View Full Version : Series V Protar all it's cracked up to be?

Robert McClure
22-Aug-2005, 07:54
Another question from a newbie to those with direct experience. Thanks!

Up for auction currently on Ebay is a 183mm EF f18 Series V Protar. Seller suggests it will cover 7x17 (my interest). I know Ron Wisner, et al, have tauted this lens (and the others in the series) as wonderful lenses.

The Ebay photos show this particular lens as pretty tiny. Front glass looks about the diameter of a quarter.

Question: I have in my mind that you just need more mass of glass to do a decent job. True, not true?

Question: What about distortion in my application (7x17). I understand something of the inherent distortion in a lens this wide as you approach the extremes of the 17" wide composition.
Anyone used this lens on 7x17? Seems like a winner to me.

Question: Would 7x17 users of this lens tend to like the "old" or "dated" feel to how it renders wide angle subjects? Or doesn't the lens produce that kind of "look."

Question: How much of a negative is the f18 at the groundglass? Too dim? Shoot only in very bright light?

Many thanks!

Mike Cockerham
22-Aug-2005, 08:19
I have the B&L 12x18 Protar IV. It is very small but covers my 12x20 with no problems.

Neal Shields
22-Aug-2005, 10:04
I have that exact lens. Back packers love it.

However, I have never actually taken a picture with it because the ground glass is so dark.


Ernest Purdum
22-Aug-2005, 10:24
The 183mm Ser. V Protar is rated to cover 8" X 10" at f18. Many people are satisfied with the performance of lenses used well past maker's recommendations, but I think 7" X 17" would be quite a stretch even when stopped down. (When you start off with f18, you don't have a long way to stop down.)

The f18 aperture is the reason the lens can be so tiny. It is, indeed a remarkable lens, particularly considering how very early the design is (1890). Besides the small maximum aperture, though, there are several other disadvantages which should be considered. They are, of course, uncoated, and this is more of a problem in extreme wide angle lenses than in others. (Lens shade? Forget it.) The front and rear cells are so close to each other that the smaller sizes may not be possible to fit into a shutter. A rear shutter has to be very large to avoid vignetting. All of these are now very old, so condition may have deteriorated.

The "distortion" you mention is not a lens fault, it is what objects actually look like when viewed at an extreme angle. Our eyes see such objects in the same way, but we are so used to it that we are not conscious of the effect. Unless a photographer actually wants such a result, it has to be avoided by choosing the view so that there are no objects in the corners which would look odd. Particularly peoples heads and spherical objects should not be placed near the edges of the view.

Christopher Perez
22-Aug-2005, 10:51
From time to time I see Protar V's on the auction site where the seller is asking silly prices. I picked up two (one coated, the other uncoated) in excellent condition mounted in original working #0 Supermatic shutters for less than $250 each.

They are GREAT lenses. They cover 8x10 with movement and at least 10x12 straight on. I haven't shot them yet on 7x17, so I don't know how good/bad they will be. But I did mount them up and note that at f/45 I can clearly see the aperture iris as a circle (not a cut-off oval) at the very edges of the groundglass. Since these lenses are a doublet pair, the falloff at the edges must be fierce.

As for focusing: I tried the pair of Protars against a 200 Nikkor M. Shooting into dark spaces (dim overcast day and into a forest), yes, the Nikkor was brighter on the ground glass. But I had no problems focusing the Protars on the small 4x5 ground glass. Its all whatever you get used to, I guess.

John Z.
22-Aug-2005, 11:03
In theory the lenses should be great; pretty good optics and light weight. I have three Protars for my 11x14 camera, but to be honest do not use them all that much. The reasons are varied; extreme focal lengths not usually needed, dim image on standard ground glass is an issue, and corners tend to get clipped, and also I like to use filters, and step up rings on protars are somewhat cumbersome. The dim image combined with the wide angle of view is an issue, especially at f18. Perhaps others have a better ground glass that provides more light than my Wisner.Anyway, someone that is motivated can certainly use them, but I prefer modern lenses where possible.


Ole Tjugen
22-Aug-2005, 11:28
The original Zeiss descriptions of the f:18 Weitwinkel Protar (Zeiss never called them "Series V", that's a B&L "invention") states an angle of coverage around 110. This works out to three times the focal length, or 549mm for the 183mm Protar. So using it on 7x17" won't be "well past maker's recommendations" at all.

The design is very complex with multiplu cemented cells. Even one element out of alignment will ruin sharpness. My 1910 references suggest the Protar's are never as sharp as air-spaced equivalents, but it will certainly be sharp enough for contact printing.

Protars are close enough to symmetric that there is no distortion to worry about. There is light fall-off though, as well as the exaggerated perspective often confused with "distortion".

No, I haven't used one ;)

tim atherton
22-Aug-2005, 11:42
I have a Gundlach Radar 7" (175mm) f16 I have to try out (need the right sized ring for the big Rapax shutter and cut a new lensboard hole). Apparenty a Protar copy? On a rough and ready try out, it certainly seemed to cover 8x10.

Have to see what some negs look like

clay harmon
22-Aug-2005, 11:47
I have used this lens on my 7x17 on occasion. It will cover if you do a little hyperfocal shucking and jiving and being extra careful about centering everything up. The biggest issue is the f/18 aperture - the groundglass is very dark. You have to be extra careful in making sure you haven't cut off any corners. Stopped down to f/45 or f/64, it is plenty good sharp enough for contact printing. It is way sharper in the corners than a 210/6.8 angulon. A shutter for this lens is not really needed, since most exposures are at least 1-2 seconds, even in daylight with a medium speed film like FP-4.

tim atherton
22-Aug-2005, 11:50
that should be Alphax #3 shutter

Kerry L. Thalmann
22-Aug-2005, 12:02

Of the older wide angle designs, the Series V Protars are pretty good. That is to say, they aren't as good as the more modern Biogon derivatives, but still plenty good for contact printing - at least in terms of sharpness. They have three big advantages:

1) They are TINY - especially compared to a modern wide angle of comparable coverage

2) They are affordable - again, a lot less bucks than a modern wide angle

3) They have huge coverage - up to 110 degrees when stopped down to f45

Concerning the coverage - the 183mm Series V Protar covers 8x10 wide open. Coverage inceases substantially when stopping down. Unlike modern wide angles, the Series V Protar suffers from significant field curvature. What this means is that to get both the center and corners sharp, when pushing the coverage, requires stopping down. To get the maximum 110 degree coverage will require stopping down to at least f45 for acceptable performance. To hit the corners of 7x17 straight on requires about 103 degrees of coverage. So, the 183mm Series V Protar should cover 7x17 with a little left over for movements.

The biggest disadvantages to this lens are:

1) Dim f18 max. aperture

2) Significant illumination fall-off when pushing the coverage

183mm is extremely wide for the 7x17 format. Illumination fall-off, in an ideal case, follows the cos^4 function - and these older lenses generally don't quite match the ideal case. So, you're looking at about 3 stops fall-off from the center to the corners with a 183mm lens on 7x17 - and that's straight on. Apply some front rise and the fall-off just gets worse.

I personally shoot 4x10 and the widest lens I use is a 110mm Super Symmar XL. This lens on 4x10 is almost as wide as a 183mm would be on 7x17. I find this focal length extremely wide for 4x10 and don't use it nearly as much as my 150mm - which still seems quite wide to me on 4x10. Unless you need a REALLY wide lens for your 7x17, you might consider something in the 240mm - 254mm (10") range. I would personally find something in that range a lot more useful, but that's just based on my personal preferences.


22-Aug-2005, 17:57
What Clay said.

The 8X10 (183mm) Protar Series V will cover 7X17 if you are very careful at centering the camera and if you stop down to f/45 or f/64. Coverage on the corners is definitely better than the 210 f6.8 Angulon. The major issue is that the groundglass is very dark. OK if you are working out of doors, but very difficult indoors.

I own an 8X10 B&L Protar V, which I hade mounted in a Copal 0, and previously owned a 183mm Zeiss Protar V. They were virtually identical in coverage and performance so I sold the Zeiss specimen since I knew it would sell for more.

John D Gerndt
22-Aug-2005, 20:01
I can speak to the "look" aspect of the (for me) 143mm Protar V. Mine is uncoated and renders as such. It is softer in contrast but not sharpness, I mean the detail is there but it doesn't shout at you (nothing does at f64). I like it fine but I do feel the stated limits are appropriate.

Mine is stated as a full plate: 6 1/2" x 8 1/2" and that is where it starts to get beyond soft. The corners an a 8x10 are not acceptable, to me. Lots of people identify those stretched corners (coma?) as part of an old-fashioned image and true, it looks that way. I just don't call it usable coverage. If you have to have very wide, very well done you have to get an XL or a Grandagon.

For what it is worth, in outdoor work, I find the f18 is no issue.


John D Gerndt
22-Aug-2005, 20:08
I wish to clearify: stretched in the corners is also quite fuzzy, indistinct, smeared, exactly like what I see in the corners of old aplanats. I believe the name is coma from comet for the stretched "tail".

Robert McClure
23-Aug-2005, 18:08
Thanks very much to you all. Learning these things is a slow process but you have made it much easier!

N Dhananjay
23-Aug-2005, 19:11
Not much to add re the Protar.

The Radar is actually a knockoff of the Tessar. One of the elements is split. Gundlach apparently used a similar MO on the Turner Reich, which is a knockoff of the Protar VII, with one of the elements split to make it 5 elements instead of four.

Cheers, DJ

tim atherton
23-Aug-2005, 19:42
"The Radar is actually a knockoff of the Tessar. One of the elements is split. "

Really? It's a 7" lens and covers 8x10 quite easily ("Radar Anastigmat Extreme W.A. 8x10 f16 Gundlach") - how well at the edges I'll have to see, but I have plenty of room for a couple of inches rise/fall at least

One thing I heard was that it was a copy of the Ross 5 element design?

Ernest Purdum
23-Aug-2005, 20:52
I think there is some confusion here because of the name "Radar" being used for more than one lens design, much as "Ektar" covers several differing types.

tim atherton
23-Aug-2005, 21:12
Knoppow suggests the Gundlach Radar WA Extremes were probably Gundlachs version (often adapted enough to avoid patent infringement) of the Zeiss Protar and it probably has coverage of 90 degrees accroding to their catalogue

I can definately see 2+1 (bright+dim) reflections in one lens group and I'm 90% certain I can see 2+1 in the other.

It's probably one of Gundlachs late 1930's or early 1940's lenses apparently

tim atherton
23-Aug-2005, 22:55
"I think there is some confusion here because of the name "Radar" being used for more than one lens design, much as "Ektar" covers several differing types"

indeed - the Radar Anastigmant 4.5; Radar Telephoto Anastigmat F5.6; Radar Extreme Wide Angle F16 etc