The Rodenstock Story

Almost a century and a half of optical engineering: from taking lenses to sunglasses; from Rodenstock to Linos to Qioptiq to Excelitas. Rodenstock lenses and lens cells can be dated as follows:

50 0001910
200 0001920
400 0001930
700 0001935
900 0001938
950 0001940
2 000 0001945
2 500 0001952
3 000 0001954
5 000 0001961
6 000 0001966
7 000 0001971
8 000 0001973
9 000 0001974
9 500 0001977
9 637 9731978
10 000 0001979
10 500 0001984
11 000 0001991
11 150 0001993
11 231 7131994
11 294 0731995
11 358 1651996
11 407 5131997
11 468 5411998
11 521 1231999
11 588 2642000
11 649 6792001
11 678 2742002
11 724 1362003
11 767 3762004
11 805 4552005
11 860 2412006
11 926 1992007
11 944 3382008
11 944 3382009
12 022 6002010
12 055 4392011
12 095 3762012 (Serial numbers after 2012 belong to Linos and Qioptiq)

The Rodagon Family

Rodenstock first registered the trademark ‘Rodagon’ for export in 1966. Perhaps not coincidentally, Rodenstock’s data singles out the year 1966 for serials commencing 6000000. Despite the paucity of surviving Rodagons with such low serials, we have taken this year as ‘ground zero’ for initial production of Rodenstock’s premium lens line: six-element models featuring the most advanced know-how of their time, housed in substantial, tapering black metal barrels with alternating white knurling on the aperture ring. This generation has acquired a poor reputation for balsam separation – though in fairness it took half a century to acquire.

When Camera magazine’s enlarger lens survey was being prepared in the autumn of 1967, the Rodagon range consisted solely of f5.6 lenses in focal lengths of 105mm, 135mm, 150mm, 180mm and 210mm – mirroring Rodenstock’s roster of process lenses, and ineligible for inclusion in their review of ‘standard 50mm’ optics for 35mm enlargers. However, by 1970 the company had capitalised on the mass-market potential of high quality shorter enlarger lenses by scaling down their near-symmetrical six-element designs, releasing new 50mm and 80mm Rodagons – also f5.6.

Sometime between 1970 and 1972 (we’ve not found a citation or serial pre-dating February 1973), Rodenstock quietly introduced a 60mm variant, followed in 1975 by the launch of newly-formulated 28mm and 35mm small-format enlarger lenses – the first f4 Rodagons.

By 1976 there were fifteen Rodagons covering focal lengths from 28-360mm. Prior to Photokina in November that year, Popular Photography magazine got carried away by announcing the radical re-release of every f5.6 Rodagon in f4. Although reality didn’t quite match the hype, two new fast 50s were launched that month: a 50/4 and an exciting new f2.8 – necessary to remain competitive with Schneider’s Componon-S 50/2.8 released exactly one year earlier. The 50/5.6 appears to have remained in production alongside the 50/4 and 50/2.8 until at least 1979. Although Rodagons now had an up-to-date specification, the new wine was still in old wineskins: Rodenstock’s classic ‘zebra’ look hadn’t been updated for more than a decade.

That (mainly) changed two years later, at Photokina 1978, when the new-look second-generation models were unveiled: blocky cylindrical casings with stippled rubber rings and a ‘declick clutch’ that opened to reveal a distinctive red ring. In a bumper year for Rodenstock that saw the release of the first Apo-Rodagon and Rogonar-S lenses (in both cases, initially just 50mm versions) all-new 60/4 and 80/4 Rodagons were launched at the show, as well as recomputed versions of the six 105-300mm f5.6 primes, offering significant optical refinements – though not new cosmetics. Some sources say that the first generation 1976 Rodagon 50/2.8 was recomputed for the second generation model but it’s possible that only coatings were improved: the broad optical formula is certainly identical.

First Gen ‘Zebra’ RodagonsProductionBerkey Catalogue #

The highest second-generation serial observed thus far (10369459), combined with evidence of contemporary promotional material, allows us to place the end of second-generation production in 1983, when Rodenstock undertook a root-and-branch revision of the range.

Second Gen ‘Red Ring’ RodagonsProductionBerkey Catalogue #
28/4 (possibly recomputed)1978-1983
35/4 (possibly recomputed)1978-1983
50/2.8 (possibly recomputed/new coating)1978-1983
50/4 (possibly recomputed/new coating)1978-1983
60/4 (all new)1978-1983
80/4 (all new)1978-1983
105/5.6 (recomputed)1978-1983
135/5.6 (recomputed)1978-1983
150/5.6 (recomputed)1978-1983
180/5.6 (recomputed)1978-1983
210/5.6 (recomputed)1978-1983
240/5.6 (recomputed)1978-1983
300/5.6 (recomputed)1978-1983
360/5.6 (recomputed)1978-1983
Apo-Rodagon 50/2.8 (new)1978-1983
Apo-Rodagon 90/4 (new)1982-1983

The American debut of third-generation Rodagons took place at PMA in 1984, though some months earlier Rodenstock had undertaken a complete refresh of its entire roster of enlarger lenses. Known serials (from 10390348) allow for the earliest third generation lenses to have been manufactured as early as late 1983, although we don’t see promotional material featuring the new look until mid-1984. It appears to have been a low-key ‘phased-in’ transition. Gone was the vulnerable rubber grip and the wide barrel with its distinctive red ring and apparently Dymo labeled serials. The redesign was far-sighted and remained essentially unaltered for the lifespan of the range: pared back to black essentials: a simple barrel with a single, near-flush control ring on the fascia that elegantly controlled the aperture and preset mechanism. A single, small illuminated aperture window was the only adornment. Serials were engraved on

Third Gen Modern Black RodagonsProductionBerkey Catalogue #
Apo-Rodagon 80/41986-b.1990
Apo-Rodagon-N 80/4b.1990-
Apo-Rodagon-N 90/4 (with -N 45)


for F-Mount


Launched at PMA May 1983, optimised for 20x enlargement

Rodagon-G 50/2.8 announced in Nov 1986



The Apo-Rodagons

150mm+ Apo-Rodagon process lenses quite early . . .

In 1978 (Photokina) the Gauss 6/4 Apo-Rodagon 50/2.8.

In 1982 (at PMA) the Gauss 6/4 Apo-Rodagon 90/4 was launched (reported May 82 in PP).

In 1986 the Apo-Rodagon 80/4 was launched (reported November 86)

In 1990 (or earlier?) the Apo-Rodagon-N 80/4 was launched

The Photographer of May 1996 (page 9) reported ‘new’ 50mm, 80mm, 105mm and 150mm Apo-Rodagons of seven element design (with an additional element in the central gap).



Apo-Rodagon-P (launched 1978)

The Rogonar Family

Rogonar 50/2.8 (triplet) and Rogonar-S 50/2.8 (Tessar 4/3) launched at Photokina 1978.

The Omegarons

Four-element zebras comparable to

The Ysarons


The Eurygons


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