Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm F3.5 Review

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After I purchased a sony a7, I have had trouble finding a telephoto lens. I wanted something light, relatively small, with great color, contrast, and bokeh. For telephotos, I prefer 135mm. My first telephoto for the sony system was a contax 100mm f2.8 makro-planar. I found this lens exceptional, but too heavy and not long enough. I then tried 135mm STF, but again the lens was too heavy and frankly too expensive for the amount I shot 135mm.


For my next lens, I wanted something smaller, lighter, and cheaper with a zeiss rendering. I initially looked at the contax 135mm f2.8, which is supposed to be excellent. Instead, I went with the CZJ 135mm for its lighter weight and the 49mm filter size that matches my 55mm Zony. There are 5 versions of this lens. The lens can have a single coating or several different iterations of a multicoating. I have the last version of the carl zeiss jena 135mm given the test version of the T* coating. Below is a website with more information on the different lens subtypes.


Build Quality


The carl zeiss jena 135mm has excellent build quality. It is all metal and glass with a wonderful heft. My copy focuses smoothly and the aperture blades are both clean and snappy. However, there have been reported problems with the grease migrating to the aperture blades over time. I have found a website linked below for servicing the lens. It only has 4 elements, which contributes to its wonderful contrast and will make it easy to service.


Color, Contrast, and Bokeh


When I look at a lens, the color and contrast matter more than the sharpness. It has to be able to render great color or the sharpness does not matter to me. In shooting this lens, I found that wide open there is great contrast, central sharpness, and smooth bokeh. When the lens is stopped down, the lens retains its excellent bokeh. I also really like the color this lens generates. These shots are SOOC for the most part except some highlight recovery. The top image is at f3.5 and the bottom is f5.6.

Bokeh f3.5


Below is another example of the wonderful color and contrast SOOC. This one is shot at f5.6.




In order to test the sharpness at infinity, I used the NYC skyline. Below is the scene I shot at f8.


I shot the scene in half stop increments from f3.5 to f8 moving from left to right in two rows. The f stops are f3.5, 4, 4.8, 5.6, 6.8, and 8. Below are the 100% crops in the center. If you can spot the difference stopping down, you are better than me.


Next is the lower right of the image. Here is does not clean up until f5.6.


Top Right


Top Left


Mid Upper Right


Lower Left


The sharpness of this lens pretty good over the frame from about f5.6 onwards with maybe a small increase at f8.




For me, the carl zeiss jena represents an excellent compromise between size, color, contrast, bokeh, and cost. It weighs only 430 grams and comes with a built in hood. Its filter size means it integrates with my sony kit pretty easily. It is not sharp over the entire frame at f3.5 but by f5.6 it is pretty sharp all over. I definitely recommend this lens if you are looking for something small and light for your camera system that won’t break the bank. You can find versions of this lens for under $100. I paid $130 for mine, but that was because it was in excellent shape and had the most modern coating on the lens. If you buy this lens, make sure to get the multicoated version. Thanks for reading!


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