WARREN CONNECTICUT – I’ve become obsessed with a lens that I bought for a song on eBay, the lens that I wrote about in my December 19 and December 20 posts. Further research indicates that work started on the optical cell (the optical workings of the lens) at the Karl Zeiss works in Jena in December 1945. So it actually is a Zeiss Jena 5cm f1.5 Sonnar. The lens cell was subsequently fitted to a Leica screw mount body by an unknown third party, probably in Germany, the UK or US, for sale in the UK or US. The distance scale is denominated in feet and Zeiss itself didn’t make any lenses in Leica mounts as Leica was a competitor (Zeiss and Leica were the equivalent of Nikon and Canon today). I can see why it would have been worth the trouble to convert this lens to a Leica mount: it is actually the equivalent of an modern lens in most respects at f4 and beyond – its performance is simply breathtaking and it has a lovely signature. I’ll be continuing to shoot with it over the next few weeks. Here are two images from today taken with the Sonnar on my Leica Monochrom.
NEW YORK NEW YORK – I’ve got another new old lens to fuss with. The Zeiss Jena all time favorite from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s is the 5.0 cm f1.5 Sonnar (5 cm equals 50mm). It’s a classic design with a classic look that had a very long run (primarily on Contax rangefinder cameras). I found one at a reasonable price on e-bay in a Leica screw mount which can be easily adapted to a modern Leica (and many other contemporary digital cameras). The Contax mount is much less useful because it doesn’t include a focusing capability – the focus control was part of the camera body on Contax rangefinder cameras.
When the lens arrived I noted a couple of odd things about it: it has no depth of field scale and the distance scale is denominated in feet, not meters, an oddity given that its serial number suggested a wartime provenance (the Germans weren’t making lenses to send to the UK and US at that point in history). In the course of some research I learned a lot more about the lens, which I’ll describe in a future post.
So here is an example shot with my Leica Monochrom. Note the beautiful character of the out-of-focus portion of the images – one of the real charms of this lens.