Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm 2.8

Front view of a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm 2.8 lens
Front view of a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm 2.8 lens
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm 2.8 T

Focal Lenght: 50mm
Max Apeture: 2.8 – 16
Lens Mount: M42 (originally Altix)
Min. Focus: 0.6 mm
Filter Size: 40.5
Weight: 170 grams

LENS STORY

This is one of the first 5 lenses I got, back when I knew very little about lenses in general.

I recall sitting in a car, with 3 lenses in front of me. I had decided I’d buy one and tried each in turn. 

The Tessar caught my eye with it’s small size, the brilliant look of the 12 aperture blades and the colors. Slightly desaturated and warm, really easy on the eyes, especially the blues.

Once I bought the lens I did some research (might’ve been a bit late, eh?) and it turned out the lens owed its size to the fact that it wasn’t originally in the M42 mount, but instead was an Altix lens. It’s never bothered me much and although it sat in my drawer for a long time, I went for it on a work trip to London. 

HANDLING

The lens is tiny – you can’t even feel it on your camera. In fact the Sony A7 feels a bit unbalanced with it. It’s really nice if you want to carry a 50mm in your bag, but want to save some space, since the lens is both light and small. 

The size of the lens does mean that you get a few caveats with it – the focus and aperture rings are small and that might be bothersome if you have big hands. 

The aperture ring is at the front, while takes some getting used to and since it’s a preset lens, you don’t get any click stops.

The filter size is 40.5mm, because of which I didn’t use a filter or hood, since I didn’t have one of that size handy. (although even if I did I might not have used one anyway.)

Take care when shooting with the sun close to the edge of the frame or directly above you, I found myself trying to shade the lens with my hand on more than one occasion. 

OPTICAL PERFORMANCE

This lens is a Tessar. It’s an old and tried optical scheme and the performance of this lens shows. You get good sharpness wide open at the centre and usable corners. 

Stopping down to 5.6 or 8 gets you a nice sharp image across the frame. I shot quite a few images from my plane to and fro London and I was quite pleased with the results (once dehazed(not that good at using that tool to be honest)).

The colors of this lens are natural and lack that “pop” thingy folks on forums rave about, a bit on the less saturated side, I quite like them. 

Vignetting is visible wide-open.

With it’s 12 bladed aperture, this lens renders some nice out of focus areas, although if I wanted to get good bokeh, it wouldn’t be my first choice, due to the slower max aperture speed.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s a sharp, tiny thing that weight nothing. It’s pocketable and if size is my top priority, this lens gets stuffed in my bag.

If I had to decide on a 50mm lens to take with me for a walk, this is not the first choice I’d make. Neither is it a go-to for portraits. It is the right fit, If I’m travelling and want a 50mm that would rock street and new city photos, while taking up no space.