Pentacon Six System
Kilfitt Pan-Tele Kilar
The 300mm f/4 Kilfitt Pan-Tele Kilar lens with caps,
lens hood and case
The small, specialist company of Heinz
Kilfitt manufactured a range of lenses in Munich, (then)
West Germany from at least the 1950s to the 1970s.
They were available in a wide range of mounts including
Medium Format and 35mm cameras, as well as for movie
cameras, and were very highly esteemed. The
Pan-Tele Kilar was designed with exceptional
features. It therefore merits – even requires! – a
much more detailed description than would be expected
for a normal lens.
the Pan-Tele Kilar
|The Kilfitt 300mm Pan-Tele-Kilar
is an f/4 lens that was supplied with a
removable lens shade, front and rear caps and a
mount for the camera of one’s choice in a sturdy
wooden case that included a test negative that
had been shot in the factory on a glass plate,
as film was not considered to be reliably flat
enough for testing purposes.
The lens has a manual pre-set
aperture that stops down to f/32 with a
détente (click) at each full stop. After
having chosen your aperture, you can swing the
aperture ring to return to full aperture for
focussing and composition, and then swing it
back down to the pre-selected aperture without
needing to take your eye away from the
A sturdy ring clasps the lens
near the back and has sockets for ¼" and 3/8"
tripod screws. This ring is lockable,
but can also be slackened off in order to
rotate the camera, if the tripod or the ground
in which it is standing is not quite
level. When my Pentacon Six is mounted
on the lens, the combination is perfectly
balanced on the base-plate of this ring.
Nice attention to detail.
The Pentacon Six with a Pan-Tele Kilar mounted
on a Pentacon tripod
Note glass plate with test shots, plastic pocket
for this and the slot in the case
to hold it and the explanatory leaflet.
In the top of the case can be seen the focussing
which is described below.
Normal focussing is via either of two
wheels mounted near the back of the lens. These
move the front of the lens straight forward, without
rotating it, and permit focus from infinity down to 9'6"
(2.8m), shown on an engraved scale that is painted
white. This is known as rack focussing.
[C475_3A.jpg] View of the underside of the
showing the tripod screw sockets and the two
[C475_7A.jpg] Top view.
[C475_6A.jpg] Top view. Lens fully racked
forward by focussing wheel (helical at
|In itself, this is already very
close for a 300mm lens. Other lenses of
this focal length for Medium Format cameras
typically focus down to 4m (e.g., Zeiss Sonnar),
3.6m (Meyer-Görlitz/Pentacon) or at most 3m
But the Pan-Tele-Kilar does not
stop there; then the Heinz Kilfitt magic
begins! You can now rotate the front
section of the lens – just as you would when
focussing with most other modern lenses for
Medium Format and smaller cameras, using a
helical (rotating) focussing action.
This brings the minimum focus down to approx
5'8" (approx 1.7m).
Maximum lens extension, both rack & helical
|If you know that you are going
to be working close-up, you can reverse the
procedure: leave the focussing wheels on
infinity and wind out the front of the lens (the
helical focussing) to its maximum extension
(minimum focussing distance). This, too,
will set the focus at 9'6" (2.8m). Then
turn one of the focussing wheels to bring your
subject into focus. When working this way,
the focussing distance is read from a separate red
scale on the lens barrel.
Helical focus at maximum extension, rack at
ideal for precise adjustments of focus in
In other words, with the Pan-Tele Kilar
use the white scale when the helical focussing
is fully in and the red scale when it is
At maximum extension of both the rack and
helical focussing controls, the subject is a mere 56"
(1423mm) from the front of the lens shade – incredibly
close for a lens of this focal length. My 24"
computer screen more than fills the frame of my Pentacon
Six at this distance.
|When new, the lens was supplied
with a focussing lever that could be clipped
into either of the focussing wheels, although on
most occasions these days when this lens comes
up for sale, the lever appears to have been lost
– or perhaps it has just been missed out by
someone who does not know the lens or realise
that the lever is part of it. The length
of the lever results in easy, precise,
finger-tip control of exact focus.
Focussing lever mounted on the left-hand wheel
... and on the right-hand one
Given the extreme degree of extension
that is possible, for speediest operation through-the
lens stop-down metering is recommended, as it will be
necessary to increase exposure to compensate for maximum
extension, as with any lens that is extended this far
from the camera. If TTL stop-down metering is not
available, the user can be guided by the exposure
factors marked on the focussing distance scale printed
on the barrel: at 9'6" / 2.8 m, increase exposure by
1.3×, at 6'6" / 2m by 1.5× and at the closest focussing
distance of approx 5'8" / 1.7m increase exposure by
Field of view
Any 300mm lens will give a magnification
factor of 3.75 in comparison with the standard Medium
Format 80mm lens. Used on a 35mm camera, the
factor is even greater: 6× compared with a standard
focal length of 50mm. Here are some examples of
what this looks like, taken on a Pentacon Six, of
80mm Biometar Ser No 42xxx
Fujicolor PRO 160 1/250 f/11
Fujicolor PRO 160 1/250 f/11
Infinity focus, from same position as previous
Variations of colour are due to processing in
the scanner and computer.
Fujicolor PRO 160 1/250 f/16
Focussed on approx 15m/50 feet
Fujicolor PRO 160 1/250 /16
Focussed on approx 15m/50 feet, from same
position as previous image
The name ring on the front of the lens
includes a symbol consisting of three rings side by
side. On the lens that I have, by the light of my
study, they appear to be blue, red and yellow in
colour. I think that in fact they are cyan,
magenta and yellow, the so-called “subtractive” primary
colours. This was Kilfitt’s symbol to indicate
that the lens had been corrected at the design stage to
reduce chromatic aberrations to an absolute
minimum. Hence the lens was a “panchromatic”
thus the title Pan-Tele
Kilar. Let us see how it performs in reality.
Here is a more than 10× enlargement from
a small section of each of the above two Pan-Tele Kilar
images. (A small amount of sharpening has been
applied to these two enlargements only, to compensate
for the softening introduced by the scanner.)
A 300mm lens brings the image in much closer.
This Pan-Tele Kilar shot reveals a remarkable
degree of detail.
Resolution is exceptional.
The vertical bars reveal a tiny amount of
that would not be visible at normal degrees of
enlargement and viewing distances.
Users of this lens praise its quality,
both mechanically and optically. In his review for
www.shutterbug.net of a later version of this lens,
Roger W Hicks, writing in 2003, asks “Is it the Acme Of
German Engineering?” and answers by saying, “it is
unparalleled for rapid focus adjustments” ... “it is a
staggeringly desirable lens for medium format” ... “no
one would make a lens of this mechanical quality today:
and if they did, no one could afford to buy it. At a
guess, you couldn’t build it to sell for much less than
$5000.” ... “It doesn’t have Leitz or Zeiss engraved on
it, but it is rarer and (dare I say it) better made than
many things that do bear those desirable logos.”
At closest focus, the special qualities
that distinguish the Pan-Tele Kilar from other 300mm
lenses are clearly seen. With the image on the
left, as I had decided to use the lens at its closest
focus, I mounted it onto the focussing slide (German:
“Einstellschlitten”), to allow precise adjustment of
focus. For the second shot, I had not packed the
focussing slide in my bag at day, but with care was able
to move the tripod to the exact position.
This rose was past its best when I photographed
it, but it does serve to show
the field of view covered by the Pan-Tele Kilar
at its closest focussing distance.
Equipment used: Tripod, focussing slide
Fuji Superia 100 1/250 f/8 Shot in a light wind!
Pentacon Six TTL meter reading at working
Equipment used: tripod.
Fuji Superia 100 A wind-free day enabled me to
shoot at 1/4 sec, f/32
Lunasix reflective reading, no compensation for
If I had been shooting slide film, I would not
have got away with this.
To the right we can see the Pan-Tele-Kilar page
from the Kilfitt Price-list and technical data
booklet valid from 1st October 1961.
Clicking on the image opens a full-size copy of
The recommended retail price of
the Pan-Tele-Kilar in West Germany in October
1959 and in July 1966 can be seen here.
(Look for West Germany, 1959 and 1966, and then
see the right-hand column.)
The Pan-Tele Kilar is an
outstanding lens for macro work. It is
also outstanding for any other telephoto work,
especially when tripod-mounted, which is the
only time that using the focussing lever is a
For information on using the
Pan-Tele Kilar with the Kilfitt Multi-Kilar lens
converter, and results obtained with this
combination, see here.
To go on to the next section, click below.
For the results obtained with the
Kilfitt 150mm Tele-Kilar used with the Kilfitt
Multi-Kilar variable converter at the 2×
setting, see here.
Next section: The Three Versions
of the Pan-Tele Kilar
To go on to the next lens test
section, click below.
To go to the beginning of the lens tests
section, click here.
To go to back to the data on Kilfitt
lenses, click here.
To choose other options, click below.
© TRA September 2010, Latest revision: