CZJ lenses, anything special?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by vegeotto, Jun 25, 2012.

  1. vegeotto

    vegeotto Member

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    I've been thinking about trying a P6 because I've read that the CZJ lenses were sharper in the center than the western Zeiss lenses. Anyone else observe this? I'm most interested in the 80mm f2.8 Biometar and care most about center sharpness and bokeh, especially wide-open.
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I doubt that one could make any such generalization, since there are so many different Zeiss lens designs of different periods on both sides of the border.

    I had four lenses (50/80/200/300, if I recall) when I had a Pentacon 6 in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the most interesting was the 50mm Flektagon.
     
  3. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I've used the 50mm Flektagon and Bronica Zenzanon (actually a CZJ Biometer) as well as Nikkor and Komura lens and the Carl Zeiss Jena lenses were just vas good.

    Where all the CZJ post war lenses are let down is the quality of their focus mechanishs and the cheap natsy lubrican that dries out, or gives unsmooth travel, sometimes the aperture stop down systems are poor as well. Bronica had their own focus mount.

    I use a 1950's CZJ LF Tessar lens and it's equal to late production Xenar's and nearly a stop faster.

    Ian
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    As I recall, the 300mm that I had was flaky in this way. I remember taking the whole system to Ken Hansen where I traded it for credit toward a lighting system, and seeing the guy behind the counter wince when he felt that sandy sensation in the helical.
     
  5. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    It is really difficult to generalize. Some of the designs were the same, but after WW2 the Zeiss Jena production facilities were decimated by the Russians. The Western company had to start from scratch. Both companies had optics made in other factories in both the GDR and West Germany. In the early period after WW2 Carl Zeiss lenses from west Germany were not necessarily made by Carl Zeiss. Much later on the 'Jena' label became something of a trademark that was stuck onto things that were not necessarily made in Carl Zeiss Jena. Similarly, some optics from CZ west Germany were made... 'elsewhere'.

    Bottom line is all CZ optics are good designs, usually they had good quality control. West Germany quality control was usually better than the later period in the GDR, but you pay for it. But even GDR QC was usually much better than the Ukranian or Russian lenses.

    As for grease... the communists seem to have a problem with lubricants! My Sonnar was a bit loose and sloppy. I sent it to a German technician for servicing and it came back silky smooth and tight.
     
  6. Pioneer

    Pioneer Member

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    CZJ 180mm 2.8

    I have not used the 50 or the 80 but I do use the CZJ Sonnar 180mm 2.8 on my Pentax 645Nii with an adaptor and I absolutely love it. Based on a few non-scientific comparison photos between my SMC Pentax A 645 150mm f3.5 and the CZJ 180mm 2.8 Sonnar the 180mm wins in image quality while the 150mm wins in ease of use. The CZJ 180 is one huge chunk of glass and metal. It is the only lens I use on my 645Nii where I am glad that there is a tripod mount on the lens. On the flip side, the A 150mm is a very nice, tidy little lens and is very easy to pack around and use. If I am hiking then I will definitely pick the A 150.

    Here are a couple similar shots. Both shots taken with the Pentax 645Nii within about an hour of each other, similar light. Tripod mounted, manual focus. Used Kodak Portra 400VC set to F6.7 @ 1/1000 seconds. No shutter release cable, no timer, no mirror lockup. Developed in same batch with Rollei kit at standard timings.

    SMC Pentax A 45 150mm
    Pent 150 Flowers.jpg

    Carl Zeiss Jena 180mm Sonnar
    CZJ Flowers.jpg

    They are very close. To me the Pentax image seems a bit warmer while the CZJ image is a bit cooler. I think the CZJ image is a tad sharper but I am a long way from an expert on this. You should also keep in mind that individual copies of the same lens can vary a bit so this result may not necessarily be representative of anyone else's experience.
     
  7. john_s

    john_s Subscriber

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    Quite a lot warmer it seems to me. The two shots look like different photos.
     
  8. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    I'd say!
     
  9. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I had this problem with a Pancolor on my Prakticamat (the fisrt camera sold with TTL metering) nad have similar issues with another Pancolor and a Flektagon & Sonnar all Exacta mount. Meyer lense I bought never seemed to suffer as badly.

    My first Pancolor never stopped down consistently to the correct aperture by the early 1960's quality control was poor.

    Ian
     
  10. Stan160

    Stan160 Member

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    The first camera I ever bought was a used Praktica LTL with CZJ Pancolor 50/1.8. That developed sticky aperture blades at some point in the late 90s/early 00s when I wasn't doing much photography and it spent most of its time in a box on top of the wardrobe.

    Earlier this year I finally plucked up courage, found some instructions online, dismantled the lens and gently cleaned the blades with IPA and cotton buds. Working perfectly now, and having gained a little confidence working on a low value lens I moved on to my P6-mount CZJ 120/2.8 Biometar that suffered from the same problem. Happy to relate that is now fixed too and once again in use.

    Ian
     
  11. piu58

    piu58 Member

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    I use the 50, 80, 120 and 180 lenses for my P6. I had never some kind of proeblem with them. The lenses are pretty sharp. The 80 and 120 Biometar are from Gauss/Planar type. I have never seen any lubrican outside.
     
  12. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    The discipline these lenses shine most is bokeh. The 180mm is incredible, followed by the 120mm. I think it is hard to beat this bokeh with any other MF lens. Hasselblad 110/2 and 150/2,8 come close, but the Jena lenses are even smoother. As said, the 180mm is h u g e
     
  13. Dali

    Dali Subscriber

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    When reading "Carl Zeiss Jena", people in fact read "Carl Zeiss" and forget "Jena".

    For a pre-war lens, no problem as Carl Zeiss was located in Jena and lenses were very well made. In fact they were at this time among the best not to say the best.

    Then, things were sharply down the drain after WWII when Carl Zeiss split in 2. The western part in Oberkochen continued the quality and innovation tradition but the Jena part, well... Spotty quality control, poor mechanical quality (diaphragm), poor lubricant, you name it, one step above the soviet production, no more. When I see now people paying top dollars to buy a '60 or '70 CZJ lens and all the buzz about these lenses on various forums, I wonder if people would have the same attitude if lenses were wearing a different name... To me CZJ means pre-war lenses, superb craftsmanship, precise engraving, not these mass-produced low quality products.

    Take care.
     
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  15. outwest

    outwest Subscriber

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    I have the 80, 180 and a 300 MC (the 50 Flektagon lost out to a 55 Russian) and, after my Pentagon 6 expired, got adapters for Mamiya 645 and even Nikon. The 180 f/2.8 is a great lens, even my old zebra one, and excellent for long range macro. The 300 f/4 is beautiful and is even a killer with a good 2x extender for 600 f/8. The lenses were of a much higher quality than the Pentagon 6 unfortunately.
     
  16. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    I think that is a little unfair. Remember that when the management and R & D were moved to Oberkochen, they didn't just walk into a new factory. In fact, most of the personnel were employed elsewhere, at least in the short term. The West Germany company actually started in a wooden shed in the grounds of the Leitz factory. (Not Leitz the lens manufacturers, Lietz the woodworking tool makers!). It was a long time before the factory was built and production restarted - and don't forget the priority would have been medical equipment, microscopes, military equipment. Camera lenses would have been way down the list. Consequently early post War West German lenses probably came from one of the factories in the Zeiss group that remained in West Germany - possibly the microscope production facilities at Wetzlar or Gottingen or more likely one of the other companies from the former Zeiss Ikon group in Stuttgart. Early post WW2 Zeiss Opton Tessars have a reputation for poor quality control and for having the lenses glued in place. It took a while for CZ West Germany to get back to (and beyond) the quality of the pre-war production - and even then they tended to concentrate only on high end prestige optics (Rollei and Hassleblad and cinema lenses).

    Meanwhile - the Jena factory was essentially ransacked and destroyed by soviet troops. Later, after East Germany became part of the Soviet Union, it was rebuilt. Remember this is the start of the cold war - and neither the US or the Soviets were fighting over Zeiss employees because they were interested in Tessar lenses. Ultimately the Soviets pumped billions of Roubels (and East German Marks) into building a huge state of the art optical factory at Jena. It is (was) many times the size of the one in Oberkochen and employed most of the inhabitants of the city, directly or indirectly. The Soviet military, space program and electronics industry relied heavily on CZJ - I think to characterize it as a budget maker of dodgy camera lenses is wide of the mark.

    I suspect the reason for the poor reputation of some of the lenses probably comes from the late 1970s and 80s, when the collapsing Soviet block was desperate for Western currency. Lots of manufactured goods were churned out with little regard for quality control and it seems at a price that had little relation to the manufacturing costs in many cases (Kiev 60! Kiev 88!). Hence lots of very cheap but poor quality goods flooding the market and trashing the reputation of anything manufactured on the wrong side of the iron curtain.

    Consequently - I think CZ Jena lenses are often over hyped by those who like brand names - but equally over criticized by those who don't rate Soviet technology! I do take the point, though, that a Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm telephoto (i.e a Sonnar) will fetch about five times the price of a Pentacon 135 mm lens (i.e: exactly the same lens, after CZJ lost the right to use the brand name). Such is the power of brand names....

    Maybe the moral is - buy Pentacon lenses in preference to CZJ whenever you can - yes, the lubricants may be dried up and the diaphragms a little sticky, but they can be easily serviced and you will get a lot of lens for very little money.
     
  17. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Pre WWII CZJ lenses were and are superb, world class. After WWII, the Zeiss operation was is Oberkochen, West Germany, and the Jena factory in East Germany was under "new" management. Quality control was iffy, and in general the products were comparable to other Eastern bloc products. Which is to say, nothing to write home about. A good one was very good, and the worst were truly horrible, and the majority probably fell in the middle in typical bell-curve fashion.
     
  18. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    I suppose there are some myths that are so entrenched that they just can't be debunked :blink:
     
  19. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    What's the myth?? Carl Zeiss Jena effectively ceased to exist after 1945. The name was retained, but the content and all else changed. You can buy a car today that says "Bugatti" on the front, does that make it a real pur sang Bug?
     
  20. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    Did you read the post I made before yours?
     
  21. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Carl Zeiss Jena continued trading after 1945, it certainly didn't cease to exist, ownership changed when it was effectively nationalised but the machinery, designs, some of the workforce were the same. I have a 1950's CZJ 150mm f4.5 T (coated) Tessar that's identical to the first coated version made in 1938.

    You also need to bear in minf that there was some early co-operation between the newer West German Zeiss set up by the Americans and CZJ, they expected to be able to reunite the company. This co-operation was stopped by the Communists in East Germany in the early 1950's.

    Ian
     
  22. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    I agree with most that Steve said, especially that the (built)quality of products went downhill in the 70s and 80s. But: East Germany was never part of the Soviet Union. Part of the Eastern Bloc yes, but not of the Soviet Union ;-)
    I had the chance to take a look on one of the later black MC 180/2,8 Sonnar lenses some time ago and found the aperture ring to be flimsy. I´ve also heard that the earlier ones with zebra design would be of better built quality. I have a Zebra Tessar 50/2,8 that is well made too, and often heard people saying that the built quality of Jena lenses decreased after they abandoned the Zebra design. Quality control in the 50s and 60s was also supposed to be much better than it was in later years when they were in desperate need for western money, as Steve said.
    I must also add that I had a Russian 200/4 lens some years ago (must have been from the 80s judging from the design), that was extremely(!) well made. Built like a tank. It was named "Jupiter". Quite sharp and wonderful bokeh it had.
    IMO, it is neither justified to praise the Eastern Bloc lenses beyond all means, nor is there any reason to regard them as junk. They offer a good value at comparably low prices and this is their niche. I have seen many pictures taken with the 180/2,8 that had plenty of sharpness and the Bokeh is plainly wonderful (the last being a consensus, needless to debate). And except for the very expensive Schneider lens for Rollei 6000, there is no other 180/2,8 lens made by any manufacturer.
     
  23. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    Quite so,

    But the point I was trying to make earlier was that the US forces didn't put the factory and it's employees on a truck and drop them off Oberkochen where they could carry on where they left off. A select elite of managers and designers were 'liberated' to the west - along with a lot of designs and patents! The Americans main interest was in stopping the Russians getting a lot of advanced optical technology. Think bombsites, reconnaissance optics, rifle sites, telescopes and other useful bits of military hardware....
    I think a few camera lenses were the least of their worries.
    Alas, some staff were reluctant to leave their families and homes. I've been told stories of some of these people 'disappearing'. Unlike the Americans, I don't think the Russians asked. So.. I suspect the Soviets did get quite a bit of Zeiss technology.

    The Russians did completely trash the Jena factory, that is true. They were also after everything they could get... The mistake many photographers make is to think Carl Zeiss is a camera lens manufacturer. It is not. It started as a microscope manufacturer and later branched into medical optics and is now into all sorts of areas. Along the way (1914) it employed a lens designer Paul Rudolf when it realised Abbes glass technology could make better lenses. Initially these were produced under licence by many other companies (Ross in the UK). In 1914 Zeiss purchased a camera lens plant in Saalfeld. It is about 50 Km South of Jena. R and D and design may have been at Jena - but production was a Saalfeld from 1914 right up until Dokter Optic went bust in 1991. I don't know if the Russians paid it a visit in 1945. They probably did, but I doubt it was ransacked in quite the way CZ Jena was - or whether the designers and R and D people were whisked away. After all - this was only camera lenses, not such a critical cold war prize.

    So... before WW2 the Carl Zeiss camera lens production line was in Saalfeld.
    After WW2 The East German camera lens production line was in Saalfed.
    The West German lens production was... who knows where???

    So whatever happened to the Carl Zeiss Jena plant is a mute point... there is a lot more continuity in lens production than most people believe from the idea that Carl Zeiss moved it's camera lens production from Jena to Oberkochen in 1945.
    It was never in Jena - and it didn't move to Oberkochen! That is what I mean by entrenched myths :smile:
     
  24. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    I think we're saying the same thing from different angles. A post WWII lens marked Carl Zeiss Jena was made in Jena, but the true Zeiss mangement - such as survived WWII - was located in Oberkochen. Different companies, different management, probably different glasses.
    My point was that to compare pre-war CZJ to post-war CZJ is unrealistic. Designs may have been the same, and some production may have been identical, but it was not the same company.

    I remember there was a problem with lenses being sold in the west marked CZJ; they were changed to "Aus Jena".
    I did not know of the co-operation between CZJ and the western version.

    Edit - I know about Saalfeld. Since Jena was in East Germany, an Eastern bloc nation, it is convenient to refer to the stuff coming from Jena. Just like Goerz Berlin lenses were made in Zehlendorf, a suburb of Berlin.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2012
  25. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    Yes, apologies, sloppiness on my part!
     
  26. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    I'll forgive you this time, as I suspect you wrote your message as mine was being posted, judging by the times.... but I humbly disagree about the place of manufacture and the glass... and possibly even the managers of the Camera lens production plant.