Note: this was originally published at Medium on Sept 1, 2018. I have since gotten, um, even more soft focus lens, see https://richardman.photo/2021/01/the-mother-of-all-portrait-lens-13-cooke-series-ii/ and https://richardman.photo/2020/04/ps-visual-quality-vs-ps945/
Dennis Taylor patented the first triplet in 1893 for the company “T. Cooke and Sons”. Its design eliminated most of the optical aberrations using just three elements.
The patents eventually went to Taylor Taylor Hobson (no relation to Mr. Dennis Taylor). TTH, or Taylor Hobson Cooke lens, created some of the most beloved images from the 1920s to 1950s through the expert hands of Alfred Stieglitz and other studio photographers.
The Cooke Triplet design lens still produce excellent images. Here are some samples from the 6″ and 7″ Series II lens. The Series II are the fast (for large format lens) F4.5 portrait lens and made close to 100 years ago!
Series II lens were made from about 5″ to 30″ and beyond. However, once it passes 8″ or so, the lens are truly enormous and are most usable on 8×10 or large cameras. Of course, none of them come in modern shutters so using them do take some effort. All 3 of my “old” Cooke lens have customized adapters to use them with a Copal 3 shutter.
As an aside, if you have a chance to see the Magritte exhibit at the SFMoMA before it closes, do it. It’s well worth the time.
Bonus pic! Here’s an image from the Congo 150mm SF lens, which IS a Cooke Triplet design. This lens is impossible to obtain, and it’s fantastic!