Carl Zeiss Jena 1Q Sonnar 2,8 / 180 [author Rodion Eshmakov]

Overview of the Carl Zeiss Jena 1Q Sonnar 2,8 / 180 lens specifically for Radozhiva prepared Rodion Eshmakov.

Carl Zeiss Jena 1Q Sonnar 2,8 / 180

Carl Zeiss Jena 1Q Sonnar 2,8 / 180. increase

Among the lines of photo optics, one can distinguish lenses with different focal lengths: 28 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm, 85 mm, 100 mm, 135 mm, 180 mm, 200 mm ... Why is the strange number 200 separated from 180 mm? What drove manufacturers to release lenses with such focal lengths? The answer is simple. Many of them, in one way or another, are heirs (direct or ideological) of Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 180 / 2.8. They - Nikkor-P 180 / 2.8, Olympus 180 / 2.8, Leitz Elmarit 180 / 2.8, Jupiter-6 180 / 2.8, Isco Tele-Iscaron 180 / 2.8 - could have lost some features of their progenitor, but are united by the ageless concepts of the creator of Sonnar 180 / 2.8 - Ludwig Bertele.

The review presents the Sonnar 1950 / 1 180Q (“Die Erste Qualitat”) lens for small format SLR cameras made in the early 2.8s.


Optical design - 5 elements in 3 groups, Zonnar; diagram drawing
Focal length - 180 mm;
Relative hole - F / 2.8;
Aperture - 16 blades, F / 2.8-F / 22, with a preset mechanism;
The minimum focusing distance is 1.5 m;
Thread for filters - 77 mm;
Features - the presented instance had a bayonet mount and a lightweight tripod foot, made in the early 1950s.

Historical background: Berthele's concepts; Design and development of Sonnar 180 / 2.8.

Sources: 1, 2.

The father of a large family of Zonnar and Ernostar lenses is the German optician Ludwig Jacob Bertele. In many respects, photographers owe this person the appearance of modern optics - fast, compact and high-quality. Berthele was only 23 years old when he developed the basic concept of all his future developments, embodied in the first high-aperture six-lens Ernostar F / 2 lens (1923). For times when logarithmic tables were in use, the meager palette of optical glass and the technology of optical illumination were absent, this lens was nothing more than an alien technology.

L. Bertele in the early 1950s. Source: Wikipedia

L. Bertele in the early 1950s. Source: Wikipedia

The key element that Berthele skillfully applied in his lens was the glued three-lens component, which will be present further in this or that version again and again.

The Bertele triplet design is a component of the Zonnar and Ernostar lenses.

The Bertele triplet design is a component of the Zonnar and Ernostar lenses.

A glued three-lens component made it possible to reduce the number of glass-air surfaces, which was especially important in the absence of optics antireflection technology to combat light scattering. The lenses used have a large thickness and extreme curvature, which is necessary to correct distortions with a very limited (due to gluing) number of independent correction parameters. The component primarily provides the correction of chromatic aberrations and higher-order spherical ones, but it was not enough to correct field distortions.

After combining Zeiss Ikon and Ernemann, Berthele faced a new fascinating challenge in creating an optics park for the new 35 mm rangefinder system. He began by looking for a method to correct aberrations in the Ernostar F / 1.5 prototype. The work, often based on practical tests and performed without the use of computers, required as much as 3 years of systematic research. The result of hard work was the legendary Sonnar.

The optical design of the Ernostar 1: 1.5 prototype and its descendant, Sonnar 1: 1.5.

The optical design of the Ernostar 1: 1.5 prototype and its descendant, Sonnar 1: 1.5.

It is easy to see that the main difference is that Zonnar has another component glued from three lenses: Berthele again followed his idea of ​​combining high-curvature lenses into glues. Compared with Ernostar, the number of lenses increased by one, since the gluing component has fewer freely variable parameters (radius of curvature, lens distance) than a free lens.

The design of the rear component of the Zonnar 1: 1.5 lens.

The design of the rear component of the Zonnar 1: 1.5 lens.

Two lenses with an angle of field of view of the order of 45 ° and aperture 1: 1.5 and 1: 2 became standard for the Zeiss Ikon Contax I camera (1932). Bertele’s idea wasn’t exhausted on this - its principles allowed us to develop a huge number of lenses: standard, tele (Sonnar, Ernostar) and even wide-angle (Biogon, Sonnar).

The tree of development of Bertele's ideas. Blue indicates serial lenses.

The tree of development of Bertele's ideas. Blue indicates serial lenses.

It still seems surprising that already in 1937, lenses with a field of view angle of 20 ° and aperture F / 1.2.

So, Bertele followed for 30 years a special strategy:

  1. Created a normal fast lens with excellent characteristics for general use.
  2. Without distorting the underlying concept, he developed the main project, covering the widest range of angles of the field of view.
  3. Got the highest aperture for each lens with acceptable optical properties.
  4. Created simplified options for obtaining high-quality medium-aperture lenses in order to reduce the cost.
  5. Periodically recounted projects taking into account the emergence of new technologies to eliminate residual defects and improve manufacturability.

It is thanks to this strategy of sustainable development in many lenses of the XX century that one can "see" some "Ernostar" Berthele.

Now let's move on to a direct examination of the history of the Sonnar 180 / 2.8 lens.

The Contax RF system was adopted by the most recognized photographers who were supposed to glorify the Third Reich all over the world, capturing the scope and chic of the 1936 Olympic Games. Shooting such an event requires a powerful telephoto lens with high aperture, and 180 mm 1: 6.3 Tele-Tessar Willy Merte was completely unsuitable for this task. In the person of Ludwig Berthele Zeiss Ikon, under pressure from the state, calculated a new lens. It was a striking symbol of technological superiority Carl Zeiss - mythical today with its impressive aperture "Olympia" Sonnar 180 / 2.8, made in a brilliant case for use with a mirror attachment on Contax cameras (there was also a version associated with the rangefinder). The first lenses were made on February 18, 1936 - a few days after the closing ceremony of the IV Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Optical design Olympia Sonnar

Optical design Olympia Sonnar

The optical design of this lens is noticeably simpler than that of the Sonnar 50 / 1.5, since a small angle of field of view was required: this made it possible to abandon the massive back gluing, replacing it with one almost plane-parallel lens.

In 1950, Bertele again returned to the old Sonnar 180 / 2.8 circuit, proposing options for improving image correction. The first did not introduce new correction parameters and was only a recount of the existing scheme. Visible changes occurred with the rear lens, which acquired a meniscus shape. The second option involved splitting the first triplet - adding 2 correction parameters (1 radius and 1 lens distance) was made possible thanks to the development of optical illumination technology. Finally, with the advent of new optical glasses, Bertele created the sleek four-lens Telenon 1: 2.8 without resorting to any unusual tricks. In total, the 180 / 2.8 Zonnar produced in Jena was counted many times: in 1939, 1940, 1949, 1959 and 1969.

The use of a 180 / 2.8 lens on rangefinder cameras was still difficult due to difficulties in achieving focusing accuracy - the position saved the appearance of 35 mm SLR cameras. Interestingly, it turned out to be possible to use old Sonnar 180 / 2.8 lenses on Praktisix SLR cameras of the late 1950s with a 6 * 6 cm frame format: the shank was replaced with a Kurt Dieter Huffziger adapter. A sports telephoto lens suddenly became a popular medium format portraiture. However, the lens was specially optimized for medium format and working with automatic iris only in 1959 - since then the Sonnar 180 / 2.8 was produced with a Pentacon Six mount.

Thus, the copy presented in the review refers to the post-war recalculated small-format Sonnar 180 / 2.8 for 35 mm SLR cameras. It is a mistake to name these lenses “Olympia” Sonnar, although they are its direct descendants.

Design features

The lens I got had a bayonet mount (most likely, Exakta). Randomly, one of the shanks with an M42 thread I had ideally approached under the holes of the mounting screws, which I took advantage of.

The post-war small-format Sonnar 180 / 2.8 is made in a black compact case, which has everything you need: a set of scales (distances in meters and feet, the depth of field without the IR shift mark), focusing and aperture changes, and a tripod foot.

View of the 1Q Sonnar 180 / 2.8 lens.

View of the 1Q Sonnar 180 / 2.8 lens.

Apparently, the tripod foot of my specimen was semi-artificially modified: in comparison with the original, it was greatly reduced in size, and on the heel there are both mounting threads - 1/4 ”and 3/8”.

View of the tripod foot of the Sonnar 180 / 2.8 instance from view.

View of the tripod foot of the Sonnar 180 / 2.8 instance from view.

Rather, I am even happy with this modification: in its original form, the tripod foot greatly increases the dimensions, although it provides better balancing.

View of the original tripod foot of the lens. Photos from the web.

View of the original tripod foot of the lens. Photos from the web.

This version of the Sonnar 180 / 2.8 has an easily removable back - this is what made it possible to use the lens with a special adapter on mid-format cameras. To disassemble, first unscrew the clamp of the tripod foot, then, rotating it, unscrew the clamp of the shank. After that, the back part together with the tripod foot can be unscrewed from the lens block in the helicoid.

The lens is marked with a laconic “Germany” on the diaphragm ring: by that time the relationship between western and eastern Zeiss had not yet been finalized. The designation “DDR” on East German optics will appear later.

View of the aperture control ring.

View of the aperture control ring.

Silver “ears” on the ring serve to implement a preset aperture value. To do this, holding the corrugated ring, turn the smooth ring by the “ears” in the direction of the desired value (shown in the round window of the smooth ring) until it clicks. Only whole stops are available for preset.
The aperture of the lens itself is completely round, but its petals are brilliant. This can affect the contrast of the image when shooting on covered apertures. But the bokeh is always flat, unlike the later medium-format versions.

Aperture view 1Q Sonnar 180 / 2.8.

Aperture view 1Q Sonnar 180 / 2.8.

Just below the aperture control ring is the focus ring. It is very wide, with corrugation - it is convenient to focus with the lens. The stroke of the ring is almost 360 °, while the helicoid extends 32 mm, providing an MDF of 1.5 m. The lens block moves only progressively during focusing.

View of the lens when focusing on “infinity”.

View of the lens when focusing on “infinity”.

View of the lens when focusing on MDF = 1.5 m.

View of the lens when focusing on MDF = 1.5 m.

The Sonnar 180 / 2.8 has a very large front lens, which is why it uses large filters with a diameter of 77 mm. The lenses of the lens carry a bright blue color, better light transmission is provided in the yellow region of the spectrum.

View of the lens to the clearance. Visible bubbles in the glass - a common and normal phenomenon for optics of the first half of the 20th century.

View of the lens to the clearance. Visible bubbles in the glass - a common and normal phenomenon for optics of the first half of the 20th century.

In Carl Zeiss Jena lenses, often each lens assembly has its own number. In this lens, without disassembling, you can see the number on the frame of the rear lens. Perhaps, during assembly, we were engaged in an individual selection of components, although this is unlikely (purely in my opinion).

View of the rear lens of the lens with a wound ring M42-EOS. The rear lens has its own number.

View of the rear lens of the lens with a wound ring M42-EOS. The rear lens has its own number.

1Q Sonnar 180 / 2.8 is perfectly assembled and has no obvious weaknesses in its design, unlike later medium-format versions, which often have problems with the diaphragm mechanism. German optics of the early 1950s usually pleases with its simple construction and nice design - this lens is no exception.

Optical properties

The lens has very good image quality. In an open aperture, sharpness is limited by chromatic and spherical aberrations - you can see the contrasting borders staining violet in the pre-focus and green-yellow in the out-of-focus. Field aberrations are invisible. Image quality increases significantly with one stop aperture, a further decrease in aperture to a large extent affects only the depth of field. Comparison with Jupiter-21T 200/4 showed that parity with it in Zonnar's sharpness can be obtained with a diaphragm slightly more covered than F / 4.

The contrast of the lens is highly dependent on the blackening of the shank. At first, the non-native shank on my lens was glossy, which led to a noticeable drop in contrast in the backlight. After blackening, the problem disappeared, although the lens is still prone to a small veil from bright light sources without a lens hood.

The color reproduction of the lens is close to natural, slightly shifted to the warm region.

Bokeh is typical for zonnars: the circle of blur on the open aperture has a edging (with high-contrast scenes it is colored, usually green-yellow), sometimes a bright spot in the center of the circle may appear. There is no vignetting in small format, there is no “twisting” of bokeh. With aperture, the distribution of light in a circle of blur becomes uniform. As a result, blurring the background, the lens has a calm, even, sometimes “oily” (on an open aperture on a motley background).

Below are examples of photos on a camera Canon 600D (APS-C, RAW development with Canon DPP):

And a photo on the full-frame Sony A7s (shooting in RAW, developing in the Imaging Edge, part of the photo in the Standard preset, and part in the Autumn Leaves preset):

Comparison with Nikon Nikkor 80-200 / 2.8 MK2

It is quite interesting to compare the seventy-year-old Sonnar with the relatively modern Nikon Nikkor 80-200 / 2.8 Mk2, which has not yet hit 30. It is important to remember that the Sonnar is a fixed focal length lens, which gives it some head start. At the same time on the side of Nikon - ED glass, the power of digital computing equipment, undoubtedly the best antireflection coatings and aberration correction system using a floating lens group (Close Range Correction - CRC).

Test lens provided by Oleg Isaev (Instagram).

In the course of this comparison, I was most interested in the differences in lens sharpness in the center of the frame at F / 2.8. For Nikon, the limiting focal length of 200 mm was used, since it is problematic to accurately set 180 mm FR on it (it is even more difficult to keep it when focusing).

Below are paired examples of photos (first Nikkor, then Sonnar), taken in equal conditions on a full-frame Sony A7s.

In the above examples, it is clearly seen that Nikkor suffers greatly from vignetting at an open aperture. For telezoom at the long end, this, generally speaking, is more of a rule. It can also be noted that the zoom has smoother bokeh: the Sonnar's bokeh discs have edging, while the Nikkor has almost none.

Moving on to the crop, it becomes clear that Nikkor is ahead of Sonnar in sharpness in the center of the frame at medium and long distances due to better correction of spherical and chromatic aberrations. However, it is much inferior at distances close to the MDF: the notorious Nikon CRC system does not help here either.

Also, when comparing lenses, it was noted that Nikkor color rendition often turns out to be better than that of Sonnar, which is expected: the old single-layer coating distorts the lens transmission spectrum. It's funny that in the absence of automatic focusing Nikkor 80-200 / 2.8 as a telephoto lens definitely loses out in the usability of the old Zeiss: it is heavier, its balancing is worse (the focusing ring is located close to the camera mount, far from the massive front lens group), and the focusing ring travel so small that it is extremely difficult to catch the focus.

A few more shots on Sonnar:


The optical quality of the post-war 1Q Sonnar 180 / 2.8 is enough for small-pixel cameras. The lens pattern, defined by its large aperture (~ 64 mm) and optical design, is pleasing to the eye. The lens is easy to use, made “for centuries”. In a word, it’s just a wonderful lens today.

You will find more reviews from readers of Radozhiva here.

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Comments: 26, on the topic: Carl Zeiss Jena 1Q Sonnar 2,8 / 180 [author Rodion Eshmakov]

  • Boris

    Bravo! With particular pleasure I read such a smart, in-depth review! With the obvious complexity of the topic, an absolutely comprehensible form of presentation and a very revealing series of shots! Here would be more such reviews, smart and kind.

  • Bogdan

    Rodion, dyakuyu, Bulo Tsіkavo and it is appreciated.

  • Dim

    An excellent guide turned out on old German glasses.

    • Rodion

      You have a version for the Pentacon Six, optically it is no longer identical to the lens presented in the review - this is a Sonnar recalculation made in 1959 to optimize the behavior on the medium format.

  • B. R. P.

    Thanks, great stuff.

  • Iskander

    Rodion, please give me a link to an article on adapting an achromat from binoculars. I can't find it in the list of articles. Found only about the peephole from Zenith and achromat 135 / 2.8. I tested separately gluing from MBS-2 (the one that is biconvex) visually with an eyepiece - the picture inspires hope, I did not notice any noticeable residual aberrations.

    • Rodion

      I do not have an article about it here. There was something like that on the Lens Club.

  • Kublitsky

    Now the fools will start writing, Well, here's a review! That every day is not allowed? Tired of these announcements ....)

  • Eugen

    Among the “heirs” they forgot to mention the only (and last) real one - Carl Zeiss Sonnar T * 180 mm f / 2.8 C / Y.

  • Eugen

    “It was a symbol of Carl Zeiss's technological superiority, still striking today with its impressive aperture - the mythical Olympia Sonnar 180 / 2.8 ″

    obviously the author wanted to say "legendary"

    • Dim

      Perhaps “mythical” means that it is not only glorious, but also that none of the living people have seen it? Like Hercules, perhaps in Greece, the legendary warrior with that name once stung. But what history has brought to us is already a myth. For this (which is in legends) cannot be.

  • Ruslan

    Thanks! Great review.
    For complete happiness, the buy button is not enough right here on the site.

  • Oleg

    Great and very informative review article! Thank you for your work!

  • Onotole

    Is Nikon 180 / 2,8 D = also a zonar?

    • Rodion

      Well, of course, he had already gone very far. But he is closer to Zonnar than to Planar.

  • Delekdragon

    Radion, great review. Maybe it seemed to me of course, but just by contrast, look what are the wonderful colors of the Canon 600t and what a dirty brown filthy color is ilse 7! It is clear that the preset is golden autumn and blah blah blah. But this is not the first time that I see disgusting colors in ilse 7. Photographers are different, presets are different and the colors in all ilse 7 are disgusting. Although at one time everyone was spat on the d90 (which instead of white balance had a blue balance) and what wonderful colors Arkady squeezed out of him as a human being. I would like to listen to the opinion of Arkady on the flowers ilse 7.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      You already answered, it depends a lot on the setting, partly on the perception, partly on the scene

    • York

      Aunts crafts require attention.
      And settings. And post-processing also requires.

      It’s not for you to stitch your boots, stuck the glass and rushed the masterpieces.

      They remembered well about d90, everything is correct - you still need hands to the camera, and to the hands and head ...

  • Rodion

    Added comparison with Nikkor 80-200 / 2.8 mk2.

    • Jury

      mk3 :)

      • Rodion

        No, it was Mk2. MK3 - two-ring.

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