$1000 Carl Zeiss “Mini-Cine” Set | The Buyer’s Guide

If you are getting into vintage lenses and want to build an affordable set that will be usable in every shooting environment, this guide is for you. I’ve been teasing about my “$1000 Zeiss Mini-Cine Set” on social networks a lot, but it’s finally the time to take an in-depth look at what has gone into creating this set.

At the core of my set are 5 Carl Zeiss Jena M42 full frame lenses, which can be adapted to most mounts including EF, Sony E & MFT. They are great for full frame cameras and S35 cameras, especially when combined with a focal reducer. So Let’s take a closer look at each lens.

This is how it all started!

 

Flektogon 20mm F2.8 – the widest lens in the set. For some of you it might not sound wide, but on full frame or S35 with a focal reducer, it’s wide enough for most needs. It’s a very respected lens in vintage lens community. It has excellent optical quality as you can see in my “Vintage 20mm Shootout”. Like most vintage lenses it’s not perfect. While it’s pretty sharp in the middle of the frame even wide open, you need to step down to F4-5.6 for good edge sharpness.  Even though it’s the most expensive lens in this set, it definitely worth its price, especially because there is no 28mm in my set.  While a Carl Zeiss Jena 29mm does exist, I believe it was it’s a rebranded Pantcon lens which itself is based on a Mayer Optic 29mm F2.8 and while it’s not a bad lens, I don’t feel that it’s optical performance matches the rest of the set, especially wide open, but if you really need this focal length, it might be a good option to consider.

Specs:

  • Closest Focusing Distance: 0.19m
  • Focus Throw: Approx. 280°
  • Aperture Range: F2.8 – F22
  • Filter Thread Size: 67mm
  • Weight (without mods): 310g
  • Price Range: $250-450

 

Flektogon 20mm F2.8 looking mean!

Flektogon 35mm F2.4 –  Not much needs to be said about this lens. It’s well known for its excellent performance and I will much rather use this lens than the 29mm I mentioned above. It’s half a stop faster too, which is a nice little bonus. Possibly my favourite lens in this set!

Specs:

  • Closest Focusing Distance: 0.20m
  • Focus Throw: Approx. 260°
  • Aperture Range: F2.4 – F22
  • Filter Thread Size: 49mm
  • Weight (without mods): 230g
  • Price Range: $150-250
Pancolar 50mm F1.8 looking really tidy with the Cool-Lux gear and 77mm step ring

Pancolar 50mm F1.8 – No set can is complete without a nice 50mm and as it’s often the case, this 50mm is the fastest lens in the set, making it a great choice for low light and bokelisios shots. Funnily enough it’s also one of the cheapest lenses in this set, but if budget is really tight and you don’t care about that extra stop of light, the Tessar 50mm F2.8 is also an excellent choice (my review).

Specs:

  • Closest Focusing Distance: 0.35m
  • Focus Throw: Approx. 320°
  • Aperture Range: F1.8 – F22
  • Filter Thread Size: 49mm
  • Weight (without mods): 210g
  • Price Range: $100-200
Pancolar 50mm F1.8 showing off its coating!

Biometar 80mm F2.8 – Now this lens is a bit of a dark horse of this set. It’s the only lens here that isn’t natively an M42 lens. While it might look exactly like all the others, it’s actually a medium format lens with a P6 mount, but thankfully can put an M42 adapter on top of it, or you can even go straight to EF mount if you wish to.  The main reason why I decided to include this lens instead of a Pancolar 80mm F1.8 is the price. This lens can be bought for under $100 while Pancolar 80mm would cost anywhere between $600 and $800 completely destroying the budget for this set, but if you budget can stretch, Pancolar 80mm is an excellent lens; otherwise Biometar 80mm that I have is also an amazing lens for the money.

Specs:

  • Closest Focusing Distance: 1m
  • Focus Throw: Approx. 320°
  • Aperture Range: F2.8 – F22
  • Filter Thread Size: 58mm
  • Weight (without mods): 300g
  • Price Range: $90-180
Biometar 80mm F2.8 enjoying the sun

Sonnar 135mm F3.5 – Slowest and cheapest lens in this set, so it’s a bit of a bonus for these occasions when you need something tighter. While it might not sound impressive on paper, it’s an excellent optical performer and definitely work considering, but if you’d rather keep all your set at F2.8 or faster and you have some extra cash to spend, then you can always go for Biometar 120mm F2.8, which is same as Biometar 80mm is a medium format lens that will match the rest of the set very well!

Specs:

  • Price: $75-150
  • Closest Focusing Distance: 1m
  • Focus Throw: Approx. 300°
  • Aperture Range: F3.5 – F22
  • Filter Thread Size: 49mm
  • Weight (without mods): 360g
  • Price Range: $60-120
Final Set, feeling right at home on Sony A7SII

So here is our final $1000 “Mini-Cine” set: (ebay links below)

There are of course a few lenses you can want to swap out or add to this set, from 29mm F2.8 which I’ve mentioned to in the video, to Tessar 50mm F2.8, which is literally the cheapest Zeiss lens out there, so if you’re on a tight budget, it’s a good option too. If your budget though has no limits, then Pancolar 80mm F1.8 would be a star of this set,  but as mentioned in the video, it’s pretty expensive. If you want to keep your set at F2.8 or under, then you can swap out the Sonnar 135mm F3.5 for the slightly more expensive Biometar 120mm F2.8, which is a medium format lens, same as the 80mm F2.8 I’ve chosen for my set. Lastly, if you want something with even more reach, then Sonnar 180mm F2.8 and Sonnar 300mm F4 lenses will give you exactly that at a very reasonable price tag. You can find all the relevant ebay links below.

Now let’s move on to the mods. There are some many things you can do and so many products you can buy, but here are the parts I’ve used for my lenses.

As mentioned in my video, I’ve done my de-clicking with EKOECamera in London, but if you are in US I highly recommend Duclos Lenses, well known for their top quality service and for my Canadian friends, SimmodLens will provide amazing service at really affordable prices.

Conclusion: I truly believe that it would be very difficult to find a nicer, more versatile set of lenses for $1000, so I highly recommend that you check these beauties out while they’re still cheap. I hope you found this guide useful and I’m looking forward to seeing your own mini-cine sets 🙂


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10 Responses to $1000 Carl Zeiss “Mini-Cine” Set | The Buyer’s Guide

  1. It’s been a while but nice to see another interesting video on vintage lenses. How would the Helios 44-2 58mm f2 compare to the Pancolar 50mm f1.8 at the same aperture? I would assume that the Helios, also being based on a Zeiss design would have similar sharpness but perhaps have more character than the Pancolar? Could you also add the number of aperture blades to the specs?

    • Hi Pascal. While Helios is in a way similar, it has very different coating resulting in a very different look and of course much more character than Pancolar, which is great for the 44-2, but not that great for matching with this set. I believe most of these Jena primes have 6 aperture blades.

  2. Great guide! If you’re shooting with PL mount, there is an eBay seller in Poland that is machining the back halves of these lenses for permanent PL mount (not an adapter). We’ve been shooting with his lenses on Super 35mm film! Look up Canonikonos — Cheers! @FireTrialFilms

  3. While they are all from the former Eastern Block, the lenses from Carl Zeiss Jena generally had better coatings than the Russian ones. I would not expect the Helios (which I own and like) to match very well color-wise.
    And you’ll need patience and honest sellers – some of these lenses show up in horrible condition!

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