Treasured camera lenses sell for 18x their estimate at Market Harborough auction

The four lenses were made in the 1950s

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 1:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 1:32 pm
The lenses.

Highly-treasured camera lenses made by a world-renowned Leicester manufacturer have made over 18 times their estimated price at a showstopping auction in Market Harborough.

The lenses went under the hammer for a stunning £5,500 against an estimate of £200-£300 after a fierce bidding war erupted at the Antiques & Collectors’ sale at Gildings Auctioneers.

The four high-quality lenses, dating back to the 1950s, were made by Taylor Hobson, a lens-making company founded by William Taylor in Slate Street, Leicester, in 1886.

The firm achieved international acclaim for inventing the cutting edge ‘Aviar’ lens used for taking vital air reconnaissance pictures during the First World War when the technology was in its infancy.

The brilliant photographs taken by brave air crews proved a key factor in giving the Allied air forces the edge over their German enemy on the Western Front.

By 1939, when the Second World War broke out, the company was manufacturing 80 per cent of lenses used worldwide in the film industry.

Taylor Hobson went on to specialise in precision meteorology equipment – and is continuing to do so to this day as part of the American company Ametek.

“This lot was comprised of four Taylor & Hobson lenses.

“They included an Ortal 3-inch f/2 T2.3 lens with hood, a Plumbital 8-inch f/4 T4.5 TV lens, a Cooke deep field Panchro 100mm f/2.5 T2.8 and a Cooke Telephanchro 8-inch 203mm f/4 T4.5, with hard carry case, eyepiece and parts,” said Gildings’ toys and memorabilia specialist Andrew Smith.

“All four lenses would have been an expensive investment back in the 1950s.

“That’s when they were bought by a professional photographer couple who specialised in industrial photography.

“However, the extremely high price bidders were willing to go to is testament to the high regard Taylor Hobson is held in by connoisseurs of vintage camera equipment.

“That’s particularly so as the lenses are likely to need to be restored to be useable in the digital age.”

In addition to the need for restoration, the phenomenal hammer price achieved came despite some light wear and tear around the edges and corners and some mould on all four lenses.

“This auction contained a wide selection of cameras and photography equipment ranging from collections of early 20th century folding cameras to a modern Fuji professional camera outfit, sold by a retired local photographer,” added Andrew.

“Reflecting the current collectables and antiques market in general, cameras and equipment attracted a good level of interest across the board, so now is a good time to sell.”

The sale took place as an online-only auction.

Those with similar collections of photography equipment or scientific instruments interested in selling can arrange a Covid-secure valuation by visiting