The Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50 mm f/ 1.8is a standard lens for SRL cameras with the m42 screw mount. The striped "zebra" was produced with a single-layer coating (not МС).
The build is very reliable: it is made of glass and metal, therefore it has a rather decent and convenient weight for a 50 mm camera; focusing ring movement (after lubrication) is very soft, smooth, quiet, rather easy, but not loose; focusing is very pleasant, no irritation caused by jamming and stiff movement.
The Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50 mm f/ 1.8 is equipped with an instant-return aperture, and a rather stiff metal A-M tumbler at the side. The 1.8-22 aperture has a half f-number scale, the ring movement is sufficiently stiff, without chattering, with distinct clicks - an accident aperture switching over during wearing or focusing does not happen.
The lens is well made without backlashes, chattering, and loose parts; the ring moves smoothly and softly. It is nice to hold in hand. The striped design looks vivid and interesting, whereas the majority of "fifties" look like featureless black barrels.
According to the test shooting, the Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50 mm f/ 1.8 lens is (IMHO) an outstanding portrait lens with very good sharpness and nice background blurring. Wide open it is more than sufficiently sharp. With the aperture wide open, it is fit for female portrait, especially in soft daylight: the lens enables to take a very nice, expressive and sharp picture of eyes, a face skin smoothens and obtains a very pleasant, easy faint of tender glow. At the same time, a small texture of skin remains visible, and the drawbacks smoothens. In my opinion, this lens is ideally fit for female portrait in soft light.
When the aperture is closing, the "faint of glow" effect disappears, but the image remains pleasant and plastic, and gets even sharper. With closed apertures the lens is fit for a sharp man's portrait. The background blurring is neutral and rather nice. As the aperture is closing, the lens, like any other 6-blade "fifty", produces circles of confusion in the unsharpness area. However, you don't want to close the aperture, the lens is great for shooting wide open.
The Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50 mm f/ 1.8 has a rather good contrast and color rendering, making a picture a bit warmer. With open aperture the sharpness is rather decent all over the frame. The chromatic aberrations have not been noticed , at least, up to now.
Back light sensitivity and flare are its shortcomings. And there is no wonder - it is not an MC lens.
The Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50 mm f/ 1.8 should not be used against the light and especially switch on bright light source in the frame - there's immediate flare and a decay of contrast. A hood may be helpful, but partially. If in such rather difficult conditions, you want to get the clearest and correct picture, you should use a more powerful antiglare lens with multi-coating (MC).
However, if you want to experiment with light and to take a really artistic picture with mood, you should intentionally mount this lens and shoot something in strong back light with the sun at the edge of the frame or even in the frame. With open aperture the lens is capable to render quite an interesting picture in the zones of sharpness and unsharpness, and the light source generates several big even pink glare circles with a bright edge, whereas the picture itself gets filled with warm light, occasionally turning into iridescent stains and soft beams. In my subjective point of view, it looks nice. It goes without saying, such an effect, in some situations, can create a unique mood of a photo.
The Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50 mm f/ 1.8 is, undoubtedly, very interesting. It may render less "correct" picture than its more eminent and expensive multi-coated counterparts, however, it deserves attention.
The number of blades may be not only 6, but also 9 in older and sharper lenses (more compact in size); those with 9 blades are sharp, but with tints of yellow. Although film cameras are rather rare now.
Posted by: Kimich Date of publication: 04.03.2012