The Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar T 85 mm f/ 2 is a legendary fast portrait lens with a single-layer coating for rangefinder Contax I – Contax II cameras produced at the Carl Zeiss Jena works in Dresden.
It was designed by Ludwig Bertele in 1932 and was based on Bertele's previous Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 50 mmf/ 1.5 optical scheme.
At first the Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar T 85 mm f/ 2 began to compete with the Triotar 85 mm F/ 4.0, the other Carl Zeiss lens on the market. But it became clear soon that the Triotar is explicitly "weaker" on all accounts, and as a result it found its niche as a cheaper Sonnar's alternative..
In the 1950s the Jupiter-9 lens, based on the analogous optical scheme, was produced for the m42 screw mount. Nevertheless the German variant is much sharper on all apertures (especially, set at 2 and 2.8), more contrast and has pleasant and warm color rendering (Jupiter-9 renders the image with tints of green).
It is equipped with an iris circular 15-blade aperture (some versions have a 12-blade aperture). The aperture control is continuously adjustable , not discrete, therefore any intermediate values is possible (you can set the aperture in between the numbers). This peculiarity is valued in video filming as well as for creating visual effects.
The pictures taken with this lens are characteristically "airy" and voluminous. The lens generates nice bokeh and rounded circles of confusion. General flexibility and contrast are very good. All mentioned above make the Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar T 85 mm f/ 2 almost perfect portrait lens.
The following shortcomings of the lens can be mentioned: very bad handling of back light (side light is handled well with a hood), chromatic aberrations.
Due to its optical characteristics the Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar T 85 mm f/ 2 is very popular with photographers and collectors.
The build is reliable. The body is made of aluminum. The focusing ring moves smoothly. It came in black and light frames.
Nowadays, the Carl Zeiss T* Sonnar 85 mm F2.0 ZM, a modern update version with multi-coating, for the Leica M bayonet is produced.
The Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar T 85 mm f/ 2 cannot be used without a considerable adaptation on modern digital SRL cameras due to a rather short flange focal distance. Nevertheless, it is easily and successfully used on mirrorless cameras such as the Sony NEX or the Micro 4/3 system cameras.
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Posted by: Sergei Borodin Date of publication: 28.10.2010