Leica Projector Lenses

Dust long having settled on the carcass of the industry, it seems in hindsight that Leica treated the production of domestic slide projectors more seriously than the Zeiss / Zett / Voigtlander combine. Leica’s catalogue of projector lenses represents the acme of the craft, matched by none for breadth and few for depth: for image quality, only Rollei and Braun’s finest lenses compare.

Leitz projectors date to at least 1933, when the catalogue shows four models, including a Standard projector (UKLON), onto which was fitted the four-element Elmar 50/3.5 (commonly marked 5cm) taking/enlarging lens. The UBELA and UDANO projectors had a film magazine and semi-automatic transport and was capable of deplying the stock Elmar 5cm, or 90/4, 105/6.3 and 135/4.5 variants, as well as the Hektor 73/1.9. Finally, UKABY was supplied with fixed 80mm or 120mm lenses.

By 1939, Leitz had a compact model in the range: initially called Gnom, but renamed in the 1940s to Parvo. These models had fixed Hektor 80/2.5 or 100/2.8 lenses. Parvo evolved into Parvo II and by the early 1950s, the Prado range.

Before singling out individual lenses for comment, we can draw from Delta’s archive the following summary:

Pre-1950 Leitz lenses for VIII, etcCat. No.ElementsDate
5cm for VIIIa4 / 31932-1936
50mm Milar / Epis4 / 31934-1937
73mm for VIIIa1932-1936
80mm Milar / Epis4 / 31934-1937
80mm (black version)4 / 31926-1932
8cm Milar for VIIIb4 / 31932-1936
80mm (chrome version for Umino)4 / 31935-1938
85mm4 / 3Various
90mm for VIIIa1932-1936
85/2.5 Hektor for VIIIa (2nd Gen)4 / 31937-1951
100/2.5 Hektor for VIIIa (2nd Gen)4 / 31937-1951
135mm for VIIIa1932-1936
12cm Dimax for VIIIb1932-1936
20cm Dimax for VIIIk/m1935-1936
25cm Dimax for VIIIk/m1935-1936
Pre-Colorplan Leitz Prado 100/150/250/500 Lenses
8.5cm / f2.5 Hektor for Prado 150DUUYO4 / 31957-1967
10cm / f2.8 Dimaron for Parvo II / Prado 250UDOYO1950-1968
100mm Dimaron for Prado S/SM1956-1960
10cm / f2.8 Hektor for Parvo II / Prado 250UDREU1950-1968
10cm / f2.8 Dimaron for Prado 150DUUXA1957-1967
120/2.5 Hektor4 / 31956-1960?
150mm Hektor for Parvo II / Prado 250 [31540 S]FOWUU1950-1968
150/2.5 Hektor for Prado 66YHRUUc.1956-1968
150/2.8 Dimaron for Prado 66YACUUc.1956-1968
200/4 Dimar [31560 W]FEUUG1954-1968
200/2.5 HektorFUUZC?4 / 31954-1968
300/2.8 Hektor1954-1968
Leitz Pradovit-Era lenses (1958-1982)
35/2.8 Elmaron37 041c.1969-1982
45/2.8 Elmaron for Pradovit Color 11037 007c.1974-1976
50/2.5 Colorplan for Pradovit Color 11037 006c.1974-1976
50/2.8 Elmar for Pradix1964
50/2.8 for Pradolux1964
50/2.8 Elmarit-P for 150, 1500, 2500 Series37 011c.1981
50/2.8 Elmaron for Pradovit RA150, etc37 0081974-1979
60/2.8 Elmaron for 1500, 2500 Series (not 150)37 0041979-1981
85/2.8 Elmaron for Pradix1964
85/2.8 Elmaron for 150, 1500, 2500 Series37 0031979-1986
90/2.5 Colorplan for Pradovit F [V1 Chrome Barrel]FEDUU5 / 41958-1967
90/2.5 Colorplan [V2 Chrome barrel/black nose]37 005
37 010?
6 / 41967-1982
90/2.5 Colorplan CF [Chrome barrel / black nose]37 0156 / 4c.1981
100/2.5 Hektor for Prado 5004 / 31964
100/2.8 Elmaron for Pradix / Prado 1501964
100/2.8 for Pradolux1964
100/2.8 Elmarit for Pradovit FA (perhaps also Elmarit 90/150)1964
120/2.8 Elmaron [-P?] for Pradovit RA150, etc [V1 Chrome]37 0191971-1979
120/2.8 Elmaron for RT-300, 150, 1500 and 2500 [V2 chrome/black]37 0221980-1987
120/2.8 Elmaron CF for RT30037 0121980-
120/2.8 Elmarit-P CF for Pradovit/Pradolux (4/4)37 0121980-
150/2.8 Elmarit-P CF for Pradovit 150, 1500, 2500 and Pradolux (4/4)37 013c.1980-1981
150/2.8 Elmaron-P CF for RT30037 013
150/2.8 Elmaron for 1500, 2500 (in 1979 – same as -P? or revised?)37 0301979-1981
150/2.8 Elmaron [-P?] (announced for RT300 in 1980)37 030?1980
150/3.2 for Pradolux1964
150/3.2 Elmaron for Prado Universal, 150, R15-, RT30037 0311968-1984
200/3.6 Elmaron (announced for RT300 in 1980) and 1500, 250037 0621980-1981
250/2.8 Hektor for Prado 500 Auditorium1964
250/4 Elmaron for 1500, 2500 Series37 0821979-1981
300/2.8 Hektor
300/4.3 Epnor34 8371979-1981
80-125 Leitz-France Cadrovit (aperture undeclared)6 / 6
Leitz / Leica P-Series Lenses (for Kindermann-Produced Projectors)
Pradovit R/ RA 152, 153/253, C/ CA 2502, Color 2
35/2.8 Elmaron37 0411969-1987
50/2.8 Elmaron37 051
50/2.8 Elmarit-P37 0111987
60/2.8 Elmaron 37 0041987
60/2.8 Leica PC-Elmarit-P
85/2.8 Leica Elmaron37 0031986-1987
90/2.5 Leitz Colorplan (Chrome)37 0051982-1986
90/2.5 Leica Colorplan-P37 005
37 010
6 / 41986-1990
90/2.5 Leitz Colorplan-P CF37 0156 / 41982-1990
90/2.8 Leica PC-Elmarit-P37 509
100/2.8 Elmaron37 002
120/2.8 Elmaron [V1 Chrome]37 019
120/2.8 Elmaron [-P?] [V2 Black]37 0221987
120/2.8 Leitz Elmarit-P CF37 012-1986
120/2.8 Leica Elmarit-P CF37 0121986-
120/2.5 Hektor37 0204 / 3
150/2.8 Elmaron37 030
110-200/3.5 Leitz Vario-Elmaron-P37 0271982-1986
110-200/3.5 Leica Vario-Elmaron-P37 0271986-1987
150/2.8 Leitz Elmarit-P CF37 013-1986
150/2.8 Leica Elmarit-P CF37 0131986-1989
150/2.8 Leitz Elmarit-P37 017-1986
150/2.8 Leica Elmarit-P37 0171986-
60-110/3.5 Leitz Vario-Elmaron-P37 0261982-1986
60-110/3.5 Leica Vario-Elmaron-P37 0261986-1990
200/3.4 Leica Elmaron [-P]37 0091987
200/3.6 Leitz Elmaron37 062-1986
250/4 Leica Elmaron37 0821987
300/4.3 Leica Epnor34 8371986-1987
Leica P-Series Lenses
Made in Portugal
90/2.5 Colorplan-P CF (Curved Field)37 0156 / 41986-
Leitz Colorplan CF 90/2.5 marked Leitz Wetzlar37 0156 / 41982-1986
Leitz Colorplan 90/2.5 marked ‘Made by Leitz Portugal’
Leica P2-Mount Lenses (Zett Factory Produced)
for Pradovit P150, P155, P255, P300 (1990), P2002
Pradovit 600 (P2-Series)1995-2006
Pradovit IR (P2-Series)2002-2008
Pradovit PC (P2-Series)2003-2008
60/2.8 Elmarit-P237 510
85/2.8 Hektor-P237 5113 / 31990-2008
90/2.5 Colorplan-P237 5126 / 41990-2008
90/2.5 Colorplan-P2 CF37 5136 / 41990-2008
90/2.5 Leica Super Colorplan-P (for P2002)37 0855 / 41993-2000
90/2.5 Super-Colorplan-P237 5145 / 41993-2008
120/2.8 Elmarit-P2 (2003) (Elmaron misprint in 1995?)37 5151990-2006
150/2.8 Elmarit-P237 5161990-2006
70-120/2.8 Vario-Elmarit-P237 5181990-2006
200/3.4 Elmaron-P237 5201990-2006
250/4 Elmaron-P237 521
100-200/2.5 Vario-Elmaron-P237 522
100-200/3.5 Vario Elmaron-P237 524
Leica Pro Mount Lenses (52.5mm diameter)
for Kodak-produced Pradovit RT-m, RT-s. Made in Portugal.
35/2.8 Elmarit-Pro37 3521998-2004
45/2.8 Elmarit-Pro37 3531998-2004
60/2.8 PC-Elmarit-Pro37 3611998-2004
90/2.8 PC-Elmarit-Pro 37 3621998-2004
90/2.5 Colorplan Pro37 3541998-2004
90/2.5 Super-Colorplan Pro37 3555 / 41998-2004
120/2.8 Elmarit-Pro (all new design)37 3561998-2004
150/2.8 Elmarit-Pro (all new design)37 3571998-2004
200/3.4 Elmaron-Pro37 3585 / 41998-2004
70-120/2.8 Vario-Elmarit-Pro 37 3631998-2004
100-300 Vario-Elmaron-Pro37 3601998-2004

Pradolux cheaper range from 1962-1970 with plastic barrel lenses.

All single focal length Pro lenses have 67mm front filter.

Super-Colorplan and 120 Elmarit absent from May 1987 catalogue

Elmarit and Elmaron [TBA]

The Colorplan Story

Leica’s Colorplan slide projector optics are, quite properly, the best-known and most highly regarded lenses of their kind. While other products may match their performance (Rollei’s AV-Apogons, Braun’s Ultralits and Schneider’s Xenotars are certainly in the running for ultimate honours), nothing matches the heritage of the Colorplan, originally designed by Walter Mandler in 1958/9. Given how well our 1960 test sample performed in 2022, it must have been a revolution – its complex design a shark among triplet minnows in the early Sixties.

They are also marked out by offering an unusually high level of performance at an affordable price. Leica made them well and sold a lot of them, for a long time – resulting in a potentially daunting number of variants – seemingly all 90mm and f2.5 – swilling around today’s marketplace, commonly divorced from the projectors that once housed them. If you’ve only ever heard of one projector lens, it’s probably a Colorplan. If you’ve only ever taken pictures with one projector lens, it’s probably a Colorplan. However not all Colorplans are the same – or even 90mm.

Its history is somewhat tarnished by reports of inferior build quality in the early phase of Portuguese production – from approximately 1980 to 1985. The factory in Vila Nova de Famalicão began to output optics for Leitz in 1975, but Colorplans of the 1975-1980 period all seem to be German-made. In 1981, Leitz debuted a ‘CF’, or Curved Field, variant of the Colorplan 90/2.5 that was produced in both Germany and Portugal during the early 1980s. Evidently production of Colorplans at this time was split between both facilities, and it’s unclear whether there are meaningful differences in build quality between the two factories, or whether the differences are by design. Marco Cavina’s article documents a series of cost- and weight-cutting measures undertaken by Leitz in the early 1980s to lower production costs to the point where most Leitz projectors could ship with a Colorplan lens: ‘Made in Portugal’ models are almost 60g lighter than the late 1970s Colorplans, and generally inferior in construction, which impacts on performance by making them more prone to internal reflections. The optical formula was unchaged. Given the global cachet of ‘Made in Germany’, it’s somewhat mystifying that Leica chose to advertise the provenance of the Portugeuse lenses so prominently – perhaps a rare triumph of honesty over (political) ‘optics’.

However, when Leitz restructured and rebranded in 1986, the German-made P-Series Colorplans, now marked Leica Colorplan-P (instead of Leitz Colorplan) were made using the same ‘cost-efficient’ parts as the Portugal models. In fact, subsequent production was split ‘silently’ between Solms and Vila Nova de Famalicão, and standards improved at the remote facility to the point where the distinction between German and Portuguese lenses became meaningless.

Purists still argue that peak Colorplan (mechanically, at least) was the original [V1] ‘Leitz Wetzlar’ production. Optically, though, the later six-element lenses were slightly superior. As taking lenses, both are fine: the early five-element models are actually sharper in the frame centre, but the late six-element version is better in the outer image circle.

Here we explain the when, what and where of Leica’s Colorplan 90/2.5 models – or Leitz Colorplan as they were known pre-1986 . . .

Lens DesignationCat. #ProductionElementsNotes
Leitz [Wetzlar] Colorplan [V1]FEDUU1958-19675 / 4All-metal silver barrel.
Marked ‘1:2.5/90mm’
Single-coated. Made in Germany.
Leitz [Wetzlar] Colorplan [V2a]37 0051967-c.19756 / 4Silver metal barrel / black plastic nose with markings around the side.
Made in Germany. Single-coated.
Leitz [Wetzlar] Colorplan [V2b]37 005c.1975-19866 / 4As [V2a] but marked ‘1:2.5/90mm . . . LENS MADE IN GERMANY’ on outer edge of slim, flat fascia.
Leitz [Portugal] Colorplan [V2]37 005c.1980-19866 / 4Marked on inner fascia ‘COLORPLAN 2.5/90’. Same formula as [37 005] but inferior build. Multicoated.
Leitz [Wetzlar] Colorplan CF [V2]37 0151981-19866 / 4As [37 005] but ‘Curved Field’.
Marked ‘2.5/90mm’. Markings on inner fascia.
Made in Germany. Multicoated.
Leitz [Portugal] Colorplan CF [V2]37 0151981-19866 / 4As above but ‘Curved Field’. Multicoated.
Leica Colorplan-P37 0051986-19906 / 4Leica-branded silver barrel / black nose. Made interchangeably in Germany and Portugal. Multicoated.
Leica Colorplan-P CF37 0151986-19906 / 4As above, but ‘Curved Field’.
Leica Colorplan-P237 5121990-20066 / 4Made in Portugal.
Black plastic barrel.
Revised optical formula.
Leica-branded and multicoated.
Leica Colorplan-P2 CF37 5131990-20066 / 4As [37 512] but ‘Curved Field’
Leica Colorplan-Pro37 3541998-20066 / 4For Pradovit RT Series.
Black metal barrel. Multicoated.

Although we have here differentiated eleven versions of the 90mm f2.5 Colorplan for the purpose of accurate dating and identification, not every difference is significant. There are three major variations to take note of:

  1. The original single-coated, five-element [V1] produced from 1958-1967 (FEDUU)
  2. The six-element [V2] (catalogue 37 005) and ‘Curved Field’ variant (catalogue 37 015), which together stretch from 1967-1990, gradually acquiring multicoating, dipping in build quality during upscaled Portugeuse production of the early 1980s, and including the original P-series Colorplan – and:
  3. The final, and most desirable, post-1990 ‘P2’ revision (catalogue 37 512).

Leica Super-Colorplan Variants

The trio of Super-Colorplans are products of the Leica era, not arriving until 1993 and apparently simultaneously launched in P and P2 mounts – the former only fitted to the Pradovit P2002 and the latter initially provided as a factory option for the Pradovit P300, although it naturally became an option for all subsequent P2 series models.

A fitting apotheosis to the Colorplan story, the final Super-Colorplans were five-element designs like the original FEDUU variant. They were hugely more expensive than the six-element standard Colorplans of the Leica era, featuring aspheric glass and state-of-the-art multicoating. Super-Colorplan-P has quite a different barrel design: 84mm long vs Super-Colorplan-P2 at 94mm. P2 is also heavier, and has its rear element sitting almost flush with the rear of the barrel, and it has a deeper front hood. Super-Colorplan-P therefore has a longer focal-flange distance (measured from the end of the barrel) because its rear element is recessed by around 15mm. The two lenses have the same coating on the rear element, but different multicoating on the front element. Both were made in Portugal.

As taking lenses, Super-Colorplans offer performance similar to the Elmarit primes of their day, albeit with a fixed f2.5 aperture, and better optimised for long than short distance. Zone A sharpness is very high, matched only by elite 35mm projection lenses like the Rollei AV-Apogon. Bokeh is smooth and harmonious, though not quite as attractive as the six-element versions, in my opinion. However, colour reproduction is unmatched among optics of this type.

Lens DesignationCat. #ProductionElementsNotes
Leica Super-Colorplan-P37 0851993-20005 / 4Silver metal barrel / black plastic nose.
Multicoated. Fitted to Pradovit P2002.
Made in Portugal.
Leica Super-Colorplan-P237 5141993-20085 / 4Black metal barrel. Multicoated.
Fitted to Pradovit P300 / P600
Made in Portugal
Leica Super-Colorplan Pro37 3551998-20085 / 4Black metal barrel. Multicoated.
Fitted to Pradovit RT Series

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *