Steve Cushing Impresionist Fine Art Photography

Steve Cushing Impresionist Fine Art Photography

Embracing imperfection, recording emotions, one impression at a time…

1956 Rodenstock Heligon 50mm f1.9. This is one of less than 1,000 Heligon 50mm M42 lenses produced.

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The Lens details of a series of images taken by Steve Cushing on mirrorless camera.


Josef Rodenstock was a court optician of the German Emperor. Rodenstock GmbH is a German manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses and spectacle frames. The company, was founded by Thuringian Josef Rodenstock in 1877 based in Munich.

From the 1920s onward, Rodenstock launched the mass production of camera lenses for a large number of major camera manufacturers. As the result of pressure from the clients for these lenses, the company stopped the production of its own cameras. Between 1930 and 1939, Rodenstock established representatives and offices on all major markets worldwide.

In the Great Depression that followed, exports plummeted and sales fell by 62% in four years, resulting in poor management, and the survival of the company was jeopardised by the pressure from banks and the danger of hijacking by the Nazi German government. Production of camera lenses was strong again from the mid-1930s, and by this time the first in-house cameras called Clarovid I and II were being built. However, the pressure from the lens supplier soon forced the camera production to stop. In World War II, free business activities were restricted under strict supervision by the Ministry of Defense, and the company was able to produce only tank sights, periscopes, and spectacle lenses.

During WWII, Rodenstock manufactured mainly armaments. The company also continued to manufacture eyeglasses, as those were deemed of military importance and indispensable. After the war, Rodenstock once again focused on its core competences, particularly the fields of ophthalmic lenses and frames.

Alexander Rodenstock's son Rolf Rodenstock took over the company in 1953, starting the rise of Rodenstock to a world-renowned major player in the optics industry. Since 1954, the company has increased its investment in public advertising in addition to ads in trade magazines for opticians and ophthalmologists. Rodenstock was the first in the business to hire internationally renowned stars such as Brigitte Bardot, Carl Möhner, Curd Jürgens, Gina Lollobrigida, Hildegard Knef, Senta Berger, Toni Sailer or Roy Black for testimonials.

In 1955, the company produced 5 million ophthalmic frames. Rodenstock continued to manufacture other optical devices, such as projection lenses for slide projectors (Splendar). In 1968, the company introduced the first photochromatic glasses in Europe, and from 1975 onwards, it produced the first plastic ophthalmic lenses in the world.

Rodenstock's camera division is a modest existence because it mainly produced large format lenses for professionals, but its ability and brand power are equivalent to those of Leica, Zeiss, Schneider, etc., and it is a hit that has released excellent products to the world. From 1950s to early 1960s, they had produced some interchangeable Lenses for 35mm SLR and viewfinder cameras.

Although Rodenstock produced two million lenses from 1954 to 1961, the production number of interchangeable lenses is relatively low compare to other Germany manufacturers. The Heligon introduced this time is a product manufactured from 1956 to 1959, A total of 1039 F1.9 Heligons were manufactured, including 160 master lenses for the Exakta mount and 3 for the M42 mount. The lens reviewed here is a very rare lens.

In 1983, Randolf Rodenstock joined the group of shareholders at Optische Werke G. Rodenstock as a personally liable partner (general partner), leading the company together with his father Rolf Rodenstock. In 1989, Rodenstock shifted the majority of its Munich production capabilities to its newly established serial production facilities in Thailand and its production facilities in Ebersberg were moved to Malta. Between 1988 and 1989, revenues decreased by 10% from previously €700 million. 1991 saw the introduction of the R logo and trademark.

Between 1995 and 1996, the company built a new production facility for prescription lenses in Klatovy (Czech Republic). In 2000, the business segments precision optics (production of lenses for analogue view cameras, a.o. the Sironar, Apo-Ronar, and Grandagon brands), enlargers (e.g. the Rodagon), and digital view cameras with high-resolution digital backs (e.g. the 1997 Apo-Sironar digital) were sold to Göttingen-based Linos AG.

After this, the company continued to produce lenses for large format cameras, but in 2000, it sold the optical equipment division, which develops and manufactures photographic lenses, to Linos AG (Gettingen, Germany) and changed the company name to Rodenstock GmbH. , By unifying the production to only eyeglasses, it has withdrawn from the production of photographic lenses
Like many other Germany manufacturer, the lenses changed from chrome finish to black finish with focus/aperture ring in zebra style.

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This Lens

Rodenstock Heligon 50mm f/1.9 went on sale in 1956. The Rodenstock Heligon 50mm f/1.9 is a fast manual focus prime lens for SLR cameras. It is a much sought-after, rare lens, it has beautiful colours and is very sharp, as such is good for use on modern digital cameras (with adapter).

The optical system is an asymmetric Gauss type with 6 elements in 4 groups, and 6 types of mounts such as M42, EXAKTA, DKL (Deckel), Leica-L (35mm / F2.8), Agfa (50mm / F2), Retina (50mm / F2). Thanks to minimum aperture ratio of f/1.9 enables shooting in low lighting conditions without a tripod or a flash. Thanks to the 9-bladed aperture, the subjects located outside the depth of field are shown with very smooth features.

This lens looks a bit soft at full open but it has its own characters. One of the specialty of this lens is there will be rainbow like flare when point to a strong light source. (especially at full open).

The diaphragm blade consists of 9 pieces. The mount has an aperture interlocking pin and a release hole near the mount. The aperture mechanism is a semi-automatic aperture.

The lens name is derived from the combination of Helios, which means "sun" in Greek, and Gon, which means "horn". According to the US and German catalogs, the prices in 1959 were 405 marks.

This product was purchased via eBay in 2021 at a prompt decision price of 600 euros. The description of the product says good, and the product that arrived was just as good as new.


The used market is unknown, but I have seen it priced at 1800 euros. At this price I wonder if I should sell my lenses as well. But every time I use this lens, realise how unique it is. This lens has a distinctive feature in colour development, and it is interesting that the colour changes depending on the state of light as the shadow portion has a strong bluish tint, and therefore the complementary colour, yellow, becomes lighter. The balance of red is moderate regardless of light and dark, but it is expressed more vividly through Helicon.

White and grey-based colours such as concrete appear to be coloured blue in the shadow area. In addition, the shade in fine weather and the colours after sunset are expressed in cool tone (cold black) as a whole. On the other hand, in the highlight part, the yellow colour becomes stronger and the colour changes to green or yellowish green of plants. A mysterious colour is created as if it was drawn in water-colour.

For general information on lens design and lens elements go to the homepage HERE


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