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1930's Pre-war Zeiss Bayonet Rangefinder lens on digital?
I've never used a lens nearly this old on a digital camera.  would it be worth the effort of getting and adapter to use these:


<p class="">                                          SONNAR 1:2 F=5cm

<p class="">                                          BIOTAR 1:2 f=4cm

<p class="">                                          BIOGON 1:2.8 f=3,5cm

<p class="">                                          SONNAR 1:4 F=13,5cm

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<p class="">They are all prewar bayonet mount rangefinder lenses that came with a Zeiss Contax III, circa 1936.  I can't see any lens coating.  Did they coat lenses back then.  The glass is pretty clear though.

<p class=""> 

<p class="">People talk about the "classic look" from old lenses.  Is 80 years pushing the limits too far?

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<p class="">Thanks in advance.  I realize these sorts of newbie questions just invite ridicule, however, looking at the smooth, perfectly circular aperture on one of these perfectly smooth15(?) blade diaphragms you can't help wondering.  Never having touched a Zeiss, or a Leica, I have no idea just how deep their abilities run.  So, flame me if you have to...but please give me some info!

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   No ridicule here!  They sound like fabulous lenses, albeit uncoated.


A quick look comes up with them being the G1 mount maybe? You will have to find an adapter for 


 This link for lens mount specs:



Is it for the Sony system?


 My grandfather's Rollieflex TLR I inherited had uncoated lenses, I remember in the darkroom developing a large print from it, I drew my breath at how tack sharp it was, I'm sure those Zeiss won't be any different if you can find an adapter.


  They will undoubtedly have flare issues, a lens hood would be wise, one thing they won't like is sun shining onto the front element.

Dave's clichés
Flame or not, but there is a reason for coatings... The lenses itself may have some sharpness between okay and wow, just don't expect miracles when taking pictures with some front- or sidelight involved  ^_^


Find out how much they are worth today, sell one and pay the adapter for the other three (I mean, 35, 40 and 50 mm are pretty close...) (Biotar)


For their time they were very fast and sharp, so instead of pay thousands for Meyer optic, throw some bucks to the adapter and find out what or if you like it.

You need to know the mount type, and which camera you want to use them on. 

This Contax III rangefinder I am pretty sure was made only during 1933-1936.  I understand Jena became part of East Germany after the war, and that mainly M42 screw mounts were made following the war that were originally close to the original lenses in design, but evolved over time.


Joju - yes, the lack of coatings is my biggest concern.  I have three uncoated but very good condition Olympus OM lenses:  50/1.8, 75-150/4, and 135mm.  When I tried the 50mm on my Canon 70 During the morning hours, and indoors I thought it was amazing reproducing very fine detail.  Then I tried all three on a sunny summer California day and I couldn't get any kind of contrast no matter what I did. 


I have other uncoated and singly coated lenses.  Some are very good.  But 1936!  Could they even make a sharp lens then?  I was given the kit to look at and asked if I was worth $200 dollars to me.


At this point I'm just mostly repeating myself, but I was fascinated that the shutter still works.  It is constructed like a series of brass slats that are stacked edge to edge.  I'm not sure how it works but the complexity is fascinating.  My guess is at 1/1250 of a second what is happening is the slats separate a little and the brass shutter moves up slightly unstacked.  I took the back off of the camera and watched it, but unless I go geek and video it, it appears to the eye as a very brief opening. 

As for the mount.  My assumption is that one would have to have a mirrorless camera.  I saw one mount for $200 (yes, the same as the price of the rangefinder plus the lenses) to convert to Sony mirrorless.  Actually it appears to convert several type lenses?!

This strikes me as probably too ambitious for me, however, I have zero knowledge of this type of lens.  My assumption is they are uncoated.  I don't see any strange colors reflected in these lenses.  Since I did not start photography mainly until the digital era there are tons of questions in my mind.  Were any film era 35mm lenses really as good as a modern lens?  It seems as though there were, but probably not that old, and probably with coated lens elements.  It is super hard to get a feel for this without actually using the lenses, but I thought I'd try. 

Since the camera appears to be functional, I may get it for a B&W film class.  I realize I would be making the class harder by far, than necessary, but it would be fun.  (I don't think the built-in meter works, but I have a working hand held light meter.  I tried it to enter manual settings for my DSLR, and was surprised to see proper exposure result!)

As to adapting to what...well, I don't have any immediate plans to own any mirrorless digital.  I have access to MFT if I can find an adapter.  The ideal camera would probably be a FF Sony MILC but I don't know of anyone with one.  They are popular, but most popular with the younger crowd around here. 


I meant to give the link to the Contax/Nikon Rangefinder to Sony alpha:

@ Brightcolours:

I was hoping if there were a specific name for the camera mount someone here might know it.  Maybe Contax bayonet is sufficient?  What is interesting is that the rangefinder has both and internal and external bayonet mount.  All my lenses mount on the internal bayonet.  But picture a Canon EOS mount.  That is the same type as the internal bayonet.  But instead of being flush with the camera, imagine the mounting ring's surface pokes out a few mm from the face of the camera and the projecting part has three "ears"  It blows my mind, but you can mount a much larger diameter lens, possibly shade, or accessory?  Anyway, one cannot help but be a little impressed by this elaborate system.  If you follow the link to the adapter, it also has both internal and external bayonet mounts!

Rangefinder lenses in fromt of a DSLR can cause trouble. No, they drectly ask for trouble as the flange distance usually is shorter. I didn't read the Wikipedia article in depth, but some "problems with the mirror" occured.


And even if the shutter is still working, the question is, how precise are the times these days?


I know a friend once bought Zeiss Jena glass when it was still made in GDR and he was full of admiration and counted the lines/mm. However. Lens tech has evolved a lot since then, for me going vintage is pointless, but I understand some romantic elder photographers with an urge to admire old tech and some tinkering skils... I like EXIF data, I like AF and I very much like nano-coating.


Of course those lenses can be called sharp. At their time, maybe still today, but the pictures I've seen form a 58 mm Biotar just don't tickle me to get one, that's all.

The lens mount is called Contax RF mount. Nikon S mount is almost the same (oddly enough there were some issues?).

So, Canon RF mount, Nikon S mount to Sony E-mount, EOS M mount, Fuji X mount, MFT adapters.

You can find them in expensive advanced form:


And in cheap form:


I do not know the ins and outs of this CRF/Nikon S mount, so I can't explain how it is supposed to work and what the advanced adapters bring you over the cheap ones. AS far as I can figure out, the adapters focus, not the lenses? So the cheap ones won't allow focussing?


About the two bayonets: apparently there are lenses with inner mount and outer mount. Go figure.

  I didn't realize the camera was working, why bother with digital?  B+W film wouldn't show the CAs, but hey then I love old cameras, especially old quality range-finders with Zeiss and Contax written over them, they're beautiful things in their own right!

Dave's clichés
CA will not be a major issue, will it? The issue with no coatings is refections, not CA. And the lenses from the 60's from Pentax and Nikkor to name a few, were not much more advanced concerning CA, and people happily use them for digital colour photography today too.


So, just don't shoot with them into the light, and you will get pretty good results, no doubt.


5cm f2:

4cm f2:

3.5cm f2.8:

13.5cm f4:


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