Biotar 58 f2

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by paul_mccarthy|3, Nov 8, 2007.

  1. I've got one of these with an M42 mount (number 5627885) which came with an old
    Praktica MTL3. It is probably me but I can't figure out how to control the
    aperture settings. Is it simple? Has anyone done this sort of thing
    before 'cos if you have I need a dig out as I don't want to break anything on
    the lens!
    Many thanks,
  2. have not used one in a while, but it's a preset aperture lens. When I get home I'll take a look at it to be sure, but I think you use the front ring to set to whichever f-stop (cw) then open turning the same ring ccw to view and focus, close back(it'd only go as far as the pre-set value) and shoot.
  3. The Biotar exists in a wide range of forms from simple adjustment with no click stops to automatic and in Exakta and M42 mounts. The preset versions involve setting the main f/stop and then twisting the preset ring to f/2 for focusing, and then (one hopes) remembering to twist it back to the final setting. It is still a fantastic lens even by modern standards, its only flaw being the lack of modern lens coatings. One paid a substantial premium to get this on your Exakta or Contax SLR in the day when the late DDR dominated the SLR market.
  4. At one time I had a Zenit E with the 58/2 Helios. I think that version of the 58/2 Biotar had a spring loaded aperture ring. You had to push in before you could turn. It's hard for me to know the Biotar or the Helios had better quality control. My Helios lens wasn't half bad by the time I stopped it down to f/5.6.

    How does it compare to a more modern lens? I don't think very well. I would compare it to standard lenses from the 1960s like the 55/1.8 Super Takumar, the 52/1.8 Konica Hexanon, the 50/2 Nikkor H, 55/1.7 Minolta MC Rokkor and the 50/1.8 Canon FL. Any of these lenses is much better than the Helios. That doesn't mean you can't get any good images with the Helios but if you are shooting between wide open and f/4, the Helios is weaker.
  5. I have a Helios version of the design too, but while it's very nice, I think that quality control was definitely better in Dresden than in the FSU. Actually, a Keppler comment on this at ( ) said: "And if you test one, you may be as amazed as I at how very good a 1950 58mm f/2 Biotar is, even against today's best." I can speak from personal experience that a Biotar on a modern EOS Canon is a very fine lens indeed.
  6. The quality of the lens is excellent. I wouldn't mine testing it against modern lenses. The build quality is high and I have seen recent 50mm lenses with barrel distortion which my Zeiss doesn't exhibit. The bokeh is smooth and neutral.
    Most version are T-coated (*later exemplas don't have the red T because it was now standard). Sure it is not SMC, T*... so you get a bit lower contrast in some situation, but I found mine performing well at f4 or f5.6 even with backlit scenes and sparkling light on water.

    To bad my exakta leaks light now form some place I don't know, or I would use it much much more.

    As far as aperture: my version is some strange kind of semi-automatic: you set the aperture in a similar way to preset lenses (by pushing the aperture ring while setting it) and then you charge the mechanism with a lever. It will stop down at exposure time, but won't open again until you cock it anew. I guess it was state-of-the-art in the fifties, you can never do wrong,w hile with preset lenses you easily can leave it open!
  7. The later versions of the Helios (with auto diaphragm and multicoating) are much better than the older preset versions.
  8. Sometime in the last year in one of the current photo magazines I read a comparison of the 58mm Biotar against one of the current Nikon normal lenses. The bottom line conclusion was that they were very close, but the Biotar barely edged out the Nikor lens for image quality.
  9. Alan, could you post an excerpt? Are you saying the 2/58 Zeiss Biotar went up against the 1.8/50 Nikkor and WON? That would be truly startling, considering, I believe, the 2/50 Pancolar is supposed to be significantly "better" than the Biotar.
  10. Arjun,

    Unfortunately, I don't have the article. I should have bought the magazine, but I didn't. It was fairly recent though, sometime within the last year or so.

  11. Here's a sample from the Biotar
  12. Will, nice picture: great lighting. I've learned, though, that one can't really judge the quality of a lens by looking at a scaled-down image posted on the Internet; a decent comparison has to be between two lenses used in similar conditions, shots from each printed to at least 8"X10" enlargements. All this said, the 2/58 Biotar is a very nice lens, even uncoated.

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