Shooting the legend: Zeiss Hologon 16mm/f8 with Leica m Monochrom by Dierk Topp

Shooting the legend: Zeiss Hologon 16mm/f8 with Leica m Monochrom

By Dierk Topp

Zeiss Hologon 16mm/f8 on Leica M Monochrom

This lens fascinates me since it was announced in the late sixties in a version as a fixed lens in a Zeiss Ikon body. And some time ago I bought this very special lens with Leica M mount and used it on the Leica M Monocrome. It is a Contax G lens, converted to Leica M mount. The price for one of the few original Hologon 15mm/8 lenses are about 17.000$ (if you find one). My price was less than 3.000€, still a lot but it is for a very special lens.

If you are interested, you may find some interesting information on this site:

The lens has a fixed aperture of f/8 and uses a ND center filter against the severe vignetting making it an effective fixed f/16!

Due to its almost symmetrical construction it has near zero distortion and superior DOF at f/8 and it is ideal for architecture and images for great DOF. The severe color/magenta shift is no problem on the MM.

Zeiss Hologon 16mm/f8

If you are interested, I would like to prepare some explaining text and and as many images, as you want.

My Hologon album is here on flickr:

and I append a few images, to show, what I am talking about 🙂



Zeiss Hologon 16mm/f8 on Leica M Monochrom with center filter

Zeiss Hologon 16mm/f8 on Leica M Monochrom, ND center filter

Zeiss Hologon 16mm/f8 on Leica M Monochrom, ND center filter


  1. Hi. Ive just bought a Contax16mm Hologon and need some advice. How do you filter for b&w film?
    There seems to be no way to attach a color filter. Has anyone found a way around this? Thanks.

  2. Hello, thank you for sharing the brilliant shot.
    If you give me some advice to use Hologon 16mm with Leica MM.

    Q, How are you shooting with this lens on Leica MM?
    I have heard that we can attach the Hologon 16mm which is modified Leica M mount on the MM. Having said that the MM light sensor can not work well due to the back side lens guards.(The sensor will be covered with the lens guard.)
    I was wondering that you modified the lens guard as well… otherwise you are shooting with manual management such as ISO, shutter speed and aperture (not use the A mode)…

    I would appreciate if you would give me your advice.


    • Hi Ino,
      my Hologon is a Contax version, that has been modified with the M-mount. The rear part of the lens looks unmodified to me.
      I use it completely normal like any other Leica lens, A and M mode, sometimes with ISO auto.
      You have to correct the dark corners or edges left and right even when using the ND center filter with PP.
      I tried gelatin red filter, but that seems to be not usable due to reflections and dirt on the filter. The results look ugly.
      I hope, that will help, otherwise com back and ask 🙂

      It is a fantastic lens, but I did not use it for a while, since I invested in the WATE as well :-)))
      The WATE can use filters. You may find pictures with the WATE on the MM (all with red filter) and on the Sony A7R in my flikr album:

      • HI dierk,
        Thank you for your prompt advice.
        Honestly, I have had the G Hologon16mm now, and am planning to modified the mount to M-Mount. I am relieved to hear that even though the rear lens guard still has been remained, A and M mode are working.
        Anyhow, I am going to modify the mount to M mount.

        Then,the photos shot by WATE are quite impressive. Especially,Dark balance, sharpness and total atmosphere, etc…

        Again, thank you for your advice and it is helpful for me.


  3. The following may be interesting for people who would like to try “Hologon-like” angles of view with an A7 without the “Hologon interfering with shutter” and “Voigtlaender Heliar Color Cast” issues and not pay too much:

    The Canon FD (FDn or Chrome Ring) 17mm f/4 is working quite nicely on the A7 – low distortion, little CA (does in most cases not require correction in post-processing), reasonably good corners, easy and cheap do adapt, and not too expensive to procure. It is already useable at f/4, and becomes quite decent at f/5,6..8, before diffraction asks for its toll, but f/11 and f/16 are perfectly useable.

    Alternatively one can try the Samyang 14mm f/2,8 – corners are a bit mushy, even when stopped down, but the centre is ok even at 2,8… a bit of (correctable) CA, and a reasonable price are to be mentioned. Distortion is significantly higher than with Hologon or FDn 17mm…

    Both the Canon and Samyang lenses have significant vignetting wide open, less so stopped down – and it can be addressed easily in post-processing.

    I tried both, and stayed with the FD 17mm f/4 (floating element version, FDn mount)…



  4. All you folks out there. Had the old Hologon Cameara in orig case-bought it NEW from Altman Camera, Chicago. Stupidly sold it years ago (/filter and grip). Had Zeiss/Leitz Hologon for my M 4’s, in my “brilliance”, sold it too. Went to Contax G’s, have ALL their lenses, including a MINT HOLOGON. Will NEVER sell it !!! It is a GREAT lens–for the G (film) and as long as there is film, ARNOLD (me) is not going to sell another of his lenses–unless they are Nikon long glass….which are too heavy for me to still hand hold. I REGRET EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT THAT I HAVE EVER SOLD !!!! Have currently “sponsored” John Minnicks rehabbing 3, 4×5 Graflexes so I can again use the wonderful film of yore.
    Am digital also, but not a great lover of the new way of trying to get the same results as we did in the old way.

  5. Hi, so you used a M converted mount version of this lens on the A7R/A7, but typically the Contax G to NEX mounts are a little deeper. Do you know if the native version of this lens will work with the A7/A7R?

    • I am sure, that no mount what so ever will work, as it only depends on the distance of the lens to the film or sensor. That distance has to be constant, no matter, what mount or adapter you use. The lens just reaches too far into the camera and ends very close to the sensor, that it blocks the shutter. Besides that the color shift in the edges are so severe (besides the vignetting) that it I would only use it for B&W.

  6. Back in 2006 I bought one of Olympus’s 7-14mm superzoom, which at the wide end, delivers 114 degrees AOV, the same as 14mm on 35mm format. I bought that, because of seeing a review of the Hologon in the British Journal of Photography when it first appeared.

  7. I got the Sony A7R and tried the Hologon on it.

    Bad news:
    The shutter is so far in front of the sensor, that it blocks the shutter!
    Don’t try it!!!
    You get “camera error” and the only solution is: take out the battery :-((
    here is the A7R with the Hologon, yes I could mount it:

    and I tried to take a picture of the shutter:

    I tried to get the shutter during action and used my IR remote control on the A7R and the NEX-6, witch should take the picture – but the timing seems not to match – no shutter on the picture 🙂

    The test pictures of the A7R with my other lenses are here:

  8. I own one of those lenses, but it is sleeping in a cabinet since I don’t shoot film anymore. I wish that I could adapt it to use it on the new A7/A7r..

  9. Gorgeous work, Dierk. I’m surprised how well this works on the MM, and it’s good to know it doesn’t interfere with the shutter! I own the G version and had been wondering if this would ever work on a digital camera.

    BTW, for those that might be interested, one of these lenses is presently available in m-mount on eBay for $2399.

    You can also buy the original Contax G version for about $700 – $1000 dollars cheaper, and contact Don Goldberg @ DagCamera to see if he would be willing to convert it to m-mount (he used to do them). I believe JapanExposures also offers this service.

  10. thanks again for your comments 🙂
    two of my answers are still on “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” since yesterday?
    They include links, is that the problem, Steve?

    • Some comments are automatically moderated. When I log on I see them and clear them as long as they are not spam or personal attacks. On weekends I am not online nearly as much as during the week so it could take a day on weekends.

  11. My only experience with the 16 mm FOV is with a cheap 10-24 zoom on an APS-C Canon, so to see these results is pretty breath-taking! Incredible lens and lovely images, thanks Dierk. Maybe I could give myself one as a retirement present – only 8 years to save up though!!

  12. thanks very much for all your positive comments!
    I noticed this morning, that Steve posted my mail. 50.000 clicks on flickr yesterday! 🙂
    I planed to write a bit more details and send it as a final post.
    I will try to answer your questions later today and give some more informations
    Got my Sony A7R yesterday and that little thing keeps me exited for the moment.

  13. Nice photos, lovely tonality, even on web JPG’s.

    What is the advantage for you which attracted you to the of the Hologon verses a Voigtländer 15/4.5?

    The Voigtländer is quite compact (especially the LTM version), faster, has a controllable aperture, is sharp, also has no distortion, cost used 1/48th of the original 15/8 M Mount Hologon, or 1/10th of the cheaper Zeiss 16/8.

    I paid €350 used for my LTM 15 f4.5 and it is a fantastic lens. It is also nice to have a such an nice lens for a price where you dont feel a need to baby it worry about loss of value if it is scratched.

    I would be interested to hear what advantage the hologon offers , other than pancake form or exclusivity?

    • the advantage of this Hologon is, that I was dreaming of this lens since about 50 years :-))
      and it has near NO distortions!!
      you can not compare it with any other lens in this respect.

    • I tried it today. It is not too long (it has to have the same distance to the sensor like in other cameras)
      it shows very severe color shift on the live few,
      BUT: when I hit the shutter release, I got “camera error” and I had to take the lens off and the battery out. It seems to interfere with the shutter!!
      So, don’t try it!

  14. Also had the orig. Zeiss Hologon camera, new, case, filter, etc !Sold that years ago. Not the worst thing I ever did. I also owned one of the “holy grails” of cars, which I sold in ’71 oe ’72. Never had poor taste. (only poor judgment) retrospectively. A

  15. I had both the Leica M version, which I sold years ago, and still have the Contax version and finder. It is NFS ! These 18’s are both fabulous. I still have working Contax bodies on which I can use them WITH FILM.! Never considered converting them, but I guess that is possible.
    Whose conversion kit did you use ?

  16. Truely impressive images in your flickr album, Dierk. This is a great piece of equipment, used in a very competent way! I just love it.

  17. I have known about this lens for some time and of course would love one.
    These pics have beautiful extended tonality and dynamic range.
    I love this type of B&W. A real film like look.
    That Monochrom is nice.
    So all I need is $11,000 and I too can have this set up. LOL!

  18. Lovely. I worked in a camera shop many years ago in NYC. An original Hologon kit camera came in one day.. First time I ever saw one and got to handle it as well. Beautifully made. I have one of these lenses for my Contax G2. Haven’t converted it to M mount yet though.

    • “. . . most beautiful . . .” I really don’t get this kind of comment. I have no quibble if you say it is a “beautiful” lens, but it is certainly not the most beautiful wide angle lens in the world. As odd as it is to point out cost considerations with a Leica lens, the Leica 18mm f3.8 is less money, has about the same angle of view, a full range of apertures, vignettes much less, is very sharp, has little or no distortion, can be shot on a M or M9 because there is little or no color shift, and is beautiful too. I own the Leica 18mm and I can actually shoot it on my M — at f3.8, or f8, or f16 as I choose — while I cannot shoot the Zeiss at all. The Leica 18mm would still be my preference if I shot monochrome because shooting at f16 all the time (with the ND filer to control vignetting) is too impractical to make this a good choice for any camera unless you always shot in a studio or outside in the direct sun. Indeed, I’ll bet the Zeiss 18mm ZM would perform as well at f16 plus it has a full range of apertures and costs less than 1/10th as much as the 16mm for about the same angle of view (about 100 degrees vs. 106 for the 16mm). Thanks to Dierk for posting this. I enjoyed reading it.

      • thanks G. and M.
        I agree, “. . . most beautiful . . .” can be seen under different angles of view.
        For me it was the “most interesting” wide angle lens since about 50 years. I loved super wides since I started to take pictures (1956), but at that time 35mm was wide 🙂
        My first super wide was the Super Takumar 17mm fish eye, witch I bought in 1970 for more than a months salary.

        The Hologon has an effective f/16 with the ND filter, but it still is an f/8 concerning diffraction!
        f/16 on a digital sensor will give you serious diffraction, even on film. On 36 MPix f/5.6 is the limit befor you get diffraction, as Lloyd Chambers mentioned some time ago for the D800E.

  19. Nice photographs mate.
    Never been keen on this Lens, as I found it too wide, and too limited in Aperture.
    I also found it to be horrifyingly expensive (as you know)
    I do remember some absolutely brilliant photographs made with this lens on the old ContaxG Pages site – I always preferred the 21mm Biogon myself.

    Your Flickr page shows me that you are getting the most out of this – excellent photographs, and beautiful tones and effects

  20. Wow!!! There are no distortions, I guess that justifies the price. Thank you for sharing – excellent set on Flickr 😉

    • the Hologon is in my personal “lens heaven” since almost 50 years, that’s why 🙂
      I got the WATE a few weeks later and love it! I bought red and yellow filter for it and use it on the MM as well.
      On the new A7/R it seems to be the only super wide without any problems with color shift.
      I just loaded some test images on flickr today:
      I love it for real practical shooting.

    • on a wide 16mm at f/8 you can not expect a bokeh, you get some sort of bokeh, when you focus real close (like 50cm, what I did by accident) but I would not call it bokeh.
      for bokeh you should go for the new CV Ultron 21mm/1.8!

  21. wow… never saw this lens before. it’s – i don’t know. looks very special.
    the three posted pictures are very dimensional. don’t know how else to put it.

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