The Lens details of a series of images taken by Steve Cushing on mirrorless camera.
Carl Zeiss was born in Weimar on 11 September 1816. He built microscopes in Jena from 1846 onward.
The correct way to pronounce "Jenna" is to make it sound like "Yenna" in English.
The history of Zeiss mirrors German history and all of its highs and lows. It was founded as a business in 1846. World War I, the global financial crisis and World War II were years of ups and downs.
Carl Zeiss Jena had become a Social-Democratic bulwark. From 1933 and through World War II Carl Zeiss supported the Nazi regime as did most major German industries. About 1937 the atmosphere at Dresden changed (something was coming) and civilian projects were put on low priority, and military items, such as gunsights, bombsights, etc were being pushed. The prototypes were kept in the lower (second) basement level and all further work was done by the devoted staff on their own time, usually during the lunch periods.
When World War II began in September 1939 there was an air of invincibility in Germany, and in keeping with traditional practice, Zeiss products proudly borne the makers trademark and city of origin of the product. Forced foreign labourers (Fremdarbeiter) were brought to work at Carl Zeiss Jena manufacturing facilities.
Hubert Merwin was Director of the design department of Zeiss-Ikon Dresden from 1932-1945 and Zeiss-Ikon Stuttgart from 1945-1949. When Mr. Nerwin joined Zeiss, the first CONTAX camera (later designated as Contax I) was already in production. Zeiss made numerous improvements in the camera design many of them affecting the external appearance. The camerastore-owners complained to Zeiss Ikon, that the frequent changes harmed the sales. Mr. Nerwin estimated, that during the course of two years, there were design changes (external and/or internal) about every three months; naturally, some of those changes were minute, and not necessarily discernible by the dealer/customer. In 1933 it was decreed, that no more external changes should be made on the Contax I. All the improved concepts being developed, were to be incorporated in the forthcoming CONTAX II, then on the design boards.
This explains the various Contax I versions, while the Contax II and the subsequently released Contax III, seemed to be completely uniform in appearance. Actually, the Contax II and III also contained internal changes—but by decree, none of these changes were to be detectable by the dealer/customer, judging external appearance.
Around 1936-1937, when the Contax RF cameras well established, the idea of a reflex finder camera was explored by the design group- The concept was to produce a reflex camera body, that could use the external bayonet lenses of the Contax RF cameras (85 mm focal length and longer).
In 1945 the U.S. Third Army advance, and on April 13 the regimental combat team 80th Division cleared Jena where they found the Carl Zeiss factory complex. It had sustained what they described as "surprisingly little effective bomb damage"
After the defeat of Nazi Germany in WWII, in compliance with the Yalta agreements the U.S.military forces departed. In June or early July the Russian military forces occupied Jena and the remainder of what became East Germany (German Democratic Republic). Russians 'appropriated' the original optical equipment and designs from Carl Zeiss factory in Jena. Carl Zeiss know-how was one of the most prized possessions of the post-war era and helped accelerate innovation in the USSR's optical industry, After the war ended, the Contax RF model dies were taken by the Russians to Kiev, along with certain drafted Zeiss staff, to replace the lost or missing dies and production tools. By one year later, the Russians had evacuated much of the remaining technical and management staff and about 92% of the Carl Zeiss Jena manufacturing facilities to the east. But the Russian fear of possible further conflict with the western allies rendered moving any production capability into a more defensible Russian province a sensible strategic step.
The Zeiss staff remaining at Dresden, then decided to proceed with the production of the Contax SLR model; because of the departure of the Contax dies, the Zeiss staff decided to change the lens mount and use a 42mm screw-in mount, and chose to use a horizontally moving, cloth focal piano shutter, because the tooling for a cloth shutter was much Simpler, and quicker. The postwar Dresden Contax SLR was produced under the direction of Mr. Winzenburg, who took over the design group after Nerwin left for Stuttgart where they assembled assorted prototypes, machine tools, dies, hand tools and trucked in to Berlin-Zellendorf. Production resumed in September 1945. It took the Stuttgart team seven weeks to return to Stuttgart with American military assistance) because of Russian intransigence.
So after WWII, there were suddenly two Zeiss-Ikon companies, one in East and the other in West Germany. The "Zeiss Stiftung von Jena" established at Heidenheim with the "Opton-Optische Werstatte Oberkochen GmbH" factory at Oberkochen on the banks of the Kocher River near Stuttgart. The Schott Glass Works subsidiary was located at Mainz.
The West German branch, in Stuttgart, developed an all-new line of rangefinder cameras using the Contax bayonet lens mount, and launched the Contax IIa in 1950. Meanwhile, the East German group completed work on an all-new SLR camera that had been in development since the beginning of the War. This camera was introduced at the 1948 Leipzig Fair as the Contax S. The Contax S was the originator of the M42 lens mount, which was immediately adopted by KW as they reintroduced the prewar Praktiflex as the Praktica with the new mount. In addition to introducing the M42 mount, the Contax S also gave us the first eye-level pentaprism viewfinder, and it was also the first optical viewfinder system to provide (with the standard 58/2.0 lens attached) a 1:1 magnification in the finder. Zeiss was reformed in West Germany and became Zeiss Icon, Early 1970's tensions between the two firms between the two firms peaked (as they did between East and West) with each of both companies claiming the exclusive rights to the patents, trademarks and traditions of "Carl Zeiss". This culminated in a series of legal battles around the globe, among these was one resolved by U.S. Supreme Court granting rights to the name "Zeiss" to the West German Zeiss firm. Many trademark disputes followed with the part that was left in East Germany. Stuttgart became the Wests company's domicile.
Zeiss Ikon merged in the mid 1960s with Voigtländer, another important German manufacturer, and one that had been controlled by the Zeiss Foundation since 1956. Zeiss Ikon ceased the production of cameras in 1972. This was a great shock for the entire German camera industry. Parts of the Zeiss Ikon product line then went to Rollei, and part of the know-how was used to revive the Contax name in collaboration with the Japanese maker Yashica.
This lens was designed as a portrait prime lens for 35 mm DSLR Exakta, Praktina system and M42 screw mount cameras.
The first version which I used here has a silver-coloured lens body. They are very cheap to buy on eBay. My lens has an 8 blade aperture some have only 6.
These lenses were designed as an interchangeable lens for 35mm rangefinder cameras. They became popular almost 90 years ago when Leitz introduced the Leica II and Zeiss introduced the Contax I. Both companies brought out full lines of lenses, and totally dominated the market for 35mm format cameras.
This is a very special version of this lens. It is a brass 1939 version of the lens. Maybe you are wondering why someone would want a heavy version of a Carl Zeiss lens when there are aluminium versions. Whilst the internet is full of supposedly pre war aluminium versions of Zeiss lenses these are all fakes made in Russia after the war. Zeiss ONLY made brass lenses before the war.
More than 90% of the pre war and wartime Zeiss lenses are fakes you have to know what you're looking for. Zeiss Sonnar lenses of World-War-II-era are often faked from vulgar Russian Jupiter lenses by simple changing the front-ring, and sometimes engraving the barrel with "Made in Germany" or changing the ring to a pre-war number sequence. This faking is alleviated due to the fact that parts of the Carl Zeiss Jena lens plant and machines were disassembled and rebuild in Russia after the war, as well with many workers, engineers, parts and maybe whole lenses going with them, and were build quite unchanged as Russian lenses until youngest present. So it's hard to distinguish them.
If the serial number is pre-war it is easy to check for fakes. In peacetime Carl Zeiss lens barrels were all made of brass, in wartime alloy. Since all Russian lenses are made of alloy, you never see a brass fake. Even true ZEISS wartime alloy lenses were not made up to peace standards, materials and quality control. The alloy barrels don't withstand well the ravages of times. As a collector who likes to use that stuff actually I don't see a reason why to pay a lot of money for a fake, but at a good price that is OK. All my pre-war lenses here on this site are brass thus not fakes.
Lens In Use
- The lens features the focal length scale with centimetre marks (13.5 cm).
- The lens glass elements are not coated. The lens is in good condition as it is very solidly built.
The lens is very sensitive to front lighting exposure. A hood is helpful, but it is not capable of fully improving the situation.The second version of the lens features a coated front element. This modification can boast a new body design and smoother focus ring travel.
Today the majority (if not all) of these lenses have issues with grease hardening on aperture blades, which partially or completely immobilises the aperture. The lens was manufactured in the time of black-and-white photography, and when used on modern digital cameras it produces somewhat cold colours.Summary
I am surprised at how cheap these lenses are on eBay. The quality is excellent and to have a piece of history in your camera bag for the price of a round of drinks is just unbelievable. in short like all CZ lenses it’s a world-class lens
For images using this lens click HERE
For general information on lens design and lens elements go to the homepage HERE