View Full Version : Ilex Caltar 215mm f6.3 story and history

Chris Jones
12-Mar-2008, 03:34
Very recently I succeeded in purchasing a Ilex Caltar 215mm f6.3 lens in an Acme No. 3 shutter at a rather cheap price ($81 USD) since the shutter does not function. It was one of those accidental finds (thanks to a Cambo lens board) but on researching some more details of this lens I suspect it may be of some little historic interest (at least in the academic sense, that is.)

Please correct me if this is not correct but this lens is an early mid 1960s Tessar computer designed lens made in the USA. Given my albeit limited knowledge of the technical history of this period (if I can call something as recent as the 1960s history:-) my interest begins to grow and curiosity pushes me into asking for more details from those who may have something more to say.

In this lens I can sense the kernel of a very interesting story which may occupy at least a half chapter of a book on lens and camera designs of the last half of the 20th century of which some writer may write so it may be worth recording a few more details from those who know more???

Mark Sampson
12-Mar-2008, 04:39
Look up Lynn Jones here, or on apug, or photo.net. He was an Ilex Optical engineer/designer/executive and is just the person to tell your story.

Mick Fagan
12-Mar-2008, 05:17
I have the exact same lens and shutter, however mine came attached to a Calumet camera and everything works.

It is a very nice lens and coupled with Tmax 100 or FP4+ produces very nice crisp negatives. If you are able to get another shutter, or get yours fixed, I'm sure you would be pleased.

Are you near Tibooburra or are you further east, say on the Paroo river area?


Gene McCluney
12-Mar-2008, 08:52
At one time Calumet sourced a lot of its lenses from Ilex, until Ilex went out of business.

John Kasaian
12-Mar-2008, 09:16
It's a heck of a fine lens. Jim Galli turned me on to them and he certainly knows his stuff!

Gene McCluney
12-Mar-2008, 17:50
It's a heck of a fine lens. Jim Galli turned me on to them and he certainly knows his stuff!

At one time some of the finest large format lenses ever made (for their time) were made in the USA. Kodak Ektars, various lenses from Wollensak, Ilex, etc. They all made many lenses just as good as the German lenses. Many fine vintage lenses are still in use today earning money. I use Kodak Ektars in my studio for product photography and I find they are second to none, even though they haven't been made in 40+ years.

Chris Jones
28-Mar-2008, 04:26
The lens has arrived and a couple of small drops of lighter fluid and some exercise brought the shutter back to life. On inspection and looking through the ground glass it most certainly looks like a very nice lens, indeed. I have shot four sheets of Foma 100 and have yet to develop these but I suspect this film's creamy mid tones would suit the lens very nicely.

It was the computer designed Tessar that caught my imagination: Think early mid 1960s computers when operating systems research was just getting into full swing so no operating systems like UNIX and the fact that a Tessar lens design would require some number crunching of a largish order and punching holes in bits of card was the way to go, etc etc.... So, from what I can make out this lens would have to be listed as another classic.

The camera is a Calumet 45N, hence the Cambo board, BTW. As for my location I may need to revise that yet again; even further east again, like Narrabri on the banks of the Namoi. (I change the description of my location based on what I read and isolated and remote was the latest, just to explain.)

Anyways, I find it a very nice lens. My six inch lens is a Caltar Pro (Xenar 150mm) so maybe I have a thing for Tessar lenses?