Fast F3 James Queen Petzval Portrait Brass Lens 152mm 4x5 Swirly Bokeh Wet Plate

Fast F3 James Queen Petzval Portrait Brass Lens 152mm 4x5 Swirly Bokeh Wet Plate

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Fast F3 James Queen Petzval Portrait Brass Lens 152mm 4x5 Swirly Bokeh Wet Plate:

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I understand that my descriptions are long winded but I strongly suggest that you read them carefully. They provides lots of information that is useful in helping you understand the items I offer, general information that I hope will provide practical knowledge to the enthusiastic and inquiring photographer, and aid so you can make informed decisions in purchasing these items. I’m always looking for early photographic equipment to offer for the emulsion oriented large format photographer with the idea of sustaining interest in traditional and alternative photographic processes.

Beautiful James W. Queen & Co. Philadelphia 6” / 152 mm Speedy f3 4x5, 3x4 Petzval Portrait Mid-19th Century Wet Collodion Era Antique Brass Magic Lantern Lens with Lens Shade and Replacement Mounting Flange. ca. 1860’s. Made in France. This lens was originaly a lantern lens but the optics & glass is the same as a camera lens so the performance will not differ. I’ve shot both camera Petzval Portrait lenses and magic lantern lenses and have seen no difference in image quality.

James W. Queen was an optician in Philadelphia who manufactured Micropsopes and scientific instruments, engineering instruments, optical novelties and magic lanterns. It’s uncler whether the firm manufactured all the parts of these but many of the lenses found on their magic lanterns were supplied by Darlot and engraved with the James W. Queen name. This lens looks to be early and does not look to be Darlot but does look French and is extremely well constructed. The brass mounts are well made and have lots of detailing like knurled ends on the retaining rings not found on cheap lenses. Manufactured of the highest quality of the period and were in the same class as such lens as Dallmeyer, Ross, Lerebores et Secretan, Holmes Booth Haydens, CC Harrison, etc.

James W. Queen & Co. Info

This lens has an approx. maximum fstop of f3 making it faster by about 2/3 of a stop faster than a standard Petzval at f3.8. This faster Petzval will provide a shallower depth of field for greater fall off and more pronounced bokeh.

For Large Format Wet Plate Collodion, Film & Alternative Processes Photography. To cover 4x5 & 3x4 and smaller formats such as medium format 6x9, 6x7 & 6x6 cms. It suitable to be used as a 3 ½ x 4 ¼ inch Quarter Plate lens when the sweet sharp spot of the center of the lens was used. We know that this will cover much more and prefer to exploit the greater curved field to create the much sought after swirly bokeh. This will occur most on 4x5 inch and Half Plate 4 ¾ x 6 ½ inches making this the ideal 4x5 and Half plate lens for the modern wet plate collodion, traditional film and alterantive processes photographer. It can be shot on 5x7 but will most likely vignette which is also a sought after creative effect for artistic expression, please note the work of Atget. It will be a great lens to slap onto a 4x5 or 3x4 Graflex Series D or Super D SLR camera or a 4x5 Speed Graphic because it has a focal plane shutter.

This lens will give swirly bokeh when shot correctly to maximize the curved field, distance to subject and varied background like woods and trees with highlights shining through the leaves. Will give beautiful perspective for portraiture on 3x4 because using a longer lens than is necessary for the format offers a pleasing flattening effect that is necessary for successful portraiture. My rule of thumb for portratire, especially close up is to add the length and the width of the format being used and then use a lens with that focal length. So, for 3x4 you add 3 plus 4 and get 7 inches, which is the focal length of this lens.

A great bonus of this lens is that the front element is an achromat, cemented pair, that can be used by itself and was the original Chevalier Dagurreotype lens used before the formulation of the Petzval portrait lens. This lens will be soft wide open with glowing highlights, similar to the Pinkham & Smith Semi-Achromatic & Synthetic Pictorial lenses, and will get sharper as it is stopped down. It’s focal length is 10” 254 mm f5.3. This front group will cover 5x7, 4x5, 3x4 and smaller formats. For practicality, it will be great for landscapes on panoramic formats 5x7 and Half Plate and serve well as a soft focus portrait lens on 4x5 & 3x4. It can be shot wide open or slightly stopped down for soft focus or for sharp images it can be stopped down by making disc stops that can be inserted inside the lens. A great lens for pictorial photography. This lens was the basis of many soft focus achromats that include the Pinkhm & Smith Semi-Achromat and Synthetic, Spencer Portland, Gundlach Meniscus Lens, Rodenstock Imagon, Bausch & Lomb Portrait Plastigmat, Kodak Portrait lens, Dallmeyer Soft Focus Lens and many others. Certainly this is a very interesting lens to experiment with. And keep in mind, these early lenses are not easy to understand and use, which is why I go to such lengths to explain them.

Another great way to shoot this lens is to switch and reconfigure the rear lens elements. This will offer a whole set of different effects and aberrations and some nice soft focus effects as well.

It has no slot for Waterhouse stops but disc stops can be made that can be inserted inside the barrel once the front group has been unscrewed. The stop can be placed inside and the front group screwed back into place. It is easy to make these stops out of black card stop and the formula for making the fstops is easy. All you need is to divide the focal length which we know to be 14” by the fstop which will provide the diameter of the hole you need to cut in the stop. So for f11 divide 14” by 11 any you get 1.27”. For f 32 you divide 14” by 32 and you get .44” so like a 3/16 of an inch. You can do the math or convert to metric. Good fun and easy to do.

The pictures show the condition. The glass of the lens elements is extremely clean with slight cleaning marks. No Haze, Fungus or separation. It has all its elements and mounts including the necessary spacer for the rear lens group. Focus rack & pinion device works and is smooth. Brass barrel and fittings are in nice condition. The pictures show the cosmetic condition. Lens shade is intact and is a great accessory to have to block out extraneous light and help to cut down on flair and to increase contrast. Comes with replacement flange that fits well and will securely hold this lens to your camera. Often these lenses are sold on after being polished to help them sell better. I never polish these lenses and did not polish this len and prefer to sell them as found with the exception that I clean the glass so that they are ready to shoot. It is possible to polish them if you like but it will not change the performance. I sell these lenses for the user and the optical design and condition of the glass is what is important to me. Often very pretty lenses have damaged, missing or inferior optics which is something to be aware of and to be avoided, unless you want a nice display piece that doesn’t function very well. This lens measures 4 1/2” inches tall, Outer flange diameter 3 3/4”. Lens weighs approx. 1 lb.

There is much talk about swirly bokeh these days and I feel it is important to describe it to some extent here. Bokeh is a Japanese term that refers to the quality and signature of the out of focus areas of an image and also the gradation between the sharp and out of focus areas in the image. Each lens has it’s own bokeh signature and the greatest bokeh occurs with speed lenses of large large diameter front groups that have small f stop numbers like f 3.5 to f2 and faster. The faster the lens the shallower the depth of field and the more pronounced the bokeh. The Leica Noctilux at f1.0 is a standard by which many 35mm photographer use as extreme bokeh. Swirly bokeh occurs by two factors. The first is spherical aberrations because the large diameter of the glass can not focus all the rays of light coming in to be focused straight onto the film plane. This is often seen in very fast lenses like the Angenieux 50mm f1.5 lens and the Cooke Series X lenses for Graflex and large format photography that were f2.5. The other type of swirl occurs with lenses that have curved fields such as the Petzval Portrail lens that was formulated for speed for the long exposure times needed for the Daguerreotype but the flat field was not yet achieved and wouldn’t come until 1866 with the Rapid / Aplanat designed contemporaneously by Dallmayer and Steinheil. 19th century photographer avoided the swirl by shooting the center sharp sweet spot of the lens, even though these lenses could cover much larger plates. Modern photographers using these lenses want the swirly bokeh so will shoot the Petzvals that were intended for smaller plates on larger plates to achieve the swirl. So a lens designed for 5x7 or full plate would be used by the modern photographer on 8x10 or even larger, say 10x12 for the swirly bokeh and the vignetting. By going to this Google link, you can see what swirly bokeh looks like

Swirly Bokeh

Please cut and paste the above link into your browser window to view the contents of this link.

For the modern photographer it is coverage, flat field, sharpness, color saturation and contrast that are essential and the optical characteristics of modern multi-coated lenses. Vintage and antique lenses offer different and, for the the most part, uncorrected optical qualities such as curved field and swirly bokeh along with vignetting when used on a plate that is too large for the coverage of the lens. They offer less contrast but greater tonal dynamic range because they are un-coated. It is these qualities that are attractive for the art photographer and suitable for experimentation and expression. This lens offers all that. If you are looking for a modern look, this lens is not for you. To see an effective use of vignetting please take a look at Eugene Atget images.

This lens is ideal for the wet plate collodion photographer interested in film and alternative processes photography. It’s ideal for Wet Plate Collodion, tintype, ambrotype as wet plate photography is becoming extremely popular of late. This is for many reasons but the result is that an image object is produced that can be held in the hand and has substance, unlike digital images that, for the most part, exist only in the Ethernet or on a hard drive or some other such device. Also, there is a hands on craft aspect to making these images that is very satisfying and meditative. I was at Photoville in NYC recently where the Center for Alternative Photography had a tintype type booth that was full every minute the booth was open. Over 60 plates were produced during a two day period. The response was beyond our expectations which speaks to the interest in this type of photography.

This lens has the curved field of the Petzval formula as it is a Petzval, and will provide a nice sculpturing effect for portraiture as well as the much sought after swirly bokeh when used correctly on a larger format than it was intended for and with a varied background to highlight the swirly bokeh. This is certainly a great lens to experiment with, especially for artistic expression.

A word about coverage. Too often lenses for large format photography are listed on with very little information, especially when it comes to coverage. The optical formula is also omitted due to the ignorance of the seller. This leaves the buyer at a disadvantage as to what they are purchasing or whether to purchase the lens at all. I make a great effort to describe as accurately as I can the lenses I offer, especially when it comes to how they should be used, the type of image they are likely to make, the coverage, and the description, so that prospective buyers can make informed decisions about whether to purchase these lenses that I offer.

This lens is an ideal choice for a Wet Plate or Daguerreotype camera, but it is also ideal to go on either wood or metal studio or field cameras such as Deardorff, Agfa Ansco, Canham, Wisner, Ebony, Shen Hao, Wista, Chamonix, Phillips, Century, Kodak, Korona, Arca Swiss, Cambo, Sinar, Linhof, & many others. These early Lenses are getting rarer and harder to find, so don’t miss this one!

The formula for this lens was designed by Joseph Petzval 1807-1891. Petzval’s major optical accomplishment was the invention of the Petzval Portrait lens in 1840. What made his lens so popular was its maximum aperture of ƒ3.8, several stops faster than the lens being used at the time: the Chevalier achromatic landscape lens with a maximum aperture of ƒ15. Since the Daguerreotype process was slow, the faster lens was much welcomed. The Petzval Portrait lens made it much easier to photograph moving objects, especially people because of its improved speed. The earlier Chevalier landscape lens was used primarily for still life, landscape, and architecture. All mid 19th Century photographers would have used a Petzval portrait lens at one time or another. Julia Margaret Cameron to Felix Nadar all used these lenses with spectacular results.

Petzval Portrait lenses do not have a field corrected for flatness. Its field is curved which creates a beautiful swirly fall off much desired today, but this was not the effect most desired by 19th century photographers This beautiful fall off is different than the fall off and Bokeh created by flat field Anastigmat lenses with shallow depth of fields when used wide open. Many art photographers such as Sally Mann prefer early lens formulas with curved fields and optical aberrations to create interesting, atmospheric, or pictorial effects.

Early photographers, as most contemporary photographers today, were most interested in sharpness, so they would only use the Petzval Portrait lens at its center where the field was sharpest, foregoing the fall off, and not using the lens to its fullest coverage capacity. A lens that would easily cover 8x10 would be used for 5x7 or even 4x5. The longer focal length on the smaller format also created a pleasing perspective much needed and desired for portrait photography. Contemporary art photographers prefer maximum coverage possible to employ the aberrations these early lenses produce.

The Petzval design employs a cemented pair of elements in the front and an air space pair of elements in the rear. This lens has been thoroughly cleaned and has the elements configured as they were originally intended according to its formula. Many times these elements have been removed for cleaning by a clumsy photographer who forgot the correct configuration, replacing the elements in the wrong position, or with the surfaces reversed. Sometimes this was done intentionally to create artistic effects, sometimes with great dramatic effect, This is a little known secret of this type of lens and I urge you to experiment with element placement and configuration. Sally Mann is known to use early lenses and to experiment with them extensively. A unique & versatile lens that offers endless photographic possibilities. Also, the front element is a achromatic meniscus lens that can act as a landscape lens, especially when stopped down to say f16 or as a soft focus lens when shot wide open. This lens offer many photographic & artistic possibilities

This lens is being sold with low opening offer and with the idea of making available these lenses to photographers and artists who are interested in practicing and keeping alive traditional emulsion base & alternative process photography.

If you are interested in learning alternative photographic processes such as Daguerreotype, Wet Plate Collodion, Calotype Paper Negatives, Platinum Printing, Salt Print, Albumen, and many other processes, please visit the Center for Alternative Photography at Also, please check out LTI / Lightside Photographic Services at for traditional film large format services as well as large format digital print services. LTI in New York City still process all formats color and black & white film,form 35mm to 11x14 & larger, and has the capability to print traditional prints as large as 50x96 inches and digital archival pigment ink jet prints as large as 60x120 inches. They also a Lightjet machine that produces Digital C prints as large as 50x96 inches. LTI does gallery quality work and many well known art photographers use their services.

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Fast F3 James Queen Petzval Portrait Brass Lens 152mm 4x5 Swirly Bokeh Wet Plate:

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