Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm 1:3.5 DDR Sonnar – review

Published by Tony on

Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Sonnar 3.5/135 lens review, aka Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm 1:3.5 DDR Sonnar

Mount – M42

This lens is out of the zone of my interests, I don’t know much about it, nevertheless, it was interesting to test it and find out what it was capable of. It turned out that everything is very good. Unlike the “second” Zeiss (Western, or FRG), lenses from which are so overpriced that after tests they can even be disappointing, this lens turned out to be much better than I imagined at the beginning.

The lens for the test was provided by Egor Nikolaev (Егор Николаев) – many thanks and greetings.

Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm 1:3.5 specifications

Name engraved on the lensCarl Zeiss Jena DDR Sonnar
f[mm]135
A max [1/f]3.5
A min[1/f]22
Lens design [el.]4
Lens design [gr.]3
Filter thread Ø front(rear)[mm]49
Lens Shade
closefocus[m]1.0
Dimension Ø x length [mm]50/97-105
Weight[g]440
Year
StyleZebra
NotesSingle Coated

More data

Floating elementsNO
Aperture blades number6
Confidence in the test results of reviewed copiesEnough high
Reviewed Lens SN:9389189

Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm 1:3.5 lens exterior

Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm 1:3.5 mounted on Minolta XD

(Original Minolta P-Adapter is used)

Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm 1:3.5 sharpness

Сlose-distance resolution test, minimal distance

Testing methods description

  • Target: 10-15 cm picture, printed on glossy photo paper
  • Distance: 1.7m
  • Camera: Sony A7II (24mpx, full-frame, tripod, remote control). M-mode, ISO fixed, WB fixed, SteadyShot – OFF.
  • The test was repeated for every F-stop on every focus position with manual focus adjustment for each shot. That is to avoid the effect of field curvature.
  • RAW processing: Capture One, default settings. All quality settings – 100%. Crops – 300×200 px

Original target image (printed in horizontal orientation on 10cm X 15cm glossy photo paper)

Scene preview

Test results

Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm 1:3.5 DDR Sonnar - sharpness, portraiture distance

Long-distance resolution test

Testing methods description

  • Target: cityscape
  • Distance: > 200 meters to center focus point
  • Camera: Sony A7II (24mpx, full-frame, tripod, remote control). M-mode, ISO fixed, WB fixed, SteadyShot – OFF. The focus point is on the center only.
  • RAW processing: Capture One, default settings. All quality settings – 100%. Crops – 300×200 px

Scene preview

Test results

Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm 1:3.5 DDR Sonnar - sharpness, far distance

Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm 1:3.5 aberrations

Vignetting

Geometric distortion

Coma aberrations

Chromatic aberrations

Long-distance bokeh

Test #1

Test conditions: the lens was focused on minimal distance on the scale (1.0m), buildings are on “infinity”-distance.

Test#2:

Test conditions: lens was focused on 2.0m

Light bubbles bokeh – long distance

Test #1

The lens is on the minimal focusing distance 1.0m, lights are on infinity (cityscape)

Test #2

Test conditions: lens was focused on 2.0m

Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm 1:3.5 – final conclusion

I really like it when ordinary inexpensive lenses suddenly show unexpectedly good results. This is just such a case.

Formally, if to go over the test results: very weak vignetting, almost no coma, no chromatic aberrations, and ideal geometry. So, technically the lens is absolutely nice and can be used without a doubt.

But its flaws lie in its design. The reason is insufficient sharpness at the corners and sides of the image. It wouldn’t be a problem for a fast lens to tighten the aperture one stop. But we have the maximum aperture – F3.5, and it remains to close at least up to F5.6, which in some cases maybe not enough for photography.

On the other hand, its sharpness at an open aperture close to the center is just excellent. And if the edges of the frame do not fall into the depth of field, then who cares – what’s with the sharpness in the corners?

It seems to me that in modern times such lenses have lost their relevance – after all, F3.5 sounds not so good as F1.8. Even in spite of the fact that these very F3.5 are quite fit for work. Therefore, I will not recommend this lens. Moreover, this ‘Jena’ still has disadvantages. But as a photographer’s tool, it does its job unexpectedly well.


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