Taylor-Hobson-Cooke lenses

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I have an oportunity to buy a Taylor Hobson Cooke 270mm F3.5 soft focus lens. It is quite expensive as it is attached to a 8X10 view camera which is less interesting to me. Does anyone know anything about this lens? Thanks, Frank

-- frank Ward (frank@culturalvisions.com), June 09, 2000


A cursory search of the web tells me that this company was in business in the early part of the century making portrait lenses. Later they made cine lenses, and there is still a Cooke company that makes lenses for professional movie cameras. I seem to recall Ansel talking about Cooke triple-convertible lenses too, but I don't have my books here at work to check the reference. I suspect the camera is worth more than the lens, but maybe you could sell the camera.

Personally, I prefer to keep my negatives sharp and add softness when I print. Printing through a piece of onion-skin paper (tracing paper) for part of the exposure will do the trick very nicely.

-- Ed Buffaloe (edbuffaloe@unblinkingeye.com), June 09, 2000.

Taylor Hobson Cooke made these softies through the 1930's at least. The one you mention could be a Series IIA sometimes called the "knuckles" lens because the diffusing ring has two finger rings looking like brass knuckles. It covers 5 x 7. Soft focus images, although difficult to create, can be quite unusual if not stunning. By itself, the lens (in top shape) could bring as high as $300.

-- C. W. Dean (cwdean@erols.com), June 09, 2000.

The "Cooke" name was given by Taylor, Taylor & Hobson to their range of triplet design lenses. It seemed to cover everything from simple 3 element designs, through to 4 element Apo process lenses. It's always puzzled me where the name came from, as the designer of the original triplet lens wasn't called Cooke at all! TT-H made high quality lenses for the Television industry as well as professional Cine lenses, at their factory in Leicester, England, until quite recently.

My first experience with Cooke lenses was 30 odd years ago, when I bought an old Thornton-Pickard quarter plate camera fitted with a 6 inch TT-H Cooke anastigmat. I was hoping for fuzzy, vignetted "olde worlde" type pictures from it, and was bitterly disappointed when they turned out pin-sharp from corner to corner.

If memory serves me rightly, with the soft-focus version the soft focus effect was obtained by varying the separation of a pair of elements in the lens, giving varying degrees of Sperical and Chromatic abberation.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), June 12, 2000.

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