This is an article about one of my favourite vintage lenses, there is a whole story about how I found this lens, but the article will deal with why it’s unique.
In pantheon of lens manufacturers there are the well-knowns such as Leitz and Zeiss, but I think Schneider-Kreuznach deserves to be right up there along with them. This lens is the Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 50mm f/2.8 normal, prime, manual focus lens. This is an impressively well engineered, all brass constructed lens, with a beautiful bright chrome finish.
It was produced by Schneider-Kreuznach for the Contax and Edixa cameras, the first m42 mount cameras ever produced. The serial number suggests this lens dates from 1955. It is very heavy for a small lens at 250 grams. The design is unusual for a 50mm in that the hood is integral to the body of the lens design with the front element very deeply recessed into the barrel. The filter thread is 40.5mm.
There are many version of the Xenar, which was Schneider nomenclature for a Tessar design, but what makes this version unique is that it used a fairly unique 5 element ‘tessar’ design, an altered Cooke Triplet optical formula (5 lens elements in three groups). These early Xenar lenses are famed for their extremely vivid colours, but unlike the later “Zebra” model, this model had 15 aperture blades which produce soap bubble bokeh similar to the famed Meyer Optik Trioplan. It produces a very unique look, combining a vintage rendering, vibrant colour cast, and a quite striking bubbly bokeh in backlit situations as you will see from the samples below.
I would say that it is one of the highest quality lenses available in m42 mount during this period, and resembled the highly collectible Schneider-Kreuznach Jsogon lens. If you are lucky enough to find one grab it! All the images were shot using Portra 400 on Yashica TL Electro X c. 1970. This camera was a gift from my friend Brett Rogers, who is repairing my Contax D camera c. 1954.