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Lens restoration - Carl Zeiss Jena for Arri 35

George Clark

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I have some vintage lenses for my Arriflex IIB 35mm camera. I had the lenses inspected by Paul Duclos about 10 years ago and given their poor condition have not used them. The lenses have poor coating on the front and back elements and need re-lubricating.

But I am keen to see if i can find a way to bring some life back to these lenses especially given the difficulty of finding Arri standard mount 35mm lenses.

Does anyone know if it is possible to have these lenses re-polished and re-coated? Does anyone know a potential service for this?

The lens are:

Carl Zeiss Jena - Biotar 1.2 / 35mm (nr. 2706689) produced c. 1941
Carl Zeiss Jena - Biotar 1.2 / 35mm (nr. 2802676) produced c. 1942
Carl Zeiss Jena - Sonnar 1.5 / 50mm (nr. 2802859) produced c. 1942

I am based in UK so if somewhere in UK great but open to doing this internationally as well. Grateful for any advice.


Arriflex II 001 lenses.jpg

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Expensive. The elements would need to be separated, coating removed, then coated freshly. I know two or three firms that can coat in this country. One would have to find out whether the same compound could be applied, else you’d no longer have the original CZJ lens but modernized ones.

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Those are very early Arriflex lenses! They would also be very early coatings by Zeiss, who had only begun to develop the technology a few years earlier. Lens coating was actually considered a war secret, most of the coated lenses would have been for military use (which was exactly what many Arriflexes were used for during WWII). 

It’s very unlikely you would find a company who could replicate the early Zeiss coating formula.  Re-coating the front and back elements may not improve the lenses dramatically, though it should decrease veiling glare and improve contrast. Perhaps try them out first, even just as a “before and after” comparison, it would be quite interesting. In some ways it would be a shame to remove those historic coatings, but if they are badly damaged maybe there’s not much left to mourn.

You can contact Gecko-Cam or P&S Technik, both in Munich Germany, for help in polishing and re-coating the elements, and servicing the focus helicoids. 

By the way, the 35mm Biotars are f/2, not f/1.2, the front ring describes them as the geometric aperture ratio 1:2. The 50mm is f/1.5, which was quite fast for that era. 



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Thanks Dom for these suggestions and insights, very helpful.

I shot some early tests with the lenses and will post here. They are quite foggy and hazy as you can see... i agree it would be sad to loose the original quality but given the deterioration not much use of them so can give them some new life that would be great.

The camera used to be owned by the cinematographer and co-founder of Panovision Richard Moore. I purchased it from his son and included his original receipt from arri!

Will post a few screen shots for comparison and include one with 35mm Schneider lens which is in good condition.

Carl Zeiss Jena - Biotar 35mm [1] light copy.jpg

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You may try CRR Luton for the physical work. I'm willing to bet you could get the lenses polished, cleaned and lubed and that will bring them up to as good as they are going to get. Firms that coat lenses are growing more and more scarce these days. Those formulations aren't going to have biting contrast even in new condition anyway, but they should have excellent sharpness.

Phil Forrest

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