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Kilfitt and Zoomar: of Munich and Long Island

Kilfitt was one of the best and most innovative German lens makers of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  When Heinz Kilfitt retired in 1968, he sold the factory to Dr. Back, who operated it under the Zoomar name from its headquarters in Long Island, New York.   Dr. Back designed the first production 35mm SLR zoom, the famous 36-82/2.8 Zoomar in 1959.   It was  originally made in Voigtlander Bessamatic mount,   produced in the Munich Kilfitt factory -- as were most Zoomars.  Most Kilfitt and Zoomar lenses left the factory with versatile interchangeable lens mounts.   In 1986 Zoomar unfortunately left the civilian market, concentrating on US military optics.  Zoomar history courtesy of my buddy, Marc Small.    

Every Kilfitt lens was tested before leaving the factory.   Film was not considered flat enough for accurate tests, so it was shot on glass plates -- two of them.  One plate went out with the lens, the other stayed at the factory for future comparisons if the lens was ever returned for repairs.   The lenses were bolted to a tripod head mounted in concrete in the basement of the Kilfitt factory.  If you are not impressed, you should be.  Mr. Kilfitt wanted to turn out quality lenses, and he did.     Not only did he make lenses, he also designed cameras.  The Robot, the Mecaflex and the Kowa 2 1/4 are all Mr. Kilfitt's designs.

Kilfitt's and Zoomars are fine lenses of great precision and optical performance, but today they are hard to find -- at least in the US.   The 300 and longer non-mirror lenses are more likely to have coating problems than not, leading me to believe the factory coating on large lens surfaces was often not up to the challenge.   99% of all Kilfitts I have seen have medium to heavy wear, sure signs of their optical excellence - -they were used!

Well known for optical innovation, Kilfitt specialized in two areas:  macro lenses and zooms -- his factories invented both!!    In 1955 Kilfitt made world's first 35mm macro lens, the 40/2.8 Kilar.    In 1959 the Kilfitt factory turned out the world's first production 35mm zoom lens, the 36-82/2.8 Zoomar.  Not too bad for an independent factory!!!  

Partial listing of Kilfitt and Zoomar Lenses  most were made in interchangeable mounts


75/1.3 Zoomatar for movie cameras

90/3.5 Kilar. About 1952; $75

110/2.8 Panosoft Soft Focus Lens

135/3.8 Kilar. About 1952; $90

150/3.5 Kilar. About 1952; $97.50; $120 in 1955

180/1.3 Zoomatar  See Profile

240/1.2 Super-Zoomatar, introd at Photokina 1970, covers 6x9, built in hood

250/4 Zoomar Reflectar, mirror lens, 1970, covered 6x6

300/5.6 Tele-Kilar. About 1952; $130; $150 in 1955

300/4 Pan-Tele-Kilar. PS; introd 1956; 5 elements; rack and pinion focusing,  with lever; $444.50, covered 6x6, focusing to just under 6 feet

400/5.6 Tele-Kilar, helical focusing, About 1952; $240

400/4 Sport Fern Kilar. Intro 1956; rack and pinion focusing, with lever; $484.50

400/4 Sport Zoomatar, focused 1:10

500/5.6 Zoomar Sport Reflectar, mirror lens, $550 1972 , covered 6x6  Black, built in hood, with focusing lever.  I have also seen another version of this lens, painted light tan for military service, with helical focusing. focused 1:10

600/5.6 Fern Kilar. About 1953; $599.50 helical focusing

600/5.6 Sport-Fern-Kilar rack, and pinion focusing

600/5.6 Sport Zoomatar

1000/8 Zoomar Sport Reflectar, mirror lens, $1390 1972, covered 6x6  focused 1:6

400/600/800/1200 f/4 to f/5.6 Zoomar Tele-Combination PS $975 1972


50 to 125/4 Macro-Zoomar PS $220 1972, focused 1:1, the first 35mm macro zoom

170-320/4 Rapid Focus Tele-Zoomar, covers 6x6   See Profile  focused 1:8


40/3.5 Macro Kilar D. MAN; about 1955; focus to 2 in.; $115  See Profile

40/3.5 Macro Kilar E. MAN; about 1955; focus to 4 in.; $90

40/2.8 Macro Kilar D.PS; introd 1956; focus to 2 in.; $139.50

40/2.8 Macro Kilar E. PS; introd 1956; focus to 4 in; $119.50

90/2.8 Macro Kilar. PS; introd 1956; focus to 1:1 magnification; $250

90/2.8 Super Macro-Kilar PS $195 1972

90/2.8 Macro Zoomatar 1:1

Tele-Converter: Multi-Kilar. Introd 1964; telephoto converter using a positive lens, variable from 2X to 4X, for use with Kilfitt lenses; 8 elements.  A later Zoomar version was called the "Double 35."

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Revised: November 25, 2003 Copyright � 1998-2002  Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.