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The Answer lies in Master Data

Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm f2.8 (Part 2)

‘back to the future … Part 1

Tthe Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon (CZJ) is an old lady, produced  between 1955 and 1961. It has 6 elements which is placed in 5 groups.

its imperfections gives a wonderful potential. I am of cause talking about how it is prone to flair, how depth of field lens effects the light and gives crazy Smooth Bubbles. The lens is produced in different versions, this one has 9 aperture blades, but there is rare versions with 12 blades as well. Great center sharpness and it’s really sharp all over from f/5.6 and above.

IMG_0539I like the fact that this lens is prone to lens flare, for some it might be seen as an undesirable effect on the image. I see it differently, for me it is often the element that brings emotion to my picture. It could be an effect of romance, life, depth. My advice is to seek to use them deliberately, rather than being annoyed by these what technically just is diffraction artifacts. It is true lens flare can show itself in more than one way, as long as it only manifests itself as visible artifacts in the shape of the lens iris then I do not mind. It can also appear as a haze across the image and in such situations am I the first to head down in my camera bag to retrieve a lens hood to avoid that washed out look with reduced contrast and color saturation. Diffraction artifact becomes especially interesting in digital cameras, When the sun is shining on an unprotected lens, a group of small rainbows appears. This artifact is formed by internal diffraction on the image sensor, which acts like a diffraction grating.


Using the CZJ 35mm f/2.8 with a extension tube

Extension tubes is perhaps one use-scenario which I had overlooked the most, and which I am totally nuts about. All the qualities of the lens comes to life combined with a really close macro experience. Do notice how the understated colors is still in play, and the sharpness right on the money, not looking overly sharpened yet very well defined. This shoot of the flower is straight out of the camera, shoot handheld and with no postproduction with no Photoshop magic or cropping


I’ve had more people suggesting me to look into M42 bellows rather than using extension tubes, they usually sell for similar prices and give both greater flexibility and a wider range of magnification.  I got my extension tube practically for free, but should I purchase one for the full price, my choice had possibly tipped the other way, while the bellows is both easier and more flexible to use. Finally, and not to be considered lightly, bellows are WAY cooler looking than tubes! Impress both friends and strangers!
the math is simple:

  • magnification_change= extension_change/focal_length short lens = big magnification.
  • working_distance_change = focal_length(1/new_magnification-1/old_magnification) long lens = big working distance.



Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm f2.8 (Part 1)

like a child with a new toy! I mounted my new lens to the (m42-to-AMount) adapter and is about to embarge on a journey involving a fifty years old lens.  The glass is a Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon in such a perfect condition that is is practically impossible to judge its age. It is masterly restored by Maziar Moarefi, and stands like a jewel with its bright chrome barrel (if you are interested in how then I think the best advice is “dont” this lens seems really complex and not a place to start). There is a luxury aura to it, which is making it painfully obvious that this is a gem that should be treasured for the next many years. The build quality of this piece of glass simply puts it in a league of it own. All metal and every moving part feels great. The aperture ring moves freely, and due to the brillant state of my edition it has very little resistance to it.

This version is known to have a really pleasing bokeh, I am ecstatic to see if I can produce some of the same results i see on the web with my edition. After all who does not love a very creamy, delicious bokeh. The accurate colour rendition of this lens, which many has come to know as the Carl Zeiss colour, should excel in the way that they should come out perfectly ‘real’ and gorgeous in an understated way. At the same time the contrast is known to be excellent.

Mechanically, this lens has a 9 aperture blades, which is preferable to the newer edition with only 6 blades. The blades are rounded and are superior to all, while allows the blade to resemble something that is closer to a perfect circle, giving the more perfect bokeh. The aperture goes from f/16 to f/2.8, smoothly, and without click stops. I guess that is something I need to get use to, as I am unconsciously counting the stops in order to know where in the aperture range I am. The focus is amazing, I tried it yesterday, very long walk on the dial, allowing for very accurate focus. The near limit allows this lens to be sharp from 0,36m (1,2ft) to Infinit.

It is difficult to describe the great experience this lens gives on my camera. There is little doubt that this is an absolutely stunning lens.  I hope you will follow my adventure with this lens…

Take me to Part Two

.. a few shoots from my garden…




Pentacon 135mm f/2.8 on A-Mount

Working with russian vintage lenses, broke me in on using vintage lenses on my Sony Alpha A99V camera. To my surprise was the quality of these old wonders amazing both in terms of sharpness and the way they treats light. Colors, Bokeh wow. Having seen the good light I wanted more, and I swapped myself to a Pentacon 135mm f/2.8. This lens is easy adaptable to the A-Mount while it has a M42 Mount.

When heading out on the vintage road, then the Pentacon 135mm 2.8 seems to be a good option. Let me start out with a word of warning, there is two editions of the lens, one cheap with 6 aperture blades and the original with 15 aperture blades,  the last one is widely more popular among hipsters 🙂 , and therefore much more expensive than the newer edition. The more expensive 15 aperture blade is also known as the “bokeh monster”. It is softer wide open than the cheaper 6 blade version. Both of them offers a really nice bokeh. Both editions is manufactured in East Germany and are copies of a Carl Zeiss Jena.  Optically they are identical, the lens i got is the cheaper version and it’s a very nice lens. It is reasonably sharp at f/2.8 but quickly getting sharper when stopped down.

The sharpness of the lens is undeniable, and comes over really clear. I usually use my Araucaria Araucana tree which stands proud in my garden. Light falls nicely in its sharp leafs. The colors stand very vibrant and well defined and look at separation qualities, this is what thrills me. The photo here is taken at a very overcast day, and the traditional bokeh bobbles isnt there.


Another flower I like to photo is a Peony which blossoms in my garden. Besides having very organic and interesting forms, then it has a deep red color. Usually with Minolta lenses the colors comes over too pinkish, but with this lens we are closer to the true color of the flower.


The bokeh of this lens is simply lovely, so round, simple and smooth. It makes bobbles almost without any effort from my side. To take this photo I placed a festoon hanging on my television (which also causes the strange double effect) the television and festoon is some 3 meters behind my subjects (the candles) and it bubbles so nicely, with a round and smooth bokeh. With intent is the bokeh not very busy, this gives the opportunity to enjoy how the forms is distributed over the image.


Moving the festoon in closer to my subject reveals why the 15 aperture blade edition is more sought after than the 6 blades. The form of the bokeh becomes a pentagon, and looses its smooth round form.


Here is another picture showing the difference in distortion over the photo.DSC00309

And another one showing how sharp and well defined the lens can be. Look how well 3 dimensional the result  becomes. Its simply outstanding.DSC00310

Here is a shoot from Rebild bakker, Denmark. taken late in the day, handheld at f/2.8, I adore the bokeh of this glass, it has a very smooth expression. Its ability to separate the background from the motive is perhaps what I love the most of this piece. It is almost like fern is photo shopped onto the background.


From Thorup, near Fjerritslev, North Jutland in Denmark. An historical trade village on the northern coast. Today its fishing which is carrying the activity on these shoorts, and to this day fishing boats is still being hauled directly up on the beach. Thorup Strand is one of Europe’s largest coastal landing places, with up to 20 fishing boats.


Not far from Thorup is cliffs of Bulbjerg. Facing Skagerrak this limestone cliff the breeding place of the black-legged kittiwake. It is a wonderful place to bring your camera. This photo is a construct of 3 pictures, as i was shooting 135mm.  Usually a more wide lens is recommended, or a really long to enjoy the bird, but as it turned out was the 135mm a really good match of the day.




Волна on A-Mount

My love for russian glass is growing and not without reason, they are performing much much better than I expected at first, their sharpness is unquestionable, their bokeh smooth round not too dominant, their colors vibrant and well defined and not at least their handling is wonderful. This is my third entry on russian lenses on A-Mount, not counting the first entry on the adapter needed to put the Kiev/hasselblad screw mount lens on to this Sony Platform. The first two articles was at each of the ends of my typical use scenarios, at 30mm and at 300mm. Both really awesome lenses, sharp, good quality and with a nice Bokeh.

I am going to stay on this Russian subject matter for a while, so I sincerely hope you will learn to love it as much as I do. This time I am here with a treat for you guys, the high-quality multicoated kit lens MC Arsat-C/MC Volna-3 80 mm  f/ 2.8 (Russian: “Волна”) . This piece of glass is very versatile., it generates rather beautiful and flexible images with a volume, sufficient sharpness of key areas and noble bokeh. By many photographers is it considered the safe choice, it is generally perceived as a predictable and reliable lens when it comes to the final result.

I got great plans in the coming time for this lens, plans that reaches further than just using it on my Sony Alpha A99V; I want to explore its bokeh, and use it as a portrait lens, I am still thinking of how to do this right in the same frame. Also I am being particular interested how it performs compared to my Minolta 50mm f/1.4. I am also very keen to see how much base in reality the rumor has with its woundability towards sidelight. Should you be interested in Russian lenses then this one is particular easy to find at a relative low price on the flea market, and generally at a high production quality.

I have not personally experienced the downside of this lens, but apparently it has todo with side light. I guess this can be corrected with the hood.

About the beast

The brand ‘Volna’ is for many a equal to good characteristics, and MC Volna 3 fully lives up to this. The original lens was among others designed for Kiev 90. My lens is the MC Volna-3B has slightly been modified to suite the Salute and Kiev 88 (Pentacon six and Hasselblad screw mount) . On medium format is the focal length 80 mm, but adapted to my Sony Alpha A99V it is more in the range of 50mm.

Build quality is high, and even the focus ring is of metal. I like the fact that it rotates about 300 degrees, because it makes focusing very smooth and not least accurate. The minimum focusing distance is 0.6 m, obviously is that distance halved on my adapted setup. The short focusing distance is an advantage to me, while it allows me to shoot small objects. When focusing, the front lens does not rotate, this could come in handy when using gradient filters, but be aware that the trunk moves forward for 2-3 cm.

The lens has a good DOF even at F/2.8. The DOF scale goes from F/2.8 to F/22.0. It has 6 aperture blades. The Optical scheme consists of 6 elements in 3 groups

Spherical Aberration

I was surprised to find this imperfection in the lens. Spherical Aberration is more common to find in more complex lenses such as superzooms. In compound primes as this one they are usually not seen as much. Personally I don’t mind that effect much, it could be it is related to the use of an adapter or it could be intrinsic to this lens. The lens can come over slightly soft at F/2.8 maybe it is due to the same spherical aberrations. It seems that the lens doesn’t cope with light sources in the frame. On the other hand is contrast and color reproduction are good. There seems to be no distortion and vignetting. and the lens bokeh looks rather good if not fantastic.


Knockout victory – Minolta vs Volna

In the following i am going to compare the MC Volna-3 80 mm f/ 2.8 (LEFT)  to Minolta 50mm f/1.4 (RIGHT) (stepped down to f/2.8).  It is not going to be an in depth comparison but just an opinionated statement on the visual differences of two pictures which is taken with the same aperture. Sadly there is other factors such as taking the photos at the same time giving the same setting sun and a change in viewpoint not allowing the light to fall the same way on the subject. I am sorry I did not eliminate these factors and I have to admit that it impacts my argument to some extend.

With these obvious flaws in my comparison, I still think the message still stands clear.

  • sharpness, there is no argument here, the Minolta is noticeably sharper than the Volna which comes over with a more soft expression.
  • The color balance is slightly off on the left picture, yet the colors and dynamics seems far better on the Volna. The minolta gives a more contrasty color less play. I was debating the photo with my friend Claus Møller, and as he said Volna delivers what I understand as Minolta Colors.
  • DOF and Bokeh, the DOF is sort ok at the minolta, honnie cubed bokeh, not really pleasing. Where the Minolta was ok, the Volna gives a epic result with a beautiful round the bokeh .



In this Juxtaposition am i trying to demonstrate the sharpness of the lens and how well it handles sidelight without a hood. Its clear to me that the coating of this lens is not up to modern lenses. the light coming in gives a flat expression to his face.


If you press on the the picture below it will take you to the Aarhus Pride where i used this lens.

Here is a few snaps from European culture capital 2017, the pictures is clickable and should take you to a high resolution edition.


Zodiak-8B on A-Mount

addling down on the same interesting stream usually leads to exciting new waters. Last week I posted a blog on my Tayir 33, a wonderful 300mm Russian lens, brought to renewed life on my Sony Alpha A99V. This week I am going wide, focusing on the Zodiak-8B, a 30mm lens which equals 16mm focal length in 35mm format.

The first glance at this beast tells you that we are dealing with an impressive piece of glass here, weighing in at 1kg of pure evil  glass and iron, and without doubt one of the best constructed lenses from the Arsenal factories.

Three lenses almost the same, but not quite

The Zodiak-8B, MC Arsat and the Carl Zeiss 30mm Distagon from Oberkochen for Hasselblad bears a remarkable resemblance, but they are very different from each others. I guess their use drives the outer design,  so it would be difficult for them to look very much apart. Comparing MC Arsat to Zodiak, then the biggest difference is to be found in the coating. Zodiak is single coated, where MC Arsat is multi coated. It seems clear that the MC Arsat in many respects, from the coating to the rear cap is an improved design. Comparing the diagrams between the Arsenal Zodiak/Arsat to the Carl Zeiss 30mm Distagon also shows a big difference in lens design, the Russians did not simply copy the West German Zeiss Design

Studying distortion and sharpness frame to frame, then it is clear to me that Carl Zeiss Distagon outperforms both Arsat and Zodiak on both parameters. The question does it outperform it sufficiently to justify the price difference as well? There is a huge difference in price between the Carl Zeiss (ranging from 2000-6000 usd) and the Arsat/Zodiak (200-400 usd). To me, I wouldn’t spend the extra cash to gain this small advantage.

Shallow DOF and beautiful Bokeh

One of the trees i love most in my garden is a Chilean tree an Araucaria araucana. The leaves are thick, tough, and scale-like, triangular, broad at the base, and with sharp edges and tips. My wife might think I adore the tree, but in reality they are great for testing lenses.  This shot was late in the day, overcast, and really close up with shallow DOF. the Bokeh formes nicely and with round textures.




Very few objects is so captivating as a deflowered dandelion awaiting it seeds to be carried away by wind. I took this photo quite close, backlit and handheld with the intention to see how well the lens would handle flairs. You can see bubbles forming to the right, I was surprised I didn’t get more of them, given the reflecting light.



It is clearly impossible to attach filters to the front of a fish-eye lens without cutting off the edges of the frame.  The genius of this lens is that the filters is situated within/behind the lens.  I would have loved if Samyang had shown same ingenuity with their 14mm. The lens comes with 4 light filters: blue, orange, green-yellow and the fourth neutral (protective, already mounted on the lens); front and rear cap; protective leather case.


Colors and detail

I love this lens ability to go close. Combined with its sharpness and amazing colours is this really a fun lens to work with.


The quality of the lens is also remarkable, I was surprised to see how sharp it was at all stops