Zoomar Sport-Reflectar 500mm f/5.6

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Apr 29, 2013.

  1. Zoomar Sport-Reflectar 500mm f/5.6
    A sad story with a slightly not-so-sad ending

    Kadlubek Nr. ZOM0110
    (w/ interchangeable Nikon F mount)
    dates: late 1950s to 1972? Variant ("20 inch") of it listed in Modern Photography's Lens list for 1961.
    Serial Nr. 278-0380

    Length: 24cm long with hood collapsed, 30cm long with it deployed.
    Diameter: 12+cm in diameter
    Mass: 3.17 kg (7.0 lbs) ! ! !


    I pride myself on being a user-collector, so I make a strong effort to get working equipment. Recently, a friend of mine has been clearing out his house, and he gave me the Miranda cameras I posted on a while back.

    But as he dug deeper, he came up with a interesting sounding lens -- a Zoomar Sport-Reflectar 500mm f/5.6. I looked it up on eBay for him and was surprised to see prices being asked for this lens in the $1,500 to $3,000 range. Of course, as anyone who frequents these dives knows, much can be asked but few are sold. There were a few sales in the hundreds of dollars though. I told him about that and suggested that he might want sell that one. He didn't want to bother, but asked me to take a look at the lens.

    When I did, it was very clear, or rather unclear, that the lens was badly "fungused", and would probably be worth very little. So it sat for some weeks, but Sunday morning at the coffee shop he asked what I would give him for the lens.

    Here was my dilemma. The lens was unlikely to be usable. On the other hand, I had recently bought an equally unusable Biotar in M40 mount, even posted on it.
    Would a likely shelf-queen be an interesting addition to the piles of mirror lenses I've already accumulated (e.g., http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00RaKy )? After all, I also own some old East German cameras of which there can't be more than a few examples that are still working, anywhere in the world (Pentina, anyone?).

    So I made my friend an offer that was probably too much, but he made a higher counter offer. I told him, I'd have to think about it, but later on, he said, OK to my original suggestion.

    So now I am the owner of a Zoomar Sport-Refllectar 500mm f/5.6. Proud? Maybe.

    The Lens

    Marc may have better luck than I did, but I couldn't locate any Kilfitt or Zoomar ads or reviews, and as noted above, the first mention of it I found was a 20" Zoomar Reflectar in a 1961 lens list. It has been speculated that production may have ceased in the early 1970s.

    Modern Photography September, 1961:

    20-in. f/5.6 Reflectar. Zoomar, U.S.A. Mirror
    optics, for single-lens reflexes, reflex housings,
    $550, basic price. Fitting, cost of reflex
    housing extra . Consult mfr.​

    There is a little information out there on this lens, for example:



    I got out some fungicide, and after cleaning off the powder from the deteriorated foam in the case and the external fungus, confirmed that, indeed, the interior of the lens was also "infected", at least the meniscus lens on the front, and perhaps on the mirror surfaces. The dial installed, built-in rear filters also are 'clouded', but the clear one is fairly clean. If the front-silvered mirrors are also affected (and I think they are), that would probably be it for this lens as a user, but I will wait to crack it open later. There are screws on the back that allow, I suppose, the filters in the dial to be changed or removed. The front bezel has notches for a spanner, though I don't have any that large (about 120mm across).

    In looking over current offerings of this lens on eBay, at least some of them seem to be in similar condition, so perhaps the really pricy ones are clean?

    So, after cleaning the exterior surfaces, metal and glass, I reassembled the Nikon mount that was with it (there was another mount of some kind that I can't identify - perhaps for use as a spotting scope?). I very briefly attached it to my Nikon F2, verified that it would focus to infinity, but also verified that optical quality was definitely compromised.

    Here is the lens on my Nikon F2:

  2. Here is the case it came in, outside and inside. Other pictures of these on the internet show that this is "standard" condition these days.
  3. This is the front of the lens after exterior cleaning.
  4. And closer in to the front lens element.

  5. Finally, for as much as can be done with it as it is, I've given more of my water tower and Ennuisgaten series below. These were shot on a tripod on my Canon 5Dii using a Nikon>EOS adapter.

    The water tower from the same spot as in earlier tests of other lenses:
  6. Hmm.. maybe not so bad at that, especially considering all the biologicals inside the lens.
    Here is a 100% crop from the RAW file of the same image:
  7. And of course looking down the street from the same spot- 180º.
  8. 100% crop from the RAW of that one:
  9. And just for lagniappe, my neighbor walking her dog with focus on her and the dog:

  10. Frankly, I would not have dreamed that the lens would do so well, showing the amount of mildew that it does.
    If this is what it is like with all the fungus inside it, what must it have been like when it was whole?

    I confess that until I can at least kill off the fungus and the spores, I feel like I'm hanging out with Typhoid Mary to put this on a good camera.
    Isn't UV supposed to kill the fungus? Would the old set-it-out lens toward-the-sun trick work for this or not? Or would it just set the house on fire? :|

    That's more than enough.
  11. Isn't UV supposed to kill the fungus?​
    AFAIK - It's not enough to kill the fungus. You have to kill the spores. And the glass will absorb UV - that's why there are special lenses for UV photography.
  12. I appreciate your little gift, sweet but not excessive... Astonishing, JDM, that the lens performs as well as it does, given it's condition. The case tells the story...I wouldn't have the courage to venture much further into the interior, and if, as you say, the mirrors are degraded, there would be little point. Still, at least you can say you have one. Is just a certain rarity value that elevates the asking price, or does the lens have some quality of which I'm not aware? From browsing the links you posted, it's obviously very well designed and built, and carries a certain historical interest. Fascinating post; thanks.
  13. Don't do anything to the lens. Send it to Davro for an estimate. http://www.davrooptical.com/
    And get a better tripod or learn how to lock down the one you use. The images you posted in this discussion show major motion blur. It doesn't have to be.
    FWIW, I had similar problems -- motion blur, not fungus -- with my Questar 700. I eventually borrowed Charlie Barringer's two Q700s and mine turned out to be slight the best of the three. Then I played a lot with my tripod (early Bogen 3021). The leg locks were a little worn, even when fully tightened the legs had a little play at the joints. Really a design problem, the bearing surfaces between the sections were too short. The result was that the tripod had little torsional stiffness (around the platform's vertical axis). My 3021 was a lost cause, I replaced it with a Berlebach 8023. Much much better. And now I have an ancient Ries Model C, equally good.
  14. Wow! That shot of the lens on the F2...I've never seen anything like that. I'm pretty sure that you can kill the fungus w/ a strong UV source like a sun lamp or something. Of course, at some point it will have to be cleaned to get all the stuff out, but that should keep it from getting worse anyway. You should get an EM to put it on :) You're right, if it will take photos that sharp like it is, it should be a killer when it's cleaned up. Zoomar sounds like one of those planets that scantily clad women were always coming from in the bad sci fi movies from the 50's. Queen Zelda from Zoomar or something.
  15. The pictures look good, though a little on the softer side. A little cleaning inside might improve it a lot. I wonder if Ammonia and Peroxide vapors would help kill the fungus. Nice post. Thank you. sp.
  16. Cold cream is supposed to be great at removing fungus. I have yet to try it, but I know others who have, and who swear by it.
    I would go ahead and open up the lens, and clean every surface as best as I could. And I would do it in bright sun so the UV rays will kill the fungus. That first photo shows some severe spider tracks, so chances are it's eaten into the coating. This won't affect sharpness, though. Only contrast in some situations. Use a good hood -- which that lens has -- and it probably won't even be an issue.
    If the mirror(s) have fungus, I wouldn't be too concerned. You can get them resilvered. Go hang out with some amateur astronomers and start picking their brains about silvering mirrors. Those guys build telescopes and grind their own mirrors that are angstrom-accurate, so they'll know about silvering them.
    I think the old Kilfitt lenses are too cool, and I personally would do whatever it took to bring that one back to life if it were mine.
  17. I had good results in removing fungus with vinegar. If this does not work, try concentrated vinegar. Caution: on some old (early post-war) lenses this method damaged the soft coating but I never had this problem on newer (after 1960) lenses. Also, sometimes the fungus etches the coating and in this case you will always have some faint traces in the coating.
    On the lenses treated with vinegar I never watched fungus again. To avoid fungus in the future, you should store the lenses in a dry environment and avoid any organic material near them. Do NOT use cotton bags or cotton-lined containers, wooden boxes or leather bags, dust particles of these materials are food for fungus.
    Also, most optical glasses are more or less transparent in the UV range, too, but less than in the visible range - that's why UV-blocking sunglasses exist. (This is different with optical plastics - they hardly transmit any UV and it's easier to make UV blocking sunglasses out of plastic.) Exposing the lens surfaces to sunlight may help to avoid fungus in the future but will not remove the spots you see now.
  18. Watch that Davro link, it has something wrong there and killed off Firefox.
  19. I just tried the Davro link, it didn't kill my Firefox (20.0.1).
  20. JDM,
    I think you have once again out done yourself. I think you deserve Hazmat pay. My first inclination upon opening the lens case would be to call the Center for Disease Control.
    The first listing I can find for this lens is in 1956. Both Pop Photo and Modern show listing for the family of Zoomar lenses ranging from 20" to 150". I haven't found any Zoomar ads or dealer listings yet.
    My first recall of hearing the Zoomar lens had to do with the Voightlander Zoomar lens from 1959. It was designed by Dr. Frank G. Back of Zoomar Corp.
    Here are a few links.
    http://books.google.com/books?id=OJ...DMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=the Zoomar Corp&f=false
    I want to look for more information about the Zoomar Corp. and Dr. Back. I also want to find some ads. Who sold these lenses?
  21. Here is the first listing I found. It is from the Aug. 1956 issue of Modern Photography.
    The listing shows all the available long lenses. Knowing you, you will want the complete set.
  22. Thanks, Marc and all.
    Zoomar, of course, is more famous for their having made the "first" 35mm still camera eponymous "zoom" lens -- the 36-82 f/2.8 Zoomar in 1959 for the Voigtländer Bessamatic mount.

    Kilfitt's exact involvement with this catadioptric lens, here, is not at all clear. Some claims have been made (see the links above) that the lens was originally designed in the USA and later built in Munich.

    The f/5.6 aperture on the Zoomar Reflectar is also unusual, of course, and I should have mentioned the dial-in ND filters to approximate f/5.6 (clear), f/8, f/11, and finally f/16 - not true stop-down apertures of course.
  23. From a different machine, the 'app' for the repair page worked fine, and I have sent an email to Davro asking for information on repair/cleaning. Thanks, Dan.
  24. I heard back almost immediately from Davro, which I appreciated.
    Here is the relevant part of the reply:
    We will be pleased to quote on refurbishing your Zoomar Len.

    Our standard Evaluation Fee is 1,850.00 each. After we receive the unit and evaluate what the problem is we prepare a quotation for the Repair Costs. This cost is over and above the Evaluation Fee. ... The purpose of the evaluation fee pays to disassemble and examine the inside of the lens to see what other work may have to be done.​
    With the $1850 for just evaluation, I can't justify going for a professional repair, I'm afraid.
    I think most of Davro's work is rehabilitating specialized scientific/military instruments, so I don't think that for that sort of thing their fees are so extraordinary, but it's clearly not for mere hobbyists like myself.
  25. Thanks for the report on Davro. Now I know why Charlie never had them overhaul his 80 inch Zoomar.
  26. Further adventures in Zoomar land.
    I opened up the back where the filter pack is. There was a fair amount of dried foam dust which I blew away. To take off the filter wheel was beyond me, however. The screw holding on the wheel has a narrow slot with a curved bottom and nothing I could find would fit adequately and give enough purchase to loosen it. I did clean the outward surfaces of the clear and ND filters that I could get to, but could see dust and mildew on the inside.
    I also found that a large scissors tips fit the retaining rings on the front of the lens, but the rings were so firmly fixed that I couldn't get them to turn/loosen to remove the front lens meniscus element. I think I may have to try UV to see if I can kill whatever is still alive inside the lens and then accept it as it is.
  27. great information and well laid out, thank you.
    anyone have suggestions for repair, or might be able to make a suggestion on the Kilfitt Zoomar 500mm sport i have. It seems the focus is stuck! the knobs turn just slightly, the rear mirror will not budge! pretty odd, as the lens is in otherwise decent condition.

    I am looking to ultimately sell the lens, so advice on whether getting it looked at first, or trying to sell it with this issue???
    lastly, can someone confirm the final adapter on this. my best guess is Exacta ? it does have a diameter of just near the 44mm those do. this has a adapter and slot for a filter, with goes from the lens to 58mm. (does this 58mm screw mount have a name?) and then 58 to this bayonet ? many thanks! -John
  28. found it! It is the WE mount, to standard Kilfitt N mount and then the 'ALN' or Alpa mount. great. . .
    Here are the N adapters that were available at the time:
    ALN (Alpa);
    ARN (Arriflex);
    AUN (Revue Konica Auto-Reflex);
    BON (Beaulieu Cine-Reflex);
    CAN (Canon);
    CIN (Cine-Reflex/Bolex - C Mount);
    CON (Contarex);
    COY (Contax/Yashica);
    EXN (Exakta/Topcon);
    ICN (Icarex );
    KIN (Konica );
    LEN (Leicaflex);
    LEN-R3 (Leicaflex "R-3" Series);
    MIN (Minolta);
    Nin (Nikon);
    OLN (Olympus);
    PAN (Pentax Screw Mount);
    PAK (Pentax K Mount);
    PIN (Petri); ROB (Robot) ;
    TIN (Praktina) and
    XAN (Camex-Reflex).
  29. I just bought (for $30) a Voigtlander-Zoomar lens (Kilfitt) but it has fungus in the inner moving element. I bought decades ago a Edmunds spanner wrench set (SERIOUS) and am using it to dismantle the otherwise useless lens. Edmunds still offers the wrench and it goes to 6" diameter with many tips and adjustments. Have you ever tried dismantling a complex lens? Pointers?
    John K.

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