Designed by Dr. Frank G. Back and produced by Voigtlander in
Germany, the 1959 36-82/2.8 Zoomar was the world's first production
zoom for 35mm still cameras. Dr. Back and Zoomar had previously
produced Zooms for TV and movie cameras. Looking back today, it's
amazing how much he got right from the start. Dr. Back succeeded
in obtaining a very useful wide to short tele zoom range, with
a fast 2.8 aperture and a convenient single zoom control ring.
He not only invented the lens, he invented the term "Zoom" as
it applies to 35mm lenses. Prophetically, the 36-82 was introduced
to America at the Philadelphia camera show that also introduced
the Nikon F and Canon Canonflex to the American public.
Today collectors usually associate the 36-82/2.8 Zoomar with
Voigtlander's excellent leaf shutter Bessamatic SLR. Actually
the Zoomar was introduced from day one in both Voigtlander Bessamatic
and Exakta mounts. Later it was also produced in other mounts,
including 42mm screw Contax mount, which would later become known
as Pentax Screw Mount. It was introduced in May 1959, but not
generally available until 1960. Optically, the Zoomar 36-82 was
a great breakthrough, made possible according to Dr. Back by new
rare earth element glasses and computer aided optical designs.
The 36-82/2.8 used 14 elements in 5 groups (3 movable and 2 fixed).
Focusing done by moving the front group of a single element. Standard
close focus is 4 1/2 feet, but two close up lenses were available
-- the Focar A and B -- which provided focus as close as 10 inches.
How did it perform? Not as well as single focal length lenses,
but very adequately for its general purpose intentions.