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    

Antique #6 Brass Portrait Orthoscope Petzval Lens Mccollin & Co PhiladelphiaMeyer Optik Gorlitz 100mm F2.8 Trioplan In Exakta MountKern Macro Switar 50mm F1.4 Vintage C Mount Movie Lens Bolex 16mm CameraVintage Air Ministry Pentac Dallmeyer F/2.9 F8" Aerial Camera Lens With MountKern Macro Switar 26mm F1.1 Vintage C Mount Movie Lens Bolex 16mm CameraHugo Meyer 100mm F2.8 Trioplan Vintage German C Mount Lens Bolex 16mm CameraAngenieux 25mm F0.95 Vintage French C Mount Movie Lens Bolex Filmo 16mm Camera*rare* Angenieux Retrofocus Type R11 F/3.5 28mm Prime Lens Exakta Mt.wide AngleTaylor Hobson Cooke Series Ii 8.2 Inch F4.5 5x7 Hd Taylor's Patent Lens, NiceHermagis Brass Petzval Lens Paris France Apl No.5 Serial No. 26,613Angenieux 20-80mm F2.5 Zoom Vintage French C Mount Movie Lens Bolex 16mm CameraKern Macro Yvar 150mm F3.3 Vintage C Mount Movie Lens Bolex 16mm Camera375* Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35/2.4 Lens*red Mc*m42 Taylor Hobson Cooke Ivotal 2" F1.4 Vintage C Mount Lens Bolex 16mm Camera Dallmeyer Pentac F2.9 8 Pentac 8" Large Format Taylor Hobson Cooke Ivotal 1" F1.4 Vintage C Mount Lens Bolex 16mm CameraAngenieux 25mm F1.4 Vintage French C Mount Movie Lens Bolex Filmo 16mm CameraContax/yashica Carl Zeiss Distagon 2.8/28mm Wide Angle Lens Condition: Mint-Vintage Antique Brass Suter Basel Stella Camera Lens No. 44656 F=36 C/m F:5Summilux 1.4/35mm For Leica M Hugo Meyer 1" F1.5 Kino Plasmat Vintage German C Mount Lens Bolex 16mm Camera90mm Angenieux Lens In A Rectaflex MountMassive Brass Lens: Cp Goerz Berlin Doppel Anastigmat Series Iii # 8 480mm. Kern Yvar 75mm F2.8 Vintage C Mount Movie Lens Bolex 16mm CameraTaylor Hobson Cooke Kinic 1" F1.5 Vintage Black C Mount Lens Bolex 16mm CameraCanon New Fd 85mm F/1.2 L LensKodak Ektar 1.9 In (47mm) F2 Coated Yellow And Brown Dot High Quality Lens CellCanon Rangefinder Lens, 50mm / F1.8 Leica Screw Mount (ltm).Leica 50mm F1.1 Noctilux-m E60 (no.3956715, With Built-in Lens Hood + Makers CapVintage Russian Lens Helios-40 M39 Slr ! Carl Zeiss Biotar ! Full Set # 623438Dallmeyer 3" F3.5 Vintage English C Mount Movie Lens Bolex Filmo 16mm CameraContax/yashica Carl Zeiss Sonnar 2.8/135 Lens Mint- Condition031* Yashica Auto Yashinon-ds 50/1.4 Lens*m42Bausch & Lomb Brass Petzval Lens Magic LanternVery Rare Antique Voigtlander & Sohn Braunschweig Euryscop Iv No. 5 Brass Lens Nipon Kogaku Nikkor-d 40mm F/4 Lens For Graflex Xl Medium Format CameraTaylor-hobson Rank Taylor-hobson Arriflex Kinetal 100mm Serial No. 602690Contax Zeiss Distagon 2,8/35mm Lens For Contax Yashica MmContax Zeiss Sonnar 85 Mm F/2.8 Lens For Contax Yashica MmZeiss Biotar 1,5/7,5cm Red T For Exakta #2759604Kinoptik Apo 2/35mm #4702 For Leica Screw 39 M42, Orestor 2.8 / 135 + Case, Near Mint, Meyer-optik Goerlitz 2,8 Pentacon ☆☆☆☆362* Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar Alu Preset 58/2 Lens*m42C-mount, Canon  v6x17 tv Zoom Lens 2 / 17 - 102, Bolex, Micro 4/3, Sony Nex ☆☆☆Taylor-hobson Rank Taylor-hobson Arriflex Cooke Kinetal 150mm Serial No. 602620Elmarit M 2,8/28mm For Leica M Dallmeyer 8 Inch F2.9 Pentac Lens With Iris Diaphragm & Military MarkingRare Carl Zeiss Jena 2.8/29mm Mc Wide-angle Lens - A/m Switch - M42 Fit - MintAngenieux 10mm F1.8 Vintage French C Mount Movie Lens Bolex Filmo 16mm CameraVintage Hugo Meyer F2.9 1.5" Trioplan T-1651 Cine Movie Camera Lens W/ Hood 423 Exa / Exakta, Tessar 2.8 / 50 Q1 Carl Zeiss Jena + Meyer Lens Domiplan 2,8  ☆☆☆Antique Dallmeyer Early Rapid Rectilinear Brass Lens First Sold 1870.Taylor Hobson Cooke Kinic 1" F1.5 Vintage Silver C Mount Lens Bolex 16mm CameraRoss London 1" F1.9 Vintage English C Mount Movie Lens Bolex Filmo 16mm CameraP. Angenieux Paris 35mm F/2.5 Retrofocus Type R1 Lens Exakta MountTaylor Hobson Cooke Cinema 2/47mm Excellent Vintage Fuji Fujinon 55mm F1.6 Slr Fast Prime Lens M42 Japan DslrSummicron R 2/90mm E55 For Leica RTaylor Hobson Cooke Filmo 1" F1.8 Vintage English C Mount Lens Bolex 16mm CameraDallmeyer 4" F4 Vintage English C Mount Movie Lens Bolex Filmo 16mm Camera