The Meopta Story

Přerov, in the former Czech Republic, has been the production base of Meopta since 1933, when it was founded by Alois Mazurek, an enterprising professor at a local industrial school. Prior to nationalisation and re-branding in 1946 the company was known as Optikotechna Přerov. It is testimony to their build quality that a surprising number of pre-war Optikotechna lenses have survived in useable condition. In fact, the Meopta catalogue is full of surprises.


Like Agfa, Meopta’s serial numbers perversely avoid strict chronology. Likewise, Meopta’s catalogue numbers shift around somewhat, depending on the age of the brochure. However, in the absence of an official guide, we have two sources to visually identify production dates. First, Meopta’s enlarger brochures were mini catalogues of accessories, complete with (sometimes conflicting) catalogue numbers and (often) photographs of lenses. Dating these is therefore pivotal to creating a timeline. Combining manufacturer information with surviving brochures and their production dates yields the following timeline:

1938-1946: ‘Optikotechna Přerov’ models: Belar (1933), Benar (1936?), Definar (1936), Vidor (1934)
1936-1946: Optikotechnika Opemus
1946-1967: Meopta Opemus 4×4 (Belar 55/4.5)
1957-1969: Opemus II – Belar 75/4.5, 100/4.5, Meopar (sighted 1961-67 )
1960-1969: Opemus IIa
1969-1975: Opemus 3 – single-stripe zebra Belar 50/55/75mm f4.5, Mirar 35/3.5, Meopar 50/4.5
1975-1980?: Opemus 4 – single-stripe zebra Anaret, silver/black Belar and Meopar
1977-1982: Opemus 5 – single-stripe zebra Anaret, Belar and Meogon f5.6 (no f2.8 yet)
1982-1984: Opemus 5a – single-stripe zebra Anaret, Belar and Meogon
1984-1994: Opemus 6/6a – changing to dual-stripe Anaret-S, then, later, all-black
1993-2005+?: Opemus 7 – all black: Five-digit serial on Meogon f2.8; four-digit on Anaret
1995-2000: Opemus Student

1938: Optikotechna Axomat
1953-1963: Meopta Axomat
1960-1969: Axomat 1a
1970-1975: Axomat 2
1975-1978: Axomat 3
1978-1985: Axomat 4
1985-c1994: Axomat 5 – Meogon S 50 (big knurl – all black), Anaret S 50 (dual stripe zebra), Anaret/Belar single stripe zebra

1954-1967: Magnifax 1/1a
1960-1983: Magnifax 2
1983-1987: Magnifax 3a
1987-c1994: Magnifax 4 – Anaret S 50 (all black) Meogon 50 (big-knurl all black), Meogon 80 (big knurl) Anaret-S (dual zebra)

1961-1967: Proximus – Meopar 50

Another, more elusive, source are the signed and date-stamped guarantee documents that began to be supplied with Meopta optics from the late 1980s onward. This one, for instance, helpfully pinpoints an Anaret 80/4.5 with serial number 11155 leaving the factory on August 26, 1989.


Whereas many manufacturers branched into enlarging lenses as a by-product of their taking lenses, for Meopta enlarger lenses were front and centre from the get-go: proudly announcing at the company’s launch the 1933 three-element Belar as the first Czech-made optic of its kind. Pre-war Optikotechna Přerov lenses also included a range of four-element Benar, the Definar 55/4.5 (1936) and Vidor 50/4.5 (1934).

The Nazi regime’s ‘hostile takeover’ of 1939 instantly diverted Optikotechna’s production into military optics under the implausibly assumed name of Hermann Göring Optical Works – a situation redressed by the 1946 rebrand to ‘Meopta’. The scope of the revitalised company’s ambitions wasn’t limited to triplets and rifles: in the early 1960s the company launched a series of complex Heliar five-element designs branded Meopar, equivalent to (and more expensive than) the better-known Schneider Componons of their day.

Subsequently – perhaps intending to replace the Belars – Meopta launched a new standard optic in 1975 for third generation Axomat and Opemus projectors: four-element ‘Anaret‘ models with straight-six diaphragms: better corrected, and available in a wider variety of focal lengths – as well as ‘S’ specification: featuring a push/pull de-click clutch and illuminated apertures. Although a token Belar (the 50/4.5) remained in in production until at least 2005, the Belar range immediately bowed out before the diverse and excellent Anarets.

They were so good that Schneider took the Czech-made cells and marketed a version under their own name – Componar-S – a rare occurrence reversing the trend of Schneider allowing their optics to be commercially co-opted, and a testament to the quality and reliability of Meopta’s output. Whatever the level of joint involvement, Schneider evidently felt they couldn’t improve on what the Anaret offered at that price, and rehoused and rebranded products rolling off the Czech production line.

The Anarets put pressure on the flagship status of the Meopars, and for two years or so, it wasn’t clear-cut that the venerable five-element lens was a meaningful upgrade. However, with the release of the Opemus 5 enlarger in 1977, Meopar morphed into the first of the elite Meogons – brand-tweaked to be more reminiscent of the finest German glass. A trio of symmetrical six-element lenses emerged in 50mm, 60mm and 80mm focal lengths. The ‘long stripe zebra’ body designs were all f5.6, and they reset the bar for high-end enlarger optics.

The next optical revolution occurred in the mid-1980s, when Meopta (and everyone else’s) designers gained access to IT power. Ironically, the trio of Meogons launched in 1984/5 had more in common with the Meopars’ asymmetrical 5 / 3 formula – but recomputed for speed: the 50mm and 80mm were rated f2.8. They were joined by an updated six-element version of the Meogon 80/5.6 – now in S spec, and one stop faster. Likely Meopta expected the S 50/2.8, S 80/4 and range-topping 80/2.8 to obsolete the analog oldsters, but the f5.6 Meogons hung around for [some] years in the catalogue, selling alongside, and directly competing with, the new kids.

Summarising Meogon Performance

Years later, it’s interesting to compare them as capture optics for demanding sensors. It becomes evident that the faster, recomputed Meogons are more sensitive to working distance, and more finely optimised for specific apertures. For instance, from f5.6-8 – specifically referring to distances of 30-80cm – the Meogon 50/2.8 S is a crucial notch sharper, and fractionally better corrected, than the 50/5.6 and 60/5.6. Our testing agreed at least with the Chasseur d’Images verdict of 1997 that the 60/5.6 is excellent centre-frame (scoring 5 / 4 for centre / corner sharpness), and the 50/5.6 has superb corners (scoring 4 / 5). But shooting with 3.3-5 micron pixel pitch cameras, it’s clear that the later Meogon 50/2.8 is superior to both.

However, at 1:1, and from 3m-infinity, the fast 50mm and 80mm Heliars suffer from a more pronounced drop in performance than either the old f5.6, or the newer f4, six-element lenses. Deployed as a macro or a general-purpose lens, the f5.6 Meogons (particularly the 50mm and 80mm) therefore – sometimes – perform better than the new models, despite being somewhat inferior to the f2.8 Meogons as enlarger lenses and unable to match their performance within their narrow envelope of optimisation.

Within the context of assessing their suitability as taking lenses for 35mm sensors, all the Meogons are given Gold awards, apart from the 60/5.6 – which narrowly fails to reach the required standard in Zone C despite excellent Zone A resolution. There are some caveats: the Meogon 80/2.8 scores some of the highest results seen for near-field resolution at f5.6, Zones A-C. However, outside its sweet spot of 30-80cm it cannot be considered Gold standard. Also, its f2.8 resolution at any distance is poor (falling below 8.5 / 7.5), and there’s a sharp drop-off in performance in Zone D (35mm shifted, or when used on medium format) at apertures below f11. The Meogon 50/2.8 also fails to reach Gold standard at longer working distances than 2m or 1:1 macro – recording results consistent with ‘high Silver’. It’s also debatable whether the centre-frame resolution of the 50/5.6 deserves Gold: falling a crucial notch behind worthier 50mm options like the Fujinon EX, EL-Nikkor, Minolta CE and six-element Schneider Componon-S variants. And the Meogon 80/4 doesn’t quite ‘wake up’ until f8 at distance. Altogether, Meogons must be considered elite-level optics in this category – despite requiring a deeper than average understanding of their idiosyncrasies to get elite-level results from them.

Meogon Sample Shots

Belar Sample Shots

Identification of Variants

The neatly rationalised combination of ‘Belar for beginners’, ‘Anaret for anyone’ (the similarity to Am-ha’aretz is noted), and ‘Meogon for masters’ settled into a commercially successful, and not radically altered, product offering for the best part of three decades. By the 1990s, multicoating was discreetly added, but as far as we know Meopta left the optical formulas untouched – testimony to the excellence of the company’s work in the late-1970s. Even common Anarets from this period are thoroughly useable today as enlarger or capture lenses.

1953-1969: Silver body/black nose Belars. Early [V1] models have continuously-knurled aperture rings and circular apertures; late [V2] models have intermittently-knurled aperture rings and six-blade diaphragms

1969-1975: Zebra [V3] Belars have square four-blade diaphragms.

[V1]: 1960-1975: Single-ring long-stripe zebras (later dating for Meogon?)
[V2]: 1975-1984: Dual-ring short-stripe zebras Later transitional models unstriped
[V3]: 1984-c.1995: Dual-ring with fine knurling; all black; four- and five-digital serials on fascia (1984-c.1995)
[V4]: c.1995-2000: As V3 but without serials on fascia: sometimes marked MC; logotype not extended.


For 8mm and 16mm:






P.O. (Optikotechna Přerov) (pre-1946)


Meostigmat 35, 50, 70mm (f1.0 and f1.3)

Meopton I and II professional cine projectors

Meo 8 (1954-1960)

For 35mm and 70mm

[Confirm whether Meopta OEM maker for Angnieux and Kinoptic?]



Meostigmat 52.5-141mm (f1.7, f1.9 and f2.1)

Super Meostigmat

Hyper Meostigmat aspect ratio converters

Anagon anamorphic converter

Meopton UM 70/35 and UMS 70/35 professional cine projector (1961-1971)

Meopton III and IV professional cine projectors (1955-1959)

Meo 5 (from 1977)

Meo 5 XB, Meo 8 XB-S, Meo 5 (1980s)

Meo 5X Automatic

Meo 5 XB1 and XB3


Miron (post 1946)

P.O. (Optikotechna Přerov) (pre-1946)

Dia Opticon for Meopta Medirex H and Vario 5500; sometimes fitted to Kodak Carousel.

Hyper Video Opticon (tele and wide converters)


Stigmar TVX

Stigmar XX

Mirar SX

SO 100/1.4 (‘Special Objective’ X-Ray lens)

Leave a Comment

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