The Lens

So here it is; the lens. It is a Bausch and Lomb – Zeiss APO Tessar Series VIII – Made somewhere between 1903 and 1915. From what can find, B&L and Zeiss had some dealings before WWI in order to use the Zeiss Tessar patented design in the US. After the war, B&L ignored the patent, and started making the lenses with some improvements under just their own name.

This is a behemoth of a lens with a front diameter of 105mm, and a focal length of 760mm. APO means it can do color, and the Teassar design is supposed to be pretty flat and distortion free for an early design. It weight around 10lbs, I would guess. If you can’t read the ring, it covers 28×32 inches, so it will have plenty of room for movements on my 16×20/12×20, and would even kill on a 20×24, making it sought after in the ULF arena, and rare! This is the only one I have seen come up in the last 6 months and quite a few people bid on this before I won it, even though it was in bad shape. For a 100 year old chunk of glass, though, it actually is pretty clean and usable; a great find, and piece of history.

When I got it, it was in really bad shape. I got it off that auction site for about $220. The iris blades were all taken out, and 4 of them were damaged, but they were all there which was good. I had made the decision that if I couldn’t get the iris back in, that it would still make a great old lens. Luckily there was (and still is) a repair shop near by: ITC Camera, so I took it there instead of shipping it to the expensive Grimes in New Jersey. The guy at ITC gave me a reasonable quote of 3 hours work, but I had a feeling he had his work cut out for him. When I finally got the call to pick it up I found out all the damage that was under the skin, but the guy at ITC stuck to his quote, though he said he “lost his shirt” on it. He is a very honorable guy and I would recommend him.

Here’s what we learned from his work: at some point in the past the iris was damaged. Three nipples broke off three leaves, and one was bent. So the iris was taken out, and a slot was cut into the barrel to accept a plate type aperture. And that’s not all, somebody thought it would be nice to cut down reflections so they painted the inside black. It was a mess in there, and everything was stuck to everything else with paint and grease.

The guy at ITC soaked the inside to remove the paint, repaired the bends, manufactured new nipples, improved the design with a couple of retention screws so the iris won’t get jammed, got rid of the oil and grease (apertures need to be dry and clean, not lubed as most people think), and cleaned up the f-stop markings on the barrel. ITC did lose their shirt on this I think, but the owner was honorable, and only charged me for the low quoted price. So, he got it working, and its in pretty good shape now. The only thing that is still a problem is the slot cut into the barrel. I’ll have to tape that off or put a piece of brass shim in there or something. Now that its in better shape, I am guessing its value went up considerably, and is worth more than I have invested in it (~$500) thanks to the work at ITC.

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