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Braun Paxette Lenses (Steinheil Munchen Cassarit & Staeble Braun Ultralit) - NEX5N

Dioptrick

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DSC-W120    ---    9mm    f/3.5    1/80s    ISO 125

Here are two odd-ball German vintage M39 lenses that you don't often see reviews of. The reason for this is because these antique lenses come from Braun-Paxette rangefinders which have different flange-to-film focal distance from M39 screw mount Leicas, so none of the commercially available adaptors will work with these Paxette lenses as they won't focus correctly. I've also read that manufacturing standardization may not have yet been perfected at the time and variances in lens construction needed custom-calibrated shims to match them individually to their bodies (I don't know if this is true for my copies). Since I happen to have a couple of these lenses, I decided to see if I can get them to work with my NEX-5N.
 

Amin Sabet

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Very interesting and beautiful old lenses. I'd love to hear follow up on how they are working for you.
 

Dioptrick

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Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm f2.8

This first lens is the shorter of the two, but is the heavier one at 107 grams (shown above mounted on my 5N). I suspect it's made out of nickel-plated brass or steel. Both vintage lenses have the aperture ring at the front of the lens - which is also the threaded ring that will accept a filter or a lens cap. When you turn the focusing barrel the aperture ring turns around with it - so your settings could end up at the bottom and out of sight (which is obviously why they have the aperture numerals engraved twice around the ring). This Steinheil is in mint physical condition with no fungus or haze in the glass. The focusing was extremely stiff but I was to able to free it up without disassembly. I bought this lens separately on its own, but as far as I can tell it came from a Paxette II body (1953-1958).

NEX-5N    ---    55mm    f/5.6    1/100s    ISO 400



The one thing that amazes me about these vintage German lenses (small as they are) is the number of aperture leaves they have. How did they fit them all in there?? The Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm f2.8 - f16 has TWELVE aperture leaves!! When I see brochures where manufacturers of much bigger modern lenses brag about having SIX aperture leaves, I just have to laugh... because we certainly live in a very different economy these days.


________________



Being a vintage lens, I wanted to test it on a "period subject" and I had planned to go to a historic museum or something. I was still in the middle of machining a custom-made mount when I heard that the Highland Pipe Band Championship was in town so I hurriedly finished my adapter to capture the event.

Almost immediately I ran into problems with focus peaking due to a combination of an unusual DOF characteristic and my unfamiliarity with the focus response of this lens design. I had to throw away most of my shots with only about 3 out of 10 success rate. My trusted Sony SEL18-55 would've delivered a perfect score in an event like this, but this is about taking-on the challenge of using a vintage lens - faults and all (mine included). Here are the good ones. This set (other than cropping and resizing) is untouched IQ.


NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/2000s    ISO 1250

Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm (f8, 1/2000sec, ISOAuto)




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/2000s    ISO 800

Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm (f5.6, 1/2000sec, ISOAuto)




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/2000s    ISO 200

Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm (f2.8, 1/2000sec, ISOAuto)
Notice the OOF chrome drum-lug at the lower right corner of the pic? At f2.8 the Steinheil was exhibiting a weird depth-of-field characteristic.
More on this later...




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/2000s    ISO 800

Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm (f5.6, 1/2000sec, ISOAuto)




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/2000s    ISO 800

Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm (f5.6, 1/2000sec, ISOAuto)




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/2000s    ISO 320

Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm (f2.8, 1/2000sec, ISOAuto)

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Phoenix

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Looks very interesting, specially on how compact it is, I'll be looking forward for some image samples.
 

Dioptrick

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Looks very interesting, specially on how compact it is, I'll be looking forward for some image samples.
Sorry Phoenix I put you out of sync, I accidentally pressed the post button while I was still working on placing images. Not finished yet so, more to come... :)
 

Phoenix

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Hehehe, all good mate, From your initial shots I quite like how this lens draws the bokeh of the images and it's contrast (I like low contrast lenses as it gives me the option of pushing the contrast up without losing shadow detail), it's quite sharp at 2.8 as well.
 

Dioptrick

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Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm (the not so good)

The Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm has as many good things about it as there are bad. First the bad...


The pic below is one example of the weird DOF characteristic. I discarded many other potentially 'good photos' because of this. The NEX focus-peaking got fooled by this even at f4, as the tartan kilt as well as the white leggings were 'focus-peaked' on screen but only the kilt was focused on the photo. The weird DOF is revealed when you look closely at the track turf surface - you will notice the the OOF area is at the top left corner and it gradually gets sharper diagonally towards the bottom right corner. This is an un-cropped image, SOOC with no post-processing. Normally the focus should get sharper vertically from top to bottom and the track surface texture would be similarly focused at the left and right side of the piper's feet. I deliberately wanted a shallow-ish DOF to keep the viewer's attention on the foreground kilt and shoes, then OOF the second pair of shoes in the background. On any other lens, f4 should've captured this easily - but not so with this Steinheil for some bizarre reason.

NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/2000s    ISO 200

Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm (f4, 1/2000sec, ISOAuto)




Here's another good pic gone bad. Have a look at the piper on the left facing away from the other three. He is out of focus to the same extent as the blue tent, which is far behind him. But have a look at the yellow and orange tent which is even further away than them both... it is more in focus! Because the entire optical lens group rotates along with the focusing barrel, I suspect that there is a lop-sided lens flaw with this Steinheil... which randomly shows itself from time to time - but not noticeable from the good set of photos further up on this thread. Strange! Oh, the joys of vintage lens curio... :)

NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/2000s    ISO 125

Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm (f5.6, 1/2000sec, ISOAuto)




I did expect flaws from a moderately priced lens of this era. Without computerised CNC manufacturing processes, I can't even imagine how lenses like these were made back in the 1950s. Colour film did exist then but was very rare, and the majority of photos probably taken with this lens was B&W... so I wanted to see what that would be like.

NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/2000s    ISO 125





... and a grainy sepia.

NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/2000s    ISO 125


So in this context, the quality was typical if not acceptable for those days.
Pity about the aluminium cans, plastic bottles and mini-van being a dead giveaway for period-incorrectness! :eek:

What's good about the Steinheil, next...

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Dioptrick

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Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm (the good)

One thing that is becoming more and more apparent to me regarding pre-70s lens designs - is their "broad-contrast" characteristic, for lack of a better term. Although these older lenses (with simple lens coatings) are very susceptible to flare and haze in tricky lighting conditions, when used in ideal settings these lenses capture an impressive amount of detail especially in shadow areas. What surprised me about the Steinheil images is that the SOOC IQ is always near spot-on levels-wise, and hardly needs improvement in post-processing.

Another amusing thing about this Steinheil is that it practically has no CA.
Here's a sample crop of an over-exposed white lily located at the left edge of the next pic below it.

NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/60s    ISO 500


Colour resolution is where this Steinheil excels. The photos below were both taken in very dull low-light, indoor and outdoor - untouched SOOC IQ. I was quite surprised how natural the saturations turned up when I viewed them for the first time in my computer. I expected both of these to be dull. The near absence of pixel noise in the enlargement above is a testament to the prowess of the NEX sensor, rather than the Steinheil.

NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/60s    ISO 500

Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm (f5.6, 1/60sec, ISOAuto)




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/2000s    ISO 2500

Steinheil Munchen Cassarit 45mm (f8, 1/2000sec, ISOAuto)



Focusing this lens can be tricky - it's slow, taking more than half a barrel turn to get from 3 feet to infinity. Modern MF lens designs do this in about a quarter turn or less.

Haven't had a chance to test the Staeble Ultralit yet - sounds promising though. According to one Paxette collector, the Staeble gave the best results out of all the various lenses that came with these rangefinders.

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Dioptrick

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Staeble Braun Ultralit 50mm 1:2.8

DSC-W120    ---    13mm    f/11.0    1/100s    ISO 125


I dug up a bit of background regarding the Paxette body that the Staeble came with. Its a Super Paxette IIL which was released in 1958 (according to the Paxette Guide Book by The Focal Press, London 8th Edition). Apparently as the demand for the camera exceeded the lens production of one particular manufacturer, several makes of similar specs were substituted which explains why there was so many lens brands fitted onto these things! The Super Paxette II models were fitted with M39-screw f2.8 Pointikars, Katagons or Cassarits in 45mm and then f2.8 Zenars and Tessars in 50mm, both of which are 4-element lenses of high resolution and colour correction. No mention of the Staeble Ultralit although the Paxette III were spec'd with similar 4-element high-end lenses (bayonet) Color-Ennit, Ultralyt, and Culminar. I'm assuming my Ultralit is the M39-screw version of the Ultralyt.

NEX-5N    ---    55mm    f/5.6    1/100s    ISO 500


The Staeble is made of the new wonder-metal of that era - aluminium weighing only 88 grams, so quite a bit lighter than the Steinheil. It only has 10 aperture leaves (only 10?!, haha) and the focusing is slightly faster than the Steinheil - 3 feet to infinity in less than half a turn. My copy has a little ding on the front end which is threaded to accept 40.5mm filters. It also has a little 'cloud' of what could be fungus, but it's very small and quite hard to spot so it's not an issue.

Photo samples next...
 

Dioptrick

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There is a "flange to film distance" discrepancy between the two lenses... by roughly about 0.5mm (0.019685 inch) so I had to shave the adapter slightly so that the Staeble will focus to infinity. I'll just cut a thin plastic spacer/washer for the Steinheil when I want to use it on the same custom adapter.

The Staeble Ultralit is definitely the better lens of the two, with sharpness far surpassing the Steinheil at the corners - at f2.8 most especially. The Ultralit is a well-behaved lens (no hit and miss with this one), giving consistent and predictable results. The bokeh is also smoother and much more refined with no 'swirling' tendencies at the corner OOF areas. Being a 'rangefinder' lens (like the Steinheil), the minimum focusing distance is quite long at about a meter which makes close-up compositions of objects (flowers, etc) very limited. It also delivers good colour saturation even in an overcast day. What surprised me was the higher contrast rendition - which is similar and comparable to todays modern lens designs. Not bad for a 54 year-old lens!




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/80s    ISO 100

NEX-5N, Staeble Braun Color-Ultralit 50mm (f2.8, 1/80sec, ISOAuto)




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/1000s    ISO 100

NEX-5N, Staeble Braun Color-Ultralit 50mm (f5.6, 1/1000sec, ISOAuto)




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/320s    ISO 100

NEX-5N, Staeble Braun Color-Ultralit 50mm (f2.8, 1/320sec, ISOAuto)




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/60s    ISO 125

NEX-5N, Staeble Braun Color-Ultralit 50mm (f8, 1/60sec, ISOAuto)




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/160s    ISO 100

NEX-5N, Staeble Braun Color-Ultralit 50mm (f8, 1/160sec, ISOAuto)




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/400s    ISO 100

NEX-5N, Staeble Braun Color-Ultralit 50mm (f2.8, 1/400sec, ISOAuto)




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/60s    ISO 320

NEX-5N, Staeble Braun Color-Ultralit 50mm (f5.6, 1/60sec, ISOAuto)




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/60s    ISO 640

NEX-5N, Staeble Braun Color-Ultralit 50mm (f5.6, 1/60sec, ISOAuto)




NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/60s    ISO 250

NEX-5N, Staeble Braun Color-Ultralit 50mm (f5.6, 1/60sec, ISOAuto)

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Dioptrick

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Playing with Sepia

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NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/1000s    ISO 100



NEX-5N    ---    0mm    f/1.0    1/1000s    ISO 100
 

Leo

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Hi Dioptric
Great thread! I'm very interested in the adapter you use.
I've been looking at the Paxette cameras and lenses for some time now. They look absolutely wonderful, and as your pics show, are good performers.
It would be very nice to use them on the NEX (I have a 5N like you). But where do I get your adapter?:)
 

teefin1

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gorgeous, gorgeous pics, think i'll pack my bags now! Love the leaves and town/village, wherever that may be.
 

Dioptrick

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Hi Dioptric
Great thread! I'm very interested in the adapter you use.
I've been looking at the Paxette cameras and lenses for some time now. They look absolutely wonderful, and as your pics show, are good performers.
It would be very nice to use them on the NEX (I have a 5N like you). But where do I get your adapter?:)
Sorry for the late reply Leo, looks like I missed your post (I've set my profile settings not to send me email notifications).

I machined my own adapter because the flange to film distance of the Paxette is odd-ball (not rangefinder, not quite SLR either). There is another way of making one up by using an L39 adapter plus a set of Russian Tube Extenders. It might be a little off for infinity focusing but nothing that some thin plastic or paper spacer/washers can't fix.

Here's a link to a discussion about the adapter modification:
https://www.talkemount.com/f12/help-industar-50-3-5-50-a-1120/#post7688

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Leo

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No problem and thanks Dioptric.:)
I've done some further research in the meantime and a 15mm L39 extension tube is on its way to me. I think that, and perhaps one or two washers should do the trick (together with the L39 > NEX adapter). I have just received my first Paxette with a Staeble-Kata 45/2.8 and I look forward to using that on my NEX.

BTW: I also have a few Robot lenses (M26) coming my way. Are you familiar with those (and the Robot camera)?

Sorry for the late reply Leo, looks like I missed your post (I've set my profile settings not to send me email notifications).

I machined my own adapter because the flange to film distance of the Paxette is odd-ball (not rangefinder, not quite SLR either). There is another way of making one up by using an L39 adapter plus a set of Russian Tube Extenders. It might be a little off for infinity focusing but nothing that some thin plastic or paper spacer/washers can't fix.

Here's a link to a discussion about the adapter modification:
https://www.talkemount.com/f12/help-industar-50-3-5-50-a-1120/#post7688

.
 

Dioptrick

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No problem and thanks Dioptric.:)
I've done some further research in the meantime and a 15mm L39 extension tube is on its way to me. I think that, and perhaps one or two washers should do the trick (together with the L39 > NEX adapter). I have just received my first Paxette with a Staeble-Kata 45/2.8 and I look forward to using that on my NEX.

BTW: I also have a few Robot lenses (M26) coming my way. Are you familiar with those (and the Robot camera)?
Cheers Leo... ooooh, that Staeble-Kata 45/2.8 sounds interesting! If you want to, feel free to post your test pics or your personal review of that lens on this thread.

Oh yes, I've been eye-ing a few Robot cameras a while back... and missed-out on an auction of a complete camera (went too high for me). Regarding these vintage german cameras, I'm actually more interested in collecting a complete working camera rather than just getting a lens. I'd love to hear from you regarding how those lenses work out... :)
 

Leo

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I will post some shots of and with the Kata and the Robots (are we talking about camera gear here?:)) when all have arrived.
The Robot lenses (30, 40 and 75mm) come with a Robot Star II camera which according to the seller is working perfectly.
I think these lesser known German cameras are very sexy!
 
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