C/Y Zeiss Planar 50/1.7

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by david_smith|110, Mar 13, 2013.

  1. Does anyone know the model history of this lens? Or a link to a website that has the info? Google is apparently not my friend.
    I am mainly interested in any changes the lens may have had during its run. I am aware of the AE/MM thing, but did coatings or body construction change in that time? Less metal, more plastic, that kind of thing?
  2. Look up "Double Gauss" for the longer story. According to Arthur Cox's Photographic Optics, London, 1966, this family of optical design was really British in origin with Taylor, Taylor, and Hobson's Speed Panchro.
    Just before WWII, Carl Zeiss Jena made a Double Gauss 58mm Biotar f/2 for 35mm Exakta and Praktiflex cameras. Such variation as there was from the older Planars/Double-Gauss lenses may have been at least partly related to difficulties in clearing the mirror on these first SLRs.
    After WWII, the Biotar was revived at Zeiss Jena (or never went completely out of production?) where it became the quality fast lens on the "first" (Start and Rectaflex fans need not write) eye-level SLR, the Zeiss Contax S (later Pentacon). A similar lens was made for the rump Zeiss (in the West) under the name Planar.
    Later this basic formula became the basis for a large number of SLR 50mm lenses, including, for example, Nikon lenses.
    You'll need to go to more C/Y mount sources for the information on production changes, etc., there.
    Here's the first page of such lenses from the Wikipedia article about Double Gauss ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-Gauss_lens ):
  3. This link is entertaining... http://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/hardwares/classics/contax/shared/zeiss/index.htm
  4. JDM has given probably the most relevant info regarding design of Gaussian lenses. His point, it seems to me though is how many variations on this theme exist. I'm sure he will be quick to correct me on this but wasn't the original Planar design from Paul Rudolf preceeding the Tessar by a few years. This was reputetly a vey good lens but due to the many glass surfaces prone to flare.

    It is likely the lens never came into it's own until after lens coating tamed the flare in the immediate post war period. (Perhaps why JDM picks up the thread here ) This is now more often the design of choice for speed. The Sonnar was more successful earlier due to it's lightweight and fewer glass surfaces....
    More relevant to this thread though. I've often wondered why the Contax series had "Zeiss" lenses made both in Japan and Germany. The Yashica ML series was often very good.. so why were non-German Zeiss lenses necessary. As often argued; did they sort the production and simply re-badge? Another theory was the alternative Yashica lenses like DUS and DBS; were these reworked M42 lenses from Tomioka? And since we're talking about the 1.7 here; Was the Yashica variant also Gaussian? We don't have a model name like Planar to guide us. My first SLR used the ML 1.7 and it was one fine lens. I still am mad about that camera being stolen!! It was a real beater... but that ML was great!!
  5. My contention is, not universally accepted here, I might add, that it was the postwar use of the Biotar on the Contax S that had the most "influence" on post-war Double Gauss 35mm designs.
    Be that as it may be, a successful design like this one has many fathers. Cox (English) puts the original as being British. You will note the Kodak Ektar shown in lead position in the chart....
    The general design is actually ancient, but it was, as Chuck said, the developments of flare-reducing coatings that enhanced the usability of the design.
    My understanding was that the Yashica-made Zeiss lenses were under Zeiss direction. I have heard the story about "selections of the best", but have seen fairly explicit denials of that practice. I quite agree that the Yashica lenses are very good. My only Japanese Contax SLR is sporting one now. I would love to have one of the Zeiss lenses, but the collectors have made those a costlier path for what is actually a peripheral interest on my part.
  6. SCL


    I always heard that the quality control of the Yashica made Zeiss lenses was more stringent (among other things) than the quality control on the Yashica lens production line resulting in greater uniformity among the resulting lenses being sold. I heard rumors of a difference in the chemical composition of the glass as well, but to me that seems unlikely. I owned a Yashica 50 as well as a Zeiss 50, and while the Yashica was a really good lens, the Zeiss outshone it in low light situations where it needed to be used wide open. Not being a Zeiss snob here, just my personal observation. I also had a DBS 135 which I thought was ok until I tried the Zeiss Sonnar...which won me over. All said and done, it is hard to go wrong with either line IMHO.
  7. My Contax 137 Sported a Planar 1.7, whilst an extremely sharp lens it was only marginally better than the 1.7ML Yashica lens that I have owned since the late 70s and indeed used extensively doing wedding photograhy, I compared the Planar with the ML and also a humble Helios 44M-4, the results persuaded me to sell the Planar for a rather handsome profit, and I am more than happy with the quality I get from my "humble" lenses, I have noticed the same scramble on the Bay when a Pancolar lens comes up for sale, its a feeding frenzy.. The Pancolar is only marginally better than the Pentacon 1.8 and then only wide open, a couple of stops down and you couldnt tell them apart, pehaps the Pentacon is a bit cooler in colour rendering, and yes I have the Pentacon as well..
  8. I have many different versions of the Planar. In the Rollei QBM mount I have a 50mm 1.8, 1.4 and the Voigtlander Ultron...which for Rollei is the same as the Planar?
    These are great lenses, but how much better than the Japanese counterparts like the Nikkor, Yashica or Minolta for example, is debatable.
    Actually I have the 50mm 1.9 Xenon also for the Rollei SL and this is a slightly better lens, both in build and image quality..still nice to have a Planar though, they do have a mystique!
    Also have a Pancolor..didn't know they were sought after, may have to put it on Ebay!
  9. This seems to have bcome more of a Planar post.--- There seems to be some folks claiming the 1.7 are preferrable to the 1.4.. In any case... it's important to remember as I was doing some furthr reading that these are/were Zeiss designs built by Tomioka/Yashica. So I was pondering the other Yashica lenses. Can we assume the other ML lenses are Zeiss design too and the DU and USB are Tomioka designs?
    As the OP is aware the major differences come with the MM lenses. If there is any plastic construction for weight savings , I can't say as I only remember holding one on a Contax 139Q once and can't remember the lens as I was in awe of the camera. Anybody ?? plastic on the later C/Y lenses? My guess is later post MM lenses for the Kyocera/Yashica line become homogenized and probably carry plastic fitting to the era. Additionally, any "name" lens for the Contax series will likely still be of a good or very good build quality.
  10. The late 70's to early 80's 50mm f1.7 Planar sacrificed wide open performance (slightly) but was excellent at mid
    apertures. My copy from early 80's seems to confirm this.
  11. I would say the late Yashica lenses were not Tomioka designs. At least of them were re-computed during their life times, e.g. even the "mundane" 135/2.8 had two ML versions.
    I have a late copy of the Zeiss 50/1.7. It was their cheapest model and feels mostly plasticky compared with my late 85/2.8 which was German made. I am not aware of any optical re-designs among the Contax series except maybe the 180/2.8.
    The Planar was originally a specific design, but Zeiss have long used the name to represent all their "double-gauss" types, even for not so symmetric, front heavy formulas like the 85/1.4. Likewise they have been calling Ernostars "Sonnars". (no more cemented triplets except for the ZM 50/1.5.)
  12. Thanks to everyone who responded to this.
    Somewhat answering my own post, I did manage to drag this up from the depths of google. Some interesting stuff here.
    JDM, excellent back story and information as always. That is a neat little diagram as well. Good to have for reference.
    Michael, thanks for the link. I havent been to mir in a while.
    Chuck, I have seen the argument across the internet that the 1.7 is preferable to the 1.4. It really is a shame that we do not have any definitive proof or records of what exactly was going on at Yashica Japan and Zeiss Germany during this time. There does seem to be much contradictory information and strange lens production history to make one wonder. To answer the question of the Tomioka vs Zeiss designs, my understanding is that the series 1 Yashica ML lenses were basically the older Yashica DS-M lenses with the C/Y mount instead of the original M42 mount. These series 1 ML's are almost identical to the DS-M's and these were definitely Tomioka designs. I had a series 1 ML 50/1.7 and the design is the same as the DS-M 50/1.7. However, the restyled series 2 ML 50/1.7 has the newer body similar to the Zeiss lenses.
    There is even some internet rumors/ponderings that Yashica actually used Zeiss planar glass in the body of the series 2 ML 50/1.7 since the bean counters at Yashica figured out it was cheaper to simply use the 'more expensive' glass then to actually produce two different lenses in that focal length for both the ML line and the Contax line. The series 2 ML may be the Planar 1.7 glass with the ML coating in a slightly cheaper body. A bargain if true.
    But we will never know I suppose.
  13. A side note: Leica's last 50mm Summicron (i.e. non-asph) was actually a Biotar design, and so was the Contax G 45/2.
  14. This is the most extensive Yashica lens list that I know of. http://www.hi-ho.ne.jp/sbko-hq/YASHICA_ML/Lens.html
    The 50/1.7 ML had 6 elements (as in the Yashica SLR FAQ.) The Zeiss had 7.
    And what I read was that the Zeiss 1.4's better than the 1.7, unlike 50mm lenses from other makers where the slower lens generally is better than its faster brethren, e.g. the 1.8 Ai Nikkor had less distortion, a flatter field and less vignetting than the 1.4. Like the earlier f/2, Nikon even recommended the 1.8 for close-up work via bellows.
  15. "did coatings or body construction change in that time? Less metal, more plastic" David S.
    Yes that's true, more use of plastic in the f/1.7
    "the Zeiss 1.4's better than the 1.7" Fred C.
    My experience totally confirms that.
    The OOF background (Bokeh) is very different between the two.
    The f/1.4 is beautifully smooth while the f/1.7 comparably is harsh.
    I also confirmed better overall resolution and especially edge to edge with the f/1.4.
    It's my current favorite for use on my NEX-7.

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