The Meyer-Optik Görlitz Domiplan is a very small and compact lens, a classical anastigmatic triplet lens. It was the standard kit lens on EXA II cameras but was also sold as kit with many EXA I & Praktica cameras. Opinions on the Domiplan are very different. Some love it for its sharpness and its bokeh, especially its so-called “Soap Bubble” bokeh, others think it is nothing more than average in performance. In the manufacturer’s brochure of this lens from 1960 you can read:
“With our new Domiplan 2.8/50 mm we have combined the advantages of the modern lens mount and the fully automatic pressure diaphragm with an extremely inexpensive three-lens construction.”
I’ll come back to “the fully automatic pressure diaphragm” later in the review. Also as the first point in a features list in the same brochure you can read:
” – Inexpensive three-lens anastigmat of the proven triplet type”
The underlining is done by me, not in the original text. So it should be clear that we are dealing with a cheap and simple lens. Just to have our expectations at somewhat right levels. Do not despair though! It can produce very nice pictures and is quite cheap too. Continue reading and it might be the next lens you invest in after all. Let’s have a closer look!
Focal Length: 50mm
Aperture Range: 2.8 – 22
Number of Aperture Blades: 6
Min Focus: 0.75m
Filter Size: 49 mm
Lens Mount: EXA I, EXA II, Exakta, Praktica, Pentacon, M42
The earlier and most widespread versions of this lens is the so-called “zebra” version with silver/black checkered grip rings for aperture and focus. The zebra version came in two variants one with a lever at the base of the lens and the other without one. The latest version is all black. Although the black version is newer, all versions are identical in regards to optical construction and should have the same optical performance. I have used both the checkered and the all black version for this review, both of them with M42 mount.
The lens is very small and light and feels cheap in terms of build quality and material used. It was meant to be cheap from the beginning though. The B&W checkered version is all metal though. It is known that the lens has problems with its aperture mechanism as it is prone to breaking, probably due to the cheap materials used inside the lens. I am normally very fond of small lenses but in this case it has made the lens too fiddly to use. The focusing ring is too narrow and too close to the aperture ring, which makes the operation somewhat difficult but has good resistance/feel with good grip on the all black version.
The optical composition of the lens is a Cooke Triplet designed in 1893 by Dennis Taylor in the UK. It is a three glass elements in three groups design, the same optical design as the several times more expensive Meyer-Optik Görlitz Trioplan.
Aperture ring is marked from 2.8 to 22 and stop clicks both at full-and half f-stops. Apropos aperture settings, let’s talk about this “fully automatic pressure diaphragm” feature. There is a stop-down pin on the rear of the lens that stands out of the plate in its normal position. On EXA/Praktica cameras this pin was depressed when you pushed the shutter release button to close the aperture to the set value. Otherwise the aperture is always wide open irrespective which aperture setting you have chosen on the lens. This would allow you to focus with wide open aperture, which makes the focusing easier then stopped down because the viewfinder image is at its brightest when the aperture is wide open.
Fortunately the adapter that I have for my mirrorless camera pushes this pin all the way in and holds it there, that closes the aperture to the set value at all times and I don’t need to worry about it, otherwise all the pictures would be taken at f/2.8 no matter what I have set on the lens.
Let’s look at the sharpness and three points in the frame as marked in the image below!
Sharpness in the center of the image is just OK/usable at f/2.8. At f/4 it is good and from f/5.6 and smaller the center sharpness is very good. Midframe is not so good at larger apertures and needs to be stopped down to f/5.6 for OK and to f/8 for good sharpness and to f/11 for very good. Corners are just bad, first stopped down at f/11 they are just OK, which looks to be the sweet spot for across the frame sharpness. At f/16 it still looks OK across the frame while diffraction effect starts showing, at f/22 diffraction effects decrease overall sharpness a tad.
The contrast is low at all f-stops.
It doesn’t look to be an optimal lens for landscape photography, So let’s look at the portrait and closeup sharpness.
For portrait photography we look at the sharpness in the image center, inner center circle and outer center circle on either side of the third rule intersection.
Focus is set on Greta’s left eye. The center sharpness is about OK/usable, the inner midframe is just OK if you are after a “dreamy” look in your portrait, the outer midframe is just too soft. I would not use this lens for portraits unless I have to (like no other lenses are available in the world).
For Close sharpness we look only at the center of the image and different f-stops. I used the following setup and LR settings.
We are now looking only at the center. At f/2.8 the sharpness is OK/good. At f/4 it becoms quite good and f/5.6 very good. At f/8 excellent sharpness. At f/11 almost as good as f8. F16 sees some deterioration of the sharpness and f/22 gets worse.
As with 0.75m MFD the close-up work ability is not much to cheer about I thought i’d test the lens on an 1.5x crop factor APS-C camera to see the result when getting the benefit of the magnification.
Here is the result of the test on a Nikon D7200 APS-C camera with a higher pixel density:
All of sudden you get a huge minimum focusing distance improvement (more than 1.5x). The reason? Nikon D7200 is a Nikon DSLR with Nikon’s F mount. On Nikon F mount cameras the flange distance (46.5 mm) is larger than M42’s camera flange distance (45.46 mm). So mounting a M42 lens without even any adapter (if it was possible) on a Nikon DSLR is like having an extension tube between the camera and the lens. But that is not possible and you do need an adapter, which is about 4 mm thick in my case. So mounting the M42 on a Nikon with F mount with adapter is like having an extension tube of a little more than 5 mm between the lens and the camera. So the extension tube magnification effect (or ability to get closer to the subject) plus the APS-C magnification effect results in this drastic change.
This is the 100% crop of the center of the image above.
Great! Good enough sharpness too, jack-pot you would think. For close-up works only though. You lose the ability to focus on anything further than about 1 m (same effect as if you would use any extension tube between any lens and any camera). Maybe not too bad after all because as I mentioned earlier, I would not use this lens for landscapes anyways and for portraits I can use other lenses, so mostly close-ups, then it should be fine.
But unfortunately that is not all. Do you remember that “fully automatic pressure diaphragm” feature and the pin on the rear plate? Well the adapter that I have for my APS-C camera does not depress that pin, As a result all pictures I take with that adapter on any nikon DSLR will be taken with wide open aperture at 2.8.
So on Nikon DSLR (any format) with that adapter only close-ups and only at f/2.8. You could do a small irreversible operation to fix it, just put a small amount of super glue on the pin and hold it down until the pin is glued depressed. I have not done it yet and may or may not do so in future either because if you keep reading you’ll find that you may be happy anyway to use this lens only wide open and never want to use any other apertures than 2.8 .
The lens does not show any distortion, as close to perfect as you can get. Very good, pitty that this lens is not good for architecture photography.
The vignetting at f/2.8 it is about 1.7 stops, at f/4 and f/5.6 around 1 stop and at f8 it gets to 0.7 stop .
No resistance here. Have the sun in the frame and you will have all kinds of flare. The lens suffers from both veiling, ghosting, and lens flare.
Nikon Z6 | Meyer-Optik Görlitz Domiplan 50/2.8 | f/2.8 (All 3 images)
There is some CA in the corners although not very noticeable in normal real life situations. Looking at the left and right corners of the image used for the close-up sharpness test earlier in this review you can see the purple and yellow/orange color fringes, which can be easily fixed post.
There is severe sagittal aberration in the images take with this lens that gets a little better by each stop but does not completely clear up before f/11. This is not good.
You can get 6 pointed stars from f/4 and smaller. They get better from f/5.6 and very well defined from f/8. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, with the sun in the image you get flare of different kinds as well.
Here is the crop from the center of the image above at different f/stops.
One application that vintage lenses have good potential for is video filming. Among other features of a lens there is one extra optical feature that is important here and that is the focus breathing, why I test it here. Unfortunately this lens suffers from heavy focus breathing as you can see in the following before/after image.
Well, this is, in my opinion, the most exciting part of this review as anybody that buys this lens should be buying it for its bokeh and not its across the frame sharpness or its flare resistance. This lens is among few lenses that can deliver the so-called bubble bokeh, where there are obvious lines around bokeh circles. First a look at a scenario where no small light points are in the background. One with a subject at 0.75m from camera in focus and one with a subject 1.5m away in focus:
and then in an image with light sources in the background, where the true strength of this lens can show off
In the image above I have used some light/contrast/color/clarity adjustments to highlight the shell’s structure.
|WHAT I LIKE||NOT GOOD / NOT BAD||WHAT I DON'T LIKE|
Min Focus Distance
It is definitely not a lens for your everyday photography (not for your every other day photography either for that matter), it’s simply not good enough for that, but you shouldn’t expect that from any lens that you can buy for $30-$50. Stopped down the lens is okay, not a disaster, but the edges and corners never really sharpen up and the midframe is also weak, contrast is low, flare is a huge problem and build quality is not the normal “German standard”, to be nice. I am constantly afraid of breaking it while I am using it.
For normal photography, both mechanically and optically, I would say it is a garbage lens, don’t even look at it.
This is a vintage lens though and you do get it for the look of the images or actually for the look of its bokeh with its soap bubble effects. In that sense this lens is such a strong performer. If you like this effect, I highly recommend the lens for that (and only that). You can spend a lot more money on lenses with good reputation for creating soap bubble bokeh (e.g. the Meyer-Optik Görlitz Trioplan, which I review in another article) that don’t produce any better results. Keep in mind though, you should only use it at its widest aperture and you will get a lot of wide open wow shots in “right conditions”. After all it’s more about finding those conditions than the lens itself, no lens in the world can create soap bubble bokeh unless the conditions are right. If you know its strengths and weaknesses then you can certainly have a lot of fun with this lens.
If you are interested in buying this lens or any of the lenses in the Alternatives section you can support our efforts by using the links below or given under each lens. It won’t cost you a penny and it won’t affect the price but helps us a little.
We are only going to mention lenses regarding the bubble bokeh effect. Many vintage lenses can create bubble bokeh in the right conditions, it’s actually less about the lens and more a question of finding the right conditions. Even the most famous bubble bokeh lenses can’t produce bubbles in wrong conditions but some lenses are capable of doing it easier and with more pronounce shapes than others. The most famous ones are
More Sample Images
- REVIEW: PENTACON AUTO 50 MM F/1.8 MULTI COATING
- CANON NEWFD 50MM F/1.8: A REVIEW
- REVIEW: MINOLTA MC ROKKOR 1:1.7 55MM ON SONY A7
- REVIEW: MINOLTA AUTO ROKKOR-PF 55 MM F/2
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