The new rise of mirrorless cameras has allowed many of us to dust off old vintage film camera lenses to use with modern digital cameras.  Until recently we were limited to full frame digital mirrorless camera bodies, but that all changed when Fuji released the medium format digital mirrorless camera in 2017.  This is very exciting because there is a whole untapped genre of vintage medium format lenses out there to potentially use.  There are many pros and cons to using vintage lenses which I won’t go into here, but a separate post on that topic is coming.

This post is going to be all about one on those vintage lenses and a real world experience of walking around with the lens and the Fuji GFX 50s for an afternoon in downtown Los Angeles, CA.  To even further show my excitement for punishment I did not use a tripod for any of the images until the sun started to set.  I am still amazed at how easy it is to hand hold shoot the Fuji, and the great ISO performance it has.  Enough of that, let’s talk about the lens.

Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Biometar f2.8 80mm Pentacon Six Mount Lens

camera lens with hood and adapter studio image

First, lets start with a little history about about the lens maker and the Pentacon Six mount.  After World War II the Carl Zeiss lens factory located in Jena was located in East Germany.  The company in East Germany started making lenses with Pentacon for the 6×6 Praktisix.  The lenses are very well made, and have a storied history.  More detailed information can be found here http://www.zachhorton.com/academia/the-pentacon-6-lens-hit-list/. 

On to the review!

The Review –

This review of the Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Biometar f2.8 80mm lens is based on me using it on the Fuji GFX 50s for an afternoon shooting in downtown Los Angeles, CA.  I did not use a tripod accept for the sunset image.  The Fuji is great to carry around because it is small for medium format and has great high ISO capability for hand holding while walking around.  This is going to be less technical and more about how the lens worked and felt while I used it.

The Lens Physically –

The Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Biometar f2.8 80mm lens is built like a tank or at least it feels like it.  It uses metal construction.  My copy had a very smooth and easy to slide aperture ring.  The focusing was smooth and firm.  It was great for small focusing adjustments.  My version was also multicoated which is helpful when shooting in the sun.

How the Lens Performed –

The short answer is the Jena 80mm performed really well.  It has that Zeiss contrast and the color is amazing.  Note the warm tones in the image taken in Chinatown LA.  The afternoon sun was just bouncing and this lens was able to capture it with no problem at all.

Warm afternoon light in Chinatown with a tree reflecting on a building

The lens handled very well even when the ISO got pushed a little.  This image in Chinatown was taken at ISO 400 handheld, and there is almost no noise (more the camera), but notice the strong colors as well.

Warm afternoon light in Chinatown LA reflecting on a building photograph

Next let’s talk about whether this lens is sharp or not.  The quick answer is this lens is super capable and sharp on the Fuji.  Look at this image of the dragons at the entrance to Chinatown.  The second image is a crop from that image of the dragons.  The biggest thing that stood out to me was the detail in the eye of the dragon on the right.  Wow, that is sharp!

Dragons at entrance to Chinatown in Los Angeles photograph

Cropped dragons at entrance to Chinatown in Los Angeles detail

It is good to point out also, that the Jena DDR Biometar f2.8 80mm does not have any vignetting at any aperture with the Kipon adapter.  The Kipon is super nice, and made me feel the lens was super secure ad not going anywhere.  Way nicer than any other adapter I have used.  It was worth the money.  There is very little warping of any kind in the images.  Note the image below of the building with all the lines going many different directions and the lens handles great.

building with many corners lines

The Color –

The color that this lens produces is great to amazing.  It is exactly what I would expect from a Zeiss lens.  In the below image of root vegetables at a veggie stand, just see the color.  This is also a good time to point out that this lens has very pleasing bokeh as well.

Vegetable stand in Chinatown Los Angeles photograph

Now, something a little more moody.  I’ve shot a few Zeiss lenses on my Canon gear and always loved the micro contrast, moody look I could obtain.  This lens is no different and does not disappoint.  The image below of the torn American Flag is super moody.  This image had little to no post production other than a slight sharpening and a lot of vignetting added.  See the results for yourself.

torn American flag hanging from pole flat no wind

At sunset the Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Biometar f2.8 80mm shined again.  This is a shot of downtown LA at sunset.  This 3 shot HDR image was purposely shot to keep the city mostly muted.  I’m actually surprised it turned out as good as it did given how much air pollution was between me and the city.

Los Angeles CA downtown skyline at sunset photograph

Since I have talked this lens up and shown how great it performs, lets look at the not so good.  First, the lens was designed in a way that the focusing dial was out at the end of the lens.  This is super awkward while trying to handhold the camera.  When the camera was on a tripod it was no problem.  Another setback was the multicoating.  If the sun was just a little too far to the side or in front of you watch out.  See the image below.

glare flare los angeles street sign photograph

While none of these drawbacks would stop me from using this lens, I feel it is good to bring them to light.  Any photographer knows everything is about trade offs and balance.

Conclusion –

Pros

  • The image quality is stellar.
  • Color rendition is amazing.
  • Focusing is easy for a manual lens.
  • The price is right.  My copy cost me less than $150 US and is in excellent/near mint condition.

Cons

  • All manual.  Focusing, aperture all done manually.
  • Older multicoating that doesn’t work as good as modern lenses.
  • Awkward focusing ring location and size.

The Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Biometar f2.8 80mm lens will get pulled out of my bag more often.  This lens fills a real need for me at 80mm.  It is between the Fuji 32-64 zoom and the 120mm prime.  The images this lens produce are sharp and colorful.  They have the Zeiss feel and quality that people shooting Zeiss look for.

I really like this lens and would recommend it to others needing a good normal focal length carry around lens.  As long as you don’t mind a manual lens.  For the price this lens is hard to beat. 

Don’t forget to look at the images on my site in the galleries starting at: https://mjvphoto.com/the-art/.  Hopefully you find some of them inspirational for your own photography adventures, or maybe you find an image you want to call your own.