Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 80mm f/2.8 T

Introduction

In an earlier post I already wrote a short introduction about this lens. Here I will give a closer look on the lens and also present more example photos. The Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 80 mm lens was originally made for 35mm film cameras with Exakta mount. Based on the serial number of my copy, it was made sometimes between 1951 and 1955. Now I am using the lens on the micro-four thirds camera Olympus OM-D E-M10. Thanks to in-body image stabilisation, magnifying and focus peaking, it is really easy to use manual focus lenses on this camera.

Tessar 80mm (1)

Built Quality

Same as for the Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50 mm, the built quality is great. The lens is made of metal with a silver finish. The material looks like aluminum to me. The focus ring rotates very smooth, but is not strongly damped. From closest focusing distance to infinity it makes a 270° turn, which makes focusing precise but not easy. I noticed that at this focal length the depth of field is already very thin, and to get the focus right, it requires carefull rotating of the focus ring. The front element does not rotate while focusing. The aperture control ring has no stops and is click-less. It allows to set any aperture between f/2.8 and f/16. A nice feature is the so-called preset aperture. By pulling the aperture control ring away from the front element, it can be rotated freely and set to the desired aperture. Later when the aperture control ring is rotated, it will stop at the chosen f-stop. This is pretty useful for changing between maximum opening for focusing, and desired aperture for shooting. The diaphragm has 16 blades and makes a perfect circular aperture. In the table below some of the technical properties are summarized.

Focal length 80 mm
Elements / Groups 4 / 3
Closest focusing distance 1 m
Maximum aperture f/2.8
Minimum aperture f/16
Diaphragm blades 16
Filter size 49 mm
Weight 260 g
Length 9 cm

Optical Quality

The optical quality is quite good. It produces sharp images with very nice, saturated, contrast rich colors. One thing to keep in mind when using the lens on cameras with M4/3 sensors is, that the angle of view is already equivalent to a telephoto lens. Even with in-body image stabilizer camera shake can happen in low light conditions. In the beginning I did not consider this, and I got many photos with camera shake. That was a bit frustrating and gave me a bad first impression of the lens. After considering this and using fast shutter speeds or a tripod, I am able to get great shots with this lens.

Sensor size Angle of view 35mm equivalent
35mm full frame 30° 80 mm
APS-C 20° 122 mm
M4/3 15° 160 mm

The sharpness of the lens is good, but depends strongly on the aperture. sharpness in the center is pretty good. Wide open the images are a bit soft, but not strongly noticeable. Stopped down the lens becomes very sharp. Only at minimum aperture of f/16 the images are a bit soft again.

mitte_schaerfe
Sharpnes in the center for different apertures. These are 100% crops. Click on image to enlarge.

The sharpness in the corner for widest aperture is poor. The images are so soft, that they appear blurry. Even when stopped down to f/4 the corners are still soft. Only for apertures smaller than f/5.6 the corners are getting sharp. Only when stopped down to f/11 or f/16 the corners are really sharp.

ecke_schaerfe
sharpness in the corner for different apertures. Images are 100% crops. Click on image to enlarge.

The blurry corners can be interesting for creative photos, so I think depending on what someone wants, this can be a nice feature or huge downside. To get images that are sharp from corner to corner, only apertures f/8 and f/11 are useful.

Bokeh of the lens is not bad, a bit soft and creamy, but in some situations it can appear harsh. Chromatic aberration or lens flare were not visible in the test photos. It might be detectable in extreme situations, but needs further tests. The lens shows no significant distortion. There is actually not much to say, as the lens performs well and has no major flaws.

Examples

Here are examples photos which I took with this lens. All photos are moderately processed, which includes adjustment of white balance, exposure compensation, adjustment of shadows or highlights. No distortion correction was applies, as well as no manipulation of the colors. The size of all photos was reduced for this webpage.

This photo was taken at f/2.8 and closest focusing distance.
This photo was taken with an aperture of f/4. The soft/blurry corners are noticeable.

Taken with an aperture of f/2.8 and closest focusing distance.

Shot wide open at f/2.8 but not at closes focusing distance.

 Conclusions

The optical quality of this lens is not bad, and it is an interesting choice for a medium telephoto lens. Handling is a bit tricky because of manual focus, and poor sharpness in the corners. It needs some time to get used to this lens. It is definitely not an everyday lens, and I would not recommend it as a vintage lens for beginners.

I personally don’t use it much. Mainly because of the focal length, I rarely use telephoto lenses for my work, and also of the tricky focusing. For sure I will try the lens more, because I think that there is some potential.

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