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07-29-2013, 11:54 AM   #1
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Need a Zeiss Pancolar expert

I'm thinking of picking up a CZ Pancolar 50/1.8. I know some versions have 8-bladed iris, and apparently rare earth elements, and later versions have 6 blades and probably no radioactive elements, later still are MC versions, but is there really any performance difference?

Does the flare resistance of the MC make more of a difference than the heavy elements in the old lenses?

07-29-2013, 01:41 PM   #2
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Can not compare since I own only the later MC version. MC, 6 blades and radiative, stronger than Super Tak. Turns yellow and is very hard to decolor by UV comparing with Taks.
Flare resistance is not as good as modern lenses. Haven't done side-by-side comparison, my feeling is similar to S-M-C takumar.
-- hope it helps
07-29-2013, 04:44 PM   #3

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Just 3 weeks ago I owned the "Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 1.8/50mm MC" (6 blades) for a couple of days.

I had bought it at a bidding on eBay, but returned it to the seller. It had been bundled with a Praktica VLC3 "in good condition", which turned out to have a sticky mirror.

When I got it, I was in the middle of doing test series with all my lenses covering 50mm, to decide which of these to get rid of. I had been aghast when I found out I own 15 of these. I included the Pancolar before sending it back.

The tests are way from being perfect, and so far cover only a shooting distance of 20-30m, center and border sharpness/resolution (unfortunately with 10MP only), fringing/visible colour errors, and coma. I ignore possible vignetting and distortion - it would need a completely different setup. Reduced contrast I will mention only if it is strongly visible.

I haven't started to analyse the hundreds of RAW shots yet, but when I read this thread I had a short look at the pictures taken with the Pancolar and the lenses closest to it, which are:

SMC Pentax-A 2.0/50mm
SMC Pentax-A 1.4/50mm
Helios 44K-4 (2.0/58mm)

The result of this quick look is:

From F5.6 on, I can't judge sharpness - all 4 lenses out-resolve the 10MP sensor of the K200D/K10D.
At F4.0 sharpness of the Pentax 2.0 and the Helios gets very slightly worse, even more at F2.8 (but still sharper than most good zooms).
The Pancolar and the SMC-A 1.4/50 are still very sharp at F2.8 (better than the sensor).
At F2.0 the Pentax 2.0 is the worst of the 4 lenses - but still not really bad. And the Pentax 1.4 beats all the others.
At F1.4 the Pentax is better than the Pentax 2.0 at F2.0, and on par with the other two lenses at F1.8/2.0.

That's just about sharpness.
I could not see coma with any of the lenses.
Only in strong contrasty situations, but there both Pentax lenses are the worst, with typical green/violet borders.
With the Pentax lenses, it also gets only very slightly better up to F11.
The Helios shows the same characteristics, but on a lower scale.
The Pancolar is kind of strange. I could barely see the typically green/violet borders - instead of these, BOTH borders are light (sky-)blue. So I guess they have managed to avoid what is mostly called purple fringing, but replaced it by a different colour problem not visible with the other lenses.

I don't know whether this is of any help for the OP.
However, it was for me.
The Helios and the Pancolar are praised all over the internet - that's why I decided I should get them for myself. After these tests, I think both are better than the SMC Pentax-A 2/50. But (except for the fringing) they are definitely not better than my A-1.4/50.

For some it may also be a question of price.
On eBay auctions prices vary extremely (+/- 50% from average), but on German eBay the average is:

Helios 44K-4 EUR 40-60 (the M42 version is often cheaper)
Pancolar EUR 60-90
A-2.0 EUR 30-40
A-1.4 EUR 110-160

In respect to price: The M versions of both Pentax lenses usually are 20-40% cheaper than the A versions. Optics are the same.

Last edited by RKKS08; 07-29-2013 at 04:50 PM.
12-21-2015, 12:50 PM   #4
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I'd need an expert for Pancolar 50mm f1.8 M42, too.

It looks like there are more versions of this lens.

- zebra (oldest version) with 8 aperture blades, with lanthanum lens (some even say that the lens is from thorium...). Optics with 6 elements in 4 groups.
- zebra with 6 aperture blades. Optics with 6 elements in 5 groups.
- black (newer) versions with 6 aperture blades. Optics with 6 elements in 5 groups.

Which one should I buy and why?
Which has smooth bokeh?
Which has swirly bokeh?

Do all of them have the diaphragm clutch to switch between manual/auto - i.e. to enable metering on DSLR?

Last edited by zzeitg; 12-22-2015 at 04:48 AM.
03-02-2018, 03:02 PM   #5
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The Zebra is swirly. The black version is smooth. The coated versions will have better flare resistance and contrast in contre-jour because of the coating. The radioactive versions might outperform the MC versions in when you shoot black and white and when the light is in your back. Mechanically, the full metal Zebra versions are better than the later black plastic version.

Probably not relevant to you at this point, but perhaps of general interest:

The MC pancolar, auto pancolar, or pancolar electric (the black versions) have the most agreeably smooth bokeh and the best contrast of any of the old 50s I have shot. These include: Radioactive Supertak 50/1.4, Takumar 55 2.2, Takumar 58 2.0, Steinheil Quinon, Rodenstock Heligon, Carl Zeiss Ikon Ultron 50 1.8, Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50/1.9 (three generations), ISCO Goettingen Westagon and Westrocolor 50/1.9, Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58/2, Meyer Goerlitz 58/1.9, Helios 58/2, Auto Mamiya Sekor 55/1.8, Yashica Yashinon DX 50/1.7, Olympus MC Zuiko 50/1.4 (abysmal bokeh), MD Rokkor 50/1.4, and the modern Sony 50/1.8 OSS. For all practical purposes you will be unable to tell a quality difference between any of these lenses unless you print large or pixel-peep.

The Pancolar is just slightly less sharp than the sharpest of these lenses (but it is as sharp or sharper than the new Sony 50/1.8 OSS); and all of these lenses are on par with or outperform modern 50s on some dimensions and underperform on another. That is, which of them you like better is a matter of taste and which characteristic you value higher.

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