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Age of my Optar lens?
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Doug Kerr



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 177
Location: Dallas, Texas, USA

PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2007 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greetings,

I recently acquired a lovely Optar 162 mm f/4.5 lens in a no. 3 Full Synchromatic Graphex shutter (both made by Wollensak for Graflex, Inc.). I believe that the lens would have been sold by Wollensak directly as its Raptar, with the shutter a Rapax.

The lens serial number is 922531. Can we tell from that the approximate year of manufacture of this lens and shutter?

Thanks.

_________________
Best regards,

Doug
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Dan Fromm



Joined: 14 May 2001
Posts: 1884
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2007 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

On 2007-04-15 05:43, Doug Kerr wrote:
Greetings,

I recently acquired a lovely Optar 162 mm f/4.5 lens in a no. 3 Full Synchromatic Graphex shutter (both made by Wollensak for Graflex, Inc.). I believe that the lens would have been sold by Wollensak directly as its Raptar, with the shutter a Rapax.

The lens serial number is 922531. Can we tell from that the approximate year of manufacture of this lens and shutter?

Thanks.

Doug, I get no pleasure from raining on your parade, but yours is an old question that's been answered many times. No one knows how to date Wollensak lenses.

Sorry,

Dan
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troublemaker



Joined: 24 Nov 2003
Posts: 715
Location: So Cal

PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2007 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd like to know too as I have a number of Wollensak lenses. The best I have been able to establish is approximations based on a couple things.
If I believe the lens is original to a camera one could make an estimation.
The Rapax shutters and thier internal parts offer some clues as do the face plates, lettering font,type of flash synch and timer markings etc... I have had a number of them apart. They deffinately made some changes and all parts are not interchangeable throughout the run of wollensak shutters.
I have also noted that what I beleive to be earlier production 135 Optars have black rings rather than silver. Though they are also coated. One of these rates high on my list.
My own 162mm Optar came mounted on a Super Graphic board and is definately late production. I do not know how long the Wollensak tessars were produced, someone may know when they closed the doors, but the if I think the last run of shutters were supplied with face plates having blue lettering. I have had a couple with silver faceplates as opposed to black.
Anyway, I have never heard yet of anyone being able to date based on the serial numbers.
Making a wild guess, I think your particular lens was manufactured somewhere between 1950 and 1965 (sorry).
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Doug Kerr



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 177
Location: Dallas, Texas, USA

PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2007 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, Dan,

Indeed, solid information on this topic is really hard to come by.

Since I wrote, I heard (on another forum) from Chauncey Walden, who led me to some work done by Kerry Thalmann (with a great assist from Chauncey), which is summarized thus:

******************

. . . So, if we make a few assumptions, perhaps we can reach some tentative conclusions.

First, assume the Wollensak serial numbers are sequential and cover all lens products (this is consistant with other manufacturers of the day - Goerz, Schneider, Rodenstock and Zeiss).

Second, assume no serial numbers with more than six digits, with the first digit ranging from 1-9 followed by A-E (where A is equivalent to 10xxxxx, B=11xxxxx, C=12xxxxx, D=13xxxxx and E=14xxxxx).

So far, the lowest serial number we have on a "Wocoated" lens starts with 5xxxxx. We also know that the "Wocoted" (big "C" surounding smaller "W") was first used in 1945. The lens on the cover of my April 1, 1954 catalog starts with Axxxxx. Thanks to Chauncy's detective work, we know that a lens starting with Bxxxxx dates to late 1954. And, a lens dated July, 1956 starts with Cxxxxx. We also have some later Pro Raptars (both taking and enlarging) with Dxxxxx and Exxxxx serial numbers. While this limited data set doesn't prove the assumptions I've made, or Arne's hypothesis, the data is consistent with the assumptions and the theory.

So, just in rough numbers, if we use 5xxxxx = 1945 and Bxxxxx=1954, it looks like Wollensak (in theory) made about 600,000 lenses over than nine year period. Which equals roughly 66,667 lenses per year. Just for the sake of comparison, Rodenstock made 1,000,00 over that same nine year period and Schneider made slightly over 2,000,000 lenses during that time period. So, the 600,000 total production number for Wollensak lenses for that particular nine year period certainly seems within the realm of possibility.

If the assumptions are valid and the theory holds, that would mean my two 159mm f12.5 Extreme Wide Angles date to approximately early 1948 (serial number 703227) and mid-1948 (serial number 736166). It would also date the "Yellow Dot" lens (serial number A84258) pictured to approximately late 1953 or early 1954. Note, even if the assumptions are true, these dates are still approximations assuming a consistent yearly rate of production. The actual dates, given the assumptions are true, are likely to be plus/minus 1 year).

Again, this is based on assumptions and theory, but the conclusions are consistent with the limted set of known data.

**********
For whataver that's worth.

In any case, interpolating on that basis would put the age of my lens at about 1951-1952.

Best regards,

Doug
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45PSS



Joined: 28 Sep 2001
Posts: 3212
Location: Mid Peninsula, Ca.

PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2007 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The camera eccentric has Wollensak lens catalogs from 1903 to 1957 posted on his site.
http://www.cameraeccentric.com/html/info.html

Charles
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lonedfx



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 6:17 pm    Post subject: Thanks! Reply with quote

Cool info, this is giving me an idea about the age of my Busch Pressman. The Wollensak lens has a serial of 493665, so I take it that it should be from around 1945. Thanks a lot for this.
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78ltd



Joined: 04 Sep 2005
Posts: 55
Location: Texas

PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 4:09 pm    Post subject: Some New Age Info Reply with quote

I have a black ring 135mm Optar in a full sync Rapax that's marked "Made for the Folmer Graflex Corp." that is serial number 471174. There is no Circle W mark. Folmer Graflex would date it to '45 or earlier. On the back of the shutter there is a stamped ink code of 5CB.
I propose that to be year (45), month (March), and week (B meaning second). Car companies sometimes date their car components like that. The sync is marked F-X, black M and red M. I think the earliest ones have milliseconds listed, but I don't know when the change took place. I also have a 101mm F/4.5 Velostigmat in a non synch Rapax that is serial number 499171. It has the circle W mark for coating. On the shutter someone scribed (original owner?) the date of 11/11/46. I assume that is the date of purchase. It has the chrome front mounting. Those two lenses are 27,997 lenses apart by serial number. Just some info to add to the database. I don't know if Graflex or Wollensak put the stamped code on the 135mm shutter. I also have a 160mm Pro Raptar that has F2 stamped on it's shutter. If my above hypothesis holds true that would be June '62, which sounds right. It's serial number is E56469.
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1banjo



Joined: 16 Nov 2008
Posts: 478
Location: kansas

PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 7:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hey
Going by Doug Kerr hypothesis I come up with this

"Wocoted" (big "C" surounding smaller "W") was first used in 1945
"Wocoated" lens starts about # 5xxxxx SO lets say
500000 1945
566667 1946
633334 1947
700001 1948
776668 1948
NOW I have a 23 Crown S# 706639 is a 1950 it has a {Optar S# 784566} & Graflok
833335 1950
900002 1951
966669 1952
A33336 1953
"Yellow Dot" lens (serial number A84258) pictured to approximately late 1953 or early 1954
B00003 1954
B66670 1955
C33337 1956
D00004 1957
C66671 1958
E33338 1959
F00005 1960

NOW this is baced on Doug Kerr 66,667 lenses per year

now 78ltd you say you have a 101mm F/4.5 Velostigmat in a non synch Rapax that is serial number 499171. It has the circle W mark for coating
that shows that there is some of then with (big "C" surounding smaller "W") before
the #5xxxxx AND that OK
now this I would say that your E56469 would be a 1959 BUT if your right F2 stamped on it's shutter to be June '62 then that would change the above list, would need some ajustment AND that OK too as we don't know !!
banjo
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Dan Fromm



Joined: 14 May 2001
Posts: 1884
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2010 8:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dream on.

Coating came in no earlier than 1946.

I have a small pile of Enlarging Pro Raptars, also one Pro Raptar taking lens. All of their serial numbers are prefixed D or E. These are lenses from the late '60s. So much for piling assumptions on assumptions.

For those of you who aren't acquainted with enlarging Pro Raptars and the two LF Pro Raptar taking lenses, these are 6/4 plasmat types and were Wollensak's last attempt to compete with their European competitors. Wollensak also badged some cine lenses as Pro Raptars; I have no idea what types they were.
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tsgrimm



Joined: 04 Apr 2004
Posts: 158
Location: SE Michigan

PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2010 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/projects/currency.htm

Hard to compete with the Europeans when four West German Marks bought one U.S. Dollar.

Was so when I was stationed in Baumholder and it remained so for some time after that.
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Dan Fromm



Joined: 14 May 2001
Posts: 1884
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2010 4:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm. TS, you bring back memories.

The D-Mark was down to 3.60 when I was sent to Zweibruecken. Everything in the economy was still pretty damn cheap, and so were PX prices for cameras. The real bargains, though, were at 4 Wing RCAF's annual photo shot and in the Bittburg Air Base photo club.
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1banjo



Joined: 16 Nov 2008
Posts: 478
Location: kansas

PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 1:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

hey
on shutter
a 90mm Optar S#288574 X27 is not Wocoted
250 tele-optar S#621695 M 3 17 48
101mm Optar S#787694 K M Y JS AD come new on a 1949 Century
135mm Raptar S#805072 R2 LD 06 IS Wocoted
90mm Optar S#903050N S
90mm Optar S#903059N K 13 52
85 photorecord S#920229 WP JF OK
127 OPTAR S#928071 F 4 26 48 yellow dot


101mm Optar S#787694 come new on a 1949 Century machs the list OK as a 1949
90mm Optar S#903059N machs the list OK as a 1952

SO IF YOU HAVE SOME THING BETTER THEN THIS LIST let us KNOW

this list is baced on Doug Kerr findings that I list before
AND IT MAY NEED SOME ADJUSTEMT
AND DON'T KNOW ANY Wollensak LF lenses after 1965
and the same thing is true for Kodak as of 1967

banjo
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Dan Fromm



Joined: 14 May 2001
Posts: 1884
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Banjo, why do you think Doug is right?
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1banjo



Joined: 16 Nov 2008
Posts: 478
Location: kansas

PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hey

I don't thank WE are right!!
And it need some place to start
BUT I DON"T SEE ANYTHING BETTER!!
DO YOU!!!
if so shows it
because we all like to know what the age of our lens is, don't you
find any Facts or proof is hard but if we don't try WE WILL NEVER KNOW!!

banjo
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Dan Fromm



Joined: 14 May 2001
Posts: 1884
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Banjo, don't SHOUT!

And don't take the line that misinformation is better than none.
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