Xenar versus Tessar?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by mudman, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. mudman

    mudman Member

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    So I took a gamble. I bought a 1945 Rolleiflex Automat Model 3 (k4b2) in ugly condition from KEH. It was cheap, so I threw it in with some filters I was purchasing. They advertised it as having the tessar taking lens. It showed up today. Doesn't work (like they said), but other than that it's in very decent cosmetic shape - a little wear to the paint and leather here and there, but the mirrors are in excellent shape, focusing is smooth (but the front standard does show a bit of chrome around the outside edge all the way retracted on one corner), the focusing screen is crisp. The taking lens may have fungus [​IMG] I'll be dropping it off at my repairman tomorrow to get his verdict on getting it running.
    My one little complaint (very minor) is that it is not a Tessar. It's a Xenar. On the positive side the taking lens is coated (viewing lens looks uncoated). I know they're both a tessar design, but is that something I should even give a hoot about? In working condition, is their a difference in price between the Tessar and Xenar? I know there was when they were sold new back in the day.
    The nice thing is I have 2 weeks to have it looked at, and during that time I can return to KEH no questions asked.
     
  2. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    Xenars are Tessar clones.
     
  3. mudman

    mudman Member

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    Yup, I know that. Guess main reason I ask if there's any difference between two is for value pricewise and quality. I don't think there will be a difference in quality, but I'm curious. The reason I ask is that it was advertised as a Tessar Rollei. It's not, it's a Xenar.
     
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  4. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    I don't know about the specifics of the Rollei market but in large format lenses, Tessars are, generally speaking, older, command lower prices and are considerd to not perform as well as the (generally) newer Xenars. One way of understanding this is that Schneider "modernized" the basic 4/3 design. They made improvements in design, materials and manufacturing.

    Personally, I greatly prefer the Xenars to the Tessars...
     
  5. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I've never noticed a difference. In fact, many of my best images were taken wiht a Rollei and a 3.5 Xenar.
     
  6. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I don't have a true Tessar to compare to, but the Xenar on my Rolleicord seems to behave and perform exactly the way one expects of a Tessar. I don't think I've ever heard anybody say there was a meaningful difference.

    Agreed, though, that KEH messed up in advertising it as a Tessar---I mean, what if you'd been buying it as a Zeiss collector? For user purposes I think it's a no-harm-no-foul situation.

    -NT
     
  7. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    That's because Schneider stayed in the large format lens business longer than Zeiss. The Zeiss Tessars for MF were tweaked and reformulated as well, for instance the Tessar used on the Rollei 3.5 T models used rare earth glass and was a stellar performer, better than the Xenars of that era.
     
  8. mablo

    mablo Member

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    Xenar is a Zeiss Tessar clone made by Schneider. Obviously Schneider cannot use the name 'Tessar' but they can use the Tessar optical formula which was released to the public domain after the WW2. Both are fantastic lenses in good condition.
     
  9. Andy38

    Andy38 Member

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    I have Automat's with Tessar and Xenar and don't notice any difference.

    But the later Tessar on the Rolleiflex T is better.
     
  10. photobum

    photobum Member

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    I think you better pump a roll of fine grain film through it. I have a 3.5 F model Xenar that's everybit as good as the 80mm Planar on my 'Blad.
     
  11. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    Are you sure that 3.5F isn't a Xenotar?

    I think the Xenar and Tessar are both great lenses. I shot quick tests (mostly to verify focus accuracy) with quite a few over the past year. All were good. Some were slightly better than others. No two performed exactly alike. None were as good as a Planar or Xenotar (particularly at larger apertures).

    The Tessar on the Rolleiflex T does seem to be noticeably better than the older lenses (though prone to separation in the rear cell).
     
  12. dpurdy

    dpurdy Subscriber

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    From wikipedia

    The Tessar design patent was held by Zeiss for two decades, and licensed to Ross (optics) in the United Kingdom, Bausch & Lomb in the United States and to Krauss in France. Only licensed manufacturers were allowed to use the brand name "Tessar". However, Tessar-type lenses were widely made by many manufacturers under different trade names. The Minoxar 35/2.8 lens on the Minox M.D.C and GT-E is the fastest and widest Tessar type lens achieved so far by using lanthanum glass elements. The picture quality was outstanding.[2] Other Tessar-type lenses include the Schneider Xenar, Agfa Solinar, Rodenstock Ysar, Kodak Ektar, Yashica Yashinon 80mm (twin-lens-reflex design), and Minolta Rokkor 75mm (twin-lens-reflex design).
     
  13. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Whoa, even wide open and in the corners? That's a pretty strong endorsement and not one I think I've heard before. Maybe if "good" is judged more in terms of character than technical qualities---there are some people who find Planars to look clinical, I guess.

    -NT
     
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  15. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    Agree with Andy38, my experience is the same. The later Tessar is a real cracker and is every bit as good as my 3.5 Planar at middling apertures. The Xenar is still damn good on either the T models or the 'Cords, you wouldn't be dissapointed with either.
     
  16. mudman

    mudman Member

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    Thanks. I'm looking forward to getting it in running shape. I have a later MX-EVS Flex as well. I like that this earlier model has way more aperture blades. I'm looking forward to the OOF areas.
     
  17. Vanishing Point Ent.

    Vanishing Point Ent. Member

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    The difference between the Schneider vs Zeiss, Xenar vs Tessar, Xenotar vs Planar ?

    The way it was explained to me when I owned a Rolleiflex 2.8 F Planar, was like this.

    Lens Name---------------------# of lens elements

    Schneider Xenar---------------3 elements,
    Zeiss Tessar-------------------4 elements, a symmetrical lens design,
    Schneider Xenotar-------------5 elements,
    Zeiss Planar--------------------6 elements.

    None of these are T*, or HFT coated.
     
  18. Dr.Pain-MD

    Dr.Pain-MD Member

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    The way you had it explained to you was wrong. The amount of elements in the Tessar and Xenar is the same. The amount of elements in the Xenotar and Planar is also the same.
     
  19. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    The only three-element lenses in the Rollei TLR line-up is the Triotar. Sometimes disparaged but it really has its uses, giving a different look.
     
  20. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The Schneider Xenar has never been 3 elements their triplet was the Trinar, the Zeiss Jena version was the Triotar and was fitted to early Rolei's.

    The Tessar has neveer been a symmetrical design, and while the Xenar was Schneider's copy of it so four elements in 3 groups (2 singles and a double) they did also make a faster f2.8 5 element version the S-Xenar in the 1930's.


    By 1945 there was a shortage of specialist optical glasses used for making lenses in Germany particularly the Russian sector and there were quality issues with lenses supplied by CZJ to Rollei. This culminated in Rollei using Opton Tessar's from the new West German Zeiss company some of these may well ahve been still made in Jena but had to pass tighter quality controls.

    So I wouldn't be concerned your camera has a Xenar :D

    I use a 1950's CZJ T coated f4.5 150mm Tessar and stopped down it's an excellent lens equally as good as the 1960's f4.7 150mm Xenar I used to have or the f5.6 150mm Xenar I use now which came from the last batch produced just over 10 years ago.

    The only comment I would make is that some early coated lens tend to have a very cold bluish look which makes no differance for B&W but causes a slight color cast with transparency films and requires a warm up filter.

    Ian
     
  21. jochen

    jochen Member

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    Hello,
    both the 1:3,5/75 mm Xenotar and Planar originally had 5 lenses. During the production run of the 3,5 F and with the growing use of colour films it became difficult for Zeiss and Schneider to fulfil the high quality standards of Rollei. So Zeiss changed I think in 1960 or 1961 the Planar from 5 to 6 lenses without official publicity. Schneider did the same with the Xenotar. All 1:2,8/80 mm Planars and Xenotars always had 5 lenses. The 1:3,5/75 mm Tessar of the Rolleiflex T was an improved and recomputed version of the original Tessar. Compared to the Planar and Xenotar the Tessar/Xenar has a certain residual amount of curvature of field, they need f/8 to f/11 for best sharpness until the corners. Stopped down it will be difficult to see a difference to a Planar/Xenotar. Cameras with Schneider lenses were offered a little bit cheaper and they had not the "reputation" and "glory" of the famous name Zeiss but inofficially there was the rumour that they were at least equivalent if not a little bit better than the Zeiss lenses. Even today we have to pay more for a Rolleiflex with a Zeiss lens than for one with a Schneider lens.
     
  22. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Subscriber

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    Just my personal experience, but the Tessar on my MXV EV is much better than a later Xenar I had until very recently (sold it at Photographica). Both were very good, but the Tessar had better contrast and was sharper in the only test I ever ran on them. I understand that every single lens is a bit different, and that the history of my cameras may have played a part– neither was new when i bought it but each had been CLA'd in the recent past. Still, the pricelist of new Rolleiflex cameras from one shop in Prov, RI in 1956 showed a $40 difference between Xenar and Tessar lens models. Must have been some difference acknowledged by the company. $40 was not chump change in 1956.
     
  23. PaulMD

    PaulMD Member

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    Xenar vs Tessar... no advantage either way. It's up to the quality and optical centering of your particular lens. Both are good lenses computed by the giants of lens technology. Same for Planar vs Xenotar. Things like number of aperture blades can have an impact but it's going to be a tie optically on a general basis.

    Xenar/Tessar vs Xenotar/Planar, the planar type is going to win at anything wider than f/8. The tessar will be sharp in the center, but the Planar will be sharper and have much better edge sharpness. On the other hand, the Tessar won't be bad at all. It was the top of the line for decades, aside from maybe the Heliar type, and produces usable results at all apertures.
     
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  24. PaulMD

    PaulMD Member

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    I don't have personal knowledge of the relative pricing schemes, but it's possible you were paying for the brand name or very marginal gains. Zeiss still does this today, for example the Zeiss 50/1.4 Planar is actually worse than the AF-Nikkor 50/1.4 on full frame wide open/near wide open performance (Photozone.de), but it costs twice as much. $350 isn't chump change even today, but that's the premium you pay for the Zeiss brand name and (in this case inferior) performance.

    Given that both lenses have a pretty much identical formula, I'd have to see proof to accept a claim that one was better, and it would have to be a statistically large enough sample to overcome unit variation. There's also the fact that these things are ancient, so the lenses can come out of sync, be repaired or realigned improperly, filled with fungus, reground, recemented, who knows what.

    From what I've seen, unit variation exceeds any broad-level performance variation, especially given the age and uncertain provenance.
     
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  25. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Back to the OP's question really because by 1945 CZJ were having to re-calculate the design slightly to suite particular batches of optical glass which lead to greater than normal variations.

    Ian
     
  26. mudman

    mudman Member

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    Well I got good news from my repairman. The camera only needs a little tlc to get running and it's not fungus! Should be shooting in 2 weeks.