View Full Version : Interesting names for RF lenses
I am new to rangefinder photography and find myself intruiged by the interesting names of the lenses made by Leica, Zeiss and CV,
What is the origin and history behind these names and naming lenses in general.
On the dull SLR side where I used to reside a Canon 70- 200 IS f2.8 was called ......a Canon 70-200 IS f2.8 ....sort of makes sense but not very imaginative!
That would be because most SLR prime lenses are a retro-focus design that is based on a double-gauss formular (these days). Boring and rendering mostly the same way. Rangefinder lenses tended to use different formulas to acheive different effects, even at the same focal length. A Sonnar 50mm certainly renders a scene differently than a 50mm Tessar, Gauss, or other design. As to why they were called what they were called - who knows? I imagine they were named by their (the lens formula) inventors, and in cases where a copy of an existing design was made, by the company policy - giving us Heliars and Ektars and so on.
But I'm just guessing based on what little I know. Maybe there was some deeply involved logic in all of this. I agree though, it is very interesting.
If you find yourself fascinated enough, peruse eBoy for a used book on optical design. You can see the design evolutions from Rapid Rectilnears to Petvals to Triplets to Tessars and so on - appeals to my geeky side. And then trying out a lens made to that specification can be lots of fun too. Something you can't generally do with an SLR that easily. Well, you can with an adapter. I do that, too.
i think [not very often ] leitz lenses were named after some designers dogs
"We had to put down poor Summicron today."
You'll find some info on the Zeiss site. It's the Ernemann company that designed the Sonnar formula before their merger with Carl Zeiss, therefore the Ernostar lens (original design) became the Sonnar (the prefix Sonn means the Sun, in german) ... this explanation is a bit short, but if you google around you'll find more.... same goes for biogon and other names... the suffix "gon" means "angle", in greek.
Someone might imagine what I might call my 100mm Zenzanon RF in private.
Our ancestors had more problems at school than we have nowadays. Many of them (at least those who were on the way to the university) could only do so by learning Latin, Greek, and even Hebrew. Nobody asked whether this was necessary if you were off to design camera lenses. But, as sometimes becomes clear to us as well, things prove to have been worthwhile later, i.e. when you come across the problem of naming them.
Triotar - three lens elements (self-explanatory for Indo-Europeans)
Tessar - four lens elemnts (tessares or tettares = four in Greek)
Sonnar - named after Sonne (German for Sun)
Heliar - same in Greek (Helios = Sun)
Summar - for maximum (quality, I suppose - from summus = highest in Latin)
Biogon - for life (bios in Greek) (caught in a wide-) angle (gon-y for knee or angle in Greek)
Apotar and other lenses starting with Apo - "free from" (lens faults, colour faults) in Greek
Nokton, Noctilux - from the Latin suffix noct- for night
-lux - a lens suffix from the Latin word for light
Ok, let's have a quick learning control:
Summi-lux. What does it mean?
Highest Light? 100 points!
It was/is also common to include part of the brand name in the lens name like
Rodagon by Rodenstock
Agnar by Agfa
Nikkor by Nikon etc. etc.
Among the first ones to use these phantasy names were probably the Leica people.
Elmar and Elmax are said to be abbreviations of Ernst Leitz Maximar (with the Latin Maximum again) - though Elmar is also a less common male first name in Germany, and
Hektor (again derived from Greek, the name of a Trojan hero in Homer's Iliad) is even said to just have been the name of the lens constructor's dog...!
Gimme more of that stuff, I like it!
Let's not forget the Soviet nomenclature for lenses!
Jupiter, Industar, Orion, Russar, and more.
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