Exakta VX IIa: which is the better lens, in theory?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by karl_matthias, Jul 17, 2009.

  1. I have two "normal" focal length lenses for Exakta (two cameras, one came with each). One is a 1.9/50mm Schneider Xenon, and the other is a 2/58mm Zeiss Jena Biotar. I can see a difference in the picture output of the two lenses, the Schneider is super crisp while the Zeiss is a bit softer. Both produce outstanding results. I just use them for different kinds of shots, but in theory which is the more highly regarded lens? The focal length difference is minimal enough to not matter to me. The Schneider is fitted with an Isco light meter (which I don't use, but which seems to work) through a slot in the top of the lens. I figure it's quite interesting for that aspect alone. But I'm learning more and more about Exaktas and wondering which of these is generally considered the more highly regarded lens, and why?
    Thanks all!
  2. I think each lens has its own characteristics. By design some emphasize tonality while others emphasize sharpness and contrast; some others try and combine both. Both lenses you mentioned are highly reputed. The Biotar was copied extensively by the Helios range and even improved upon. I would cherish and use each lens for its own good points and not worry about which is better. I don't think that there is one scale or normative to judge. Regards, sp.
  3. I have both of these in Exakta mount, and I would say that I prefer the Biotar, although both are very good.My Xenon at some point lost its meter, alas.
    Toward the end of his life, Herbert Keppler wrote an article in Pop Photo , comparing the old Biotar to modern 50-some mm lenses. The Biotar did extremely well. You can read it at (link )
  4. I have both also, can't see a lot of difference in the pictures, but the Xenon I have is beautifully built...all brass and chrome...whereas the Biotar suffers from that East German penchant for Alloy.
    The glass is good though, and the Biotar formula seems a good one. The later Russian Helios copies seem to be better built, perform better too....can't say that too often!
  5. For exakta there were two excelents lenses, the biotar and the pancolar 2/50.
    Both greats lenses, I prefer the pancolar.
  6. There was also a f:1.9/50mm Steinheil Quinon(sp?) which was highly regarded, along with the Pancolor.
  7. Subbarayan, that's kind of my take on it, too, but I'm not an expert photographer and I was wondering if there was something I was missing that was an important characteristic.
    JDM, thanks for the link! I'm going to read that now.
    Tony, yes the Xenon has quite a heft in comparison to the Biotar, especially with the light meter attached (I have the blanking cap, too). Mine is not chrome, though (that would be pretty!), so in that respect I prefer the alloy Biotar.
    Thanks all for your opinions.
  8. Karl,
    In my experience with two copies of both lenses Biotar 2/58 has a much higher central sharpness and somehow worse corner sharpens (it's probably curvature of the field issue, never bothered me enough to do quantitative tests), while Xenon 1,9/50 has a higher contrast. Colour rendering is also quite different. I love bokeh of the Biotar, less so the one of Xenon. Of course, there is a non-negligent difference in focal length.
    The tiny but still hefty Biotar 2/5,8 cm in Exakta mount (chrome over brass, 1946 vintage) is the lens I actually use. On a Canon EOS 1.6X crop digital body. It's the loveliest portrait lens I've ever met.
    Best regards,
  9. Here is just a quick snap of the two lenses so you can see what's being discussed. The meter would have mounted on the chrome platform next to the shutter release on the Xenon. The Biotar is the pre-set version.
  10. Sorry I gave the wrong link to the Keppler story, although what I gave may of interest to some...
    Here's the actual comparison: link
  11. Thanks for the new link. Velly Intelesting.
    Incidentally, it is amazing to think back on what a major technilogical improvement the pre-set aperture was at the time.
  12. I don't have much experience with the Biotar lens...but I love my Schneider 1.9. It seems very sharp. It also posesses a unique tonality which I can only describe as "Marble" like. And I am usually more impressed by the Zeiss designs. The Schneider has a sticky aperture that I really need to work on someday.....
  13. Here is a home processed shot using the Schneider lens on an Exakta V1000
  14. I don't have either of these lenses, but I found this page very enlightening for Exakta lenses.


    Clearly an examination of the lens fomula would help. The Biotar formula I think was a variation
    on the Topogon, wheras the Xenar was Scheiders improved Tessar.


    I think SP's comments summed it up best!
  15. I shot 2 rolls of Kodak 200 (color) in Exeter, NH for the post July 4 celebration 3 days ago. 50/1.9 Schneider lens produced a nice creamy skin tone that reminded me of the 80/3.5 lens on my rolleiflex TLR. In terms of sharpness, I won't say it's super sharp. I compared some shots to pictures done with Mir 35/2. Mir 35/2 prodcued a very similar skin tone. For vintage looks, kiev (contax copies) jupiter 50cm/2, 35mm/2.8 also delievers a similar result.

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