The Weird 10: Meet the Most Unusual and Expensive Lenses in the World

The Weird 10: Meet the Most Unusual and Expensive Lenses in the World

As a creative artist, I am always looking for new perspectives as a way to improve my work, and usually, when I see something fascinating, an orchestra plays inside me; I crave to try something new. However, not all cravings can be satisfied, simply because they are way too extravagant and unaffordable. Here is a fascinating list of some lenses you might have never came across before.

1. Nikkor 6mm f/2.8 Fisheye

I am a wide angle and fisheye fan, so I couldn't pass across something this cool and bizarre. It is unbelievable, but it does exist. Introduced in 1972 and originally developed for scientific and surveillance purposes, the Nikkor 6mm f/2.8 was the widest lens in the world with its enviable 220-degree viewing angle. This means it can literally see behind itself. However, the lens has been discontinued, but if you're curious, you might find it on eBay sometimes. Check out more on this lens here

Price: $160,000

2. Carl Zeiss 50mm Planar f/0.7

The Carl Zeiss 50mm Planar f/0.7 was created specifically for NASA to view the dark side of the moon. A total of 10 lenses were released. Director Stanley Kubrick had two of these lenses modified to mount onto his Mitchell BNC camera and famously used them to film scenes in the 1975 movie "Barry Lyndon," using only the dim light of candles.

A shot from "Barry Lyndon" showing a scene captured by candlelight using the Zeiss f/0.7 lens.

An interesting fact is that the Germany-based equipment company P+S Technik has announced that they have successfully modified a PS-Cam X35 HD camera to have a BNC-R lens mount that can handle Kubrick’s f/0.7 lenses.

Price: $23 million

3. Canon 5200mm f/14 

The minimum focusing distance of this gigantic lens is 393 ft (120 m), and it weighs 220 lb (100 kg) without its stand. Canon's promotional flyer states:

This is the only ultra-telephoto lens in the world capable of taking photographs of objects 18 to 32 miles away (30 km to 52 km away). Having a focal length of 5200mm, the Canon Mirror Lens 5200mm can obtain one hundred times as large an object image as that of a 50mm lens.

Part of Canon's promotional literature for the lens.

What’s even more fascinating is that if used with a DSLR with a crop factor, the lens is effectively a 8320mm lens. 

Price: $45,000

4. Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 1700mm

Carl Zeiss announced and exhibited a remarkable custom-built 1700mm f/4 medium format telephoto lens weighing 1,243 lbs (564 kg) at the 2006 Photokina show. It was made for a customer with very high demands in long-distance wildlife photography. According to DPReview, the lens utilizes 15 optical elements in 13 groups, with some of the lens blanks weighing more than 55 lbs (25 kg) each, which makes it the largest telephoto lens for non-military applications in the world. 

Price: over $100,000

5. Leica 1600mm f/5.6 Telephoto

Another extraordinary custom-made lens comes from the most prestigious producer of optics in the world, Leica. It was bought by A Qatari Sheikh for an amount in excess of US $2 million. Yes, you read that right: 2 million. It is one of a kind. Unfortunately, there is neither much technical information online or any images taken by it to showcase. The little I could find is that the lens is approximately 1.2 m long (1.55 m with the lens hood attached), has a maximum lens barrel diameter of about 42 cm, and weighs no less than 132 lbs (60 kg). With a focal length of 1600mm, it covers a diagonal angle of view of merely 1.5 degrees. The lens should be compatible with Leica's 1.4x and 2x APO-teleconverters.

Price:  $2,000,000

6. Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6L

Another legendary item from Canon, the beautiful Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6L was born in 1984 and first used at the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California. According to Canon, this is the longest lens in the world with full autofocus capability. It weighs around 36 pounds, is nearly 3 feet long, and is compatible with the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III and 2X III teleconverters to give even more dramatic results. According to B&H

Canon made this lens available by special order only. A $10,000 deposit was required with the order, and manufacturing would only start when several lenses were put on order. Sports Illustrated magazine purchased two 1200mm lenses in the 1990s.

Price: $120,000 

7. Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 APO EX DG

I was shocked to see B&H actually sells this item at the moment; I believed all the things on this list were either discontinued or only available on upon special request to the manufacturer. This is the first 500mm lens with a maximum aperture value of f/2.8! What else do you need? I bet someone who dreams of it won't even notice its significant weight of 34.8 lbs (15.8 kg) and more than 2.36-foot (72-centimeter) length.

Price: $26,000 

8. Rokinon 650-1300mm f/8-16

The affordable yet striking Rokinon 650-1300mm f/8-16 might not be the best choice for low-light situations, but its price tag makes it an amazing option for enthusiasts looking to take their first steps in this telephoto range on a budget. And the miracles don't end on this: the available 2x teleconverter makes it possible to effectively double the focal length of the lens, allowing the photographer to get much closer to the action. 

Price: $280

9.  Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8

Another affordable babe, the Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 haunts me at night. It's a perfect piece to create a variety of images with one lens. Its 180-degree field of view means it's not an everyday use lens, but when used intelligently, it can give some unforgettable results. 

Price: $900

10. Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH

​This 50mm lens must be a dream of any photographer. Considering that having f/1.2 or f/1.4 is great for a prime lens, it's even better that Leica went further and created the Noctilux-M, capable of transmitting crazy amounts of light.

Price: $9,700

Log in or register to post comments

22 Comments

Jon Wolding's picture

I was half-expecting to see some UV lenses on this list... like the UV-Nikkor 105mm f/4.5 and the Hasselblad/Zeiss UV-Sonnar 105mm f/4.3

Emma Grigoryan's picture

great suggestion and I think these deserve another listing , maybe will work on it

Spy Black's picture

You left out the 13mm f/5.6 true rectilinear superwide Nikkor, as well as the 1200-1700 f/5.6-8 Nikkor zoom.

Although your link to the Rokinon is listed as discontinued at B&H, the Samyang labeled version is available at B&H, for $240, no less:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/859186-REG/Rokinon_SY650Z_650Z_650...

I wonder if the Leica 1600mm f/5.6 Telephoto is compatible with their rangefinders...

Alex Cooke's picture

I believe it was an R mount lens, but either way, what a nightmare to use on a rangefinder.

Sean Molin's picture

Leica R-Adapter M! http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/894873-REG/Leica_14624_R_Adapter_M...

But yeah, it'd be impossible to use with the OVF. No frame lines for 1600mm. ;-) You could use live view on the M240, though.

Sean Molin's picture

Ah you beat me to it! This should have been in place of the Canon 1200.

Gil Gamesh's picture

The Leica 50mm - oh how we laughed!

Never seen anyone manage to use this lens well, you only need head over to the Leica Users' Forum to better see what I mean, softer than a babies bottom, no one seems to employ it well and they all seem to coo over it, like a new born, yet look at the images people take with and you'll opt for the 1.4 every time.

Then there is its size, on a dingy M body - just hilarious.

Sean Molin's picture

There are plenty of Leica enthusiasts who prefer the older f/1.0 Noctilux, or even something totally different like the Konica Hexagon or Canon "dreamlens."

Tim Foster's picture

Please don't mention "crop factor" in a technology post and expect to be taken seriously.

So I can't talk about 5x7 reduction backs on 8x10 cameras?

Tim Foster's picture

You can as long as you don't claim you've changed the focal length by changing formats.

Sean Molin's picture

The author correctly used the modifier "effective."

Please don't comment "Please don't mention "crop factor" in a technology post and expect to be taken seriously." and expect to be taken seriously. :)

Just possibly the best feature of the Sigma 200-500mm lens: the, ah, rather unusual reviews it has received on Amazon. To see what I mean, go to Amazon's site, enter the lens' "ASIN" number in the search field, and feast your eyes on the amazing reviews, some of them hilarious. The number: B0013DAPNU (I hope that the fellow who asked whether there's an iPhone adapter for the lens has received a satisfactory answer.)

Mo Pla's picture

I'm not familiar with the technics but why does the 6mm has an fov of 220° and the 4.5mm sigma only 180°? Didn't those to values correlate in terms of the fov?

Emma Grigoryan's picture

you must be very attentive ) this also made me curious, according to BH "This is not suitable for 35mm film SLR cameras or for any digital SLR camera with image sensor bigger than APS-C size, e.g. 5D, 1Ds, 1Ds Mark II or Kodak Pro SLR/c" so basically lens provides the equivalent focal range of approx. 7.2mm when used on supporting cameras .

Sean Molin's picture

Instead of the Canon 1200mm f/5.6, you should have listed the Nikon 1200-1700mm f/5.6-8. It was actually created in response to the Canon, and was designed specifically for shooting a baseball tournament in Japan.

Emma Grigoryan's picture

maybe next time, I can't fit all the possible lenses in a list of 10 :)

Michael Kelly's picture

I truly believe, seeing a great photo for the first time, instantly creates a life-long bond between the viewer and the photographer, where no introduction, explanation or spoken word will ever be needed or required. The "Art" of perfecting your craft through a bigger, wider, or a faster lens is only a matter of perspective. After adding up all the costs, the only true commerce is "creativity". Not everyone will agree, understand or believe in what I have to say, but my "beliefs" don't require them too.

Studio 403's picture

I think I will take one of each. Can I borrow anyone’s credit card?