Pentacon Six Lenses
Kilfitt Pan-Tele Kilar
The small, specialist company of Heinz Kilfitt manufactured a range of lenses in Munich, (then) West Germany from at least the 1950s to the 1970s. They were available in a wide range of mounts including Medium Format and 35mm cameras, as well as for movie cameras, and were very highly esteemed. The Pan-Tele Kilar was designed with exceptional features. It therefore merits – even requires! – a much more detailed description than would be expected for a normal lens.
the Pan-Tele Kilar
Normal focussing is via either of two wheels mounted near the back of the lens. These move the front of the lens straight forward, without rotating it, and permit focus from infinity down to 9'6" (2.8m), shown on an engraved scale that is painted white. This is known as rack focussing.
In other words, with the Pan-Tele Kilar use the white scale when the helical focussing is fully in and the red scale when it is fully out.
At maximum extension of both the rack and
helical focussing controls, the subject is a mere 56"
(1423mm) from the front of the lens shade – incredibly
close for a lens of this focal length. My 24"
computer screen more than fills the frame of my Pentacon
Six at this distance.
Given the extreme degree of extension that is possible, for speediest operation through-the lens stop-down metering is recommended, as it will be necessary to increase exposure to compensate for maximum extension, as with any lens that is extended this far from the camera. If TTL stop-down metering is not available, the user can be guided by the exposure factors marked on the focussing distance scale printed on the barrel: at 9'6" / 2.8 m, increase exposure by 1.3×, at 6'6" / 2m by 1.5× and at the closest focussing distance of approx 5'8" / 1.7m increase exposure by 1.7×.
Field of view
Any 300mm lens will give a magnification
factor of 3.75 in comparison with the standard Medium
Format 80mm lens. Used on a 35mm camera, the
factor is even greater: 6× compared with a standard
focal length of 50mm. Here are some examples of
what this looks like, taken on a Pentacon Six, of
The name ring on the front of the lens includes a symbol consisting of three rings side by side. On the lens that I have, by the light of my study, they appear to be blue, red and yellow in colour. I think that in fact they are cyan, magenta and yellow, the so-called “subtractive” primary colours. This was Kilfitt’s symbol to indicate that the lens had been corrected at the design stage to reduce chromatic aberrations to an absolute minimum. Hence the lens was a “panchromatic” lens, thus the title Pan-Tele Kilar. Let us see how it performs in reality.
Here is a more than 10× enlargement from
a small section of each of the above two Pan-Tele Kilar
images. (A small amount of sharpening has been
applied to these two enlargements only, to compensate
for the softening introduced by the scanner.)
Users of this lens praise its quality, both mechanically and optically. In his review for www.shutterbug.net of a later version of this lens, Roger W Hicks, writing in 2003, asks “Is it the Acme Of German Engineering?” and answers by saying, “it is unparalleled for rapid focus adjustments” ... “it is a staggeringly desirable lens for medium format” ... “no one would make a lens of this mechanical quality today: and if they did, no one could afford to buy it. At a guess, you couldn’t build it to sell for much less than $5000.” ... “It doesn’t have Leitz or Zeiss engraved on it, but it is rarer and (dare I say it) better made than many things that do bear those desirable logos.” (See http://www.shutterbug.net/equipmentreviews/classic_historical/0703sb_classic/)
At closest focus, the special qualities
that distinguish the Pan-Tele Kilar from other 300mm
lenses are clearly seen. With the image on the
left, as I had decided to use the lens at its closest
focus, I mounted it onto the focussing slide (German:
“Einstellschlitten”), to allow precise adjustment of
focus. For the second shot, I had not packed the
focussing slide in my bag at day, but with care was able
to move the tripod to the exact position.
The Pan-Tele Kilar is an outstanding lens
for macro work. It is also outstanding for any
other telephoto work, especially when tripod-mounted,
which is the only time that using the focussing lever is
a practical option.
For information on using the Pan-Tele
Kilar with the Kilfitt Multi-Kilar lens converter, and
results obtained with this combination, see here.
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© TRA September 2010, Latest revision: November 2020