The Pentacon Six System
Lens Data Summary
Review of the 500mm Tele-Noflexar
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:
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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 – but see the information reproduced here on the left, received in June 2018 from Martin Grahl of Novoflex.
|In the book referred to here, Dieter Gabler
explains (p.36 of the first edition) 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
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.
Image to the right: 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.
We are grateful to Martin Grahl of Novoflex for supplying the following photographs from the company archive.
The following pictures show this lens being carried and in operational position.
Here a final check of the 500mm (50 cm) lens is being made. The lens is mounted on a Hasseblad 1000F or 1600F
(although some sort of grip has been added to the shutter speed knob, presumably with the intention of improving speed of operation or comfort).
Novoflex had a contract with Hasselblad to manufacture the NC-2 Prism Viewfinder between 1963 and 1982 (Norden, “Hasselblad Compendium”, page 215), but the Magnifying Hood seen here was manufactured by Hasselblad themselves between approximately 1957 and 1975 (Norden, p. 212).
Clicking on the photograph opens a larger copy of it.
must have been taken in the 1960s. We can see that
the lens is attached to what must be a Hasselblad
1000F. (It is unlikely to be the earlier 1600F,
which was discontinued in the mid 1950s, and is even less
likely to be the Soviet copy of the Hasselblad, which at
the time was known as the “Salyut”.)
Some will be interested to notice the cars that can be seen in the background, a “bubble car” and an Opel of the period.
Here, also courtesy of Martin Grahl of Novoflex, we have another publicity photograph from the company archive. Here, the 500mm Tele-Noflexar can be seen mounted on a Praktisix camera, again with the shoulder support strap.
The photographer in this picture certainly makes it look easy and light!
The results of tests with this lens can be seen here.
Novoflex lenses and Follow-Focus grips did not have a built-in shutter, and they 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).
For a proposed Novoflex Follow-Focus lens and grip with a built-in shutter, for potential use with the Hasselblad 500C and possibly with other medium format cameras that did not have a focal plane shutter, see here.
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).
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 and to its bellows for various other 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.
A possible disadvantage in some situations is the limited minimum focus. I have measured the minimum focus with the 500mm head and the standard pistol grip 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, with the standrd grip this 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) /
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© TRA January 2012 Latest revision:February 2022