Leitz 200mm Hektor on Sony

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Bosun Higgs Regular Member • Posts: 103
Leitz 200mm Hektor on Sony

Before all the Red Spot aficionados get all excited about a hitherto unknown long Hektor, this is Leitz projection lens, not a taking lens for Leica cameras!

General Description

The coffee bean tin hood comes complete with a nifty metal lens cap.

The lens is a Leitz 200mm Hektor f2.5 intended for use with the Leitz Prado range of slide projectors.

The Hektor is a six element in three groups design, all of the groups being cemented doublets.

Berek's original patent drawing, left, shows a slightly different air-spaced front doublet compared to the final production design, right.

The lens was designed in the late 1920's by Max Berek, a man responsible for many other Leica classic designs such as the Summar, Summitar and the Elmax, which later evolved into the famous Elmar. It is said that Berek named the Hektor after his favourite dog.

The design was first used to create fast taking lenses for the Leica 1(A) starting with the very fast (for the time) 50mm f2.5 Hektor in 1930, and later for 135mm and 125mm lenses. The design persisted in the Leica taking lens range until 1960 when Leitz discontinued the Hektor, and then used the design to produce projection lenses.

Despite Leica's abandonment of the Hector for taking lenses, the design must have something going for it.......... take a look at the layout of the 2017 Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8.

A Hektor by any other name..........

The 200mm f2.5 is a big lens, 16cm long and 9cm in diameter. It has two parts, the front section containing the optical block which fits into the rear section, which is just a hollow casting. Internally, the rear section has a protruding follower that engages with a helical groove cut into the outer surface of the front unit. The rear section attaches to the projector via a 55mm thread, and when the front section is rotated, the helical groove allows for focusing adjustment.

The brass helix follower can just be seen inside the rear unit, its retaining screw head is visible on the exterior.

The lens has an enormous 85mm diameter front element, which is coated, in comparison my Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS has only around 70mm diameter glass. The Hektor is heavy, it weighs in at 1.4kg complete, and the front unit containing the optics is responsible for 1kg of this. Despite the 400g weight penalty imposed by the rear unit, I thought it was worth keeping as it allows for a very rapid 0-2cm focus extension via its large coarse-pitch helix.

Conversion was fairly straightforward, as I was keeping the rear focusing unit I clamped onto this with M65 hardware. The back focus distance is about 15cm, so there is ample room to introduce clamps and helicoids and still obtain infinity focus.

Although my example of the lens is fully coated, the lens does have problems with flare and contrast loss in bright light. I found that the lens has an image circle of over 15cm, so with the long back focus, the lens could be of interest to large format users. The flare that I observed despite the coatings is probably due to the large amount of stray light beyond the 35mm frame coverage splashing about in the system.

I have had similar stray light problems when converting large format lenses for use on 35mm full frame and the answer is a restrictive lens hood. 95mm diameter, extra long lens hoods are not easily available, but my caffiene addiction saved the day once again. I found that an Italian High Roast (IHR) coffee bean tin fitted perfectly, and once coated internally with Black 3.0, the flare problems were solved.

The IHR hood is a just a tad too long, and sharp eyed folk will spot some corner vignetting, but I am reluctant to shorten the hood as this would affect the fit of the snazzy metal lens cap that came along with the IHR hood as an added bonus.


Handling with my Sony A7rII is surprisingly good despite the weight, the left hand instinctively goes to the rear sleeve which is near the centre of gravity of the whole sheebang. Retaining the rear focusing unit makes it very convenient to quickly switch from distant to macro focus, as its coarse-pitch threads give a lot of movement per turn, the additional M65 helicoids can then be used for fine focus adjustment. There is a however a downside, unfortunately there is quite a bit of slop in the lens' native focus track, so you have to allow for this.

The Image

Focusing is problematic as the lens exhibits the "focus spread" effect I have only seen before with projection Petzvals. The subject does not pop into sharp focus as it does with normal lenses, there is a range of focus in which peak sharpness and contrast can be found, and the two do not coincide. The contrast effect is a "glowy" softness, very much like that seen in fast lenses with poor spherical aberation correction when at maximum aperture.

The lens is however capable of sharp results, but it can be hard to find the optimum spot in the viewfinder, and I often found that the sharp focus point in the resulting images was further back than I intended. Luckily, the lens produces images that respond well to sharpening in post, this is not the case with many Petzvals that also show the focus spread problem.

The lens shows strong blue fringeing on the edges of bright image elements, and the fringeing is so wide that it cannot be completely corrected by the ACR colour fringeing tool.

Very little catseyeing of bokeh bubbles even in the extreme corners.

Without the restrictive IHR hood there is still some mild vignette fall off, but the standout feature of the Hektor is catseyeing, or rather, the lack of it. There is some distortion of OOF "bubbles" but this is minor and only in the extreme corners. I have a large collection of projection lenses of all types, and I have never seen another lens with as little catseyeing as the Hektor shows. I suspect we can thank that huge 85mm front element for this unexpected feature.

Another surprise was that the Hektor shows almost zero field curvature, yet another characteristic very rare in my experience of projection lenses. This level of correction is a feature presumably due to the taking lens heritage of the Hektor. Unfortunately, this feature does not bode well for what really interests me............

The Bokeh

I would describe the bokeh character of the Hektor as generally "lumpy", especially for medium distance focus such as portraits. Closer subjects, which are more typical of my useage, show much less lumpiness, but it can still rear up, even with these.

Slightly "lumpy" background bokeh.

The bokeh emphasises lines and edges, sometimes producing a "fringed" look.

The bokeh edge emphasis can sometimes combine to produce unpleasant (to my eyes) textures, lower right.

At close focus the bokeh tends to emphasise strong edges, this can be attractive but can also resemble fringeing and, at worst, can produce an ugly cluttered effect (see background in the last pic, above).

Sadly, there is very little bokeh texturing at any focus distance, the aforementioned edge emphasis can combine in "busy" backgrounds to resemble native texturing, but it is not The Real Thing.

Note how the bokeh effects do not increase toward frame edge. Good 3D depth in this shot.

Background edge emphasis resembles bokeh texturing in this shot.

Good subject isolation despite the flat field.

Bokeh effects are even across the frame, with no increase towards the edges, this is to be expected given the large coverage of the lens and its lack of field curvature. I was very surprised by how much difference the Hektor's flat field made to the bokeh.

Most of my favourite projection lenses have field curvature in spades, typically this causes the focus point to move closer as you approach the frame edges. The effect of this is to gradually increase the DOF blur and strengthen bokeh effects, this also serves to massively increase the isolation of the in-focus subject. Unfortunately, this feature is completely missing in the Hektor :O(

"Rainbow" outlined bokeh bubbles.

The background bokeh from the Hektor that I liked best.

The Hektor is an effective bubbler with the right subjects, it produces bubbles with a thin outer ring and this rim incorporates a rainbow effect. The outlining is not as "in your face" as that produced by triplets such as the Meyer Trioplan, for one thing, the bubbles are softer, making the highlighted rim much more diffused.

Given the focal length, massive coverage, flat field, and absence of catseyeing, it comes as no surprise that there is no swirl, and I mean NONE. Not even a hint. If the large format bods decide to give the Hektor a try, perhaps they will find some swirl out towards the edges of the huge image circle, but for us tiny FF sensor users, it is not a feature.

The Bottom Line

The Hektor does not give the kind of bokeh that I like, and the flat field does not allow the pronounced subject isolation that my Petzvals give me in spades. Add in the "spread focus" and weight problems, and you would think that would pretty much be it for the Hektor as far as I was concerned; but there is just something about the lens that attracts me. Despite the weight and size, it feels good to use, I feel as though I always want to pick it up and handle it.

To tell you the truth, I don't know why I am attracted to the thing, I just am.

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