Lens Data Summary
Review of the 500mm
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.
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.
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:
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.
The 500mm Tele-Noflexar lens head with a 49mm UV filter fitted at the back.
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.
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.
|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.
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.
focus with the Tispigriff-U
A recently-received Novoflex “Katalog” from 1970 indicates the minimum focussing distance for these two lenses when the Tispigriff-U is used:
Prices of the Tispigriff-U and the Tisbig-U
Interestingly, the price of the Tispigriff-U is given: 697,– Deutschmarks, a sum that few amateurs will have been able to afford.
Photographers who already had the standard Tispigriff (price in 1970: 473,– DM) could send it in to Novoflex to have the Tisbig-U bellows mounted, for the price of 250,– DM, which included the cost of mounting the bellows onto the Tispigriff.
Prices of the Medium Format lens heads
We also note the prices for these two lens heads in 1970:
TRA, July 2019
|Tispigriff-U dimensions and production
In August 2019 I received from Martin Grahl of Novoflex further fascinating information on this seldom-seen product. A company drawing shows the dimensions for the pistol grip and its camera mount, and inventory cards show the numbers produced, and the dates.
|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 below, 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 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.
Here, 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!
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.
The results of tests with this lens can be seen here.
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).
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 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.
However, the lens heads for the subsequent fast-focus systems, PIGRIFF-C and D versions, had a large enough image circle to cover the 6×6 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.
Translation of the above text:
“The Novoflex 6 × 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 × 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:
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
For more details of the PIGRIFF-C system for medium
format cameras, see the publicity sheet reproduced below.
Novoflex leaflet on PIGRIFF-C courtesy of Martin Grahl of NOVOFLEX, Memmingen.
|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”.
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© TRA January 2012 Link to results of tests added
February 2019 Further revision: August 2019