The most beautiful and useless lens I’ve ever own (Part 1) > contents added on 16, Sep

Schneider Retina-Tele-Xenar 135mm f4.0


It’s real beauty in satin chrome, thick coated, flawless German engineering product…but minimum focus distance is ‘4 meter’ !!!

Believe me it is NOT 4 feet. It’s ‘meter’. I keep it for display and looking instead of picture taking for many years.




Left: Schneider Retina Curtagon 28mm f4.0,    Right : Schneider Retina Tele-Xenar 135mm f4.0





Then recently I acquired A7m2 and gather couple of adapters to fit to the body with one of ‘helicoid’ adapter.

Now 4m –> 2m. Voila!







Sony A7m2 with 135mm Tele Xenar







Kodak DCS 560 with 135mm Tele Xenar. Looks very nice but hardly usable because of too far focusing distance







Kodak DCS 560 with 135mm Tele Xenar (attached) and 28mm Curtagon








II have multiple sets of Deckel mount lens, Retina reflex and Voigtlander Bessamatic (dirt cheap! They were abandoned literally) which share

the same problem. And this is first time I ever use 135mm lens for picture taking. Unless help from helicoid adapter, I wouldn’t bring it to the field still.

There is huge difference in 4 meter or 2 meter minimum focus distance. The one is useless, and the other is acceptable.


What if there’s longer helicoid? The Leica M helicoid adapter I use only covers 40% of usable length.

So I did quick search in Ebay and found ‘Nikon-Sony helicoid adapter’. According to the spec, I can easily focus down to 1m.

* But before click BUY NOW button, let’s check the performance of the lens first!









This is casual shot as first round of field outing.


DSC03654 930.jpg











DSC03658 930.jpg


I took all shot in wide open, f4.0. It looks good at first glance, but careful review reveals smearing at edge side.

Old optics which perfectly works on film sometimes suffers this kind of problem on image sensor…

(to be added with new example)
Full shot

Crop at center

Crop at lef edge – image smeared due to heavy chromatic aberrations





Film is gelatin membrane with chemical reactors which curled slightly no matter how hard manufacturers try to prevent it, while image sensor is

perfectly flat and pixels which receive light are embedded in the well structure of silicon.

* The smearing differs from sensors and makers, for example A7, A7m2 sensor has micro lens above pixels but A7R, A7R2 don’t.

Physical size of pixel itself influences smearing effect as well…







DSC03674 930.jpg


BW version







Some old optics known as ‘Portrait lens’ is using aberrations, to emphasize subject at center.

The most famous one is Petzval portrait lens which has rebuilt by kickstart project last year. And there was ‘Landscape lens’ as the counter partner

of the Portrait lens, but with advance of optical technology now we have all-in-one lens.

Considering the field angle of 135mm, and edge side aberration, this lens need to be handled as Portrait lens, at least at wide open.



The famous examples of Landscape lens are Protar from Carl Zeiss Jena and Dagor from Goertz. But they are much earlier lenses

intended to large format photograph. When Tele-Xenar released, there’s no more distinction in between landscape and portrait lens.

Only exception is special purpose soft lens, like Imagon from Rodenstock.




In Portraits, Tele-Xenar is excellent performer showing crisp contrast and resolution in center & middle area.


DSC03727 930-2.jpg







In Landscape, it is obviously inadequate…. mainly because of fall off resolution on edge side.

Contrast also dropped when far distance subject pointed. But it is not necessarily bad factor if we don’t have intention to compare with

‘new multi-coated aspherical’ lens. The reason we are searching for such an old lens is looking for unique mood from old lens,

e.g. less saturated color & pleasingly rounded image quality I think.

As conclusion, Retina Tele-Xenar shows typical Portrait lens’ characteristics.
1) At close distance, excellent contrast at center, middle area (which helps viewer’s attention to main subject)
2) Edge side vignette is not so serious but aberration is high (image smearing)
3) At far distance, contrast and resolution drop, therefore it is not suitable for landscape.



When test old & used lens, should consider the possibility of the lens itself degraded. We do not know how the lens handled, used and stored

after factory release. This specific lens is in mint condition, no sign of abuse or repair so I assume the test result represents generic

‘Retina Tele-Xenar’ characteristics. (Be aware, there is different kind of Tele-Xenar, 135mm f3.5 in Exakta and M42 mount)

Anyway, I already have 3 of DKL mount 135mm lens in my hands. 2 are Schneider Retina-Tele-Xenar & one is Voigtlander 135mm Super Dynax.

Verifying Tele-Xenar performance is simply redo the test with another Tele-Xenar which is the same mint condition.

Also I wonder how Voigtlander Super Dynax will perform…



— continue




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