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Introduction

Pentacon, an East German camera and lens manufacturer of the Soviet-era, was formed in 1959 through a merger of several East German camera manufacturers. The company initially carried a different name, but in 1968 was renamed to VEB Pentacon after another famed East German optics manufacturer, Meyer-Optik Görlitz, was merged into the company. Meyer was the original developer of a number of very popular at that time lenses, with most lenses carrying design names like Orestogon, Lydith, Oreston, Primotar and Trioplan after the optical designs used in the lenses. All these lenses were renamed to Pentacon and design naming was dropped. So Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 is effectively a Meyer Oreston 50mm f/1.8 and Pentacon 300mm f/4 is actually Meyer Orestegor 300mm f/4 and so on... To make things even more confusing, Carl Zeiss Jena carried a couple of old Meyer designs and exported them to Western countries under 'aus Jena' brand. Particularly, Meyer Orestogon 29mm f/2.8 (also named Pentacon 29mm f/2.8) was quite common in Western Europe in 80s and 90s and can be often found these days on eBay. You might want to check the Historabilia section if you are interested in the fascinating history of East German camera manufacturers.

With Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 effectively deriving from Meyer Oreston 50mm f/1.8 design, you can encounter a number of variation of this lens. including the original, what is called 'zebra' Meyer, as well as 'auto' and 'electric' versions of Pentacon. To the best of my knowledge, the only differences between one version to the other are either cosmetic or mechanical, i.e. automatic diaphragm control vs manual, and there are no optical changes in the design except for some improvements in coating. Both Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 as well as its predecessor Meyer Oreston 50mm f/1.8 are quite common on used markets (in all possible variations of the lens). Quality copies are quite inexpensive, with Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 going for ~US$50 and Meyer 50mm f/1.8 going for ~US$70 on eBay.

The optical construction of the lens consists of 6 elements in 4 groups. The build quality of the lens is pretty good with metal barrel and rubberized focusing and aperture rings. The lens is quite compact and light, measures 48 x 51mm (1.88 x 2in) and weighs 250g (7.76oz), although the barrel extends slightly during docusing. The minimum focusing distance is only 33cm (12.9in) and the minimum aperture is f/16. The lens accepts 49mm screw-in type filters.

 

Both Meyer as well as Pentacon variations of this lens were available in M42 as well as Praktica B mounts. The M42 mount lenses are generally easily adaptable to a number of cameras, including Canon EF/EF-S and Four Thirds systems. Since original Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 was designed for 35mm cameras, when used on APS-C bodies with 1.6x crop factor, the lens will have a field of view similar to that of an 80mm prime on full frame body, and when used on Four Thirds cameras, it will have field of view of a 100mm prime.


Summary
Lens Composition 6 elements in 4 groups
Angular Field 45 degrees
Minimum Focus 33cm/1.08ft
Focusing Action MF
f-stop Scale f/1.8-f/16, manual
Filter Size 49mm
Lens Hood N/A
Weight 250g/8.81oz
Dimensions 51x48mm/2x1.88"
Lens Case N/A