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[Carl] Zeiss Talon 85/2.8 [V1]
Slide projector lens marked ‘ZEISS IKON TALON’. Optional for Perkeo projectors. [V1] is single-coated in plastic barrel. Probably AKA Zett Talon 85/2.8.
This lens invites damnation by faint praise, but on reflection I feel the need simply to damn it: this is a horrible lens. With a lesser brand-mark on the nose it would merely be another ugly plastic-barrelled triplet, but here the differential between expectation and performance is a set-up for particularly acute disappointment.
Granted, it was the entry-level option for Zeiss Ikon series projectors, but alongside similarly commonplace Leica Hektor and Agfa Agomar lenses, the Talon 85/2.8 does exactly whatever the opposite of shine is. It dulls.
Disposing of a few positives for editorial balance, it’s cheap and light. Contrast and saturation performance is no worse than average – in fact, colour rendition might even be described as fair: this was a lens produced in the 1980s era of relatively civilised coatings, not the wildly flare-prone and murky-looking boat anchors of the 1960s. Zone A performance is a commendable enough 7.0, dipping slightly at near distance.
However, the outer Zones, especially Zone C (full frame corners) are terribly soft – even by the abysmal norm of slide projector lenses in general. In an older lens, the lower contrast and poorer correction combine to give an attractive glow, but this lens is well-enough spherically corrected, and the rendering style sufficiently snappy, to highlight its poor resolution and strong chromatic aberration. The combination is aggressively ugly: in and out of focus. There’s even significant optical vignetting on full frame (in Zone C). Bokeh balls are curiously deformed rather than consistently circular, or noticeably tending to cat-eyes. There’s no swirl, and minimal soap bubble outlining.
Although slightly sharper than the worst offerings, in terms of desirability, the Talon 85/2.8 is in line with the scrag end of the 85mm market – in company with the later Isco/Gnome Projars and lesser Aldis optics – an illustriously named dud. Whereas Leica doesn’t ever seem to have made a bad projector lens, Zeiss never seems to have made a good one for 35mm slide projection – at least not one well suited to digital image capture today.