Early Leitz enlarging lens VAROB

Leitz VAROB – black and nickel made in 1939.

Toronto. In the fall of 1983 I had a call from Sam Schlifer. Sam wanted to know if I had a spare camera Elmar lens I could swap for an old enlarger lens by Leitz called a VAROB. I did and we made the swap.

When Leitz first made the market with its Leica camera, they used the phrase”small negative, big print”. Within a few years Leitz made and sold a number of enlargers, some fixed focus, some variable.

They even touted using the famous 50mm Elmar camera lens as an enlarger lens once interchangeable lenses were possible (c1930). The big problem was adjusting the diaphragm with the fiddly and tiny front adjustment lever. The solution was the VALAU and later VALOO attachments that showed the f/stops more clearly in the gloom of the darkroom.

The ultimate solution was an Elmar lens made specifically for an enlarger – the VAROB. This lens uses stops that show the number times the exposure must increase for each stop reduction (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10).  A ring around the lens barrel circumference makes the adjustment a snap. Leitz uses a consecutive series of serial numbers for all lenses making it relatively easy to determine date of manufacture. Pre-1933 lenses were not numbered on the lens.

The site L-Camera-Forum on its Leicawiki page shows the VAROB as made from 1931 to 1938. My example extends the dates from 1931-1939. Initially an all nickel on brass lens, the later models like mine were black paint with a brass/nickel aperture ring and click stop. The second world war started the fall of 1939 and must have put an end to the VAROB.

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