Old Voigtlander Heliar 16.5cm f/4.5, A Good Lens?

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I recently purchased a Busch Pressman Model D at a premium price ($437) and it came, as a second lens in the box, with the old uncoated Voigtlander mounted on an ancient Compur shutter (max speed 1/200).

I'm wondering if it's any good, can't find it on the Net anywhere. (Keep seeing about the new 15cm model.)




-- Tarn Tantikij (tarnt@vaja.com), March 11, 2002


In principle Heliars are better than ok. A couple of Voigtlaender folding cameras, fitted with Heliars, are long out of production but still command high prices. Kodak used the Heliar formula in a couple of very fine lenses, e.g., 105/3.7 Ektar, 50/4.5 and 75/4.5 Enlarging Ektars.

But, principle be damned! Your Heliar might be good, but doesn't have to be. Best to shoot with it to find out.



-- Dan Fromm (76266.333@compuserve.com), March 11, 2002.

Thank you, Dan!

And the fact that it's TOTALLY uncoated?

As you can imagine, I'd never seen an uncoated lens before. It frightens me just to consider the fact! :)

Would anybody be knowledgeable enough about this particular lens to appraise its price?




-- Tarn Tantikij (tarnt@vaja.com), March 11, 2002.

If you do things in close, in B&W you may find the heliar has a "look" to it that modern lenses don't duplicate. A smoothness that's seperate from sharpness. Or maybe I'm just a wacko like the folks who have to listen to music amplified through vacuum tubes. I've got a 21cm heliar, and a 15cm heliar that I would choose for certain pictures, and leave alone for others. For landscapes where I'm looking way out there into infinity, I'll pick a modern coated lens. But for old machinery like the pic in the address below, I love the "glow" the heliar adds. They're narrow, so don't expect the 16.5 to cover like a modern 150 does. It will cover 4X5 nicely though. As for the ancient looking shutter, they were made as is all through the 1960's. Still when I shoot with one of these, I put a Nikon fm body in my pocket, and use it for "speed matching" by sound. If I need 1/4 second, I play it on the fm and fiddle with the Compound until it sounds the same. The numbers on the dial are optimistic starting points. Go make some pictures with that Heliar!


-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), March 11, 2002.

Tarn, As to value. On Ebay, figure a buck a mm. more or less. J

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), March 11, 2002.

I'm a fan of Heliars, particularly for portraits. At wider apertures, they can produce a kind of "stereoscopic" effect, where the subject is sharply delineated from the out-of-focus background, and they have a very smooth tonality. Stopped down, they can also be very sharp.

That said, quality can vary in particular examples. I have 24cm/f:4.5 Heliar (uncoated) that is much softer than my 360/4.5 or the 100mm/3.5 Kodak Medalist Ektar, which is a coated Heliar design. Try yours and see what kind of results you get. If it is particularly soft, you might try it with very hard light and N+1 or N+2 development, just as a lens for special effects.

There are also soft-focus Heliars, which have an additional ring that moves the center element to vary the degree of spherical aberration.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), March 11, 2002.

Someone mentioned a while back the use of Heliars by Kodak for enlargement. I have an 18cm (f4.5) uncoated Voigtlander Heliar screw mounted (no flange) into a small (2 1/2") metal board that I'm reasonably convinced was made as a 5x7 enlarging lens. For b&w printing, the lack of coating and relatively narrow angle of coverage should be incidental, and those halo effects might be quite marvelous. I'd be curious to hear if others know more of this usage; also of the use of "flat field" process lenses for enlargement. Thanks.

-- Stephen Longmire (spyglasses@earthlink.net), March 11, 2002.

Thank you Jim and David!

Indeed, I thought about doing b&w and processing my own. I can see why it'll be particularly suited. Your pic: That's a really nice composition, Jim. The tonality is luscious. I can see you coming from vacuum tube audio. It carries on to your photography. And the humor of the message. LOL.

All I have are ancient lenses now. Got myself a Super Graphic also with a 127mm f/4.7 Ektar. This is a military model, the coating looks different and rather minimal, not the usual deep purple. I hope that it's the "hard coat" as supplied to the military. Is this correct?

Thanks to your insight, I've gained some courage to experiment with old lenses. Coming from 35mm and scanning my negs at 4000+ dpi, I'm rather obsessed with lens quality. I can see the difference plain as day, every day.

For the color work, trying to resolve leaves miles away to the edge of the frame, can you recommend the modern coated lenses you talk about that won't send me to the poor house? I find LF pricing nothing short of assault and robbery! For little pices of glass to cost how much!???

I'd like to get a 90mm with the widest aperture possible, just so that I can see! Of course, it'll be stopped down for the actual picture taking. I'd also need a wide coverage as I plan to be doing a lot of movements for architectural work. Am I writing a prescription to tear up my check book? :(


Must I go new or would there be an older, cheaper MC wide lens?

-- Tarn Tantikij (tarnt@vaja.com), March 12, 2002.

Single coated options for a wide lens in that range would be an older 80mm Wide-Field Ektar (I have the 10" version--miles of coverage on 8x10"--you'll want a compendium shade to reduce internal reflections), a Goerz Dagor of around 90mm (Gold Dot versions and some standard versions seem to be coated, and very late ones distributed by Schneider were multicoated in some cases--cost goes up substantially with better coatings, but the uncoated ones are not so bad), and its cousin the Schneider Angulon (some single coated, some later ones multicoated). The next step up from there would be a Super Angulon, which has a wider image circle and is generally regarded as a sharper lens than the Angulon.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), March 12, 2002.

Thanks, David!

The thing with buying old used lenses is you don't know what you're getting until they pass the visual and picture taking inspections.

My Busch Pressman comes with the 127mm f/4.7 Kodak Ektar. The lens, however, is no good. See the later thread above asking about the Schneider Xenar 135mm f/4.7.


-- Tarn Tantikij (tarnt@vaja.com), March 12, 2002.

Tarn, Calumet has the Caltar W's on sale just now. Caltar (pronounced "Rodenstock") I think the 90 f6.8 is either 699 or 649. It's the best you'll do for NEW. There was a gorgeous Caltar W II on Ebay last weekend that finished at 450 something. The W II is pronounced ("Schneider") It was about 1989-91 multi-coated. A fine lens and whoever got it did themselves proud. Jim

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), March 12, 2002.

Jim, thank you!

Slowly I'm buidling my database bit by bit. I've yet to scan my first 4x5. With 35mm I'm very familiar, seeing the negative blown up 14x in digital prints all the time. With so little film and high magnification, the excellence of everything is stretched in the small format!

There is so much negative in 4x5, I trust I'll soon get a sense of it all. It seems there are so many sharpness robbing factors in LF, it's still not clear to me how the lens manufacturers manage to extort so much from the buyers. Are we buying Rolls Royces when we should be buying VWs?

I hope to spend no more than a couple hundred dollars for each piece of my LF equipment. Thanks for your recommendations!


-- Tarn Tantikij (tarnt@vaja.com), March 12, 2002.

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