PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


Slow Friday Game

What lens from the past would you like to see make a comeback?

Quite the question for idle times. This week I learned what my answer to this question is going be for a while: the Hologon 8/16.


The diagram is so unusual that it’s unclear which way is forward from first inspection –it looks more like a geometric symbol than a lens diagram. This strange beast is obviously the brain child of a creative engineer.

From ebay, asking price: $1500.

The big element goes in front it turns out and the rest of the lens is buried entirely inside the camera, barely clearing the shutter curtain. This makes it a remarkably compact lens, one that could help the camera fit into a coat pocket. By the way, that lever on the side is for focusing, and there are no aperture controls because there is no aperture iris in this lens, there’s no room!


What’s most remarkable is the performance – it has a unique signature with a timeless quality. For a 15-year old lens, the MTF figures are not too shabby at all, I think this lens still figures among the greatest of this class. The distortion figures are the true appeal however, because here is a 16mm super-wideangle with no distortions of any kind. We expect wideangle lenses to come with (lately, massive) barrel distortions – the prospect of a compact, sharp and distortion-free lens just have me drooling at the lip.


So here is my hope: I hope to see the Hologon 8/16 return in ZM mount.  Zeiss, please make it so!  :^)

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Wow. I want one!

  2. This lens has long fascinated me. That kind of performance from five elements in three groups! But as you know it’s totally impractical for today’s digital sensors, which have problems with light hitting the sensor at an angle other than perpendicular (e.g. the green corners with many wide-angle designs, even those for SLRs).

    If digital sensors didn’t have this problem, a huge range of brilliant wide-angle lenses would be available to photographers, such as the stellar Biogon 21 mm f/2.8 for Contax G.

    I find the Zeiss ZF 18 mm f/3.5 design quite similar to the Nikkor Auto 20mm f/4 described here: Does this qualify as a comeback? The ZF 18 mm has been roundly criticised for its less-than-perfect image quality, but I think too little emphasis has been placed on its small size, which was one of the big advantages of the Nikkor when it came out decades ago.

    • The Biogon 21mm is well alive today, in fact two generations of that design are available in the Zeiss ZM line for the Leica M bayonet: the Biogon 2.8/21 ZM and the C-Biogon 4.5/21 ZM. These lens designs are specific to rangefinder cameras and you won’t see them on SLRs, because the Biogon design places the last vertex just a few millimeters above the curtain. So far as I can tell the Leica M8 and its offset microlenses delivers excellent results despite the “digital-vs-oblique-rays” issue.

      Re: 18mm ZF… I’m less and less excited about SLRs now, I pray everyday for an excuse to switch from Zeiss ZF to Zeiss ZM. If I were to get a true wideangle ZF lens, hypothetically speaking, it would surely be the newly-reborn 21mm despite its size and unpopular distortions. Small size is attractive, but SLRs screwed that goose a long time ago. Small size means rangefinders to me.

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