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Thread started 28 Apr 2005 (Thursday) 13:53
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Zeiss Jena lenses, how to buy them.

 
rdenney
Rick "who is not suited for any one title" Denney
2,399 posts
Joined Jun 2003
Apr 28, 2005 13:53 |  #1

I have received several requests by private message for specific information on how to buy and use the Zeiss Jena lenses, and so I think I'll answer them all at once here.

First, a very short history:

After World War II, the Zeiss lens factory in Jena found itself in the Russian sector. (Germany was divided amongst the four victorious powers, with the Russian sector becoming East Germany, and the French, British, and American sectors merging into West Germany.) Many of the key scientists escaped, with American help, into the western sector. They setup up a new factory in Oberkochen, and that factory now produces Zeiss optics for high-end cameras, among many other things. Some of the tooling and the designs went to the Ukraine, and were used to develop a line of Soviet lenses following the classic Zeiss designs. Those who remained continued to operate the Jena factory in East Germany.

In the Communist world, Zeiss Jena optics were called "Carl Zeiss Jena" and used their traditional lens designations, including Sonnar, Biometar and Flektogon. In the west, it depended on the country. In the U.S., Zeiss Jena was not allowed to call themselves "Zeiss", and the products exported to the U.S. were labeled Jenoptik (in the case of binoculars) and "aus Jena" in the case of camera lenses. Zeiss Oberkochen had also been given rights to the lens family names, so the Zeiss Jena lenses were marked "s" for Sonnar, "Bm" for Biometar, and "f" for Flektogon (I'm going on fuzzy memory in the case of the Flek). In England and parts of Europe, they were allowed to use "Carl Zeiss Jena", but still used the abbreviated family names. In still other places, they labeled them just like they did in the Communist world. (Where Zeiss Oberkochen was not allowed to use "Zeiss", which was everywhere at first, they used "Opton". Thus, you'll see late 40's Rolleiflexes with Opton lenses on them.)

So, a Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar might be called a "Carl Zeiss Jena s" or an "aus Jena s" and be exactly the same lens. There is no quality difference in the different labels and it should not enter the buying decision.

The Zeiss Jena Sonnar is the same formula as the Zeiss Oberkochen Sonnar and exhibits the same qualities. The Flektogon is similar to the Distagon, and the Biometar is a modified Planar formula just like nearly every double-gauss normal lens made since the demise of the Tessar.

Carl Zeiss Jena was absorbed into VEB Pentacon at some point in the 60's, as I recall. Pentacon also owned the Ihagee (pre-war Exakta) factory and also the Pentacon factory that made Praktica cameras. Thus, Zeiss Jena made lenses primarily for the Praktica camera lines. All the Jena lenses use Schott glass just like their Oberkochen counterparts.

The Zeiss Jena lenses were made in four basic finishes. The first has all shiny aluminum, often with a leather band grip on the focus ring. These were made from about 1956 to 1963, and were all single coated. The second was black with a hard plastic focus ring that has raised ovals on it, made from '61 to '63, and single coated. The third type is called the "zebra" and was made from 1963 to 1967 in large quantities. They are black with alternating bands of bright aluminum on the control rings. They are also single-coated.

The fourth type is all black, either painted or anodized (I have both). They were made from 1967 to 1978 with single coatings, and from 1978 to about 1990 with multicoating. The multicoated Zeiss Jena lenses are marked "MC" with very, very few exceptions. The black MC lenses have a mechanical slide switch to change the lens from auto diaphragm to manual diaphram. That makes a handy preset switch--set the aperture to what you want, focus, switch to manual, set the exposure (or let the camera do it for you) and shoot. The lastest versions had electrical contacts for the Praktica EE, but these are not needed by us and should not be part of the buying decision.

So, the best lenses to buy are those with an all-black body marked "MC", with or without the EE contacts, and without regard to "aus Jena" versus "Carl Zeiss Jena" or "Sonnar" versus "s", etc.

Zeiss Jena built lenses primarily in two mounts (there were some old ones in the Contax rangefinder mounts, but I'll ignore those): M42 and Pentacon Six. These were the mounts used by VEB Pentacon, which owned Zeiss Jena. The Pentacon Six camera was a medium format camera that was the forerunner of the Exakta 66 (which remained in production until about 1999 after being sold off to Schneider in 1992 or so), and the lenses made for them include Flektogons in 50 and 65mm, Biometars in 80 and 120mm, and Sonnars in 180 and 300mm. All were f/2.8 lenses except the Flek 50 and the Sonnar 300, which were f/4 lenses. The 65 was never made in the black, MC version.

Zeiss Jena also made lenses for 35mm Pentacon cameras, most of which were marketed as "Praktica". They include the 35mm Flektogon and the 135mm Sonnar. Longer Sonnars were the medium-format lenses with M42 mounts on them. The 180 is frequently available as the "Olympia Sonnar", but usually that label is applied to an old lens. There were probably others that I have not explored--my focus as been in the medium format area.

It is quite easy to get adaptors for both mounts to go on Canon EF-mount cameras. These adaptors can be bought from DVDTechnik, at

http://www.dvdtechnik.​com/other/adapters/ada​pters.htmexternal link

The M42/EOS adaptor is $18 and the Pentacon Six/EOS adaptor is $35. I bought all my adaptors from them and they are reputable. (They also sell other interesting adaptors, such as an adaptor for Nikon lenses--with manual controls, of course--on EOS cameras). All these adaptors are non-electronic. You'll need to focus manually, set the aperture manually, and stop it down when you meter and shoot. Av works fine, and will set the shutter speed automatically.

By the way, the M42 mount originated with Pentacon and was used from the early 50's. Pentax, desiring to tap into the large number of lenses made for this mount, used it also and made it so famous that most folks call it the "Pentax screw mount" or "Universal screw mount". It's the same mount.

So, in summary, get the adaptors from DVDTechnik, and the Zeiss Jena lenses from ebay, searching for "Jena" to sweep up both aus Jena and Carl Zeiss Jena labels, and all the various lens families. You'll get lots of hits for binoculars and microscopes, so filter it down to camera lenses. But the search is part of the fun.

Several East German companies made lenses for the Praktica, and all were eventually consumed by VEB Pentacon. A useful one from our perspective was Meyer Gorlitz, though they were eventually labeled Pentacon and those are the newer lenses we would be interested in. They made preset telephoto lenses in 300 and 500mm with interchangeable mounts. The only one worth getting is the 500/5.6 Pentacon Prakticar MC, which is multicoated, pretty fast, very big, and VERY heavy. With a stout monopod, though, you can go shooting sports, and if anyone laughs at you, you can kill them with it, heh, heh. They come in both mounts, and I see them as often on ebay with the M42 mount as with the Pentacon Six mount.

So, here's the list of potentially interesting lenses:

35mm/2.4 MC Flektogon (or "f")
135mm/3.5 MC Sonnar (or "s")
180mm/2.8 MC Sonnar (or "s")
300mm/4 MC Sonnar (or "s")
500mm/5.6 Pentacon Prakticar MC

The first four are labeled Carl Zeiss Jena or aus Jena.

Rick "go forth and ebay wisely" Denney


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fetching
Senior Member
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Joined Apr 2005
San Francisco Bay Area
Apr 28, 2005 14:07 |  #2

thanks for the info! i couldn't get that link for the adapters to work, though.




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rdenney
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Rick "who is not suited for any one title" Denney
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Apr 28, 2005 14:10 as a reply to fetching's post |  #3

fetching wrote:
thanks for the info! i couldn't get that link for the adapters to work, though.

It's the right link, but it's subject to the vagaries of Ukrainian ISP's. Sometimes it's slow. Keep trying.

Rick "who just tested it" Denney


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Andy_T
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Apr 28, 2005 14:16 |  #4

Rick,

a most informative and usable compendium :D

Allow me to add a link to Praktica-users.comexternal link where a lot of useful information and descriptions of all the available lenses can be found.

Best regards,
Andy


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rdenney
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Rick "who is not suited for any one title" Denney
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Apr 28, 2005 14:52 as a reply to Andy_T's post |  #5

Andythaler wrote:
Allow me to add a link to Praktica-users.comexternal link where a lot of useful information and descriptions of all the available lenses can be found.

Yes, that list is much longer than what I knew about for use on the 35mm Pentacon cameras. The only additional entries that intrique me are the Pancolars from Zeiss Jena. The 50/1.4 and 80/1.8 are the most interesting of these. They appear to be double-gauss designs similar to the Biometar used for medium format. The example image from the 80/1.8 shows what I would call accurate bokeh. I don't see much bright edge, but not much softening either. I'll bet it's a good lens to have, but they don't seem to be that common or cheap--there's only one that sold on ebay recently and for $384. The 50/1.8 lenses abound, but they are often more expensive than the nifty fifty.

Many of the labeled "Prakticar" and "Pentacon" lenses were made by a range of providers, including such as Samyang. The only Prakticar that interests me is the MC 500/5.6.

Rick "who has the 500, and is in a weight-lifting program to train up enough to be able to use it" Denney


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Tom ­ W
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Apr 28, 2005 14:56 |  #6

I'm not sure that this information is going to help my wallet in the long run. First, I read posts on FM and find myself craving the unobtainable CZ Distagon 21 mm. Now I find even more somewhat exotic glass that needs my acquaintance.

Suddenly, I feel very, very poor...


Tom
5D III, 70D, & various lenses

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rdenney
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Rick "who is not suited for any one title" Denney
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Apr 28, 2005 15:33 as a reply to Tom W's post |  #7

Tom W wrote:
I'm not sure that this information is going to help my wallet in the long run. First, I read posts on FM and find myself craving the unobtainable CZ Distagon 21 mm. Now I find even more somewhat exotic glass that needs my acquaintance.

Suddenly, I feel very, very poor...

Hmmm. I paid $400 for the 500/5.6, $320 for the Sonnar 300/4, $250 for the incomparable Sonnar 180/2.8, and $80 for the Sonnar 135/3.5. All that adds up to several hundred less than the 100-400L, and three of them also work on about 8 of my medium-format cameras.

Word of advice: Remove the word "Distagon" from your lexicon. That is a very expensive, West German word. You'll never be able to afford Chivas again if you act on that word. But I see several Flektogon 20mm/4 lenses on ebay for under $300, which is at least cheaper than the Canon even if a bit more than I would want to pay.

Rick "who thinks more highly of cheap Sonnars than expensive Flektogons" Denney


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DocFrankenstein
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Apr 28, 2005 15:39 |  #8

What about the 50mm primes?

Tessar? Pentacon?


National Sarcasm Society. Like we need your support.

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rdenney
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Rick "who is not suited for any one title" Denney
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Apr 28, 2005 16:01 as a reply to DocFrankenstein's post |  #9

DocFrankenstein wrote:
What about the 50mm primes?

Tessar? Pentacon?

The Tessar really is a Tessar, which makes it a little uninteresting for me. Bokeh will be "clumpy", like all Tessars. The 50/2.8 Tessar was intended to be the cheapie normal lens for the Prakticas, except for the Pentacon lenses. Most of those were made by the Meyer factory, which was the in-house lens maker for Pentacon. But if it's cheap enough, it's an easy experiment to conduct, and I expect it would be sharp stopped down.

The only 50's that are mildly interesting are the Zeiss Jena Pancolors, which go down to f/1.4. They are double-gauss lenses that may or may not have acceptable bokeh, but I'll bet they are not as sharp as the Canon 50's, which are much more modern. The 1.8's in good shape and multicoated seem to fetch in the $100 range.

If I ever see a really cheap one at a camera fair, I'll probably grab it just for fun.

Rick "already swimming in 50's" Denney


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KevC
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Apr 28, 2005 16:29 as a reply to rdenney's post |  #10

rdenney wrote:
Hmmm. I paid $400 for the 500/5.6, $320 for the Sonnar 300/4, $250 for the incomparable Sonnar 180/2.8, and $80 for the Sonnar 135/3.5. All that adds up to several hundred less than the 100-400L, and three of them also work on about 8 of my medium-format cameras.

Amazing. Just amazing. I'm removing the 100-400L from my "wish list" and am wanting to hunt these lenses down. My friend's father very often goes to Moscow on business trips so I hope *crosses fingers* he can pick up some for me. However, I'm wondering how long these will remain at such low prices. We're all subject to supply and demand...


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Andy_T
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Apr 28, 2005 16:36 |  #11

KevC,

there's a lot of supply. It takes most likely more than 5 years of Canon digital cameras to soak up the supply of 40 years of production for these mounts :D

All-Knowing RDenney, what is your take on the Planar design?
I have spotted some Zeiss (Oberkochen) 85/1.4 Planar lenses for Contax mount that definitely might be interesting ... and available at a little more than the price of a new Canon 85/1.8 ... interesting?

Best regards,
Andy


some cameras, some lenses,
and still a lot of things to learn...
(so post processing examples on my images are welcome :D)
If you like the forum, vote for it where it really counts!
CLICK here for the EOS FAQ
CLICK here for the Post Processing FAQ
CLICK here to understand a bit more about BOKEH

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Tom ­ W
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Apr 28, 2005 16:40 as a reply to rdenney's post |  #12

rdenney wrote:
Hmmm. I paid $400 for the 500/5.6, $320 for the Sonnar 300/4, $250 for the incomparable Sonnar 180/2.8, and $80 for the Sonnar 135/3.5. All that adds up to several hundred less than the 100-400L, and three of them also work on about 8 of my medium-format cameras.

Word of advice: Remove the word "Distagon" from your lexicon. That is a very expensive, West German word. You'll never be able to afford Chivas again if you act on that word. But I see several Flektogon 20mm/4 lenses on ebay for under $300, which is at least cheaper than the Canon even if a bit more than I would want to pay.

Rick "who thinks more highly of cheap Sonnars than expensive Flektogons" Denney

The 500/5.6 is intriguing. I'm not ready to give up the 100-400L though - speed, IS, and AF do have their place.

That 20 mm Flektogon might be worth some study as well. These kind of lenses definately would be a great deal of fun to shoot with. I'm blessed with an adequate viewfinder that allows me to actually focus manually.

I know of at least one person that uses that expensive (very, very) 21 mm Distagon professionally on a 1Ds Mk II - he shoots primarily advertising & commercial work, and his images are outstanding. I'd love to have that lens, but I'm not about to pay what the street price is for it. On the other hand, if one showed up in the local pawn shop for several hundred dollars, I'd lay the cash down immediately.


Tom
5D III, 70D, & various lenses

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KevC
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Apr 28, 2005 16:51 |  #13

Mr. Rick Denney, do you know anything about this

Pentacon 4,0/200 for Pentax(M42)

for only $45? I don't think it's Zeiss... but for $45, it seems like a steal even for an f/4....

(prices taken from your DVDTechnik site..)


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rdenney
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Rick "who is not suited for any one title" Denney
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Apr 28, 2005 17:02 as a reply to Andy_T's post |  #14

Andythaler wrote:
All-Knowing RDenney, what is your take on the Planar design?
I have spotted some Zeiss (Oberkochen) 85/1.4 Planar lenses for Contax mount that definitely might be interesting ... and available at a little more than the price of a new Canon 85/1.8 ... interesting?

Um, beats me. I don't swim at that end of the pool, heh, heh.

I don't know if you can adapt the Contax SLR lenses for Canon, and I'm sure you can't adapt the old Contax rangefinder lenses.

The Planar is an old design--the original double gauss design. I don't know if it's an example of double-gauss or double-gauss is an example of Planar. Some seem to be better than others. My Biometar lenses are quite similar to the first coated Planars, and the bokeh on them is, well, so-so. I'll have a 120mm Biometar in my test.

Rick "whose knowledge thins out in a hurry when prices rise" Denney


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rdenney
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Rick "who is not suited for any one title" Denney
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Apr 28, 2005 17:04 as a reply to KevC's post |  #15

KevC wrote:
Mr. Rick Denney, do you know anything about this

Pentacon 4,0/200 for Pentax(M42)

for only $45? I don't think it's Zeiss... but for $45, it seems like a steal even for an f/4....

(prices taken from your DVDTechnik site..)

It's a five-element simple telephoto by Meyer Gorlitz. I would not expect glow-in-the-dark performance. Keep saving for that 70-200/4L.

Rick "who thinks the Meyer 500/5.6 is worth having only because it's a 500/5.6" Denney


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