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.
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12 thoughts on “5 Frames with a Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 50mm f/2.8 Lens – By Cheyenne Morrison”
What a beautiful looking camera and most importantly the images are absolutely gorgeous. I’ve never heard of this brand of camera or the lens but it’s clearly a lovely combo.
Thanks Robert, yes a great combo, and the pictures speak for themselves.
Hi Cheyenne, awesome pictures with a really unique look of analog film. I love this look. I don’t understand why the people has stopped using this technology in favore of plastiky and waxy looking digital cameras. I just hope that film will be available for a lot more time. Cheers Boris
Thanks Boris, yes I cannot stand plastic in anything, but especially cameras.
Gorgeous images, Cheyenne.. I’m well familiar with Schneider-Kreuznach for their enlarger lenses — their Componon-S has been my default for 30 years — but I’ve remained largely in the dark about their camera lenses. I’m envious 🙂
Regarding your remark that the Xenon ” .. resembled the highly collectible Schneider-Kreuznach Jsogon lens”:
“Jsogon” should be “Isogon”. I understand this confusion with Jsogon is due to letterfont choice – S-K used a variant of capital I that resembled a J, to look better in italics… Nevertheless, its an ISOGON.
Thank for pointing that out David. I just wrote a big review about the Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon, google that along with my name and it will come up. Schneider are amazing lenses, and good as Leitz/Zeiss and in some cases better. The Leitz Summitar is really a rebadged Schneider Xenon with a coating.
Hi Cheyenne, a late comment to this interesting article. The Summitar is similar to many (most?) of the Xenons. But the Summitar uses a cemented double in the front, while most Xenon diagrams I have seen show a single lens in the front. My Summitar has a lot of field curvature, and I need to remember this characteristic when I use it.
I just checked on prices for the 5-element Xenar. They have gone nuts. All of the better film equipment is going up to the sky.
What do you think about the 4-element Xenars? Better/worse than Voigtlander’s 1950s-vintage Color-Skopars? They are another version of the 4-element Tessar. Thanks!
Hi Andy, that’s a good question. Yeah everytime I write an article the prices go up. I need to buy things and bulk and sell for profit ha ha.
A late era coated color-skopar is far superior to an single coated 4 element Xenar.
I did not realize the 5-element version was made in M42 mount. The 5-element Xenar can also be found on the Karat camera. The more common 4-element version can be found in Retina-Reflex mount and on fixed-lens Kodak Retinas.
I found a wartime/coated Karat-Xenar 5cm F2.8 at a camera show, loose- no camera- for $30. I was surprised to find it had 5 elements. Seemed to me that the strong front element of the Tessar formula lens had been split into two elements of lesser power. A common trick used by lens designers. The lens is fully hard-coated. Compared with the later 4-element Xenar- sharper.
Set in the focus mount of a dead-glass Canon 50/2.8, with trim from a parts Kodak TLR. RF coupled for Leica Mount.
Do you know if all the Karat Xenar’s the 5 element version ? Thanks!
Hamish giving this article a plug, and link on the latest episode of Photography with Classic Lenses Podcast out tomorrow. Also gave you a shout out mate 🙂
Cheers, Cheyenne 🙂