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 Ysaron / Omegaron Family (1961-1978)

Rodenstock’s compact Tessar enlarger lens range was launched in 1961: its USP the ‘unique rare earth’ optical construction – including a single Lanthanum element. The lens was an all-metal affair, with large knurled aluminium control rings and a black nose, featuring circular 10- and 15-blade diaphragams. In some respects these models [here designated V1] are the most desirable for image capture, with very smooth bokeh that doesn’t change character significantly at any aperture. The basic formula remained unchanged until the Ysarons were phased out in favour of the Rogonar-S series at in 1978.

Rodenstock marketed their Tessar in two versions: Ysaron was the company’s generic name (showing its roots in the Ysar Tessar taking lenses of the pre-war period), but in the 1960s and 1970s the Italian manufacturer Omega was so influential in the enlarger market that it was able to broker a preferential relationship with Rodenstock to sell these lenses (especially in the American market) as Omegarons. We find an Omegaron for every version of an Ysaron – with the exception of the 60mm and 180mm focal lengths, which were exclusively Ysaron. Tracking versions of the Ysaron/Omegarons over time, we note that in certain periods, and/or for certain OEM end-uses, these lenses were not always serialled.

While we’re paying attention to names, Delta differentiates subsequent generations of Ysaron / Omegaron according to key features. For instance, the first generation of black-bodied ‘zebra’ Ysarons follow the convention of the [V1] by hyphenating the brand name: ie, ‘Rodenstock-Ysaron’ and ‘Rodenstock-Omegaron’. In the silver-bodied [V1], it always denotes a circular diaphragm; in the black-bodied [V2], it often indicates the presence of a scalloped six-bladed diaphragm that creates distinctive ‘ninja-star’ bokeh highlights at wide (but not wide open) aperture settings.

Across its seventeen year lifespan, early models had circular diaphragms in silver barrels and were always serialled. 1965 saw the introduction of facelifted models with the more common black ‘zebra’ design: first generation models still had hyphenated brand names and scalloped six-blade diaphragms. A step-change in 1970 lenses saw hyphens omitted from Rodenstock-Ysaron and Rodenstock-Omegaron, and the simultaneous introduction of illuminated aperture windows and a curved five-blade aperture. OEM serial-free models become more common at this time too. Final production (c.1974-1978) had slimmer, flatter fascias and serial numbers vanish entirely.

Ysaron/Omegaron ModelProductionElementsCatalogue
25mm f44 / 3Ysaron:
35mm f44 / 3Ysaron:
50mm f3.5 [V1]
50mm f3.5 [V2]
50mm f3.5 [V3]
50mm f4.5 [V4]
50mm f4.5 [V5]
4 / 3Ysaron:
60mm f4.5Ysaron: 1965-1978
Omegaron not available
4 / 3Ysaron:
75mm f4.54 / 3Ysaron:
90mm f4.54 / 3Ysaron:
105mm f4.54 / 3Ysaron:
135mm f4.54 / 3Ysaron:
150mm f4.54 / 3Ysaron:
180mm f4.5Ysaron: 1965-1978
Omegaron not available
4 / 3Ysaron:
210mm f4.54 / 3Ysaron:

The Trinar Family


Trinar ModelProductionElementsCatalogue
50mm f4 (M32.5 mount)1977 catalogue3 / 3
50mm f4 (M39 mount)3 / 3
75mm f4.5 (M32.5 mount)3 / 3
75mm f4.5 (M39 mount)3 / 3
105mm f4.5 (M39 mount)3 / 3

The Rogonar Family (1978-2000+)

At Photokina 1978 Rodenstock announced a new product range that grouped their lower-end products under one umbrella brand: Rogonar. The basic Rogonars were a cross between the obsoleted Trinar models and the cost-cut EL-Omegars. While making the junior triplets sound more substantial, it blurred the distinction between them and the superior four-element Tessars (previously Ysaron/Omegaron) that became known, in recomputed form, as Rogonar-S. Both Rogonar and Rogonar-S standard 50mm lenses immediately benefited from a half-stop speed boost to a maximum aperture of f2.8.

The Rogonar range comprised just two models: the 50/2.8 and a 70/4.5. However, during this period, Rodenstock kept another triplet design on the books: the Omega-marketed Rodenstock EL-Omegars. In the US in 1983, the RRP of the 50mm f3.5 EL-Omegar [Cat 455-110] was $36, whereas Rodenstock’s faster triplet – the Rogonar 50/2.8 [Cat 452-220] was $57, still half the price of the Rogonar-S 50/2.8 [Cat 452-203] at $115. For comparison, the six-element Rodagon 50/2.8 [Cat 452-316] was $185 and the Apo-Rodagon (pre-N) 50/2.8 [Cat 452-340] was $375.

Rogonar ModelProductionElementsCatalogue
50mm f2.81978-2000+3 / 3452-220
75mm f4.5not yet in 19833 / 3
Rogonar-S Model
25mm f4before 19834 / 3453-201
35mm f4before 19834 / 3452-202
50mm f2.81978-2000+4 / 3452-203
60mmnot yet in 1983
75mm f4.5before 19834 / 3452-205
90mm f4.5before 19834 / 3452-206
105mm f4.5before 19834 / 3452-207
135mm f4.5before 19834 / 3452-208
150mm f4.5before 19834 / 3452-209

The Eurygons

Wide angle lenses: 40mm present in 1977, 60mm and 80mm about to be launched. Renamed Rodagon-WA in 1983.

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