Zeiss Sonnar lenses of World-War-II-era are often faked from vulgar
Russian Jupiter lenses by simple changing the front-ring, and sometimes
engraving the barrell with "Made in Germany" or
something. This faking is alleviated due to the fact that parts of the
Carl Zeiss Jena lens plant and machines were disassembled and
in Russia after the war, as well with many workers, engineers, parts
maybe whole lenses going with them, and were build quite unchanged as
lenses until youngest present. So it's hard to distinguish them.
Sellers and collectors, please be aware!
Zeiss Sonnar 1:1.5 / 5cm
Zeiss Sonnar 1:2 / 5 cm
Zeiss Sonnar 1:2 / 8,5 cm
A true 1936 collapsible Carl Zeiss
Jena lens, not coated.
As far as I know no collapsible Russian
Jupiter-8 lenses were build, so there aren't subject to fake.
Also Contax II and III RF cameras are subject to fake, so please be
When it is not a fake?
- if it says "Jupiter" or something kyrillic in the front ring. The
Zeiss Sonnar were great designs, leading the fast 35mm lens class for
at least 20 years. The Russians continued to reproduce these German
prewar designs, which to copy was allowed due to law of nations.
Whereas Zeiss and
Japanese factories like Nikon and Canon improved these designs after
war until ~ 1958, the Russians didn't.
- if it's a past-WWII East German Zeiss lens. Between 1945 and 1990,
there were two German companies with the Carl Zeiss name: Carl
Zeiss Oberkochen in West-Germany and Carl Zeiss Jena in the
East (German Democratic Republic/ DDR), both producing lenses: Carl
Oberkochen for the Contax Rangefinder, Icarex, Contax SLR made in
and Hasselblad cameras. Carl Zeiss Jena (in some markets referred just
"Jena") made lenses for the East-German Contax-S, Pentacon, Exakta,
and other M42 SLR lenses. Carl Zeiss West made very few M42-lenses for
Zeiss Voigtländer Icarex 35S TM. It must be added that not all
Zeiss (West) lenses were made in Germany. Since 1970's the "volume"
for the Contax (Japan) SLR including the Planar 1.4/50 were made at
in Japan with quality assurance by Zeiss. These lenses were engraved
in Japan" in opposite to "Made in West-Germany".
- all Jupiter lenses known so far were build with coated glass. Most, say 95% of all
Contax RF lenses before 1945 were build with uncoated optics. So uncoated
lenses, in particular with chromed brass mouting (more weight than
aluminium alloy) or the nickel-plated (partly black) lenses before 1936
aren't easy to fake, although it is possible that they were repaired
with Russian parts. This is possible for cameras (Contax II, III) as
- Every coated 1.5/5cm or 2/8.5cm alloy Sonnar, in particular with
Leica Thread Mount (LTM) . In peacetime Carl Zeiss lense barrells were
brass, in wartime alloy. Since all Russian lenses are made of alloy,
never see a brass fake.
Zeiss RF lenses very seldom were made in LTM, even after the war. Zeiss
and Leica were strong competitors at that time. The few Zeiss Sonnars
made in LTM were probably made for government or military use and
well-sought by Leica owners after the war. It is very unlikely to found
them in todays Russia.
Truly a fake
- big ugly letters, big focussing triangle, focussing scale in "M"
instead of "m", front ring with white "T"-coating symbol instead of a
red "T", big screws on the barrell, coating seems to look more blue
purple... see the difference:
Faked 2/85 (see Russian case and caps!)
...and not money enough to fake a red "T"
NO fakes (see the differences)
Note the small letters, "." instead of "," seperator, small
Front ring engraving
note: small letters, "."-seperation, focussing in "m"
note: no black front-ring, no "ears" at f/stop-ring
Since more than 90% of the wartime-Sonnars are fakes you have to
know what you're looking for. Even true ZEISS wartime lenses were not
made up to peace standards, materials and quality control. The alloy
barrels don't withstand well the ravages of times. As a collector who
likes to use that stuff actually I don't see a reason why to pay a lot
of money for.
If you have a Jupiter lens: use it, and be proud of it! It's
one of the best designs in history of photography, and even by today's
standard capable of making great pictures or slides. I would pay
100-150 USD for such a lens in excellent condition and well-adjusted.
Short telephotos for Rangefinders of different vintage
from left to right: Canon 1.8/85 (1962 - 468g), Jupiter-9 2/85 (1968 -
314g), Voigtländer 2.5/75 (2004 - 234g). Compactness and weight
not too bad for a 70 years old design!
In particular the small number of nickel, and black ones are well
made. I own a black Jupiter-8. It's my most compact fast telephoto for
A Jupiter with a faked front-ring it's worth less. As a collector
I cannot show these kind of lenses to knowledgable people without
If you like Sonnar lenses for compactness and quality, but avoid
beeing shammed, and don't like the Russian volatility of quality, do
- If you have a Contax, buy a "Zeiss-Opton" Sonnar made after
the war. Improved design. These are usually Contax mount. LTM is
extremely rare. Since all Zeiss-Optons are made of brass/ nickel fakes
are easily identified. Very well made and expensive. At least 600 USD
West-German Zeiss-Opton (past WW-II)
- If you are proud owner of a Nikon Rangefinder or a Leica screw-mount
camera, buy a Japanese Sonnar (Nikon or Canon). Very well made,
up to West German standards. They were never faked. Improved design
also. 300-400 USD (Nikon or LTM mount)
Samuel Tang (Austrailia) wrote in
www.rangefinderforum.com (I cite his text with his permission):
"To recap: the East German company Carl Zeiss Jena was not,
as many was led to believe, a "fake" company bearing the name of Carl
leech off the reputation of the name; it was the original company in
factories where all the pre-WWII lenses were made. For that matter, the
name was "Carl Zeiss", as as per the custom of the time, the location
the company was also marked on the lens: in much the same way, the
who made the Leica lenses was not "Leitz Wetzlar" but "Leitz".
The US forces reached Jena first and according to the agreement reached
at the Yalta conference, the US occupying forces would vacate for the
Soviet forces to take over administration. Thus "Operation Paperclip"
was put into action: several hundred Carl Zeiss personnels were
"escorted" at gunpoint, along with a huge amount of material resources,
to the area destined to be under US control, so that a new optical
company could be established there. The Carl Zeiss company name was
registered in a hurry, and so was the Carl Zeiss Foundation.
Meanwhile, the company in Jena was pretty much left in the cold but it
still tried its best to get back into business, but as the original
Zeiss Stiftung re-registerred with the authorities a matter of days
than the new one in the west, it lost its legitimacy as seen in many
overseas countries. In much the same way, Carl Zeiss Jena did that too,
for not having the rights to the name it had been using since the
latter days of the 19th century.
While East Germany manufactured cameras of many types. the original
Zeiss Ikon company in Dresden took little time to shift from
rangefinder cameras to single-lens reflex cameras, although for a
number of years afterwards, Carl Zeiss Jena still produced lenses for
the West German-made Contax IIa and IIIa cameras. But Carl Zess Jena
had to satisfy the demans of domestic manufacturers of cameras and
other markets too, so apart from specialist photographic
optics (such as the Apo-Germinar process lenses), the photographic
it produces were for reflex cameras, made by Exakta and KW (which later
Consider the two brands 35mm single-lens reflex cameras, Carl Zeiss
Jena was one of the two main supplier of lenses to them, the other
being Hugo Meyer.
With the exception of some short-lived detours such as Praktina and
a staggering quantity of lenses were made in Exakta, Praktica M42 screw
Praktica B mounts; the B-mount ones were of course the last made and
of completely new designs. Using a M42-mount 35mm single-lens reflex
be a good way to access these Carl Zeiss lenses (along with the many
Meyer ones too).
But back to the CRF topic: Carl Zeiss Jena, after the way, did produce
a series of 35mm compact cameras called the Werra, of various
specifications; the top model, thte Werramatic, featured exposure
meter, coupled rangefinder, and three interchangeable lenses: 35mm
Flektogon, 50mm Tessar and 100mm Cardinar, all very fine performers,
and with a Prestor leaf shutter with rotating blades which could give a
marked top speed of 1/750s (although it can indeed run at 1/1000s with
(..) Another thing which has a lot of people confused is
that, even before the partition of Germany, there were three
organizations with the name of Zeiss. Carl Zeiss Optical came first,
established by Carl Zeiss, and after his death the sole ownership
passed on to his partner Ernse Abbe, who established the Carl Zeiss
Stiftung who acquire Carl Zeiss Optical as one of its core dividions.
Carl Zeiss Stiftung grew from that and carried on acquiring other
businesses and at the same tieme diversifying, and in 1926,
acquired four camera manufacturers, merged them to form Zeiss Ikon, its
equipment division, and based in Dresden. Zeiss Ikon bought lenses from
Zeiss Optical for its cameras but Carl Zeiss was of course free to
its lenses and other products to other camera makers too.
After the war, the new Carl Zeiss Stiftung, Carl Zeiss Optical and
Zeiss Ikon were established in the American Zone, but only the new
Zeiss Ikon in Stuttgart had any historical link with the old Zeiss
Ikon, because one of the companies which was acquired to form Zeiss
Ikon was the Stuttgart-based Contessa-Nettel.
By the way, some of the earlier lenses by the new Carl Zeiss Optical
(then using the Zeiss-Opton name) in Oberkochen were of extremely poor
quality; while the glass parts might be acceptable, the mounting was
very badly designed and would indeed disintegrate after some years; I
do feel that many Zeiss-Opton Tessars were affected by this problem but
not sure if those lenses made for the Contax Iia and IIIa suffered