The Pentacon Six System
Pentacon Six Lenses
The Kilfitt Pan-Tele Kilar
The 300mm f/4 Kilfitt Pan-Tele Kilar lens with caps, lens hood and
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.
Description of 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 lever,
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
[C475_3A.jpg] View of the underside of the lens,
showing the tripod screw sockets and the two focussing wheels.
[C475_7A.jpg] Top view.
[C475_6A.jpg] Top view. Lens fully racked forward by focussing
wheel (helical at minimum)
|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 (“Soviet” Tair).
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
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 minimum:
ideal for precise adjustments of focus in close-up photography
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 fully out.
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
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 1.7×.
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 course.
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 image
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”
lens, 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 chromatic aberration
that would not be visible at normal degrees of enlargement and viewing
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.” (See http://www.shutterbug.net/equipmentreviews/classic_historical/0703sb_classic/)
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
the field of view covered by the Pan-Tele Kilar at its closest focussing
Equipment used: Tripod, focussing slide
Fuji Superia 100 1/250 f/8 Shot in a light wind!
Pentacon Six TTL meter reading at working aperture.
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 lens extension.
If I had been shooting slide film, I would not have got away with this.
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 practical option.
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© TRA September 2010, January 2012