the history of the 2.8/8cm Carl Zeiss
Jena Tessar as used on
the Rolleiflex 2.8A and on the Prewar Ikoflex III is
quite well known and
there are no remaining unresolved questions.
In 1936, Zeiss Ikon decided to trump Franke & Heidecke
by producing a 6cm
by 6cm TLR; this was in response to the "Baby Black"
Rolleiflex, with its
2.8/6cm CZJ Tessar using VP (127) film. Zeiss Ikon
contacted its sister
company, the Carl Zeiss lensworks, for an appropriate
lens, and Wandersleb
had his boys whump up the fine 2.8/8cm CZJ Tessar.
The camera was
introduced at the Leipzig-Meße in April, 1939, with
deliveries from June of
that year. Obviously, the production run was most
brief, due to the War.
However, a number of lenses had been produced by Carl
Zeiss Jena, and these
were stored during the War years.
In 1947, when Franke & Heidecke decided to design and
Rolleiflex 2.8A, they contacted Carl Zeiss -- not yet
its East German and West German branches! -- and were
advised that Carl
Zeiss Jena could supply the remaining Tessars produced
for the 853/16
Ikoflex III and could, in addition, coat them.
Unfortunately, either in
the course of storage or in the course of the coating
process, some of the
lenses became mixed between production batch and
production batch, with the
result that a portion of the lenses supplied to Franke
& Heidecke proved
unacceptably soft in use. Recent research indicates
that approximately 1/2
of the first batch of Rolleiflex 2.8A's had CZJ Tessar
T lenses and that
around 1/3 of these had defective lenses. The
remainder of the 2.8A
production run had 2.8/8cm Tessar T lenses produced
and supplied by the new
West German Carl Zeiss lensworks at Oberkochen, then
"Zeiss-Opton" trademark, the "Opton" being a
contraction of "OPTische-werke
OberkocheN". (Clever, these Germans!).
Franke & Heidecke began to receive customer complaints
performance and quietly recalled those cameras
equipped with the CZJ
Tessars and replaced them with Zeiss-Opton Tessar T's.
It is important to
note that a number of the CZJ lenses were perfectly
adequate performers and
that the majority of the 2.8A cameras produced had the
Tessar. But the damage had been done, and Franke &
Heidecke quickly killed
production of the camera after the 1951 run -- the
factory produced 7,870
cameras in the first run between 12/49 and 2/51 and
2,000 more in the
second run between 4/51 and 8/51.
Obviously, Franke & Heidecke was not too upset with
Carl Zeiss Jena, as the
replacement camera -- the excruciatingly rare 2.8B, of
which only 1,250
were made between 2/52 and 3/53 -- had a CZJ 2.8/8cm
Biometar T. Recent
revelations indicate that this Biometar was not
identical to the Carl Zeiss
(Oberkochen) 2.8/80 Planar introduced with the 2.8C in
The Franke & Heidecke company, with a reputation for
embarrassed by this imbroglio, and the recall was
conducted as quietly as
was the recall conducted by Hasselblad in the 1980's
of lenses with
defective Prontor shutters. Claus Prochnow, the
company historian, doesn't
even mention the presence of the CZJ lens on the 2.8A.
embarrassment and reticence really doesn't make this
recall a mysterious
matter -- none of us broadcast our mistakes.
The collector's angle on this is that the choice items
are the 2.8B or a
2.8A with the original CZJ Tessar T. From the user's
angle, a 2.8C to the
current 2.8GX is the way to go.
But there never was anything wrong with the basic
2.8/8cm Tessar design nor
is there any great mystery about the factory recall to
replace the CZJ lens
with the Zeiss-Opton ones.