Great cameras are often defined by their lenses. Whether it’s a close-up, wide angle, or zoom, lenses allow photographers to literally capture more than meets the eye.

The first true photographic lens was developed by an Englishman named W. H. Wollaston in 1804 and fitted to a camera obscura in 1812. His meniscus lens, as it is called, permitted photographers to keep a wider range of their subject in focus than ever before.

Unfortunately, these lenses did not work well at close range, which meant they were ill-suited to portraiture. In 1840, an Austrian named Joseph Max Petzval devised a portrait lens that solved this problem, although people sitting for daguerreotype portraits were required to remain perfectly still for up to two full minutes.

Petzval lenses were fitted to Voightländer cameras—only 70 were made in 1841 and 600 the following year, but the lenses were quickly copied by German manufacturers. Today, working brass-barrel “Petzval-type” lenses, as they are often called, from the 19th century are readily available, although they are not necessarily inexpensive.

Subsequent improvements to camera lenses occurred in 1862 (the wider-angle Harrison & Schnitzer Globe lens, which was used in landscape photographs) and the Dallmeyer (1866). The telephoto lens arrived in 1891, but its was the Zeiss anastigmat lens of 1890, renamed the Protar in 1900, that signaled the arrival of the first modern camera lens.

Countless advances and refinements were made in camera lenses throughout the first half of the 20th century, but the game-changer occurred in 1959, when the Voigtländer-Zoomar made its debut. Vivitar improved the zoom even more in 1975 with its Series 1 lenses—the macro in that family allowed a photographer to zoom from 70 to 210 millimeters.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Collection D'Appareils Photo

Collection D'Appareils Photo

While we couldn't read everthing - it's mostly in French - the images on this site speak for themselves. Its an ext… [read review or visit site]

Magic Mirror of Life

Magic Mirror of Life

Jack and Beverly Wilgus have put together a great trove of information and images of camera obscura-related photos … [read review or visit site]

Cameras and Co

Cameras and Co

An impressive collection of antique and vintage cameras, this site features high-resolution images of over 120 came… [read review or visit site]

George Eastman House

George Eastman House

This showcase of vintage cameras and photography is plainly designed, but the camera collection and related referen… [read review or visit site]

Antique Cameras D. Tristram Ludwig

Antique Cameras D. Tristram Ludwig

David Tristram Ludwig shares high resolution images of his in-depth personal collection of antique cameras, includi… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Asahi Pentax Super-takumar 35mm F2 M42 Lens + Takumar 85mm F1.9 Lens Cas Vintage Pentax Super-takumar 50 Mm F1.4 M42 Screw Mount Fast Prime LensVintage Massive Light Summicron Leitz Canada 2/90 Leica Huge Camera Manual LensNiob Minolta Maxxum Af Reflex 500mm 1:8 Camera LensPentax Super-takumar M42 Mount F1.4/50mm Fast Standard Lens: Has Little Fungus!Vintage Nikkor Reflex Nippon Kogaku 1:5 F=50cm Lens With Case And Extra LensVintage Kodak 170mm Large Format Camera Lens Field F/6.3 NiceVintage Russian Photography Lens Mc Mir-24h 35mm/2 For M42 Mount Cameras! Ex!Vintage Canon Fd Mount 35mm F2.8 LensLot Of 7 Assorted Prime Manual Focus Vintage Lenses For Sony Nex Digital Camera Vintage Yashica Yashinon Dx 50mm F1.4 Lens In Pentax Screw Mount.Vintage Vivitar 90mm F2.8 Macro Full One To One Ratio Nikon MountFull Kit - Bolex Moller 8/19/1.5x Anamorphot - Anamorphic & Redstan ClampVintage Cine Super Nominar F=25mm 1:0.95 C Mount LensTt&h Taylor Hobson Cooke 8mm Lens Kit For Bell & Howell Cine Cameras. Vintage.Vintage Steinheil Munchen Auto-quinon Camera Lens 1:1.9 F=55mm No ReserveNikon Nikkor-s Auto F=50mm 1:1.4 Lens Vintage Serial #1224611 ExcellentVintage Minolta Md Rokkor-x 50mm F1.7 Canera Lens F/1.7 -excellent-l@@k"vintage Nikkor-q 1:4 F=13.5 Cm Lens And Kopil Dual Track Bellowscope"-nr!!!!!!!Nikon 200mm F/5.6 Medical-nikkor C Vintage Lens SetVintage Asahi Takumar Super Multi Coated M42 Screw Mount 1:3.5 F=28 Mm Lens Vintage Canon Prime Lens Tv-16 C Mount 25mm 1:0.78 With Case4 Vintage 35mm Camera Lense & Filters Sigma Kenko Jcpenny Cosmicar Tv LensRare Carl Zeiss Jena Ultra-wide Angle Automatic Flektogon Lens F4 20mm ExaktasRare Vintage Zoom-nikkor 80 - 200mm 1:4 Lens For Nikon Fe +62mm Skylight FilterSigma 28mm F2.8 For Pentax M42 Screw Mount M-42