When is a Carl Zeiss lens NOT a Carl Zeiss lens?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by steven_moseley|1, Jul 28, 2007.

  1. Hi,

    Q: When is a 'Carl Zeiss' lens not a 'Carl Zeiss' lens?

    A: When it is a Carl Zeiss 'JENA' lens....

    I am posting this because as a Contax/Zeiss user, I am concerned that an
    increasing number of people are potentially getting misled into thinking that
    the old M42 screw mount Carl Zeiss 'Jena' lenses are proper Zeiss lenses, when
    in fact they are nothing of the sort.

    In particular there has been a mushroom effect in people using older lenses
    with adaptors on digital SLR's and sellers on a certain auction site are most
    certainly IMO trying to con bidders into thinking these old M42 Zeiss 'Jena'
    lenses are the real thing...in other words misleading bidders into thinking
    they are the equivalent of the 'proper' Contax Zeiss lenses.

    Just for the record..these M42 screw Carl Zeiss 'jena' lenses were made in
    Eastern Germany (DDR) run by the Russians after the end of world war two and up
    until the fall of the Berlin wall. The only real connection to Carl Zeiss is
    that they were made in the old Zeiss factory in Jena, which was 'inherited' by
    the Russians. It was just quite literally four walls and a roof.

    The proper Carl Zeiss company in Western Germany was furious that the Russians
    were making lenses with the Zeiss name on them and pursued a legal case for
    years, but this was very difficult across the west/east divide and the russians
    got around the issue by putting Carl Zeiss 'JENA' on their lenses.

    These 'Jena' lenses were mostly made for the low end Praktica cameras and are
    of generally low end quality with poor build and design. Some of the lenses
    have proven to be of good optical design, but these are very much in the
    minority and all the lenses suffer from poor build issues and poor longevity.

    You can get good results with some of the lenses, but should be aware that they
    are nothing like the same build quality as proper Zeiss lenses.

    I am stunned at how much some of the M42 Jena lenses are now fetching, indeed
    some buyers are now paying almost as much as you would for proper Contax Zeiss
    lenses! which does lead me to think they are imagining they are actually buying
    the real thing, when they are not.....

    cheers Steve.
  2. Well, we know that. That's enough for me. If the others are dumb or ignorant enough to buy it for real Zeiss lenses then let it be. 99% will never notice it anyway.
  3. Arh, Zeiss.
    I avoid Zeiss because the history of Zeiss is very complicated. Zeiss have too many branches that I don't know which one is make camera or optics.
    However, I do trust the quality of Zeiss Jena in pre-war state. But I don't know very much about Opton.
  4. Y'know, Steve, CZJ in the DDR made many fine lenses. And Zeiss Oberkochen in the BRD made lenses in M42 for, e.g., the Icarex TM.

    I don't know what you intended, but you've added more misinformation to the mountains of it already here on photo.net and elsewhere on the Web.
  5. There are great and so so Zeiss lenses produced behind the old iron curtain. A blanket damnation of all of them is abit full of bulldung. Jena is the birthplace of a hell of alot of optical designs. In process camera lenses, movie lenses and microscope lenses and some still camera lenses the eastern blocs offerings were often great; often with a radically greater varability in quality control; often priced WAY lower in cost than the West's lenses. If the eastern blocs lenses were not proper Zeiss lenses; were the east Germans really not really Germans? Lenses have been made in Jena for over 100 years. The Optical museum in Jena has optical instruments from eight centuries. There are lenses made with pride in the old eastern bloc; made by Zeiss; real Germans with a super long history of making optics.
  6. During the cold war period CZJ were a good source of lenses with a better than average quality / price ratio than usual. They also had a decent build quality but lacked the luxury feel of western product.
  7. If its sharp and it works who really cares for the normal folks , but if your a collecter then you all ready know this stuff, and you do not well ,thats a your problem:
  8. Without doubt I agree with Kelly 100%. The East German Zeiss lenses were initially made by the same workers that made pre-war Zeiss lenses. Admittedly they may not have had the same standard of quality control in the East, so there are going to be a few more 'duds', but generally, if it looks like a Zeiss, says it is a Zeiss and makes photographs like a Zeiss, then it's probably a Zeiss.

    There is also very little difference (if any) between the Pentacon F range of cameras and the Contax S range. They look the same they feel the same and they make photographs of similar quality. Again it's mostly a matter of quality control, so there may be more Pentacon duds out there than Contax duds, but one could buy several Pentacon F cameras for the price of one Contax S cameras and the chances are (as with the lenses) that you will find the first one perfectly satifactory, if not you can easily buy another and another again before you will even come close to the price of a Contax S, or a West German Zeiss lens. Therefore I would say, take a chance, your in grave danger of buying an East German winner!

    I think that Steve is in terrific danger of missing a heap full of bargains.
  9. The Carl Zeiss was born in Jena, eastern Germany, in twenty years of the XX century, by merge of a series of pre existing factories (IKA, Goertz, Contessa Nettel and many others). After the III Reich fall, in 28 June 1945, few hundreds of Carl Zeiss Jena techinicians, engineers and specialized workings, plus their families, escaped from the soviet controlled zone towards the american controlled zone. They estabilished the western Carl Zeiss in Oberchocken, near Stuttgart, while the technicians and engineers who remained in Jena continued to work in the Carl Zeiss Jena, in the same pre war factories. The two parent firms was both existing since 1961, when a court of justice recognized the right to use the Carl Zeiss trade mark only at the Carl Zeiss Stuttgart. From 1961 to late '90 the Carl Zeiss Jena lenses was named CZJ or Aus Jena for the western markets.
    The lenses made in Carl Zeiss Jena from 1945 to the end of the production (late '90) are true pre war Carl Zeiss optical projects. Not too modern and perfomer as the western Zeiss lenses, but very good also.
  10. This post seems to contain more politics than optics. Carl Zeiss Jena made lenses for the West German Contaxes in the early years before the political situation became too tense for them to continue cooperation, and some of the lenses CZJ made for the Pentacon Six cameras are exceptionally good, including the 80 and 120mm Biometars (the 80mm is very similar to the West German Planar) and the 180 and 30mm Sonnars.

    I very strongly suspect that the current prices of CZJ lenses are based primarily on their merits. The ones that I have (35mm Flektagon, several 58mm Biotars, 50mm Flektagon, 80mm Biometar, 180mm Sonnar, perhaps a couple of others) are all very good lenses and certainly well worth what I paid for them.
  11. Drifting off the original topic a little, to the Contax S and Pentacon F mentioned above: The Contax S was begun before WWII when there was no dispute over who was the "real" Carl Zeiss or Zeiss-Ikon, and completed in Dresden in 1948. They were made interchangeaby (after the original "S" model) in Contax and Pentacon nameplates depending on the legal restrictions in the destination country.

    I have a fair amount of experience with these cameras, and the Pentacon F is a better camera than the Contax S in every detail in which they differ. It is smoother, quieter, easier to wind and has a brighter focusing screen than the original, plus its introduction of internally coupled auto-diaphragm lenses.... all design changes made subsequent to the Contax's introduction were improvements. It was not a great commercial success, but there was a lot of competition at that time.... and, significantly, they were faced with huge obstacles of political propaganda of a tone very similar to the original post in this thread, which made sale in the largest markets such as the USA a virtual impossibility.
  12. Well, interesting though that the " PROPER " Zeiss recognize Carl Zeiss Jena ( as that in East Germany ) part of Zeiss History and a side track of Zeiss Lens production as they speak it out in an issue of Zeiss Historica ( don't quite remember which issue, but its some time after the east/west merging )

    So while I would agree that the CZJ lens was not West German Zeiss but I would not go about and say those are not Zeiss lens, its an interesting piece of History.

    In fact if we take this, then many of the Contax/Zeiss lens is not Zeiss then despite having top notch performance ( almost all of the G series lens and N series lens say for example .... ). By that account we might exclude all of todays Zeiss lens ( for still photography in 35mm format ) on current catalog ( meaning those ZS/ZF/ZK/ZM/ZA range )
  13. My experience of Jena lenses is that they are extremely good. Just one example of Jena's ability to make the most of its heritage, is the 180mm Sonnar for the Pentacon Six / Praktica range; in its day an almost unique lens that is exceptional on both 6x6 and 35mm formats. It also seems gratuitous to insult the Jena workforce who were, so far as I can make out from articles in magazines of the period, entirely German, not Russian. The original posting strikes me as something of a troll, to be honest.
  14. My 80mm CZJ Biometar is as good as my CZ Hasselblad lens from the same period. What a silly post! Perhaps the list has informed the opinion of the poster.
  15. actually, at the very end of the DDR CZJ era in the 1980s, the East German firm did sub-contract to put the "Zeiss" name on some rebranded Japanese lenses, (probably made by one of the many companies of that era which supplied Vivitar and the like) for Nikon, Pentax K, and other mounts. I have seen a 28mm f/2.8 of this style and probably other fical lengths and designs. The lenses can be identified because they are 1980s style lenses that say both "Made In Japan" and "Zeiss" on them, and of course they are NOT the Yashica made Contax lenses. I think they may have been an offshoot of the lens line for the Praktica Bayonet Mount cameras, that those lenses be available in other mounts.

    that being said, i agree with almost everybody on this post. CZJ was not the same as their West German counterparts, and the lawsuits over the name to the contrary, by virtue of location, history, and the design of their products, they had as much right to be part of the tradition as anybody. I don't think anyone will will ever be disappointed by the optical performance of a properly adjusted CZJ lens. It is true that build quality and assembly, towards the end, could be shoddy at times. Same with the Praktica cameras -- earlier is usually better made than later.
  16. I have a range of CZJ lenses, from the 20mm Flektogon to the 135mm S (Sonnar), and they are exceptional performers. Since most of my lenses are Contax-fit Zeiss lenses, I wouldn't have given the CZJ lenses house room unless they were good performers. There is a case, as Alan Chin remarks, for considering certain modern Japanese rebranded lenses as having nothing more in common with Zeiss of any flavour than the badge (which I've seen advertised in the most ludicrously exaggerated terms on Ebay), and nothing at all optically; the original post here is largely mis-informative and misleading.
  17. I have used several 50MM "Jena" Tessars in Exakta mount (on a Topcon Super D). And found them to be outstanding performers. Since these are available for under $100, in Exakta mount. I don't think that they're being over priced like the M42 Jena's.
  18. The reason (I believe) that M42 CZJ lenses are rising in price and Exaktas are not is the availability of M42 adapters for Canon DSLRs.
  19. Yeah my Super Ikonta C lens is a Zeiss manufactured in Jena...prewar and pre-iron curtain. I consider it to be fully "Zeiss"
  20. Yes, there were some good CZJ lenses like the Zeiss Pancolar and Sonnar but they were let down by poor quality control and poor materials. You will be hard pressed to find any CZJ lens now that will focus smoothly - a result of the inferior lubricants used. Based on my own buying experiences, many of the stop-down mechanisms have also ceased to function. Pick up any Pentax Super Takumar though from the same period and they all still seem to function properly and focus as smoothly as silk.
  21. Quote David M:
    "Pick up any Pentax Super Takumar though from the same period and they all still seem to function properly and focus as smoothly as silk."

    One wouldn't be so quick to point this out if they had seen what comes in for repairs. I've had numerous Super Taks here for focus and aperture issues. It's not unusual for any mechanical thing to need service when it is pushing the 50+ year mark, as many CJZ lenses are now.

    And this is not to say there is anything wrong with the Pentax product either. Well known to be a high quality product.
  22. The availability of cheap M42-EOS adapters does explain much of the current pricing of CZJ lenses. Although it's true that many of them require re-lubricating, that's no big surprise, they're up to half a century old. My two Tessars had stiff focussing, for example. Taking them apart is quite easy, even for an all-thumbs tinkerer like myself, and once cleaned out and re-lubed, the focussing is back good as new. The Tessars are very easy to take apart. Both of them also had sticky stop-down mechanisms. These, too, are fairly easy to fix, being (in my cases anyway) due to nothing more than some old grease having migrated to the blades and rendering them sticky enough to be stronger than the spring that works the stop-down. That's not an 'East German' problem - I've had old cameras of similar vintage from Stuttgart where the focusing has been a casualty of aged lubricant. My two CZJ 135s work perfectly, without any attention from me, and my Flek 35 and Flek 20/2.8 likewise work well. A previous Flek 20/4 had sticky blades. Given the age of these lenses, a few problems of this nature should not be unexpected. The performance achieved merits the attention that may be required.
  23. Few months ago, i have purchased for 50 Euros (around 35 bucks) a CZJ Flektogon 35 mm f/ 2,8 MC in M42 thread mount, in mint conditions. I have shoot a Sensia II roll, with this lens, on my Bessaflex TM, at the historical palaces and churchs in Lecce (Italy). The results was very stunning, beyond every expectation, in sharpness, contrast and colour rendition. Ciao.
  24. "Just for the record..these M42 screw Carl Zeiss 'jena' lenses were made in Eastern Germany (DDR) run by the Russians after the end of world war two and up until the fall of the Berlin wall."

    Of course this is (almost) nonsense. The Zeiss plant in Jena was run by the Russians for a short time after WWII only, then it was state-owned by the GDR.

    And the lenses manufactured there were so bad that some of them were listed in the "proper" (west-german) Zeiss catalogues as lenses for the west-german made Contax models. They were so bad that Rollei decided to equip some batches of their Rolleiflex with the east-german made Tessar in the early 50s. And ask some owners of those cameras what they think of the west-german made Tessars of the same eras (there are some lemon lenses among them). The coating process developed by Carl Zeiss Jena was so bad that one leading company for coating optical surfaces (Balzer) based their success on licenses from Carl Zeiss Jena. Actually, I never had any problems with cleaning east-german lenses even when they had severe fungus - contrary to some western lenses I never managed to damage the coating which came out pristine even after cleaning with concentrated vinegar.

    Actually, Zeiss-Jena improved most of the old optical designs and introduced some new ones (Zeiss-Jena was the first or second manufacturer making wide-angle lenses with a retrofocus design...at a time when noone in West-Germany was even thinking of desinging such a lens). I have several cameras equipped with east-german Tessars (which were redesigned in 1948 - in West-Germany they followed the pre-WWII formula some years longer) and these are definitively prime lenses. I know a photo technician who once put a ground glass on his east-german Tessara equipped Ercona (= 6x9 Ikonta) camera. He told me he had virtually to rub his eyes, since he had never seen such a sharp image on a 6x9 ground glass. This guy had visited a technicians college for photography for some years and does large-format himself, I think you might trust him.

    And some other trivia about the east-german Zeiss lenses "made by the russians for the low-end market": these were the first ones with a ball-bearing aperture mechanism, and (as far as I know) the only ones with automatic aperture correction for close-up distances on tele lenses (as you might know, the actual f-stop also depends on the displacement of the lens barrel which should not be neglected when focussing close-up with tele lenses).

    "The proper Carl Zeiss company in Western Germany was furious that the Russians were making lenses with the Zeiss name on them and pursued a legal case for years, but this was very difficult across the west/east divide and the russians got around the issue by putting Carl Zeiss 'JENA' on their lenses."

    This is a VERY abrigded version of the legal issues between Carl Zeiss (West Germany) and Carl Zeiss Jena. Besides that it is NOT true that the "russians" made Zeiss lenses (see above), actually Carl Zeiss Jena lost this lawsuit in some countries and won it in some others. So they had to re-label their lenses for export to certain countries, including West-Germany.

    I hardly can believe that this posting is based on personal experiences, and on personal research since there are so many faults in it which comply with anti-eastern block propaganda. You NEVER can damn all products coming from a certain country or nation and "threw them into the self pot" as we say in Germany. Doing so shows more about the prejudices of the author than about reality.

    The russian lenses based on pre-war Zeiss designs are a completely different story. In many cases they also used the old mechanical (barrel) design, and their optical quality seems to be doubtful in more cases than with east-german made lenses. I always wonder how come that so many "Sonnar" lenses with LTM mount (these do exist but are pretty rare) are sold by ebay-sellers from eastern Europe...
    allan_crook|1 likes this.
  25. i notice that the OP has not returned to defend any of this load of borscht.....
  26. Richard Oleson wrote:

    "i notice that the OP has not returned to defend any of this load of borscht....."

    But give him credit for starting what has turned out to be a very interesting thread. ;-)
  27. Folks, why have you limited your comments to lenses for 35mm cameras?

    CZJ (DDR) made lenses for larger formats too, also microscope objectives and oculars, and lenses for cine cameras. Most of them were pretty good and not subject to the mechanical problems some of the posters complained about.
  28. "threwing them into the self pot"... uups,should read "throwing them into the same pot".
  29. Winfried- My camera is older than the "divide" between east and west. My lens is below. Could you briefly tell us the relationship between the Zeiss Companies at the time when it was one Germany (pre-war)? Thanks
  30. Here's the Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar on the Ercona II. A real Tessar and a VERY good performer.
  31. it's amazing, how 18 years after the fall of the berlin wall, there can still be so much antagonism against the former eastern bloc, and its products. of course the DDR in its final decade was collapsing, and its falling industrial and consumer standards reflected this. so it's no surprise if a 1986 or 1988 lens from the DDR or the USSR wasn't put together that well, or isn't equal to a far more expensive West German or Japanese equivalent.

    Taken in context, however, which is that the DDR workers were paid FAR less than their western counterparts, and that their economy did not reflect any capitalist sense of market competition, its fair to assess that the cameras and lenses that they did make were and are bargains. Not bargains for the DDR buyers who were still paying a big percentage of their income for possibly flawed items, but for western photographers. You might get a lemon, but even after adding $50 or $100 to get it adjusted properly you would still be saving a LOT of money compared to buying new Leica or West German Zeiss or Nikon or whatever. And once adjusted, no one ever complains about the quality of the optics or the professional results you can get. Sure, it requires more effort, it requires patience, but you are getting something relatively CHEAP.

    For a photographer on a budget or for specialty items not used every day (super-wide, fisheye, PC lenses, panoramic cameras, etc.), East German, Czech, and USSR photographic gear was and is a very good investment: minimal cost for maximum result.

    The former workers of CZJ, Pentacon, Meopta, Zenit, etc. should be proud that, for low pay, poor working conditions, and the lack of any incentives, they still made some excellent gear. Anybody who disagrees, and only wants to celebrate what the well-paid West Germans or Japanese were doing, should remember what East Germans, Czechs, and Soviets had to live through on a daily basis.
  32. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    And yet no one has mentioned that a number of Carl Zeiss Jena marked lenses were made by other companies like Cosina. I know of a number of wide angles made in various 35mm SLR mounts that were made by Cosina.
  33. i did mention that in my first response above.
  34. Hi John:

    When there was only one Germany, there was only one Carl Zeiss, and its optical works was in Jena (or, I think, more precisely, in a floating structure on the lake at Jena to shield it from vibration).

    At the end of WWII, Jena was in the Eastern sector along with Dresden which was the home of the Exakta and the Zeiss Ikon Contax works. The US assisted a number of CZ and ZI people in relocating into the Western zone, where they set up a rival optical works in Oberkochen and also a new Contax works in Stuttgart. However, the division of Germany did not automatically or instantly split the Zeiss concerns; there was considerable cooperation at first, including Jena producing lenses for the Stuttgart Contax before the Oberkochen works was ready to take the job over. Ultimately the different political and economic systems and the mutual animosity between the two Germanies made cooperation impossible. The idea, however, that Jena was not the "True" Carl Zeiss optical facility is ludicrous on its face.

    If I am not mistaken, since the reunification of Germany, the Zeiss concern has also reunited.

    And, not wishing to begin yet another "who is the real Zeiss" thread, but it would not surprise me terribly if the original poster's "true Zeiss Contaxes" were actually deluxe Yashicas.....
  35. For pre-war Zeiss optics and Zeiss-Ikon cameras it is pretty easy: Zeiss-Ikon was a big camera-manufacturing conglomerate, formed in two steps in the early and late 1920s. Zeiss itself did not contribute too much, they just had the Zeiss-Palmat company, a not very significant manufacturer of cameras. Their main goal was to become the sole supplier of optics for all those camera manufacturers more or less bought by the economic power of Zeiss.

    Since even after the merger of several companies Zeiss still manufactured optics for other manufacturers NOT merged into it, they reserved the Carl Zeiss Jena brand for their optical division (Tessar and other Zeiss-made
    lenses can be found on many pre-war cameras).
  36. Hi,

    Yep...a very illuminating thread developed, unlike most here on PN! For those including Kelly who seemed to just assume I gave a 'blanket damnation'..please re-read the post, you will see I did not.

    Perhaps in hindsight I did not make my post clear enough. I was refering soley to the Praktica range of M42 screw mount lenses, which I do still insist are certainly not in any way, shape, or form proper Zeiss lenses...and I was trying to warn potential buyers of these that they are in now way to be compared to the Contax Zeiss lenses.

    "The East German Zeiss lenses were initially made by the same workers that made pre-war Zeiss lenses"

    Apparently not many of them though....do you really think that many Germans were going to voluntarily hang around to be taken under russian occupation after what the Germans had spent the last 3 years doing to the russians? ...the truth is that the vast majority of the Zeiss workers fled to the west.

    cheers Steve.
  37. it is precisely the high quality of the Praktica M42 lenses that many of the posters are addressing on this thread:

    20mm f/2.8 + older f/4.0 Flektogon

    35mm f/2.4 Flektogon

    50mm f/1.8 Pancolar

    80mm f/1.8

    180mm f/2.8 Olympia made for Pentacon 6 but with auto-aperture adapter for M42

    These are just a very few of the Carl Zeiss Jena lenses made in the DDR that, with proper adjustment, will continue to deliver wonderful results either on ANY M42 camera or on a Canon DSLR with an adapter. Of course you lose auto-aperture when you mount it on a Canon EOS, but many photographers don't seem to mind that.

    Now, yes of course many of the 1945 era workers went West. But they were replaced by several generations of East Germans who continued to work at Pentacon and CZJ. While, as we have already discussed, their products may not always have been perfect, neither did they enjoy the high standards of living that their Western counterparts did. And, regardless of the quality of their output, by virtue of history, location, and (some) legality, they had as much or as equal a right to the Zeiss name as anybody else. In the same way, the Kiev cameras ARE true Contax cameras even if, by the end, they were often junk.

    Your point is about the name. For example, Nikon and Canon at this very moment put their name on lower-end products that are not made by them, that bear no resemblance in quality to their high-end gear. But they are still Nikon and Canon, whether you like it or not.

    It is true that prices on some of these lenses have crept up, because of their utility on digital DSLRs and perhaps because of confusion with either the West German Zeiss M42 lenses or the later Rolleiflex SL mount and Contax Yashica mount lenses under the West German Zeiss name. A 35mm f/2.4 CZJ Flektogon now goes for around $150, which is about the same price as the half-stop faster Pentax Super-Takumar SMC 35mm f/2.0. Arguably the Pentax lens is not only faster but less likely to require adjustment. However, a Contax/Yashica Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 is not only half stop slower, but costs twice as much -- around $300. And yet all three lenses will provide excellent results in the real world. So it all comes down, original lens mount aside, which "look" you prefer and what you want to pay for it.
  38. it is also forgotten that Germany had thriving socialist and communist movements before Hitler, and at the war's end the survivors emerged and thought they had a new chance. In the DDR the parties were forcibly merged into the SED (Socialist Unity Party, really the Communist Party) and as the decades passed, the discontent simmered and brewed. However, in the immediate postwar period, as in Czechoslovakia, there were many idealistic communists who honestly thought that they could create a brave new society with a bit of help from the Soviet liberators. As in any major industry, I'm sure that Zeiss Jena had its share of these workers, who, far from the caricatured apparatchiks of east-bloc stereotype, were highly educated and motivated, at least at the beginning.

    so the "many Germans" not wanting to "voluntarily hang around" doesn't really begin to be entirely true until after the riots of 1953 and then the mass exodus of the late fifties, ending only with the construction of the wall in 1961. And even after that there were still many true believers: the DDR DID provide a comparatively high standard of living and by the '70s the dictatorship was "soft" -- people were spied upon, had low morale, and arrested -- but they also had Trabants, televisions, washer-dryers, free education and health care. The recent movie "The Lives Of Others" depicts this later period very well. The DDR should not be confused with Stalinist Siberia or even the much "harder" dictatorship of places like Romania at that time. None of this is to excuse or justify what they did, but it is important to understand the history accurately.
  39. This has been an interesting thread. I can't comment on the political dimension, it's not an area of expertise for me, though I'm fascinated to read the views of others, but the remarks on the M42 range from Praktica still surprise me, because these are the very lenses I have, and which I can compare with their 'real' (I use the word guardedly and in this context) Zeiss counterparts. The Fleks (which I think are Distagon designs) are very good performers, not world beating wide open, but they stand comparison with other extremely good marques in the same class. I see the F20/2.8 going for two to three times what I paid for mine, a price edged up, I think, by Canon digital users who historically at least were not spoiled for choice in the wide-angle department, and I don't think it's ignorance or confusing CZJ with the Oberkochen stable - I think people who seek these lenses out know exactly their provenance. Oddly enough, the Tessars seem comparatively under-valued. In a thoroughly unscientific test, I mounted a series of standard 50mm lenses, from Zeiss, Yashica (M42 and CY), a Takumar, and a Tessar, on a Canon digital just to see if I could print the images and tell without looking which image came from which lens. My guesses seem to be statistically indistinguishable from chance. The Tessar cost me GBP 2.50 and required no more than a re-lubricating and general clean.

    I don't have enough lens samples to make a judgement on issues like quality control variance, but recently I was going through my old negative file books, which date back to the late '60s. I was scanning old films for some re-printing, what with my darkroom currently out of commission. One of the things that struck me was how sharp and well exposed many of these old FP4 and HP4 films were, and on checking my records, the lenses used were mainly an old 50/2.8 Domiplan which had been attached to a Praktica Nova, and a Pancolar attached to an old Exakta. That old Domiplan was an unsophisticated three-element lens, not even a Tessar, but it was darned sharp and contrasty. I'd readily believe that I'd just got a good one and that others may have been poorer, but even so, these old DDR lenses cut some mustard. There are times when I've been just as happy to attach my CZJ 135 to my Canon as attaching my CZ 135 Sonnar, and I use them on my film bodies too. On the Canon, the CZJ seems just as bright through the viewfinder as the CZ Contax, despite being nearly a stop slower. I figure they are decidedly lenses from the Zeiss stable.
  40. Steve,

    I want to adress Alan and thank him for clarity in explaining the politics in a quite concise manner. Not only did he wrap the politics in a bundle he showed that over the course of time a real "name brand"
    becomes just a marketing principle.
    As so often stated from most other responses in this thread; whether
    Exacta or Contax S (M42) mount CZJ still is a name I can respect and
    in any "sales" situation.. I have enough experience to know what
    I am buying. Caveat Empor has a bad connotion but essentially it
    says you are responsible to "know" what you are buying.
    If the one or the other bemoans the rising cost due to DSLR uses,
    then think of how volatile other markets can be ....datz bizniss
  41. "Perhaps in hindsight I did not make my post clear enough. I was refering soley to the Praktica range of M42 screw mount lenses, which I do still insist are certainly not in any way, shape, or form proper Zeiss lenses...and I was trying to warn potential buyers of these that they are in now way to be compared to the Contax Zeiss lenses."

    It does not matter to which lens range you refer to, NONE of the Praktica lenses was made by "russians" in the former Zeiss plant. Also, the genuine Carl Zeiss Jena lenses coming with the Prakticas were just as good as any other CZJ lenses. The Prakticas came with CZJ lenses like the Tessar and the Pancolar. There is no use comparing them with Contax Zeiss lenses, since the latter were and are not available in M42 mount, so there is no risk of confusing Contax Zeiss lenses with Carl Zeiss Jena M42 lenses. Hence I do not quite understand what's the purpose of your "warning", and mixing with some half- or completely untrue facts does not give more sense to your "warning".

    Probably you are somewhat confused with another range of lenses coming with lower-cost versions of the Praktica. In the late years these lenses were labeled "Prakticar" but mostly were identical to the former Meyer-Goerlitz lenses. These lenses never had anything to do with Zeiss lenses, be they east or west, and are completely different in design from Zeiss lenses with same specs.

    BTW Zeiss-Ikon (the camera manufacturing branch of Zeiss) in West Germany did not make a more honest business when they sold lenses made in the former Voigtlaender works with Zeiss-Ikon labels... later they even bought lenses from Mamiya and sold them together with Voigtlaender SLRs, even using the old and well-reputated Voigtlaender lens designators.
    stuart_pratt likes this.
  42. the only possible direct confusion is between the CZJ M42 and the West German M42 made for the Icarex TM camera, as an earlier poster has already pointed out.

    however it is true that unscrupulous eBay sellers put up tags like "ZEISS LENS FOR CANON EOS" without specifying that such lens is originally not meant for Canon, mounts only with a 3rd-party adapter, will lose auto-aperture (an all important issue, IMHO) and is in no way whatsoever designed for Canon DSLRs. So this lens advertised as such may be a C/Y Zeiss lens or a CZJ M42 lens, either way, the appropriate adapter is slapped onto the back of it and the seller is acting like it's a Canon lens. (to protect himself from a fraud accusation, a seller may explain the truth in tiny print inside the description, but certainly not in the headline.)

    btw the meyer lenses, though not famous like the zeiss, aren't all bad, are they? praktica's 28mm lens was for many years the meyer or pentacon branded "29mm" f/2.8. and i had a humble 50mm f/2.8 Domiplan on an Exa that decent enough.

    frankly the optical problems photographers have are usually with zooms, at maximum fast apertures, very long lenses, and most of all, operator error. it's really hard to actually make a bad 35mm or 50mm prime lens, isn't it?
  43. Shhhhhh guys! I'm trying to flog my old crappy M42 Praktica lenses on Ebay.
    Cheers, Tony
  44. Alan, from what I have read about the former DDR, heard from some people who had lived there and from some own experience (I had visited this beautiful country for a week in the 80s) I would say that your posting depicts the situation quite well.

    Just one issue: only the SPD (social-democratic party) was merged into the SED. There are different opinions about how much pressure was used by the communists but ALL members of the SPD received a questionaire about the merger with the KPD (communist party of Germany) into the SED and the majority of them agreed. Other parties DID exist in former DDR, and the SED always had less than 50 p.c. of their parliament. Anyhow, all parties were united concerning their election campaigns and parliament activities into the "Nationale Front" (national front) and had to follow the same general outlines in politics, i.e. they were more or less meaningless compared to the all-mighty SED.

    But noone can deny the fact that elections held in former DDR did not comply with usual democratic standards and at least during the last election held (when they had to admit independent supervisors) the results were obviously faked by the government.
  45. Hi all,

    I am pleased that whatever the rights, wrongs, or disagreements, that this has provided an excellent thread.

    Alan.." A 35mm f/2.4 CZJ Flektogon now goes for around $150"

    Over here in the UK, that lens has been fetching as much as 100 GBP (200 USD) and at times even more! in mint condition. Bearing in mind that you can buy the Contax 35mm f2.8 lens, which is superior in every way, for exactly the same amount of money, it was these type of 'bargain deals' which were concerning me.

    Indeed there is one evilbay seller who sells many Jena lenses who even puts the current blue Zeiss company logo on the top of his listings...now that IS misleading.

    But I do certainly take everyones points about the better lenses in the range..(I did make passing reference to them in the first post).

    cheers Steve.
  46. "Over here in the UK, that lens has been fetching as much as 100 GBP (200 USD) and at times even more! in mint condition. Bearing in mind that you can buy the Contax 35mm f2.8 lens, which is superior in every way, for exactly the same amount of money, it was these type of 'bargain deals' which were concerning me."

    Steve, I have both lenses. The Flektogon is excellent, but if I'd to choose between them, I'd choose the Distagon. I took it on a trip to Slovenia recently, intending it just to be a 'might possibly need' filler in the camera bag, and it turned out to be the lens I most used. I paid about GBP 35 for the Flek, and GBP 86 for the Distagon, which was very cheap at the time. One advantage of the Flektagon is that it can be used on a CY camera as well as an M42, whereas the converse isn't true for the Distagon.

    Ebayspeak is just one of those things you have to learn to get fluent in. As already noted, words like 'Canon' and 'EOS' get stuffed into item descriptions, presumably to ensure that the advertised lens gets picked up by searches. I see a similar trick used where an item is described as 'not Nikon, Leica, Olympus', and so on, presumably for the keywords to be picked up again for an unrelated item. That device irrirates me more than is probably rational, so my searches always include the exclusion filter '-not'.
  47. Steve, I agree that it is close to a crime putting the current Zeiss logo in an ad or ebay offer concerning a lens made by a different company, although the manufacturer has the same name.

    Anyhow, prices on ebay are what the buyers are willing to sell if the seller does not ask a very high reserve price.

    BTW I see french Kinoptik lenses appear on ebay which obviously have been crudely converted to LTM lenses. These lenses are made to cover cine (18x24mm) format and I wonder if any of the buyers is happy using a Kinoptik f/2 40mm lens on his Leica. I know a german seller who has seen the lens he just sold re-appear on ebay - with same s/n but different (probably LTM) mount.

    Claiming these lenses were LTM lenses definitively is everything but honest. Claiming a Carl Zeiss Jena postwar lens was made by "Zeiss" is misleading - but any buyer probably can clearly read on the lens that it was NOT made in Oberkochen.
  48. Hi,

    "Claiming a Carl Zeiss Jena postwar lens was made by "Zeiss" is misleading - but any buyer probably can clearly read on the lens that it was NOT made in Oberkochen"

    Hi Winfried..the 'dodgy' sellers are too clever for that..they make sure the photos do not show the lens barrels showing anything they do not want the bidders to see. I have been buying & selling Contax items for years on the auction site and I know ALL the little tricks.

    When about 3-4 years ago the Contax /Zeiss c/y lenses were at the peak of their prices and the German made ones were fetching quite a lot more then the Japan made ones, many sellers of the Japan made ones were making sure they did NOT show the reverse of the barrels which showed the country of manufacture...and late bidders who left it too late to ask would just bid and hope is was German made.

    cheers Steve.
  49. With power tools many great Ameerican brands are now made in China. One may ask if they are not "proper" based in country of origin; whether union made or just base it on quality. In Leica folks debate Canadian versus German. In Wild survey equipment folks debate Swiss versus Singapore. Here we used a "non-proper" Eastern Bloc Carl Zeiss process lens with much sucess for over a decade. For all practical purposes it is a proper Carl Zeiss lens; a fine German lens made in the old Eastern sector.
  50. Meh, Sony puts the Zeiss name on their digital offerings today. Some people seem to be impressed with that. Right now Panasonic manufacturers lenses labeled Leica. People are impressed with that and are willing to pay out the cash despite a cheaper price on the same product labelled Panasonic. So right now people think its fun to put old lenses to good use by putting them on their dSLRs... I think thats awesome to keep those great lenses still running. As far as people knowing or even CARING what these lenses orginally cost, I dont think it matters one bit. On another thread someone mentioned paying $80 for a Holga. We live in a day and age of product recognition... people pay a premium for brands they recognize, defying the logic that not EVERY lens or camera made by a recognizible brand is good. Ive noticed lately that old Kodak cameras in particular are getting very expensive despite the original low price of Kodak products. People recognize the name and drive up the price. For $80 someone could buy a 1970s SLR capable of making some great images but the name recoginition of Holga continues to push it as a "must have" product despite it being generally agreed (even amoung people who LIKE the camera) that its a low quality product with unpredictable results. Canon has left their users high-and-dry by offering some truly terrible lenses in the "under $300" range, so many users are looking to pick up vintage glass for a bargain price. Even if the eastern Zeiss lenses are lower quality then the western Zeiss lenses, they are bound to be better than Canons range of cheaper zoom lenses.

    To me it sounded like the original poster is a collector and is scared of his west german collection loosing value due to the rising popularity of Jena glass. Up until about 10 years ago I think camera collecting was pretty much a set game. But as cultures change, the things the culture values also changes. If M42 mounts for dSLRs raises the value of glass because its being USED, I think that is far more valid than saying something has value because it is in a glass case wrapped in velvet NOT BEING USED! Just look at Polaroid roll-film cameras. Polaroid discontinued rollfilm sometime in the 1980s, since that time the cameras associated with that film became basically worthless, because they also used to be so common. But ever since people began converting them into large-format cameras, they have steadily raised in value. The cameras may be common which makes them have a low collectors value, but they are USEFUL which gives them a high value for USERS! A Kodak Instamatic camera appears in an opening scene in the movie "Amelie" and since then, there has been a growing interest in these cameras, with an online source for the film supporting the discontinued technology. Every time a camera appears in a popular movie or on an album cover, it temporarily raises in value due to popular culture recognition. Its an unpredictable, fickle and illogical system, but inst that the collecting game? Personally, I find some satisfaction in knowing that something is expensive because it is useful and not just for some elusive "collectible" reason.
  51. I shoot Exaktas quite a bit, and being able to use most of my Exakta-mount lenses with my Canon gear (Bellows+TTL Flash!) is merely an added bonus.<p>

    There's certainly wide sample variation, especially after 30-60 years since date of manufacture. That being said, the better pieces in my collection of CZJ (and Isco, Shacht, Angenieu, Schneider, etc) lenses are outstanding. The contrast, color, acutence, it's all there.
    Frankly, I don't see how lenses that were farmed out to Yashica are somehow "more authentic" than those from Jena.
    Oh, and find me a modern SLR lens that can touch the bokeh of a lens with a 20-blade preset diaphragm. ;)
  52. So what about jena PB lenses?
  53. I think the guy who started the conversation is not a photographer but an anticommunist who has never touched a zeiss jena or a pentacon or a jupiter lens or an Helios 40 85mm f/1.5 in his life. I have for example many many lenses from jena including the ikoflex I 1938 model with the tessar. All of these lenses are comparable to the leitz summitar f/2.0 for which I paid more money than all my russian and east german lenses. I cannot tell the difference in A4 size between the summitar and the jupiter 3 and jupiter 8 in my zorki. These guys are just the guys who learned photography from the internet and they have never touched a real lens like the Helios 40 f/1.5 85mm (Weight more than 1kg) to see what the russians and the east germans achieved in optics. The problem with the russian and east german equipment is the bodies not the lenses but if you get a good body it will last for 3 centuries. It was imposible a country with space research not to have good optics. The soviet satelites could read the plates of the cars in the time square and their good optics were copies of the carl zeiss jena lenses including the famous zeiss telescopes and binoculars.
  54. Hi,

    "I think the guy who started the conversation is not a photographer"

    I have been taking photos since the age of 10 and am a fully trained pro advertising photographer.

    "but an anticommunist"

    ...I love vodka and snow.

    "who has never touched a zeiss jena or a pentacon..."

    I have touched all of them and used some also...hence my comments.

    "These guys are just the guys who learned photography from the internet"

    I am fully trained at full time photographic college, taught by jobbing professionals.

    " Helios 40 f/1.5 85mm (Weight more than 1kg)"

    Heavy and solid does not automatically mean well made or a quality item, far from it, many Russian made items are very poorly made, this is a fact.

    "It was imposible a country with space research not to have good optics"

    ...the leader in space is the USA...when did you last see a top quality american designed and made lens? ...and did NASA use Russian lenses...no they used West German...

  55. NASA probably could not legally work with an eastern bloc company to make a space qualifed CUSTOM lens; ie one that is built with special greases and lubes that dont outgass in a vacuum. Thus your point about NASA not using eastern bloc optics is flawed; almost racist. The birthplace modern Optics is Jena; the home of Zeiss for along time. Many very fne lenses have been made by Zeiss; even ones made in the old eastern bloc. The 1950's Tessar I once used on an Exakta VX was an outstanding eastern bloc lens. What is with all the hatred and bias? Quality control was worse in eastern bloc items; damning them all to hell is abit odd.
  56. Hi,

    "Thus your point about NASA not using eastern bloc optics is flawed; almost racist"

    Kelly, by all means disagree with me, that is fine, but please, like the poster before you, do not make ill-founded personal assumptions about me as a person..thanks.
  57. I don't agree with the often repeated oppinion that Carl Zeiss Jena lenses were generally pre war projects. Flektogon lenses were all retrofocus wide angle optics which obviously didn't have anything common with pre war lenses. Indeed, the flektogons were much more innovative projects than the west-distagon lenses in 50s and 60s, like the 20/4 and 25/4 flektogons which were introduced when the only distagon existed was the 35/4 lens for Contarex! Also, the first Gauss type lens for rolleiflex was the east german CZJ Biometar 80/2,8, first designed in 1951, before the appearance of Planars. Indeed, the Schneider Xenotar 80/2,8 lens, later used by rolleiflex, seems to be a copy of this biometar lens! Even the Tessar formula was redesigned by CZJ thereupon the end of WWII, many years before the company in Oberkochen decided to redesign its tessar lenses! The last black CZJ lenses for Praktica and Pentacon six cameras, were modern designs and very good performers equal to the Carl Zeiss lenses for Contax/Yashica mount (especially in terms of the rendition of shape outlines and surface-depth details, I have never compared their sharpness in big enlargements and their scanning copies in pc monitor).
    Of course the build quality of the west Carl Zeiss lenses were much better. Especially the line of the lenses for the Contarex mount were made with the minimal mechanical tolerances that could get achieved. This fact combined with the the optical excellence of these lenses led to the best (and of course the most expensive) line of lenses ever produced. (I have never experienced the performance of leica lenses).

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