Thursday, May 27, 2010

Meyer-Optik Domiplan 50mm f2.8

If there is an M42 lens that is common, cheap, and has mediocre reputation, the Domiplan 50mm f2.8 is probably the prime candidate. You can still buy one for the cost of a lunch today. This East German lens has a few versions, and was available as Exakta or M42 mount. I personally have two versions of them: a pre-set aperture type, and a automatic aperture type. The one with the pre-set aperture does not work -- a very common aperture problem with this lens.

Doesn't matter from which angle you look at it, the Domiplan is a cheap lens. Designed to be cheap, made cheap, and feels cheap. Add to the fact that it does not have a manual aperture setting, using it on DSLRs is a challenge, unless your adapter was designed to handle this kind of lens. This is the reason my copy of the Domiplan was sitting on the shelf for a good five years, until I got a new M42 adapter with confirmation chip, which surprisingly, supports automatic aperture lenses.

[Update Oct-8-2010: The Domiplan is in fact a Triplet design.  Thanks for all who pointed this out.
The Domiplan has a Tessar design, which, in theory, should be pretty good optically. Invented almost a hundred years ago, the Tessar design is very common and was adapted by many manufacturers. The major advantage is the small size that can be made from this design. Most pancake lenses, such as the Pentax-M 40mm f2.8 and the Contax 45mm f2.8 employs the Tessar design. Zeiss refers to the Contax 45mm f2.8 pancake as the "eagle eye of your camera". Many just called it the "Eagle Eye", referring to its excellent sharpness.

The disadvantage of the Tessar design, is that it can't be made very fast. That's why most have a maximum aperture of f2.8. Another minor short coming is the minimum focus distance is relatively long, compared to other designs for the 50mm focal length. For the Contax 45mm f2.8, it's 0.6m, and the Domiplan is 0.7m.

OK, enough bubbling, I am sure you want to know how bad it is, no?

I didn't use the Domiplan on the 5D, so at least for the time being, we are not going to talk about the far edge performance, just the area covered by the 1.6x sensor of the Canon 550D (T2i). But even then, I can tell you that don't expect miracles at the corners, even stopped way down.

You maybe surprised, but I found the lens to be quite decent, again, if you don't need sharp edges. It has that Meyer-Optiks signature at wide apertures which I like a lot. Even at f2.8, it's more than usable at the center of the image. Here is the 100% crop of one taken at f2.8:

Wide Open @ f2.8, 100% crop at the center. Notice the slightly luminous, low contrast quality, but at the same time, very sharp and shows good details -- Canon Digital Rebel 550D & Meyer-Optik Domiplan 50mm f2.8. Larger Size.

Stopping down improves the sharpness as well as contrast. I would even rate this lens very sharp at the center. For the money of a lunch, it's not bad, eh?

The bokeh is a little wonky for my taste, but it's a subjective thing. I am sure some will find it pleasing. It's not horrible by any means. Just not great to my eyes.

Bokeh at f2.8 -- Canon Digital Rebel 550D & Meyer-Optik Domiplan 50mm f2.8.

So, I wouldn't mind using this lens, but certainly not for landscape work, where edge sharpness is desired. I find that despite its somewhat bad reputation that it has, it can indeed capture some nice pictures. My copy has very coarse focusing, probably due to the lubricant dried up, but for the money, I would not complain.

I love summer, oh wait, it's not summer yet! But who cares? - Canon 550D & Domiplan 50mm f2.8.

To conclude, if you overlook it's cheap looks, rough built quality, and it's blurry edge, and for how little you pay, it's a big bang for your buck!

Bang for your buck -- Digital Rebel 550D & Domiplan 50mm f2.8.  Larger Size.


  1. I recently purchased an Ihagee Exa 1b equipped with the Domiplan. It has the classic defect of most of the M42 Domiplans, randomly the iris stucks in all-open position. In that case, I have to unscrew the lens, remove the rear ring that covers the diaphragm mechanisma, and manually acting on the semicircular metal strip I can unlock the auto action and temporarily fix it. From the point of view of optical performance, I am quite satisfied. It is very sharp in most of the image, and it is vey difficult to detect some loss of performance (if any) at the edges

  2. stragotto, there are fewe possibilities: 1, my copy is not a good one and is worse than the others. 2, I didn't use the lens properly. 3, you were looking at small 4x6 prints from your camera, which at that size, even the corners look ok.

  3. Thanks for the photos--I look forward to trying one. Actually, the Dommiplan is a Cooke triplet design. The Tessar has 4 lens elements.

  4. very good pictures i must say, but i do own a tessar, and it blows canon ,Nikon ,Sony digital lenses away,in terms of quality,and i do know that the domiplan is very good stopped down,and the lens was given the lowest score by amateur photographer magazine,who also state that it is a cooke triplet design, also in the same magazine,the domiplan was said to have realy good build quility.

  5. Thanks to all who pointed out that the design of the Domiplan is a triplet. I have updated the blog post with a note on this.

  6. Thanks for the review, I'm changing my mind buying this lens for it's worth four times lunch here :-)

  7. Just got one of these lenses for use on a olyE420 tried it out and very happy with results ,from what Ive read here and on other web pages the quality of these lenses goes from very good to crap and comments seem to be based on this some get a good one and some a crap built one,they are cheap and if you do get a good one then it really is big babg for your bucks

  8. Lovely samples, Domiplan rocks ;)!

  9. I take every Meyer lens from the famous VEB Optisch-Feinmechanische Werke Görlitz I can get. They've got the touch! Meyer Bokeh is different and pictorial, sometimes irritating and outlandishly upsetting..

  10. Hi!!! It's a shame that people in Poland where I come from use to stick to one opinion, when it is hitting the lens hard. And there was one poor opinion of the Domiplan and it is probably why it is not so popular in Poland. Lucky for me because I can buy cheap items and play.

  11. Hi! A bit late to contribute to the discussion, but the Domiplan is not a Tessar design, it has three lens elements instead of four:

  12. While the Domiplan might have acquired a bad reputation for various reasons. It is not the very worst 50mm lens in terms of optical performance.. Enter the E.Ludwig 50mm f.29 Meritar.
    The Meritar does at least have a pre-set diaphragm. One of the issues I had in finding a working Domiplan was the aperture linkages fall apart.

    I do not habitually use either lens. The front of my MTL3 is adorned with a 55mm f1.8 SMC Takumar.