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Vintage Lens: Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8

Last week I bumped into an ad. For less than $10, I had the chance to buy a broken Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8. The issue – faulty focusing. I decided I needed something new on my Sony a6300 camera. If I couldn’t fix it, I would have at least learned a few things about lens construction.

I bought it and, after a few hours of tinkering, the lens was in decent shape. The focus ring is still iffy but usable. What about image quality? My Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8 was manufactured between 1967 and 1970. If you have a Zeiss lens, you can use the serial number to check the manufacturing date. This lens is at least 50 years old, so don’t expect outstanding performance. It does have that vintage look though. And for less than $10, what more could you want? It also looks good on my Zenit 11.

Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
State of the optics. Easily cleaned with a non-alcoholic solution
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
Next to the more popular Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f/1.8
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
It looks at home on my Zenit 11
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
Flaring is quite decent
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
Another instance of flaring. Although there is a drop in contrast, I like the outcome.
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
The minimum focusing distance is just 35 cm (under 14 inches)
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
If your patient enough, you can even score some bird shots
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
Obviously you have to set your focus and hope for the best. This shot and the one above is at f/5.6.
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
All photos were taken with a Sony a6300. Most images have minimal edits.

Honestly I can’t ask more of this lens. The Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8 proves you can get decent photos with the cheapest lens you could buy.

Will I use it more? Probably not. The Pancolar 50mm f/1.8 is almost the same size and weight, but it’s faster. It would be nice to compare the image quality between the two of them. Although comparing 50-year-old lenses is not the most scientific feat.

Do you use vintage lenses on your modern camera?

By Dan Pandrea

Man With A Camera. Romanian, copywriter, content editor, photography enthusiast, and an electronic music fan.

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