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    

Leica Leitz Black Paint Rigid 50mm Summicron Lens M3-m9 4/3 Rangefinder CameraSuperb Large Brass Wooden Mounted Magic Lantern Lens Vogel Philadelphia Usa 4192Exa / Exakta, Trioplan 2.8 / 100 Q1 Alu, Meyer-optik Goerlitz, 15-blades  ☆☆☆☆Vintage Soligor 85mm F1.8 M42 T Mount Lens 3819521 - Fits DigitalMint Kern Paillard Macro-yvar 150mm F/3.3 C-mount H8 Rx Bolex No Reserve ListingAntique Vintage Brass Darlot Style Photography Lens Made In FranceMeyer – Optik Gorlitz Orestor 2.8 / 100 Camera Lens Possibly M42 MountZeiss Biotar 5.8cm 58mm F2 Pre War 1938 Uncoated Exakta Cla/tested HoodTamron Sp 500mm F8 Tele Macro Bbar Mc 55b Mirror Lens Adaptall 2 MountPetzval Brass Lens “no Name” Magic Lantern 10 Inch Focal LengthBm Icarex, Dynarex 3.4 / 90, Carl Zeiss Ikarex 3,4 Voigtlaender Voigtlander ☆☆☆☆Zeiss Pancolar 1,4/55mm Pentax M42Vintage P Angenieux Paris F. 90 Mm 1: 1.8 Type P1 For Exacta Camera Lens 421833Vintage Olympus Om System G. Zuiko Auto-s F1.4 50mm 1.4/50 Japan Lens 503Minolta M Rokkor 2/40mm For Leica M Zeiss Ultron 1,8/50mmm Pentax M42Vtg~carl Zeiss Sonnar Hft 135mm F/2.8 Rollei Lens W/carrying Case & Lens Caps~Tokyo Kogaku R.e. Auto - Topcor 1:1.4 F=5.8cm Topcon Lens 58mm F/1.4 & HoodCarl Zeiss Jena Ddr Mc Flektogon 2,4 / 35 Camera Lens Possibly M42 MountMeyer – Optik Gorlitz Orestor 2.8 / 135 Camera Lens Possibly M42 MountKinoptik Super Apochromat 2,8/75mm For Leica R Kodak Cine Camera Ektar Lens 63mm F2 In Leather CaseApollo C Mount High Speed Lens 25mm F/0.85 Beautiful Wow This Is Really Fast!!!Carl Zeiss Jena Ddr Flektogon 35mm Lens With 42mm Screw MountVintage Lens Heinz Kilfitt Munchen Marko Kliar D 1:2.8/4cm Nr.245-6743 As IsMeyer Gorlitz Primotar/exaktar Jhagee Anast. 5.4cm Pre War 1938 Uncoated ExaktaKodak Aero-ektar 7” 178mm F:2.5 Lens With Filters And 6”x6” Mounting BoardVintage Graflex Xl Carl Zeiss Sonnar 4.8 180 Mm Lens Good ConditionCarl Zeiss Jena Biometar 2.8/80 For Pentacon Six,zebra-cla-tested.Nikon Nikkor - 28mm 1:2 451719 ~ Vintage Camera Lens With Leather Case & CoversAsahi Smc Pentax 135mm F/2.5 K Mount Telephoto Lens With Case & HoodAsahi Opt Co Super-takumar 1: 1.4 / 50 Camera Lens Possibly M42 Mount With ExtraVintage Graflex Grandagon 58 Mm 5.6 Lens Rodenstock Clean ConditionVivitar Wide Angle 20mm F3.8 Lens Very Good Condition Praktica Lb 35mm Camera With Carl Zeiss Jena Ddr Flektogon Lens 2.8 / 35 + CaseVintage Smc Pentax-a 50 Mm F 1.4 P/k Mount Fast Prime Lens Manual FocusClean M42 Isco Gottingen Westromat 50mm F1,9 Full Metal Body- Vintage LensZeiss Tessar 5cm 50mm F2.8 Pre War 1937 Uncoated Exakta Cla/tested Nikon Nikkor-q 200mm F/4 Non Ai Nikon Lens,mint16 1/2" F8 A & N Auxiliary C S Ltd '12 X 10' Brass Rapid Rectilinear LensVivitar 24mm 1:2 Auto Wide-angle LensTaylor-hobson Rank Taylor-hobson Arriflex Cooke Kinetal 150mm Serial No. 602593Tamron Sp 70-210mm F3.5 Cf Macro Bbar Mc Zoom Lens Adaptall 2 MountVintage Nikon Nikkor 50mm 1:1.2 Ai-s Very Fast Functional Clean Glass LensCanon Vintage Thread Mount 85mm F1.8 Rangefinder Lens Viewfinder & Case BundleJ. H. Dallmeyer London 2” F2.9 (50mm) Triple Anastigmat Lens In C MountLeica-m 90mm F2.8 Chrome Elmarit M2 M3 M4 M5 M6 LensExakta Mount Fast Steinheil Auto-quinon 1:1.9 F=55mm Lens W/capCarl Zeiss Jena Ddr Pancolar Electric 1.8 / 50 Mc Camera Lens Possibly M42 MountAsahi Pentax Super-takumar 35mm F/3.5 M42 Screw-mount Wide-angle LensApollo C Mount Mc Multicoated Tv Fisheye 5.5mm F/1.8 Beautiful Summicron C F/2 40mm For Leica M And Leica Cl *cla@steve's Camera* Free ShippingSwitar Zoom Lens 12.5-100 Macro F2 BolexVintage P. Angenieux Paris F90 1:2.5 Type Y1 #194576 LensSteinheil Munchen Auto D Quinaron F2.8 35mm Lens Exakta MountKern 25mm 1.4 Switar Lens Ar C Mount Vintage Lens W/ Nex Adapter #205119Meyer Optik Gorlitz Primotar 50mm F3.5 Lens- M42 Fit - Can Be Used On DslrCarl Zeiss Jena Ddr 135mm Lens With 42mm Screw MountSchneider Kreuznach Lens, Tele-arton 90mm F4 Camera Lens For Kodak RetinaCine-kodak Special Ii 16mm Movie Camera Outfit With 6 Lenses/case/manual/mags