Zeiss lenses for Exakta?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by marco_f, Nov 19, 2009.

  1. I used to be a Leicaholic (Barnack cameras and M-3s only - none of this new stuff for me). My father-in-law recently gave me his hardly used Exakta 500 (really an Exa) bought new in the '60s and I was surprised at the tactile appeal and the excellent quality of its 50/2.8 Tessar, although the focusing screen is really terrible, in my opinion. I had always shunned Eastern bloc photo equipment. Now I am infected with the Exaktavirus and I've gone out and acquired a Varex IIb and a 58/2 Biotar in good working order for ridiculously low prices. This quirky camera has me really in a fever and I find myself scouring auction sites and classifieds for bargain priced lenses. Right now I've developed a pathological desire to acquire a 35/2.8 Flektogon, the one that is referred to as a "Macro" lens, focusing down to 0.18 meter (7 inches or so ). Anyone have any opinions on this lens? I'm bewildered by the variations of East German Zeiss lenses that are out there. Aside from the different descriptors found around the lens bezel, there are lenses with seven digit serial numbers and four (!) digit serial numbers. What gives here? Lenses with six blade, eight blade, ten blade, twelve blade iris. I'm sure that many re-designs occurred over the years as well as concessions to economic conditions. I've heard that quality declined as the 60s and 70s wore on. Is this true? How does one make an intelligent decision short of testing every potential purchase? Which lenses or production era is to be avoided? Is there any sort of general consensus regarding the peak period of consistent highest quality production?
     
  2. Hi! That Biotar 58mm is one of the best lenses made by Zeiss. It was copied and improved in some versions of the Helios in Ukraine. Exaktas are a good acquisition and delightful to use if you pay attention to details and maintenance, purely mechanical and sturdy. Jena was the center of scientific research and innovation in optical glass and lens making, long before World war II. So you need not think of East and West Germany when thinking of Zeiss Jena lenses. Regardless of Post -War political spoils Jena continued to produce excellent lenses. The Flektagons are excellent lenses, whether older or newer [preset or automatic]. The newer ones may have multi-coating; the older ones may not have that. That would/may affect some color pictures. I have both old and new verieties in the 35mm Flektagon. The old one, [despite the many scratches some previous owners had made], produces excellent B&W pics. My general observation is that the older stop down or preset lenses had more blades in the iris. The more modern ones reduced the numbers to six blades or even 5 in some Russian ones. Possibly this was due to the need for ensuring smooth automatic operation, as the springs inside are delicate ones and cannot exert the same pressure as the hand twist. Some people prefer a larger number of blades for their so-called "Bokeh" effect produced by the more circular iris. Buy a Flektagon in good condition without hesitation; they are all excellent. Regards, sp.
     
  3. The plastic microprism screens in Exaktas are about the worst I've ever used; if you can find one of the early, plain matte glass screens with the convex top surface, these are a bit dim but a much better focusing surface and make the camera much more pleasant to use.
    I've never seen the 4-digit serial numbers; CZJ serial numbers that I've seen seem to run from about 3 million in 1950 to 8 million in 1970.
     
  4. I've never used any good Leica equipment.. so perhaps I'm a poor judge. The WLF that came with my Exa is quite good and the Tessar (now repaired) is clean and birght and enhances the experience. I guess there's finders and then there's finders! One of the best sites for Exaktas is Captain Jacks http://captjack.exaktaphile.com/CameraPage.htm. This has a lot of Exakta porn...
    Many seem to be of the opinion that the later versions VXIIa with the block letters on the prisms had poor quality control. This was about 1965.. there are even later version that have the Exakta name that are not even Exakta mount. I find Exaktas "qurky" and fun and while many find them backwards with the lever on the left and the release on the user's left front, I think the shape is ergonomic. Like SP said you can'T ever go wrong with the Zeiss Lenses and for a while this was the only "system" 35 so there'S a plethora of special lenses and accessories for these cameras. If I had the money I'd send mine to a trechnician. It works fine and luckily the curtains, despite being a lttle wrinkled are still light tight. It's the "Zzzzrip" sound it makes.... I think this could be greatly improved and as a "Leica" user you know how quiet a FP shutter can be.. the borrowed FED/Leica I had made a very simple "PLOP" sound on release. I am pleased that you are pleased with the Exakta... this religious following always needs new members.
     
  5. Welcome to "Ekataland"! The cameras are very nice to hold. Someone recently told me the system was really designed to be used with the waist level finder, and that seems to produce the best results for me. They are still very usable classics, and the lenses have appreciated as people buy them and put them on Canon and other DSLRs. I have a later model auto diaphragm Flektogon. It really does focus down VERY close. Add an extention tube and you've got 1:1 reproduction.
    The only problem I've seen with my Flektogon when used at very close distances is that what I see in the finder will sometimes be off focus on the film. It could be slack in the lens mount, or perhaps the focusing screen. Either way I don't blame the lens. In the future I will use the old Macro method of measuring subject to FILM plane distance and rely on that. It's a superb lens and I think everybody who owns and Exakta or EXA should have a Zeiss Jena Flektogon.
     
  6. Flektogon 2,8/35 is indeed a fine piece of optical equipment. When compared with more modern lenses, it's main drawback is its slow speed (f/2.8).
    The close focusing function can be quite handy. There's an interesting aperture correction mechanism (when focusing closer and closer, aperture ring moves if set wide open - it display actual aperture, not the one at infinity) that is shared with some other CZJ lenses. Please keep in mind there is a noticeable barrel distortion at those settings, at normal distances the lens is good enough to shoot architecture.
    Compared to other CZJ lenses of same vintage, it flares quite easily (at least my samples - they are without and scratches and clean). The 49 mm filter thread that was probably used for commonality with other CZJ lenses is too narrow. You should either use a step up ring or narrow filters.
    There are some 4-digits CZJ serial number CZJ lenses. They are from the last production batches ever made.
    Best regards,
    Miha
     
  7. I am and have been a Contax / Pentacon and Praktica "nut", but East is East, so I also ended up picking up a bunch of Exaktas and Exas, plus lenses. At first they just seemed kinda "funny", but actually they have a certain funky charm and lately I've been shooting more with Exaktas than with the old KW cameras. Flektogons and the Biotars are classic lenses by any objective measure. I even use them on digital bodies (although the Flektagons can have mount-mirror problems on "full-frame" bodies).
     
  8. This post was also submitted in another thread, but I think it's appropriate here too, so here goes.....
    Best Exakta lenses? Wow, where to start? The one really nice thing about Exaktas is that you have a huge selection of lenses -- at one point, there were more lenses made for Exaktas than any other camera.
    I'm offering these thoughts as someone who has been using Exaktas since he was 12 years old (32 years), so take these opinions however you like.....
    As far as a 'normal' lens goes, I'd go for the 55m f/1.9 Steinheil Auto-Quinon -- beautifully sharp, and you can close focus with it. Speaking of close focus, another one would be a Kilfitt 40/3.5 Makro Kilar.
    Wide lenses - my choice would be a Schneider 35/2.8 Curtagon. Any of the Angenieux lenses would be good too. I have an ISCO 24mm lens, but I can't say that's it's the sharpest lens (at least mine isn't, and it's in very nice shape).
    Portrait lenses - there's a few good ones, but of course the best of the best is the 75/1.5 Zeiss Biotar. I'd also vote for the Meyer 100/2.8 Trioplan.
    Please keep in mind that a few of the lenses I've mentioned are either manual or pre-set lenses. Not that it's a big deal, but it just adds one more thing for you to remember if you're focusing wide open and need to stop down to take the picture.
    The cameras themselves are not 'speed' cameras, but does it really matter? They just slow you down and make you a more thoughtful photographer!
    My personal preference for an Exakta camera model is the VX version 1 - the back does not detach like the Varex, it has that beautifully curved film advance lever, and you don't have to hold the rewind button down to rewind the film, as with a VXIIa. But, I have to say that the VXIIa with the embossed logo on the front is quite pretty.
    Exaktas are quite underrated cameras (in my opinion). True, it can be difficult to find a good one (primarily due to deteriorated shutter material), but once you do, you will be rewarded with beautiful photos and a very satisfying photography experience (particularly if you're a leftie!).
     

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