Forgot Password
Pentax Camera Forums Home

Third-Party Pentax Lenses - Reviews and Database » Carl Zeiss Lenses » Prime Lenses
Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm F3.5 Sonnar MC - Zebra Review RSS Feed

Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm F3.5 Sonnar MC - Zebra

Reviews Views Date of last review
18 85,166 Thu March 28, 2019
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $80.40 9.11
Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm F3.5 Sonnar MC - Zebra

Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm F3.5 Sonnar MC - Zebra
Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm F3.5 Sonnar MC - Zebra

Classic sonnar design prime from the former DDR - East Germany. These "zebra" versions predated the more common non-zebra versions, which are reviewed here.

4 elements in 3 groups.
Metal barrel with a knurled focusing ring and ribbed aperture ring and A/M switch.
5.1 x 8.9cm.

If you're curious about "sonnar" lenses this web page is a comprehensive discussion (mostly in Italian but the diagrams are clear). However, as mflenses contributor Gerald comments in this thread, these days "sonnar" aplied to a recent lens is really just a branding rather than a technical descriptor.
Mount Type: M42 Screwmount
Price History:

Add Review of Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm F3.5 Sonnar MC - Zebra
Sort Reviews by: Date | Author | Rating | Recommendation | Likes (Descending) Showing Reviews 1-15 of 18
New Member

Registered: March, 2019
Location: Ontario
Posts: 11
Lens Review Date: March 28, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $57.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: very sharp, little to no lateral CA, good micro-contrast, contrasty, good colours, clicked aperture, impeccable performance on APS-C, excellent blackening of internals
Cons: some fringing, axial CA, 6 unblackened aperture blades, Aperture ring gets forced closed a bit a close distances, fat
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: Sony a6300   

Mine came in perfect optical and mechanical condition. The lens is a work of art, though the shiny aluminium bits are quite scratch-prone. The lens is lightweight but not very compact. One mechanical quirk of this lens is that the aperture will gradually close to f5.6 (the blades remain wide open) as you focus closer. This seems to be by design, judging by the mechanics. I don't know why they did it this way.
Optically, this lens is impressive. It's sharp, with good micro-contrast. Colours are natural and pop out slightly. Lateral CA is nonexistent, though there is some purple fringing and noticeable axial CA. Compared with my Jupiter-37a, it is just as sharp, with similar CA and fringing. It is slightly more contrasty with cooler colours. Even though this lens focuses down to about 1m compared to the Jupiter37a's 1.2m, I strongly prefer the Jupiter-37a. It is not as critically sharp as my Jupiter-11a mainly due to an increase in axial CA(it's still sharp enough to max out the resolution of my a6300), but flares less thanks to better coatings and much better blackening of the internals.
This lens is quite good, but my copy had the misfortune of being stuck with excellent copies of the Jupiter-37a and Jupiter-11a. Those two Soviet lenses perform about the same as this one but are more compact.
Maybe this lens has better QC, but I cannot confirm that. If you see the Jupiter-37a or Jupiter-11a at a lower price, buy those. Unless you want the higher contrast of this lens, you're not missing out.
I guess my copy of the lens would make an awesome gift. (It IS a good lens, after all)
Geese, shot wide open. (Adobe RGB, so please view in a browser that has proper colour-management, Chrome's is terrible)

Registered: May, 2015
Location: Hampshire
Posts: 891
Lens Review Date: August 3, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharp
Cons: Weird stop down lever
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 5    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-5   

Listed as having clear optics and no mechanical problems I read the reviews here and bid for it.
Having had 2 copies of the MC Sonnar I was anticipating it to be sharp and it is! F3.5 may not be as sharp as the rest of the apertures but it is very usable.
I received the lens today and found that on fitting to the camera the base had a slight rock to it. I took off the ring and tightened the screw (there are 2) that was a little loose and that rock is barely perceptible now. Some heavy handed handling no doubt!
I went out into the back garden with it fitted via a flanged M42 to K adapter (the lens is quite weighty) as I was not too worried about infinity focussing and was very pleased with the images it took.

The big con is the stop down switch, I have enough trouble with trembling hands and a nodding head without having to remove my left hand from the lens to activate the switch and maintain focus. I shall have to find a way to hand hold easier.

I then fitted a close up lens (Nikon No.3T) and took some more.
If one does not have a macro lens then I would imagine this with an extension tube and or close up lens might serve well!
Here is a flower taken at F8 with the close up lens and a crop.
Site Supporter

Registered: April, 2015
Location: Wisconsin, USA
Posts: 2,761
Lens Review Date: May 23, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $150.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, Micro-contrast, Makes great black & white images
Cons: Only f/3.5
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: K1   

I just got through comparing five 135mm lenses. This CZY Sonnar won hands down!

Light weight, only four elements, no colored fringing wide open, terrific color, the best lens for black and whites that I own.

Wide open sharp from one side to the other, with book bokeh.

I currently own three of these lenses and plan to buy even more. All of mine are the "Zebra" version with a DDR on the front and with serial numbers around 9,386,000.

In a blind test, this lens from f/3.5 to f/16 will beat many $500 - $1000 lenses, yet you can buy it for under $100. A crazy bargain!
New Member

Registered: May, 2017
Posts: 2
Lens Review Date: May 2, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $50.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: sharp
Cons: Heavy, not great in low light
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 8    Value: 10   

Mine is slightly different from the one pictured. It's a Zebra type lens (same body) but with 'S 1:3.5 f=135 Carl Zeiss Jena DDR' around the nameplate. It is a beaten up version and was filled with fungus but I discovered the optics were flawless once I took it apart to do a full clean. Ended up not being able to refocus to infinity without a double image and can't seem to figure out why. Must be a lens not quite in the correct place.

Anyway I don't mind too much as it seems to have made the lens a killer medium distance lens. Very sharp from 1-25m from around f4 upwards. Colours are very good even though it's not multicoated.

The lens is relatively heavy, and as another reviewer has previously mentioned, the little lever on the side seems pretty pointless.

New Member

Registered: June, 2016
Posts: 12
Lens Review Date: July 30, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $25.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Super sharp and contrasty , even wide open, no flare!
Cons: Aperture mechanism is a mess!
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 8    Value: 10   

Like most, I got this lens really cheap but with aperture jammed.

After full service, wash (including each blade of aperture), and lubricating this thing was put together only to discover that aperture, while operational, not as smooth as supposed to be for Jena lens.
Oil on aperture might being a problem before service, but after service it was only one part that was causing the problem: sliding rocker actuating aperture. It has, I assume, bronze (maybe bras) bushing that slides on steel rod. Rod appeared shiny but pretty rough. I don't think it was ever polished. Bushing developed significant radial play. Even with minor force it is tend to jam. Focus helices is pretty tough screw and can overcome this jam, but feel of focusing become nasty.
I've tried many different lubricants, Lithium, Calcium and Teflon grease. Nothing works well.

Fed-up, I've realised that sliding rocker is only for auto. If Auto in not must have for you, aperture can be controlled this sliding rocker. With my mirror-less this is definitely useless thing.

I remove bunch of parts and fashion spring out of paper clip. I also have to remove one of aperture's end stops to allow clearance for new spring. There is another stop that perfectly adequate for securing end of motion for aperture.

After this mod my lens is silky smooth and aperture is fully functional without any issue. Though no more auto pin or preview lever.

IQ of this lens is great! Super sharp, corner to corner, even wide open. Despite the fact that it is single coated - I guess due to fewer elements glare performance actually much better than many MC lenses. Color tone, saturation and contrast are up there too.

Due to common mechanical problems it appeared under-appreciated. Grab one when you can!

"Auto" parts that can be removed. There are few more screws and one more spring that not on this picture.

New spring to substitute aperture return.
New Member

Registered: November, 2013
Posts: 8
Lens Review Date: September 2, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $33.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: stopped down a few excellent sharp
Cons: some few CA's (negligeable)
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 8    Value: 10    Camera Used: k-x,k200,k100,ist ds,mz-5 etc.   

this lens has an achromate in its front part, that's why it is very precious for macro shootings, if you use it together with a macro tube with integrated biconvex achromatic lens of a binocular 8x30 f.e..It's like a focus reducer for astronomy. i've done so with a macro ring Pentax of the cheap brand VIA.

The original 5/4 construction will change by this way to an optical high value macro lens of approximately 2.8/100 with 7/5 consttruction. Such as a ZEISS original lens, but this part is really very expensive. Ok it's only an auxiliar construction, but at very low cost and gives you really excellent results. try it...

Registered: September, 2013
Location: Toronto
Posts: 2,022
Lens Review Date: June 12, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $30.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Built like a tank, plenty sharp
Cons: Prone to aperture issues, that bloody A/M switch
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 7    Handling: 5    Camera Used: K-30, K20D   

A solid, heavy Warsaw Pact monster of a lens. You're not going to forget that you have this on your camera. Aberrations and sharpness are great, even wide open.

Biggest issue is the aperture mechanism itself, which is prone to problems. Mine has issues returning snapping back to wide-open after being triggered, which is not a problem when shooting. (It will adjust properly if the ring is turned to f3.5, but will only open back to f4-4.8 or so if set smaller and then triggered.)

Far bigger problem, at least with my copy, is that the A/M switch isn't really a switch so much as a DOF preview, and needs to be manually held in place if the camera doesn't automatically stop the lens down to the shooting aperture. (e.g. When used on any Pentax K-mount or pre-Spotmatic camera.)
Forum Member

Registered: March, 2011
Location: Toronto, ON
Posts: 80
Lens Review Date: January 14, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $100.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Nice colour rendition, beautiful bokeh, relatively light for a 135mm
Cons: Not as sharp as other lenses, lens play causes Live View to exit

I got this lens as part of a Praktica MTL5 bundle, as well as a bunch of other M42 primes. This is the crown jewel of this bundle, and I really like the colour rendition of this lens. The bokeh is also very smooth, making it an excellent portrait lens.

There is one thing to be wary of if considering one of these. I have the version with Praktica electrical connectors, which short out the electrical connectors on my K-r in a weird way. I do get focus confirm when using the OVF. However, when in Live View (LV), the play of the lens (such as when focusing) causes the electrical connectors to be shorted weirdly, which in turn turns off LV. I only realized when doing a head shot portrait indoors and using LV to get the eyes in focus. To fix it I used aluminium foil. I haven't had this problem with any other M42 lenses.
Junior Member

Registered: January, 2011
Posts: 39
Lens Review Date: October 19, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $80.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: nice color and bokeh. Metal lens body.
Cons: auto/manul aperture switch is somehow not reliable
New Member

Registered: February, 2012
Posts: 15
Lens Review Date: February 27, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $50.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, light, good colour, good bokeh, high contrast
Cons: None

I can instantly tell the pictures I have taken with this lens; they have matchless detail and contrast. On my Samsung GX-20, the images don't get sharper as I stop down. This lens produced the largest JPEG ever to emerge from my camera when I missed focus on my intended target and ended up with 'Granite Rock On Beach Partially Obscured By Small Human Life-form'.
New Member

Registered: February, 2013
Posts: 8
Lens Review Date: February 20, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $170.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Contrast, Sharpness, Builtin hood, Smooth Bokeh despite only having 6 blades, Beautiful lens
Cons: Not for lowlight photography, need to bring a bounced flash

I use this lens on a Canon with a black adapter and AF confirm chip. The focus confirm is spot on, which makes it easy to use.

The lens is very beautiful and feels good in the hands. It is easy to focus, and at 3.5 is it pretty sharp, and even better at 5.6. The images look better than my 28-135mm F3.5-5.6 zoom that I sold immediately after acquiring a set of primes 28, 50, 85, 135.

I do mostly lowlight photography where this one is a bit too slow. But with a bounced flash the images are really good. When I can't use flash, I have to stick with my 28mm 1.8, 50mm 1.4 and 85mm 1.8.

The 6 aperture blades are rounded, so the bokeh when stopped down is pretty smooth. It is not only the shape of the aperture that accounts for bokeh quality - also the center-to-edge light falloff has to be smooth descending, and it is.

You can preset this lens with "A" vs "M" so you can focus wide open and stop down easily by flipping the switch. The aperture clicks have a really nice tactile feel to them.

Here are some examples with it:


Bounced Flash:


New Member

Registered: September, 2012
Location: Belo Horizonte
Posts: 17
Lens Review Date: November 8, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $66.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very good contrast, Quality, Very Sharp
Cons: no

I have the zebra version, This lens, incredibly sharp, their contrast is very good, I picked up a mint copy, I am sure that the lens will surrender excelent photos yet
I recommend that if you can not hesitate to buy one.

This is a picture taken with her. with extension tubes

Registered: April, 2011
Location: Lost in translation ...
Posts: 18,011

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 21, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Sharp, build, size, bokeh
Cons: None - had to repair sticky aperture (oil) and slide ramp of Ap lever rail


I just picked up a "zebra" copy of this lens at the beginning of April at the Montamisť photo expo and swap meet. A great find for a ridiculously low price, thus I'm not going to enter the amount into the database. The rear element has minor fungus that I hope I can remove with an easy servicing ... this lens has been around the block a few times, but still in great shape. Built like a tank.

I have only shot tests indoors and the results are quite good ... up to its reputation. I'm only now waiting for some decent sunny and drier weather to test outside on bugs, flowers, whatever ... Here's what mine copy resembles and I'll post a decent shot or two later ... for the moment it's a very worthy "8" which will probably go up once it sees more overall action.

Salut, John le "Happy" French Frog

Edit 5/12 : Finally got this lens in shape ... had sticky blades and a jamming aperture lever arm assembly. This is probably why the lens was so inexpensive. Cleaned out the glass during two separate repair interventions ... Below are some "windy" day post-repair test shots in our garden ...

No PP with K-5 ...

Veteran Member

Registered: January, 2011
Location: Minahasa, North Celebes (Sulawesi)
Posts: 585
Lens Review Date: April 13, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $145.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharp. Great Bokeh. Great colors.
Cons: F3.5 is not that good for lowlight

I have the 'zebra' version, single coated, made in the 70's. The zebra version of this lens is fewer to be found. It looks classic, looks more sophisticated, more 'Zeiss', so probably that's why people are keeping it more than selling. I'm aware of the possible mechanical problems of these old Zeiss, but mine works great.

When I bought this, I'm not so enthusiastic at first, thinking that it would not be as good as a F2.8 lens. I was wrong, it performs much better than a bunch of my 135/2.8 lenses. It's sharp wide open, it produces great color rendition, it gives great bokeh, and yes, it looks great mounted on my camera

Let these images speaks for more..

It's a very recommended lens. Just beware of the copies with ailing mechanism.
Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2010
Location: California
Posts: 2,223

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: November 21, 2011 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $150.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, neat colors, easy to focus, sharp, and great IQ overall
Cons: None so far

I finally got this lens, I thought that my SMC Pentax K135f2.5 was going to beat it, but not. It is a tie. This lens rocks, it is easy to use and in Av pritorty does not require the stop down with the green button. The K135 still is the King, but the CZJ is more user-friendly and I can shoot birds in flight. The best discovery I havde found si the use of this lens as a marco, it does not have a macro per se, but it focus so neat and close up that it deserves. This lens bit by far the Jupiter 37A and by a small margen the Tair 11A both in the 135mm f2.8 range. I will be posting some pics later.

Dew on Flower with Bee by Palenquero, on Flickr

Here is a crop of the above:

Bee (Crop) by Palenquero, on Flickr
Add Review of Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm F3.5 Sonnar MC - Zebra

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 03:45 AM. | See also:, part of our network of photo forums!
  • Red (Default)
  • Green
  • Gray
  • Dark
  • Dark Yellow
  • Dark Blue
  • Old Red
  • Old Green
  • Old Gray
  • Dial-Up Style
Hello! It's great to see you back on the forum! Have you considered joining the community?
Creating a FREE ACCOUNT takes under a minute, removes ads, and lets you post! [Dismiss]