Meyer-Optik Domiron 50/2 (Winter 2011)
Every now and then, you come across a 'special' lens: one that seems to deliver that indefinable something extra, that little bit of magic in the images it produces. For me, at least, this lens belongs to that small and exclusive club.

The Domiron was among the later Exakta-mount lenses manufactured by Meyer of Gorlitz. And if you're accustomed to the usual Meyer "look" - either the all-alloy or the zebra finish - the styling of the Domiron will come as something of a shock. It's not only modern: it's positively space-age. And the high-tech nature of the Domiron was apparently more than skin-deep: several reliable sources report that this six-element lens incorporated floating-element functionality into its optical layout. The good old Exakta external aperture-control arm is still there (albeit in a sleeker form), but there's also a very neat auto-manual switch, actuated by rotating (of all things) the front of the barrel. That's a very welcome feature for us DSLR users!

Okay, now we have to leave the realm of verifiable fact, and take a brief detour into pure subjectivity. The following are my own personal impressions of the Domiron in actual use, and should not be interpreted as the result of rigorous testing.

The lens's wide-open behavior was a surprise. Not because it's agreeably sharp at full aperture, but because it seems to behave, in terms of depth-of-field, more like a 1.4 lens than a 2.0 lens. I find that depth of field is consistently shallower than I expect it to be, and the focus transitions, as one nudges the focus ring, are very clear and pronounced - even through a suboptimal DSLR viewfinder. In some cases (and it bears repeating that this is nothing more than personal, subjective opinion), the wide-open bokeh also seems to resemble the effect one might typically associate with a faster lens. I would be very interested to know exactly how much light the Domiron's 2.0 maximum aperture is actually transmitting.

Another noteworthy phenomenon has to do with JPEG file sizes. In my experience, when one takes two pictures of the same subject, in the same environmental conditions - one at full aperture and one stopped down - the stopped-down image will often be slightly larger than the wide-open shot. With the Domiron, that rule doesn't seem to apply. Several of the full-aperture images were actually slightly larger than the stopped-down versions; and in every case, the differences in file size were so tiny as to be negligible. I'm not sure what to infer from this fact, but I do find it interesting.

To be fair, it's not all good news: the hexagonal aperture shape, at apertures other than wide-open, can be rather intrusive and distracting. And then there's the fact that the Domiron is a rather uncommon lens, encountered much less often than the Exakta-mount Domiplans, Tessars and Pancolars. But so far, those are about the only significant negatives I've encountered.

My suspicion is that the Domiron (along with the recomputed Trioplan-N, which was introduced at about the same time) represents the then-intended direction of Meyer lens development; but that the subsequent upheavals and amalgamations in the East German photographic industry derailed those plans. (One might theorize that the same events were responsible for the abandonment of the Praktina in favor of the Praktica platform.) That's a pity, because the Domiron, on the basis of my experience at least, is a remarkable lens.
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