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The Cristar Collapsible 5cm F2

June 15, 2017

I recently had the chance to purchase a Fuji Photo collapsible Cristar 5cm F2 on eBay at a favorable price. I knew nothing about this lens when I saw it for sale, but I did know that vintage M39 lenses from Fuji were all fairly uncommon so I took a risk and bought it right away. As it turns out, the Cristar 5cm F2 is not only uncommon, but actually rare. In fact very little information about it is actually available on the Web, so I will try to relate my experiences (so far) with this interesting lens.

When the lens arrived the glass and cosmetic condition look quite good, but the iris action was frozen so I took it to my camera technician for a CLA and now everything is smooth and normal. Here are some photos of my Cristar (SN# 411331).

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cristar-3

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Here are some specs on the Cristar:

Weight: About 7.2 ounces ( 204 grams)
Filter Thread: No thread – Appears to use 42mm slip-on filters, but not verified
Extension from camera body at infinity focus: 1.67″ (42 mm)
Elements: Unkown
Minimum Aperture: F12.5, non-detented stops

One interesting aspect of the Cristar are the engraved iris selections of: 2, 2.2, 3.2, 4.5, 6.3, 9, and 12.5. These are of atypical by today’s standards, which associates this lens chronologically with an era when there were no standard iris setting (perhaps the early 1950’s). Such a fast maximum aperture setting is also consistent with films in use in the early 50’s, which overall were considerably slower than films today. In that era an F2 lens like the Cristar would have been a rather fast lens.

The lens has no front filter thread. I measured slightly less than a 42mm diameter on the outer knurled front ring of the lens, suggesting the use of 42mm slip-on filters. I believe 42mm filters were used at one point by Zeiss for Contax rangefinder lenses, although I think there were some slip-on fittings for at least some versions of the Summitar.

My impressions of the Cristar physically is that it is quite similar to the Leica Summitar which I once owned. In fact one may reasonably assume it is a copy of the Summitar to some degree. We can see there are a number of unanswered questions regarding this lens. Among them are when and how many were made? Were they sold as a stand-along product, or were they made for some particular M39 body? Were there any accessories sold for it such as filters or hoods? Anyone who might have such information is particularly welcome to comment!

Of course another question would be, how does this lens perform? Is it comparable to the Summitar or is it difference. The Summitar was a very sharp lens with a modern character, which in my opinion approaches the performance of its immediate descendant the renowned Leica 50/2 Summicron. To help understand the optical quality of the Cristar, I tested it with my Tower 48 M39 body (also reviewed in this blog).

Here are a few shots taken with Arista 100 and processed with Kodak HC110 (dilution B) and scanned on my Canoscan 8800F. No sharpening of the scanned images was done although I made some slight adjustments to the contrast and brightness in post processing. The exposure times were not recorded, but generally the lens was fairly closed down for the daylight shots, and nearly open (or fully open) for the interior shots (natural light).

I’ll leave it to the reader to make his evaluation of the above snapshots as far as lens performance is concerned, but my impressions are that optically the lens is better than I actually expected. In fact the performance, while perhaps not quite on a par with the Summitar is quite good (see Ken Rockwell’s excellent Web site for a nice review of the Summitar). I plan to do more testing soon and post the results here — perhaps with color film.

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