Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The best Commie glass so far- Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Oreston

shoot-324I bought this Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Oreston 50mm F1.8 after a bit of a search. I’d seen a friend’s results with one and liked the look it gave, so I went hunting. I’ve a thing for commie glass, and this East German lens is one of the best from the other side of the Iron Curtain I’ve seen.

Meyer-Optik was a competitor of the Zeiss Jena company initially, and then was merged in to them. The Pentacon 50mm f1.8 produced right after this lens is a dead ringer for it, and is probably the same design. Although I’ve been warned about the usual communist problems with quality control, the only Oreston I’ve used that had issues had obviously been dropped.

The early versions of the Oreston have the solid metal “zebra” style construction I like. There’s a nice feel to all metal lens bodies that plastic ones just do not have. This lens isn’t multi-coated so it can flare on you, but it hasn’t been too much of a problem for me.

Stopped down, it's nice and sharp

Stopped down, it’s nice and sharp

Most versions of the Oreston go for around $80 to $100 which is not a bad price. I lucked in to this one in an odd way. I was actually looking for an ultra cheap M42 body that wasn’t a Commie camera to use with my M42 lenses. I had a Praktica and a few Zenits, but I wanted higher shutter speeds and a better viewfinder. The older Zenits I was using seemed to have viewfinders made from Coke bottles, so an improvement was vastly needed. I happened across the Vivitar 400/SL I previously wrote about here for $50. It came with the Oreston mounted on it, so I killed two birds with one stone.

I occasionally think about selling all of my M42 gear off, and I’m thinning my collection. I can’t bring myself to sell this lens, though. The good sharpness even wide open and the way the light falls off in the corners that I like prevent me from doing it. Shooting in tight spots with this lens is easy, it has the closest minimum focus distance of any 50mm lens I’ve tried. Plus the images have a certain character I like and haven’t gotten from any other lens.

Wide open, still sharp

Wide open, still sharp

So my love of this lens is keeping my 400/SL employed, since I want to keep using it. Perhaps I’ll find a solid Voigtlander VSL1 or Rolleiflex SL35M to mount it on one day. Of maybe I’ll hit the lottery and get a Voigtlander Bessaflex TM for it. It’ll take a lottery win to justify a $500 M42 body, but I’d like something better to use this lens on. It gives great results and a better body will mean I use it more. The Oreston has solid performance and a great look from East Germany. How often do you get to use those words in the same sentence?

The best Commie glass so far- Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Oreston

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