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.

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:

  • 1 click to f/8
  • 2 clicks to f/11
  • 3 clicks to f/16
  • 4 clicks to f/22
  • 5 clicks to f/32
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).


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:

  • if the subject is stationary, you can pre-set and lock the focus, then use one hand to stop down the aperture and the other to fire the shutter;
  • if the subject is moving, you can stop down the lens to desired aperture (not really recommended before focussing!), then use one hand to adjust the focus and the other to fire the shutter.
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.

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.

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.

In June 2018 I received the following information from Martin Grahl of Novoflex:
I discovered a minor “error” in some of the pictures on your site. The tripod clamp shown mounted to the TISPIGRIFF, was never available for the medium format handles. It appears to be a self-modified model by the previous owner of your PIGRIFF. The tripod clamp PISTAR, which was available for the first two 35mm PIGRIFF-models, looked similar with the exception of not having the “extra foot”.

In this copy of the picture to the right, Martin has marked in red the non-original component:


So the tripod clamp, which did appear to be a bit of an afterthought, was in fact a one-off modification by a previous owner!  Thank you, Martin, for this correction!


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 stock.

The PISTAR tripod clamp

When the tripod plate described above is removed, it is possible to see that it has indeed been modified from its original form, in order to mount it onto the barrel of the focussing grip.


The flat plate on its base is also clearly not original (and it has in fact been mounted on the PISTAR slightly crooked!).


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.

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.

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.

The following pictures show this lens being carried and in operational position.



These pictures 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.

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).

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.

Minimum focus

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) / 9½ ft.

However, it is possible to get much closer with the Noflexar 500mm and 240mm lenses!  For information on that, see here.

Some information that was previously on this page can now be found on the pages Noflexar Lenses for the Praktisix/Pentacon Six Close up and Novoflex literature.

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

To return to the overview of Novoflex lenses, click here.

To go on to the next section, click below.
Next section: Noflexar Lenses for the Praktisix/Pentacon Six Close up: TISPIGRIFF-U

To go back to the beginning of the Lens Data section, click below and then choose the range of lenses that you want to read about.
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© TRA  January 2012  Latest revision:February 2022