View Full Version : Graflex Xenar vs Optar

24-Sep-2009, 08:59
After receiving a Crown Graphic 4x5 w/ Optar f/4.7 135mm, I ordered a Xenar f/4.7 135mm (59914xx) mainly because the Optar has an old Graphic shutter that needs work (no B or T working and slow) and the glass has significant marks - albeit that don't affect photos.

I understand the Xenar was standard on the Special which was a budget model. It also seems from the one I received, it is newer? The front element barrel on the lens looks newer and shinier, and the Synchro Compur-P shutter seems much newer, or is just in much better shape and performing much better than the Graphic shutter, plus the Synchro Compur-P has a more useful flash sync vs. the (X) bipost on the Graphic - though I did buy a bipost converter cable.

Is it possible the Xenar I have is newer than the Optar? Did the Xenar's improve as they got newer? Or is the Optar still the superior lens (I understand they are both Tessar designs). Might my Optar fit in the Synchro Compur-P shutter?

Would anyone care to qualify the differences between the two lenses - are the differences great enough to draw comparisons? I've read here that there was variation in the two lines so one Xenar might be better than one Optar, and vice versa.


24-Sep-2009, 10:13
I have both, and there's nothing to choose between the glass. The shutters are equivilant if in similar condition, (later Xenars are in Copal shutters). One advantage to the Xenar is that it takes 40.5mm screw-in filters, whereas the Raptar requires a Series VI slip-on adapter (no longer available).

24-Sep-2009, 10:42
Series VI slip-on adapter (no longer available).

... except on ebay.

Jim Galli
24-Sep-2009, 10:45
A good Xenar will outperform a bad Optar, but a good Optar will outperform a mediocre Xenar. Xenar is all metric thread, Optar is all US thread, so no interchange what-so-ever.

David Beal
24-Sep-2009, 11:47
Series VI filters and various incarnations of slip-on holders (including the 1.5 inch variety for the standard 135 mm Crown Graphic lens) can be obtained from Jim Andracki at Midwest Photo, one of the few places left to buy LF gear.

Good shooting.

/s/ David

25-Sep-2009, 08:05
Thanks for the info. I tried to mount the lens and shutter in a lens board I purchased from SK Grimes and couldn't because of a tiny screw protruding on the back of the shutter - so the lens wouldn't sit flush on the board - it turns out I can remove this screw (according to SK Grimes), and the shutter should sit flush on the board. The screw is meant to help secure and position the lens/shutter in a particular position for certain boards/camera/systems, etc.

25-Sep-2009, 08:47
Your Xenar dates from early 1959, it should be a reasonable performer but edge & corner sharpness of any 135mm Tessar type lens on a 5x4 camera is only really going to be excellent at f22, although quite good at f16.

I have been using Zeiss Tessar's 135mm (1932/3) & 150mm (1952/4) on a Crown Graphic and also a modern 2004ish late production 150mm f5.6 150mm Xenar, for the last 3 years, all perform almost as well as a Symmar/Sironar at f22. Your's should too.

On my last visit to the UK I made 16"x12" and a couple of 20"x16" prints from the 30's Tessar & modern Xenar negatives I'm very particular about sharpness and neither lens let me down, I've retired the 30's 135mm Tessar for now as I bought a superb pair of early 50's T coated CZJ150mm Tessar cells from this forum :D I use the lenses @ f22 hand-held with HP5 in the Crown Graphic.


Don Dudenbostel
25-Sep-2009, 11:45
My dad purchased a new Pacemaker Crown in 1964 with a Xenar 135mm and gave the camera to me in 1965. I've used the camera and lens ever since and have made thousands of negs with it. I also have a great deal of experience with the Ektar & Optar lenses found on Crowns and Speeds. The company I worked for in the mid 70's furnished us with Speeds / Crowns that we used for almost all our shooting. The 127-135 lenses are all Tessar formulas obviously made by various companies. In the final image there's little to no difference although I liked the Schneider and Kodak better than the Optars. Shutter wise the Compur that my 135 Xenar is in has performed quite will for all these years but now could use a CLA after 45 years. The other shutters were fine but the bipost sync today is a little antiquated. Any of them in good condition will produce fine results and either of the shutters should give reliable results if they are in good shape. If you question the performance of the Xenar consider the number of cameras that came with them. The first that comes to mind is Rollei. The Rollicord came with a Xenar as did the pocket size Rollei 35. I think some of the earlier Rolleiflex cameras came with Xenars as well as Tessars.

25-Sep-2009, 12:58
Good point about the Xenar's Don. They were probably the highest selling European standard LF lenses after WWII until the mid to late 70's, by then the Symmar's & Sironar's took over.

Zeiss never really went back into the LF market properly after the company fractured, I have a rare East German T coated 150mm f4.5 CZJ Tessar but I've never found any details of any others. One problem is that until the early 50's the two halves of Zeiss quietly co-operated expecting to be able to re-unite.

Schneider discontinued the Xenar sometime in the 80's only to bring it back in the late 90's with new batches, which took a few years to sell :D But great lenses.

Almost all the Tessar type lenses really disappeared when the coatings improved and the costs of 6 element lenses like Symmar's and Sironar's dropped in the early 70's.