View Full Version : Zeiss 4 x 5 lenses

Frank Muscroft
30-Jul-2004, 21:53
I have the opportunity to buy a Zeiss 250 mm - f5.6 Sonnar and a 75 mm f4.5 Zeiss Biogon. Both lenses were supplied as Linhof accessories for their 4 x 5 cameras and both are fitted with Compur shutters. Both lenses are owned by a collector and I believe they are fairly old, but have had little use and are in first rate condition.

I would ask how these lenses are regarded in the LF community and if there are any problems with them that I should look out for.

Thanks in advance,

David A. Goldfarb
30-Jul-2004, 22:17
These are fine lenses. The shutters may need some routine maintenance if they haven't been serviced for many years (figure about $80 for a CLA per shutter), but if the glass is in good shape, it's hard to go wrong.

Ted Harris
31-Jul-2004, 08:19
The 75mm Biogon enjoys 'cult' status among many users and the sale prices reflect this status.

I have never used one and thus can't comment on its performance. I can tell you that Steve Grimes shoed me one he was mounting some 6 years ago and commented that he never did see what the fuss was all about. If the price is right go for it but there are other smaller and lighter 75mm lenses that, IMO will perform as well for you.

Dan Fromm
31-Jul-2004, 09:34
Ted, at that time Steve had a couple of pallets of 75 Biogons he'd bought on the premise that they were the last military surplus ones in existence. Not long after he bought them C&H Sales turned up more that they sold for considerably less than he had hoped to realize from his. This soured him a little on Biogons. When I turned up a heap of surplus 38s, he advised me strongly not to gamble that they could be sold. My only regret about that little speculation is that I didn't have the resources to buy them all.

I kept one of my 38s that Steve had put in shutter for me. Wonderful lens -- sharp at all apertures, much evener illumination than many w/a lenses, i.e, falls off with cos(theta)^3, not ^4 -- within its limitations. The limitations, which the 75 has in spades, are size, weight, and limited coverage. These lenses cover a little more than twice their focal length, so permit minimal movements. But shot straight ahead they're great.



J. P. Mose
31-Jul-2004, 09:35

They are great designs even by today's standards only lacking multicoating. They were optimized for corner to corner sharpness at ALL apertures. Hence they are large format versions of Leica/Hasselblad/etc. lenses. They also have even illumination and low distortion. Outstanding lenses except they do not provide a large image circle. They were also very expensive and heavy. They arrived at a time when photographers were rapidly switching to small formats for reportage and hand held purposes. Hence, they were never that popular. A Super Angulon stopped down is just as sharp but had a large image circle which is the main requirement for large format. BUT....there STILL is nothing like the Zeiss LF family for performance at wide apertures till this day (with the exception of the normal lens (Planar) catagory which includes Schneider Xenotar, etc.). If you want to shoot hand held and don't mind the weight, they are outstanding. If the majority of your large format work is a tripod mounted camera for static objects you should consider a modern, multicoated, lighter weight optic with a large image circle! Stopped down to f/16 and beyond, the modern lenses are better.

They were in the works from the mid 1950's and announced at Photokina in 1957; introduced in Grossbild (Photo Technik) in 1958 first volume. They reached the dealers at some point in 1958 but hard to find out exactly when. The set for the smaller Linhof Super Technika 23 and Technika Press 23 were introduced in 1956. The 250mm Sonnar ceased production in 1970 while the 75mm Biogon ceased in late 1972/early 1973. Due to excess inventory, these lenses continued in Linhof catalogs and publications until the late 1970's.

Do a search on the Biogon on photo.net. I have posted write-ups in the past with additional information. If you get them, send me your serial numbers and I can provide you with the production year. Also, send me any other questions you have as I believe I know have every publication about the Linhof select Zeiss lenses along with information provided to me by the current Zeiss staff.

Jean-Louis Llech
31-Jul-2004, 09:36
Zeiss lenses are very good ones, but rather old.
You should first verify if the image circle of these two lenses is large enough for the kind of photography you'll do with them :

- The Zeiss Biogon 4.5/75 has a rather small image circle of 165mm, and allows only 9 and 7 mm of displacement (Horizontal format Vert/Horiz.)
- The Zeiss Sonnar 5.6/250 has an image circle of 185mm, and allows 22 and 19 mm of displacement (Horizontal format Vert/Horiz.)

I'll sent you a file about these lenses.

Michael S. Briggs
31-Jul-2004, 13:46
They are fine lenses, but tend to have high prices because of the Zeiss name / mystique and demand from collectors. For the types of photography that most LF photographers do today the coverage of these lenses will be limiting. The Sonnar is probably a true telephoto, meaning that the bellows extension required is significantly less than the focal length -- this would explain the rather limited coverage. If your camera has at least 300 mm of extension, you would probably be better off with a non-telephoto design.

Another discussion on the 75 mm Bigon earlier this year shows both the mystique of the lens and more level-headed efforts to evaluate it: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/498241.html.

Frank Muscroft
31-Jul-2004, 16:51
Thanks everyone, you have been most helpful, especially Jean-Louis Llech who sent the information file.

Thanks again everyone.