Early Wray lenses

Paul Kay

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Wray were another of those British lens manufacturers who started making photographic lenses somewhere around the 1880s - maybe - the exact date isvague. I own several Wray camera lenses; all are barrel lenses in brass, and all share the same mounting thread which is also used by some Taylor Hobson lenses so I think it is one of the RPS 'standard' threads. This is handy because it means that I have been able to make an adapter to mount them all in front of a Copal 3 shutter.
Three are Rapid Rectilinear lenses for 5" x 4" of around 6" focal length. One uses Waterhouse Stops, one uses a lever iris diaphragm and one uses a rotating aperture controlled diaphragm. All take the same sized cap - though I only have one for all three. I'll try to post images at some point, however the most interesting of these is the rotating aperture lens because it is an extremely early lens (s/n 1XX) and has clearly had the rotating aperture control retro-fitted because part of the engraving (London) has been truncated and almost cut in half when the control was fitted. By the look of it, this was probably carried out by Wray as it is a very good match in appearance with other parts of these lenses. I'm fascinated to think that it was possible to have such major surgery carried out to what was a 'standard' lens and it shows how much such items were valued. Wray built some wide-angles during the same period (WAL - Wide-Angle Landscape, and WAR - Wide-Angle Rectilinear) which I'm looking for in the same thread mount to 'complete' the 'system'! Any further information or comments would be welcomed.
 
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Ian Grant

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My own Wray 8x5 f8 Rapid Rectilinear lens is approx 11.5"-12" focal length.



Fitted to my Houghton Duchess half plate camera. I may change the shutter to one with a speed dial, the camera came with no lens or lens board I already had the lens and boxes of TP shutters :D The camera now has a makers plate.

The lens that came with my quarter plate Houghton Victo is an unmarked 6" f8 Rapid Rectilinear. I think that while some 6" RR lenses will cover 5x4 that's with no room for movements.

My Whole Plate RR lenses are around 14" FL, Half Plate 10"-12" FL, and I thought 5x4 RR lenses were typically around the 8" mark, but there's some variation between manufacturers.

Ian
 

Paul Kay

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I think that Wray made these smaller ~6" lenses which were not intended to be used with any movements so they covered 5"x4" and no more. Since I have an apprpriate tailboard camera this isn't much of a problem. Wray were keen on aperture diaphragms which, whilst not new, saw increasing use in the 1890s due to better availability, so I'm assuming that Wray would convert lenses already sold from waterhouse stops or circular wheel stops to aperture diaphragms if requested and paid to do so. There's plenty of statements about the replacement of stops with other solutions but in the lens that I have its glaringly obvious that it has been converted.
 

Ian Grant

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I think it's more a case of camera manufacturers and retailers deciding to use longer FL RR lenses on cameras with more rise and fall, tilt etc.

I have a whole plate Butcher camera restored except for new bellows and that has it's original 14" RR lens almost certainly an unbraded Beck.

Somewhere I have something about a manufacturer retro fitting iris diaphrams, there are adverts were a lens range is offered with the choice of Waterhouse sttops or Daiphram.

Ian
 

Paul Kay

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Some more info. My minimal researching suggests that Wray initially produced to order because as with some other makers, each early lens seems to have been different to many others. I still can't find out precisely when Wray started building photographic lenses; there are varying estimates from the 1870s to late 1880s. The RPS Photographic Journal (https://archive.rps.org) has two relevant entries though. The first refers to an exhibition at 5A Pall Mall East in London in October 1886 at which "apparatus on the table" included lenses by W Wray. The second from January 1888 has a reference to someone stating that he was using a Wray Wide-angle 6x7 (inches I assume and referring to wide open coverage?) to cover 10" x 8" stopped down and another to cover 10" x 12". So the latest date from which Wray had started making photographic lenses would presumably be 1886, although it could still be earlier.

Wray seem to have been instrumental in promoting aperture diaphragms by all accounts except oddly, many of their early lenses are built for Waterhouse Stops or use wheel apertures. I do wonder if photographic lenses were made sporadically from somewhere in the 1880s until they finally became a profitable arm of the business and were then produced in much larger numbers?
 
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