Focal Lenght: 50mm
Apeture: 2.8 – 22
Min. Focus: 0.35
Filter Size: 49
Weight: 180 gr
A/M switch – Yes
This lens is a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar, manufactured at a time when Zeiss was split in two. The part of Carl Zeiss which was based in Jena after WWII, was part of the German Democratic Republic (hey, it’says DDR on the lens!) and were not allowed to use the Carl Zeiss trademark and lens names when exporting to East Europe, so they used abbreviation and got creative, simply labeling the lens aus Jena & T for Tessar.
That’s enough history for today, let’s see how I got this particular copy.
Once I had managed to fix a few lenses (stiff focus, stuck aperture & minor repair), I started seeking out lenses to practice on. I got this Tessar, because it had a stuck aperture, I knew it was a widely available lens, so I figured I’d give it a try.
I didn’t take it completely apart, but cleaned the aperture as best as I could, while removing the glass elements in my way. After a week It got stuck again. On and off I had to re-clean it.
One night, I finally managed to fix a Pentacon 50mm 1.8 that I had struggled with one too many times. Enboldened and motivated, I took to the Tessar, I took it apart, cleaned each aperture blade seperately and put it back together. It’s worked like a charm ever since.
This lens handles well for a 50mm. It’s pretty vanilla, but do watch out for stuck apertures and tight focus rings. After fixing the aperture on my copy, I have nothign to complain about.
The minimum focus is great, if you, like me like going in close for those sweet, sweet detail shots.
The front element is pretty recessed, so you get some flare resistance unless you have the sun directly in the frame.
If you want to be happy with this version of the Tessar – don’t compare it to an older (say aluminium) Tessar. I have one with 15 aperture blades, which feels like a small precise tool. This one feels more like a lens built in the millions.
If you shoot this lens open open, things aren’t as bad as expected. You get good center sharpness and okay corners. Most likely due to the fact that it’s a slower lens than your usual 50mm 1.8.
Bokeh can get busy if you have a lot of detail in the background – which is something to keep in mind if you utilize the 0.35 minimum focusing distance. It’s not a lens I would reach for if I was after some buttery bokeh portraits.
Stopping down improves both center and corner performance and excellent contrast. It’s a perfectly capable lens for landscape and capturing detail.
Colors are splendid, contrast, although lower than I’d like wide open, gets better by f5.6.
The Tessar is plentiful and cheap, especially the all black, later version.
If you stumble upon a copy that’s a steal – get one, it’s worth a try and can be a good and light walkaround lens, with nice close-focus capabilities.
If you consider the wider picture, “standard” 50mm lenses are everywhere and you can usually find a f1.8 one just as easily as this one. You’ll most likely get performance as good or better, with the added benefit of a faster aperture.