Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f1.8 Review

This is the favorite lens of mine.

I remember when I started with my photography journey, saving all the money I had in order to get any camera to have fun with. At the end I got some point and shoot camera, and while quickly figuring out that I actually wanted an interchangeable lens camera, budget didn’t really allow me that.

Then after some time I have finally got my hands on Canon EOS 450D. Wow, I was so hooked. I had a “real camera” for the first time in my life. Obviously the next step was to get me a nifty fifty because that’s what you “must” have, you know. And I did that, I got myself one plastic piece of equipment which forever changed my photography perspective.

However as you can imagine, that lens was a pretty crappy one. Not because the pictures weren’t good, but because I couldn’t shoot at f1.8 as the lens would have 7/10 pictures out of focus. Then I realized that “I need to get f1.4” version because “obviously” it will be better.

I am glad I didn’t. Instead I started reading and looking at pictures from a bunch of different lenses, and I stumbled upon Pancolar. Obviously it was a manual focus lens, but after looking at 1000 pictures taken with it, I knew that I need to own it. You know the feeling when you hear something and immediately know you’ll like it? It’s like I knew this will be my favorite lens ever.

Now at that time I bought the Sony NEX-3N together with “Lens Turbo” adapter. Sold my Canon gear as I wanted something small which I will take always with me. For those who don’t know, this adapter will reduce crop on your APS-C format cameras and make it a “full frame” camera. Sounds stupid maybe BUT for what I wanted to use it for, it worked out perfectly. I just wanted to have a 50mm lens on my camera, with a perspective of 50mm lens, and I got exactly that. All the pictures below are taken with this combination.

I like the Zeiss look. I am comfortable saying that I can recognize a Zeiss lens when I am looking at some random pictures. It is a weird, filmy, nasty looking bokeh rendering which I absolutely adore. If I could buy a new one now (in 2022), I would do it. The only thing which bothered me a bit, is a pretty sharp focus ring. Maybe it was only my copy of the lens, and it’s an old lens too, but for $50, I don’t think it get’s better that this.

I hope you will like the pictures.


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