Very topical issue which is roughly discussed on the Internet and and not only in Russian. Many owners of the lenses “made in West Germany” warm up a subject declaring that they had a Japanese similar lens and there is anything especially in it, and now they have German and everything is great and a bokeh is so beautiful.
For the sake of this subject and my readers I got German “made in West Germany” Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 C/Y to the Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 C/Y “made in Japan”.
These two twin brothers.

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 "made in Japan" vs "made in West Germany"

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 “made in Japan” vs “made in West Germany”

The back cover at made in Germany is stereotyped, but it doesn’t change business. The lens that I chose had very high quality and it would be possible to compare it without any questions.
Of course, both lenses are not new. Both are made in the late seventies, the beginning of the 80th. But the Japanese option probably wasn’t used at all, and German (as well as the majority of the German lenses) was used and it is still in good condition. I had already enough lenses and I can say, weather it is good or not.

Differences of lenses

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 "made in West Germany"

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 “made in West Germany”

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 "made in Japan"

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 “made in Japan”

First they have a different bayonet joint as they have different systems. The lens from Germany is earlier and also has AE bayonet joint, and a Japanese bayonet joint has MM. Both of them eventually Contax/Yashica, but look a little differently.

On a photo it is visible that the crack in a place of a diaphragm is much bigger on a lens made in Germany.
And a bayonet joint ring on a lens from Germany (further G) is black, and on Japanese (further J) is silver.

These lenses, as well as the majority of other lenses by Carl Zeiss have screw fastening 67 mm under filters diameter. On a photo it is visible the “elite” metal blenda of Contax Metal Hood 4 going to a lens. It is elite unlike rubber which was issued for economy. I have the same one, it can be used. It is folding, that is convenient, but the indecent has appearance.

I bought blend separately approximately for 2500rub. It is necessary to have the metal transitional ring with 67mm on 86mm. Its price was near 1000rub. Sometimes the blenda gets free of charge, complete with a lens. Otherwise difficult to look for and leaves expensively.
On a photo you can see the protective filter twisted in a blenda.

Contax Metal Hood 4

Contax Metal Hood 4

Now we will understand is there a difference and if is, what is it.

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 "made in Japan" vs "made in West Germany"

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 “made in Japan” vs “made in West Germany”

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 f2 Left:"made in Japan", right: "made in West Germany"

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 f2 Left:”made in Japan”, right: “made in West Germany”

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 f2 Left:"made in Japan", right: "made in West Germany"

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 f2 Left:”made in Japan”, right: “made in West Germany”

In both cases we will receive polygons, but on the German lens it will be “stars of the ninjia”, and on Japanese (here it is strange) simply polygons.
In general there are fans of both options, and also classical bokeh with ideal circles (unsharpness disks) or unsharpness disks in the form of “a cat’s eye”. Such disks I meet on all high-aperture Carl Zeiss optics. There are similar disks of unsharpness and on professional L-optics by Canon, but there they will be always cut off from one edge, losing all the charm.
Anyway such cunning disks of unsharpness still need to try to be received. Dot light sources and the closed diaphragm are necessary for this purpose. Often you won’t face such effect.

Today we will have a test for lens sharpness. The camera is installed on tripod, descent of a lock is carried out by means of a trigger rope. Focusing was made on camera LiveView with increase to 10x. I did it on 3 pictures and I chose the best.

F1.4 diaphragm

f1.4Personally I don’t see any difference in sharpness. I.e. it is possible that it is scanty that quite fits in the admission by a mass production. There is any noticeable difference.
However, we remember about a different enlightenment. For example, it quite strongly affects the lenses by Leica and the first versions strongly differ on sharpness from the last. Modern lenses are sharper.

In this case I don’t want to tell how exactly enlightenment influences on the sharpness. It is rather even not it, and other brand or other technologies of lens processing. But we can distinguish one version from another in particular on color of an enlightenment so for us it as a certain milestone, change of technology and for this reason I tie difference in optical parameters to an enlightenment, but not because everything depends on it. If not to take critical cases, contrast of the image and a illumination of a lens depends on it. Thus partly, of course, and resolution (read contrast of fine details), but in smaller degree, than from polishing of lenses, the optical scheme and brand of glass.

Here is the example of comparison of Leica Summilux-R 80/1.4 3CAM vs ROM versions

The ROM version has electric contacts and it is autofocal. 3CAM is more older, has old bayonet joint and manual.

Leica Summilux-R 80/1.4 3CAM vs ROM

Leica Summilux-R 80/1.4 3CAM vs ROM

Leica Summilux-R 80/1.4 @ F1.4 Left: ROM, right: CAM

Leica Summilux-R 80/1.4 @ F1.4 Left: ROM, right: CAM

As you can see the difference in versions is also quite essential. By the way, pay attention that at bigger sharpness the ROM version has big HA.
But we digressed…

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 on F2 diaphragm

carl zeissThat’s all. The difference almost left. Nevertheless it is possible to tell that the Japanese option is slightly sharper.

On it shouldn’t influence your choice as in actual practice you precisely won’t see this smallest difference and it is comparable to admissions of production of a batch production. So at you can be exactly the opposite.

A little more about bokeh

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 @ F2

Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 @ F2 left: made in Japan, right: made in West Germany

Don’t pay attention to color of disks of unsharpness. It depended on the moment when I pressed descent. Bulbs lit up and died away. Unfortunately the garland had no mode of a constant luminescence. The form of these disks is important.

Here we also approached to the most important question. Whether there is a difference in a bokeh between these lenses if they are identical in all optical parameters also differ only in a diaphragm?
But we test a bokeh only on the open one!
What is the sense to close it if we lose part of “picture”. So F1.4

carl zeiss dof

It seems, at Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 “made in West Germany” a little more contrast shadows on a background. But it is not so noticeable …


In my opinion pictures are identical.
But generally as was to be shown. If I am in time — I will carry out the test on slightly covered diaphragm to understand influence of a form of a diaphragm. There is conclusion.

Lenses give almost completely the identical picture in all respects on an open diaphragm (F1.4).

The test on the covered diaphragm

I after all decided to cover a little a diaphragm that on the lens “made in West Germany” to receive a diaphragm in the form of a circular saw. On completely open diaphragm it is round so it was necessary to cover it to F2.8. F2 and F2.8 values in general only in which it is possible to receive this “star”. On other values a diaphragm is round.


Generally any “special picture”, contrary to advertizing of users of Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 “made in West Germany”, I didn’t see. There are some scanty differences in shadows (slightly more contrastly) and on values of a diaphragm of F2, F2.8 you “risk” to receive “stars” instead of polygons in unsharpness disks.

I expected big differences from the moment of detection that they have a different enlightenment. But… Zeiss doesn’t lie. Any difference, except that was officially sounded. Different bayonet joint, different form of a diaphragm. Both without problems get up on 5D of mark II. They are convenient, and have a wonderful bokeh. That, which is “made in West Germany” was really made in Germany, and the Japanese copy is made in Japan by Kyocera-Yashica by request of the same Carl Zeiss.

Our lenses should have learned at Germans to quality control in a batch production. They even at change of an enlightenment managed to duplicate optical parameters. Here I don’t know, wether the change of an enlightenment was made for the purpose of its reduction in cost or for other purpose… The result is uniform.
Good shots!