A Zeiss-lens, extension-rings and shipping for about 25$? No it’s not a fairytale, I actually got this bargain from swedish ebay Tradera. It all started when I saw an ad with unknown lens marked “aus Jena”…
I could not believe my luck. Was I the only one connecting the mark “aus Jena” to Carl Zeiss? Actually, someone else competed with me about the final bid, but I still got this 135mm lens for only 140 swedish kronor (about 20$). When it arrived in the mail, I put it to good use immediately!
Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135mm/3.5 Zebra, the lens
The mount on this lens is M42 screwmount (could be version with other mounts too). That means you need a adapter to make your modern DSLR take M42-lenses. These adapters are often sold cheap on ebay and well-stocked camerashops.
The focal length when this lens is mounted on my Canon EOS 350D is 215mm. The image is incredible clear and sharp, which makes it easy to focus. Manual focusing is fast and easy, specially compared to my Pentacon Electric 135mm/2.8 where you have to turn, turn, turn the focusring for ages (that slow focus can also come in handy some times though).
This version of the lens is called “zebra” because of it’s striped rings. It is a singlecoated lens that was manufactured 1967-70 according to serial number (see links at the end of article for sources). The purpose of coating is to reduce reflections from lenses surface. Old lenses are often singlecoated, in the 70’s multicoating came in use. However, there is nothing that says a singlecoated in different situations can be better then a multicoated one. So don’t make the assumption multicoat-lenses are better (even if that often is true).
The lens has an aperturepin that’s probably for some autofunction. It comes with a external button to use in conjunction with the pin. You need to press the pin or button to make the aperture close (otherwise it’s wideopen all the time). If your adapter or camera doesn’t press on the pin, it takes som training to manually press the external button, while your focusing and pressing the exposurebutton on the camera. When you get the hang of it, it’s actually a good function that makes focusing easier.
As you might have noticed from my previous reviews, I don’t do the kind of test where you make aperture diagrams and big images, 100% crops etc. I simply use the lens a while, in real life. I see no reason to test lenses in another way then I would use it in real work – thats where they have to prove themselfs. Images has been processed from RAW, scaled and sharpened.
These images was shot on different occasions form midsummer to present date (july 2008). The motifs are nature around swedish city of Örebro, some cityshots and a portrait of my sister-in-law when visiting the train station.
My opinion on this lens
You might already have guessed – I really like this lens! It has become my favorite since I bought it. Colours, sharpness, feel – all good.
- Good colours
- Nice bokeh
- Fast and easy manual focusing with clear image.
- Just feels like magic.
- The aperturepin/button, but the more I use it the more I think its a usable feature.
- Single coating. It ain’t that bad actually, this lens has been said to outgun the multicoated version.
The company Zeiss is alive today, in two parts created after the war. If you want to know more about them you can read up on their homepage or on the WikiPedia article. Lenses from Carl Zeiss are pretty much always of good quality.