Note: this article covers Kodak lenses primarily from the mid-1930s through the 1960s.
The names Eastman Kodak used for their lenses had little correlation the lenses' configuration or aperture. Instead, the name used was marketing device indicating the relative quality of the optic.
All Kodak lenses, other than those of small (f/stop = f/8) aperture, were anastigmats. Kodak lenses were made not only for still cameras but also for enlargers, slide projectors, and for Cine-Kodaks and Kodascopes. Lenses for camera purposes are described here from the standpoint of general groups. Until the mid 1930s, even Kodak's best lenses were simply called Kodak Anastigmats. Beginning about 1935, with the advent of practical color photography, Kodak began classify lenses into tiered categories, though some existing lens lines (i.e. the professional large format Kodak Anastigmat f/4.5 lenses) retained their original naming conventions. The first category introduced was the Kodak Ektars. These in particular represented an optical improvement over the usual anastigmat.
Keeping in mind that Kodak produced a staggering number and variety of lenses, and that these naming categories were phased in over time, the following categories are not without exceptions:
|Pro quality lenses||Anastigmat Ektar||Ektar||Ektar|
|High Quality lenses||Anastigmat Special||Anastar||Ektanar|
|Simple lenses||Diway, Bimat, Twindar, Kodar||Kodet, Kodar||Kodet, Kodar|
According to Kodak, there had been a growing demand, especially from those doing precision photographic work of a specialized nature, for lenses which met the most exacting requirements. In line with its policy of catering to discriminating photographers, the Eastman Kodak Company announced the first of a new series of high-quality lenses. These lenses were originally designated as Kodak Anastigmat Ektars, later as simply Kodak Ektars.
They were anastigmats, but were made to higher standards than the term anastigmat ordinarily implied. The Kodak Ektars were not, in general, intended to replace, but rather to supplement the established professional Kodak Anastigmat Lenses, which were manufactured to precise standards and which were designed to give excellent results adequate for most photographic work, both black-and-white and color.
In producing Kodak Ektar Lenses, the lens designers brought to their task the experience of years in designing lenses of quality for all photographic purposes, and they took advantage of new and improved types of optical glass. Many different models were made and tested. As a result, the Kodak Ektars represented all that skill, care, and optical research could produce. In manufacture, every step is carefully controlled, and in many cases, special tools and testing methods were devised. The lens mountings have likewise received the attention they deserve. Such meticulous care in workmanship was a guarantee that full value had been built into these lenses.
According to Kodak, the performance characteristics of all Kodak Ektar Lenses were:
1. A Kodak Ektar Lens was of outstanding excellence and of preeminent quality.
2. The degree of all residual aberrations in Kodak Ektars was negligible. For example, astigmatism, which is normally present in small amounts in all lenses, had been reduced to a new low.
3. Kodak Ektar Lenses were carefully corrected for lateral chromatic aberration, which was particularly important when Kodachrome transparencies made with these lenses were to be reproduced photomechanically or by other color printing processes.
4. An Ektar lens is focused as a complete unit.
5. In black-and-white photography, the quality of Kodak Ektar Lenses is most evident when fine- grain negative materials are used or when a small portion of a negative is to be considerably enlarged. The Kodak Ektars were also suited to making negatives from which photomural enlargements are to be made.
6. Relative aperture (diaphragm) markings were accurate within extremely close limits.
In all, the Ektars had a reputation for very high quality and consistency, comparable to the best European manufacturers.
Some notable examples:
|Kodak Ektar f/2.0, 47mm (Retina II, 1946)|
Kodak Ektar f/2.0, 45 mm., A 6-element Gauss type lens, was supplied with the Kodak Bantam Special, was extremely well corrected and was suitable for Kodachrome as well as black-and-white photography. Its high speed and wide angle of view made it an excellent all-purpose lens for night photography indoors as well as daylight outdoor photography. Introduced in 1936, this was one of the earliest uses of the Ektar brand by Kodak.
A similar f/2.0, 47mm. Ektar can be found on the Retina II camera, though this is an uncommon variant.
|Kodak Ektar f/3.5, 50mm (Retina I, 1947)|
Kodak Ektar f/3.5, 50 mm., A 4-element Tessar type lens, was supplied on the Kodak Retina I, is another highly corrected lens which gave superb results in Kodachrome or black-and-white. These lenses are sometimes confused with the Schneider Xenars which were rebranded for the USA market as Anastigmat Ektars and Ektars. The easiest way to identify a genuine Kodak lens on a Retina is by the serial number.
|Kodak Ektar f/3.5, 44mm (Signet 35, 1956)|
Kodak Ektar f/3.5, 44 mm., This 4-element Tessar type lens was supplied on the Kodak Signet 35, and was described by Anne Ruder in Modern Photography magazine as "comparable to lenses in the most expensive 35mm cameras". Kodak advertisements of the time claimed this lens was superior to the German lenses on their own Retinas.
|Kodak Ektar f/4.5, 101mm (Speed Graphic, 1946)|
Kodak Ektar f/3.7, 107 mm. and f/4.5, 101 mm., f/4.7, 127mm and f/4.5, 152mm, These 4-element Tessar type lenses, were supplied for 21/4x 31/4-inch cameras such as the Speed Graphic of this size. The f/3.7, 107 mm. was of particular interest to photographers using 21/4x 31/4-inch Kodachrome Professional Film. Supplied in a Compur-Rapid shutter, it was equally suitable for black-and-white photography especially under adverse light conditions or where short exposures are necessary. The f/4.5, 101mm was more commonly seen mounted in a Kodak Supermatic shutter.
Of note is that the 127mm f/4.7 lens was produced in a front element focusing mount for the Combat Graphic 4x5 camera. In accordance with Kodak's naming conventions, this lens was branded as an Anastigmat Special rather than an Ektar.
Kodak Ektar f/3.5 100mm, and f/3.7 105mm, both 5-element Heliar type lenses - The 100mm was used on the Kodak Medalist and Medalist II cameras, while the 105mm was supplied in shutter for 21/4x 31/4-inch press type cameras.
Eastman Ektar f/6.3, 81/2-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch, and 14-inch, all 4-element Tessar type lenses, were designed especially for commercial color photography with 8 x 10 and 5 x 7 studio and view cameras. This lens is corrected to a very high degree and is especially well corrected for transverse chromatic aberration or lateral color; it is therefore ideally suited to Kodachrome and black- and-white photography. Each lens was tested for exact register of the images of the three primary colors. The lens was set up so that the light from the test object passes through the lens obliquely. The rectangles were made of colored gelatin, each passing a narrow band of the spectrum. If the lens had been properly made and assembled, the narrow black lines through the rectangles on the test object would be continuous in the test exposure. A test negative was made for each of these lenses, and kept on file. These lenses were marketed in later years as Commercial Ektars.
Kodak Wide-Field Ektar f/6.3, 80mm., 100mm., and 135mm. - These 4-element gauss types were wide angle professional lenses for the 21/4x 31/4, 31/4x 41/4, and 4x5 formats.
Kodak Aero Ektars - These were high speed 6-element Gauss types, typically used for aerial survey and reconnaissance cameras. The most common encountered are the F/2.5, 7-inch and 12-inch lenses, the 7-inch covering a 5x5 inch negative.
Kodak Projection Ektars - These lenses were usually 4-element Tessar types available in an astounding variety of focal lengths. Also known as Color Printing Ektars.
|Kodak Color Printing Ektar /4.5, 96 mm (1963)|
Kodak Color Printing Ektar /4.5, 96 mm. A 5-element Heliar type lens, was used in Kodak photofinishing equipment.
Kodak Anastigmat f/4.5 Lenses for commercial, portrait, and press work were available in a variety of focal lengths from 5 1/2 to 12 inches. They were supplied in barrels or shutters for mounting on interchangeable lens boards for use on appropriate cameras including view, studio, and press cameras of the Speed Graphic and Graflex types. They were highly corrected anastigmats and their excellence was attested by the popularity they long enjoyed among leading photographers. Although these lenses ought to have been re-labeled as Ektars, they retained their original appellations throughout their production runs due to their established reputation in the professional community.
Kodak Anastigmat Specials / Anastars / Ektanars
Kodak Anastigmat Specials were made in a variety of focal lengths and in relative apertures of f/3.5 and f/4.5. They were made according to the most reliable optical formulas and the newest types of optical glass. They are mounted in front-element-focusing lens mounts (which tends to reduce close focusing performance), and in some cases, this is the only real difference between an Anastigmat Special and an Ektar. In the late 1940s, current Anastigmat Specials were rebranded as Anastars. In the 1950s, Kodak labeled lenses of this class as Ektanars. Some Ektanars, notably those on the Signet 80, were unit-focusing lenses. Kodak also made Projection Ektanars for 35mm slide projectors. In recent years, the Ektanar label had been widely used on consumer 35mm, APS, and digital cameras.
Some notable examples:
| Kodak Anastigmat Special f /3.5, 51 mm
(Kodak 35 RF, 1950)
Kodak Anastigmat Special f /3.5, 51 mm. A 4-element Tessar type lens, was used on the Kodak 35. Later branded as an Anastar.
|Kodak Anastigmat Special f /4.5, 47mm (Bantam Special, 1941)|
Kodak Anastigmat Special, f /4.5, 47mm. A 4-element Tessar type lens, was used on the Kodak Bantam)
|Kodak Anastigmat Special f /4.5, 101mm (Monitor Six-20, 1946)|
Kodak Anastigmat Special f /4.5, 100 mm. and 127 mm. These 4-element Tessar type lenses were used on the Kodak Specials and Monitors Six-20 and Six-16). Later branded as an Anastar.
|Kodak Anastar 44mm., f/3.5 (Pony IV)|
Kodak Kodak Anastar 44mm., f/3.5. This 4-element Tessar type lens was used on the Kodak Pony IV.
|Kodak Ektanar 50mm., f/2.8 (Signet 80)|
Kodak Ektanar 50mm., f/2.8. This 4-element Tessar type lens was used on the Kodak Signet 80. The f/2.8 aperture, high for a Tessar type lens, was made possible by the use of optical glass containing thorium oxide. Unlike most lens of the Anastigmat Special/Anastar/Ektanar line, this lens uses unit focusing.
Kodak Anastigmats / Anastons / Ektanons
Often confused with the 1930's professional lenses of the same name, the Kodak Anastigmats were manufactured in a variety of focal lengths, and in relative apertures from f /3.5 to f/4.5. These lenses and the Kodak Anastigmat Specials permitted the taking of pictures under unfavorable light conditions or at the faster shutter speeds required by moving subjects. These Kodak Anastigmats, like others having high relative apertures, required focusing. They are mounted in front-element-focusing mounts except the Kodak Anastigmat as used on the 3A Kodak, the Kodak Recomars, and the Kodak Duo Six-20, which are focused by moving the entire lens and shutter assembly along the camera axis. In the late 1940s, current Anastigmats were rebranded as Anastons. In the 1950s, Kodak labeled lenses of this class as Ektanons. The Ektanon on the Signet 40 is an another exception to the front element focusing rule, being a unit-focusing lens. Kodak also made Projection/Enlarging Ektanons for copying and enlarging work, and also for 35mm slide projectors.
Some notable examples:
Kodak Anastigmat f /4.5, 51 mm. A 3-element Cooke triplet type, was used on less expensive models of the Kodak 35. Later branded as an Anaston.
Kodak Anastigmat f /5.6, 50 mm. A 3-element Cooke triplet type was also used on Kodak Bantam and Kodak 35
Kodak Anastigmat f /3.5,75 mm. A 3-element Cooke triplet type was used on the Kodak Duo Six-20
|Kodak Anaston 105mm, f/4.5 (Tourist II)|
Kodak Anastigmat f/4.5, 103 mm., 105mm., and 126 mm. These 4-element Tessar type lenses were used on folding Kodak Six-20, Tourist, and Six-16 cameras. Later lenses were labeled as Anastons.
|Kodak Anastigmat 105mm, f/6.3 (Vigilant Six-20)|
Kodak Anastigmat f /6.3, 102 mm., 105mm., and 128 mm. These 3-element Cooke triplet types were also used on folding Kodaks Six-20, Vigilant 620, and Six- 16 cameras. Later lenses were labeled as Anastons.
Lenses for Simple Cameras were designed for beginners in photography or for those who want cameras that do not require focusing or shutter or lens adjustments. Such cameras must necessarily be equipped with lenses of comparatively small relative aperture, and hence a single shutter speed. Lenses in this group are the Kodak Single Meniscus and Doublet Lenses, and the Kodet.
|Kodak Kodet (Duaflex II)|
Another group of simple lenses, which includes the Kodak Diway, Twindar, Kodar, and Bimat Lenses, have a simple but efficient method of focusing for subjects as close as five feet from the lens. These lenses and shutters, within their limitations, will produce decent pictures. Cameras so equipped have the advantages of lightness of weight, simplicity of operation, and were inexpensive. It should be noted that in the 1920s and early 1930s, the Kodar was often a triplet design of decent performance. In later years it was usually a doublet design of lesser quality.
- Brian Coe, Kodak Cameras - The First Hundred Years, Hove Foto Books, 1988
- Kodak Lenses Shutters And Portra Lenses, 3rd Edition (1948)