PetaPixel

Carl Zeiss Super-Q-Gigantar 40mm f/0.33: The Fastest Lens Ever Made?

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If you thought the Zeiss f/0.7 lenses we shared yesterday were impressive, check out this crazy piece of glass: it’s the Carl Zeiss Super-Q-Gigantar 40mm f/0.33. It’s what some people call the fastest camera lens ever made.

Is that claim true? Well, yes and no… but mostly no.

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The lens went up for auction back in 2011 at the famous WestLicht Photographica Auction, where some of the biggest transactions in the camera world occur. It was billed as “the world’s fastest lens ever made,” had an opening bid of €6,000, and an estimated price of up to €16,000. It ended up selling for €60,000, or close to $80,000.

Poke around on the web, however, and you won’t find any sample photographs captured with this lens. Why? Because the lens was never designed for real world use, and was never functional.

Even in the auction, WestLicht states that the 1960s lens was a “unique lens made by Carl Zeiss for Public Relation purposes [...] for Contarex Bullseye.” Italian website Nadir Magazine has more of the backstory.

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The lens was born in the 1960s during a time in which camera companies were aiming for larger and larger apertures, just as companies these days are gunning for more and more megapixels. Canon had just released its 50mm f/0.95, and photographers became fixated on the speed of lenses on paper rather than their performance in real world situations.

Zeiss Ikon public relations guru Herr Wolf Wehran decided that he wanted to draw attention to his phenomenon by creating a product poking fun at the fast glass fad.

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Prior to Photokina in 1966, Wehran visited a buddy of his in the Zeiss lens design department. The two found an old condenser lens sitting around, and used it to create a Contarex-mount “frankenlens” using various found pieces. Along the way, they arbitrarily decided that their lens would have a focal length of 40mm and a maximum aperture of f/0.33.

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The lens was given the name “Super-Q-Gigantar.” The “Q” stands for “Quatsch,” which translates to “nonsense” in German.

And that’s how the “fastest lens ever made” came to be.


P.S. At the time of this post, Wikipedia lists the Super-Q-Gigantar under “fast lenses’ in its article on “Lens Speed.”


Image credits: Photographs courtesy of WestLicht Photographica


 
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  • emi

    maybe some samples? :)

  • FAEK

    FAEK!

  • Christian DeBaun

    “Because the lens was never designed for real world use, and was never functional.”

    I can see a die hard Zeiss fan shelling out $80k for this interesting piece of memorabilia. But something that’s non-functional? Um, no.

  • Zed

    Did you read TFA?

  • Anne Marie Laney

    from the article, “Poke around on the web, however, and you won’t find any sample
    photographs captured with this lens. Why? Because the lens was never
    designed for real world use, and was never functional.” ….. there are none.

  • sharpienerd

    and the joke lives on! :D

  • RegularGuy55

    I hope the buyer knew the lens wasn’t functional before he bought it.

  • http://reciprocity-failure.blogspot.com/ Stan B.

    Micro 4/3 adapter out for Christmas…

  • Mark N

    So if not this, what IS the fastest lens ever made for a camera?

  • lifewithkaishon

    Fascinating!

  • Jacqui Dee

    Ah, right. One of those people who buys flashy cameras but can’t/will never use them. But it looks good, right? ;)

  • steve

    i think its the f/0.7 lens made for cinema. i think stanley kubrick (sp?) used one for a movie he made awhile back.

  • Andrew Iverson

    I’m curious how it’s not “functional”. I don’t know enough about this honestly, but couldn’t you get “something” out of it, even if blurry or something?

  • dwerg85

    If you want to see what the image would look like, take a lens out of the condenser of an old enlarger and put it in front of the hole of your dslr. You’ll get a sharpish image –if you focus it– with a huge halo around it.

    If it’s a projecting lens, it’ll work, but that doesn’t really make it fucntional in the sense that zeiss would mean.

  • Ahmed Ahmed Mahdy

    I think it’s a fisheye lense…

  • Ivan

    I’d use this with a speed booster… 0,33 is not actually that impressive. :)

  • harumph

    First link in the article:

    “If you thought the Zeiss f/0.7 lenses we shared yesterday were impressive…”

  • Hannes

    “Zeiss Ikon public relations guru Herr Wolf Wehran decided ” <- "Herr" translates to "Mr." in German. It's not a part of a name ;)

  • TomLeVine

    despite your ironicalness… ;) thats actually a good point! I wonder if anyone has considered the implication of using a speedbooster on the 0.7 (now that you can hire it..)

  • DerIkonta

    Actually given the formalities of German you would use Herr at the start of a name in a situation like this, it functions similar to Sir in English ;)

  • tantra

    That front element is HUGE!!! its bigger than my wife’s bo*bs! lollzz
    :D

  • Max

    Bullshit,it’s a fake created to mock Canon.

  • Fabian

    Actually, no. Certainly not on a blog post and in this context. Maybe in a formal letter or in a press announcement; “Der Objektivverantwortliche von Zeiss-Jena AG, Herr Wolf Wehran, …” (” The head of the lens departement at Zeiss-Jena AG, Mister Wolf Wehran”, …”)

  • AMJ

    kubrick himself , used the speedbooster to creat a 35 f0.56.

  • Anonymoused

    Man, that thing is hideous.
    But if it was never functional, what’s the point? :|