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Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm F2.8 Review RSS Feed

Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm F2.8

Reviews Views Date of last review
18 254,383 Sun October 27, 2019
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
94% of reviewers $34.21 8.61
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm F2.8

Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm F2.8 Tessar.
M42 screw mount, 49mm filter size.
Mount Type: M42 Screwmount
Price History:

Add Review of Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm F2.8
Sort Reviews by: Date | Author | Rating | Recommendation | Likes (Descending) Showing Reviews 1-15 of 18
New Member

Registered: June, 2018
Posts: 14
Lens Review Date: October 27, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $26.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: cheap with great bokeh
Cons: mount :)
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 8    Value: 10    Camera Used: K70   

for little money you can get bokeh monster
sharp from F4 i mean really sharp
excellent for macro + some tubes/converter

cons- little lose on my body but maybe its my adapter
New Member

Registered: February, 2019
Posts: 12
Lens Review Date: August 20, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $30.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Neat and tidy
Cons: Over-exaggerated
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 6    Bokeh: 6    Handling: 8    Value: 7    Camera Used: Pentax ME Super   

So incredibly confusing! How many variants are out there? I bought a Tessar f2.8 that fitted the description at the start of this post and it's nothing like most of the obviously different lenses that people are piling up their reviews around. Pretty much everyone has a different lens version in this line of reviews and yet they are all lumped together in some kind of weird religious-based faith worshipping of the Carl Zeiss Jena brand name. Mine is black, not chrome and "shiny bling" that seems to get adult men drooling like dogs with a bone. Mine is also not sharp at the lower and upper end of aperture selection, and nothing breathtaking in between where it is simply good with moments of being very good but never excellent on a film camera. Be wise and get to know what you are buying without getting caught into the nutty religious submission game of loving the brand. My experience put me off the brand and the nutty online worshipping it gets from people who believe what they read too easily. Bokeh lovers seem to "suggest" this lens can be good, but what is that all about if they can't be confident? My version was simply satisfactory.
Forum Member

Registered: December, 2009
Posts: 94

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: June 10, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $30.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: rendition, micro contrast
Cons: busy bokeh at times (but can also be magic)
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: K1   

I have the classical zebra as well. I agree with the comments below, rendition can be spectacular. I suspect this lens is very good in macro. The pic below used a 12mm spacing ring and has been done at f/11 :


Registered: September, 2013
Location: Cuenca
Posts: 574
Lens Review Date: May 25, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $75.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: sharp, great color, good contrast contributing to dimensionality, je ne sais quoi
Cons: none
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: Sony Alpha a850   

I would expect copy variation with a lens that has been produced for so many years and has undergone some manufacturing changes in that time. I was fortunate to get an excellent copy made between 1955 and 1958. My copy is silver, tiny (40.5mm filter thread), has twelve aperture blades, some lens coating but not the "T" multicoating, and focusing and aperture change that feel better than with a Takumar (!). If the Takumar is smooth, this lens is silky. I expect this lens to become a favorite, hopefully on par with my favorite lens of all time, an early 60's uncoated Tessar on a fixed lens Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK camera. What that lens did with color and light was magical.
The view of the city was taken focused at infinity @f9, the picture of the pen was taken @f2.8 and at minimum focus distance (It was cropped.). The picture of the nib is a detail of the pen shot.
New Member

Registered: May, 2015
Location: Setúbal (near Lisbon)
Posts: 5

4 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: June 14, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $30.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness and marvelous colors
Cons: none
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: Canon 5Dii, Pentax K20D and Lumix G1   

Maybe there are lenses the same quality but better I do not believe. I have 2 zebras, 2 silvers (normal and small) and 2 blacks.

Pentax K20D + Carl Zeiss 50mm 2.8 (Zebra)

Canon 5Dii + Carl Zeiss 50mm 2.8 (Zebra)

Lumix G1 + Carl Zeiss 50mm 2.8 (Zebra)

In chromatic aberrations compared with my canon 50mm 1.4

In distortion compared with my canon 50mm 1.4

In sharpness compared with my canon 50mm 1.4

New Member

Registered: November, 2013
Posts: 10

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: September 2, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $10.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: really extremely sharp, stopped down to f 8 / piqué extrème à f 8
Cons: a few flare wide open / un peu de flou à diaphragme ouvert
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: k-5. k-s1,spotmatic,k-x.k200.k100,fuji x-e1   

The German so called "eagles eye" in 4/3 scheme is an old achromatic "triplet of Cook" construction of CARL ZEISS JENA, but very effective. / cet objektif - nommé oeil d'un aigle - a une lentille achromatique et un schéma 4/3 très simple, mais effectif !

You can use it for close-ups with an achromate either in front or on back side between lens and SLR. This optical system will change to 6/4. results are really very nice and sharp, afterwards. So you don't need an additional macro lens, which is very expensive. (ok by this way you'll miss the floating macro tube until 1:1,perhaps) But you'll get phantastic macros, nevertheless.

O/+ wide ope some CAs visible, disappearing at f 8 / diaphragme fermé: ne plus de ACs visibles

++ nice color rendition / couleurs jolies

++ wide open still not so sharp, but f 8-11 will give you an excellent sharpness up to the edges. And the contrast will increase enormously. 80 LP = 160 lines / lignes / mm = 2.650 lines / lignes (APS-C)


Registered: September, 2013
Location: Toronto
Posts: 2,074

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: June 12, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $50.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Solid build, wonderful many-bladed aperture (on preset versions)
Cons: Slow, rear element hits mirror on some full-frame SLRs
Sharpness: 8    Bokeh: 7    Handling: 7    Value: 6    Camera Used: K20D   

My copy is the silver preset. Non "red T" version:

Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 2.8/50 by Andrew, on Flickr

(I also owned the 80s black plastic version with A/M switch, and would rate it lower. Quality control was notably inconsistent during that period of production.)

An older, slower 50mm lens. Build quality is solid. Bokeh is nothing to write home about, but you're never going to complain that it's distracting either. Handling is... OK.

Word of warning though, some of the older Tessars can cause problems on 35mm cameras. The mirror on my Spotmatic clears the rear element on the way up, but hits it on the return.

Green Hood by Andrew, on Flickr

Chair Cat Moon by Andrew, on Flickr

Late Rose by Andrew, on Flickr

On the Ground by Andrew, on Flickr
Junior Member

Registered: August, 2009
Location: Lexington, KY
Posts: 30
Lens Review Date: April 30, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $19.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Tessar, close focus, says Zeiss on it
Cons: Slow
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 5    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 6    Value: 8    Camera Used: Sony A7   

Well, I've got over 130 lenses... but this is my first that says Zeiss on it. In fairness, I have a bunch of USSR Zeiss copies, but I was curious to see if a lens that said Zeiss on it actually was special in any way... and finally I found one cheap enough to try. My copy is cosmetically excellent, but had a non-functional iris -- which I was able to clean and fix in less than an hour. Unfortunately, I'm not the first person to open this lens, and I think it's missing the tiny ball bearing that lets the aperture ring bump between stops more smoothly. Focus is smooth but too tight, so that it sometimes prefers to unscrew the M42 mount rather than focus. Build is solid, clean, and simple to work on; it is an excellent mechanical design, but not as smoothly implemented as one might hope for.

This lens is quite sharp in the center even wide open, and the edges aren't too bad. The lens doesn't generate wild flare patterns, but drops overall contrast when it flares. There seems to be a fair degree of coma off-axis, making point light sources look like directional ink blots, but without being too objectionable for most scenes. It gets sharper and cleaner when stopped down, especially off axis. Bokeh are, well, Tessar bokeh. They're generally quite pleasing with a soft edge, but they also have internal structure that can look unpleasant.

Overall, it's quite different from most fast 50s. While f/2.8 is slow, it's actually pretty fast for a Tessar, and there is plenty of defocus given the close focus. It feels a little more "retro" than my other fast 50s without being riddled with distracting image quality problems. Really reminds me of old folding film cameras, which often had normal Tessars too. I certainly can't complain for the $19 I paid....

Update, August 2020: Well, I now have over 200 lenses, but I finally got around to doing a little CLA on this lens and testing it on my A7RII. It's a surprisingly pleasant little lens now that focus isn't so stiff, but wide-open sharpness isn't really up to 42MP FF. It can focus pleasantly close and is generally well behaved. Here's a sample image from it:

Oh, it's also worth noting mine doesn't look anything like the others here, but looks just like the one in the overview of this lens. It's from the last few years of production in the early 1970s. Here it is on my A6500:

New Member

Registered: July, 2013
Posts: 3

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: July 31, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $15.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Price,build quality,resolution,bokeh

Very good lens for normal motives and thanks to the 35 cm min distance,
also for flowers ao.
I like the bokeh,but you have to work the motive to let it shine due to the f/2,8.

Veteran Member

Registered: April, 2012
Location: Sydney
Posts: 1,194
Lens Review Date: November 16, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $10.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Cheap, and what a Work Horse!
Cons: Stigma


I think every one should have one of these. The quickly forgotten standard in photography. This Humble design stretches back at least to the 1930's where countless examples exist in different forms, formats, mounts.

if anything, get this as a start to get away from kit zooms. :P

It densest really matter which version you get they all share the same formula. If your keen hunt down a late 50's all metal one. They look the hotness and just feel magical

I have three, no four, wait.. and enjoy taking them out for their quirks and quirks alone.. You know when your partner does something particularly annoying where you just but help find your self smiling at the thought that if this was any other person, you would have punched them in the arm by now? Its kinda the same relationship I have with my ol' Tessars.

If nothing else, one of these will start an obsession with old camera gear. Consider it a gateway drug. It's an excellent way to introduce yourself to manual focus if by sad chance you haven't already.

Sharp, no issues with CA, nor barrel distortions etc etc, focuses down to 30 odd cm, easy to work under the hod with, cheap, reliable, f2.8 is fast enough for us today with our silly cameras and iso above 1600's. it really really really is. As for whether f2.8 is shallow enough..

That's the corner of a push lawn mower. I count maybe 1cm max before it blurs. And that's all at f2.8 mind you. how much shallower do you want?

Again the clothes line, that orange and blue mush just left of centre are some more pegs. The orange peg to the left of the focus point is 2-3cm away.

So it's fast enough on our digital bodies, f2.8 is shallow enough, Colours look amazing (oh they are all straight out of camera by the way) and you can pick them up for less then your lunch.

Love it.

Oh, I nearly forgot, for you lads who shoot video. The later model ones "pictured above" have a little ball bearing that clicks along when you change f-stops. You can, (like I have) loose it and then it changes f-stop like a preset lens, quietly and smoothly. BAM!

Registered: July, 2007
Location: North West UK
Posts: 389
Lens Review Date: November 14, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Contrast, Sharp, CA control, Colour rendition
Cons: not fast for a "fifty", movement of lens when focusing, M42 only
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 8    Value: 10   

I have had this lens since I was 16 when I got a Praktica SLR with this lens.
Recently I have had a play with it on a K-5 for fun!

Well, what can I say, this lens is excellent! It is sharp, the colour rendition is superb and so contrasty too. CA? None that I noticed, probably being based on the legend that is the Tessar, and coatings to counter accordingly.

Downsides, well It is East German, so build is not the best, the focus ring is not smooth and the lens does seem to to move a bit when you focus, but if you understand this, then not a problem.
Also, it is a 50mm, so F2.8 is not fast, but again, use it for applications where speed is not required, or you already have a fast fifty, then it is worth having. Plus you can get these for the price of a beer!

Would I recommend? YES! It is a tessar after all and a sharp one at that.

Edit - March 2022.
I thought I would give an update on this lens, especially since I have had the K-1 for many years. Is it still good on a 36MP camera? Well yes! Lovely colours and contrast. Nice bokeh as well. Just shows that a good design is that. The down side is the very sticky grease that is normal for East German optics. Do not expect a smooth focus that the Takumars are renowned for. But having said that, these are very cheap and worth having.
Site Supporter

Registered: April, 2011
Location: Copenhagen
Posts: 510

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 10, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $25.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: very sharp, 12 iris blades, preset aperture, huge throw
Cons: needs adapter

There are many versions of this lens and apparently of very different quality.

I have the 1954 aluminium model (got it from sitting on a Praktica F.X3 for a pittance equal to ca. 50US) with the Carl Zeiss T coating and 12 iris blades preset aperture.

Here is a photo of it with a Pentax M42 to K adapter mounted:

The lens is extremely small and lightweight at 110g L45mm and W50mm. It has a 46mm. filter thread.

The focus throw is very wide, especially in the close-up end with high precision movement from 0.5 to 1 meter.

The build quality is outstanding and the lens is working perfectly (58 years after production!), everything operating smoothly.

I am still just testing it, but I am finding the results very satisfactory. The later models are reviewed as not to sharp, and on the contrary to this, I find this early model very sharp indeed. The T coating is also very impressive (seems fully developed). The preset aperture gives full control of the depth of field and the lens has a very attractive soft bokeh without apparent color aberations. The preset should also be very usefull in video photography enabling floating shift of field depth.

Here is a 100% crop of a bee hovering a short moment above some crocus flowers:

Here is the complete photo:
and more shots of the lens etc. here:

My first impressions with this lens is great and I expect very great results from it in the future. Being a vintage, manual, preset lens I can still only say ‘this is a tenner‘ even if it lacks some features of our day.

Registered: April, 2011
Location: Lost in translation ...
Posts: 18,044

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: May 11, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Lightweight, nice size & feel, close focus, simple to fix ...
Cons: Not that sharp, but OK ... only f2.8


I picked up a copy of this lens at the April 2012 swap meet in Montamisé, France, for about three bucks ... since it was with oily, jammed blades and once been disassembled with the rear element retaining ring practically butchered yet unopened. Someone had tried and failed to fix it ... thus, my challenge (enter "Mission Impossible" music)!

I luckily got the rear ring off (barely) and had a heck of a time getting the front one off, too. Once apart, it took me a few hours to clean and re-assemble it. Unfortunately, I could not save the auto pin mechanism, so it's off and in a baggie now. Below are some images of this lens, and you can see on the rear the state of the retaining ring and the empty screw holes for the former auto mechanism.

Here's a link on how to service this lens :

Initial testing shows that this copy is not too bad despite its rough treatment and abuse. Definitely does NOT deserve a "1" rating ... just because it's one's "worst 50" and should be "avoided like the plague", does not make for a reasonable review, and Adam should remove crummy appraisals like this IMHO.

From what I seen thus far, I will rate it in as a "7" ... which may improve as I use it more and more ... time will tell. [ Edit: I've up the grade for this lens to "8" ]

Allez et bon courage, John le Frog

Veteran Member

Registered: February, 2012
Location: Fredericton, New Brunswick
Posts: 632
Lens Review Date: April 30, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, Lightweight
Cons: Tough to Focus, Feels a tad flimsy

Sharp as you'd expect from a Zeiss - Has a pleasant(To me) bokeh when stopped down. Makes decent Faux Macro shots due to close up capabilities.(.35m)

A->M switch is easy to shift(Accidentally), and if it's mid-way, it will not stop down fully.

Great for a value 50 - Though a bit slow.
Inactive Account

Registered: October, 2011
Location: London, UK.
Posts: 19
Lens Review Date: February 26, 2012 I can recommend this lens: No | Price: $19.00 | Rating: 1 

Pros: Fairly compact and lightweight
Cons: Not very sharp

Avoid this lens like the plague! The worst 50mm lens I've every used, and I've tried dozens. You can get much better lenses for less money.
Add Review of Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm F2.8

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