The Pancolar 80mm f/1.8 is a late development of Carl Zeiss Jena which was at that time the East German part of the original company torn into pieces by the WW II. Therefore this lens was accessible in the eastern block mainly and even though now it can be found all around Europe, this is a very rare lens in other continents.
The lens has a high reputation as a sharp, fast portrait lens and it is quite expensive among other lenses of the same era. It has an M42 mount and was produced in both automatic and electronic forms. It was later remounted as the B-mount Carl Zeiss Jena Prakticar 1.8/80. (source Praktica-users.com)
Datasheet and optical formula
- Construction:6 elements, 5 groups
- Angular field: 30.4°
- Minimum focusing distance: 0.8m
- Diaphragm action: fully automatic
- Coating: Multi-coated
- Minimum aperture: f/22
- Maximum aperture: f/1.8
- No. aperture blades: 6
- Filter size: 58mm screw-in type
- Push-on diameter: 60mm
- Weight: 310g
- Barrel length: 64mm
This lens is a typical example of the legendary classic double Gauss lens formula also known as Planar.
The Double Gauss was likely the most intensively studied lens formula of the twentieth century, producing dozens of major variants, scores of minor variants, hundreds of marketed lenses and tens of millions of unit sales. It had almost no flaws, except for a bit of oblique spherical aberration, which could lower peripheral contrast. Double Gauss/Planar tweaks were the standard wide aperture, normal and near normal prime lens for sixty years.
The double Gauss lens consists of two back-to-back Gauss lenses (a design with a positive meniscus lens on the object side and a negative meniscus lens on the image side) making two positive meniscus lenses on the outside with two negative meniscus lenses inside them. The symmetry of the system and the splitting of the optical power into many elements reduces the optical aberrations within the system. (source: Wikipedia)
I have got mine from the girlfriend of my father with the original case. She never used it, it was basically on the shelf without a camera since ages.
Probably she didn’t know what was the value of this lens, so I didn’t know neither. As it turned out it is an expensive lens among the usually very cheap M42 mount lenses. The market price is very similar to a new Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, which is why I am often thinking about selling it. So far, I decided to keep it, because of the nice performance, character and because I can use it on many crazy cameras of mine.
The front cap was missing and the aperture blades were stuck, otherwise, as you can see in the photos below, the lens was in a really good shape. The glass was clean, no dust, no scratches, no fungus and it was obviously not used too much. I have substituted the missing front cap with a Canon cap of the standard 18-55mm kit lens. I tried to use other Ø 58mm caps, but this was the only one which was not tending to touch the front lens element.
The way it looks
This is one of my favorite lenses. The images are always very sharp and have a good contrast with it. I can say that there are very little signs of any aberrations or distortions over the frame. I have not tested the lens scientifically yet so I cannot compare the performance in numbers with other lenses. But real word experience is quite pleasant for me.
(post about this image),(full image)
At wide open, sharpness and contrast are a bit lower than stopped down by one-two stops, but still quite nice and I think this is very common with almost all fast prime lenses. Besides a slightly softer result can be beneficial for some portraits where little details of the skin can be smother and this way the model could look more perfect. The 80mm Pancolar is really not much softer wide open though. Colors are also rich and lovely and somehow different from my other lenses when using on the same digital body.
Dept of field & Bokeh
I like this short telephoto lens because this focal distance allows me to take nice shoulder portraits while I am still close enough to the model to interact with.
Also, this lens has the ability to blur the background (like hell) very much because of the large maximum aperture. In fact, the depth of field can be so shallow that sometimes you get only a few centimeters of it and it has a risk that you miss the focus. A good example when only one eye of the model is in focus.
Speaking about bokeh (quality of out of focus elements), this lens produces a lot and the quality is superb, creamy. I know it is subjective to judge this property, so please have a look at the sample shots and decide yourself. The only caveat with it is the fact that the lens has only 6 aperture-blades. It could produce a not circular (multigonal) spots of highlights in the blurred background. It is a subjective thing again to like it or not, personally I prefer the perfect circles. This is not a problem when shooting wide open as the aperture is round at that case.
The Pancolar is a very well made lens which has a full metal + real glass construction. It looks absolutely beautiful, feels solid and has a good weight to it. The aperture ring clicks at every half stops and operates very smoothly and precisely. The focus could be the same if I had got the right grease into it. -I will get it fixed soon. – The lens barbell extends a few milometers while focusing, but not seriously and the front element does not rotate -> there is no problem with polarizing filters to use.
There is a switch on the lens to set automatic or manual mode. When set to automatic the aperture stops down only when you press the shutter button and then it returns to full size when mounted on a compatible camera. In the case of manual mode, you must pre-set the aperture manually. This could be a nice feature too for videographers.
I have found a short summary on a nice website (Prime35.com) which is a perfect quote to close this post.
CZJ Pancolar MC 80/1.8
I’d say this is the best choice for versatile and sharp M42 80mm lens. It’s contrasty, it has the best wide-opened performance of all f/1.5-f/2 M42 portrait lenses. Center is close to Biotar, but borders are much sharper. Great colours (MC) + great bokeh. It also isn’t as risky as the early post-war lenses, because its coating is much harder, so cleaning marks are not an issue. For me it’s the best post-war Jena lens. (source: Prime35.com)
- Praktica-users.com (datasheet and some details)
- MFlenses.com (sample gallery)
- MFlenses.com (forum and nice samples)
- Lens bubbles (blog)
- Prime35.com (summary)
- My Flickr set
- A post of mine (about a photo taken with this lens)
Using a digital body (crop frame)
On my cropped frame Canon body this lens is equivalent to a 128mm lens on a 35mm body due to the 1.6x cropping factor.
Using a digital body (full frame)
For more samples see my Pancolar Flickr set.
8 thoughts on “Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8”
Great article. I didn´t know it was pretty rare outside Europe. I had a CZJ Pancolar 50/1.8 until a few months ago when I sold it to a friend. I bought it mostly for macro photography but never used it very much to have an opinion.
Hi, Thanks. I am not that sure it is rare outside of Europe, I must have read it somewhere… The 50mm must be good for macro with an extension tube.
That is one great quality optic!! I really like the idea of 80mm focal length also. You’ve taken some wonderful images with this lens as usual. Take it easy, Jason
Nice write-up – looks like a great lens. The “L (Miskolc, Hungary)” images is wondeful!
This lens is really cool indeed. I am very happy that you like my shoots. Your blog is just amazing by the way.
This is indeed a lovely lens. But use it gently as some of the parts inside is plastic. I have great pain in getting mine fixed when a plastic part in the diaphragm mechanism broke. I am glad that I can still use this lens, with the M/A function disabled.
I’m in my early forties; the first SLRs I had as a child were Prakticas, around 1979/1980. The Pancolar name was uncommon in the UK back then. I think it was more marketed in West Germany/continental Europe than here.
In recent years, I’ve had a ‘zebra’ Pancolar 50mm (single coated) and also a black, MC copy. Both are very nice lenses with decent bokeh.
Others you may want to try if you haven’t already are the Flektogons, the Meyer 3.5/30 and perhaps the earlier (chrome) Tessars (which are a decent lens when stopped down, f5.6-f8).
Thanks for blogging about the lens; nice website!
Thanks for sharing your story. It is really nice to hear that you are still using these glasses. I will write about ore of them for sure.