This is why it's called Serious Glass

For the first-ever series, these six legendary-yet-still-obscure lenses exemplify our mission.

 
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Hypergon

The Goerz Hypergon is pretty much the perfect lens to start the Serious Glass series. The name is straight out of science fiction. Once you say it out loud a couple of times, it's stuck. The word is a thing of beauty in itself. This lens is rare and coveted and extremely well known among large format photographers. You might see one, every once in a while, being offered for sale at a price somewhere between "more than you think" and "second mortgage."

The lens is legendary as one of the best ultra-wide angle rectilinear lenses ever made, with an incredible 140º viewing angle. The maker, C.P. Goerz, is also one of those companies that made one incredible lens after another, and pretty much anything "Goerz" is something you should have in your kit. The Hypergon also has a few very unique extras that you should discover for yourself in the rabbit hole.

Rabbit Hole

rektəˈlinēər / adjective (of a wide-angle lens) corrected as much as possible, so that straight lines in the subject appear straight in the image.


Plasmat

Dr. Paul Rudolph's 1918 Plasmat design is actually a lens type, not a specific lens or brand. Many companies used the Plasmat design, and many made modifications of the original design. In all cases, a Plasmat lens is one that is symmetrical with two trios of matching elements. A variety of large format lenses, and especially convertible lenses, as well as most macro lenses, are of the Plasmat design.

It seems no coincidence that the name is mostly made of "plasma." This lens design is in the blood of thousands of lenses throughout photographic history. This fact alone qualifies it for full rockstar status.

Fun fact: Dr. Rudolph worked for Meyer Optik in 1918, but his first gig was at Carl Zeiss's shop, where, in 1902, he invented the Tessar lens. So he was no slouch.

There's a lot to know about this glass.


Solinar

The Agfa Solinar lens has the distinction of being the best in the "good-better-best" lens system for Agfa folding cameras released in the mid-20th century. Over the course of 30 years, Agfa released versions of the 6x9 Record camera, as well as the 6x6 Isolette, Super Isolette and Automatic 66. In everyone of these cameras, the "good" lens was the Agnar, the "better" lens was the Apotar, and the "best" lens was (and is truly) the Solinar.

The Solinar is one of many copies of the Zeiss Tessar design that have achieved a coveted status of their own. Any Agfa collector, folding camera collector, or person who just likes to use compact medium format cameras (me, for example) wants the one that is "best" - and all three if you're a completist.

And like every lens in this series, the name is great all on its own. It sounds like it could be a Greek god or a pagan ritual or a city on a planet in Nebula 438XYZ. It could have been the name of the latest Buick or a new automatic oven - but instead it's the name that Agfa gave to their very best medium format lens.


Xenotar

The Xenotar lens created by Schneider Kreuznach Optik is arguably the least obscure name in the entire Serious Glass series. Owners of Rollei twin-lens cameras certainly know this name. Anyone who's ever shot a Graflex probably knows the Xenotar.

The Xenotar was the slightly sleeker, slightly faster cousin to Schneider's Xenar lens and was made steadily and reliably and in many flavors for many, many years.

All Serious Glass must have an equally Serious Name and we put forward that "ZEE NO TARR" wins. It just wins. It's a word that makes you want to say the word out loud - and probably in a corny robot voice. That is some strong juju for a word to have. Also, words that start with the letter X are are simply more awesome than other words - and someone at Schneider back in the day knew that.


Helioplan

If Xenotar is the popular teen at Serious Glass High School, then Helioplan is the nerdy unknown who is secretly super awesome and eventually proves to the whole school that being popular isn't everything.

The Helioplan is yet another legendary product of Meyer Optik Görlitz, the aforementioned workplace of Dr. Rudolph and maker of many Plasmats. You might know the Helioplan as a highly coveted enlarger lens, or you might know it as a cult-y cinema lens. You might know it as a pretty solid large format lens, or as one of the great Exacta 35mm lenses.

Whatever format you like, Helioplan had an answer. And when Helioplan talks, it has that deep, smoky-smooth, late-night R&B DJ voice.


Velostigmat

Back in 1911, Wollensak Optical Co. of Rochester, New York introduced the Velostigmat Series II f 4.5 variable diffusion lens for a variety of large format sizes. This lens accompanied the convertible Velostigmat Series Ia in that same catalog. In the mid-1930s, a wide-angle Series III was also introduced and the Velostigmat became truly cemented in photographic history.

Wollensak went on to produce Velostigmat designs for 35mm, cinema and medium formats - and these lenses were often included in shutters that were also made by Wollensak, which had their own awesome names: Alphax, Betax, Gammax and Deltax, and later the ubiquitous Rapax.

Just like all of the lenses in Serious Glass, the word is interesting by itself. It might not roll off the tongue like Plasmat or sound futuristic like Hypergon or Solinar, it might sound a little bit like a medical condition you should get checked - but it's got that unique thing that qualifies it to be in this series.


More to come in the Serious Glass series. Follow us for alerts.


Serious GlassDavid Bias