1st Thoughts – Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm 1:3.5

Update 2: This lens is currently disassembled whilst I try to correct some problems it had due to a poorly performed service before I owned it. In the meantime, a collection of my work shot on this lens can be found here. Once I’ve cleaned it, fixed the faults, polished it up and put it back together, I’ll be doing a completely new post reviewing it.

Update 1: Further thoughts and test images can be found here (used it to shoot one of my bearded dragons and an Australasian bustard) and here (butterflies to show off it’s semi-macro capabilities and Wolfang Peak to show that it’s useable as a landscapes lens).

Owing to the fact that since I got into photography a whole heap of friends and relatives have handed me old film gear that they no longer needed, and thus I have a few very nice M42 screw mount lenses, I decided it was high time that I actually started using them. Adapters to mount M42 lenses to EOS bodies are quite cheap, and M42 lenses themselves are generally quite affordable as well. So last week I purchased 2x M42 to EOS adapters, plus a set of 3 M42 lenses that came with an adapter and a Praktica TL-5B. The first order showed up, but they were the wrong items (Olympus OM lens to EOS body), but luckily the second order showed up and I’ve been able to play around with my lenses and the adapter that came with that.

Anyway, after I’ve had a bit of a play around with each of the M42 lenses on my EOS-60D, I’ll do up a bit of a post about what I think of the image quality and usability, etc. For now, this is my first thoughts on one of the lenses I ordered – a Carl Zeiss Jena DDR 135mm 1:3.5 MC S. I’ve done a bit of a reading, and this is apparently a very highly regarded 135mm lens, that’s held its own quite favourably in terms of image quality compared to newer lenses. So far, after a quick shoot in the front yard at ISO 1000 because of very heavy cloud cover, I’m certainly not disappointed.

A little hibiscus flower shot in our front yard on a very windy and cloudy day at ISO 1000. Manual focus on a target that keeps shifting because of the breeze is a bit of a pain, but I think I managed to get it right here. Minimal editing, other than white balance and RAW conversion. EOS-60D + Carl Zeiss Jena DDR 135mm 1:3.5 MC S, I think at ƒ3.5.

A little hibiscus flower shot in our front yard on a very windy and cloudy day at ISO 1000. Manual focus on a target that keeps shifting because of the breeze is a bit of a pain, but I think I managed to get it right here. Minimal editing, other than white balance and RAW conversion. EOS-60D + Carl Zeiss Jena DDR 135mm 1:3.5 MC S, I think at ƒ3.5.

100% crop from the above image. Allowing for the fact I was shooting a erratically moving flower with manual focus at ISO 1000, I'm very impressed.

100% crop from the above image. Allowing for the fact I was shooting a erratically moving flower with manual focus at ISO 1000, I’m very impressed.

A bunch of flowers on our golden duranta hedge. Same conditions as the shot above. EOS-60D with Carl Zeiss Jena DDR 135mm 1:3.5 MC S.

A bunch of flowers on our golden duranta hedge. Same conditions as the shot above. EOS-60D with Carl Zeiss Jena DDR 135mm 1:3.5 MC S.

Not a fan of the composition, but I think this image, of a different hibiscus flower, really shows of the background blur capabilities of this lens, even at a relatively slow ƒ3.5. EOS-60D + Carl Zeiss Jena DDR 135mm 1:3.5 MC S.

Not a fan of the composition, but I think this image of a different hibiscus flower really shows of the background blur capabilities of this lens, even at a relatively slow ƒ3.5. I think it’s going to make a great portrait lens. EOS-60D + Carl Zeiss Jena DDR 135mm 1:3.5 MC S.

All in all, I am very happy with this lens, although I do think it will need a service if I’m ever going to use it on an actual M42 mount, because the automatic aperture stop down doesn’t quite work correctly. That’s not a problem in Manual mode, so it works great on the EOS adapter. Usability, naturally is a little bit so-so. Being a mechanical aperture stop down, there’s no way for the camera to send the command to stop down, so if you’re shooting less than wide open, you need to focus with it wide open, and then manually step down by turning the aperture ring before pressing the shutter button. Alternatively, you can attempt to focus and compose with the lens already stopped down and deal with a (very) dark viewfinder. Also, obviously, manual focus can be a bit of a pain in the ass on a camera that’s designed primarily for auto focus. Modern focus screens have none of the split prism or other visual focussing aids that older manual focus cameras had, so things can be a bit challenging. You can get M42 adapters that have an EOS chip on them, that allows the AF confirmation system to work (half press the shutter button while you manually focus and the AF confirm light will flash once you’re focussed), however I’ve found that to be less than useful – when the focus light flashes the image doesn’t seem to be perfectly focussed. *shrugs*

I’ll do a more in depth review once I’ve had a bit more time to play with it, particularly in better lighting conditions. I’m also planning to give it a shot on my EOS-3 on film, so that should be interesting.

Shannon Walters

An amateur photographer who also spends time making chainmaille and doing too many other things to mention.

4 Comments:

  1. Pingback: Carl Zeiss Jena DDR 135mm 1:3.5 MC S Update ShannonIvanWalters.com

  2. Pingback: An Update and Some Bonus Dragon Photos - ShannonIvanWalters.com

  3. Hey, thank you for this! I recently bought this same exact lens and I have to say, the previous owner kept it VERY well conditioned, it looks brand new and the full metal feels amazing after my plastic Canons lol. Just a quick question, there are just two rings on the lens right? A huge focusing ring at the front and a smaller aperture right near the mount? Well I can stop up or down just fine, what I don’t quite understand is the third set of marking in between the focus distance at the front and the different apertures near the mount. The values are the same as the f-stops for the aperture, but it doesn’t move or anything .. whats the point? Sorry I realise its a stupid noob question .. but well, I am a stupid noob at the moment so lol. Would appreciate a reply! Thanks!

    • Not necessarily a “stupid noob question” – everyone needs to learn at some point, and markings like that aren’t present on a lot of modern lenses, particularly low end consumer types (“plastic Canons” for example). From your description I’m guessing you’re referring to the Depth of Field scale? On a lot of manual focus lenses, and some higher-end modern lenses this scale is used to determine the depth of field at a given ƒ-stop. The centre mark represents the plane that is in focus for all apertures, and the marks extending to either side numbered with the ƒ-stops represent the range of focus at each aperture. For example, if the lens is focussed to 1.5m, at ƒ3.5, the plane of focus would be pretty thin at 1.5m, but if you set it to ƒ22 the in focus area would extend from about 1.4m all the way through to 1.6m. Incidentally, the small orange dot that is present between the 8 & 16 on the right represents the focus point if you are shooting infra-red. See the pic below to confirm we’re talking about the same thing, I’m referring to the scale “22 16 8 | 8 16 22” between the ƒ-stop scale and the distance scale.

      I wish mine was in such good condition, it was listed as such, but has some issues that weren’t detailed in the seller’s description. Still a beautiful lens though.

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