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Prewar Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 50mm 1.5 - better coated alternatives?
Old 12-09-2018   #1
PeterP
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Question Prewar Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 50mm 1.5 - better coated alternatives?

Hi folks,

I have a beautiful Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm 1.5 lens for Contax RF (non "T") that I use on a Sony A7 II. I love the lens, I love the way it renders, It's a very nice copy.

However, the one thing that makes me worry about this lens is flare. As this is an uncoated lens, it flares a lot. Not only classical sun flares, but practically every shot wide open has some nasty blueish flare across the frame.

There are coated variants of this Sonnar lens: the later coated war and post-war Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar "T" and the Zeiss Opton Sonnar "T". In theory, because of the cemented triplets in the CZJ Sonnar, there shouldn't be much of a difference with coatings.

Does anybody of you have a coated copy of this lens and could make a comparison with an uncoated copy?

Are there similar lenses that cope better with flare that you can recommend?

Thanks!
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Old 12-09-2018   #2
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I have both a black and nickel pre-war and a newer T*, Opton I think.

I've never noticed much flare from either. I tend to use a hood though on them always.

I sold my Leica M9 recently so I no longer have a digital camera to test it on, otherwise I would.
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Old 12-09-2018   #3
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Zeiss C Sonnar in m mount or Voigtländer Sonnar designs?
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Old 12-09-2018   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by santino View Post
Zeiss C Sonnar in m mount or Voigtländer Sonnar designs?
I thought about those modern "vintage" lenses too. Is the Voigtländer 50mm 1.5 LTM/Leica M a Sonnar design?
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Old 12-09-2018   #5
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Originally Posted by PeterP View Post
I thought about those modern "vintage" lenses too. Is the Voigtländer 50mm 1.5 LTM/Leica M a Sonnar design?
I believe it´s a double Gauss design.. like Planars.
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Old 12-09-2018   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Corran View Post
I have both a black and nickel pre-war and a newer T*, Opton I think.

I've never noticed much flare from either. I tend to use a hood though on them always.

I sold my Leica M9 recently so I no longer have a digital camera to test it on, otherwise I would.
Thanks for that statement!

I am not sure if I used the right term for the effect I mean. Some call it "haze" or "flare". I mean this kind of cast across the frame, most of the time with a blueish/purple tint and a drop of the saturation and contrast in the picture.

In fact I never used a hood on it, this may heavily decrease the effect. Gonna give it a try. Do you use an original hood or some 3rd party 40,5mm hood?

It would be really interesting to see how effective the "T" coatings of the Opton Sonnar work in a comparison!
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Old 12-09-2018   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterP View Post
Thanks for that statement!

I am not sure if I used the right term for the effect I mean. Some call it "haze" or "flare". I mean this kind of cast across the frame, most of the time with a blueish/purple tint and a drop of the saturation and contrast in the picture.

In fact I never used a hood on it, this may heavily decrease the effect. Gonna give it a try. Do you use an original hood or some 3rd party 40,5mm hood?

It would be really interesting to see how effective the "T" coatings of the Opton Sonnar work in a comparison!
Ah, I understand now. Yes, my prewar Sonnar has lower contrast overall (more open shadows). It's actually a nice effect and I have before shot with that in mind. Try it with some slide film and you might be praising the lens for opening up the shadows a bit!

I have not noticed or really tested for a color cast. But I shoot mostly b&w. You might like a simple 81a filter on the lens.

The newer Sonnar is noticeably higher in contrast. Whether or not it's the coating or just a newer, cleaner lens is debatable. Both of my lenses are in good condition with no obvious haze or fungus but the older prewar has that whitish "coating" that develops with age.

As for the hood - I just bought a cheap Chinese 40.5mm vented hood. Works fine, and is cheap.
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Old 12-09-2018   #8
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I just remembered that some years ago I did a quick test of all my 50mm lenses on my M9 to see the differences of rendering and contrast. I found the images and luckily had some notes about what lenses are what. Here are the two Sonnars, both wide-open:



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Old 12-09-2018   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterP View Post
Hi folks,

I have a beautiful Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm 1.5 lens for Contax RF (non "T") that I use on a Sony A7 II. I love the lens, I love the way it renders, It's a very nice copy.

However, the one thing that makes me worry about this lens is flare. As this in an uncoated lens, it flares a lot. Not only classical sun flares, but practically every shot wide open has some nasty blueish flare across the frame.
PeterP:

Have you considered getting your lens coated? It can be done, and since you love the way your lens renders, I'm thinking it could be the best solution. One thing I wouldn't do is to trade it for another lens, before you know that the new one will render the way you like!
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Old 12-09-2018   #10
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Summarit 50 1.5 is coated and it gives glow. I don't think it has anything to do with coating.

If lens is clean it will not flare, again, coating is not relevant to it.
I had Summar and it was flaring a lot until I cleaned it. I had many other uncoated lenses and they were not flaring once they were cleaned.
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Old 12-09-2018   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Corran View Post
I just remembered that some years ago I did a quick test of all my 50mm lenses on my M9 to see the differences of rendering and contrast. I found the images and luckily had some notes about what lenses are what. Here are the two Sonnars, both wide-open:



Thank you so much, Corran. This was exactly the comparison that I was looking for!

And yes, It seems that the main effect that I noticed is caused by lower contrast wide open. Not a bad thing per se, but when the low contrast wide open is combined with flare from a light source, the colors and contrast really get washed out.

When I look at your second picture, the way the coated Zeiss-Opton remains higher-contrast wide open is what I am searching for.
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Old 12-09-2018   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob-F View Post
PeterP:

Have you considered getting your lens coated? It can be done, and since you love the way your lens renders, I'm thinking it could be the best solution. One thing I wouldn't do is to trade it for another lens, before you know that the new one will render the way you like!
Thanks Rob for your consideration. Well this may be interesting, but it depends on the costs of the coating. A nice copy of the pre-war CZJ Sonnar currently costs about 300-350 USD on ebay, often less. So if the coating will cost me the same amount, I wouldn't do it but rather look for a nice copy of the Opton-Sonnar "T"
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Old 12-09-2018   #13
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I have a prewar CZJ Sonnar 50mm f1.5 that was coated after the war (looks like original Zeiss but I´m not sure). The lens is from a Contax IIIa and I use it on my M9 via a Jupiter 3 focusing helicoid.

The coatings are really good and flare is well controlled. Wide open there is always a hint of flare/coma/astigamtism and very low contrast, stopped down to 2.0 or 2.8 contrast ramps up and it delivers clear snappy shots, really impressive for such an old lens.

lens:
https://imgur.com/5FDZ1ux
https://imgur.com/4Kv2ihd
pictures with the lens:
https://www.flickr.com/search/?user_...1.5&view_all=1
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Old 12-10-2018   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thafred View Post
I have a prewar CZJ Sonnar 50mm f1.5 that was coated after the war (looks like original Zeiss but I´m not sure). The lens is from a Contax IIIa and I use it on my M9 via a Jupiter 3 focusing helicoid.

The coatings are really good and flare is well controlled. Wide open there is always a hint of flare/coma/astigamtism and very low contrast, stopped down to 2.0 or 2.8 contrast ramps up and it delivers clear snappy shots, really impressive for such an old lens.

lens:
https://imgur.com/5FDZ1ux
https://imgur.com/4Kv2ihd
pictures with the lens:
https://www.flickr.com/search/?user_...1.5&view_all=1
thafred your lens seems to control flare much better than mine. nice pics.

Funny it seems you're from Vienna too?
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Old 12-10-2018   #15
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Yes I´m from Vienna didn´t realize you were too? If you want we can meet and you can borrow my lens, best to do this after the X-Mas Holidays thou

best greetings,
Fred
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Old 12-10-2018   #16
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Originally Posted by thafred View Post
Yes I´m from Vienna didn´t realize you were too? If you want we can meet and you can borrow my lens, best to do this after the X-Mas Holidays thou

best greetings,
Fred
Thanks, you got a PM.
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Old 12-20-2018   #17
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Hey guys,


I had a closer look at my 1937 Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 50 1.5 (non T*). I found out, that there has been lots of tiny, tiny oil bubbles sitting on the glas element next to the aperture blades (on the rear tripplet). This oil was almost invisible to the naked eye. The lens looked very clean, the oil was only visible under certain lighting and in a certain angle.


So I cleaned the Sonnar rear tripplet and the aperture blades.


What can I say, the results are night and day:
flare is reduced by 70%, the contrast is better wide open, and the nasty color shift (slightly orange) is completely gone too!


Testshot on my A7II, f2, ISO200 (don't bother about the perspective):


100% Crop:



I am blown away. Keep in mind that this is an 80 year old lens!
So for me, my search for an alternative is over - I will stay with my prewar Sonnar that I love.


Funny side fact: the lens had a certain soft look prior to cleaning that I really liked. This look is gone now. For portraits, it might be too sharp in some situations.


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