Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm 1.8
- Mounts available:
- M42 / Pentax mount -> find the M42 / Pentax mount adapters here
- EXA / Exakta Bajonett Mount -> find the EXA / Exakta Bajonett Mount adapters here
- Praktica B mount -> find the Praktica B (PB) mount adapters
- Made in east Germany
- Minimum focusing distance: 35cm
- Filter mount: 49mm
- Weight: 225 g
The 1.8 50m Pancolar was produced both in M42 / Pentax and Exa / Exakta mount as well as Praktica B mount. M42 lenses are more expensive. Both coated and uncoated lenses exist. The older “Zebra” lens does not have any coating. The later black versions are coated lenses and are marked “MC” for multi coating (in white or red).
Early “Zebra” Type – Carl Zeiss Pancolar 1.8 50
The first versions are in the “Zebra” look. They are easy to recognize by their distinctive black and silver stripes. The lens is very ergonomically set out and handles smoothly.
One thing you need to now about Zebra lenses is that they are radioactive (I kid you not!). Zeiss engineers experimented with using different elements to enhance the sharpness of the lenss. Pancolar lenses were produced with Thorium, which is a naturally occurring radioactive chemical element. Although they “only” emit alpha particles thorium lenses were not accepted by the public and removed from the market. and the production of Thorium lenses has since ceased.
Thorium was supposed to improve the image quality of the lens – and in my opinion it also works, Zebra lenses produce stunning super sharp images which will blow you away with their radiant colours (pardon the pun). On the downside Thorium causes the lens elements to receive a yellowish tint. Therefore when you shoot with a Zebra lens make sure to always adjust the white balance.
Newer “black” versions – Carl Zeiss Pancolar 1.8 50
Later versions have an all black finish. They are also superbly crafted and offer great ergonomics. The image quality both wide open or stopped down is remarkable.
The markings can have different colors such as black, green or red.
After 1978 the Pancolar was also produced with the Prakticar B mount – then branded as Carl Zeiss Jena Prakticar 1.8/50.
“electric” versions have three electric yellowish connectors at the back. Versions that were meant for export are simply branded “aus Jena” instead of “Carl Zeiss Jena“.
Everybody should have a nice 50mm prime lens as it is probably one of the lenses you will use the most. In my opinion a good 50mm lens should be versatile: it should have a nice bookeh, it should be a good perfomer when it comes to available light photography (i.e. maximum aperture below f2), it should be sharp when stopped down and it should be compact and light. There are alot of 50mm prime lenses on the market, both old and new, which you could choose from. When it comes to “bang for the buck” you cannot really go wrong with the Carl Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f1.8 lens. The Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f1.8 lens isa classic east German prime lens. Produced in wast amounts, it is widely available today. For a Pancolar in mint condition you will have to pay around 90 Euros, which makes this lens a bargain. The build quality of this lens is outstanding as you would expect from an all metal Zeiss lens.
The image quality of this lens is very good. While shot wide open the center of the image is very sharp, while the rest of the image creates a very nice Bookeh (almost as good as the bookeh of the Carl Zeiss Ultron). Once you stop it down you can achieve super sharp images comparable to modern 50mm prime lenses. The maximum aperture of 1.8 also gives it the upper hand on its’ main East German manufactured competitor: the 50mm Carl Zeiss Tessar lens. This allows you to produce stunning available light pictures.
Ergonomically I prefer this light lens over the much heavier (and much more expensive) Carl Zeiss Ultron. The aperture settings are much easier to operate than the “snap free style” of the Ultron.
If the Pancolar is too expensive for you, you might want to look into the Carl Zeiss Tessar 2.8 50mm.
- build quality is excellent
- good bookeh
- sharp when stopped down
- at f1.8 it is not the fastest 50 prime around. The Asahi Pentax Takumar 50mm 1.4 SMC is faster and less expensive.
- with Zebra lenses a yellowish tint can occur