Quote Originally Posted by Dali View Post
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....
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.