by Coco Alexander|