View Full Version : Kodak Aero Ektar 7" f/2.5 Military Recon Lens

tom thomas
2-Feb-2011, 15:19
This Kodak lens is up on E-* at the moment. F2.5 thru F16. It doesn't appear to have a shutter though. What would it be used for now. Mounted on a metal lens plate. What format would it be used for? Looks like a monster. Some lens damage described but it doesn't show in the photos.


tom thomas
2-Feb-2011, 15:20
Oops, I forgot to indentify where it is.

Item 230580684374

Walter Calahan
2-Feb-2011, 15:26
This is what I did with my monster. Good for only close focus. If you want more focus range, mount it to a Speed Graphic.


Frank Petronio
2-Feb-2011, 15:47
The Aero-Ektar has a cult following, especially since photojournalist David Burnett used one on a 4x5 Speed Graphic to photograph several presidential campaigns and Olympics. Suddenly all these sports and news photographers went out to buy one just like his so they could make their pictures different too! Most of them sold their Aeros and Speeds on eBay once they realized that large format photography required thought and skill. If you go on Sportshooter.com I bet you can find one for sale ;-)

Most people buy them to use wide-open so they can wow people with the extremely shallow depth of field from such a long, fast lens. What this means in practice is that if they are shooting portraits, they blow the focus a lot of the time. You have to shoot more film and sometimes guess at the parallax distances and make a fudge guesstimate.

Walter's rig, on the old Graflex SLR body, is probably more successful than people trying to focus close using a Speed Graphic rangefinder. But even if you mount the camera on a tripod and focus with a loupe on the ground glass, most subjects move a subtle amount and the depth of field at f/2.5 is so thin that it's still a risky shot.

Burnett wasn't the first to use an Aero on a Speed, people used them all the way back to the 50s. He just sold a lot of good pictures from it and everyone got excited. Chris Usher is doing the same sort of thing, using a large format camera in newsy situations, it can make a good illustrative picture.

I had SK Grimes make a bracket to help support the heavy lens on my Speed. It was too expensive for what it was. I too sold mine, to a Sports Illustrated photographer from Toronto. He resold it shortly afterwards he told me.

If you Google it more you'll find several websites dedicated to the Aero cult.

If my name pops up please ignore me, I just told you everything I know on the subject and you should bother Walter and David and those other guys.

tom thomas
2-Feb-2011, 16:33
Thanx for the replies Walt and Frank. I'm not in the market for a lens like this, it just impressed me for its f.25 aperture at a time when most were min of f4.5 and upwards. This must be a "fast" lens and probably was when used as a bomb camera lens to record bombing results.

I have a ca 1972 B52 bomb camera photo taken from about 37,500 feet. Such clarity even at that extreme altitude. I wonder if the Air Force was still using similar lens that late. Aperture must have been cranked down a bit though as it has quite a depth of field range from that altitude. Individual bomb impact craters are clearly visible.

Frank, I see what you mean about the shallow depth of field when used wide open. Your subject's pecs stick out most, chin next, then tip of nose. Wow. Very interesting portrait. Good color and contrast showing in your shot. I like what appears to be finely focused flakes of grass/leaves, on his t-shirt.

Walt, your cherry blossoms shot with the lens is fantastic too. I found it hypnotic, waiting for the fruit to form. Real nice.

Thanx for the help. I hope someone interested can pick it off at a good price. Real cheap at the moment as bidding just starting.


2-Feb-2011, 16:36
I have one sitting on my shelf, unused, that I took out of the original aircraft camera. I've been pondering what I'm going to do with it, though. I'm not really a shallow DOF guy, and if you aren't one of those there's not much point. At first I thought it would be good for low-light handheld work but the hyperfocal distance of 4x5 is so big that probably wouldnt' really work out either.

Frank Petronio
2-Feb-2011, 16:40
f/2.5 you mean.

They are also radioactive, my wife made me keep mine in the garage. Seriously.

There are more modern and exotic, fast aerial lenses out there, but they are a lot more expensive.

tom thomas
2-Feb-2011, 16:43
Bettersense has a good point. Has anyone cranked the aperture down to F11 and smaller? What is depth of then. Photos anyone?

On the lens listed on E*, that I referred to, there is an odd attachment to the side, looks like electrical contact. Could this be electric aperture control? Since it doesn't appear to have a shutter installed, it wouldn't appear to be a sync contact.


Frank Petronio
2-Feb-2011, 17:29
Depth of field of a 172mm lens at f/11 will be the same whether it is a Nikon 35mm zoom set at 172mm or an 172mm Aero-Ektar or any other lens of the same focal length.

At portrait distances it will look pretty much like a normal modern lens. The downside is that it's heavy, awkward, and requires an expensive custom mounted #5 Ilex shutter or camera with a focal plane shutter (like a Speed Graphic). It's kind of silly to use it as a normal stopped down lens when you can have your pick of fine, practical 150-180/5.6 modern lenses for $200 or so.

2-Feb-2011, 17:59
...I have a ca 1972 B52 bomb camera photo taken from about 37,500 feet. Such clarity even at that extreme altitude... Aperture must have been cranked down a bit though as it has quite a depth of field range from that altitude. Individual bomb impact craters are clearly visible...

I'd say 37,500 feet is pretty near infinity! Crater depths and heights of buildings are no big difference for depth of field from that distance.

Lachlan 717
2-Feb-2011, 19:01
I've got a Pentac 8" f2.5 mounted on a Sinar board that I use with a Sinar shutter. Works a treat.

Dan Fromm
3-Feb-2011, 02:27
Innit f/2.9, Lachlan?

Lachlan 717
3-Feb-2011, 04:46
Innit f/2.9, Lachlan?

Goes past the f2.9 marker. When I did some GG spot meters, it came to just under half a stop quicker fully open. So, I rounded up from f2.45 to f2.5.

I also have a B&L brick (over 3kg) that goes even faster, but I think it taxes the front standard (and the iris clamp) a little too much. Might need to set up a monopod.

Anyway, I guess this just suggests there are other options to the Aero, whether they be circa f2.2, f2.45 or f2.9.

3-Feb-2011, 10:29
I've had one for a few years; mounted on a Speed Graphic and really love almost everything about it (just not how large and heavy it is - makes packing a pain, especially for walk abouts). I don't just shoot wide open and find that it's not so much of a one-trick pony as some would consider it to be. ;-p

Hmmm... Pentac 8" f2.9 (or 2.5) Lachlan 617? I need to make a mental note of that. Sounds right up my alley... :)

tom thomas
7-Feb-2011, 15:44
I'd asked earlier in the thread of anyone used this lens for other than wide open portraits. I was just "wow'd" at Jo Lommen's Graflex.org site with several photos taken with one that shows me what the lens can do on a 4X5 Speed Graphic. Jo just updated his site on Feb 5th with one taken in Bergen, Norway by Bjorte Bjorkem called "XMAS Tree 2010." At first glance I thot I was looking a a close up of a computer back panel, glistening with highlights. Nope, it's a "wide open" aperture probably ariel shot of a large square in Bergen. Fantastic. Only the very distant tree is in sharp focus, fore and background just shimmering with nordic "midnight" light.

Jo has also posted other photos showing the range of capabilities of the lens with different aperture settings.. Also how to mount one on a Speed.

Curious, I checked on E-* and the lens is still there, 4 more hours. Oh, I wish, I wish. but too much of a dream for me, an amateur. The seller has quite a collection of old lens for sale today along with the Aero. I might try for a smaller one.


Lynn Jones
8-Feb-2011, 14:47
Tom I've had two of them for nearly 40 years, one with a Nikon SLR mount and one with shutter for view or press. I have really liked them for years. I was with B&J and bought them from the lens bank.