Zeiss Opton Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 on Contax IIa

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Sep 22, 2016.

  1. Zeiss Opton Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 on Contax IIa

    Kadlubeks Objektiv-Katalog 2. Ausgabe: ZOP0020

    One of the persistent problems in acquiring Zeiss rangefinder cameras is that much of the Zeiss production line was moved, together with some German workers, to the Soviet Union as apart of war reparations after WWII. As often told ( e.g., http://www.zeisscamera.com/articles_fake.shtml , http://www.klassik-cameras.de/Zeiss_Fakes.html ), this has created problems with subsequent ‘re-‘ conversions of Kiev cameras into Contax II and III as well as “repairs” in which Kievan parts have been used in originally genuine, but broken, prewar Contaxes. Ditto for some of the lenses.

    Zeiss was thus splintered in the Cold War era, with production of many items in Dresden/Jena as well as in Stuttgart and Kiev.

    For just the Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 versions:

    Zeiss Jena 50mm Sonnar 1947 7/3 f1.5-22
    Zeiss Oberkochen 50mm Opton Sonnar 1951 7/3 f1.5-16
    Soviet-made Jupiter-3 50mm 3 f1.5
    There is even a modern version, the Zeiss C Sonnar 1,5/50 ZM of the early 21st century.

    Well, here is my relatively new toy. I believe it is a brass, genuine Zeiss Option, and this is my shooting of that lens and another on my Contax IIa (previous discussions at http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00bp7m , http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00cu64 , http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00bqWG , http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00bp7m , and others on lenses such as http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00bxJy ).
  2. At the time I was shooting a test roll (Fujicolor) of the Sonnar , I also used a Helios 58mm f/1.8 Soviet copy of the Biotar (and perhaps other German lenses). The Soviet lens was about $30 US, postpaid from Ukraine ( e.g., http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00bqWG ). The Sonnar was a little more expensive, but well in line with current eBay sales.
    Here is a sample of what actually is Zeiss Kiev, in a certain sense.
  3. Here's the camera body I shot the Helios and Sonnar on.
  4. Now to a couple of sample images.
    Guess (not Gauss) who had to have a 60-year old sewer line replaced?

  5. As you can see below, the 100% crops do not reveal much difference between the two lenses.
    Many of us learned some time ago (and bought one then in every mount we could find, BTW) that the Helios might well be the biggest lens bargain now available. Many other Soviet lenses also perform well. Now that Cold War I is over, the “Commie” lenses turn out to be both excellent and fairly consistent (we’re talking mass production for and by the masses here). When Cold War I was on-going, they were all crummy Commie junk, of course.

  6. And could any post of mine be complete, be whole, without the Carbondale Polyspheroid Watertower? Here with the Sonnar.
  7. At the time these pictures were taken, I was not quite so far along in my healing as I am now. It's been a slow process, and
    still, I am much better, thanks.
    So, now my Contax IIa is whole, with a contemporary “Wessie” lens. Adenauer sei dank!
  8. Exactly when I am contemplating replacing my not-overly-reliable Kiev-4a with an older (and hence presumably more reliable) one, you make me consider searching for a Helios too.... ? It seems I am blessed with an above average Jupiter-8, but there is always this itch, and now it got worse.....
  9. My Kiev 4a cameras are both working well. The one turned back into a Contax II, especially well- it's as smooth as the Contax IIa, in fact.
    I see Helios-103 lenses in Contax mount on eBay for under US$30 including shipping. Strike before the prices go up!
    There seems to be an inexhaustible supply of them, however.
    The Kiev bodies seem to have got cheaper too. Don't wait until Cold War II breaks out or the borders may be closed!
  10. To some extent these comparisons don't show you much beyond how each lens had aged. At this point in the life cycle, it
    may be the integrity of the lens more than the quality of the optical design. And integrity is more about treatment than
    about the original construction.
  11. The superlow prices that eBay US has somehow never really show up on the European ones - no idea why, but probably it's fools like me who pay all the same. I'll have to hold off the purchase a bit. I quite like the Kiev 4a, but frame spacing is a guessing game and the film rewind knob is by necessity a screw at the moment. The older ones may cost a tad more, but they're still extremely reasonable priced, so sooner or later I'll jump on one. And probably a Jupiter-12 and Helios too. Oh darn, too much fun gear out there.
  12. In your results, the sonar looks darker than the one from
    the helios. Do you know if there was a difference in light
    or exposure?

    One thing I noticed about my sonar is that the coatings
    are noticeably better. At least when looking Y the front
    of the lens, I can see less of a reflection. Where the
    helios had considerably more reflection. But whether or
    not this actually makes a difference in the final image.
    That is hard to tell.
  13. To some extent these comparisons don't show you much beyond how each lens had aged.​
    Well I have several hundred lenses, mostly "primes", and I have never seen any evidence that they "aged". Of course, physical damage, lack of newer coatings, and the like would affect a lens, but I wouldn't call that "aging". Both lenses are tight, no looseness or any other indications of damage.
    As for the darkness of one vs. the other, that's purely a matter of the scanning and the crop. I can't see any differences in the negatives.
    In this case, the coatings on the Helios are probably more up-to-date than those on the Sonnar. The Sonnar is a "red T" lens, FWIW.
  14. JDM - nice picture of the tower! I have a pre-Tchernobyl Helios too and I find the results as good as my Sonnars, maybe overall more sharpness.
    Wide open, I prefer the softness and overall look of the Sonnars. The Helois is a very wellmade lens and the click stops are a nice
    touch... Works also fine on the Nikon RFs. As the coating is more modern, mine too shoes less reflexions on the surface. Cheap and truly
    underrated lens!
  15. Nice post and beautiful set of lenses.
    I have all of those pictured except the Jupiter 8m. Concur with your opinion of the Helios-103, best reason to use a Kiev / Contax body and to endure their quaint ergonomics.
    Have you ever tried the Zeiss Sonnar f/2, prewar uncoated? Never been able to get a decent picture from mine.
  16. my 'trial' is of the Soviet version of the 85mm f/2
  17. I love the Contax rangefinders but prefer the purity of design of the pre-war II to the more complex and not necessarily more reliable post war IIa with its less reliable rangefinder alignment and shorter base length. I replaced a set of ribbons in a II Friday night, a one owner 1936 version that came with collapsible 50mm f/2. And a few weeks ago I shot a test roll of Provia 100F through another II I attended to for a friend, including some side by side images with my Oberkochen coated 50mm f/1.5 and his pre-war coated Jena 50mm f/1.5. Looking at the films both lenses are superb, with the pre-war example perhaps a little cooler in its colour rendition. I suppose I should scan the film and have a better look. Thanks for sharing these images JDM, don't talk the Soviet glass up too much, please, I may indulge in a USSR-made 85mm f/2 myself in the not too distant future. ;)
  18. Though my repsonse it late.. I thought it interesting to note that though this is a German design and made in Contax mount
    for the Kiev(Jupiter 3), it was later offered in L39 and was desirable for Fed users and the like minded pocket concious
    German Rangefinder users... Now on the glorious LOMO bandwagon... production has been renewed for this lens in the
    L39 mount... and with M adapter for a mere USD600

  19. I have several pre-war Sonnars 50 f/1.5 in Contax mount and one is an LTM conversion in a Jupiter-3 mount by Brian Sweeney.

    My lens-fiend friend tells me the resolving power of the Sonnars/Jupiters is pretty low, something about image lines per micrometer. It's never bothered me personally.

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