The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

Lens Data Summary

Review of the 500mm Tele-Noflexar Lens
 


The Tele-Noflexar mounted on a tripod.
Note that I have had to use the tripod platform back-to-front,
in order to prevent the tripod pan and tilt lever from fouling the Novoflex pistol grip.
[novo500.jpg]

The Tele-Noflexar is supplied with a lens hood with a bayonet mount that enables it to be put in place extremely quckly and easily.  It is a long, straight tube, and is mounted onto the lens in reverse position for storage.  A screw-in metal front lens cap is also provided.  A standard plastic rear cap covers the back of the focussing grip in which most users will store the 500mm lens head.

Aperture control

This is manual aperture lens: there is no auto diaphragm stop-down operation, nor even a “pre-set” lock, in contrast to the pre-set lenses from Meyer-Optik and some other manufacturers; however, there are détentes at each full stop position, so you do not need to be looking at the aperture ring; you just count the clicks to stop down:

In fact, the aperture ring will click one more position beyond the minimum marked aperture of f/32.  This corresponds to approximately half an aperture stop (giving an aperture of f/38).  The next full aperture position would have been f/45 (which would have transmitted half the light of aperture f/32).

Focussing

Having squeezed the focussing trigger to achieve the desired focus, you can lock it in place with the other hand, using a locking knob which is situated on each side of the lens to enable operation with either hand.  Then you need to stop down and then fire the shutter.  With three things to do and only two hands, you can choose which two are critical in the particular shooting situation:

Of course, especially with the 500mm lens hand-held you would be advised to use a shutter speed of at least 1/500 sec and – depending on the sensitivity of the film and the prevailing lighting conditions – you might need to work at maximum aperture, in which case you only have two things to do, and operation is easy and fast.  You can easily adjust the focus constantly as required and fire the shutter at the decisive moment.

Novoflex made a point of stating that these lenses were indeed designed to be used at maximum aperture. 

As stated in the review for the 240mm Noflexar, focussing with the pistol grip is much faster and easier than by rotating the grip on a standard focussing helical ring, as is found on most lenses, and can be continuously varied as required when tracking a moving object such as a bird or other wild life – or even a footballer or players in other sports, cyclists, car or horse races, etc.  For all of these subjects, and many others, the 500mm Tele-Noflexar is ideal.

Changing lens heads


The lens head is released from the pistol grip by pushing the little arrowed button forward
and then rotating the lens anti-clockwise about 1/6 of a turn to remove it from the bayonet mount inside the pistol grip.
[11122215.jpg]


The 500mm Tele-Noflexar lens head with a 49mm UV filter fitted at the back.
[11122212.jpg]

If swapping the two lens heads, it will be necessary to re-focus, even if the lens pistol grip has been locked onto infinity with the previous lens.

Durability

Some 50 or more years after manufacture, the lens is optically as good as new, as are the aperture blades.  The metal parts of the lens barrel also show minimal signs of wear - an indication of the quality of manufacture and the care taken by the previous owner(s).  However, the rubber ring that is recessed into (and extends above) the aperture control ring is beginning to perish in some places, as may be visible in the above two photos.  (Look at the underside of the lens, where there is a missing section of rubber, and one end is coming away.)  Fortunately, it is possible to obtain suitable replacement material for this, but I wanted you to see the original before I changed it.  I notice from the images received from Novoflex in 2016 that later versions of this lens head did not have the rubber-covered aperture ring but a ring in fluted metal (with narrow, straight, longitudinal cuts in the metal) see first and third images here.

Minimum focus

A possible defect in some situations is the limited minimum focus.  I have measured the minimum focus with the 500mm head and the standard rifle stock at 12580mm, measured from the focal plane of the Pentacon Six.  That is over 12½ meters or a little over 41 feet!  Gillespie gives the distance as being 38' 9", which probably comes from Novoflex literature.  That will be fine if you are at one goal mouth shooting the action at the other goal, or of course in many wildlife or celebrity shoots.  However, it is not a lens designed for use indoors.

With the 240mm Noflexar lens, minimum focus is a much more normal 2895mm (nearly 2.9 meters) / 9½ ft.


[bal_u.jpg]

For both lens heads, the minimum focus can be reduced (i.e., you can get closer to the subject) by replacing the short tube that connects the pistol grip to the camera with the special bellows which were offered by Novoflex but are rarely seen in the Pentacon Six mount.  The bellows have the manufacturer’s code “TISBIG-U” and Dieter Gabler states in his “Vollendete Spiegelreflex-Fotografie mit Novoflex” (1973 edition) that the pistol grip (code name “TISPIGRIFF”) has to be returned to Novoflex for this to be fitted (p.77).  In fact, it appears that all you need to do is to loosen six screws (technically, tiny bolts) to remove the camera mount, then tighten the same screws onto the front of the bellows unit.  As an alternative, one could purchase the grip itself with the bellows already mounted onto it.  This had the manufacturer’s code name “TISPIGRIFF-U”.  This appears to be equally rare in the 21st century.

I have not yet managed to locate a TISBIG-U nor a TISPIGRIFF-U.  However, the picture to the left illustrates the principle with a 35mm outfit.  The camera shown is a Praktina, to which the spring-powered “motor-drive” has been added.  The bellows are mounted “upside-down”, with the focussing track at the top.  For focussing on closer objects, the bellows are set at a convenient intermediate point of the desired focussing range and the trigger is then used in the standard way to obtain the exact focus.

When the bellows are extended in this way, infinity focus is not possible, but with them closed, the unit operates exactly as with a standard camera mount, and provides infinity focus when required.

Image courtesy of Martin Grahl of Novoflex, to whom I extend my thanks.

See more information on books on the Novoflex system at the bottom of this page.

TISBIG-U / TISPIGRIFF-U

In spite of years of searching, as of June 2017, I have still not found for sale a TISBIG-U or a TISPIGRIFF-U.  However, Martin Grahl of Novoflex has kindly sent me some photographs of a TISPIGRIFF-U, and I have great pleasure in reproducing them here.


Here, the TISPIGRIFF-U is mounted on a Pentacon Six TL and has the 500mm lens head on it.  The long lens hood or shade is fitted to the lens.  The outfits have been mounted onto a display stand for these photographs.
[TISPIG_U_500.jpg]

  
In the TISPIGRIFF-U, the short tube at the back of the standard pistol grip (“PIGRIFF”) is replaced with specially-constructed bellows.  When a non-metering prism is mounted on the Pentacon Six, these bellows are mounted “upside-down” (hence the “U”?) .  However, as the front of the metering prism extends forward of the front of the camera, it fouls the rear of these special bellows.  In this case, the bellows can be mounted rotated through 90º, as here (for detail, see picture and text below).


[TISPIG_U_240.jpg]
  
The only difference in this photograph is that the 500mm Noflexar lens head has been replaced by the 240mm Noflexar lens head.  By Medium-Format standards, this results in a small and easily-manageable unit, especially if shooting at maximum aperture.  To retain infinity focus, in these pictures the bellows at the rear of the PIGRIFF have been set at minimum extension.  They can of course be extended when photographing subjects that are closer than the normal minimum focussing distance of the outfit.



In this marvellous picture, we can clearly see all the components of the Novoflex system with the TISPIGRIFF-U for the Pentacon Six.
The bellows have been slightly extended, and we can see that the camera mount on the back of the grip is held in place with four screws, so it is easy to mount it rotated through 90º.
[TISPIG_U_Gesamt.jpg]
  

Of this photograph, Novoflex’s Martin Grahl writes,
“I even attached a Praktina FX just for fun, using the 2 adapters PRALEI-P + LEITIS.
Novoflex offered this option for all photographers eager to use their PIGRIFF 66 with both their medium format and 35mm equipment.”


The Praktina in this photograph has the “ansetzbare Schnellaufzug”, the add-on rapid-advance lever, which was mounted on the underside of the camera.  This accessory was first announced at the Leipzig Spring Fair in February/March 1960.  (Normal film advance was by turning the knob on the top plate of the camera, as was standard with most cameras at that time.)

[TISPIG_U_500_Praktina.jpg]


The shoulder/chest rifle stock

For hand-held operation there is a very impressive chest or shoulder support (called “PISTOCK-66” by Novoflex).  The rear section, which has been folded down to an approximately 45° position in this photograph, can be locked at any suitable angle. When pressed against the chest, it can held at a suitable height by placing round one’s neck a leather strap that connects to eyelets at the back of the stock but that is not attached for this photo.

By rotating the butt of the stock and raising it to approximately vertical position, it can be pressed against the front of the shoulder, without the need for a strap.

It will be clear that the front grip/support tube on the rifle stock prevents the tripod plate on the lens barrel from being used, but in practice one will presumably either use a tripod or use the rifle stock, so this should not be a problem.  If one wants to have both available, it is easy to unscrew and remove the grip/support tube in order to use the tripod plate.

Alternatively, should one wish to retain the grip/support tube in place for rapid hand-held use, one can rotate the tripod plate on the lens through 90° and shoot on the tripod with the lens on its side, which is not a problem when working with a square-format image.  A large flat-ended screwdriver will be required to slacken off and then re-tighten the tripod plate collar.  When rotating the collar, it can be moved slightly back in order to clear the lens head release button.



[novostok.jpg]

As a further alternative, there is a small tripod socket on the base of the rifle stock (visible in the above image), although this is quite near to the bolt that locks the stock to the base of the focussing grip, which may make it difficult to use the mounting platform on the top of some tripods, if this platform is quite large.

In the book referred to above, Dieter Gabler explains (p.36) that what I have called the “grip/support tube” is designed to enable one to rest the outfit on a convenient fence, wall, branch, etc.  The design of the tube enables the lens to be moved backwards and forwards both without scratching the lens and without preventing rotation of the aperture ring or movement of the large front section of the lens as focus is changed. (p.37)  It is a component of the “PISTOCK”, but if lost (or presumably damaged), it was possible (at least, in the 1970s!) to order a replacement without the need to replace the whole rifle stock.

 
Size and weight

The Tele-Noflexar is a very large and heavy lens, especially if we add the rifle stock.  However, professional sports and wildlife photographers, and others, found over many years that it was precisely this rifle stock that enabled them to shoot sharp pictures hand-held with this 500mm lens, without blur due to camera movement, and having total control over focus at all times guaranteed an in-focus image even in the most difficult situations.



Comparison of 500mm Tele-Noflexar with 500mm Pentacon lens, both focussed at infinity.
There is scarcely any difference in the lengths of the two lenses, although the Tele-Noflexar has a much longer - and therefore more effective - lens hood.
[11122206inf.jpg]

Books on the Novoflex System

Over the years, various books on the Novoflex system have been published.  The first ones appear to be those by Dieter Gabler, which were published by Novoflex itself.  People seeking information on the original Novoflex Medium Format systems, especially users of the Pentacon Six and Praktisix, are recommended to consult the first edition of Dieter Gabler’s book, published in 1973.
Those who are familiar with the Minolta SR-T 101 will recognise that it is the 35mm camera shown on the front cover of the 1973 edition with a Novoflex slide-copying setup and a Novoflex fast-focus long lens.  This is not surprising, as Gabler was an adviser working for Minolta-Camera in Germany when he started a voluntary collaboration with NOVOFLEX in 1966.  This resulted in the development and production by Novoflex in 1967 of an automatic bellows unit for the Minolta SR-T 101 with automatic operation of the lens diaphragm, for Minolta, Japan.

However, in 1973 the Medium Format system described on this website was still part of the Novoflex product range.  By 1980 it appears no longer to have been available.

Subsequently, there have been books by Richard Hünecke, published by Laterna magica.  I have seen Hünecke’s “Das Novoflex Telesystem Makrosystem: Ein Color Foto Buch”, 1989, and “Das Novoflex System Makro und Tele”, 1994.  However, I haven’t spotted in Hünecke’s books any information on the original Novoflex Medium Format lenses, described on this website.  His 1989 book does describe the PIGRIFF-C system (referred to below) and his 1994 book describes the PIGRIFF-D system, but in a quick browse of these two books I haven’t spotted any information on using these grips and their associated lens heads with medium format cameras.


Hünecke 1989
[hun1989.jpg]


Hünecke 1994
[hun1994.jpg]

The 1973 edition of Gabler's book
[dg1973s.jpg]


The 1980 edition of Gabler's book
[dg1980s.jpg]

Shutters
Novoflex lenses did not have a built-in shutter, and were therefore only suitable for SLR cameras with focal plane shutters.  Since the 1960s this has included nearly all 35mm-format SLRs.  For Medium Format cameras, only those with a focal plane shutter could use the Medium Format Novoflex system.  This included the Praktisix, Pentacon Six, Norita, Bronica, Asahi Pentax 6 × 7 and the Hasselblad 1600F and 1000F, but of course not the Hasselblad 500C, which was introduced in 1957, after which the 1000F was discontinued (the 1600F had been discontinued earlier).

Aperture control
In the 1950s, very few SLR cameras in any format had any system for stopping down the lens aperture.  In fact, in 1957 when the Praktisix was launched (after the production of prototypes in 1956), it was the first Medium Format SLR camera with automatic aperture operation.  The Hasselblad 500C, launched the same year, also incorporated automatic aperture operation.  However, with the 500C, Hasselblad abandoned the use of a focal plane shutter, so all lenses for it required a built-in shutter, thus excluding Novoflex (and its great rival, Kilfitt) from supplying any further lenses for the brand (other than possibly macro lenses for use on bellows).

As indicated above, in 1967 Novoflex introduced an automatic bellows unit for the Minolta SR-T 101, and in subsequent years it added automatic aperture operation to its macro and long-distance lenses for 35mm cameras.  However, it never introduced automatic aperture control to its original Medium Format system, which was available for the Praktisix and the Pentacon Six and is described on this website.

It would appear that NOVOFLEX ceased production of this system at some point between 1975 and 1980, deciding instead to concentrate on lenses for 35mm cameras.

PIGRIFF-C System


However, the lens heads for the subsequent fast-focus systems, PIGRIFF-C and D versions, had a large enough image circle to cover the 6x6 format so this newer system was offered for some medium format cameras.  Unfortunately, by that time the Pentacon Six was no longer being marketed in Western countries and people in communist bloc countries, including East Germany, would never have obtained the Western currency necessary to buy these items in the West, so NOVOFLEX does not appear to have offered a Pentacon Six mount for the new grip.

I am grateful to Martin Grahl of Novoflex for the information given here and the images and text reproduced below.  I give my translation below.

[rollei6x6c_s.jpg]

Translation of the above text:
“The Novoflex 6 x 6 C f/5.6 400mm fast-shooting lens on the Rollei-SL-66.  With this many friends of Medium Format can also use the advantages of a fast-fire lens.”

Translation of the text to the right:
“The Novoflex 6 x 6 C f/5.6 400mm fast-shooting lens in use on the Hasselblad 2000 FC.”

“[These lenses] can be supplied under the following code words with fixed mounts for various 6×6 and 4.5×6 cameras:
HAPIGRIFF 2000-C for the Hasselblad 2000 FC
ROLPIGRIFF-C for the Rollei SL-66, focussing range from infinity to 2.5mm (27×27 cm)
MAMPIGRIFF 645-C
for Mamiya 645 with swing to vertical and horizontal format
TAXPIGRIFF 645-C
for Pentax 645 with swing to vertical and horizontal format (no connection to 35mm cameras possible)

For Medium Format cameras like the newer models from Rollei and some other cameras, which do not have a focal plane shutter, there are no fast-shooting lenses from Novoflex.”

For more details of the PIGRIFF-C system for medium format cameras, see the publicity sheet reproduced below.




[hass6x6c_s.jpg]


Novoflex leaflet on PIGRIFF-C courtesy of Martin Grahl of NOVOFLEX, Memmingen.
[400triplet_s.jpg]
The lens advertised here is the 400mm f/5.6 triplet.  It is shown with the Hasselblad 2000F, which has a focal plane shutter.  Unfortunately, for the reasons indicated above, this lens and grip were never offered with a Praktisix/Pentacon Six mount.

We see here the official NOVOFLEX English-language terminology for these lenses: “Rapid-Follow-Focus-Lens”.


Click on the image to see a full-sized version (approximately A4).


To go back to the review of the 240mm Noflexar, click here.

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© TRA  January 2012; latest revision: June 2017