Carl Zeiss Jena LTM 50mm 1.5 Sonnar For Sale….For $5500!?!

Ran across this Ebay listing by Breguet Camera for a Zeiss Jena 50 1.5 Sonnar:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ex-Carl-Zeiss-jena-sonnar-50mm-f-1-5-LTM-for-Leica-screw-mount-L39-Prototype-/311619439379

Asking price $5490.

I’ve written about this lens elsewhere. Wonderful vintage rendering, perfect mate for your film Leica if you’re looking for something other than arid, clinical digital excellence or you just want something unique.

I’m confused why they’re asking so much. Typically these are going for +/- $750 these days. They’re claiming it’s a “prototype,” which can mean anything (my understanding is that most of these were “prototypes” in the sense that they were assembled to various specs and standards depending on what was in the parts bin and what could be scrounged up at any given time i.e. there was never a ‘standard version’ of which an original could be considered the “prototype.”) I’d be interested in hearing from folks in the know (are you out there Brian Sweeney?) why Breguet thinks it’s worth what they’re asking.

UPDATE: This from “Sonnar Guru” Brian Sweeney (that’s what I call him; Mr. Sweeney, who knows more about LTM Sonnars than any other man on the planet, is too modest to claim the guru title for himself):

It looks like a custom conversion, not a factory prototype. I’ve used one of the original Factory Prototype 5cm F1.5 Sonnars in Leica mount- looks nothing like this. I think Zeiss made ~50 prototype lenses in 1932. They are the older style design with no filter ring. The earliest 5cm F1.5 that I converted using a J-3 mount is from 1934, with the newer style machining that is compatible with the Russian lens mounts. As far as pricing- it only matters if someone pays the asking price, the asking price of this lens is ridiculous.I have a 5cm F1.5 Sonnar “T” from the same batch. I converted it to Leica mount. I asked $450 for the last converted Sonnar that I sold, a beautiful Bloom on a 1936 5cm F1.5. Maybe in 50 years someone will call it a prototype…

5 thoughts on “Carl Zeiss Jena LTM 50mm 1.5 Sonnar For Sale….For $5500!?!

  1. Colin West

    I see they claim it’s an LTM prototype; the serial number puts it at 1939. Not sure if Zeiss were making LTM mounts back then. I thought that was a late wartime effort to get lenses to the military’s Leicas.
    The LTM I have was made late war/early peace and even with Henry Scherer’s cost to refurbish it it was only around $600.
    But then again, it is located in Hong Kong…

    Reply
  2. Wayne

    A while back I did obtain one of these lenses, and did pay around $500.00 for the thing. I became somewhat concerned that I had obtained one of the lenses that had initially been constructed as something else, and altered: when focused at infinity, the rangefinder patch images in all of my Barnack Leicas were not aligned. The lens does, as evidenced by the photographic result, focus at infinity. But, of course, bothered by commentary scattered about WWW, I worried over whether or not I had the real thing. There was nothing about the external features of the lens to indicate it was a fake…….just the infinity/rangefinder-patch thing.

    I Emailed an individual having extensive knowledge about post WWII Zeiss lenses and cameras, inquired about my concerns, and asked if the rangefinder function issue could be fixed, i.e. the lens components adjusted. His response was interesting, and something I had never really seen as a component of the discussion about these lenses.

    He pointed out that the lenses, most if not all, were manufactured during or after WWII……in countries where the economic conditions were such that any enterprise undertaken to bring in cash was just that……a means of bringing in cash; legendary Teutonic standards in precision were taking a back seat to the then present reality of need to get something……anything…. that could be traded or sold out of the door so that food could be put on the table. He went on to say: if my lens was performing well from a photographic standpoint, it made no sense to go to the expense and trouble as adjusting it……….if it could even be adjusted enough to resolve the rangefinder patch issue.

    From the exchange, I took some assurance that, while standards are nice- and something we have grown to expect from “Fatherland”- in the case of the Carl Zeiss Jena LTM 1.5 50mm lens, those sought after standards may be the proverbial “white buffalo:” pursue it at your pleasure, but………

    Mine is a nice lens; can be used to capture photographs with all the advertised mystical qualities; and worth every penny of the $500.00.

    The above is not to say that there are not fake lenses out there, but IS to say, if you find one at a reasonable price, and want one really bad, don’t pass on it over some minor concern. They are great lenses.

    Reply
  3. Scott

    Yeah, well, they also have a truckload of black and olive paint Leica bodies for which they’re asking $20 to $60k, and, just to pick one example, an LTM collapsible Summicron for almost $1300. These generally sell for $200 to $500. They don’t claim there’s anything special about it.
    They have a lot of interesting stuff, but their mission statement seems to be the same as P.T.Barnum’s.
    .
    Just to be fair, sort of, the Hong Kong and Japanese asking prices of all LTM lenses seem to have doubled or tripled in the last 18 months, although a lot of them go unsold. I don’t really understand the reason for the pricing trend, or the economics of not selling a big chunk of your merchandise.

    Reply
  4. Rob Campbell

    “I don’t really understand the reason for the pricing trend, or the economics of not selling a big chunk of your merchandise.”

    Maybe it represents an early, prescient flight from capital… it’s already happened here in Mallorca post-Brexit, where houses worth over about one-and-a-half million euros, and relatively near Palma, the better marinas, and within easy access to the airport have become very scarce and hard to buy as folks holding sterling decided to get the hell out and into property. Sadly, it didn’t affect, positively, my segment of the housing market one bit.

    Reply
  5. lenshacker

    It looks like a custom conversion, not a factory prototype. I’ve used one of the original Factory Prototype 5cm F1.5 Sonnars in Leica mount- looks nothing like this. I think Zeiss made ~50 prototype lenses in 1932. They are the older style design with no filter ring. The earliest 5cm F1.5 that I converted using a J-3 mount is from 1934, with the newer style machining that is compatible with the Russian lens mounts.

    As far as pricing- it only matters if someone pays the asking price, the asking price of this lens is ridiculous.

    I have a 5cm F1.5 Sonnar “T” from the same batch. I converted it to Leica mount. I asked $450 for the last converted Sonnar that I sold, a beautiful Bloom on a 1936 5cm F1.5. Maybe in 50 years someone will call it a prototype…

    – Brian

    Reply

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