This is only a test

A while back I was wandering about in the local antique mall. One of the vendors was closing up shop, and marking everything down 80 percent. It was a random assortment of undesirable junk for the most part, but I did see in one case a small cardboard box with two old lenses in it. The price written on the box was $10, so the sale price to me would be two dollars. How could I resist?

The style of shutter and the names Ernemann and ICA suggest that these lenses probably came off of a couple of “pocket” folding-type cameras made between WWI and the late 1920s, when those companies were swallowed up in the consolidation that produced Zeiss-Ikon. Not too surprisingly, the shutters don’t work very well. Slow, by a factor of about 100. They still operate, which means they can probably be cleaned and made well again, but it wouldn’t be worth the expense.

I put them aside for a while, and went on to other things, but the the other day I decided to try to clean up the glass on the Ernemann—probably the better of the two lenses, and would likely cover 4×5. It was fairly dirty, having been poorly stored and handled over the years. I managed to get most of the grunge off—you have to be careful not to scratch the coatings on these old lenses—to where I figured I could actually get an image out of it.

The lens did not quite fit the spare Graflex lens board I have, it’s too loose, but this was remedied with a strip of gaffer’s tape. I just forced the shutter to stay open with a cable release, and figured to make the test with the Speed’s focal plane shutter. Unfortunately, I don’t the correct cable to sync a flash to the focal plane shutter, so I had to make with available light from the window. Fuji FP3000 instant film seemed to be the thing to try here, because patience is not my strong point. I pulled a couple of shots to gauge the exposure, and then added a yellow filter. I had to just hold the filter up in front of the lens; I have no idea what the thread size of an Ernemann Doppel-Anastigmat is, and most of my filters are sized to fit my Nikons. The end result:

Squash, sweet potatoes, green tomatoes, and onions from the CSA on the counter. These instant prints, especially with the high-speed film, tend to be a little soft no matter what lens is used. I’d have to say, not bad for an 80-plus-year-old lens that cost me all of a dollar. So the next test will have to be with real film and better light.

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