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Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 135mm, f3.5

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8 41,500 Wed August 23, 2017
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
88% of reviewers $107.38 9.00
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:

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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)

Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2010
Location: California
Posts: 2,097
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
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)
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: 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.
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: May, 2015
Location: Hampshire
Posts: 510
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.

Site Supporter

Registered: April, 2015
Posts: 1,339
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!
New Member

Registered: July, 2016
Location: London, UK
Posts: 3
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

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