A quirky little macro lens it is, this Novoflex Noflexar 35mm 1:3.5.
Well, it’s not a macro lens in the strict sense of the word because it only goes to 1:2 reproduction ratio (half life-size) on its own without extension or reversal rings but these days most people call this a macro lens anyway. It has a very long throw focussing mount, turning 360º from infinity to 0.4 m. The unique feature here is the way the extra extension is provided: you just pull the barrel at the front to obtain a further 4 click-stopped positions for the barrel to slide forward.
Specifications and pictures
This lens must have been made for Novoflex by another company in Germany, as Novoflex didn’t produce lenses themselves. Dr. Klaus Schmitt claims it was the German company Staeble. And transmission of UV-light is remarkably good for a lens that is not specifically designed for it, according to an article on Dyxum. The rear lens element is very prone to scratching as it protrudes from the barrel, so you’ll want to keep it capped; my sample has some scratches on the rear element, not unexpected when you look at its well-used exterior. The front element is quite well recessed so you won’t need a separate lens hood.
Image quality is not bad at all, although not something special. Here’s a test scene at the widest aperture of f/3.5.
Most of the unsharpness is due to curvature of field which is fairly pronounced: when focussed in the centre, features that are closer are sharp near the edges and corners. In the test scene below the lens was focussed in the centre and you can see in the full-res picture (click on it and enlarge with the cross in the upper right corner) that the tiles somewhere near the lower corners are sharp as well. For three-dimensional objects this is mostly fine, mirrorless cameras allow you to focus almost anywhere in the frame so curvature of field is mostly not an issue. However, forget about this lens if you want to copy a flat object like a book or a poster.
Flare control is not particularly good.
I was pleasantly surprised by the bokeh quality, no harsh outlining in the background.
Some users have reported on the possibility of light leakage when the barrel is extended, so I decided to check for myself.
For the second picture I switched on the light of my iPhone and pointed it at the barrel at a distance of a few centimeters. To put this into perspective: exposure was 3.2 s at f/16 and ISO 6400 in a dimly-lit room, a fairly extreme use case to have a bright light near the barrel while the general lighting is dim. The bright streak in the lower left corner of the last picture is caused by light leakage; I couldn’t prevent that the subject also received some light from the iPhone’s lamp. Put a cloth over the barrel and you’ll be fine just in case the going gets tough, I won’t worry about it.
The Novoflex Noflexar 35mm 1:3.5 is kind of a curiosity and that’s why I got it. I paid € 25 for it which is a good deal compared to the prices it fetches on eBay. To be honest, I wouldn’t spend much more on it: it works fairly well but in terms of image quality it’s nothing special, maybe apart from the surprisingly nice bokeh. Handling is not all that great and a 35mm focal lengths makes for short working distances.