View Full Version : 178mmAero Ektar what now?

Pete Watkins
19-Apr-2007, 09:21
After a few glasses I decided to bid for this great lump of glass and metal. I had a very small limit, didn't really need it and can't think what to do with it. I can't be the only one here to own one, what do you do with yours?

Alan Davenport
19-Apr-2007, 10:14
I don't own one but I'll offer a suggestion: don't store it in the same drawer as your unexposed film.

Pete Watkins
19-Apr-2007, 10:47
Thanks Alan, it ain't gonna live in my underware draw either. Its found a home in the garage.

Walter Calahan
19-Apr-2007, 11:21
I own three. One is mounted to a Speed Graphic, one is mounted to a RB Graflex 4x5 SLR, and the third is waiting a new home on one of my other cameras.

Haven't shot with them much, yet, but I did post a picture to my blog shot with the Graflex during Washington DC's Cherry Blossom time. The image was shot at f/2.5.

Here's the URL: http://www.walterpcalahan.com/Cheers/Musings/6734C5D1-80F8-4FEB-A9A0-B8EB6BDE0C13.html

I also have a Kodak Aero-Ektar 6" (153mm) f/2.5 that is waiting a new camera home as well, but haven't figured out which system to put it on.

Denis Pleic
19-Apr-2007, 14:34
...didn't really need it and can't think what to do with it. I can't be the only one here to own one, what do you do with yours?

Put it on a Speed Graphic and enjoy.
Frank Petronio did some real nice work with one... Can't say the same for myself.
Reminds me that I should use mine more....


John Kasaian
19-Apr-2007, 16:17
I'm going to use mine for night photography and also to warm up leftover pizza in case the power goes out :D

Mike Herring
19-Apr-2007, 17:50
Is it true you can still purchase these in brand new condition? A fellow from Germany told me he got three on ebay - NEW in the wooden box!
I have not been able to find any like this.

Walter Calahan
19-Apr-2007, 18:28
Mike, yes it is true. I got one attached to the original k-24 camera in its original packaging. It had sat in a warehouse in New Jersey since 1945, never opened.

Watch for the K-24 on eBay. They come up from time to time.

My other two lens are a little more used. One is optically mint; the other less so.

Glenn Thoreson
19-Apr-2007, 21:40
I traded mine for more Speed Graphic parts.

John Kasaian
19-Apr-2007, 22:04
I named mine "Madame Curie." She lives in a section of cement pipe in the garage.

Mark Sampson
20-Apr-2007, 04:40
All jokes aside, look up Michael Briggs' web pages on the Aero-Ektars (he posts on this site fairly often). Very useful information there for anyone who owns one of those lenses.

Leonard Robertson
20-Apr-2007, 08:09
You may find this page gives you ideas:


Pete Watkins
20-Apr-2007, 10:55
Thanks for all your advice, funny and serious. Leonard, that site looks really interesting. I think that it'll fit my cheapo Calumet monorail. I have got a British version of the Speed Graphic (an MPP Press) so if my Packards or the big LUC don't fit the lens the MPP will be its future home.
Best wishes,

Frank Petronio
20-Apr-2007, 11:40
I don't want to throw cold water on anyone's Aero-Ektar experiments, but here is my biased opinion: It is a great way to waste a lot of film.

First, the only reason to use it is wide open. At f/5.6 it starts to look like any other lens. But at f/2.5, if you can nail the focus, it can be fricking beautiful.

But it is really a crap shoot to get a torso or closer photo of a human being in focus at f/2.5. At least a live breathing one. You see, breathing will screw up the focusing...

Eyelashes are too wide to focus on... do you focus on the front or the back of the eyelash?

Really, the only way to know you've got the shot is to drug the subjects (Ludes and Vodka) and to shoot twenty sheets and hope you get lucky with one or two.

Burnett got a great John Kerry shot. See above and add a punchline.

While people might argue, I really don't think the Speed Graphic (or any other) rangefinder is up to the task of focusing and shooting close portraits (torso size) consistently, with critical results. Getting that perfect shot with the eyes sharp and the rest falling off really is a matter of QUANTITY. The good news for you is that the results will be lovely even if it isn't the strongest expression out the 20 shots... but I simply don't enjoy working that loosely. I like to get the best expression or pose as my priority over bokeh.

Note that most of Burnetts best shots with the Aero are more crowd scenes and landscapey portraits... I think the closer Kerry shot was a bit of a fluke myself.

Same with Raymond Meeks -- note that his shots are more and more pulled back, I think so he can reliably focus all those funky wide open soft lenses...

My best shots with it show sawdust on a shirt falling in and out of focus. Or the difference in focus between a girls glasses and her eyebrows (a 5mm difference).

I also did the Verito and RB Graflex SLR. IMHO I prefer using a modern lens in a good Prontor self cocking shutter and cammed with the Technika rangefinder. I rarely miss at f/5.6 and the whole set up is solid, professional, and funky-ass free of grief.

So now I kind of lump the Aero with all the Holgas, Lensbabies, and Lomo stuff out there... when it works it can be great, but boy there is a lot of crap to wade through...

So my two cents is this: get a 150-180mm Symmar-Sironar and set it up on a rangefinder equipped Crown or Technika and just shoot alot without worrying so much. Practice makes better pix, not so much the exotic gear.

Pete Watkins
20-Apr-2007, 12:00
Thanks Frank, this is just a toy that I put a really low bid in for after consuming some French red. I've got my little Wista DX and a few really nice lenses for the serious stuff, not to mention the 11x14 that needs a couple of shuttered lenses, but that'll happen.
Best wishes,

Benno Jones
21-Apr-2007, 08:07
I have a 305mm f/5 Kodak Aerostigmat that's been gathering dust for a number of years. Any thoughts on whether it's worth trying to mount and use, and any info on the difference between this and an Aero Ektar?

Thanks for any help!
Benno Jones

Frank Petronio
21-Apr-2007, 08:52
wow, how big is it?

william linne
21-Apr-2007, 12:27
I actually mounted a 178mm Aero Ektar to a 4x5 Auto Graflex. I masked off the back to get a 4x4 image. You can't even come close to focusing at infinity, but it's great for portraiture. It's also the ugliest looking camera I own. It looks like a deranged child went at it with a hacksaw, which I suppose isn't too far off from the truth.


Benno Jones
21-Apr-2007, 19:17
The Aerostigmat is 4 3/4" in diameter across the filter mount (takes a special bayonet mount filter, I have yellow and red), the glass is only 2 1/2" in diameter. The whole thing is 3 1/2 inches long and weighs 3 3/4 lbs with filter installed. I guess if your reconnaissance mission was attacked you could unscrew the lens and take down an enemy fighter by throwing the damn thing at them...

Ole Tjugen
21-Apr-2007, 20:02
... I guess if your reconnaissance mission was attacked you could unscrew the lens and take down an enemy fighter by throwing the damn thing at them...

For that purpose, they made the 500mm f:5.5 Aerotar. A full 4 inches in diameter, weighing closer to 7 lb... Maybe I should try mounting a Speed Graphic to it? there's certainly no way to mounth the lens to the camera, but maybe the other way round...

30-Jun-2007, 17:23
I just picked up an ektar and it still has the big cast metal base on it from the original camera mount. Does anyone want it? Also, anyone know how the hell to get it off, it looks like the threads are frozen and its damn frustrating. Also, it is missing the aperture scale and I am looking for one of those.

John Kasaian
30-Jun-2007, 21:14
Mine is so ugly that I only take it out at night :)

2-Jul-2007, 09:01
Hollis - its a while ago but: the Aeros are generally threadlocked with a locking screw. Look for a small grub screw somewhere on the threaded base towards the top of the lens. The elements are also locked in this manner - I guess they worried about vibration! I'll take the base off you if you like, but it's probably be too expensive to ship to the UK :(

I've two 178's - one is mechanically tatty and optically average - the other is optically not too bad at all and mechanically nice - about to get a mounting ring for my Sinar F2.

Anyone know the optical formula for the aerostigmat 305mm? Is it tessar based?



2-Jul-2007, 19:27
Kevin, Im looking at my lens and it looks as it the previous owner has already taken all three of the screws out of the aluminum (i think) base and it still wont budge. Im thinking that I might have to cut the damn thing off on a lathe (which is problematic since I don't have one) or figure something else out.

Also, to those who might be confused, i am keeping the lens but was wondering if anyone wanted the vintage base before I destroy it (the base) trying to get it off the lens.

One last thing, has anyone put one of these on an 8x10? Im sure the image circle is tiny, just wondering what it would look like.



4-Jul-2007, 20:50

It'll cover 5x7 completely and is a nice normal/wide lens on that format, and the look is beautiful. It vignettes significantly on 8x10, however I shot some film with my Kodak KMV recently that was lovely to test it. Full length portraits, 3 people + landscape, backlit. I was a bit off on my exposure-1/50@2.5, should have used a .6 ND and all would have been fine. As is however there's plenty of detail on the subjects, very little flare from direct light, and great falloff. Mine is mounted in a shutter and on a Sinar board that fits into my KMV, which has also been converted for Sinar boards. I'll try and scan the film soon and post, and I guess shoot an image of the KMV with the Aero on so you can see. Anyhow, for 5x7, it's great.

Robb Scharetg

16-Aug-2007, 23:07
Thanks for the info. I just picked up an aerostigmat (305mm) and am going to see how that works. I saw an f1.2 aerial LF lens come up on ebay in the vintage section and missed bidding on. Anyone know what that could be...

Dan Fromm
17-Aug-2007, 03:05
Hollis, please give the auction #.

AFAIK there aren't any f/1.2 aerial camera lenses. The fastest I know of are the 98/1.4 Wild Falconar, which flew on a few Vinten F95s, and the 25/1.4 Elcan, for gun cameras.