Cooke Portrait 229mm. f/4.5 lens no. PS945-0001

Lot 207 / Sale 9434
cooke portrait 229mm. f/4.5 lens no. ps945-0001

Price Realized £4,113
($6,374)
Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and do not reflect costs, financing fees or application of buyer’s or seller’s credits.

Estimate
  • £2,500 - £3,000
  • ($3,875 - $4,650)

Sale Information Sale 9434
CAMERAS AND PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT
16 July 2002
London, South Kensington

Lot Description Cooke Portrait 229mm. f/4.5 lens no. PS945-0001
Cooke Optics Ltd., Leicester; with front and back caps engraved Cooke set into a Copal No. 3 shutter and contextual CD-Rom, in a fitted mahogany box, the lid with gilt transfer Cooke; technical paper showing the lens and signed by the optical designers, mechanical designer, assembler and quality checker, the reverse certifying the lens signed by Dave Stevens, Managing Director, Cooke Optics Limited

Pre-Lot Text The first production Cooke Portrait lens

Literature Internet: www.cookeoptics.comBarbara Lowry, 'English-made Cooke Lenses: Still in the Picture', in View Camera Magazine, May/June 2002.

Lot Notes The Cooke PS945 lens is a modern reproduction of the Pinkham & Smith Visual Quality Series IV lens. Flambiau in a 1920 Pinkham & Smith lens catalogue describes the characteristics of the Visual Quality IV as follows: 'It will render a landscape beautifully and truthfully. It is invaluable for portraiture, figure studies, etc., where likeness and character rendering are desirable; at the same time, it produces such softness, roundness and modeling, with other excellent qualities that, even where one does not know the sitter, the results will charm as a work of art, the same as some old portrait masterpiece. With this lens in competent hands, there is no obtrusive detail, abruptness or unnaturalness seen in the work done with it, either in landscape or in the studio.'

Pinkham & Smith, Boston, Massachusetts
Pinkham & Smith, Opticians, were formed by William Fitz Pinkham and Henry S. Smith, June 25, 1896. Their store was located on Boylston Street, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Pinkham, an optician, was responsible for the general management and control of the books, sale of goods and hiring. Smith was responsible for manufacturing. The photographer Fred Holland Day commissioned the first Pinkham & Smith photographic lens. The company called it the 'Semi-Achromat', but photographers who used it and loved it called it the 'Smith' lens because it was made and hand-figured by Henry Smith. Later Pinkham & Smith lens catalogues circa 1930 to 1940 actually refer to the lens as the 'Smith' lens. Day, his cousin, a founder of the Pictorial Photographers of America, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Clarence White and others, used Pinkham & Smith lenses 'practically to the exclusion of other lenses.' Alvin Langdon Coburn owned about a dozen of them, now in a collection at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.

The original Series I Semi-Achromat, the 'Smith' lens, commissioned by Fred Holland Day in 1897, was never sold on a large scale, since the company never made an attempt to market them. The company believed that only 'a very small proportion of photographers are artists'. Therefore, to use a soft-focus lens and get truly pleasing results, 'the user must have a more artistic eye than the majority of people who take pictures possess', including themselves.

Cooke Optics Limited
This is the first Cooke lens made for 4 x 5 inch large format photography for fifty years and was shown for the first time at the Large Format Photography Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in June 2002.

Cooke, formerly a division of Taylor-Hobson, became a stand-alone company in 1998 as Cooke Optics Limited. The new company moved to a purpose-built facility a mere three miles from where Cooke lenses for large format photography were designed and virtually handcrafted from 1894 to the 1950s in Leicester.

In the 1960s, the company changed direction and devoted the second half of the twentieth century to developing television and motion picture film lenses. The idea to explore and then re-enter the large format lens market was prompted by the discovery of one hundred years of Cooke lens-related historic material that was uncovered in the move. Since Cooke Optics is uniquely qualified to offer specialist lenses with unique characteristics, the company decided to concentrate on the resurgence of soft-focus/pictorial photography and decided to give photographers a modern reproduction of a coveted but rare lens.

The new Cooke PS945 soft-focus lens for pictorial photography is a modern reproduction of the sixty-year old Pinkham & Smith Visual Quality Series IV lens. It is a 9 inch, 229mm, f/4.5 soft-focus lens for 4 x 5 inch format cameras that offers a quality of diffusion that is midway between the softness of the original P&S Semi-Achromat and a modern sharp lens.

This is the first lens of the new production run.

Christie's would like to thank Barbara Lowry for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.

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