Congo Lenses : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

The Congo line of lenses (mentioned on the homepage under distibutors)look to be very resonably priced. Can I hear of people's experiences with this line.

-- sheldon hambrick (, January 22, 1998


I have an older lens made by Yamazaki Optical Company, the manufacturer of Congo lenses and have been very happy with it. I have a 180mm f/6.3 in a Seiko SLV shutter.This lens is now an F/6.8 in a Copal 0 shutter. It's approximately 20 years old and I've used it on 6x9, 4x5 and 5x7. All of the Congo Lenses are Tessar formulas, which are still quite good. They lack the covering power of a Nikkor-w or Symmar-s. Myself, I have been looking at the 400mm telephoto lens for 5x7. I would prefer the 500mm, optimized for 4x5, but it's image circle appears to leave no room for movements. If you buy a Congo, I'd like to hear from you.

-- Ted Brownlee (, January 22, 1998.

Check out the Congo lenses at They have a lot of info at this site about all their lenses. They also have 6 element type lenses as well. They are good values. I know of one person using the 6 element 150mm on 4x5, and his chromes look very good.

-- Ron Shaw (, February 25, 1998.

Anything to add in the 3 1/2 years since this thread was last active? I'm looking at the 90/6.3 and 120/6.3 as particularly attractive for a lightweight 6x9 outfit (Horseman VH). Using the center of these Tessars' image circles promises good results. Any first-hand experience? Any comments on how good the multicoatings are? Thanks in advance.

-- Sal Santamaura (, October 19, 2001.

Ted, I bought a used 500T not long ago and sold it just as fast. Sharpness and coating were all right, but it produced dark corners. Maybe the lenses with more coverage are better. If you are looking for a good tele right now, have a look at my Fujinon T600 on Ebay! A good deal, ends tomorrow.

-- Paul Schilliger (, October 19, 2001.


I have one of the little 90mm f6.3 Wide Angle Conogs that I use as a wide angle on 4x5 when backpacking. Coverage is tight, so I really have to watch for vignetting (easy enough by checking the corners of the ground glass). It's not the greatest lens I've ever used, but it's quite decent within its limited coverage. I bought mine from Badger Graphic when the exchange rate was a lot more favorable. I paid $275 at that time. Due to fluctuations in the exchange rate, Badger's price eventually went up to $425. At which point, they are no longer a very good value. Also, I tested five of the WA Congos (three 90s and two 120s) and only found one that performed well all the way to the corners. The quality of these Congo lenses seems to vary considerably from sample to sample. Something to keep in mind when buying one. Badger no longer carries the Congo lenses, but I believe Christoph Greiner does.

For a little more on this lens. Check out my lightweight lens recommendations (for 4x5) at:

WRT to the coatings... They are probably not state of the art, but on such small lenses of simple design, they do a fine job. BTW, the 90mm and 120mm Congos are not tessars, they are wide field gauss designs similar to the old Kodak WF Ektars (4 elements in 4 groups).

All-in-all, I'm quite pleased with my little 90mm WA Congo - given what I paid for it, and the small size and weight (and that I was allowed to cherry pick the best of the ones I tested). As long as I watch the coverage, it is quite sharp and contrasty and produces transparencies that look every bit as good as those from my larger more expensive lenses. I've made some of my favorite images over the last couple years with this little lens. It's so small and light, it goes everywhere with me. The Congo lenses can be great values - especially if you buy from a source that will allow you to test the lens before committing to a purchase.

That said, if I was looking for a 90mm for use on a 6x9 Horseman, I think I'd look for a 90mm f5.6 Horseman Super ER. It won't have as much coverage as the Congo. Not really enough for 4x5, but way more than enough for 6x9. The Super ER series was the last of the 6x9 lenses Horseman made, and the only ones to be multicoated. I can't remember off the top of my head, but the 90mm is either a planar or plasmat. In any case, it, along with the 75mm, is considered one of the top performers in the Horseman lens line-up. Plus, it will come already mounted in a board for your Horseman. They also made a 120mm f5.6 Super ER. The Super ER series are harder to find than the plain Super and Professional Horseman lenses. They are labeled in white paint around the outside of the front barrel (the older single coated ones are engraved around the retaining ring that holds the front lens in the barrel).

As far as tessars go, a 90mm would barely cover 6x9 and not really leave any room for movements. If you want a tessar, you should look for a 105mm. Again, Horseman made a 105mm Super ER that is multicoated, but you might also want to watch for a 105mm f3.5 Nikkor M. It is a tiny little lens of tessar design and multicoated. They aren't available new any more, but I do see them occasionally for sale used. Prices in the $250 - $350 range depending on condition (and seller optimism).

Finally... Paul, WRT to the dark corners with your 500mm Tele Congo, am I correct in assuming you are referring to using this lens on 4x5? If you were getting dark corners on 6x9, something was definitely wrong with the lens. On 4x5, the lens has an image circle of 160mm, which barely covers 4x5. If you used any movements at all, or the lens was mounted slightly off center, you wouuld get vignetting. I did, at one time own one of the 400mm Tele Congos. It has an image circle of 200mm, which makes it more usable on 4x5. The sample I had was an OK, but unspectacular performer. Not in the same league as the Nikkor or Fuji teles, but about 1/4 the price. Again, a good value for the money.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, October 21, 2001.

Kerry, you are right, the 500 is too tight for 4x5. Mine was all right for a square image of 9x9 or for 6x12. But on 4x5 the drop off was of a full stop, even closed at f22, which proved unbearable on Velvia. But would have perhaps been less visible on Astia. Otherwise, the lens had acceptable sharpness and good contrast for a tele. Not too far from the Nikkor 500. If Yamasaki would redesign a version with a slightly larger image circle, but without having to use a Copal #3, this could be a good buy. I sold it to someone who uses it on a 6x9 camera and he seems quite happy.

-- Paul Schilliger (, October 22, 2001.

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