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Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar MC 50mm F1.8 Review RSS Feed

Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar MC 50mm F1.8

Reviews Views Date of last review
14 186,187 Wed March 8, 2023
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $94.80 9.25
Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar MC 50mm F1.8

Very good lens! It is very sharp in the center from 1.8 and unlike the pentax M lenses with softer edges to 4.0. But the great thing in this lens is the rendering, colors and contrast. From 2.8 it is almost perfect in everything. The bokeh is It's main plus, It is very smooth and rounded in the edges - perfect for portraits. It is very easy to focus with this lens because of the center sharpness. The mechanics are good, not as good as the M-series but not bad as in the Pentacons. The bad thing is that like the pentacons and almost every east German lens from this ages the lubricant is very bad and if it is not relubed the lens is probably stuck.

MC Pancolar 1.8/50 MC
The MC series is from around 1960
View angle on 35mm: 46
APS-C: 75mm
Optics: 6 elements in 5 groups
Apertures: 1.8 to 22
Blades: 6 curved
Min. focus dist.: 0.35m
Filter: 49mm
Dimensions: 58mm x60mm

Kuuans big standard (40-60mm) lens test.
Mount Type: M42 Screwmount
Price History:

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New Member

Registered: February, 2019
Posts: 15

3 users found this helpful
Review Date: March 8, 2023 Recommended | Price: $120.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Good and reliable 50mm lens
Cons: Hyperbolic online hype
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 7    Handling: 8    Value: 5    Camera Used: Film and full frame Digital   

Few people mention - or few people know - that the Pancolar comes in different dimensions, blade numbers, numerous coating colours, different front-end mechanics/design, and different glass tints (the yellow tinted "Thorium radioactive" glass also used by Pentax Takumar being a good example). Some have poorly aligned aperture blades - like the Pentacon 50mm F1.8 "copy" lens - that offer slightly deformed hexagon aperture shapes. Some front rings have different manufacturing details (read about the legal "Zeiss" labelling wrangling after WW2 and East/West partitioning on line). The numerous "Zebra" Pancolar designs also have varied manual/auto aperture switches or paddles associated with rear pin models.

Some say that the much better priced secondhand Pentacon 50mm F1.8 is a copy of this lens. This seems true in a way, but they give different results; the Pentacon having more dramatic background bokeh and swirl at F1.8 and F2.8. Pancolar Bokeh is good for a 50mm but I've seen such effects just as good, and certainly close to this, on other comparable lenses at a quarter of the price. It's nothing special with the Pancolar and it does not get better if you find solace with the extraordinary prices some people pay for this lens.

The Pancolar gives, like the Pentacon, gives lovely imaging and gorgeous colours. Sharpness can be good up to F5.6, but not as perfect as some people go on about. It's certainly better than a 50mm F2.8 Tessar and any 50mm Meyer Optik or 50mm Pentacon in this regard. Sharpness with both the Pancolar and Pentacon can be excellent at F5.6 to F11. But many other quality lenses are as good, including the Pentax A 50mm 1.8 and M 50mm 1.8 and they cost as low as a fifth of the price.As I take most of my images at f4 to f8 the Pancolar is the best at f4 but absolutely no different at f5.6 and f8.

I also infinity tested a Pancolar "Carl Zeiss Jena" (with the side-to-side switch and longer extending front section) against a Pancolar "Aus Jena" thorium yellow glass lens (with the flapper switch and shorter extending front section). Both were tested against my sharpest Helios 1976 44-2 58mm at f5.6 and f8 with all three on a Sony full frame. At 5.6 there were hardly any differences except a little more sharpness around the corners of the two Pancolars. The central 80% looked identical other than a little tinting from the thorium glass. At f8 the central area was only very slightly sharper around the periphery of the centre and the edges of both Pancolars. The 20% infinity centre was identical on all three lenses. To be honest, at 100% zoom there was not that much different. All were mint condition except some cleaning marks on the Helios and a slightly irregular iris on the "Carl Zeiss Jena" Pancolar. The crunch is that the Helios cost me 60% less than the "Aus Jena" Thorium Pancolar and 80% less than the other Pancolar.

Many folks also talk about focusing being lumpy or stiff. Many old Zeiss lenses are like this. It's not a fault of the lens or manufacturer; they are simply old. The same is true with the looseness or stiffness of the aperture ring. Get real, people - these are not new items! Even excellent lenses that are very old need some servicing.

The Pancolar costs so much that I think many people try to convince themselves it's somehow more special; like they are living in The Emperor's New Clothes fable. But it is a lovely lens, nonetheless.I suppose that the best thing about this Pancolar classic is that it does everything very well, and that's something that not all F1.8 50mm lenses can match. It's a bit like a F1.4 or F1.2 in an F1.8 body. In that comparative, the mad prices some people pay - and many folks ask for when selling - can be seen as being potentially sane.
New Member

Registered: August, 2017
Posts: 5
Review Date: August 27, 2017 Recommended | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Price/Performance
Cons: Build Quality
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 6    Value: 5    Camera Used: K3II   

Its not easy to rate this lens. In comparison to modern lenses its performance is o.k. but not outstanding. With view to the price, it is! I own the zebra version. Its the older one. As i tried it at 1.8 I thought it was damaged or something. It was awefull soft. Not only at the edges. Nearly not useable. The focusing ring runs badly. But thats not the point.
Then i stopped down to 3.2 and 4.0... ta da...absolutely sharp with nice colors and contrast. Even for long distance shots. For this price and its age its a great result. Maybe the newer versions of that lens performs better wide open. Anyway for 40,-$ its a clear recommendation.
New Member

Registered: March, 2016
Posts: 1
Review Date: July 6, 2016 Recommended | Price: $70.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, Contrast, Best Colour and bokeh, Handling
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: NEX-5   

My version of this lens is like a new. Photos is amazing, at 1.8 sharp is good, colour and bokeh is best.
Junior Member

Registered: January, 2016
Location: Warsaw
Posts: 32

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: January 5, 2016 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, colors
Cons: Mechanic...
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-3   

I have a non-electric version. My copy is a lens which using a my grandpa, who are a photographer.

In my opinion this lenses have a typically a CZJ problem with oiled diaphragm, but cleaning is a easy.

Small problem with aberrations, but a sharpness and "Zeiss" colors rewards aberrations and other problems.

Edit. Now I have a second red MC electric like a new from box. This copy and problem with aberrations ? Good joke Now I can correct rate.
Junior Member

Registered: August, 2014
Posts: 43
Review Date: November 7, 2014 Recommended | Price: $109.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharp portrait
Cons: coma abberation in wide field astrophotography
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10   

PTK52580.jpg by stanzhou2013, on Flickr

PTK52582.jpg by stanzhou2013, on Flickr
Veteran Member

Registered: July, 2014
Location: Paris
Posts: 1,939
Review Date: November 2, 2014 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 

Pros: great all around lens
Cons: hard to find

nice lens, I tried once and hunting on ebay for this legendary lens
New Member

Registered: November, 2013
Posts: 14
Review Date: September 2, 2014 Recommended | Price: $45.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: stopped down at f4-5,6 very sharp
Cons: only wide open a few weak
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: spotmatic,k-x,k-5,k200,k1oo,ist ds,sfx etc.   

there are two types on the market, an older 6/4 and a newer 6/5 construction. the striped look has the better construction, but is wide open a few weak. the newer construction has higher contrast, but very few CA's in the corners wide open.

Both are phantastic lenses, similar to Pentax 1,7/50 and 1,8/55. Pentax's SMC coating is still better for contrast rendition and not so weak wide open,naturally.

But for portrait or nature shooting this lens is very precious and useful.
New Member

Registered: October, 2012
Location: Pamulang, Tangerang
Posts: 1
Review Date: June 1, 2013 Recommended | Price: $150.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Excellent center performer at wide open, handling
Cons: Weak aperture detent, sluggish focus thread

My copy is red MC version, compare to white MC and older pancolar aus jena/zebra version, red & magenta color repro seem to be better at same color setting. Like other primes, center area is excellent even in wide open at normal portrait range, border are good enough, well CA controlled, full frame-able (tested on 5DII) and good IQ on it. And good close-up performer too. I just tested on K-5 IIs and found everything is nice, a must have if you're a collector/manual shooter. I don't recommend for daily use since it's aperture and focus thread are easily stuck/bit loosen, most CZJ need to lubricated. Other than, it's one of the best MF prime. Sample taken at f2.
New Member

Registered: March, 2013
Posts: 2

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: March 27, 2013 Recommended | Price: $120.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Centre sharpness, Bokeh, Great for portraits
Cons: Not the smoothest focussing

Pure and simple - this lens really is a keeper.

Of the many lenses I've owned this is the "go to" for portraits. As others have said, it's centre sharpness is impeccable, and gives a lovely effect on portraits as the edges drop off. Once stopped down from f/4.0 onwards, the edges improve drastically.

Though the optics are multi coated (even on the old zebra version I own), a hood will improve contrast and reduce flare when shooting outdoors.

The only minus regarding this lens is the focussing; don't expect takumar-esque smoothness. The lubricant they used wasn't the greatest, but so long as it's not stored for long periods of time without use it will remain perfectly functional. Despite this, it's a very slight trade off for the amazing strengths it has

@ f/1.8


New Member

Registered: July, 2012
Location: Prague
Posts: 7
Review Date: February 12, 2013 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 

Pros: Great, no, just fascinate quality of picture!
Cons: Just one... it is becoming dark in viewfinder, when you change apperture to f2,8, f4, f8... especially in bad light conditions. Beacause it's manual lens.

I'm fond of this lens and I don't have any words to describe my position It is really superior. I have two Zeiss Pancolar lenses, but I haven't been using enough the second yet.
To speak about technical parametres is big stuff! It's quite enough for all.
One my Pancolar has great easy focusing with big light viewfinder K-5, the second one do it harder. And it's very cheap. I've already had Pentax SMC A50/1.7, but ot had back or front focusing.

New Member

Registered: September, 2012
Location: Belo Horizonte
Posts: 17
Review Date: October 19, 2012 Recommended | Price: $100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very Sharp, Good contrast, Great colors, the name says everything is a zeiss
Cons: Nooooooo

one of the best lenses that already used, very sharp even open, optimal quality construction, very light, very good bokeh, an awesome piece of vidro.e still has a minimum focus of 35cm. I recommend below photo taken with her.
New Member

Registered: March, 2012
Posts: 22
Review Date: July 26, 2012 Recommended | Price: $109.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Rendition, Close-up ability, Bokeh, Sharpness
Cons: Non

Great lens, I'm really impressed!! Recently I got Electric version in excellent condition (one in the middle) M42 mount. I love the colours rendition, it has kind of Baroque quality. I had in my early days Nikkor ais 50mm f1.2 witch is an outstanding lens but I like this one more.
First time when I saw the photo's from this lens, I knew it, that's the one I want! If you can find a good copy of this lens go for it!
Highly recommended!! I'm using the lens on Pentax K5 with Katz Eye and Optibrite. I haven't noticed any distortion and there is a little bit green fringing.

At f1.8 not so sharp, f2.8 sharp and above it's razor sharp.

I rate it 9.5, if the build quality was same as the Pentax K lens, it would be a perfect lens.

Registered: April, 2011
Location: Lost in translation ...
Posts: 18,076

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: April 26, 2012 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Sharp enough wide open, light, bokeh
Cons: Needs to be re-lubed, stop downs to get total sharpness


I just snapped up an "aus JENA" version of this lens and it resembles the lens on the far right of the three lenses pictured above. (see more photos below)

From what I have read on the net, the "aus Jena" was an export version of this lens, thus the different labeling from "Carl Zeiss Jena", etc.

I purchased it with a broken "Praktica LTL 3" body at my local thrift store for very, very little ... thus I am not going the enter a purchase price in the database.

Overall, I am quite happy with the tests that I have done so far and I await to test further ... and I will post samples later.

Salut et bon courage, John le Frog

Senior Member

Registered: January, 2011
Posts: 258

2 users found this helpful
Review Date: May 23, 2011 Recommended | Price: $85.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Light, bokeh, sharp enough wide open
Cons: MF, build quality not like west Germany zeiss, soft in corners to 4.0

In short time it have become my favourite 50mm. I love it because of the bokeh and colors.


Add Review of Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar MC 50mm F1.8

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