Front view of a Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f2 in m42 mount
Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f2

Focal Lenght: 50mm
Max Apeture: 2
Lens Mount: M42
Min. Focus: 0.8 mm
Filter Size: 49mm
Weight: half a Helior 44-2
Coated: MC
Year – 1949 (?)
Preset lens 
17 aperture blades


One of the first old lenses I used was a Helios 44M-4 (surprising, isn’t it – it’s cheap and you can find it everywhere.) I read about Russian lenses, WWII and inevitable the Biotar optical scheme. 

I knew I was bound to try a Biotar at one point, but just kept an eye out in case one case out. 

Last summer I took a trip to the seaside and visited a very tourist-y town, that has 7 antique stores. (One owner even drew a map for me so I could visit all of them! How kind!) There wasn’t anything of much interest, until the last one where I stumbled upon a Contax D with the Biotar in this review. It had fungus and a lot of small scratches. 

In the past I had tried to clean lens fungus to no avail, but I had just read about some rather curious advice on a facebook group I was added to and tried again. It cleaned really well! 

The weird thing about my copy is that the white paint on the lettering has fallen off, so it’s all black – as far as I know from researching and asking around it wasn’t manufactured this way.

Now let’s see where the plentiful Helios gets its ancestry from.


This lens is really tiny for a 58mm f2 lens. The Russian factories might’ve borrowed the optical scheme, but left behind the elegant and slim design. 

It’s a preset lens, no second ring to limit how much you close the lens though. 

The only down side in terms of handling is the fairly small focus ring.


For an age made in 1949 I expected a lot less. 

It’s the typical story of two lenses – one wide open and a different one stopped down. 

Chromatic aberrations aren’t that well controlled and curiously, the swirly bokeh the optical scheme is known for isn’t that easy to accomplish as with a say Helios 42-2.

Colors are to the warmed side, with blues rendered beautifully. (This is the second Carl Zeiss lens that calms my soul with it’s blue hues.)

Center sharpness is good even wide open, with corners improving in leaps as you stop down. I had no trouble using this lens in landscapes.

Colors are splendid overall and work really well in B&W 


This lens really surprised me, I expected poor results. Build quality is as expected of Carl Zeiss, but the lack of swirly bokeh had me a bit down for a bit.

This is a nice lens, it’s easy to use, produces “different”, but still very good results. It’s not easy to find and it’s price tag is higher than the typical 50mm fast lens, so unless you’re a fan of Carl Zeiss or are itching to try the OG Biotar, I’d suggest passing it up.