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Is the Heliar 50mm 3.5 over hyped?
Old 06-13-2009   #1
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Is the Heliar 50mm 3.5 over hyped?

I am curious what the current view is on the "sharpest ever 50mm lens" from a few years ago. The lens was sold in a set consisting of a Bessa T with the Heliar and Trigger Advance. Prices ranged all over the place.

Then the Heliar 50mm/2.0 came out. For a while CQ had the Heliar 50mm/3.5 in Nikon S mount. It was rigid and not collapsible as the original Heliar. I nearly bought it [many times], but I did not likethe look of the lens as compared with the collapsible M version.

What is the conclusion now regarding the value of the Heliar 50/3.5 and the 50mm/2.0? Are there sharper 50mm lenses out there? Is the Helliar worth $1000 with the T ?

Who at RFF has used a Heliar 50/3.5 and/or Heliar 50/2?

Any information is useful.

How is the built quality of the Heliar as compared with a Summicron, say?

Is the Heliar optically overall better than other 50mm lenses you have used?

Is the set really worth it?
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Old 06-13-2009   #2
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I have seen one for sale for $575 by itself.
The CQ offer for the Heliar in Nikon S mount was a very good offer. I missed the chance.
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Old 06-13-2009   #3
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I know that some people here own Heliar lenses.
Contribute please. I want to know more about hands on experience with such a lens.
Thanks.
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Old 06-13-2009   #4
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I had the Bessa T 101 anniversary kit with the Heliar 50/3.5 back in 2007. Bought it for $600 or so from Yahoo auction (there were plenty for sale at that time) and used it maybe 2 month ... From my experience I have no idea what the hype is about that lens, quality is OK but nothing special and the handling of the lens (aperture dial) was awful.
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Old 06-13-2009   #5
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I think Tom A. owns one.
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Old 06-13-2009   #6
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I don't really think there much hype about it. Not many people or forums seems to be talking about this lens. Photos from this lens aren't exactly plenty either.

I like it originally for it's quirky form factor, but subsequently I do enjoy the lens on it's own. But I must say that the lens does not feel particularly well built, unlike a Leitz Elmar in LTM. The Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f/3.5 feels lighter. But it's a breeze setting the aperture on this lens as compared to the LTM Elmar. In social situations, it's a great conversation starter. Compared to any Summicron, this lens will not rank equally in terms of built. The Heliar 50mm f/2.0 will be a closer match to the Summicron for built quality.

It's hard to compared to other 50mm lenses if they are of different aperture. But if I were to compare it with other 50mm f/3.5 lenses, this will just about be the only modern option that I can find. On a bright sunny day, I will choose this lens over faster options like f/1.2 and f/1.4.

There are definitely sharper lenses out there, I'm sure the Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH will compare well, if not better than the quirky little Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f/3.5. But sometimes, it's not about sharpness. Take the Canon 50mm f/1.5 LTM or the Nikkor 5cm f/1.4 for example.

The last few times when I saw the lens on ebay, it usually end in above US$700 and they sure disappeared quick. By the way, even though it's marketed with the Bessa T, which is a M mount camera, the Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f/3.5 is actually a LTM lens on a M mount adaptor. So you can fit it on any screw mount cameras too!!

Lastly, as a complete set, it's a great kit to start with. Has funky colors (unless you choose the black paint version). A blast to use as well! But if you already own M mount cameras and 50mm lenses, this kit may not really add towards enhancing your photography experience.

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Old 06-13-2009   #7
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Thanks guys. Such input is very useful indeed.
I already have a Bessa T and I do not view it as a first class camera. In my view, this is a $200 camera. If the set costs $1000, then the lens and the box and the winder plus finder cost $800. This is too much.
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Old 06-13-2009   #8
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Last I checked the Nikon mount R2S with the 50/3.5 was $750 from the head bartender, and the Nikon mount lens itself was listed there for sale at $400.
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Old 06-13-2009   #9
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I had one until recently.

It was really very, very sharp from wide open till f16. The pictures had that , much talked -about, '3D' look which was very nice. It was small and light and could be pocketed. On the downside, changing the aperture was a hassle as it also moved the focusing ring. It used to set the aperture and then work in aperture-priority mode to avoid that.

Here are two pictures with this lens. First at f5.6 the other at f8.





In the end I sold it, thinking that my Summilux ASPH could do all the Heliar did (weight excluded).

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Old 06-13-2009   #10
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I used to have an S-mount Heliar 50/3.5 (the ugly duckling non-collapsible version). I found it to be very sharp from f3.5 (splitting hairs but it was very marginally sharper than the Millennium 50/1.4 at f3.5). It's a good little lens but I found the lack of click stops on the aperture ring annoying (aperture setting easily slips) and the f3.5 max. aperture too slow for my use. I sold it in the classifieds here for $250.
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Old 06-13-2009   #11
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Maybe I should look for such a lens instead. The price should be lower.
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Old 06-13-2009   #12
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I have been very impressed with the image quality it can produce, sometimes with a very eerie effect that I have not found in other lenses. Sharpness is excellent, but other lenses can do as well for that. Attached shot of winter ice and sun, western shore of Lake Michigan.
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Old 06-13-2009   #13
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I had been looking for a collapsible to shoot on my II and recently found this lens used. However, I haven't spent much time with it yet. I will post some comparison pics when I get a chance.
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Old 06-14-2009   #14
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i haven't got any examples to vouch for my words, but i liked mine plenty. mostly because of its optical qualities, not necesseraly speaking sharpness since i have and have had a pile of $25 fifities that are plenty sharp, but how it handled backlight was amazing. and there was something, i can't really put my finger on what excactly, very very nice about how it rendered subjects onto film. if the subject was any good to begin with that is. and believe it or not, partly due the quirky handling, which was - i guess there's no way around it - pretty awful ,-)

i liked the collabsible tube a lot better than the one on the newer heliar, which i also had at one point. it locked, firmly in position, while the newer one didn't feel especially rigid when locked, perhaps mine was a monday sample ?

and since i'm a helpless gearaholic, at the time i was thinking i "needed" something wider, for the bokeh and such.
bahh!
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Old 06-14-2009   #15
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I've got one in an R2S collectors kit, but I'm sort of afraid to use it. Doing so immediately reduces the value of the kit! I may change my mind and break it out.
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Old 06-14-2009   #16
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supposedly one of the highest resolutions of any lens tested (by AP?)

But, what does this really mean? There are loads of lenses that are insanely sharp at 3.5 and although this heliar might have the edge, I doubt it means anything really. I have never read a single comment about its other imaging characteristics!

I suspect it is changing hands for silly money because of the 'sharpest lens ever' desirability. For shooters, I suspect it is a meaningless title, esp with 50mm lenses almost all of which perform exceedingly well.
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Old 06-14-2009   #17
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I have never read a single comment about its other imaging characteristics!
So you haven't read any comments about its special 3D image rendering ability?
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Old 06-14-2009   #18
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No, but I have heard that it has high resolution and good contrast from wide open. Sounds like a very high resolving skopar, which is no bad thing.
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Old 06-14-2009   #19
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notturtle, the 'sharpest lens ever' is irrelevant. like you said there are plenty supersharp fifties, at least at f3.5. but it might be (one of) the guilty factor(s) that keep its price up, if it is up that is, i haven't been checking much...
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Old 06-14-2009   #20
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Quote:
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No, but I have heard that it has high resolution and good contrast from wide open. Sounds like a very high resolving skopar, which is no bad thing.
Here's some linked below. I know others have made similar comments, but I'll be damned if I can find them ...

http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...5&postcount=33
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...5&postcount=15
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Old 06-14-2009   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonmanjiro View Post
I used to have an S-mount Heliar 50/3.5 (the ugly duckling non-collapsible version). I found it to be very sharp from f3.5 (splitting hairs but it was very marginally sharper than the Millennium 50/1.4 at f3.5). It's a good little lens but I found the lack of click stops on the aperture ring annoying (aperture setting easily slips) and the f3.5 max. aperture too slow for my use. I sold it in the classifieds here for $250.
Interesting. I did not realise the S mount version does not have click stops. The LTM version has click stops. But the single helicoid construction meant that the aperture ring rotated when you focus. At least they have aperture markings on opposite end of of the aperture ring to make things easier.

Anyway, here's 2 pictures for comparison. One at f/3.5, the other at f/8.0. Warning: FULL RESOLLUTION PICTURES when you click through.


Picture A


Picture B

All pictures are unadjusted and unsharpened JPEG image straight out of the Epson R-D1s on standard setting. ISO at 200.

It's really difficult to tell which is f/3.5, which is f/8.0. Usually the f/3.5 picture will be weaker in performance, but in this case, you really can't tell the difference.

For the answer to which is f/3.5, and which is f/8, click here.

Cheers,
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Old 06-14-2009   #22
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It's a very light and compact lens, especially collapsed down without the hood. It did take me a while to get used to the aperture ring - I'm not sure how much this will bother me over time. However, I've been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the optics...
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Old 06-14-2009   #23
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I have never read a single comment about its other imaging characteristics!
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No, but I have heard that it has high resolution and good contrast from wide open. Sounds like a very high resolving skopar, which is no bad thing.
No there have been quite a number of comments about the character of this lens. I have on several occasions mentioned that it has a unique pastel rendering differing to the other Voigtander lenses in the line that have a similar family character. Its definitely no high resolving skopar. I have one in Nikon S mount when the bartender had them for $299. At that price for such a lens it was steal. The build quality of the S version is as solid as any old 50's rangefinder lens. You may think it looks ugly (It personally always gives me a giggle when I look at it which is good) but is that what really matters in a fine optic? The lens is too slow for most people so it would be passed over but I would urge everyone try borrow one at some point just for the experience and unique rendering.

In hindsight I think Cameraquest should have saved a couple to hire out to rangefinder forum members, its just one of those things that for most is not practical to own but definitely fun to try. Maybe you can start a pool, 20 forum members pitch in $50 each to collectively buy one and show the results on the forum. If carefully handled all those who contributed would get at least half their money back. You would be surprised how many are curious about the lens.
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Old 06-14-2009   #24
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Maybe I need to get one for a 5cm lens comparison with lenses I have not yet tried out such as the Hexar and the Heliar and Elmar-M and CV Nokton ... etc.
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Old 06-14-2009   #25
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There's nothing wrong with Skopars!

In B&W, I am assuming that the lens simply displays moderately high contrast and high resolution. Being a small aperture lens with modern coatings, this is what one would expect (like a skopar). In colour one would expect more factors to come into play, but I would be surprised if this lens has a particularly identifiable rendering in mono. maybe it does?
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Old 06-14-2009   #26
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Quote:
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Maybe I need to get one for a 5cm lens comparison with lenses I have not yet tried out such as the Hexar and the Heliar and Elmar-M and CV Nokton ... etc.
Well Raid, if you ever do a new test, I will lend you my copy...
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Old 06-14-2009   #27
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Well Raid, if you ever do a new test, I will lend you my copy...
Paul,
I will definitely will do a 50mm test if I can borrow your Heliar. Maybe a 50mm lens comparison for 50mm lenses with max aperture 2.8 or smaller.

I have never tried out a Konica 50mm lens either or even a CV Nokton.
I may need a Canon 50/2.8 too. I also may benefit from an Elmar-M [I have the old Elmar 2.8].


That would be a lens comparison for lenses that were not inlcuded in the previous 50mm comparisons.
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Old 06-14-2009   #28
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There's nothing wrong with Skopars!

In B&W, I am assuming that the lens simply displays moderately high contrast and high resolution. Being a small aperture lens with modern coatings, this is what one would expect (like a skopar). In colour one would expect more factors to come into play, but I would be surprised if this lens has a particularly identifiable rendering in mono. maybe it does?
No there is definitely nothing wrong with the Skopars but they share a common family character with most of the Voigtlander line. The 3.5 Heliar has a unique rendering that others in the line dont share. Tom A who only shoots B&W makes reference to it too so its evident in mono. The out of focus character of the lens is very smooth, probably the smoothest I have seen in a Voigtlander lens.
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Old 06-14-2009   #29
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Paul,

I have started a new thread on the RFF 50mm lens comparisons project!
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Old 06-14-2009   #30
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Another from the Heliar 50/3.5. I do believe it has its own look.
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File Type: jpg Heliar 3.5_silhouetted tree.jpg (94.9 KB, 131 views)
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Old 06-15-2009   #31
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Another from the Heliar 50/3.5. I do believe it has its own look.
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a little hard too tell from this picture though...
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Old 06-15-2009   #32
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I have the Nikon version of this lens, which I use with a hacked adapter on an M8 and on an S2. It is a nice little lens. I am always a little surprised by the vehemence of folks' opinions about the quality, though. Let's face it, there are not that many 50mm lenses that don't perform adequately at f:3.5-4. I recently did a rainy day "test" with a tripod of a number of 50's that I don't use often enough. These included a chrome Canon 50/1.5 "Clonnar", a 50 Summarit, Zeiss's new 50/1.5 Sonnar in ZM mount and the Heliar. The first three showed a significant amount of aberration wide open (although not unpleasing -- think of them as portrait lenses for mom), but the aberration was pretty much gone by f:4. The Heliar was sharp at f:3.5, with no aberration to speak of. But when choosing among these lenses for a particular purpose, you'd really have to choose one based on the other characteristics of the lens (oof areas, contrast, flare suppression etc.) as the resolving power of the lenses at f:3.5-4 was all "good enough" for my purposes - which is generally printing to 11x14. Someone above wrote that when Stephen G. was selling these for $299 they were a steal, and I absolutely agree with that. But, you could probably find one of these other classic 50's in that price range and get a couple of extra stops to boot.

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Old 06-15-2009   #33
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Can anyone here claim that they can tell Heliar 50/2 from 50/3.5 by the result, at any aperture from 3.5 down?

I do use the 50/2 from the R2M kit...
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Old 06-15-2009   #34
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Can anyone here claim that they can tell Heliar 50/2 from 50/3.5 by the result, at any aperture from 3.5 down?

I do use the 50/2 from the R2M kit...
I have been quite curious about the same thing, and that's why my upcoming lens comparison will have in it a matched comparison between the two Heliar lenses.
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Old 06-15-2009   #35
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There is another issue there: I have not seen any focus shift when stopping down with the 3.5 Heliar, but I have with the f:2.0 lens. By f:8 everything is ok, in terms of focus. But there is a difference in the usability, not just the results.

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Old 06-15-2009   #36
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supposedly one of the highest resolutions of any lens tested (by AP?)

But, what does this really mean? There are loads of lenses that are insanely sharp at 3.5 and although this heliar might have the edge, I doubt it means anything really. I have never read a single comment about its other imaging characteristics!

I suspect it is changing hands for silly money because of the 'sharpest lens ever' desirability. For shooters, I suspect it is a meaningless title, esp with 50mm lenses almost all of which perform exceedingly well.
I'm not sure...

There are not loads of LTM, collapsible lenses that are insanely sharp at 3.5...

Read, for the one that want a light and compact combo with slow film and very sharp lens (for landscapes for example) the heliar is a one of a kind thing.
I was just thinking today how I would like to see a regular production LTM heliar for a decent price.
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Old 06-15-2009   #37
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I'm not sure...

There are not loads of LTM, collapsible lenses that are insanely sharp at 3.5...

Read, for the one that want a light and compact combo with slow film and very sharp lens (for landscapes for example) the heliar is a one of a kind thing.
I was just thinking today how I would like to see a regular production LTM heliar for a decent price.
Thats quite a tight niche there, which is probably why a regular production Heliar probably won't happen. I suppose for those using LTM and not M mount it is fairly unique, but one has the option of shooting M mount rather than LTM, so that opens up the range of lenses enormously. A R4/3/2 is not exactly large with a 50 ZM planar on it, or heavy.

The 50 3.5 Heliar weighs about 165g, which is about 2/3 of a Mars bar less than a 50 ZM planar. In the grand scheme of things, its not much of a saving for a lens which although sharp, will not appear meaningfully sharper than the planar (I suspect) but with 1 and 2/3 stops less speed. Its not something you would notice out hiking, for example, especially when there is a 28 and a 90 alongside.

I can see the merits of this lens, but it can hardly be billed as allowing people to do things creatively that could not be done any other way. There are plenty of light weight ways of getting a 50mm lens up a mountain for example.

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Old 06-16-2009   #38
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I can see the merits of this lens, but it can hardly be billed as allowing people to do things creatively that could not be done any other way. There are plenty of light weight ways of getting a 50mm lens up a mountain for example.
I think your taking this lens a bit out of context. It was never meant to be a common production lens. There 2000 made in LTM for the Heliar 101 kits and 500 in LHS kits. The 101 was meant to be a tribute to the anniversary of the Heliar design. It was never meant as competition against any other 50 out there. You use the 50mm plannar as an example but when this lens was released there was no ZM line! It was a limited production lens that has seen its day and a few lucky enough to own one. If I remember correctly each one was sold for less than it cost to make so it was never to be anything but a publicity test to show what Cosina was capable of producing, to which I think it succeeded. It changed the views of many who perceived Cosina to be a 2nd rate manufacturer. Look how we are still talking about it today.
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Old 06-17-2009   #39
chris00nj
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Originally Posted by raid View Post
Thanks guys. Such input is very useful indeed.
I already have a Bessa T and I do not view it as a first class camera. In my view, this is a $200 camera. If the set costs $1000, then the lens and the box and the winder plus finder cost $800. This is too much.

Yeah, that's the conclusion I came to as well. As nice of lens it is, it would be hard to stomach $800 versus what else could be acquired for $800
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Old 06-17-2009   #40
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What would be a reasonable and realistic price to shell out for a Heliar 50/3.5 these days? Is a set for $850 too expensive? Is a lens by itself for $650 too expensive?
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