Exakta 66

Medium format MF film SLR camera • Collectible


Production details:
Production type:Small-batch production
System: Exakta 66 (1984)
Maximum format:Medium format 6x6
Film type:120 roll film
220 roll film
Mount and Flange focal distance:Praktisix (Pentacon Six) [74mm]
Speeds:1 - 1/1000 + B
Exposure metering:None
Exposure modes:Manual
Physical characteristics:

Manufacturer description #1


A great tradition returns to 6x6 photography and with it comes the world's premier optical system. Schneider and Exakta bring you West German craftsmanship. Without the bells and whistles.

If you're too young to remember, Exakta is one of the great names in camera design. A name recently revitalized by an innovative group of West German designer/craftsmen.

They set out to produce a simple, rugged, mechanical, medium format SLR that handles like a precision-made 35mm. And they asked Schneider Kreuznach, the company that produces outstanding optics for Hasselblad, Leica, Linhof, Rollei and Sinar, to craft a unique array of lenses specifically for the Exakta system.

Schneider created a system of lenses that surpasses anything they've done for the Swedes, the Swiss or their countrymen. Lenses that are virtually free of distortion, with precise color balance, superb resolution and extraordinary contrast.

Standard on the Exakta 66 is the classic Schneider Xenotar 80mm 2.8 in a brand new high-performance 7-element design. Add two Schneider Variogon Macro zoom lenses; one 75-150mm f/4.5 and a long 140-280mm f/5.6.

Add fixed focal lengths from wide angle to telephoto, a choice of four lenses for macro images up to 11x larger than life. Add a matched teleconverter for long lenses and you have an optical system that will hold its own in big league company.

So what's the catch?

There is none. Our designers decided that the time was right for a return to simplicity. They avoided electronic gimmicks that add expense without adding performance.

They limited the electronics in the Exakta 66 to the fine TTL metering prism finder.

They designed an angled shutter release button on the front of the camera that's easy to use at both waist and eye levels.

They covered both body and lens barrels with a thick, rubber compound to protect the system from shocks and dents and give you a sure grip. They made form and function add up to rugged reliability.

Now you can take Schneider optimum optics out of the studio and into places you wouldn't dare take an over-complicated, under-protected electronic camera system.

The Exakta 66 is distributed in America by Exakta Division/Schneider Corporation of America.

Manufacturer description #2

The brilliant alternative

Exakta is a well-established name in the history of photography. The first 35mm reflex camera in 1936 was an Exakta. The Exakta 66 medium-format reflex camera is the latest in a long line of traditional excellence.

Compared to 35 mm, the Exakta gives you a format which is more than four times bigger, giving improved picture quality, more brilliant colours and richer detail. Choose the Exakta 66, the precision camera with the famous Schneider Kreuznach lenses.

Top quality results with SCHNEIDER optics

Schneider Kreuznach lenses are considered to be among the best lenses in the world. They are as highly regarded in the field of cinema and television as they are by professional photographers. The Exakta 66 is fitted with Schneider lenses - a strong argument for moving up with the medium-format into the realm of professional photographic possibilities.

The camera system of quality

Exakta 66 - a camera system of quality offering you everything you need for demanding photographic assignments: 6x6 reflex camera for 120 (12 exposures) and 220 (24 exposures) roll film with reversible film pressure plate for keeping the film perfectly flat, automatic frame counter, high-speed transport lever for film advance and shutter cocking, focal plane shutter from 1 sec. to 1/1000 sec. and B. Standard lens Xenotar 2.8/80mm with close focusing to 60cm, plus other interchangeable lenses with focal lengths from 60 to 280mm manufactured by Schneider Kreuznach. Exposure metering either manually or semi-automatically (with the TTL prism viewfinder).

The Exakta 66 MOD 2 differs from the standard model in that its viewfinder image is 18% larger, it has a spring-locking back and an ergonomically designed winding lever.

The sharply focused overall view

One look through the viewfinder of the Exakta 66 and you will appreciate the extra quality offered by a larger format. It gives you an overall view which makes it simple to plan your photographs. There are 3 different viewfinder systems for you to choose from: the folding focusing hood which additionally offers you a strong magnification, the prism viewfinder for taking photographs at eye level as with a 35 mm camera and the easy-to-use TTL prism viewfinder (ISO 12/12° to ISO 3200/36°) for exposure measurement through the lens.

Perfect in every detail

Getting in close - for close-ups too, the Exakta 66 is in its element! On a simple level, using a series of intermediate rings; for more demanding standards, using the bellows attachment which you can fit with various lenses.

Manufacturer description #3

CAMERA TYPE: 6 x 6 cm (2 1/4 x 2 1/4 in.) rollfilm single-lens reflex camera of convenient rubber covered T-shape body, with interchangeable finder and focusing screen.

PICTURE SIZE: Nominal 6 x 6 cm, actual 55.5 x 55.5 mm or 2.2 x 2.2 in.; image diagonal 78.5 mm (3.1 in.).

FILM: No. 120 or 220 rollfilm for 12 or 24 exposures respectively.

FILM CHANNEL: Adjustable pressure plate to adapt the film channel to the correct depth for No. 120 or 220 rollfilm.

SHUTTER: Focal plane shutter with speed from 1 to 1/1000 sec, B for time exposures; electronic input of settings into TTL finder.

RAPID WINDING LEVER: A single swing of the lever advances the film and tensions the shutter. Interlock adjustable for No. 120 or 220 film. Automatic frame counter.

STANDARD LENS: 80 mm SCHNEIDER XENOTAR MF f/2.8 of 7 elements in 6 groups, multicoated, 52° angle of view, apertures from f/2.8 to f/22, control pin for automatic aperture input to TTL metering finder, stopdown lever for depth of field preview, focuses from infinity to 0.6 m or 2 ft.

LENS CHANGING MOUNT: Special bayonet mount with locating screw and breech lock ring. 60 mm opening; 74 mm optical register (lens flange to film plane distance).

APERTURE MECHANISM: Spring-loaded auto-aperture coupling; lens remains at full aperture until immediately before the exposure. Working aperture preset manually with automatic input to the TTL meter system of the prism finder.

FINDER SYSTEM: Interchangeable folding hood or TTL prism finder, latter with built-in exposure meter and semiautomatic photometric zero balance. Automatic metering input of aperture and shutter speed settings. LCDs outside and in the finder next to screen image to show and check settings. Film speeds from ISO 12/12° to 3200/36°; eyepiece shutter. Folding hood with interchangeable viewing magnifier (+2.5 to -4.5 diopters).

FOCUSING SCREEN: Interchangeable standard screen: Matt Fresnel screen with split-image wedge and microprism ring. Further screens with alternative focusing aids.

SELFTIMER: Usable with all shutter speeds. Delay 10 sec.

CARRYING STRAP AND BRACKET: Supports camera at centre of gravity, even with alternative lenses. Secured with tripod screw, providing also three-point support when placing camera on a level surface.

FILM MEMO HOLDER: Push-in memo holder in the camera back.

The standard outfit includes the EXAKTA 66 with 80 mm SCHNEIDER XENOTAR f/2.8 lens, lens cap, focusing screen with split-image wedge and microprism ring, folding hood with magnifier, tripod screw.

Manufacturer description #4

NEW! LATEST 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6X6) SLR - THE REAL CHOICE


  • Made in Germany
  • Its Easier to Use than a 35mm Camera!
  • Largest Selection of Lenses for a 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6x6) SLR camera 30mm to 1000mm plus Zoom Lenses and Teleconverters made by Schneider, Zeiss, Cambron, Exakta and Others
  • Depth of Field Preview
  • Ultra Quiet Shutter
  • Interchangeable Focusing Screen and Finder System
  • Self Timer
  • Quality Low Price Accessories from Bellows to Magnifiers, Reversing Ring to TTL Meter Prism and Many More! New Latest Model with Mirror Lock!
  • Full Range of Shutter Speeds 1 sec. - 1/1000 sec. and B Time Exposure
  • Uses 120 (12 Exp) and 220 (24 Exp) Film

From the Modern Photography magazine (December 1984)

East joins West to create two 2 1/4 Exakta roll film SLR

Present 2 1/4 SLRs too steep for your pocketbook? Using the body casting, mechanical and viewing parts from the Dresden made (German Democratic Republic) Pentacon SLR, the present owners of the Exakta name in West Germany have given the camera new outer cosmetics, refinements and Schneider lenses (in Pentacon breech-bayonet mount) and come up with a lower priced alternative. No posh trimmings such as auto exposure, changeable backs, motor drive, but basic camera has 80mm f/2.8 Schneider Xenotar focusing to 3 ft., mechanical cloth focal-plane shutter from 1 to 1/1000 sec. and a shifting pressure plate to adjust film plane for both 120 and 220 roll film. Lenses include 55mm f/4.5 Perspective Control Super Angulon, 60mm f/3.5 Curtagon, 150mm f/4 and 250mm f/5.6 Tele-Xenars plus 75-150 f/4.5 and 140-280 f/5.6 Variogons. Interesting accessory: eye-level prism with TTL full aperture metering using LCD aperture readout atop prism and LCD plus LED readout inside. Availability: next year when U.S. distributorship is settled.

From the Popular Photography magazine (October 1984)

Return of an old and much-loved brand name in a new Exakta 66 roll-fil reflex to be outfitted with interchangeable West German Schneider Kreuznach lenses. The camera will be based upon Dresden-made Pentacon Six parts and subassemblies, with final manufacture and many newly designed refinements from a West German Munich factory now starting up.

This East/West German cooperation has been organized by Dr. Otto Stemme, an engineer and physicist whose background includes technical design and manufacturing responsibilities at Carl Zeiss, Jena, Rollei Singapore and Braunschweig, and the Agfa-Gevaert camera works in Munich, from which several of the project engineers for the Exakta 66 have come. Dr. Stemme is today the managing director of the Durst company in Bolzano, Italy, whose management fully supports this personal initiative, in which Durst is otherwise not involved.

The Exakta 66 design preserves the focal-plane shutter (with speeds from 1 to 1/1,000 sec) of the Pentacon Six, from which it is derived. Special attention has been paid to achieving a flatter film plane than is usually found in roll-film cameras, and a more uniform film transport than that of the Pentacon Six, which has been criticized for uneven spacing of consecutive 6x6-cm frames. This is now said to have been eliminated by a positive gearing system. Film flatness in the Exakta 66 is said to be the result of a genuine film channel, similar to that of modern 35-mm cameras. Almost all paper-backed roll-film cameras press the film against a format aperture plate, relying upon this pressure for image-plane flatness (and picture sharpness!).

In the Exakta 66, however, the pressure plate pushes against two rails machined into the camera housing, thereby creating an open channel through which film and backing-paper can slither with relative freedom. The camera will make 12 exposures on paper-backed 120 roll film, and 24 on professional 220 rolls (which have paper only at the ends of the roll). Like its Pentacon predecessor, the new Exakta 66 will not feature interchangeable film magazines.

A Munich-made TTL prism finder (using East German optics) will permit eye-level shooting with manual metering, and there will also be a completely new waist-level finder. The TTL meter head provides LCD indication of the metered f-stop that can be seen through the finder eyepiece and in an extrenal window. Indicator arrows are provided to show the direction of change needed to align correct exposure, and there are plus and minus half-stop markings. Film speeds are set directly on the TTL head, and preselected shutter speeds are fed to the system electrically. A new and still-secret mechanism cross-couples the meter with the camera shutter and the aperture scales of the various interchangeable Schneider lenses.

The Exakta 66 has an unusual charcoal-black finish made of the same sort of thick plastic covering that is now applied to rugged "all-weather" military and hunting binoculars. Munich Exakta 66 designers Schlagheck and Schultes refer to it as a macho "rancher"-style camera that doesn't need to be treated too politely.

The introductory Schneider Kreuznach lens lineup for the Exakta 66 comprises an 80-mm Symmar-M f/2.8, 53-degree standard optic; a 60-mm Curtagon f/3.5, 67-degree wide-angle; a 150-mm Tele-Xenar f/4, 30-degree tele lens; a 55-mm Super-Angulon-PCS f/4.5 perspective-control lens; plus two Schneider Variogon-M zoom lenses, 75-150-mm f/4.5 and 140-480-mm f/5.6.

Initial January, 1985 production planned to start at 200 cameras per month. The German list price with 80-mm Symmar-M f/2.8 lens is slated to be below DM 2,000, or about $700 at the current rate of exchange.

From the PHOTOMETHODS magazine (December 1987)

Whoever designed the Exakta 66 knew a thing or two about styling and professional photographer psychology. The Exakta 66 is a stubby, down-played, mean-looking machine dressed in military-type rubberized fabric, with not a scrap of unnecessary excrescence or protuberance. At the same time, it manages to pointedly ignore the current "1930 streamline teapot moderne" design architecture that appears to be infecting a lot of state-of-the-art 35mm SLRs. If the camera looks a bit beetle-browed with its metering pentaprism attached, well, it is a 6x6cm roll film machine, and, all in all, a good job has been done in keeping bulk to a minimum. The Exakta 66 looks tough, appearing ready to take a fair amount of everyday working abuse and still maintain its Deutche eclat and composure. Is it as good and as tough as it appears? Well, later.

The Camera

Apart from a couple of awkward controls the Exakta 66 is the type of camera that even a tyro can stay out of trouble with. However, there are a couple of serious design omissions: a film advance lever that is single throw, not incremental; and a lens-bayonet breech-lock retaining ring that is hard to access when you are trying to work on the run. Like many medium-format camera designers, the fathers of the Exakta 66 seem blind to the fact that not all pro photographers use these cameras mounted on a tripod.

The mechanical shutter is a simple horizontally traveling cloth focal plane. Shutter speeds are from "B," 1 sec., to 1/1,000. Flash sync is (careful) 1/20 sec. and slower. Connection is via a conventional PC-type socket, somewhat under the lens mount escutcheon. The self-timer is a conventional mechanical type and requires that you ease down on the inclined shutter button very gingerly so as to trip it to run. Too much pressure trips the mirror-shutter cycle and runs the self timer afterward. Note: Using the self timer in conjunction with a flash unit does require that the shutter release remain depressed until the flash has fired. The suggested approach is to use a locking cable release.

The focusing hood is easily removed and may be replaced with a 90° pentaprism such as the Exakta metering prism. The focusing screens are held in place by a spring clip and may be popped out and exchanged in seconds.

The camera back opens by pulling down on an end tag. The back is not removable. The film pressure plate may be set to either 120 or 220 film lengths simply by pushing down and sliding it left or right. Film loading is refreshingly uncomplicated. Pull down the two external, rubber covered knobs in the base of the camera and the spool pin withdraws. Swap spools, twist, and the hubs snap back into position. Advance to the datum mark, close the back and crank on. The counter located in the film advance lever will count up to 24 frames when the back is closed. Note that the back latch is not a slam-shut type. You have to close the back and push the latch upward to lock it.

The lens mount is a three slot breech-lock type utilizing an overlocking ring affixed to the camera. It is an effective, if slow, way to mount a lens. A simple straight actuator pin protrudes from the rear of each lens mount to operate the lens aperture stop-down. Focusing is done at maximum aperture and the lens stops down to the selected aperture at the moment of firing. The stop-down lever for depth-of-field-preview is on each lens. The mirror system is returned to the viewing position as you crank on the film. A removable semicircular bracket embraces the mirror box and is held in place by an auxiliary extension tripod bush.

By the by, the retaining screw/tripod bush, in concert with the film spool knobs, permits the camera to sit dead level on a flat surface. Useful. The mount ends in two flat, slotted strap lugs. The strap mount also carries the tripod bush. With the strap mount in place, the camera hangs well at its center of gravity with, say, the 80mm "standard" lens on the camera. The strap mount is the culprit that makes it difficult to get at the breech-lock ring. That, in a rather extensive nutshell, is the basic camera.

The TTL Meter Prism

Although this accessory adds considerably to the height and bulk of the camera, it is useful and quite quick to operate. The prism mounts easily to the camera via a set of four chrome round head pins set into the camera deck. A pair of lugs on the side of the prism housing squeeze in and withdraw a set of locking sliders for on/off mounting. The meter prism is, of course, battery driven from a 6V silver oxide or similar. Communication to the camera's shutter speeds and aperture controls is through a set of gold-plated contacts on the camera top deck and a set of sweep contacts on the front of the prism where they contact a cam on the lens aperture ring.

The meter prism basically is designed as a shutter-priority system, but that is merely a convenience. You may reverse operations as you wish (preset a lens aperture and rotate the shutter speed dial). But fine-tuning is best done by presetting the shutter and rotating the aperture ring while watching the internal read out. The display is a straightforward light-balancing type. The LCD display shows: a bar with a + sign signaling overexposure; a bar with a - sign for underexposure; a solitary 0 when the exposure is correct.

Additionally, a set of triangular datum marks indicate available aperture range. The aperture reading range is f/2 to f/32. There is both an internal (in-finder) and an external data panel. Film speed data is entered via a small dial on the prism. The ISO range is 12-3,200.

Adjacent to the film speed dial is the meter-on button. Depress this and the system will remain enabled for approximately 20 seconds. Adjacent to the eyepiece is a knurled rotary control that moves an eye-piece curtain across the eyepiece to prevent stray light from affecting the meter when the user is working away from the eyepiece. The eyepiece mount will accept dioptres, an eyecup, an attachment holder, a straight-focusing telescope, and a right angle finder. The telescope and the angle finder may be mounted over the correction mount.

The meter itself "looks" at the subject on the screen through a 25mm delineated metering field, which has come to be known as "large-area-spot" metering. It seems to be quite adequate for most applications.

Available Lenses

A very good reason for using the Exakta 66 is surely the range of lenses available from Schneider. There currently are eight basic lenses plus a 2X teleconverter for the Exakta 66. In addition, there are four special bellows close-up/macro lenses for the system.

The basic lenses include: 40mm Curtagon MF f/4; 60mm Curtagon MF f/3.5; 80mm Xenotar MF f/2.8; 150mm Tele-Xenar MF f/4; 250mm Tele-Xenar MF f/5.6; 75-150mm MF f/4.5 Variogon; 140-280mm Variogon MF f/5.6; and a 55mm PSC Super-Angulon FM f/4.5 (a perspective control lens).

As stated, there also is a seven-element 2X teleconverter, compatible with most of the lenses from, say, 80mm onward. (There is obviously very little reason to add a teleconverter to a wide-angle lens.)

From the Popular Photography magazine (December 1992)

There are still a few 35mm cameras with manual controls for do-it-yourself aficionados, but the Exakta 66, with historic roots dating back over 50 years, is the only all-manual 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 SLR. While it appears modern outside, with rubberized grips and Schneider lenses, the insides are devoid of any electronics (including a meter). That's because the Exakta's manual control operate using a higher power - your brain.

The Exakta 66, the only 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 SLR equally comfortable and convenient to use at eye and waist level, has origins far older than any other medium-format camera. Over 50 years ago it began as the Reflex Korelle, a famous camera in its own time. Since then, as the Master Korelle, Master Reflex, Praktisix, and Pentacon, the basic camera has appeared again and again. Apparently, you can't keep a good design down. And dead batteries can't prevent the camera from operating. This breed doesn't need them.

The Exakta 66 has more than an ancestral relationship to the Pentacon, made until recently in Dresden, Germany. Peel off (and we don't recommend that you do) the excellent, very grippable, heavily rubberized covering of the Exakta 66 and you will find many Pentacon 6 parts, including much the same lensmount (yes, Pentacon and Exakta 66 lenses are usually fully interchangeable). Just how this came to pass and why the Exakta 66 is called the Exakta 66 - although the present Exakta company has little relationship to the Ihagee factory in Dresden that made both 35mm and 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 Exakta SLR cameras before and after World War II - are complicated stories for another day.

The Exakta 66 is a very basic 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 SLR without rapid-return mirror, interchangeable backs, roll-film inserts, or electronics. The camera has a mechanical shutter and autodiaphragm mechanism, which should please many a conservative photographer, although the 1/30-sec top synch speed is a bit archaic even by today's standards. (The interchangeable TTL metering prism finder available for the Exakta 66, Model 1 does not fit the present Model 2).

What are the basic improvements of the Model 2 compared with the Model 1? A brighter viewing screen, improved back catch, redesigned wind lever, and an enlarged viewfinder area said now to be 85 percent of the picture area.

With its large, easy-to-read-and-use controls, the Exakta 66 handles extremely well, much like a big 35mm SLR, and it's less noisy than most other 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 SLRs. The new wind lever is still unratcheted and requires a rather uncomfortably long push to advance film.

The view through the finder has been much improved, thanks to the addition of a Bright Rollei Screen (which can also be installed in Model 1 cameras for $85 by the Exakta Corp.).

Certainly one of the prime reasons for purchasing an Exakta 66 is to make use of the Schneider lenses, which range from a 60mm f/4 Curtagon to a 250mm f/5.6 Tele-Xenar. There are also two zoom lenses available: 75-150mm f/4.5 and 140-280mm f/5.6 Variogons.

If you yearn for the simpler days before automania 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 cameras took over, the Exakta 66 has been waiting patiently for you.

From the editor

The camera was introduced at Photokina 1984 by Ihagee Kamerawerk, produced in small batches from 1985 and sold from 1986. Mechanically, the camera was based on the Pentacon six TL (including but not limited to the breech-lock bayonet mount), but received a more modern and stylish design of the camera body.

Three versions of the Exakta 66 existed:

  • Standard model - Basically a Pentacon six TL with the same overlap problem;
  • MOD 2 - Improved transport system, brighter viewing area of 85%, ergonomic winding level and improved shutter speed dial;
  • MOD 3 - Same as MOD 2 but with mirror lock-up system.

The last two were marked as "MOD 2" or "MOD 3" in the center of the film advance lever.

Similar cameras (7)

Medium format • Manual focus • Film • Singe-lens reflex • Praktisix (Pentacon Six) mount

Model Shutter Metering Modes Year
Kiev-60 TTL M, 1/1000 -- M 1984
Kiev-6S [TTL] M, 1/1000 -- M 1971
Pentacon six M, 1/1000 -- M 1966
Pentacon six TL M, 1/1000 -- M 1969
Praktisix M, 1/1000 -- M 1956
Praktisix II M, 1/1000 -- M 1964
Praktisix IIA M, 1/1000 -- M 1965
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Chromatic aberration

There are two kinds of chromatic aberration: longitudinal and lateral. Longitudinal chromatic aberration is a variation in location of the image plane with changes in wave lengths. It produces the image point surrounded by different colors which result in a blurred image in black-and-white pictures. Lateral chromatic aberration is a variation in image size or magnification with wave length. This aberration does not appear at axial image points but toward the surrounding area, proportional to the distance from the center of the image field. Stopping down the lens has only a limited effect on these aberrations.

Spherical aberration

Spherical aberration is caused because the lens is round and the film or image sensor is flat. Light entering the edge of the lens is more severely refracted than light entering the center of the lens. This results in a blurred image, and also causes flare (non-image forming internal reflections). Stopping down the lens minimizes spherical aberration and flare, but introduces diffraction.


Astigmatism in a lens causes a point in the subject to be reproduced as a line in the image. The effect becomes worse towards the corner of the image. Stopping down the lens has very little effect.


Coma in a lens causes a circular shape in the subject to be reproduced as an oval shape in the image. Stopping down the lens has almost no effect.

Curvature of field

Curvature of field is the inability of a lens to produce a flat image of a flat subject. The image is formed instead on a curved surface. If the center of the image is in focus, the edges are out of focus and vice versa. Stopping down the lens has a limited effect.


Distortion is the inability of a lens to capture lines as straight across the entire image area. Barrel distortion causes straight lines at the edges of the frame to bow toward the center of the image, producing a barrel shape. Pincushion distortion causes straight lines at the edges of the frame to curve in toward the lens axis. Distortion, whether barrel or pincushion type, is caused by differences in magnification; stopping down the lens has no effect at all.

The term "distortion" is also sometimes used instead of the term "aberration". In this case, other types of optical aberrations may also be meant, not necessarily geometric distortion.


Classically, light is thought of as always traveling in straight lines, but in reality, light waves tend to bend around nearby barriers, spreading out in the process. This phenomenon is known as diffraction and occurs when a light wave passes by a corner or through an opening. Diffraction plays a paramount role in limiting the resolving power of any lens.


Doublet is a lens design comprised of two elements grouped together. Sometimes the two elements are cemented together, and other times they are separated by an air gap. Examples of this type of lens include achromatic close-up lenses.

Dynamic range

Dynamic range is the maximum range of tones, from darkest shadows to brightest highlights, that can be produced by a device or perceived in an image. Also called tonal range.

Resolving power

Resolving power is the ability of a lens, photographic emulsion or imaging sensor to distinguish fine detail. Resolving power is expressed in terms of lines per millimeter that are distinctly recorded in the final image.


Vignetting is the darkening of the corners of an image relative to the center of the image. There are three types of vignetting: optical, mechanical, and natural vignetting.

Optical vignetting is caused by the physical dimensions of a multi-element lens. Rear elements are shaded by elements in front of them, which reduces the effective lens opening for off-axis incident light. The result is a gradual decrease of the light intensity towards the image periphery. Optical vignetting is sensitive to the aperture and can be completely cured by stopping down the lens. Two or three stops are usually sufficient.

Mechanical vignetting occurs when light beams are partially blocked by external objects such as thick or stacked filters, secondary lenses, and improper lens hoods.

Natural vignetting (also known as natural illumination falloff) is not due to the blocking of light rays. The falloff is approximated by the "cosine fourth" law of illumination falloff. Wide-angle rangefinder designs are particularly prone to natural vignetting. Stopping down the lens cannot cure it.


Bright shapes or lack of contrast caused when light is scattered by the surface of the lens or reflected off the interior surfaces of the lens barrel. This is most often seen when the lens is pointed toward the sun or another bright light source. Flare can be minimized by using anti-reflection coatings, light baffles, or a lens hood.


Glowing patches of light that appear in a photograph due to lens flare.

Retrofocus design

Design with negative lens group(s) positioned in front of the diaphragm and positive lens group(s) positioned at the rear of the diaphragm. This provides a short focal length with a long back focus or lens-to-film distance, allowing for movement of the reflex mirror in SLR cameras. Sometimes called an inverted telephoto lens.


A photographic lens completely corrected for the three main optical aberrations: spherical aberration, coma, and astigmatism.

By the mid-20th century, the vast majority of lenses were close to being anastigmatic, so most manufacturers stopped including this characteristic in lens names and/or descriptions and focused on advertising other features (anti-reflection coating, for example).

Rectilinear design

Design that does not introduce significant distortion, especially ultra-wide angle lenses that preserve straight lines and do not curve them (unlike a fisheye lens, for instance).

Focus shift

A change in the position of the plane of optimal focus, generally due to a change in focal length when using a zoom lens, and in some lenses, with a change in aperture.


The amount of light that passes through a lens without being either absorbed by the glass or being reflected by glass/air surfaces.

Modulation Transfer Function (MTF)

When optical designers attempt to compare the performance of optical systems, a commonly used measure is the modulation transfer function (MTF).

The components of MTF are:

The MTF of a lens is a measurement of its ability to transfer contrast at a particular resolution from the object to the image. In other words, MTF is a way to incorporate resolution and contrast into a single specification.

Knowing the MTF curves of each photographic lens and camera sensor within a system allows a designer to make the appropriate selection when optimizing for a particular resolution.

Veiling glare

Lens flare that causes loss of contrast over part or all of the image.

Anti-reflection coating

When light enters or exits an uncoated lens approximately 5% of the light is reflected back at each lens-air boundary due to the difference in refractive index. This reflected light causes flare and ghosting, which results in deterioration of image quality. To counter this, a vapor-deposited coating that reduces light reflection is applied to the lens surface. Early coatings consisted of a single thin film with the correct refractive index differences to cancel out reflections. Multi-layer coatings, introduced in the early 1970s, are made up of several such films.

Benefits of anti-reflection coating:

Circular fisheye

Produces a 180° angle of view in all directions (horizontal, vertical and diagonal).

The image circle of the lens is inscribed in the image frame.

Diagonal (full-frame) fisheye

Covers the entire image frame. For this reason diagonal fisheye lenses are often called full-frame fisheyes.

Extension ring

Extension rings can be used singly or in combination to vary the reproduction ratio of lenses. They are mounted between the camera body and the lens. As a rule, the effect becomes stronger the shorter the focal length of the lens in use, and the longer the focal length of the extension ring.

View camera

A large-format camera with a ground-glass viewfinder at the image plane for viewing and focusing. The photographer must stick his head under a cloth hood in order to see the image projected on the ground glass. Because of their 4x5-inch (or larger) negatives, these cameras can produce extremely high-quality results. View cameras also usually support movements.

135 cartridge-loaded film

43.27 24 36
  • Introduced: 1934
  • Frame size: 36 × 24mm
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Diagonal: 43.27mm
  • Area: 864mm2
  • Double perforated
  • 8 perforations per frame

120 roll film

71.22 44 56
  • Introduced: 1901
  • Frame size: 56 × 44mm
  • Aspect ratio: 11:14
  • Diagonal: 71.22mm
  • Area: 2464mm2
  • Unperforated

120 roll film

79.2 56 56
  • Introduced: 1901
  • Frame size: 56 × 56mm
  • Aspect ratio: 1:1
  • Diagonal: 79.2mm
  • Area: 3136mm2
  • Unperforated

120 roll film

89.64 56 70
  • Introduced: 1901
  • Frame size: 70 × 56mm
  • Aspect ratio: 5:4
  • Diagonal: 89.64mm
  • Area: 3920mm2
  • Unperforated

220 roll film

71.22 44 56
  • Introduced: 1965
  • Frame size: 56 × 44mm
  • Aspect ratio: 11:14
  • Diagonal: 71.22mm
  • Area: 2464mm2
  • Unperforated
  • Double the length of 120 roll film

220 roll film

79.2 56 56
  • Introduced: 1965
  • Frame size: 56 × 56mm
  • Aspect ratio: 1:1
  • Diagonal: 79.2mm
  • Area: 3136mm2
  • Unperforated
  • Double the length of 120 roll film

220 roll film

89.64 56 70
  • Introduced: 1965
  • Frame size: 70 × 56mm
  • Aspect ratio: 5:4
  • Diagonal: 89.64mm
  • Area: 3920mm2
  • Unperforated
  • Double the length of 120 roll film

Shutter speed ring with "F" setting

The "F" setting disengages the leaf shutter and is set when using only the focal plane shutter in the camera body.

Catch for disengaging cross-coupling

The shutter and diaphragm settings are cross-coupled so that the diaphragm opens to a corresponding degree when faster shutter speeds are selected. The cross-coupling can be disengaged at the press of a catch.

Cross-coupling button

With the cross-coupling button depressed speed/aperture combinations can be altered without changing the Exposure Value setting.

M & X sync

The shutter is fully synchronized for M- and X-settings so that you can work with flash at all shutter speeds.

In M-sync, the shutter closes the flash-firing circuit slightly before it is fully open to catch the flash at maximum intensity. The M-setting is used for Class M flash bulbs.

In X-sync, the flash takes place when the shutter is fully opened. The X-setting is used for electronic flash.

X sync

The shutter is fully synchronized for X-setting so that you can work with flash at all shutter speeds.

In X-sync, the flash takes place when the shutter is fully opened. The X-setting is used for electronic flash.

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Cannot compare the lens to itself.

Image stabilizer

A technology used for reducing or even eliminating the effects of camera shake. Gyro sensors inside the lens detect camera shake and pass the data to a microcomputer. Then an image stabilization group of elements controlled by the microcomputer moves inside the lens and compensates camera shake in order to keep the image static on the imaging sensor or film.

The technology allows to increase the shutter speed by several stops and shoot handheld in such lighting conditions and at such focal lengths where without image stabilizer you have to use tripod, decrease the shutter speed and/or increase the ISO setting which can lead to blurry and noisy images.

Original name

Lens name as indicated on the lens barrel (usually on the front ring). With lenses from film era, may vary slightly from batch to batch.


Format refers to the shape and size of film or image sensor.

35mm is the common name of the 36x24mm film format or image sensor format. It has an aspect ratio of 3:2, and a diagonal measurement of approximately 43mm. The name originates with the total width of the 135 film which was the primary medium of the format prior to the invention of the full frame digital SLR. Historically the 35mm format was sometimes called small format to distinguish it from the medium and large formats.

APS-C is an image sensor format approximately equivalent in size to the film negatives of 25.1x16.7mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2.

Medium format is a film format or image sensor format larger than 36x24mm (35mm) but smaller than 4x5in (large format).

Angle of view

Angle of view describes the angular extent of a given scene that is imaged by a camera. It is used interchangeably with the more general term field of view.

As the focal length changes, the angle of view also changes. The shorter the focal length (eg 18mm), the wider the angle of view. Conversely, the longer the focal length (eg 55mm), the smaller the angle of view.

A camera's angle of view depends not only on the lens, but also on the sensor. Imaging sensors are sometimes smaller than 35mm film frame, and this causes the lens to have a narrower angle of view than with 35mm film, by a certain factor for each sensor (called the crop factor).

This website does not use the angles of view provided by lens manufacturers, but calculates them automatically by the following formula: 114.6 * arctan (21.622 / CF * FL),


CF – crop-factor of a sensor,
FL – focal length of a lens.


A lens mount is an interface — mechanical and often also electrical — between a camera body and a lens.

A lens mount may be a screw-threaded type, a bayonet-type, or a breech-lock type. Modern camera lens mounts are of the bayonet type, because the bayonet mechanism precisely aligns mechanical and electrical features between lens and body, unlike screw-threaded mounts.

Lens mounts of competing manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony etc.) are always incompatible. In addition to the mechanical and electrical interface variations, the flange focal distance can also be different.

The flange focal distance (FFD) is the distance from the mechanical rear end surface of the lens mount to the focal plane.

Lens construction

Lens construction – a specific arrangement of elements and groups that make up the optical design, including type and size of elements, type of used materials etc.

Element - an individual piece of glass which makes up one component of a photographic lens. Photographic lenses are nearly always built up of multiple such elements.

Group – a cemented together pieces of glass which form a single unit or an individual piece of glass. The advantage is that there is no glass-air surfaces between cemented together pieces of glass, which reduces reflections.

Focal length

The focal length is the factor that determines the size of the image reproduced on the focal plane, picture angle which covers the area of the subject to be photographed, depth of field, etc.


The largest opening or stop at which a lens can be used is referred to as the speed of the lens. The larger the maximum aperture is, the faster the lens is considered to be. Lenses that offer a large maximum aperture are commonly referred to as fast lenses, and lenses with smaller maximum aperture are regarded as slow.

In low-light situations, having a wider maximum aperture means that you can shoot at a faster shutter speed or work at a lower ISO, or both.

Closest focusing distance

The minimum distance from the focal plane (film or sensor) to the subject where the lens is still able to focus.

Closest working distance

The distance from the front edge of the lens to the subject at the maximum magnification.

Magnification ratio

Determines how large the subject will appear in the final image. Magnification is expressed as a ratio. For example, a magnification ratio of 1:1 means that the image of the subject formed on the film or sensor will be the same size as the subject in real life. For this reason, a 1:1 ratio is often called "life-size".

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Electronic manual focus override is performed in the following way: half-press the shutter button, wait until the camera has finished the autofocusing and then focus manually without releasing the shutter button using the focusing ring.

Manual diaphragm

The diaphragm must be stopped down manually by rotating the detent aperture ring.

Preset diaphragm

The lens has two rings, one is for pre-setting, while the other is for normal diaphragm adjustment. The first ring must be set at the desired aperture, the second ring then should be fully opened for focusing, and turned back for stop down to the pre-set value.

Semi-automatic diaphragm

The lens features spring mechanism in the diaphragm, triggered by the shutter release, which stops down the diaphragm to the pre-set value. The spring needs to be reset manually after each exposure to re-open diaphragm to its maximum value.

Automatic diaphragm

The camera automatically closes the diaphragm down during the shutter operation. On completion of the exposure, the diaphragm re-opens to its maximum value.

Fixed diaphragm

The aperture setting is fixed at F/ on this lens, and cannot be adjusted.

Number of blades

As a general rule, the more blades that are used to create the aperture opening in the lens, the rounder the out-of-focus highlights will be.

Some lenses are designed with curved diaphragm blades, so the roundness of the aperture comes not from the number of blades, but from their shape. However, the fewer blades the diaphragm has, the more difficult it is to form a circle, regardless of rounded edges.

At maximum aperture, the opening will be circular regardless of the number of blades.


Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

Maximum diameter x Length

Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

For lenses with collapsible design, the length is indicated for the working (retracted) state.

Weather sealing

A rubber material which is inserted in between each externally exposed part (manual focus and zoom rings, buttons, switch panels etc.) to ensure it is properly sealed against dust and moisture.

Lenses that accept front mounted filters typically do not have gaskets behind the filter mount. It is recommended to use a filter for complete weather resistance when desired.

Fluorine coating

Helps keep lenses clean by reducing the possibility of dust and dirt adhering to the lens and by facilitating cleaning should the need arise. Applied to the outer surface of the front and/or rear lens elements over multi-coatings.


Lens filters are accessories that can protect lenses from dirt and damage, enhance colors, minimize glare and reflections, and add creative effects to images.

Lens hood

A lens hood or lens shade is a device used on the end of a lens to block the sun or other light source in order to prevent glare and lens flare. Flare occurs when stray light strikes the front element of a lens and then bounces around within the lens. This stray light often comes from very bright light sources, such as the sun, bright studio lights, or a bright white background.

The geometry of the lens hood can vary from a plain cylindrical or conical section to a more complex shape, sometimes called a petal, tulip, or flower hood. This allows the lens hood to block stray light with the higher portions of the lens hood, while allowing more light into the corners of the image through the lowered portions of the hood.

Lens hoods are more prominent in long focus lenses because they have a smaller viewing angle than that of wide-angle lenses. For wide angle lenses, the length of the hood cannot be as long as those for telephoto lenses, as a longer hood would enter the wider field of view of the lens.

Lens hoods are often designed to fit onto the matching lens facing either forward, for normal use, or backwards, so that the hood may be stored with the lens without occupying much additional space. In addition, lens hoods can offer some degree of physical protection for the lens due to the hood extending farther than the lens itself.


Teleconverters increase the effective focal length of lenses. They also usually maintain the closest focusing distance of lenses, thus increasing the magnification significantly. A lens combined with a teleconverter is normally smaller, lighter and cheaper than a "direct" telephoto lens of the same focal length and speed.

Teleconverters are a convenient way of enhancing telephoto capability, but it comes at a cost − reduced maximum aperture. Also, since teleconverters magnify every detail in the image, they logically also magnify residual aberrations of the lens.

Lens caps

Scratched lens surfaces can spoil the definition and contrast of even the finest lenses. Lens covers are the best and most inexpensive protection available against dust, moisture and abrasion. Safeguard lens elements - both front and rear - whenever the lens is not in use.