I recently received this lens as a gift. It was attached to an old, russian Leica screwmount copy. It's in pretty much perfect condition; I say it's never really been used. Looking around online, I couldn't find out much about it other than it's quite rare and only ever came with a British Reid camera. Does anyone have and info on it?
It is the 50mm F2.0 lens designed for the Reid 35mm Cameras made by Reid Sigrist of Leicester in the late 1940's, and marketed by the lens maker Taylor, Taylor and Hobson as an accessory standard lens for general use on Leica cameras after the demise of the Reid camera.
The Reid production only started well after the war, when the wartime requirement for a British made "Leica" had faded. The Government had requisitioned all available cameras, and even purchased Leicas in the war, via Sweden. So Reid turned to selling the cameras to the public, but in the meantime had problems with the production due to material restrictions due to the war. The Reid was essentially an Imperial dimensioned direct copy of the Leica, which was made to Metric Standards. Most threads in it were British Association, BA series.
When in the early 1950's they started to sell the camera they were simply far too expensive, and failed to sell. Some hundreds were stored as body only for military and government uses.
The owners of TTH, Rank Photographic, part of the J.Arthur Rank group, had made several thousand of the standard lenses, and Reid would not take them as they had no further requirement.
The Lenses were offered to Photopia and Wallace Heaton, as batches to sell off, and were advertised in the Amateur Photographer magazine and other journals.
From memory I think they were less than £20, maybe 18Guineas per lens, and they got snapped up. Several batches were sold, but Rank held on to many and they disappeared over the years, maybe scrapped by Rank as surplus.
Now the good news, it is the finest 50mm F2 lens ever made, and in good condition is able to beat the Leica original on sharpness and contrast. It does depend on no fungus, and no scratches at all on the glass or nickel plate to have retained a commanding commercial value.
Nobody is certain how many were sold off, TTH still exist as Cooke Lenses and have records of the numbers made. They are restorable if marked lightly on the glass, and can be re-coated.
If the lens has been used on a a Russian clone Leica, then the back ring may have been adjusted to match the USSR designed cam. So if transferred back to a Leica or a Reid, the focusing must be checked very carefully to get the best from the lens. It is not simply a matter of adjusting the rangefinder, as this would put out other lenses.
I have a body only Reid, and an F2 that came direct from Rank. Some of the above details came from the Army Officer who requisitioned all the cameras at the start of the war, and another friend who was the coordinator in the War Ministry who commissioned the Reid to be made.
I also knew the Rep for Rank, and Bell and Howell, who did the arrangements to sell the lenses off. Bell and Howell looked into using them on a follow up to the BH Foton, which had used TTH lenses, but BH dropped the plans.
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It was a bit more costly than I thought, and Youngs were the last sellers of the batches disposed of by Rank TTH. There exists another non collapsible version of the TTH, intended for the B&H Foton, and again sold off by TTH. The Glass elements are the same, but a poorer finished body. Stephen
Wow, thanks everyone for the information; esp Stephen for that essay! I'm actually very familiar with high-end Cooke lenses as we use them all the time in the film industry ( I'm a focus-puller/ Camera-op). I'm almost afraid to use it now! Would I seriously devalue it if I put some hours on it? I has no occlusions/scratches ect.
For anyone who's interested, here are some bad (cheapo phone) photos of my precious.
That's a rather strange reference from the Blue Book, as the 2inch TTH was always F2,0. There were a couple of other standard lenses, a Cooke F2 modified from the Foton lenses, and a TTH Cooke & Perkins engraved 2inch F2.0 lens from the National Optical Company, who were run by TTH. Maybe Cooke did another lens just for Wallace Heaton, anything to increase the sales. As the 1950 wore on, the sales did rise, but nowhere like the original Leica.
Using the lens will cause no problems, just due respect for it's heritage! Store dead dry, and sealed in box, not leather case. Normally they are razor sharp, but if you test on the USSR camera body,(presume a Zorki?) bear in mind the rangefinder may be a bit unadjusted.
However in good order a USSR body should work fine. Trust the engraved focusing scale rather than the cameras rangefinder, unless you feel it is giving good results. The cam on the back of the lens closely matches Leica rangefinder movements and roller cam. The Russian one appears identical, but has slightly different geometry and a cam without a roller.
I wonder if the F2.5 was a miss print, as I can't find mention of it anywhere on the net. There is however a lot of miss information on the net about the Reid and it's history, outside of the excellent articles in the L39SM site.
The Reid was superior to the Leica, it was designed to be from the start, and infringed no patents as the Germans held none due to the war regulations. It was designed before the visits to Leica after the war, but revised in details gathered in Wetzlar, like the mystery to TTH of how the focus was so smooth on the Leica, down to matching parts carefully. TTH invented a zero tolerance mount to give the same performance.
The Reid was developed on a wartime contract with no cost limitations, it had to be scaled back for the actual post war production.
The TTH 2inch F2.0 lens was TTH's own design, not Leica's or Schneider, or shared with them by patents. The coating was also TTH sourced.
Over all the effort to gather Leicas cameras for the military and the RAF floundered due to being able to buy them in the war, from the States before their entry to the war, Portugal, and Sweden, where Leica had agents throughout the war. The Reid Project was slowed up as the Ministry realised the lack of demand, but left it active just in case they were needed.
Reid made many other optical items than the camera during the war, along with bomb sights and navigation equipment. They felt it would be a waste to not produce for sale, so pressed ahead themselves, but had to shelf it for 4 years due to bans on using certain materials on non-export items imposed by the post war Government.
By 1950 Leica had regained some patents, and Reid felt the camera would not sell in "Leica markets", but could be sold in the UK, Canada, and Australia. However the killer was the cost, they did not have the skill to convince the market that the cameras was better than the Leica. The Government turned out to be the main customer in the end, for Military uses and the Police.
Professional photographers preferred the Leica due to cost, there were lots of Leicas secondhand after the war and in the 1950's, undercutting the market Reid aimed for.
Post by paulhofseth on Jan 13, 2016 3:38:26 GMT -5
I do not doubt the info on the f:2 version and am impressed by the detailed info given here.
I do , however, have the "Blue Book" in my photo history bookshelves, so f:2,5 is not an internet rumour, but an observation that calls for a second look at sources.
It may indeed be a misprint on page 37 in the july 1954 version though. The ad also qoutes an AP test but does not state which issue. The camera illustration in the catalogue is too small to be able to judge whether the lens is the f:2 version and not a stopped down, cheaper 2,5.
Some archival info from TTH\Cooke\Rank might perhaps be available, if they did not suffer the same fate the Kern factory did.
If one looks at the comprehensive advertisements in the pre-war "British Journal Photography Almanac" one finds that Cooke optics is offered for larger formats and cine use, but not in 35mm LTM mounts - which supports the info on the LTM being part of the war effort.
Post by paulhofseth on Jan 13, 2016 3:46:55 GMT -5
Correction: Sloppy printing and sloppy reading.
On re-reading the july catalogue entry now, I see that they write"Taylor-Hobson-Cook f/2.5 cm. anastigmat, coated...." missing e in Cooke and no space between f/2 and 5. Their intention is surely to write f/2 5cm...
Whatever the history this lens is a treasure and is much sought after by collectors.
.....Usually by buyers of the ex military versions, as these were stored by the Ministry as body only, sealed in vapour paper parcels, tied with string, and sealed with sealing wax, with a stores record.(mine is such).
In the 1970's several batches in crates were auctioned off as government surplus, ( maybe about 60 cameras), and by that time the TTH lenses had long been sold off. Most were sold on in the London photographic trade at a premium price with a Leica lens.
Fortunately one box full got to a London shop who did not really understand the Reid, and sold on the bodies at a small profit. A couple of days later they found out the true value and sold the rest at auction!.. for a very large profit.