Meyer Domiplan 50/2.8 - is it this bad?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by laur|1, Jan 21, 2010.

  1. I just got a Domiplan yesterday - I was curious to sample East German optic but it seems I picked the wrong lens model to start with. My copy is in very good mechanical condition and the glass is clear, but the IQ wide open is just horrible. Stopping down the lens seems to produce small progress towards acceptable IQ, but I've never seen a lens so bad.
    Is this the way this lens was meant to behave optically? Or am I missing some tiny adjustment? The rear element can be removed easily as it is only kept in place by those three screws - I'm wondering if it got misaligned, or if tinkering with it may make the results better. I tried a bit, but I don't see much improvement and I don't think there are really too many ways of mounting it. I'll probably try placing it in reverse position, just for fun, to see if things can get even worse optically.
  2. I had one of these for a few hours and traded it for a 50/2 Zeiss Pancolar. The Domiplan has a terrible reputation. It is not one of the better East German lenses. The 50/2.8 Tessar is supposed to be good and the Pancolar was surprisingly good.
  3. The Domiplan can be quite sharp. It is also in demand [by the DSLR adapters] for the way it renders the OOF planes in the image. However, it was mass produced as a low priced triplet. So the Quality Control was not consistent. You may try collimating the lens. I have two Domiplans that produce excellent results. See my earlier posts here on PN. You may also want to look into MF lenses website for their sample pictures in color using the Domiplan. Its mechanical construction was not very durable compared to other DDR lenses, in many cases. Optically, it was/is as good as the other triplets, such as, the Ludwig Meritar. I won't throw it away; I would try and restore it. Regards, sp
  4. I got this lens to use with a DSLR, indeed. At 2.8 it seems almost incapable of rendering fine detail and it looks as if it has not focused anywhere - even in the viewfinder the image never gets to look properly focused. There may be some use for it stopped down, but I'm not sure why I should bother carrying around an f/11 lens, other than to prove it could be used.
    Do I have to do anything special when fixing the rear element back in? I don't have any special equipment for collimating the elements, and taking it to a shop would cost more than I paid for it. I imagine the distance between it and the front element is not an issue, only the orientation (parallel to front) and the centering should matter ,right?
    I've seen some pictures taken with the Domiplan before purchasing it. I'm not getting results anyway close to their sharpness - even when stopped down to f/5.6.
  5. These are 40 to 50 year old lenses. You always take a gambler's risk on the sample you are bidding for or buying. Who knows how many previous owners used or abused it in how many ways? sp.
  6. 'My copy is in very good mechanical condition and the glass is clear" You can't rule out the possibility that the glass is clear because a previous owner took it apart to clean it. "I'll probably try placing it in reverse position, just for fun" Perhaps a previous owner has already done exactly that? Which would explain a great deal.
  7. That's the lens that was on my first SLR, and Exa 1a, back in thr 1970s. I got reasonably good results from it.
  8. Yes, the lens is old, but it is clean and the aperture and focusing are working fine. There's no sign of abuse and it's not solid enough that it could withstand much. The optical design is simple enough - there are only two groups - there aren't that many things that can go wrong with it. So, I tinkered with it a bit more. And somehow it seems to work better now. It's still not impressive wide-open, but it's reached an acceptable level now.
    I've removed the rear element and mounted it backwards and then I discovered it cannot be used this way - that element is not symmetric. So there's only one way to assemble it.
    So, I've put it back again and I tightened the screws back slowly trying to keep it concentric to the hole in which it sat. Then I tried it again and this time it looked better. I'll try it out this weekend if the weather will be nice and I'll post some results.
  9. The Domiplan has a terrible reputation. Oddly enough, it was my first lens, in the late sixties, and looking back at my negatives from then (I'm in the process of a big scanning project for all my neg and slide files), the images from that old Domiplan are remarkably sharp and contrasty. From what I've seen from others in the this and similar forums, the poor reputation is warranted, and I think I have been simply very lucky in getting a good one out of a pretty shoddy quality control system. You've a better bet in the Tessar that's been recommended.
  10. Do check to see if an element has been reversed. I recently diagnosed and then very easily repaired an otherwise top flight enlarging lens - which a good friend had recently acquired at the auction site for a song. This lens seemed completely un focussable...until I unscrewed the rear element retaining ring and flipped the glass around - after which all was well! My guess is that the previous owner of this lens was not the original owner...and had no idea of this lenses true capabilities, nor of its easily fixable malady...hence the great price!
  11. oops....I hadn't read your previous post carefully enough to see that the elements only go in one way. At any rate, it seems that you may have tweaked it for the better. Good luck!
  12. It's not because they are forty or fifty years old, these lenses were notoriously bad even in the days they were manufactured the f2.8Tessar, 1.8 Oriston, or 1.8 Pancolour are much better, unfortunately I'm old enough to remember.
  13. Hmmm .... now where's that unfinished draft of my Magnum Opus 'I,001 Things That Can Go Wrong With A Meyer Domiplan' again? (Pete In Perth)
  14. The Domiplan has a varied reputation. An early 1960's F3.5 one I had for Exakta was decent; a late 1960's F2.8 one was a dog. The lens is a triplet; I took one apart once. Triplets can be excellent; I have a Graphic -35 that has a German 50mm F3.5 that at F8 to F16 is like my Leica Summicron; totally fantastic.

    Somewhere in all my stuff I have a formal lest test I ran on my poorer Domiplan; timed lights; Panatomic-X 1:3; 1954 charts; distance 1:50; etc,

    MY Exakta Vx500 had the screwy issue too of the lens film plane was NOT parallel to the Len flange. This problem showed up in day to day shots; plus with a lens test too.

    The poorer Domiplan here when placed on an optical bench had had alot of spherical abberation; like my sample had slightly wrong element spacings and or element curvatures. Wide open at F2.8 mine was about 14 line pairs per mm; stopped doen to F11 about say 40 to 50 in the center.
    With a 9 dollar Cambridge camera 2x convertor; the Domiplan-2x convertor combo had this weird resultant that it was sharp wide open; This was in test shots and in actual usage. It totally contradicted the lemings chant of simple 2x convertors not working all that well; this combo was actually better! In all my dealings with 2x convertors; this oddball case was real; repeatable and unglued at of dogma folk preach. This magically combo of poor Domiplan and el cheapo 2 element convertor corrected each cheapies faults; like jack sprat and his wife.

    The poorer Domiplan's flaws would show up in a 4x6 or 5x7 print; even my 60 year old dad could spot them.

    The poorer Dompilan of mine was the choosen lens to shoot star constellation photos for scouting; teaching astronomy and navigation; using GAF 500 slide film. At F2.8 the resultant shots were excellent; a shot of Orion woule have the 4 main stars BIG and the Belt 3 stars BIG too; thus GREAT for teaching.
    The Domiplan is a triplet design; one that can have a great performance. Poorer samples of teh F3.5 or F2.8 lenses are a build/tolerance issue; not one of a triplet; since good to great 50mm triplets exist in Domiplans and Graphic 35's too. The poorer Dompilan on an optical bench showed no tilt errors; it was just SA.

    Exakta stuff went from Sears Craftsman / Leica like qualtiy to more like Harbor Freight at end of life; and thus quality varied. In High School I used a tack sharp Jena T 50mm F2.8 (Tesssar) that was great
  15. When I was in high school; the Domiplan was NOT considered a bad lens; just a slower one harder to focus. A fellow shcool annual photographer had an Exa and 50mm F3.5 Preset Domiplan; that say at F5.6 was great; ie tack sharp 8x10's . That was before the Nikon F came out.

    Newcomers to Exakta sure are going to dog the Domiplan; they have a limited experience; they base their bias/dogma on the end of life Exakta stuff/crap hawked in the late 1960's and early 1970's; when QC was amock; varied; often WAY poorer.

    The Domiplane was long ago used on a bellows too; and on copy stands and medical work and was once considered a great Meyer product before QC tanked. Before the Nikon F came out 1/2 century ago; Exakta was THE slr system. One had bellows; copy stands; ring flash units for surgery photos; 500 and 1000 mm whiteish Mirror/telephotos. (canon slr folks like to forget that Exakta copied telescope makers; then Nikon had some whiteish long lenses; then newbies at Canon "discovered" white too.

    Exakta was strong in medical usage; MD's cameras to record eye issues were Exakta; then many went to Topcon Super D with that uses the same lens bayonet. Thus even in the 1990's; some MD's had olld Exatka eye rigs that were made in the Exakta heyday.

    Here I started out with the Exakta VX system and then murged into the Nikon F system; I got my first used Nikon F in 1962. With aftermarket T preset and T4 auto lenses I used them on both camera systems for along time. The dropping price of Exakta stuff in the 1960's and 1970's was nice; I used the extra bodies for piggyback astro shots; many bodies on one platform on an guided equatorial mount.

    ****A safe bet is that a given Dompilan bought today is *NOT going to be a stellar performer*; since most are later models cranked out when QC was dropping. It is wrong to say ALL Domiplans are bad.

    How folks feel about Exakta varies widely. It is like if one chap bought an Acme saw in the 1950's and it is great; then another chap buys an Acme saw in 1970 and it is poor; and thus preaches ALL ACME SAWS are bad.

    Before the Nikon F came out; National Geographic used Exakta; so did Doctors; Hospitals; copy shops; film labs. It is how one made slide dupes; slides of books; macro shots of bugs. It was THE full system slr.
    For its time the Exakta was radical; one had a quick change bayonet.
    Here I even have a Aero Ektar 178mm F2.5 9x9" lens in a custom mount for Exakta
  16. Kelly! that was a nice, timely, edifying post; thanks. Yes, I remember buying and sending some slide duplicators from Spiratone to Doctor friends in India who used the Topcon Exakta mount in the late 'Sixties. I still use and cherish my old Exaktas from the 1950s and a couple of Domiplans too. Regards, sp
  17. SP; I always enjoy you nice shots of India; new and old stuff too. With teh rise of the internet interest in the ancient Exakta system has risen alot.
    In the 1950's and early 1960's Exakta advertised in National Geographic magazine. Exakta is viewed by some as a Leica; others more of a Fed or Zorki; as QC/quality dropped.
    With Nikon; they made a 13.5cm F3.5 Nikkor variant for Exakta once in the 1950's; the same basic lens that was used on the Nikon RF camera and Leica LTM camera; but with an Exakta mount.
    Old Cambridge Camera and Seymours Exakta were outfits that carried the oddball Exakta lens cases that were weird shaped and had the extra bump/feature for the *arm* ; gizmo; feature that auto diaphram Exakta and aftermarket Exakta lenses had.
  18. Oh yes! the good old days! I was a regular subscriber to Seymour's newsletter and the Cambridge catalog flier. Have bought quite a few items from those two. Seymour, especially, offered good friendly advice on buying and repairing to suit one's taste and budget. He rebuilt a VXIIb for me for $25 [including postage] in 1972. It is still working well ! Best, sp
  19. I finally managed to get out and get some shots. It is rather soft wide open - softer than other 2.8 lenses I have, but it sharpens nicely by f/8. Here's a shot from today (larger version here):
  20. Another example with no post-processing - just camera settings.
  21. And a 100% crop from the large leaf:
  22. So, the Domiplan is not bad. Even wide open it's not as bad as I thought the first day - either the rear element was not aligned correctly or my eyes were tired and I didn't get the focus right. But wide open it is softer than other 2.8 lenses I've used and it is also more prone to aberrations. f/8 looks like the optimal setting for this lens.
  23. Hi Laurentiu! you can see some examples of my Domiplan fixed aperture at f/11 in the thread in PN, as below.
    A Freebee LLC (Page: 1 2 3 ) by Subbarayan Prasanna.
    I believe a lot of people buy the Domiplan for their DSLRs for the way it renders the OOF planes. Your pictures demostrate the same as well. Regards, sp
  24. Thanks, SP. I've actually seen your photos earlier when I've looked for shots taken with the Domiplan; I also remember reading your thread with the f/11 aperture fix.
    The bokeh reminds me of the Russian lenses I tried - I think its quality might be due to the lack of multicoating more than to the lens design. I prefer the Russian lenses though, because wide open they are much better - probably a Zeiss design characteristic.
  25. don't knock the domiplan, i must admit that this lens was designed for 35mm and gave very good shots especially in stop down mode ,it does not have a manual switch which is not a problem with right m42 adapter on a dslr .i have one which is a dream of a lens, and it will knock the socks of a lot of over priced digital slr lenses which are even cheaper made ,

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