Wednesday, February 22, 2012

f2.5 Aero Ektar Lenses

There are quite a few versions of the coveted Kodak Aero Ektar lenses.  Here are the two most common versions: The 12" f2.5, weighing 7.3 Kg/16.1 lbs is on the left. It sports two dots, one yellow, one purple, and was made in 1953. Perhaps it was used to spy on Iron Curtain countries during the Cold War.

In the center is the much more common f2.5 7" version, with a weight of 1.45 Kg/3.2lbs. There are lots of these around from WWII. This example was made in 1944, about three years after Aero Ektar inventor George Aklin's 1941 patent.

To the right is a far rarer, and more desirable Aero Ektar with a very much slimmed down mount as supplied by Kodak in 1951, making it one of the later versions of this useful lens. It weights a "mere" 1.2 Kg/2.8 lbs, and has a slim aperture ring, a much slimmer front hood with the indicia placed at the periphery, and appears to have a hard coating.  This also sports the two dots, one yellow, the other purple. It has a manufacturing date of 1950.

These were very expensive to produce. Kodak took a great deal of pride in the Ektar lenses, and today they are still among the sharpest.  Our masthead of the Charles River and trees was shot on Type 55 using an Ektar lens, and you can view it with a microscope and see every leaf, so sharp it is.

All of these are quite well made and thick lenses of the double Gauss design, with rear elements comprised of mildly radioactive thorium glass that, over time, produces color centers at the molecular level responsible for producing a reversible yellowish or even brown cast to that element. The physics of color centers has been studied in crystals and other optical substances and this sub-micron change to the actual structure of the molecules can be brought on by gamma radiation and reversed by exposure to UV. Read Micheal Brigg's emphatic, and excellent treatise on Aero Ektar radioactivity.

Online there is this un-named shot of an even later Aero Ektar having a sort of hybrid mount. Like the distal end of our slim Aero Ektar, above, this version uses a peripheral beauty ring too, but retains the more massive aperture ring. It has a manufacturing date of 1960. One wonders what Kodak was up to during the peak of the cold war, and how many of these were made.

The lenses shown are of the same design, just scaled up (or down) depending on the focal length.  There are other longer and shorter focal length Aero Ektars too, including a 6" f2.5 version, and slower, longer versions that are not often much sought after, but show up on ebay frequently.

People love the mysterious dots, so here is more about the dots, here, and even more here.

Even more from Aero Ektar inventor, George H Aklin....Click Here

Aero Ektar Patent


Laura Allen Photography said...

It's spooky, I was thinking about these lenses the other day and I even re-read your old post too. I want one of these but they are so bloody expensive..... for me they are anyway. Other than eBay do you know anywhere else you can buy them?

Bob Crowley said...

Hi Laura

I would check around old camera shops and ask the telescope/astronomy club members if they know of any. The telescope makers have known about these lenses for a long time.

They have become too expensive! Not long ago they were selling here for $100.

Anonymous said...

You keep talking about them makes them go up. Shut up!