Rodenstock-Heligon 35mm f2.8 + leica mp + kodak gold 200
Rodenstock-Heligon 35mm f2.8 + leica mp + kodak gold 200

The Elegance of Rodenstock

Classical lenses each have their own style, with a smooth and oily texture being the common characteristic of German lenses. However, each German lens is unique in its own way. Classic Voigtländer lenses have captivating bokeh and are perfect for portrait photography. Zeiss lenses have rich and vivid colors that immediately catch your eye. Leica lenses have a certain elegance in low-light situations, giving off a sense of history. Schneider lenses have a strong, artistic feel with serious tones in the corners. Among these German manufacturers, Rodenstock lenses stand out for their clear and delicate depiction of details and warm tones.

Rodenstock is a famous German manufacturer of medium and large format lenses and enlarging lenses. In the field of large format photography, they are on par with Zeiss and Schneider. Rodenstock lenses have a clear and delicate depiction of details, bright colors, and are good at rendering textures, making them popular in commercial advertising. From the 1950s to the early 1960s, they also produced lenses for 35mm SLR and Leica rangefinder cameras.

From 1954 to 1961, Rodenstock produced two million lenses, but most of them were fixed to the camera body, such as those for Kodak Retina cameras. The number of interchangeable lenses, such as those with M42 and Leica L39 mounts, was relatively small, with only one Rodenstock-Heligon 35mm f/2.8 lens for the Leica L39 mount. This lens was an optional accessory for Leica Barnack-type IIIf and IIIg cameras. At that time, Germany’s economy was recovering, and Leica cameras were in high demand. During this period, Leica cooperated with some movie lens manufacturers and large format camera manufacturers to produce custom-made lenses, including those made by Schneider, Angénieux, and Rodenstock, for sale with the Leica screw mount. Rodenstock had just completed the expansion of their production facilities in Munich and Regen, and their strength was evident.

The Black Swan

This 35mm lens uses a popular technology from that time, with a 6-element, 4-group structure, all-copper plated chrome, single-layer coating, and ten aperture blades. Its aperture of f/2.8 is smaller than that of the Leica Summaron-M 28mm f/5.6, making it much smaller in size.

The Heligon series appeared on 120 and 135 format cameras, including the Heligon 90/3.2 for the Linhof 69, and the Rodenstock Retina Heligon 1.9/50mm for the DKL mount. They are among the top lenses of their kind. Unfortunately, these camera systems are too obscure and their designs too eccentric, making their lenses less popular. The only exception is this Rodenstock-Heligon 35mm f/2.8 lens, which is graceful and elegant, and even better with the Leica customization.

Rodenstock lenses are particularly good at depicting details, and this Rodenstock-Heligon 35mm f/2.8 lens is no exception, maintaining the Rodenstock lens style of being clear and delicate, with bright and vibrant colors, stable control of highlights, good performance in low-light situations, slightly warm tones, and a smooth and restrained texture.

The Red “A”

It is said that Rodenstock lenses with a red “A” are high-end lenses that have stable control of highlights and a smoother overall color tone.

Color

The colors produced by the Rodenstock lens are very tasteful, deep yet not overly vibrant. It is more restrained than Zeiss, heavier than Leica, and lighter than Schneider.

Bokeh

Because this lens has a very shallow depth of field, it can be quite challenging to shoot with a wide-open aperture. However, due to its progressive blur, even if the shot is not sharp, it still has a strong sense of depth.

The f/2.8 aperture of this Rodenstock lens is fully capable of producing bokeh comparable to Leica’s f/2 aperture. With ten aperture blades, it even has a feeling of the combination of the seventh and eighth sister, rotating smoothly and naturally.

The bokeh effect is the biggest feature of this lens, which also makes it quite expensive.

Conclusion

This is the only way to experience the Rodenstock style on a rangefinder camera, and it is the only Rodenstock lens I believe is worth experiencing in the 135 format. Its soft, progressive blur, sharpness at full aperture comparable to modern lenses, and rich micro-contrast make for a satisfying image with a strong sense of depth, even when shot out of focus.

Next time I get new glasses, I am considering trying out Rodenstock lenses.

Below is an unofficial chronological list of all Rodenstock lenses from 1954 to 1961
2,000,000 ——1945
2,500,000 ——1952
3,000,000 ——1954
4,000,000 ——1957
4,500,000 ——1960
5,000,000 ——1961

Rodenstock-Heligon 35mm f/2.8  L39 NO:
22981xx, 23274xx, 23275xx, 23276xx, 23277xx, 23695xx, 23696xx, 23698xx, 23699xx, 23710xx, 23711xx, 23712xx, 24596xx, 24597xx, 24598xx, 35253xx
Rodenstock-Heligon 35mm f2.8 + leica mp + kodak gold 200
Rodenstock-Heligon 35mm f2.8 + leica mp + kodak gold 200
Rodenstock-Heligon 35mm f2.8 + leica mp + kodak gold 200
Rodenstock-Heligon 35mm f2.8 + leica mp + kodak gold 200
Rodenstock-Heligon 35mm f2.8 + leica mp + kodak gold 200
Rodenstock-Heligon 35mm f2.8 + leica mp
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Rodenstock-Heligon 35mm f / 2.8 for leica l39