Prakticar Carl Zeiss Jena - Confused of Hereford

Discussion in 'UK Photography' started by Tony, Jun 14, 2004.

  1. Tony

    Tony Guest


    I've just bought on eBay a kit based on the Praktica BX20, this came with
    Prakticar lenses
    135/2.8, 28/2.8 50/2.4 and two Sigma zooms. I have been dredging
    through eBay and photo
    dealers sites and am aware that there appear to be the same lenses "badged"
    Praktica and Carl Zeiss Jena.
    Some of the Carl Zeiss lenses command high prices, especially the "Sonnar"
    "Flektacon" - whatever that means?.

    Having received excellent advice on this group re suitable slide film for
    landscape and flora photography, I hope that some of you gurus may be able
    to enlighten me on the various lenses from Praktica and its associates.
    Using slow speed slide film and often using extension tubes to take very
    close up photos of
    plants the lens quality is very important to me.

    In case you wonder why I've gone for the Praktica kit it is simply cost, I
    needed a reasonably comprehensive outfit and had less than £100 to spend.

    So far I have found the BX20 amazingly versatile, it may not have the "feel"
    of one of the Japanese
    marques but it seems to "have it where it counts".

    Thanks in anticipation,
    Tony, Jun 14, 2004
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  2. Tony

    mark Dunn Guest

    'Carl Zeiss' and 'Carl Zeiss Jena' are quite different makes. Both are
    German but Jena is in the former East Germany. Before the wall came down the
    Jena lenses were much cheaper but considered optically inferior. I'm not
    sure anyone not using a test bench would notice any difference outside their
    bank account.
    mark Dunn, Jun 14, 2004
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  3. Oh yes they would! A colleague of mine once bought a CZ Jena zoom that
    was like looking through the bottom of a milk bottle. OK, it was trying
    to do a ridiculous task, 28-210 or something ludicrous, but even so
    I can't see any half decent manufacturer selling anything so dire.

    Perhaps their less ambitious stuff was better, but I'm not that eager to
    find out.
    Willy Eckerslyke, Jun 14, 2004
  4. There is quite a bit of history to this which I'll attempt to summarise.

    After the second world war the Carl Zeiss factory in Jena was nationalised
    by the Communist East German government. A number of the Carl Zeiss
    personnel fled to West Germany to establish a rival company, also called
    Carl Zeiss. In the U.S. the West German operation won the right to the Carl
    Zeiss name so that all Carl Zeiss Jena lenses exported to America were
    labelled "Aus Jena".

    Praktica SLRs were manufactured by Pentacon in Dresden. In the 50s and 60s
    Pentacon cameras came with a choice of lens options, the basic package was a
    body plus a 50/2.8 lens from Meyer Optik called the Domiplan. By paying a
    bit more you could upgrade to a superior Carl Zeiss Jena lens like the
    50/1.8 Pancolor. At this time most German lens designs from both East and
    West were given names by the manufacturers. The Pancolar for instance was
    the CZJ version of the Planar, a five element fast lens. Both Zeiss
    operations also produced slower pre-war Tessar designs consisting of four
    elements in three groups. The Sonnar was another term used by both East and
    West German companies to denote a telephoto design also using four elements
    in three groups. Flektogon was used by Jena to describe their wide
    angle optics, the West German equivalent was Distagon.

    With the launch of the B-series cameras in 1979 (of which your BX20 is a
    descendent), these old naming conventions were done away with and all of the
    East German lenses (and some new Japanese made lenses) for the new bayonet
    mount were simply described as Prakticar. For example, what had previously
    been the Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35 f2.4 lens in M42 mount became the CZJ
    Prakticar 35/2.4 in B mount.

    In the late eighties the whole East German camera and optical industry was
    consolidated in one company. Carl Zeiss Jena became a brand that was applied
    to lenses which had been designed by Pentacon and Meyer, not just those from
    the original Zeiss factory. For instance, the Carl Zeiss Jena Prakticar
    28/2.8 is just a rebadged Pentacon 28/2.8.

    Just when you thought it couldn't get any more confusing, the name was also
    licensed to Sigma to produce a the Jenazoom range of zoom lenses available
    in most of the manual focus mounts of the late eighties.

    After the re-unification of Germany the West German Zeiss operation bought
    out the Eastern company and lens production for consumer cameras ceased at

    Focal lengths and max apertures of the more common "genuine" Carl Zeiss Jena
    lenses in B-mount are 20/2.8, 35/2.4, 50/1.4, and 135/3.5. The 28/2.8,
    50/1.8 and 135/2.8 "Carl Zeiss Jena P" lenses are rebadged Pentacon lenses.

    For more information check out On this site you can
    also see Jon Gibbs's flower close-ups taken with a 135/3.5 Zeiss Jena lens
    and bellows which may interest you.
    Stewart Gardiner, Jun 14, 2004
  5. Tony

    Mike Hunter Guest

    I believe that Carl Zeiss Jena was one of the "prizes" of German
    reunification - as a world-class optical instrument maker (but NOT as a
    camera lens maker!).

    The big problem is not the optical quality of Practica "B" lenses (not
    top-notch but a decent example will take good negs capable of high
    enlargement), but the fact that the iris tends to fall apart - rendering the
    lens useless. Happened to 3 of mine : 50mm f1.8 (after 4 year's use), the
    replacement 50mm f1.8 (after only a few month's use) and a 135mm f2.8. At
    that point I gave up and bought a proper camera - after some 20 yrs of
    various Praktikas.

    Mike Hunter, Jun 14, 2004
  6. Tony

    Tony Guest

    Thanks very much for all the info, I think I'm a little less confused, but
    to quote Douglas Adams
    "then I think rain is wet, so who am I to judge". I really appreciate the
    responses, I was "warned off" Praktica etc (I'm not going there !) by a
    couple of independent camera shops. The manager of a local shop who seems
    a decent sort of bloke, said that the cameras and optics are pretty good,
    but they are let down on the reliability front, which is why he doesn't
    stock the kit.

    I've yet to put a film thro the BX20, waiting for the film I've ordered
    from 7dayshop but playing with the camera it seems very capable, shame it
    doesn't have a PC socket. It may be that I've "jumped the gun" a
    little on getting this kit, I need kit that will be serviceable when I'm out
    in the wilds, so maybe best to reflog the kit and get something a little
    more sturdy. It may be back to an old faithful K1000 as I had some 30
    years back !

    My only previous experience with Praktica etc kit has been with a F2.4 35mm
    lens I had on a Chinon CM3 body a while back, that lens seemed optically
    superb, but a little less robustly built than the Japanese
    own brand lenses.

    Once again thanks to all who have replied, wishing you all good luck with
    your photography

    Tony, Jun 14, 2004
  7. Tony

    Andy Hewitt Guest

    That's somewhat puzzling. Certainly newer stuff might be iffy, I do have
    some cheap Praktica binoculars that are indeed crap. However, my wife
    has a Praktica MTL5 camera and lens that she got some 20 odd years ago.
    I costs us 30 quid for a service a little while ago, but can still take
    very good pictures indeed.

    In the early eighties Pracktica made very sound products at a very
    reasnable price.
    Andy Hewitt, Jun 14, 2004
  8. Tony

    Andy Hewitt Guest

    I have a Carl Zeiss Jena 70-210 lens for my OM40 which has given good
    service for the last 20 years.
    Andy Hewitt, Jun 14, 2004
  9. I had a Practika[1] projector that was quite respectable, IIRC that was
    one of their brand names.


    [1] no 'r' at the end.
    [The reply-to address is valid for 30 days from this posting]
    Michael J Davis
    Some newsgroup contributors appear to have confused
    the meaning of "discussion" with "digression".
    Michael J Davis, Jun 14, 2004
  10. Having slated them for one of their lenses, I've just remembered that my
    first "real" camera was a Practika Nova handed down by my grandfather. I
    did replace its standard lens with a lovely 15 pound Super Takumar
    though. I loved it, but when I looked it again years later, the
    viewfinder seemed so dark and vignetted that I was amazed I'd ever
    managed to see anything through it.
    Willy Eckerslyke, Jun 15, 2004
  11. The manager of a local shop who seems
    I think this is probably a case of "Friday" cameras like Friday cars, the
    sort that never work right even when new straight out of the box. Given the
    socialised means of production in the old East Germany I wouldn't be
    suprised if dealers encountered quite a few duds being returned to them.

    On the other hand if you get a good one it will probably last forever. I've
    owned a couple of BC-1 bodies for years and I haven't had any problems from
    them or the lenses. I do get them serviced every few years. I think the
    pictures I get from the Zeiss Jena lenses are great. Although they are not
    as sharp or contrasty as modern Japanese lenses, they produce results with a
    rich three-dimensional tonality.

    Stewart Gardiner, Jun 15, 2004
  12. Tony

    Andy Hewitt Guest

    Indeed, they certainly don't compare with the quality of image from the
    original Zuiko F1.4 50mm I have, but then there's not many lenses that
    could compete with that lens at all.

    I also have a Miranda 35-70 zoom lens, and it's so bad I don't use it at
    all now - I wouldn't even put it on eBay.
    Andy Hewitt, Jun 15, 2004
  13. Tony

    TP Guest

    It is a long time since I used Olympus equipment, but I clearly recall
    that the Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 was a much better performer than the f/1.4.
    Resolution across the frame was much improved, as was contrast, and
    the f/1.8 showed almost zero distortion.

    Similarly, in Zuiko 28mm lenses, the f/3.5 was a superb performer
    while the f/2.8 was mediocre. The f/2 had the advantage of 1 2/3
    stops more light than the f/3.5 but was optically no better at any
    aperture - except f/3.4 and wider of course!

    I am not trying to say that the Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 and 28mm f/2 are bad
    lenses, merely that the best optical performance often accompanies a
    more modest maximum aperture. This is true of very many lens ranges,
    not just Olympus.
    TP, Jun 15, 2004
  14. Tony

    TP Guest

    Sorry, I meant to type "50mm f/1.4".
    TP, Jun 15, 2004
  15. Tony

    Andy Hewitt Guest

    Righto. I think we could safely say you are an anorak though :)
    Andy Hewitt, Jun 16, 2004
  16. Tony

    TP Guest

    Yes, and proud of it!

    I used Olympus SLR gear (OM1, 2 OM2s, eleven Zuiko lenses) from about
    1976 to 1986 and liked it a lot.

    I changed to Nikon SLRs in 1986 and to Pentax SLRs in 2002. Although
    I use Hasselblad 6x6 and Leica M for wedding and social photography I
    mostly shoot digital now.

    Now it's back to Olympus with an E-1, three lenses and an E-10!
    TP, Jun 16, 2004
  17. Certainly true of the Contax Zeiss T* 50mm f1.4 and f1.7, though
    stopping down to f8 or so gives identical results from both.
    Willy Eckerslyke, Jun 16, 2004
  18. Out of interest, what made you choose these?
    Willy Eckerslyke, Jun 16, 2004
  19. Tony

    TP Guest

    For all practical purposes the f/1.4 is more than adequate. However,
    on bench tests the f/1.7 has a slim, but significant advantage over
    the f/1.4 at all apertures except those it can't reach (f/1.4-f/1.6).
    TP, Jun 16, 2004
  20. Tony

    TP Guest

    Long story. Basically I bought the E-10 as cheap backup to a Canon
    EOS 1D. I found it to be a superb camera when used within its
    limitations, which are pretty severe ... it works fine at ISO 80.

    I was offered a free extended trial of the E-1 and liked it very much.
    Its outstanding image quality blows away anything up to 8 megapixels,
    and the Zuiko lenses are superb. I have two zooms and one fixed focal
    length lens.

    They are all small and light; this is the same design ethos that
    spawned the OM series back in the 1970s, and it is one that I like
    very much. I can carry my whole E System outfit in one medium sized
    bag and it certainly isn't heavy.

    The E System is positioned somewhere between the Canon EOS 10/Nikon
    D70/Nikon D100/Fuji Finepix S2 market and the Canon EOS 1D II. Its
    image quality is better than the consumer-grade Canons and Nikon
    F80-based DSLRs and comes surprisingly close to the EOS 1Ds and Kodak
    DCS-Pro, despite their far greater pixel count. I don't know why, but
    the image quality is far better than 5 megapixels would suggest.

    Olympus are developing an E System body with a much higher pixel
    count, plus an entry-level model, and Sigma have announced their
    intention to market lenses for this format, so I think the future for
    "Four Thirds" is very bright.
    TP, Jun 16, 2004
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