While looking through some boxes of old photographic equipment I found a roll of black and white film would tightly inside a film canister.
Holding the FujiFilm Neopan negative strip up to the light I was struck by the extreme wide-angle view of the images, an hour or so later I realised that this was the long lost ‘Hologon film’, rather appropriate on what would have been the 200th birthday of Carl Zeiss (11th September 1816 – 3rd December 1888).
With its roots in the Zeiss Ikon Hologon 15mm ultrawide camera from the early 1970s the Carl Zeiss Hologon T* 16 mm f/ 8 Lens was introduced in 1994 with the Contax G1 autofocus rangefinder camera.
Made by Carl Zeiss at Oberkochen in Germany and featuring a 106° angle of view, 5 elements in 3 groups, a fixed f/ 8 aperture and hyperfocal manual focus via a lever protruding from the lens, the rear element of 16mm Hologon blocked the standard G1 TTL exposure system so the light is read from a sensor in the external viewfinder mounted on the camera’s flash hotshoe.
Light fall-off at the edges is inevitable in a lens of this type and a centre spot filter (similar to those used with the Hasselblad XPan and Fuji G617 panoramic cameras) was supplied to combat the 2 stops of vignetting.
These days a mint Carl Zeiss Hologon T* 16 mm f/ 8 Lens complete with viewfinder GF-16mm, gradation filter 4x, lens cap 57mm GK 54 (snap-on type), lens rear cap GK-R2, Hologon hard case and cloth case will cost around £1200 imported from Japan or the USA. Around 4 times that price will buy you 1 of the approx. 1400 Stuttgart or Oberkochen produced Zeiss Ikon Hologon ultrawide cameras complete with the original Zeiss centre spot filter, pistol grip, cable, original cap, (doctors!) case and booklet. Also available as the holy grail of Leica M mount lenses is the 15mm Hologon of which 350-500 were sold by Leitz between 1972 and 1976 (source Zeiss Compendium), basically a ‘name your price’ lens for anything upwards of £20000! A number of the Contax 16mm Hologons have subsequently been modified to Leica M mount and sell for around £2000 complete.
Here is a small selection of images in Reading town centre circa 1994 from the Contax G1 camera and Carl Zeiss Hologon T* 16 mm f/ 8 Lens using FujiFilm Neopan 400 film pushed to ISO3200 scanned with a Nikon Coolscan LS-30.)