report is long, but is, I believe, worth
reading, as it contains information that I
have not found anywhere on the internet nor in
any other publication, but have only
discovered gradually over years of detective
work and searching worldwide for suitable
adapters and lenses.
Multi-Kilar is a lens converter, as in “2×
converter”, etc., but it is much more than that!
“It’s a converter,
Jim, but not as we know it!”
It looks unlike
any 2× converter that you have probably seen:
According to Pont’s book (here),
Kilfitt announced the Multi-Kilar in 1959.
Do not expect it to connect to any lens that is
not from Kilfitt, and it won’t even connect to
all of them. Before we can use it, we need
various connectors, depending on which camera we
wish to use, and which lenses. These
connectors are now generally extremely hard to
The Multi-Kilar is a tube that is 711/16" / 197mm long – in
its unextended form!
Extended, it is 1011/16" / 270mm long to
the rear flange of the mount locking ring.
It is in fact a variable or zoom
converter covering the range from 2× to a whole four
times (4×) the focal length of the
right-hand side of the Multi-Kilar there
is a crank handle. As we turn this
clockwise, the front of the converter
extends. It first stops at 2½× –
although one could stop at any point
before this. As we continue turning
the crank, we find that there are détentes
also at 3×, 3½× and 4× These
settings are marked in white on the
barrel, with the word “FOCAL”, referring
to the multiplication factor of the focal
length of the lens that is being used with
As we crank out the converter, we
can see the image in the viewfinder
getting darker, which is an unavoidable
consequence of extending the length of the
converter and increasing the conversion
strength. For those who do not have
through-the-lens metering (which was
extremely rare when the Multi-Kilar was
introduced), Kilfitt marks exposure
factors in red on the barrel of the
Multi-Kilar. These factors are
indicated with the word “STOPS”, meaning
the number of f/ stops by which one needs
to open up the lens. Each full f/
stop is equivalent to one shutter speed
position on most of the cameras for which
the Multi-Kilar was designed.
As one changes the conversion
factor, one also needs to adjust the focus, by
turning the ring near the front of the
Multi-Kilar, which is also visible in the image to
the right here.
Heinz Kilfitt was keen to provide a
filter drawer near the back of his lenses, when
possible. A small gelatin filter of one’s
choice could be placed in this removable drawer,
which was then re-inserted into the barrel of
the lens. The Multi-Kilar has just such a
filter drawer, and here we see several views of
it. (Readers should beware of used Kilfitt
lenses for which the filter drawer has been
lost, leaving a large gap in the barrel of the
lens, through which so much light will enter
that the lens will be unusable unless the
opening is covered.)
Here we can see the
filter drawer partially raised. It will come
out completely for the filter to be fitted into
it. The large gap left in the barrel when it
is removed is easy to see in this picture.
This close-up rear
view shows the Multi-Kilar with a “WESI” camera
mount and the filter drawer in place (although it
does not currently have a filter gelatin in it).
Here the filter
drawer has been removed, for comparison
purposes. As already explained, the drawer
must be replaced (with or without a filter) before
the lens can be used.
The Multi-Kilar has to be mounted between
the camera body and the lens. Kilfitt made
his lenses available for the widest-possible
range of 35mm and Medium Format cameras of his
day, and therefore most lenses have an
interchangeable camera mount on the back.
The Multi-Kilar does of course need a camera
mount on the back, but – depending on the
lens that one wishes to use with it – it may
also need a mount on the front.
Here we can see the
rear of this Multi-Kilar, this time with the WESI
camera mount removed. We note that on this
particular example the WE base is screwed to the
converter with four screws. I do not know if
some Kilfitt lenses had the WE base permanently
mounted on the lens. We do not need to
remove these screws.
The WESI mount has a Praktisix / Pentacon Six
mount on the back and a 70mm thread on the front
(Pont, page 38). A captive locking ring on
WE base on the Multi-Kilar itself will engage with
this thread. First, align the spike/pin in
the WE base that is on the Multi-Kilar (marked “A”
in this photo) with the circular slot in the WESI
(marked “B”), then turn the ring to hold the mount
firmly into place.
The front of the
Multi-Kilar (at least, this one) has a 39mm
Leica-compatible screw thread socket.
You may recall (from here) that Pont
reports three different types of bases on the rear of
(in chronological order of their
expert tells me that to understand the codes for
Kilfitt adapters, it is helpful to imagine that you
have the lens to the left and the camera to the
right. So if you have a lens that has a WE
base and you want to connect it to a Praktisix or
Pentacon Six, for which the Kilfitt code is SI, the
adapter that you will need is called a WESI.
This technique for understanding Kilfitt codes works
with most Kilfitt mounts, but a few of the component
codes were combined in the opposite order!
In our case, at the camera end we want to mount the
Multi-Kilar onto a Pentacon Six, and the rear of
this Multi-Kilar has a WE base, so we can achieve
this easily with a Kilfitt WESI mount.
That was the easy bit. We can now mount the
Multi-Kilar onto the camera. The other end is
far more complicated.
Pont refers to the “KI” code as being
“like Kilar”. I am going to guess
something different. As far as I can see
from the extremely limited numbers of Kilfitt
lenses that I have handled, the “KI” lenses were
destined for cameras that used 35mm film.
This was a film format that was designed for the
cinema (“KINO” in German). We recall that
the first 35mm SLR was from Exakta in Dresden
and because of the film it used, it was called
the KINE Exakta. So I surmise that “KI”
may have stood for “KINE”, or at least have been
inspired by this naming history. Kilfitt’s
early lenses were advertised for the 35mm Exakta
cameras, as well as for other brands.
We should also bear
in mind that in the early 1950s, the other major
market for Kilfitt was 35mm non-reflex cameras,
principally the Leica. Focussing long lenses
accurately with a non-reflex camera was difficult,
and in the 1930s Zeiss had designed a mirror box
for the Contax that went between the camera body
and long lenses. This essentially converted
the rangefinder camera into a
“single-lens-reflex”, although only for use with
long lenses that had been manufactured with a
short back, to allow space for a mirror box.
Leica produced similar mirror boxes, and so did
In the 1950s, Kilfitt manufactured such mirror
boxes, and lenses that screwed into the front of
them. With Leica being the main market for
these lenses and mirror boxes, Kilfitt put a 39mm
Leica male screw mount on the rear of the box and
a 39mm Leica female screw mount on the front of
the mirror box. (Naturally, if one mounted a
standard Leica lens onto the front of this box,
the lens would not focus to infinity, but might be
usable for extreme macro work, another area where
non-reflex cameras could only work with extreme
difficulty (both for focussing and framing).
The Kilfitt mirror boxes were called
“Spiegelkasten”. (We need to know this
The image to the right reproduces a Kilfitt mirror
box. Pressing the lever down raised the
mirror and the end of the lever then pressed down
onto the camera shutter button to fire the
shutter. Pont shows four different types of
mirror boxes from Kilfitt, with names such as
“Kilarflex”, “Repriskop” and “Kilarskop”.
For those wishing to know more about Kilfitt,
Pont’s book is an essential source.
Pont states that “KI” lenses covered 35mm format
only (24mm × 36mm), not “6 × 6” format.
However, if a lens that was designed to cover 35mm
format is mounted on bellows (for macro work) or
on a 2× converter, the image that is enlarged in
either of these ways may well cover 6×6
format. We shall see.
Now let us return to our Multi-Kilar. At the
front it has a 39mm Leica female screw
mount. It may be that if we screw into the
front of the Multi-Kilar some of Kilfitt’s long
lenses with the “KI” Leica thread mount, they will
Here, I will try it with the 150mm f/3.5 Kilfitt
Tele-Kilar in 39mm mount, which I risked buying,
without knowing if it would be compatible.
From Pont, page 88
f/3.5 Kilfitt Tele-Kilar
lens screws directly into the 39mm socket on the
front of the Multi-Kilar. We then need to
mount this onto an extremely sturdy tripod, and
to add a Pentacon Six on the back. The
result? Perfect infinity focus! And
in the viewfinder we seem to have coverage of
the whole of the 6 × 6 format with the minimum 2
× converter setting. The actual coverage
will be clear when we have shot some film.
As the Multi-Kilar is a 2× to
4× converter, with every conversion
factor in between, with this 150mm
Tele-Kilar, we can easily achieve the
following focal lengths:
[with no converter]
there is just one other thing ...”
As we look through the
viewfinder, we find that using the Multi-Kilar is not
for the faint-hearted: with our reflex camera and
pentaprism, the image is upside-down! That can’t
be changed. That’s the way it is. When we
get the prints (or scan the film), we just need to
turn them through 180 degrees. Problem
solved! But at the shooting stage, it takes some
getting used to.
Now let’s try to connect
a lens with an AN mount system to the
Multi-Kilar. This is not so straight-forward.
The “AN” lens that we
have is the fabulous Pan-Tele Kilar, which is
reported on here.
It came to us with the mount for the Pentacon
Six. I thought that the mount should be
called “ANSI”, but my one is marked “ANSIX” on an
inner surface. Pont says that the ANSIX is
the adapter for PANTE/Praktisix. “PANTE” is
the code for the 300mm f/4 Pan Tele Kilar with AN
base. To remove this mount from the base,
one unscrews a large retaining ring. Unlike
with the WE base, the AN mount has the ring as
part of the mount, so it comes off with the mount,
instead of staying on the lens.
Now we need something to connect an
AN base to a 39mm Leica mount socket. We
might guess “ANKI”, based on our guesses about
“KI”, above, but we would be wrong.
“ANKI” does not appear to be a Kilfitt
code. But as the 39mm socket was used on
the front of the Kilfitt mirror box
(SPIegelkasten), the mount is called “ANSPI”.
reliable and knowledgeable Kilfitt
collector in Germany tells me that there
are various solutions:
An ANWE, which
converts the AN base to a WE base,
then a WEKI.You
can see more on the WEKI below.
An ANSIC, which
converts certain AN base lenses to a
Kilfitt mirror box.One
must then fix a MUZWI to the ANSIC.
Or an ANSPI.
The Pan Tele Kilar with its ANSIX
The ANSIX camera mount unscrewed
from the back of the Pan Tele Kilar
So we need to locate
an ANSPI (or a suitable combination of two other
adapters). The ANSPI is the first of these
that we find.
It contains a
filter drawer, which can be pulled out of
the top of the adapter. We are now
only half way there.
From the back we can see the light
trap at the top of the filter drawer.
From the front we get a partial view
of the filter holder.
Present the ANSPI to
the AN base. It fits perfectly. But
there is a problem. The locking ring was
part of the ANSIX mount, and the ANSPI is supplied
without a locking ring.
“Easy!” you say. “Remove the locking
ring from the ANSIX.” No, it is not
easy. The ring is captive to the ANSIX
mount. Someone has tried to remove a screw
within the ANSIX to disassemble the mount, but has
only succeeded in damaging the screw head.
We need to find a fairly WIDE screw driver with a
FINE blade, to proceed firmly, and to make sure
that nothing slips. After a struggle, we
remove four screws with slightly rusty threads
that have probably not been turned since the ANSIX
was assembled in the Kilfitt factory more than
sixty years ago. The front and the back of
the ANSIX come apart. Now we can retrieve
the locking ring.
ANSIX locking ring
Front of ANSIX locking ring
Here we can see that the
ANSIX locking ring is very slim.
The ANSPI sitting on
top of the AN base on the Pan Tele Kilar.
We have here partially pulled out
the filter drawer that is in the mount.
not be swapping over these adapters in the
field. Either we will take out the Pan-Tele
Kilar with the ANSIX mount and using it directly
on the Pentacon Six, as in the past, OR we will
swap the ANSIX mount for the ANSPI mount before we
set out, and use the Pan-Tele Kilar only
on the Multi-Kilar. (Of course, if we could
find an ANWE, which converts the AN base to a WE
base, we could leave that on the Pan-Tele Kilar
and easily swap between a WESI back for the
Pentacon Six or a WEKI back for the Pan-Tele
Kilar, even out in the field.)
our surprise, the ANSIX locking ring fits the
ANSPI perfectly – once we have removed the
filter drawer that is built into it. We
now present the ANSPI to the back of the
Pan-Tele-Kilar, turn the locking ring and then
re-insert the filter drawer, without which light
would get into the mount, seriously degrading
Now we screw the rear
of the ANSPI into the front of the
Multi-Kilar. Another perfect fit!
There is no locating pin system with the AN mount,
so we may need to slacken off the locking ring
slightly and re-align the Pan Tele Kilar to get
the focussing scales and aperture register index
to the top of the lens, then re-tighten.
Pan Tele Kilar
and Multi-Kilar mounted onto a Pentacon Six
Now we can put our
Pentacon Six back onto the Multi-Kilar and mount
everything onto an exceptionally sturdy tripod –
my luggage scales give the total weight of this
combination as 2.7 kg, which an internet converter
indicates is 5 lb 15¼ oz – and that is without a
camera! When we add a Pentacon Six with
metering prism (and at the moment no film
loaded!), the same scales indicate a total weight
of 4.3 kg, equivalent to 9 lb 7.678 oz, according
to the same internet source. You won’t be
walking around with this hung around your
neck! In fact, Kilfitt recommends the use of
TWO tripods, which is fine if one is photographing
something that is not moving – or perhaps birds or
squirrels visiting a feeding table.
This is facilitated by the presence of
THREE tripod mount points on the converter, and
of course also a tripod mount on the Pan Tele
four ¼" tripod sockets and four 3/8"
with the Multi-Kilar set at 4× conversion and the
Pan Tele Kilar at maximum extension for closest
focus, the total length (without a camera!) is
approximately 600 mm or 24 inches. One can
readily see why a tripod is essential.
also readily understand why some of the most
important purchasers of Kilfitt and Zoomar lenses
were the Disney organisation and the U.S.
Military. Disney is reported to have used
Kilfitt lenses when filming wildlife documentaries
for U.S. television in the 1950s and 60s.
Disney and the U.S. military were clearly not
concerned by the size and weight of these
super-powerful lenses, and would of course have
used them on a tripod, possibly in a wildlife
photographic hide or other concealed site in the
case of military use. In either situation,
the users were prepared to spend hours or even
days set up and ready for when the right event
occurred. This is not the situation of most
amateur users of this equipment.
With the 300mm Pan-Tele-Kilar and the
Multi-Kilar, we can easily achieve the following focal
“WE” was the last of
the connector systems developed by Kilfitt.
We have described it above, since the rear of our
Multi-Kilar has a WE base.
But can we mount lenses with a WE base onto the
FRONT of the Multi-Kilar? The diameter of a
Pentacon Six lens mount is much greater than the
diameter of the 39mm hole in the front of the
Multi-Kilar. In any case, if we present an
80mm Biometar lens to the front of the
Multi-Kilar, we discover that infinity focus is
not possible, because we cannot get the Biometar
far enough back.
What about the 90mm Kilfitt Makro-Kilar /
Macro-Zoomatar? This has a WE base and we
have a WESI adapter on that base, for direct
mounting onto the Pentacon Six, and that works
perfectly. To get the Makro-Kilar far enough
back to enable infinity focus when it is on the
Multi-Kilar, we will obviously need to remove the
WESI adapter, but what will we put in its
place? Perhaps there is a “WESPI”, by
analogy with the ANSPI. It turns out that a
“WESPI” adapter is reported. Pont says that
it was an adapter for mounting the SPOSO onto
Kilfitt mirror boxes. So what is a
“SPOSO”? It turns out to be the WE version
of the 600mm f/5.6 Sport Fern Kilar / Sport
Zoomatar. These mount adapters need much
more than the correct connector on each surface:
they need to be the right THICKNESS to provide
infinity focus, so this is probably not the right
one for this lens. In any case, we haven’t
got a WESPI, so we can’t try it out.
Fortunately, a Kilfitt expert in Germany has told
me that the correct adapter to mount the 90mm
Makro Kilar / Macro Zoomatar is a WEKI – so there
is that “KI” that I suspected of being derived
from the 35mm format “KINE” cameras.
The WESI camera mount removed from the WE base on
This image gives an idea of the thickness of the
WESI camera mount.
As expected, the WEKI
is an extremely slim disk. Its front edge
has the filter thread for the locking ring on the
WE base, and its rear end has the 39mm “Leica”
male screw thread. Attach the WEKI to the
Makro-Kilar / Macro-Zoomatar. The WEKI has
five deep indentations on its front surface, so
that the spike or pin in the WE base can be
located in whichever indentation gets the lens
correctly aligned with the focussing scale and the
aperture index at the top. Clever detail!
This ring came without a name on
it. I have added a label.
Note locating points to facilitate
The WEKI is
clearly much slimmer than the WESI.
Next, screw the rear
end of the WEKI to the front of the Multi-Kilar.
Add the 90mm Makro Kilar / Macro Zoomatar, and it
works! Infinity focus (and closer) is
WEKI adapter screwed into front of
... and with the Macro
The Macro Zoomar
mounted on the Multi-Kilar, via the WEKI ring
All ready to go!
with the 90mm Makro-Kilar / Macro-Zoomatar, we
can easily achieve the following focal
Makro-Kilar / Macro-Zoomatar
[with no converter]
Now to check on the quality. We know
that the Makro-Kilar / Macro-Zoomatar is superb, and so is
the Pan Tele Kilar, but we have not previously used the