Pekka Buttler, 11/2022
The table below summarizes the lens’ key specifications:
|Subfamily (if applicable)
|Filter ring diameter
|40,5 or 49 mm
|Lens element count
|Lens group count
|Aperture blades (S/R/C)5
|Minimum focusing distance
|Has manual aperture ring
|Has Manual focus ring
• The name “Domiplan” is a combination of the 1958–1962 MOG naming logic in which all lenses’ names started with “Domi”, with “-plan” -a suffix used a lot by MOG (Trioplan, Helioplan, Primoplan). The Domiplan is among the last Meyer-Optik lens names not to start with “Orest…”.
• The Domiplan was introduced to replace the 50 mm f/2.9 Trioplan, and took the role of entry-level kit-fifty. Throughout the time of its manufacture, it was always MOG’s/Pentacon’s cheapest offering.
• Alike the Trioplan, the Domiplan is a simple triplet design.
• While tiny, the Domiplan doesn’t quite qualify as a pancake lens.
• The Domiplan is very divisive. It is regularly mentioned when people are asked to name the worst lens of all times. On the other hand, some (with one prominent example) think the lens packs quite a punch (and not only considering that it often is near-gratis).
• Subjective differences of opinion aside, the lens is relatively slow for a fifty (f/2.8), lacks multi-coating, and has a dismal minimum focus distance (leading to a low maximum magnification). On the other hand, many seem to like this lens’ results when using extension tubes.
• The Domiplan is an auto–only lens and lacks any affordances for manual aperture control. The aperture ring is placed at the front of the lens, and has click stops.
History of Meyer-Optik Görlitz
The original Meyer-Optik Görlitz (not the modern company that has taken the classic company’s name) was founded in the town of Görlitz (modern-day Germany) by Hugo Meyer in 1896, and remained in existence until the state-directed merger into VEB Pentacon 1970. Due to its vicinity with the German camera and optics industries in Saxony (Dresden, etc.), Meyer-Optik was from an early stage heavily involved with manufacturing lenses for all kinds of cameras, but the company’s real golden age started with the advent of interchangeable lens cameras, where Meyer-Optik was uniquely placed to offer a cost-effective alternative to premium brands such as Carl Zeiss Jena.
Meyer-Optik was pronouncedly a camera lens manufacturer and never had serious ambitions for pursuing horizontal integration (diversifying into cameras and other photo gear). Instead, MOG pursued a vigorous strategy of seeking economies of scale, combined with never putting too many eggs in any basket – typically Meyer-Optik would choose which designs to put into production based on being able to cover as many platforms/mounts with one basic design. As a result, many early MOG designs were made available for a wide range of camera platforms. Later, as the number of alternative platforms diminished, that strategy had to go in favour of a strong focus on M42 and (to a somewhat lesser extent) Exakta. Even so, throughout the 60s, MOG vigorously pursued innovative designs and could by the end of the decade proudly offer a wide range of high-quality, cost effective designs.
When the lens maker Meyer-Optik was then merged with the camera maker Pentacon, it became obvious that the role the company (and its product portfolio) was intended to play was to aid Pentacon in its designs of gaining a significant global market share in the price-conscious consumer segment (and help bring hard currency to the G.D.R). Instead of focusing on continued optical innovation, the new overlords were more keen on redesigning lenses for greater economy and easier manufacture. As a result, the pace of optical innovation at MOG/Pentacon fell drastically, and very few new designs or significant redesigns were to be forthcoming in the next two decades.
There seem to be three cosmetically different versions of this lens:
• The first version followed the zebra-patterning, had its distances in feet in red, and typically had the “Meyer Optik Görlitz Domiplan…” text on the name ring. This version has a 40,5 mm filter thread.
• The second version is otherwise near-identical, except that the filter thread has shifted to the inside of the aperture ring, leading to a 49 mm filter thread.
• The third version is all-black (no zebra), had its distances in feet in green, and typically had the ” DOMIPLAN automatic lens…” text on the name ring.
Both versions have auto aperture, neither have multi-coating, and neither have an auto/manual switch.
I surmise that the second version is the post-Pentacon merger version (interestingly, the lens lacks any reference to Pentacon), and because I have not yet seen a version of this lens in Exakta mount with green feet-markings, I guess the Exakta version only exists in the earlier cosmetic guise.
That said, Meyer and Pentacon are notorious for using up old parts stocks, so hybrids do exist.
n.B! The following applies this lens in either Exakta or M42 mount.
This lens cannot be used natively on any current SLR or dSLRs. To use it in its native environment, you will need an Exakta or M42-mount film body. Luckily there are a lot of those (especially in M42 mount) available.
Thanks to being a fully manual lens (manual aperture, manual focus), the lens can be adapted to all mirrorless cameras using a suitable adapter. Moreover, both Exakta and M42 lenses are so uncomplicated that a simple ‘dumb adapter’ will do the job perfectly. Moreover, due to the popularity of both mounts, special adapters (helicoid adapters, tilt/shift adapters) are readily available. Alternatively, one can choose to daisy-chain adapters (e.g. M42->Canon EF; Canon EF –> mirrorless) which also opens up a wide range of speed boosters .
What is somewhat bothersome about the Domiplan is that as it is an auto-only lens, you will need to find some way to rig the aperture to stop down. In the case of the m42 variant, using an adapter that has an inner flange (that depresses the aperture stop-down pin) is the easiest option.
Using m42 and Exakta lenses on dSLRs can also be an easy option, depending on which dSLR.
• Canon EF has the shortest flange focal distance among full-frame dSLR’s and Canon’s wide range of dSLRs are able to mount both M42 and Exakta lenses perfectly using a simple adapter ring.
• Minolta / Sony A dSLRs and Pentax K dSLRs are likewise able to mount M42 lenses using a simple adapter ring, but for Exakta lenses, the difference in flange focal distances is not enough to enable reaching infinity focus without an adapter that uses corrective optics.
• Nikon F dSLRs have a long flange focal distance, meaning that mounting either M42 or Exakta lenses needs an adapter that uses corrective optics to allow anything close to infinity focus.
1 Focal length is (unless stated otherwise) given in absolute terms, and not in Full-frame equivalent. For an understanding of whether the lens is wide/tele, see ‘Angle-of-view’.
2 Picture angle is given in degrees (based on manufacturers’ specs) and concerns the diagonal picture angle. Rule of thumb:
> 90 ° ==> Ultra-wide-angle
70–90 ° ==> Wide-angle
50–70 ° ==> Moderate wide-angle
40–50 ° ==> ‘Standard’ or ‘normal’ lens
20–40 ° ==> Short tele lens
10-20 ° ==> Tele lens
5-10 ° ==> Long tele lens
< 5 ° ==> Ultra-tele lens
3 Length is given from the mount flange to the front of lens at infinity.
4 Diameter excludes protrusions such as rabbit ears or stop-down levers.
5 S=straight; R=rounded; C=(almost)circular at all apertures.