The Higon Lens; Any Information Out There?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, May 27, 2016.

  1. Mainly due to my own insatiable curiosity, (and members my age will remember what happened to the Elephant's Child), this very unusual lens arrived yesterday. I have a habit of buying lenses I know very little about, especially when they're cheap, and this is a prime example. Or more of a zoom example, really.
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  2. The lens is an ancient pre-set Japanese zoom, 100-200mm f/5.6. It's heavy, quite nicely built and the glass appears to be well coated. The manufacturer is one Itoh Kogaku, a company that, in the 1950's, specialised in the grinding and finishing of lens elements, supplying them to a variety of customers for use in various other brands. This company is apparently still in existence and employed in much the same line of work. At some stage it seems that they put their own name on a line of lenses, under the "Higon" brand. It's very difficult to establish just how many different Higon lenses there were, or if Itoh Kogaku made anything other than the glass, but there were some 35mm prime lenses, for example, which seem to have been well-received. The native mount is a T-Mount, in this case fitted with a M42 adapter. Here is the frontal ring.
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  3. There is some speculation about links with Kyoei and Kawanon, but nothing really substantive. I have found one identical example wearing the obscure Vemar brand, Vemar being a distributor rather like Vivitar who imported re-branded Japanese photographic items, and the same lens in the Soligor catalogue of the era, without the distinctive circular bands but with the more common zebra stripes.
    The lens is in desperate need of cleaning to remove some internal haze and a few spots of fungus, but the glass is otherwise in quite good shape. My first reaction upon inspecting a couple of test images was one of disbelief; I've never seen a bokeh quite like this. The lens has 12 aperture blades so fairly circular highlights are to be expected, but it's the rather "tear drop" shapes that surprised me. Here's the first image I took from the front verandah, in the rain but in a brief moment of sunshine. The haze has created a certain mystical flare around the highlights.
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  4. This morning I dashed out between rain showers and shot off a few more frames, and I have to say that I'm intrigued by this lens. It has great creative potential, as they say. Here's a bigger image I rather like.
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  5. So, If anyone can throw any more light on the origins and history of Itoh Kogaku/Higon lenses, I'd be delighted to add the information to my folder. Images are from a full-frame Sony Alpha A7r.
     
  6. Rick, it's getting into summer here, so I am warm, but not at all astonished. Well, maybe a little astonished: that bokeh looks like classic coma, much larger than I'd expect in a well-corrected multi-element lens. If so, the little comet-shapes should all point toward the center of the field, and get much rounder as you stop down a bit.
     
  7. I think either Vivitar or Soligor offered the same lens around that time. If not the same at least similar specs. The modest
    maximum aperture and 2:1 zoom ratio was able to deliver what many deemed acceptable results without spending a lot.
    Good results and thanks for posting.
     
  8. Beautiful pictures, Rick; I would say that lens was a very good buy. The Maple is very atmospheric.
     
  9. Of course! Coma it must certainly be, but I've never seen it so pronounced and I didn't consider that as a possibility. I may just keep this as a "special effects" lens...
     
  10. I couldn't find the lens or company in the Kadlbeks Objektiv-Katalog (2nd Ausgabe),but that is not surprising, given the emphasis there, almost necessarily, on bigger and more Western import companies.
    I'm sure you've seen the mostly peripheral items (including this post itself) on Google™. :)
     
  11. Isn't it the god lens? An extension of the Higginns boson?
     
  12. I'd love to see more photos. Does the lens do well at or near infinity? I've always thought the 100-200 range lenses might
    be hidden gems eclipsed by the 70-ish to 200-ish zooms that became popular soon after. I actually enjoy my old Celtic
    100-200 f5.6 as well as my Sigma 100-200 f4.5 lenses.
     
  13. Thanks, JDM, I followed all the avenues Google provided but didn't come up with much. I'll try to do some more soon with the lens, Mike, and post some results. And thanks Andrew, Alan, and Donald, for your input.
     
  14. Of course! Coma it must certainly be, but I've never seen it so pronounced and I didn't consider that as a possibility.​
    Well, certain people insist that it is actually SOSA (sagittal oblique spherical aberration.) Whatever you might call it, it's still an eyesore. Those who keep saying the first version 43-86mm Zoom-Nikkor gave all zooms a bad name, obviously haven't seen this one.
    Anyway, Itoh Kogaku is still alive and well: http://www.aichi-brand.jp/corporate/type/miscellaneous/itoh-optical-e.html
     

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