24. June 2024In Fast, Germany, ProjectionBy Espen Susort

The Neokino lenses have been growing in popularity these last few years for their beautiful rendering and dreamy bokeh. The most rare and most sought after ones are the most light sensitive ones at around f/1.6. These came in most common formats of the time, being 16mm and 35mm film. Neokino was first released in 1927, which was at a time of great innovation in the various German optical industries.

1927 is the same year Zeiss and Emil Busch were reportedly further strengthened by “cross-shareholding”. Later, Busch sourced the lenses from Zeiss. It’s not quite known if this included only photographic lenses or if it also included their projection lenses. Zeiss at the time didn’t make anything similar to the Neokino (Kinostar stopped at f/2?), so I assume that Emil Busch continued making their own projection lenses even after 1927.

In the earliest ad from 1927 I could find it reads as follows:

“Extraordinary in its effectiveness, cannot be surpassed anymore.”
Thus, an expert recently stated unprompted about
The special lens for cinema projection.
with concave mirror arc lamps and half-watt lamps.
You will judge the same once you have used the Neokino lens.

Special brochures and catalog about our other projection optics are available for free.

Der Kinematograph (August 1927):

“Converting the well-known projection lens similar to the Petzval lens, with modest error corrections, into a sufficiently powerful anastigmat appears almost impossible with the current design approach. Nevertheless, our highly developed photographic optics have mastered this challenge as well. In the “Neokino projection lens,” E. Busch in Rathenow delivered a lens with significantly adequate anastigmatic correction, which externally (in terms of lenses and their arrangement) does not differ in any way from other projection lenses of the same company and is only noticeable to the expert due to its larger objective diameter.”

In 1935 “Deutsche optische Wochenschrift und Central-Zeitung für Optik und Mechanik” writes about the new development of the 16mm film optics:

“Emil Busch A.-G., the parent company of the German optical industry, was able to limit itself to a small, clear exhibition of its special products; for the name ‘Busch-Neokino and Neohohlspiegel’ is known to experts around the world for its best qualities, and the quality of Busch products is well-known from personal experience. This is not an exaggeration. Optics were exhibited from three main areas:

Professional Cinema Optics, i.e., all optical accessories for equipping cinema theater machines, including Neokino lenses of all sizes, slide lenses, Neohohlspiegel (Neo concave mirrors), spherical concave mirrors, para concave mirrors, sound film optics, auxiliary condensers, etc. Particularly interesting here is the development of split-image devices, which have shrunk from almost 40 cm to just under 5 cm while even improving their performance. Vario-Neokino and Polyneokino, the two special models with variable focal lengths, complemented the professional cinema material.

Background Projection, which is used not only on theater stages but also in film studios, and therefore the well-known projection anastigmats and wide-angle lenses for background, cloud, and scenery projection were also exhibited.

“Schmalfilm” (16mm film) optics, a specialty area that is also increasingly attracting the interest of professional cinema operators. Here, Busch has developed its world-famous aspheric condensers in various sizes, its well-known small film Neokino lenses f/1.6, as well as enhancement mirrors and sound film optics to such an extent that these parts achieve top performance in terms of lighting technology.”

In Camera Volume 14 (1936) it writes about the newly developed Bauer Selecton 16mm film projector:

“The Stuttgart company Eugen Bauer has created a high-intensity projector under the name “Selekton S,” which can be used for the presentation of 16 mm sound films and silent films, and meets the guidelines of the (German) Reich Office for Educational Film. The device is equipped with a 375-watt lamp that consumes 5 amperes. The illumination optics consist of a concave mirror and an aspherical condenser. When using the lens supplied as standard (Busch-Neo-Kino F: 1.6), images 3 to 4 meters wide can be projected at the prescribed brightness. This lens is available in focal lengths of 35, 50, and 65 mm. The aperture is interchangeable (two- and three-bladed). The general design of the projector resembles that of theater machines; the small film device also matches in that it operates with a Maltese cross mechanism. The machine is also designed for still projection and reverse playback. Ozaphan film can be shown using the “Selekton S.” — Under the name “Selekton TS,” the projector is delivered as a complete sound and picture apparatus in three cases, and unlike other German sound small film projectors, it is equipped not with a sound film device, but with its own sound equipment from the manufacturer (Bauer-Lorenz amplifier and speaker). Incidentally, the same device is also available for 17.5 mm film.”

The name Neokino derives from their earlier Emil Busch Model KI and Kino which also were classic Petzval lenses. These were made at least as early as 1913, where one source (The Bioscope – 1913) refers to these lenses as “are already very widely known”. The earliest source I could find mentioning these KI and Kino lenses from Emil Busch was 1912.

So from these early sources it seems like the Neokino is a slight upgrade from their older Ki and Kino projection lenses, with anastigmatic correction. The big difference came later as stated in 1935 when they made the f/1.6 aperture series for 16mm and 35mm film projectors.

I was fortunate to find my Neokino lenses on a 1936 Bauer Selecton 16mm projector. You can read through the manual for this projector here. This projector usually comes with the Neokino 50mm f/1.6 lens, which is another incredible little lens. The 50mm f/1.6 is believed to be the standard lens the projector came with, and you could upgrade to longer focal lengths like the 65mm lens. This will naturally make the Neokino 65mm f/1.6 far more rare.

In one english Emil Busch ad from 1937 it’s stated that the Neokino “Super-aperture” projection lenses can be found from 35mm to 75mm. This is referring to the f/1.6 series of the Neokino lenses.

Lens adaption:

Both lenses are essentially the same lens, with minor differences.
The Neokino 65mm f/1.6 lens is heavy, around 500 g, which is a lot for a 16mm projection lens. It’s made of solid brass which has been nickel plated. If you wondered why you would nickel plate brass, it’s generally because it improves corrosion resistance and surface durability. Beware if you want to clean the barrel of these lenses to not use metal polishing compounds because it will remove the plating really fast, at least the ones I’ve tried. The Neokino 50mm f/1.6 is very lightweight at 100 g, and is made of Aluminium.

Both lenses use the standard size of 32.8mm for the bottom section of the lens. The front of the Neokino 65/1.6 is 52.5mm, and the Neokino 50/1.6 is 42.5mm which are both standardized sizes.

If you’re not picky about adapters and how the final adaption will look, they can both easily be adapted to modern mirrorless cameras. For the 50mm simply use a 42.5mm to M52 clamp and attach it to a generic chinese made M52 to M52 focusing helicoid. And from there a simple M52 to whatever system you’re using. For the 65mm it would be a 52.5mm to M58 clamp adapter.

If you’re like me and wanting a bit more aesthetically pleasing adaption this is how I did it:
I modified an M32*1mm female to M42*1mm male adapter ring to fit the smooth 32.8mm barrel of the lenses. I put the piece on my homemade very rudimentary lathe (literally just a handheld drill with a cheap small chuck) and carefully removed the threads of the M32 section of the adapter. If you do it carefully and don’t take away too much you can press fit this part perfectly to the lens. I’m not worried this part will one day slip and fall off the lens as I struggled to press this adapter onto the lens. And frankly I can’t get it off now, so I know it’s very sturdy and safe. I don’t like using glue because I don’t want to make it hard for future owners to redo anything I do to my lenses. With the lenses now M42 mount I have many options as M42 is very versatile. I often use a very nice Pentax variable close-up ring for M42 because it’s a bit higher quality from what you can buy of M42 to M42 focusing helicoids from China. On the Neokino 65mm f/1.6 I often use a M52 to M52 focusing helicoid to not risk obstructing any light to the camera sensor for the GFX. Both lenses can easily achieve infinity focus with no big problems.

Lens characteristics and performance:

The illumination circle of the Neokino 65mm f/1.6 covers GFX at infinity and the 50mm f/1.6 covers full-frame. Technically the image circle is way smaller, but for people like us who use projection lenses we generally only care about the actual illumination circle. At infinity you can clearly see wild distortions, where the field curvature is so extreme the bokeh turns from the classic swirly bokeh you would expect from a Petzval lens to triangles at the edges of the frame.

I’d characterize the image of having 3 stages from the center and out to the edges. The center part is very sharp, with little distortion of any kind. Then you can start seeing the swirly pattern in the bokeh caused by the field curvature becoming stronger and stronger until the third part where it turns into these triangle shaped bokeh where nothing is sharp.

Generally you’d use both of these lenses as a portrait lens, where you don’t see those triangles because of your closer focus. And it’s at this focus range the lenses in my opinion excel. They’re probably the sharpest Petzval lenses I own, at least at this extreme aperture. The fact that the 65mm f/1.6 actually cover GFX is very unlikely to me, as I’ve only ever had two other 65mm lenses for 16mm film that covers the GFX sensor, that being the Astro-Kino VII 65mm f/1.4 from Astro-Berlin and AGFA Ocellar 6.5cm f/2.2, which were both made in the same period. The similarly designed Hugo Meyer Kinon Superior 65mm f/2.2 being very slim, only covers full-frame at infinity.

The lens flare is pretty boring, as it is with most Petzval lenses, if you get too much light inside these it will lose all contrast in the whole picture. Using a lens hood would be highly advisable, if not stand in the shadow to obscure the sun from directly hitting the lens. It will generally lose a lot of contrast by just having the sky reflect down in for example a dark forest.

My favorite of the two is definitely the Neokino 65mm f/1.6 lens simply because it covers GFX and is made from better materials. The 35mm lens equivalent is 50mm f/1.3, which makes it even more fun compared to the Neokino 50mm f/1.6. Check out my own 35mm lens equivalent calculator made for vintage lenses and formats.


Being almost 90 years old lenses, I gotta say they’ve become one of my favorite lenses, especially the 65mm f/1.6. I’d say of old 16mm projection lenses this is one of the best performers in terms of image sharpness when you factor in how light sensitive it is. In the future I might do a comparison between the only other lens that’s similar that I have: the Astro-Kino VII 65mm f/1.4. What I really love about using Petzval lenses for portrait use is the way everything but the center is not sharp and the swirly bokeh that all comes together to frame a face quite well in a very flattering way.


  • Sharp center
  • Big illumination circle
  • Brass body
  • Rare and German made
  • Perfect for portrait use
  • Compact lens
  • Easy to adapt
  • Swirly bokeh


  • Triangle bokeh at the edges of the image
  • Extreme field curvature makes it hard to compose
  • Prone to severe flaring and therefor loss of contrast
  • Limited use