The Olympia Sonnar in Action

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by john_seaman|2, Aug 16, 2014.

  1. A few weeks ago I requested information about a Carl Zeiss Jena 180mm F2.8 "Olympia Sonnar" I acquired at a local auction, here:

    Since then I've had two adaptors made, one for Nikon, and one for Minolta AF / Sony Alpha, by the excellent SRB Griturn. I finally got around to putting it on my Sony Alpha 900, and took it to the Botanical Garden to try it out - you can beat me up for using a digital camera but my excuse is that its the lens which is the subject.
  2. The shots were all done at maximum aperture, which makes focussing very critical. It was reasonably easy to focus in the nice bright screen of the A900, despite the lack of split screen aids. But the focus ring is a little stiff and after an hour my wrist was aching. I wonder how the German sports photographers of the 1930's got through the day. My subjects were stationary.
  3. I managed to forget the lens hood but the shots didn't seem to suffer, although the contrast in some of them was rather low, so I just tweaked the levels a little to make them pop.
  4. The lens certainly produces a nice creamy out of focus background.
  5. Another one, the eagle sculpture:
  6. These were all hand held as the large aperture gave quite fast shutter speeds on the Sony, which seems to work best with the Sonnar in shutter priority mode.
  7. SCL


    Very nice - glad to see that old beauty being used again. I've been using a lot of legacy lenses on my u4/3, some of which I jury rigged adapters for. You asked how sports photogs. of the 1930s managed to focus similar lenses....theirs were probably easier as the lubrication was fresh and the lenses hadn't been knocked around...also, a lot of them didn't shoot wide open ("f8 & be there"), so often they would estimate where the action would be, prefocus on that spot and wait for it to come into view.
  8. The lens is too long to get a proper shot of this sculpture.
  9. Yes Stephen I'm sure they prefocussed on a critical point and then shot as the athete ran past.
  10. One problem was I forgot to set the infinity focus for Sony by adjusting the locking ring on the thread at the back of the lens. I was limited to perhaps five meters, which is why there is a predominance of close ups in the series.
  11. Another puzzle now, a nice fitted case came in another lot at the auction. I wondered if this was the original case for the Sonnar? The round compartment is larger in diameter than the lens itself but I wonder if it's actually designed to take the lens with the Flektoskop reflex housing fitted?
  12. Top view, I wonder if this is the original case? It doesn't have any markings but if not, what could it be for?
    That's all for now. thanks for looking.
  13. I have the later P6-mount version. It's a wonderful lens, crisp and sharp even on APS-C and 35mm formats.
  14. Fine results from the Sonnar and your Sony. Nice marriage between them too. Your "more flowers" give me a feeling of Petzval lens? Very nice write up and the case for the lens makes this a true classic. Good to see those old lenses used on modern SLRs.
  15. Love those Sonnar OOF backgrounds; they seem to turn any image into a work or art. Great work with the adapters on the DSLR, John, and I heartily approve, as I've frequently featured classic lenses on this forum with samples from digital capture. It really gives us the opportunity to explore these old lenses to their full capacity, especially on full-frame sensors. As you say, sports photography with all that heft would have been a challenge! Great post; many thanks.
  16. I believe that they made do with just four elements for this lens? Lovely bit of engineering and your pics are very nice to behold, especially the last one of the yellow flowers. A lot of people say that digital images lack soul, but this is easily fixed by attaching a lens like this.
    Just saw JDM's pic of the Sonnar...appears that it is a four element. I have an MC version for my Pentacon Six. really a remarkable optic.
  17. Great results. That lens was really ahead of its time. Thanks for sharing.
  18. Thanks to all for the comments, yes it is only four elements. I don't know if the later versions were any lighter, this one weighs four pounds. Here are a few more shots.
  19. Another one, Fuschias
  20. Finally, Sunflowers, a little tatty I'm afraid.
  21. John,
    Glad to SEE and hear of your good news with SRB Griturn. I have several versions of the CZJ 180mm Olympia Sonnar and all of them are good performers as you had shown us.

    I thought it was a 5 - 3 elements element group, but I could be wrong here. I will scan in an old article I read last week from "Classic Camera" magazine. It mentions the Olympia Sonnar and its long history behind why it was developed for Leni Riefenstahl for her filming of the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg. I hope that I do not offend anyone here with this notation. If I did, I apology in advance.
    I have several of these Sonnars. I use a combination of (4) of these modified 180mm Olympia Sonnar on my Hasselblad 1000F (2 versions) and 2000/200 series respectively.
    Others I have have a removable Nikon mount, M-42, and Exakta 35mm mount. The later MC version has a fixed Pentacon 6 mount I use on my Contax 645 and Exakta 66.
    Great lens at a good price and with great optical performance.
  22. Evan, thanks for the information. I would very much like to see that article from Classic Camera magazine. So it was developed for the Nuremberg congress rather than the Olympics.
    I'm sure there's no problem with reporting these historic facts. Let's face it most of the quality German cameras of that era were used in part for propaganda purposes.
  23. The Sonnar in question is a well-known and researched lens, e.g., :
    and in the Wikipedia article on lens design, too.
    and (ahem) even my own simple comparison to the Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 at
  24. John,
    I was unable to insert my PDF into the forum. I will PM you to send it directly to you.

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