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Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 135mm, f3.5 Review RSS Feed

Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 135mm, f3.5

Reviews Views Date of last review
14 113,965 Sun August 25, 2019
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
93% of reviewers $88.77 8.83
Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 135mm, f3.5

Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 135mm, f3.5
Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 135mm, f3.5
Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 135mm, f3.5

This East Geman made derivative of the original zeiss sonnar 135mm f4 has classic status. There were a number of slight variants to the lens over the fifty years + it was made, including the "electric" (pic) which had contacts. The version pictured with a 4 digit serial is, according to allphotolenses, considered to be the best one.
There are two other review pages for versions of this lens:

Zebra (earlier) version.
aus Jena (export) version.

and also a review page for the earlier f4 version.

Lens Composition: 4 elements in 3 groups
Angular Field:18 degrees
Minimum Focus: 1m/3.3ft
Focusing Action: MF
f-stop Scale: f/3.5-f/22, manual
Filter Size : 49mm
Lens Hood: Built-in
Weight: 430g/0.94lbs
Dimensions: 51x89mm/2x3.5"

slr lens review

Sonnars comparison.

Disassembly and cleaning guide by Andy Brown.

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 Sonnar MC 135mm, f3.5
Sort Reviews by: Date | Author | Rating | Recommendation | Likes (Descending) Showing Reviews 1-14 of 14
New Member

Registered: February, 2019
Posts: 12
Lens Review Date: August 25, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $50.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Feels lovely, so easy to use
Cons: Over-rated and over-priced
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 10    Value: 8    Camera Used: SP1000 K-X ME Super   

Mine was the black Sonnar "S" mint version. Generally it was good. Not excellent. Not very good. I was disappointed after reading so many people going off on one about this with giddy glee. It's not that dazzling in reality. Get real, people! Maybe you are getting off on the red and cute purple multicoating? The secondhand used market is full of these old lenses for a reason, OK?

Nice built-in hood and feels superb on a Pentax SP-type film SLR. It's a bit "plastic" in places but the engineering is lovely. Inside the back-end the mechanism is a bit flimsy and fragile (which is why some lenses you'll find have failed aperture systems). Sadly, as with today's digital technology-swamped crowd who paid a huge bomb for a camera and want to save a buck by buying cheap old lenses, a lot of people rate a lens when it's their sensor and processor that is actually producing the image in conjunction with the lens. If you put this on a film camera you'll get some great results at f5.6 to f11-f16 where sharpness and overall quality across the image is good to very good and some wonderful images at times. Either side of that (sadly, it is not "tack sharp wide open" despite what some people repeat uncritically) this is quite ordinary. Mind you, the bokeh (if you are into that background out of focus blurry fuzz stuff) is really nice. Infinity is nothing to write home to your Mother about and I would not recommend it for long distance or landscape photography. But that's often the case with these old used 135mm lenses as they are nothing like the superb mid-focal length telephoto or zoom digital lenses from the giants of the DSLR world. Good for mid-distance work, though. Close focus is lovely and it's superb how close you can get with this lens. I suppose it's the density of glass or the multicaoting, but this lost me one full stop of light when compared to a hand-held meter test and a double check comparison with another camera. That's actually a bit of a pain in some conditions when you are trying to freeze movement with maximum sharpness. I think it's worth $40-50 but over that it's simply not worth it and you are letting yourself get ripped off if you pay over $60 for a perfect mint one. Sadly, there is some purple fringing chromatic aberration in high contrast shots. As with many "cult" online lenses it just does not live up to the hype and the giddy cliché repetition that you often find online. A Takumar 135mm f3.5, despite not being the finest 135mm in the world, is just as good and it has a greater infinity focus and you can get one generally cheaper than this Carl Zeiss Jena.
Lens Review Date: March 21, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 

Pros: As new condition but still to be used in anger
Cons: None that I can read about

I was given a Praktica camera and kit which included this lens to sell on eBay. I wasn't really aware of the legacy lens thing and sold the Praktica camera and standard lens and some other bits but as this lens was in such good condition I thought I would sell it separately so did some investigation and put on eBay at a good price for me.

It sat there on eBay with a number of watchers but no takers and each time when at the desk I would take it out of the drawer and play around with it. Eventually took it off eBay and started down the road of looking for other lenses to keep it company and the rest is history.

New Member

Registered: November, 2013
Posts: 9
Lens Review Date: December 10, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: very sharp lens
Cons: very few CA's
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: k-s1 k-x k200d   

++ very sharp lens

+ high contrast

++ nertral color rendition

+ few CA's wide open

for macro shootings with macro tubes !

9.5 points
New Member

Registered: November, 2018
Posts: 2
Lens Review Date: November 25, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $25.00 | Rating: N/A 


I have one that is Konica Ricoh mount version (KR mount). How can I make it to at least PK .. I would like to mount it on Sony E mount or Nikon F mount. Thanks!
New Member

Registered: June, 2018
Posts: 6
Lens Review Date: June 21, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $100.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Minimum focus distance, affordable, sharp, nice bokeh with Zeiss colors
Cons: Very difficult to find one in good conditions
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 8    Value: 8    Camera Used: A7   

Tried four copies of the lens: two had stuck diaphragm blades, one had fungus and the last one had been dismantled and was unacceptably dusty. Finally found mine, but I paid the price.

Build quality is ok if you find a good one. The lens is quite small.

It's sharp with good bokeh even if only f/3,5. It has great Zeiss colors and can focus close to less than one meter, I don't know many other 135mm close focus... Well, buy it, but be careful especially with stuck/oily diaphragm blades.
New Member

Registered: January, 2018
Location: Paris
Posts: 8
Lens Review Date: January 26, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $80.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Clarity, IQ, COLOR rendering, unbelievable low price
Cons: Not pka but A/M switch
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 7    Handling: 6    Value: 10    Camera Used: K1   

This lens is kind of version is a mint “electric mc Sonnar czj ddr 135-3.5”

Nice and Very good build even though not a Pentax k..It looks kind of poorman bigger FA77mm ...

When you look this m42 mount and the adaptation ring you have to put in your brand new K1 camera you just want to cry and start regretting ...😭
And think understand why such a low price

When you succeed mouting it on your camera you feel it s kind loosy fix and it will drop on the ground ( no locking) and you are afraid 🤪

First pic, wide open of course (because you let the a position switch...) and.....WOW wtf.....😎

You check the mount ....second pic ...same Wow😎
And etc....

The IQ/clarity/COLOR rendering at P.O. of this old thing is just unbeleavable.

I found the COLOR rendering and contrast much more strong and steady at P.O. during poor light/flat white sky conditions than my K135 F2.5 that I love too but in these particular conditions only I find it on the cools side COLOR rendering with low contrast scenes.

This lens is sharp equal from 3.5 to 8 !!!! Bizarre I told you.
Optically it’s quite razor sharp. . it has a common pb with sticky aperture blades so you have chance to end with f3,5 always

Focusing is ok but just not the confort feeling of the K ring

The cons :
the m42 screw mount with adapt ring no locking on the camera
Now I have 2 x135 to carry with me ....the K for 2.5 and trekking / unsteady walk conditions.... and this one for all others

I recommend strongly, smiles for the high grade results (and laughing /always checking the fix finally) guaranteed . Lot of fun using such anachronistic stuff but in fact better than the green button system of the M and K for my taste

Be careful with m42 to pk adaptator if first use and choose the right one for infinity focusing. Google it before for some hints. (Prefer to remove tiny screw and the small tit and let the 10$ adaptator ring on your easier and faster to mount and dismount of your camera)
New Member

Registered: July, 2016
Location: London, UK
Posts: 5
Lens Review Date: August 23, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $80.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, colour rendition, bokeh
Cons: A bit slow
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: Sony Alpha 7RII   

A coupla dozen of shots only and I'm already in LOVE with this lens. I wouldn't write a review so hastily, 2 hours after taking it out of the box, but I'm just so enthusiastic! I could only test it in very poor light conditions (it arrived tonight, and it was dark already).

The lens seems fabulously sharp, even on a 44 mega pix camera like the Sony Alpha 7RII (I give it *only* 9 for sharpness just because I keep the 10 for the modern Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 - which hurts your eyes from being so_sharp, and your wallet too, at £700).

I love the colours, bokeh seems very creamy. Mechanics & build top notch.

I paid a low price because the body looks a bit used, and the dust inside is a bit more than average. I bet it doesn't do anything, but I'll open up the lens & clean it - it's a relatively simple job on these old babies.

More in the next few days, with some time. But again - these Zeiss are a dream.

All pictures wide open (so to speak) i.e. f3.5


Registered: April, 2015
Location: Wisconsin, USA
Posts: 2,782
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: 10    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 truly incredible 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 most $1000 lenses, yet you can buy it for under $100. A crazy bargain!

Registered: May, 2015
Location: Hampshire
Posts: 892

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: February 12, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $30.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Has an A-M switch

This is a quick review based on little usage of two lenses.
Both were CARL ZEISS JENA DDR MC S. S/N'S 106598 and 131184.

I like these lenses but there are some as good (and cheaper) in the K mount. As a M42 mount with the A-M switch it is easier maybe to focus and stop down than using green button metering. A K-A mount would be heaven (as would a wider aperture).

It is quite sharp, seems to provide good colour and seems to sell well on ebay.
I wish I knew why the MC in red seems to be important. An image taken on yet another grey day here in England, than you Pentax for shake reduction!
F8, 1/50s and a crop.

New Member

Registered: August, 2016
Posts: 8
Lens Review Date: November 18, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $85.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharp,color
Cons: Flare in the backlighting
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 9    Camera Used: K5II   

This lens came to me as a second-hand, but the condition was quite well. Not a single scratch on the glass.The first thing that impressed me is that the sharpness is quite well even wide open. Actually I use f3.5 all the time and the outcomes are superb. Secondly, the color is rich and vivid. It does have some drawbacks :It flares when using in the backlighting, and the focus ring is not smooth. But in general this a great lens made in Germany.
New Member

Registered: October, 2015
Posts: 2
Lens Review Date: October 22, 2015 I can recommend this lens: No | Price: $54.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Contrast and Centre Sharpness
Cons: Distracting Bokeh, Chromatic Aberration
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 5    Bokeh: 3    Handling: 9    Value: 8    Camera Used: Sony A7s   

I tried two copies of the Praktica PB Mount version of this lens, with the hope of using it for some nice compressed landscape type shots.
The lens does have good centre sharpness and contrast and the build quality and feel were excellent.

Unfortunately there is quite a bit of Chromatic Aberration and the bokeh is quite distracting. Ultimately, although I didn't buy this lens especially for shallow depth of field work, it is kind of hard to avoid at this focal length, and out-of-focus areas have a distracting harshness about them.

I also found that this lens flares quite easily and that the built-in hood could do with being a bit longer.
New Member

Registered: October, 2014
Location: Near Berlin
Posts: 1

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: May 25, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $140.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: sharpness, contrast, color contrast and reproduction, price
Cons: only 6 diaphragm blades, in addition highly reflective (not blackened), short and shaky built-in hood, disgusting focus ring
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 6    Handling: 4    Value: 10    Camera Used: Canon APS-C   

Own definition of points - using the above scaling: 5 = still good, 7-8 = good to very good, 9-10 = excellent
(10 = "100%" for technical aspects: such a immaculate thing does not exist)

About this as good as new copy: it was produced within the latest version at the end of 1980s in Saalfeld in the former GDR (therefore no "Aus Jena" export version) and
sold a short time later after the political changes from acquired inventories.

Traditionally one of the best 135mm lenses for the 36mm-film format, however, the most useful optical performance is available, when stopped down at least f/5.6 or higher.
The high color contrast and intense, as well as pure colors are typical of this lens, with color slide film quite welcome characteristics (in digital image processing, this tends
to play a minor role), but an edged diaphragm and significant color fringing at high contrast details lead to a less beautiful reproduction outside the focal plane.

Compared to S.-M.-C. Takumar 1: 2.5/135 (Model II):
Very stiff focusing grip with extremely uncomfortable, needle-sharp bare metal pyramids, painful for the fingers (in this regard, the former, painted models feel a little more
"comfortable"); on the other hand, mechanical slackness is hardly to be felt; the Takumar here feels at worlds better, but also at the expense of a wobbly front barrel.
Slightly inferior imaging performance in the lower apertures (and thus far less contrasty than the also tested much older aluminum bare, "silver" Sonnar 4,0/135); does not
quite reach the sharpness in the center at closed apertures, but sharper, more contrast and less CA in the corners, overall a more homogeneous performance across the
entire image field.


left: the model above, anodized and partially painted body, right: previous and "electric" model, completely painted body, different coatings

f/8 / APS-C / standard ooc jpeg file, scaled down on 1200x1800 of 5184x3456 image size, taken with the above, left model

Detail (100% crop)
Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2010
Location: California
Posts: 2,223
Lens Review Date: January 2, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp wide open with contrast and good colors, small, built-in hood
Cons: rare, hard to find.
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: Kx, K5, K3   

This is probably the sharpest and nicer 135mm lens (pardon me, SMC Takumar 135/2.5 Second Version and Pentax K 125/2.5, I am embellishing little here, but not too much), just a tad slower than the SMC Tak and Pentax. I will post some photos later. Here is one quick shot:

CarlZeiss MC DDR 135mmf3.5 @f3.5 - Chair by Palenquero, on Flickr
Junior Member

Registered: December, 2010
Location: San Jose
Posts: 25
Lens Review Date: December 12, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $120.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: smooth handling, sharp, quality
Cons: screw mount & none
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 10    Value: 9    Camera Used: Pentax K-X   

I was really impressed when I read reviews about this lens and searched for it.
A year ago, I bought this lens. It is an M42 mount (Pentax) manual focus lens and I was wondering how to handle it while quick capturing.
It is very stable and smooth lens. If your eye sight is good, then this lens is the best for mid/long distance captures.
Once, I attach this lens to my K-X, I don't really wish to remove it. Even now I forgot my other lenses
I am not a professional photographer, so I can't give you all F stop output and suggestions.
Performance wise, its too good, I get what I want.
This beauty has inbuilt lens-hood too, I didn't know that and no one mentioned about it too.
This is one of the best lens from its era, and still can knock-out current lens family (If you don't compare with auto focus mode)
For camera lenses, it does matter "how you get and what you get..."
This lens didn't disappoint me, anyhow...

Some sample photographs (30% re-sized)

Add Review of Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 135mm, f3.5

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