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05-30-2014, 12:32 PM   #1
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Little known Novoflex stuff: 1) macro lenses/bellows

After searching the forum for occurrences of the word "Novoflex", i realized that there are NO reviews of Noflexar lenses, and that there are VERY few references to vintage Novoflex products.
Of course i'm not taking into account the line of high quality adapters rings, often used by fellows members who want to use lenses of different brands with recent digital cameras, like for example the various four thirds bodies, or the Sony NEX.
Having recently purchased a few Novoflex products, both macro and follow-focus lenses, i decided to write two different posts, discussing the matter and asking for help/advice from well informed fellow pentaxians (especially german ones, as all the Novoflex products are/were made in Germany, and most of the literature can be found in german language).

Here is the first post, about macro stuff.
Another one about follow-focus outfits will follow soon.

First let's put everything in perspective, and let's tell you why i got interested in Novoflex macro stuff.
I own an old Panagor automatic bellows (bought LONG ago), still in its box and like new, for which i purchased a solid focusing rail, and a slide duplicator attachment. It was the golden age of Pentax: sales were probably a little down, compared with the Spotmatic days, but the MX (and the line of Pentax-M lenses) were the perfect answer to Olympus OM equipments, and the introduction of the LX was stealing all the headlines.
I found a Pentax-M 100mm f/4 Bellows, and as the name implies ... i needed a bellows outfit. Tubes were not flexible enough, or at least that's what i thought...
The Panagor bellows was well made, just a notch down, compared with the original Pentax. When i bought it, it was cheaper and more innovative. Instead of using a double cable release to close the diaphragm at working aperture while triggering the shutter, the Panagor had a mechanism to trasmit the movement of the two diaphragm levers, just in conventional P-K auto extension tubes.
At that time the solution was smart, now it can even become a nuisance.
Digital cameras have a crippled P-K mount, hence the need to push the green button to stop-down for exposure measurement. The diaphragm is still automatic, but you loose wide-open exposure reading.
I must admit that it is not a major inconvenience, if a tripod and a double rail are used. Though i can't get accustomed to it in general photography, or (even worse!) with a "macro hunting" setup with bellows/tubes and two flashes.
After giving it a thought, i realized that a M42 lens/bellows setup was preferable. Of course a P-K set without auto diaphragm would work the same).
Such setup would allows to use Aperture Priority, along with the usual Manual mode, and i guess the handling of the camera would be much more ergonomical, especially with preset lenses (i can't stand using the green button, i prefer working in Av and using the preset switch jut before shooting. For tripod use, a bellows with auto M42 mechanism, and two cable releases, would work even better.
That would allow to use M42 macro lenses, which are not so expensive, and easy to find.
Unfortunately there are not so many preset M42 macro lenses, with superior quality and MC coating. Okey, there are many of them, but NOT that many, and the best ones are not that cheap. The best bargains, quality vs price, are single coated.
That's why i started looking with great interest at the Novoflex macro lens line.

Before the recent attack of compulsive buying syndrome, i owned just two Novoflex items.
One is a nice macro flash attachment, orientable, which screws in front of the lens.
The other is a bellows lens head of quite long focal, the LEINO-200 200mm f/4.5, with LTM attachment. Now that i think about it, it's the black extension tube which has a Leica thread mount. Not sure about the lens head itself.
I must admit that i never tested the 200mm macro lens, despite having already a LTM-to-M42 ring, and a M42-to-PK original Pentax adapter.
After i purchased it (NOS, at a clearance sale), i moved back to analog for some time, with large format cameras, so i had no chance to test its performance.
After my recent comeback to digital photography, i got curious about other (shorter) Novoflex macros. On APS-C, a 200mm bellows is, well... not the most useful lens
I started searching, at first just for curioisity, then i couldn't resist: along the follow-focus stuff, which is kept for the next post, i bought a 135mm macro lens. I thought itwas a good choice, cause i knew that it came from a reputable lens maker, well know for its good repro glasses: Staeble. I also thought that the build was reasonably recent (Novoflex 60er Jahre), which should vouch for a decent coating.
The complete name/description of the lens is: Novoflex-Noflexar 1:4,5/135mm R in Novoflex Automatik mount (which is a mount with an A/M slider and a threaded socket for a mechanical cable release, which i think should be used with a double release, to close the iris at working aperture and trigger the shutter at the same time). As already said, it's the "60er Jahre" version.
The 135mm should be a M42 lens, that's what the vendor wrote in the text of the auction. Maybe it was made with different attachments, i don't remember... what i remember is that i have seen a similar lens in "Automatik" mount, it was a Schneider Xenar 135mm.
As we say in Italy, appetite comes eating, so i tried to buy other two Novoflex macro lenses: the Novoflex/Staeble Katagon 60mm and the small Novoflex 35mm Macro. I lost both auctions
There is another (more modern) macro lens, available with different mounts, it's the 105mm. I didn't try to win a M42 or P-K version cause i didn't find a decently priced example.
The 60mm katagon is an old lens, while the 105mm and the 35mm are not so old, they should still be good value. maybe sooner or later i'll buy one.
I find the 35mm wide-angle macro especially interesting, more so with APS-C digital cameras. It was made with mounts for all the main camera makes, IIRC, and at the time was one of the best, if not THE best, 35mm macro lens. It has a 1:1 focusing helicoid, which can be used separately, as far as i remember. At 1:1 the subject is close to the front glass, but the element is not recessed, as in some 50mm macro lenses, so the front lens should not be to close to the subject, even at 1:1.
When i'll be back home, i will try to find the time to test both 135mm and 200mm macro heads.
In the meantime, if somebody has some experience with the other three focals, i'd be very interested in your opinions.
There are no infos about them on this forum, i think many macro enthusiasts would be very interested.


At the moment, if i find a true bargain i'm considering to purchase a Novoflex M42 bellows. Often you can find a complete set on Ebay, with accessories, cheaply priced.
With one of the simple Novoflex M42 bellows, all i need would be a M42 to P-K adapter ring, which i already own.
The solution i'd prefer would be with the ring glued to the bellows (maybe the red semi permanent glue used in engine repairs would be perfect), with the small spring removed, and with the indent for the P-K retaining pin milled on the back surface of the bellows.
I never hada simple Novoflex bellows in my hands, from the pictures i've seen i couldn't realize if the mating surfeace at the back of the bellows is large enough to allow cutting such indent.
To complicate things even further, there are different kind of bellows, monorail and with two rails, with integrated or accessory focusing rail, and dedicated (for one brand) or multi-brand (using the same adapter rings used by PIGRIFF-C and PIGRIFF-D "machine guns", or by the BAL-U reversed bellows which allows close range shots with the older follow-focus PIGRIFF-B).
If somebody owns an M42 Novoflex bellows, i'd like to know if a semi-permanent M42 to P-K modification is at all possible. That way it would be "seen" by the camera body as a plain-vanilla M42 lens, but with the added advantage of having a bayonet mount (which allows quick mounting).
Of course a Pentax K bayonet adapter (without diaphragm simulator) would be a more elegant solution, but the Novoflex bellows with interchangeable adapters are usually more expensive, and not so easy to find.
For example, the super simple PENTA adapter ring for interchangeable Novoflex bellows (also usable on the BAL-U, the PIGRIFF-C and PIGRIFF-D) is practically impossible to find on Ebay, and is sold by Novoflex for 70 eruos plus shipment! For that money you can easily find a complete bellows set, with double rail, dia duplicator, adapter ring, and maybe even a macro lens and the double cable release!
Such bargains are not common, but i have seen that complete sets and bare bellows don't sell for very different prices...

My long blurb already contains a few questions, but i would be happy enough with ANY information about Novoflex macro stuff.
Are there other macro lenses?
Are some of the recent ones any good?
Are all the multi-brand bellows (BALCAST ?) fitted with the socket for the second cable release (for auto diaphragm)?
Are there chinese knock-offs of the original Novoflex adapters, like the COA or the PENTA?
For macro, would you prefer auto diaphragm + M/green button, or Av with preset slide or double shutter cable?

cheers

P

05-30-2014, 08:52 PM   #2
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Nice summary, look forward to your follow focus summary/review.
I have the 600mm series two with Nikon and Pentax adapters and the more recently produced shoulder stock.
As you have commented, not a lot of info out there on this older equipment, in languages other than German.



05-31-2014, 04:47 AM   #3
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Nice, it should be the PIGRIFF-D focusing equipment.
Isn't it?
I own two PIGRIFF-B, one with BAL-U bellows for closer focusing, and one without (which uses longer adapter rings, different from those used by BAL-U, PIGRIFF-C and PIGRIFF-D systems).
Then i bought a PIGRIFF-C system with two lenses and few accessories, including a nice metal suitcase. I am abroad, so it's waiting for my sister, who should collect it tomorrow
The follow-focus systems are as complicate and as flexible as the macro systems. There was a huge number of accessories, in part in common with the macro equipments.
It's a pity that some adapters are either expensive or uncommon. As some extra accessories.
After i got curious about Novoflex stuff, and before committing to wrong purchases (and before i thought about posting my experience on this forum), i bought a nice book about Novoflex equipments. I found it for cheap, on Ebay. Unfortunately it's in german language

Your nice outfit fortunately does not need an extra tripod adapter, or a separate bellows for close focusing. It has its disadvantages though... i don't own one, but AFAIK the lenses and accessories are incompatible with all previous systems. It's a pity, cause it's quite difficult to find a compatible Noflexar lens sold on Ebay. The old lenses, which do not include the gazillion-blades diaphragm (which is in a separate ring), are easier to find. I own a 300, a 400 and a 600mm. Unfortunately i couldn't find a T-Noflexar triplet for a reasonable price. I've been told that they should be not so far from the quality of the old Telyt high quality achromatic doublets sold by Leitz.
I stop here, other way i spoil the surprise for my next post!
It will take some time though, i want to test the various lenses, and compare them with a couple of high quality (and super expensive) alternatives.

cheers

Paolo

Last edited by cyberjunkie; 05-31-2014 at 05:28 AM.
05-31-2014, 05:50 AM   #4
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Here are the pics of the 135mm Macro Noflexar, in its strange "Automatik" mount.
Note the cable socket visible in the second picture.





The glass is dirt as hell, but i hope it will clean up nicely

One more thing:
i'm not 100% sure that the lens was actually manufactured by Staeble (a reputable brand which made the line of very good repro lenses for Agfa reprocameras).
AFAIK, along with Staeble, there were Novoflex lenses manufactured by Schneider, and possibly by Steinheil (Germany!).
Some early post-war long focals were actually made by Astro Berlin (a VERY respected brand, maker of some specialty lenses, which still sell for plenty of money).
Being a large format lens collector, i know that in Memmingen (the city where Novoflex factory is located) there was a lens maker who branded medium/large format lenses with the name of "Memmingia".
The brand disappeared after WWII.
It COULD well be that the modern Novoflex brand took over the small factory which made the Memmigia anastigmat. So there is a chance that the achromat doublets mounted on follow-focus systems could have been made in-house, while it's certain that early examples mounted Astro Berlin achromats.
I guess there must be some old time german pentaxian who knows a lot more...

cheers

Paolo

05-31-2014, 06:04 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by cyberjunkie Quote
Are there chinese knock-offs of the original Novoflex adapters, like the COA or the PENTA?
P
I don't know, but you won't need them anyhow; the originals are still in the Novoflex program. Somehow they've seen it fit to keep supporting the system, which is rather admirable.

Novoflex - Adapters for follow focus lenses
05-31-2014, 06:26 AM   #6
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The nikon adapter came with the lens and I bought the pentax adapter new from a store in sydney that ordered it in for me new just 18mths ago.
Yup my lens dismantles from the hand piece and has the 24 leaf aperture right there at the opening.
A question for you. Is the 2.5mm hole on the right hand side a remote shutter actuator triggered from the button at the front of the front hand grip? Would need a 20cm double male ended 2.5mm jack lead of course.
Just want to be sure before I try it.
05-31-2014, 03:53 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by OJGoreng Quote
I don't know, but you won't need them anyhow; the originals are still in the Novoflex program. Somehow they've seen it fit to keep supporting the system, which is rather admirable.

Novoflex - Adapters for follow focus lenses
I think it makes sense, economically.
Some of the bellows still on sale use the same set of adapters

cheers

Paolo

---------- Post added 01-06-14 at 12:11 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Arjay Bee Quote
A question for you. Is the 2.5mm hole on the right hand side a remote shutter actuator triggered from the button at the front of the front hand grip? Would need a 20cm double male ended 2.5mm jack lead of course.
Just want to be sure before I try it.
I don't own the last D version of the follow-focus system.
So i can't be certain, but i guess you already gave yourself the correct answer.

This for example is a picture i found doing a research. It's an electric shutter cable for Pentax SFX:



I don't know if the cables are still available from Novoflex. Even if they were, i'm not sure i'd buy one.
Original (new) Novoflex adapters/accessories are way too expensive for my taste. the price of an adapter ring is often more than 50% of the cost of a complete outfit, on Ebay!


A small addendum to my previous post:
old Novoflex macro heads were made also by Schaacht.
I have seen a Schaacht/Novoflex Travenon 4,5/135 R ("zebra" style barrel)
From the look of the barrel, it was probably made between the fifties and the sixties, of course single-coated.
I wouldn't expect such a great performance, because of the coating, and because Travenon macro lenses are not considered such great performers.


cheers

Paolo

Last edited by cyberjunkie; 05-31-2014 at 04:14 PM.
07-04-2014, 03:39 PM   #8
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Hello everyone, this is my first post here. I found this forum while searching for information on Novoflex bellows lenses. I've been mounting enlarging and short-barrel lenses onto bellows for 35mm cameras, therefore my interest in Novoflex. I purchased online a set of Novoflex bellows and when they arrived - surprise - there was a Noflexar 105mm F4 lens attached to them that had not been mentioned in the sales listing. The lens and bellows have Nikon mounts on them, and the mounts on the bellows do not seem interchangeable. The lens is all metal and very plain looking, with what I would call a strictly utilitarian, industrial look. It does focus to infinity with this setup. At the time, I knew nothing about Novoflex lenses, except for the follow-focus telephotos which are said to be quite mediocre, optically, so I put the lens away and used other optics on the bellows. Recently, while testing a number of lenses from 90mm to 135mm with a digital camera, I threw the Noflexar on there and found out that it is both quite sharp and has no chromatic aberration that I could see, even wide open. So I've been using it for general photography and for macro, mainly copying old negatives. I would be interested in hearing about people's experiences with other Noflexar bellows lenses, especially regarding their optical quality.The ones that I see for sale online are quite expensive, relatively speaking (I think I paid $50 for the bellows with the lens), and I'm reluctant to experiment at those price levels .





07-06-2014, 11:16 AM   #9
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I found my Noflexar 64cm for about $8, it was literally picked up from a dump by a scavenger, #1+2 taken today, handheld, wide open at about 25m...#3 the "Beast" on my K-x
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07-07-2014, 12:46 AM   #10
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Even the P-K ring included? Can't believe it!
And there is the BAL-U bellows, to focus closer! Btw, the ring for the BAL-U is the same used in later version of the "gun".

Great score!

cheers

P
07-07-2014, 02:26 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by cyberjunkie Quote
Even the P-K ring included? Can't believe it!
And there is the BAL-U bellows, to focus closer! Btw, the ring for the BAL-U is the same used in later version of the "gun".

Great score!

cheers

P
Thanks, I think the coating on the lens element might've been damaged, I've tried to clean it, but it still leaves something looking like oil on water (if you know what I mean) marks, but I can't see any influence on the shots. I'll just have to make myself a homemade lens hood for it. I tried mounting it on my tripod, but it's a bit front heavy, I'll have to save up for a more sturdy tripod...
The mounting ring allows a 90 degree swivel, to enable you to just turn the camera quite easily from landscape to portrait orientation, without having to turn the whole lens...
02-17-2017, 07:55 AM - 1 Like   #12
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Resurrecting this thread...

I have been adding to the description on the review page, it would be great if those of you with examples of the follow focus Novoflexes could have a look and check tech details, look for omissions.

Novoflex Noflexar modular PIGRIFF system 240mm, 280mm, 300mm, 400mm, 600mm, 64cm Lens Reviews - Miscellaneous Lenses - Pentax Lens Review Database

I have also been doing some DIY..
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02-18-2017, 03:53 AM   #13
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I will post my own review of the Novoflex long focus lenses, once i have the time to try them on full frame.
For the moment... thanks for your review and for the pics you posted.
I like your DIY tripod ring. I have a similar one that was sold by Novoflex as accessory.
I understand the that PIGRIFF was not made for tripod use, but they should have provided a tripod ring as standard.
The bush on the bottom of the handle is practically unusable...

The link to the tests on Olympus film cameras you provide at the end of your review is very interesting. Never found that page before.
It shows that the old achromats (400mm and 600mm) have a satisfying performance, compared with other respected optics of the time (some even newer).
Your triplet has a better IQ, can't say how much better, i had no time to test it properly.
A pity it was made only in 400mm FL.
Novoflex is/was respected as a maker of high quality mechanical stuff for photography. Very likely the optics were made by Staeble.
One can say that Staeble was not a very innovative lens maker, but low quality... no. Definitely not!
Their repro lenses were at the very top, competing at the same level of the best Rodenstok and Schneider optics.
Agfa adopted Staeble's lenses for their super expensive reprocameras.
I guess it's not very likely to find a decentered cemented achromat (or triplet) in a Novoflex objective, unless the glass is not properly seated
In a few words:
simple, but consistent, and built like a tank!

cheers

Paolo
02-18-2017, 05:50 AM   #14
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Hi there, Marcus and Paolo - we must be the limited few who have used this lens, still ...

I have added a review to your post. While I had the unit I found it a challenge to get the confidence to take it out of the house - luckily I was in a remote area so avoided attention the few times I took it out and forget taking it travelling on a plane. I considered taking it to the local country police station where I live and demonstrate it to them so if any one reported it the police wouldn't get excited.

I read your other thread about getting the trigger to work. I noticed the button rotated but didn't realise that it changed the switch modality. I thought it only worked mechanically by a cable and assumed that digital cameras couldn't be triggered so used a remote Pentax cable switch velcro'd to the side of the focus housing and used my right index finger to trigger the shutter. The lateral movement moved the lens off the subject at 600mm and worse at 1200mm when the extender was on.

I used it with a very rigid heavy duty Miller video tripod mostly or on the window sill of my car. My biceps start aching when I just look at the pictures of the kit. Using it on the shoulder was a real trial. I would have needed to take a gym program to get good at that. An experienced rifleman would have had less difficulty no doubt.

Anyway - I enjoyed your images with your set up, I look forward to seeing more. (and I am enjoying using my pancake lens that was funded by the sale of the Novoflex)
10-14-2017, 06:58 AM   #15
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I have always admired the long Novoflexes. I saw a Novoflexar pistol-grip 400+600mm set on sale recently, but it has a Nikon mount. I believe hope that it is just a T mount at heart and any old third party T/K mount adapter will set things right. Can anybody set me straight on this? It is just so cool...

Incidentally, I always felt a little inferior with my SMC Pentax A 400mm f/5.6 when walking amongst the pros with their Novoflexes at sports events in my younger days. Now, thanks to the internet, I know that I should could instead have looked down upon them. The Pentax is way, way more sophisticated in the optical design department. Three elements in two groups on the Novoflex versus seven elements in six groups on the Pentax - no contest. Focussing speed, now that is another matter, but I got by.
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