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.
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 :-)
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 E. von Hoegh; 06-27-2012 at 02:25 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Yes, apologies, sloppiness on my part!
Originally Posted by Slixtiesix
Originally Posted by E. von Hoegh
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.
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Originally Posted by E. von Hoegh
The opinions you are expressing about Carl Zeiss lenses are commonly held by a lot of people. I get on my soap box about it a bit - but it is the dodgy history that is out there that I am critical of, nothing personal.
Sorry if it sounds like I'm on your case!
Whoa I lot of history here. Not sure what to make of it.
So do the lenses make good pictures?
Hahaha, I guess I got to try and find out.
Some years ago I did some printing for afriend, I'd slready been printing commercially for quite a few years by then. The negativs were some of the best I've come across in terms of sharpness and tonality, all his lenses were CZJ - a 35mm Flektago, 50mm Pancolor and a 135mm Sonnar. Maybe he was lucky but I'd put his lenses on a par with the best available at that time.
Since a pictures is said to say more than a thousand words, here a few examples (not from me). Please do not be scared since most of these sites are in Russian ;-) The names of the lenses however are given in latin letters ;-) (Sorry if I´m incorrect for assuming that you can´t read Russian, but from experience I know that most people outside the former Eastern Bloc cannot)
http://club.foto.ru/forum/20/385643 (There is a good amount of Rollei, Hasselblad and Mamiya in here too)
Last edited by Slixtiesix; 06-28-2012 at 08:54 AM. Click to view previous post history.
After these it should be obvious that the bokeh of the 180/2,8 is outstanding ;-)
However, then there is the problem of chosing a camera. Though I know the East German 35mm cameras quite well, I do not have any real experience with the Eastern Bloc MF cameras. There is Pentacon Six, Kiev 6, Kiev 88 CM(!) (Only the CM version will take the P6 lenses!).
These lenses were also available for Mamiya 645 and Rolleiflex SL66 in very small numbers. One needs a good amount of luck to find them nowadays.
To come back to Vegeottos original question: Yes, these lenses are very good optically, but they are not better than their Rollei/Hasselblad counterparts. They are not worse either + they are usually one stop faster, and I think it is the last point that sets them apart, more than any other optical property.
Last edited by Slixtiesix; 06-28-2012 at 03:45 AM. Click to view previous post history.