“Which Lens is Best? Four or Five Element, F/2.8 or F/3.5”
“A. 80mm f/2.8 Zeiss Planar is a five-element alternative to the Xenotar
(below) on the Rolleiflex 2.8E. Although the line-up of optical elements is
rather different from the Xenotar, performance is similar. It produces
excellent definition to the corners of the negative, even at full
“B. 80mm f/2.8 Schneider Xenotar has five elements and can be had on the
Rolleiflex 2.8E. In extensive tests with this lens Modern found it
extremely sharp in overall definition. The five-element 80mm f/2.8 lenses
are considerable improvements over the discontinued four-element 80mm f/2.8
Tessars once available on the Rolleiflex 2.8.”
“C. 75mm f/3.5 Zeiss Planar is a five element alternative to the Xenotar on
the Rolleiflex 3.5. It shows excellent definition even at full aperture.”
“D. 75mm f/3.5 Schneider Xenotar with five elements has now completely
replaced the four element Xenar on all Rolleiflexes. Differences in
definition between the discontinued four-element Xenar and this
five-element Xenotar at f/3.5 are almost impossible to see, even with great
magnification of the negative corners. Definition, to say the least, is
excellent in the 75mm f/3.5 Xenotar.”
“E. 75mm and 60mm Schneider Xenar are available on the Rolleicord Va and
Rolleiflex 4×4 respectively. The Xenar design is of a traditional
four-element Tessar-type construction. Performance at such moderate
aperture (f/3.5) and focal length (75mm) is excellent compared with that of
the 75mm f/3.5 five-element Xenotars and Planars.”
Modern Photography, May 1956, pg. 50-132
Are the new Rolleis Really Better?
(3.5G [E] and 75mm f/3.5 Xenotar)
“Five or four element lens?”
“Now lets take a look at that five element f/3.5 lens. It’s no secret that
there was a cry from professional photographers for a Rolleiflex with an
f/2.8 lens and that these camera enthusiasts only got what they wanted when
a five element optical system was developed.”
“With a maximum f/3.5 aperture in 75mm focal lengths, the story has been
quite different. The four element Zeiss Tessar and Schneider Xenar 75mm
f/3.5 lenses have long been standards of excellence for Rolleis and many
other cameras. What more can the new Xenotar five element offer? For all
but the most persnickety professional, a good Xenar or Tessar will do
nicely. Testing the new Xenotar against a good example of a Schneider
Xenar, the resulting picture definition with both lenses was almost
identical. This is not to disparage the new Xenotar but rather point out
that a good four element Xenar or Tessar can be a very good lens indeed.
Perhaps the Xenotar proved a shade sharper in the corners at full aperture
than the Xenar. However, in actual photographic practice we doubt that this
difference would be perceptible. Xenar or Xenotar? They’re both fine
I Recently noticed a new brand of TLR in the big auction site, maybe its only new to me as this is the first time and I saw some info about it. It looks interesting and claims to be the competitor of Rolleiflex.
Here are some info about Semflex:
The Semflex is a 6×6 twin-lens reflex, launched in 1949 by the French maker SEM. At a time when products imported from Germany to France were very expensive, the Semflex was a Rolleiflex copy and competitor. It was a robust and efficient machine, whose finish was a bit rough, but whose durability was very good, as well as the image quality on most of the models.
There were many Semflex variants, with button or crank advance, coupled to the shutter winding or not. The best models had 4-element 75/3.5 Angénieux or Berthiot lenses, which were nice Tessar copies. Some of the cheaper and older ones had three-element lenses.
As a rule of thumb, all the f:4.5 and f:3.8 lenses are 3-element, and all the 3.5 lenses on the crank-advance models are 4 element. Some 3.5 lenses on the older button-advance models were 3-element. Sometimes the sellers want more for a model with an Angénieux lens, but it seems there is no practical quality difference with Berthiot (it is a bit like the Planar vs Xenotar or Tessar vs Xenar situation with the Rolleiflex).
The Semflex is not well known outside France but in the country it is easy to find and quite inexpensive.
Here are some sample images from Flickr Semflex Group: