View Full Version : Heliar 21cm

Thierry Schreiner
6-Sep-2008, 14:19
Hi to all,

I have a 21cm coated 1964 Heliar (multicoated ?) for quite some time and really want to start using it.

Can you give me some advice on how to use the Heliar to take the best out of it?

Does the Heliar sometimes lack contrast?

Do you need to adjust the negative developing times for negatives taken with that specific lens?

Do you use filters to increase contrast, and how does the Heliar react to this?


I also would like to change from the initial Compound 3 to a Copal shutter.

Is this wise to do this, or will I alter the character of the lens, especially due to the different shape of the diapragm.

Thank's in advance for sharing your experience.

Best regards


Ole Tjugen
6-Sep-2008, 14:38
If it's coated, it will give "normal" contrast and there is no need to do anything special.

Compound 3 and Copal 3 shutters have different cell threads, so the swap is not possible without some very expensive machining. I would recommend using it as it is, with the Compound shutter which is one of the most reliable of all shutters in my experience. It may require a CLA after 44 years, but should then run fine for at least another 44 years.

6-Sep-2008, 15:48
Your lens is single coated.

Compared to a modern day Canon or Nikon lens, your lens will have less than "normal" contrast.

Read more about Heliar lenses here:



7-Sep-2008, 06:48
There is quite a wide variance in the coating quality of so called "single coated" lenses and some aren't far behind more modern multi-coating in there effectiveness.

I have a 7½" Paragon that looks almost Multi-coated, likewise an early 150mm Sironar, these perform as well as my modern multi-coated lenses with no apparent loss of contrast. Your Heliar may be much the same.


Ken Lee
7-Sep-2008, 07:41
I have an older, non-coated lens 210 Heliar, and it is superb for all uses - especially when stopped down only a stop or two (http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/portraits/p3.html).

Paul Fitzgerald
7-Sep-2008, 07:45
"Can you give me some advice on how to use the Heliar to take the best out of it?"

Use it well and often, it's a very nice lens.

A decent lens shade helps any lens for flair and contrast.

Changing shutter would be going backwards and expensive, just have the tech add flash synch when it's out for a CLA.

Heliars seem to be picky for EXACT registration of the GG to film, so burn some film to check that all of your holders match.

Have fun with it.

Bjorn Nilsson
7-Sep-2008, 09:07
It is always wise to learn how each and every lens reacts in different light situations. Use of a good lens shade does help, but comparing a modern lens with an older one isn't always fair.
I recon you know about the hype with Heliars, i.e. they are very nice for portraits etc. when used wide open (or close to wide open). When used at f/16 and smaller they lose their "magic" and are "only" good sharp lenses (about the same as a Tessar/Xenar). I.e. it takes a lot to tell them apart from a modern lens.
My Heliars are both uncoated and performs very nice. One of them (a 13.5cm) is a little hazy and is having some cement issues. But it still produces "typical" Heliar pics with very nice out-of-focus areas. I just add a little time in the developer.
With my 21cm I tend to use it in more contrasty situations, where the out-of-focus areas often are very high-key. As these shots are a bit "special" I do develop them as a separate batch. Also, as that lens doesn't have a shutter I have used it with Efke/Adox 25 film, which in itself is a bit special. (I also found a similar vintage Xenar 21cm in a Compound 3 shutter which I bought to test if I could use that shutter with the Heliar. And yes, it was a perfect match. But as the shutter still only goes to 1/100, it's still a matter of using slow films (or finding a grey filter).
While I've had both of these lenses for a couple of years I really havn't used them all that frequently and I'm still somewhere in the learning process. It's quite fun though.


Ole Tjugen
7-Sep-2008, 11:15
Voigtländer coatings tend to be very good. The Heliar also has only six surfaces, just like a Tessar-type lens - and remember that Schneider made single-coated Xenars until a few years ago: The don't need multicoating.

Your "typical Nikon or Canon lens" tends to have a lot more surfaces, and really do need multicoating. Many zoom lenses wouldn't be useable at all without multicoating - and even then they give less contrast than a classic 1950's Tessar (or a 2003 Xenar).

Thierry Schreiner
8-Sep-2008, 15:14
Thank's to all for your input.

Best regards