Mark Chappell , Apr 15, 2004; 10:25 a.m.
I've no direct experience with these two lens designs, but FWIW, I used the Leica 560 f5/6 Telyt/Televit combination for years. Somewhat like the Novoflex -- the lens has a shoulder stock and a pistol grip with a release trigger that, when squeezed, lets you push/ pull the camera to establish focus. This works better than you might expect and there are thumbwheels for fine focus. This lens is quite sharp and the combination permits pretty rapid focus.
However, I've been using modern AF stabilized lenses for the past couple of years, and they are light-years ahead of the Telyt + Televit in all the critical areas: focus is faster and more accurate (especially for moving subjects), stabilization is a vast improvement over even the best handgrip/shoulder stock combination (sans stabilization),and -- most important -- current optical designs are far superior.
I have a friend who has used the Novoflex system (400 mm head) for many years. He likes it -- it's better for quick focus than the Telyt/Televit and with the built-in bellows it can achieve VERY close focus -- but it's not up to current standards in either focus speed or optical quality. I assume that the modern Leica APO lens heads are superb optically but as you say they are extremely costly. Also, they don't autofocus and aren't stabilized, and for wildlife work those are very significant detriments, IMHO.