Jump to content

Carl Zeiss Distagon 16mm f/2.0 Decade of Manufacture?

Recommended Posts

Does anybody here happen to know the decade in which the Carl Zeiss Distagon 16mm f/2.0 lens was manufactured? I know it has an Arriflex Standard mount and can cover the Super-35 format. If anyone else has any additional information about this lens, feel free to reach out. Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The first versions probably date to the late 60s. In a 1966 Cine gear catalogue there is a 16mm Planar offered for 16mm cameras,  but not a Distagon. The widest Zeiss lens available at that time in Arriflex mount for 35mm cameras was a 32mm Planar. I imagine Zeiss were in the process of designing and building wider lenses for 35mm at this time, since by the early 70s the Zeiss 16mm Distagon (for 35mm) is listed in brochures.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member

Lens names have always slightly confused me, and I understand there is really no universal, formal meaning beyond  a bit of branding. Distagon? Planar? I'm thinking also of the Meyer-Optik stills stuff made in the 60s, which had names like Oreston and Orestor, for maximum confusion, and Orestor was used for both the 100mm f/2.8 and 135mm f/2.8 lenses. I assume they're referring to a specific optical layout which they bent to do both focal lengths, or something.

At least Olympus had some sort of system for their stills lenses; the letter indicates the number of elements, or something like that, so an F.Zuiko has six elements.

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Lens names have always slightly confused me, and I understand there is really no universal, formal meaning beyond  a bit of branding. Distagon? Planar?

I will let you off with only a small scolding Phil, but honestly, if there are any lens design names you should be familiar with, they are Zeiss ones.

I mean, the Planar is the granddaddy of virtually every high speed normal focal length lens you’ve ever used. It was the original double Gauss lens, designed all the way back in 1896. There have been countless variations since - making them unsymmetrical, adding elements etc - but the original recipe still flavours many, many lenses. Kubrick’s f/0.7 50mm was a Planar. The name relates to the minimal field curvature inherent in the design.

Distagon is Zeiss’s name for their wide angle, retro-focus designs. Pretty much any time a focal length is shorter than the camera’s flange depth, it needs a retro-focal design to extend the lens away from the focal plane. The name is a combination of distance (relating to the extended back focus) and the Greek word gonia (relating to the wide angle of view). East German Zeiss called them Flektogons.

This is a pretty basic description of some of the more notable Zeiss lens names, with links to more in-depth articles that used to be on the Zeiss website:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

If lens names confuse you, stick to Angénieux. There you have bone-dry designations. S 21, Y 1, Y 2, R 3, J 11, and so on

American lens names are pure frolic. Wollensak renamed everything Velostigmat as Raptar. Bausch & Lomb has given Animar to non-anastigmats as well as anastigmats. Eastman-Kodak has cast the veil of Ciné-Ektar over Schneider and Angénieux systems. Bell & Howell had made their name put on lenses from England and France or fantasy designations on German glass. Most Eyemo lenses were made by Wollensak. In Europe you find a Biotar, a Kino-Biotar, a Plasmat, a Kino-Plasmat (different), even a Baltar that has nothing to do with Bausch & Lomb.

Care for more exotic names? How about Britar, Nelor, Claror, Atear, Victor (lens, not camera), Victar, Télinor, Maikar, Sytar, Xeen (haha), Stylor, Cine-Prominar (yes), Saphir, Oplenon, Athenar, Votar, Ultra (hahaha), Mirar, Tégéa (très grand angle), Opic, Astrar, Solar, Bolar, Xenagon, Xenogon, Seminat, Tachyplast, Moviar, Polyxentar, Radar, Dygon, Thalia (yeah), Super Six? It’s a funny world.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member

Broadcast is easier.

HJ17e×7.6B IRSE

HJ - 2/3" portable ENG/EFP

17 - zoom range multiplier

e - enhanced features such as digital zoom control.

7.6 - shortest focal length

B - Means "optical adjustment." I have no idea what this actually means. Possibly adjustable back focus.

I - With built-in extender

R - Servo zoom, no servo focus.

S - Servo iris.

E - With digital drive (ability to store and recall focal lengths, etc)

Compare KT20×5B KRS, which is a 1/3" 5-100mm  zoom without extender, servo zoom, manual focus, and servo iris.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The difference between prose and poetry I guess. Broadcast is just the facts Ma’am, where as I suspect the cine market has more dreamers.

At least lens names haven’t entered quite the same realm of ridiculous folly as car names, Xeen excepted. The  Honda Hobio? Mitsubishi Lettuce? Mazda Titan Dump? Or my personal favourite, the Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard. Then again, if Zeiss came out with a Peekaboo Lookitme series of lenses instead of one more Master or Ultra or Supreme something or other it might be a nice change. I did enjoy the Dog Schidt Optiks moniker that Richard Gale employed on his rehoused Russian lenses.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member
28 minutes ago, Dom Jaeger said:

Master or Ultra or Supreme

I always think if people are going to use names like that, they ought to have a more middle-of-the-road offering, so you might have Master, Ultra, Supreme, Middling, Everyday and Mundane, for those moments where you're shooting a BBC drama and the entire lighting package is a 2K into the ceiling.

(I'm being a bit unfair. In this modern Netflix-enabled world, they don't do that nearly so much anymore. I just have painful late-90s memories of various mindbendingly-dull whodunnits which always seemed to take place in a special version of contemporary England which had been twinned with 1955.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


Forum Sponsors

Visual Products


FJS International

Film Gears


Wooden Camera

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Serious Gear

Metropolis Post

Abel Cine

Tai Audio

New Pro Video - New and Used Equipment

Cinematography Books and Gear

  • Create New...