The Biotar 75/1.5 is probably the most legendary lens ever produced in Jena, Germany.
It is a six lens gauss type optical scheme whose design dates back to the year 1927 when famous lens designer Willi Merté developed his first Biotar which was designed for cinematography.
In the 1930th Merté continued to improve the Biotar lenses among which the 75mm/1.5 reached legendary status. The Biotar 75/1.5 was first introduced in 1938, sales began to pick up with a presentation at the Leipzig Spring Fair in 1940.
But due to second world war and to its high price at the time it remained a very special lens for the selected few. Until today it has become one of the most expensive vintage lenses easily selling for over a thousand dollars – if you get a usable one.
Even during its time in production it was an unfulfilled dream for most photographers as it took a two month salary for an average engineer of its time to buy this lens. Very few were actually produced but their quality was so outstanding that some are still in use today.
Its sharpness at the center in conjunction with a dramatic swirl bokeh is legendary. At open aperture the Biotar 75 is as sharp as can be in the center of the image and it renders the famous and sought after swirling bokeh to the side. The image gets an almost three dimensional complexion with the object stepping out in front of the viewer.
The feel of the image is at the same time somewhat delicate which generates great contrast in available light situations with clear shadows and lights in the background.
The “swirly bokeh” is an outstanding feature of this lens. This means that out-of-focus highlights in the background are subdued and at the same time rendered in a circular fashion. You can see this effect clearly in the following image This specific feature of the lens creates an eye catching effect and the impact on the viewer is almost surrealistic.
Already at f2.0 contrast goes up dramatically and at f 5.6 to 8 the optimum sharpness is obtained. It is better than many so called modern high end lenses of today. The color correction of the lens is outstanding. There is no lateral chromatic aberration as it is almost apochromatic in its effect. Talking to photographers they start to rave about the lens and its abilities not only in portraiture photography but also for landscaping and nature.
The Biotar 75 was considered the fastest portrait lens of its time and not many faster ones have ben build over time. Due to its high price which would translate into something close to eight to ten thousand dollars today the lens was manufactured in relatively small numbers. But over time photographers around the world cherished the lens not only for portraiture but for so much more, especially fashion, sports, wedding, architecture and even macro. But see for yourselves.
The Biotar 75 is legendary but it was our goal to maintain the exact Biotar characteristics while carefully improving the mechanical aspects and making it feasible for modern camera equipment and different mounts. So at the center of the development was to ensure the lenses ability to produce crystal sharp images at the center of the picture with a dramatic but not overly aggressive swirling bokeh at open aperture and its crystal overall sharpness at f 5.6 or f 8.0. It took several iterations to reach this goal.
Furthermore we slightly changed the design of the lens. The later versions of the Biotar had a somewhat different look and we wanted to come closer to the early versions with a straighter silhouette than the later ones and a very fine surface with a silver shine like it used to be in the thirties of the last century. T
he goal was not to create a “looks like a famous vintage lens” but to follow the legendary imaging abilities of the Biotar and gently change the mechanical design of the lens and reach a more modern but still classic design that pays respect to this legend. We would call this conservative modernization – keeping what is best but improving where we think things could be improved.
This also takes into account that by using modern glasses and hi-end coating some disadvantages of the earlier Biotar lenses due to reflections on the surfaces can be avoided while maintaining all advantages. The 15 aperture blades of the new Biotar support the creation of the swirly bokeh and are of course made from steel and with a special anti-reflective coating.
The Biotar 75/1.5 was first introduced in 1938, sales began to pick up with a presentation at the Leipzig Spring Fair in 1940. But due to Second World War and to its high price at the time it remained a very special lens for the selected few. After the war production picked up again but only until 1960 when production was discontinued not the least because of continued legal issues between East and West.
The name of the lens had always been subject to major battles legal battles between Carl Zeiss, Jena in East Germany and the West German Carl Zeiss that was founded after the war. The Biotar was the first available light portrait lens but due to its high price remained an unfulfilled dream for many. The price was the equivalent of a two month salary of an engineer. The lens was promoted for sports, theater and reporter photography.
At first portrait photography was not in the focus of the marketing activities. But soon the users realized its value for portraiture due to the extrem sharpness in the center and the swirling bokeh of the background with a small depth of field at f 1.5. The lens was the star in combination with the most advanced cameras of its time from Ihagee(Exakta) to Zeiss (Contax) and Leica to name a few.
Until today it has become one of the most expensive vintage lenses easily selling for over a thousand dollars – if you get a usable one. Even during its time in production it was an unfulfilled dream for most photographers as it took a two month salary for an average engineer of its time to buy this lens. Very few were actually produced but their quality was so outstanding that some are still in use today.
Willy Merté was born in Dresden, January 1889. Soon his family moved to Weimar, Germany. He was a mathematical whizz kid and went on to study mathematics and physics at the universities of Munich and Jena. He was influenced by Conrad Roentgen and Max Wien. He got his Ph.D. at age 23 and only a year later went to work for Carl Zeiss in Jena.
He became one of the legendary lens designers of all times creating some of the best Zeiss lenses ever of which the Biotar clearly stood out.
After World War II he left Zeiss in Jena and under the protection of the US army went to form the new West German firm in Oberkochen before going to the United States himself in 1947 to become a member of the optical institute of the University of Boston. Sadly he died only a year later in Dayton, Ohio.
Some of the world’s most renowned lens designers have joined in this project under the leadership of Dr. Stefan Immes, who recently resurrected Meyer Optik, Goerlitz.
Meyer Optik concentrates solely on their lenses and innovative developments of new aspherical lenses so for this ambitious project Dr. Immes formed a different team.
For this project it was also necessary to ensure larger production capacities and expertise of production to ensure its success. Fascinated by the idea of returning the famous Biotar 75 an all star team of optical engineers and manufacturers was forged:
- Dr. Wolf-Dieter Prenzel experienced optical engineer in the field of the resurrection of classical lenses for the optical design,
- Scientific And Engineering Award® winner Andre de Winter for the mechanical design and
- one of the most renowned lens manufacturers of the world, namely Kenko Tokina Inc. for production.
Dr. Wolfdieter Prenzel studied precision engineering at the Technical University Dresden from 1972 to 1976 and received his Ph.D. in 1987. From 1976 to 1991 he was working at Meyer Optik in Görlitz, Germany in charge of process management and technical development. He has a reputation for being able to carefully resurrect old optical lenses and his passion for optical design is legendary. He has been developing new lenses for the reborn Meyer Optik for the last four years.
André de Winter, certainly one of the most outstanding lens designers of famous German camera and lens manufacturer Leica. He started to work at Leitz Canada Ltd. in the design department in 1969, directly under Dr. Mandler and Gerhard Bechmann. He became the major lens designer for most Leica-M (i.e. Noctilux in 1970), and Leica-R lenses. In 1987 he did the opto-mechanical design of 10 Panavision lenses. He transferred to Leica Camera AG in Solms in 1989, where he headed the opto-mechanical lens design department. He left Leica and returned to Canada in 1999, he worked briefly for Leupold & Stevens in Oregon, USA. He returned to Leica in 2001, upon invitation by Lothar Kölsch, manager of the design department, and Alfred Hengst manager of the Sportsoptic department. In 2007, upon request from Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, André worked for CW-Sonderoptic-Wetzlar, designing the mechanics for the new Summilux-C, (cine lenses) for which he received the Scientific And Engineering Award® of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (“the Technical Oscar”).
Tokina represents one of the best manufacturers of lenses in the world. It is our honour to have this company on board so that we can assure that the lenses will be manufactured to the standards of quality that this lens deserves. We do not want to take any risk with a legend! Kenko Tokina Co., Ltd is a famous Japanese lens maker.
The company was established in Tokyo, to be more precise in Shinjuku/Tokyo, in May of 1950 under the name Tokyo Optical Equipment Manufacturing.
The first lenses were branded as Tokyo Koki, a shortened version of the phonetic translation into English of the company's name, Tokyo Koki Seisakusho.
The company was founded by former Nikon engineers as an OEM manufacturer and at first produced lenses for other companies, such as later Vivitar. In the early 1970's the company began selling lenses under its own brand name, Tokina.
In May of 1971 the company changed its name to Tokina Optical Co. Ltd. The company was later acquired by Kenko. Kenko also purchased optical glass manufacturer Hoya, whose glass was used by Tokina Optical. The combined company is now known as Kenko Tokina Co., Ltd., and represents all the facets needed for a lens manufacturer under one roof. The US branches of the companies, Tokina Optical Corporation USA and Kenko Company USA were merged in 1993 to form THK Photo Products, Inc. The letters THK comes from Tokina, Hoya, Kenko. With the latter Tokina was merged in 2011 into Kenko-Tokina. The company employs over 380 people at its mother company and is a supplier of high quality lens manufacturers throughout the world.
The lens will be available with mounts for
- Leica-M (rangefinder coupling supported.)
- and new: Pentax-K
The new Biotar will ship internationally from Germany starting in the summer of 2018. We charge 20$ for deliveries to the US and inside EU. Shipment to Countries outside US & EU will be charged with 50$.
Please note there may be extra import costs/customs/taxes to pay upon delivery, depending on your location. Customs and taxes are subject to possible change and applicable law at the time of delivery will have to be taken into account. If you have a question about shipping or handling, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
For backers inside the European Union: Please be aware that VAT is not included and has to be added by yourself. So Please add 19% to your total pledge amount including shipping.
If you have forgotten to add VAT/sales tax to your pledge, you can just raise it as long as the Kickstarter project is live.
Risks and challenges
Any new venture or innovation includes an element of risk. The Biotar 75/f 1.5 is no different in this respect. Oprema has gathered a strong team to ensure the manufacturing process. We have created a prototype, worked with photographers and business professionals and have carefully evaluated and mitigated all foreseeable risks and challenges, but may face unforeseen challenges.
Especially the step from prototype to a pre-series and again from pre series to serial production is very hard to plan in detail and to cover all possible risks in advance.
Although we all have already successfully designed, created and produced photographic lenses and each of the final lenses will be hand-made by experts in the field, we have not yet started serial production and will only do so once we reach the next stage of our project. Each lens is carefully made and is of high-value and we will take extra precautions to ensure each one is shipped carefully.
Our delivery dates, as outlined in the campaign, are based on careful planning and our manufacturing experience with lens projects in the past, but may change due to materials, suppliers and unforeseen events. We will ensure that we keep each of our supporters fully updated. Conversely, it is important that all backers keep us updated of their address before we ship the final rewards. Any reshipping will require additional payments.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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