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Nick Morrison
12-28-2012, 06:08 PM
As many of you know...I have been a strong proponent of Contax Glass on REDUSER for a while now. I get asked lots of questions. So I figured I would write up a little CONTAX SURVIVAL GUIDE that tries to answer them all at once...

Hope this helps...

Note - I've been writing and editing this for over 3 months. So please be kind. If you disagree with something, be classy, and I'll try and update this guide if I feel I have, in fact, made an error. This is a living document, meant to be updated. This is also why it's on it's own thread.

Also bear in mind I've written this on countless different nights after my night shifts (at 2am), or when I had some down time, and clearly on some sittings I was in a foul mood as some sections are riddled with curse words, which I think is hilarious, and for now, I've left them in...intact...as a momento to how long this took me to write.

Without further adieu...I present to you...


The Contax Zeiss Survival Guide:


1) WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT CONTAX GLASS?

Contax Zeiss should be on your radar for a couple of reasons.

A) They are FULL FRAME and will cover Dragon, and it would seam, even VISTA VISION WEAPON.
B) They share very similar designs as the ZF/ZE/CP2 lenses, but for ½ or ⅓ the price
C) They have the older Zeiss T* coating that we also find on Hasselblads, Super Speeds and Standards...and as such have a more organic rendering on digital than ZF/ZE/CP2s. This is my personal opinion.
D) They are very easy to adapt to EOS mount.
E) They are very easy to cinemod. In fact, they MOD better than ZF/ZE’s believe it or not. Because they focus the right way (ZF’s do not, they are Nikon-oriented and focus backwards) and have an aperture ring (ZE’s don’t have one, as they are EOS-designed and have a digital iris controlled by the camera). Like ZF/ZE’s, they have fantastic barrel rotations (often 180 degrees or more).


2) THE HISTORY OF CONTAX

Lets go back to the 70’s. Zeiss was making Hasselblad lenses for Medium Format. Super Speeds and Standards for cinema. And needed a new line of lenses for 35mm still photography. In 1974, Contax was born.

Actually, I should say RE-BORN. Because “Contax” is actually one of the most storied names in photography. It’s history criss-crosses wars, politics, and conjures up the never-ending battles between Leica and Zeiss.

Originally launched in 1932 as a rangefinder system to compete with - you guessed it, Leica - Contax was created by Zeiss subsidiary Zeiss Ikon. An instant hit, it became synonymous with innovation. After WW2, Zeiss was split asunder in TWO. Western Zeiss was migrated to Stuttgart under the watchful eye of American troops. And Eastern Zess remained behind in the ruins of the city of Jena, trapped behind the Iron Curtain. The two rivals would go to war over the name “Zeiss” until the end of the Cold War (it was the longest court case in the history of East Germany).

Zeiss Ikon was also split apart into Eastern and Western divisions, but these two subsidiaries kept working together...and Contax rangefinder cameras and lenses continued to be made on both sides of the wall. By the 1960’s, competition from the Japanese led to the eventual shuttering of both subsidiaries - even as the larger Zeiss’s stayed in business.

Under enormous pressure from the West, Eastern Zeiss eventually relinquished the naming rights to “CONTAX” to Western Zeiss. Eastern Zeiss instead consolidated all their smaller name brands into PENTACON.

So Contax = Western Zeiss. I say that because I’ve encountered many people who get confused and think Contax is weird Japanese junk. It’s not. It’s awesome Western Zeiss glass. Wake the fuck up.

As photography slowly shifted from rangefinder to SLR, Contax was reborn as Zeiss’s flagship 35mm SLR system. They were a massive hit when they launched in ‘75, and were fabricated until 2005 (when they were promptly tweaked and re-badged as ZF/ZE’s in 2006). Clearly Leica freaked the fuck out when these were released, because the next year Leica released their “R” line in 1976. For the next 20 years, Contax and Leica R would slug it out once again for optical supremacy. If you look at their “lines”, you’ll notice lots of similarities. Both have a 35-70 zoom, etc.

At this pivotal time when SLR systems were transforming photography, Contax Zeiss quickly became a gold standard for optical excellence and peerless design.

Always remember, when you buy one of these lenses...you're buying a piece of history.

3) DIFFERENCES/SIMILARITIES TO ZF/ZE

When the ZF/ZE’s first came out in 2006, they appear to have been direct re-badges of the Contax line (with small modifications to the designs). Over the years, Zeiss has added new, fantastic designs, this can not be overlooked. The 35 f2, 25f2, 50 f2 lenses are all completely new and completely superb. However, the optical quality of the Contax’s is certainly very close to ZF/ZE’s and many of the designs appear to have only subtly changed over the years, in particular the 21 2.8, 34 1.4, 50 1.4, and 85 1.4.

The one main difference I can see is...as stated above...I think the Contaxes cinemod slightly BETTER than ZF/ZE’s (because they ALL focus the right way, and ALL have an aperture ring), and also ALL they have that wonderful older T* coating that I believe looks better on digital than the newer T* coating (renders more organically). Contax have a bit less contrast, and flare more. Also ZF/ZE's tend to break down into purple splotches when they flare (http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?51972-Standard-Speeds-5K&p=748207&viewfull=1#post748207), which doesn't look ideal on video (whereas Contax will generally flare white, which can be more forgiving, and cinematic).

On almost all shoots we’ve done with Contax lenses, where we have used other glass, be it Leica R’s or Canon EOS, every time the DP has noticed that the waveform’s “jump”. Because the Contax lenses are noticeably more low-con than even Leica R’s their contemporaries, you will notice more latitude in your image.

Another major advantage to the Contax’s is the sheer SIZE of the lineup. There are DOZENS of lenses to choose from, that cover all focal lengths from 15mm to 500mm. Yup...they go as far 500mm. ZF/ZE’s only go as far as 135mm. Contax also made very impressive Zooms. Here’s the full line of glass.

PRIMES:
15 3.5, 16 2.8 FISHEYE, 18 f4, 21 2.8, 25 2.8, 28 f2, 28 2.8, 35 1.4, 35 2.8, 45 2.8, 50 1.4, 50 1.7, 55 1.2, 60 2.8 Macro, 85 1.2, 85 1.4, 85 2.8, 100 f2, 100 2.8 Macro, 100 3.5, 135 f2, 135 2.8, 180 2.8, 200 f2, 200 3.5, 200 f4, 300 2.8, 300 f4, 500 5.6, 500 f8, 1000 f8

ZOOMS:
28-85 3.3-f4, 35-70 3.3, 35-135 3.3-4.5, 80-200 f4, 100-300 4.5-5.6, 40-80 f4, 70-210 3.3


4) DIFFERENCES/SIMILARITIES TO LEICA R’s

I don’t want to get into a German war over which is better, Leica R or Contax. But Leica R’s are certainly more expensive, so take that into consideration if you are on a budget.

Optically, I’ve read numerous reports that show BOTH lines are very sharp, but frequently the Contax equivalent is deemed a tad sharper (stopped down). Take or leave it. Both look awesome, and I think people are splitting hairs.

In terms of a “look”, we’ve shot with both and there is a clear difference to me. Leica R’s are much prettier. They have more saturated colors, deeper blacks. If that’s your deal, then you will love Leica R’s. They also look more modern and clean.

Contax is more low-con, and more organic, to my eye. I prefer it, cuz there’s an honesty there I appreciate.. Things can still look beautiful, but Zeiss’s philosophy is not to make things pretty, but to be true. So I respond to that more. Also the low-con coating does give you more latitude. We noticed this specifically on a shoot where we mixed Leica R’s and Contax’s, and the Contax’s def gave us about a stop extra in latitude. The Contax don’t look vintage to me, but they also don’t look modern. I know “organic” is a hackneyed term, but it fits. On digital, these things are a home run, like Standards and Super Speeds.

Note: My hunch on the latitude/low con deal is as follows. In the same way RED wants to give you as many “options” by letting us shoot RAW, my hunch is that Zeiss was doing the same back in the day with a low-con coating. By giving you that extra latitude in the blacks and highlights, they were letting photographers dial in how much “black” and “contrast” they wanted later in the dark room...when they were printing. I’m sure that approach had similar benefits with cinema lenses and Hasselblads. Again...this is just a hunch on my part, don’t shoot me...

Nick Morrison
12-28-2012, 06:12 PM
5) HOW TO SHOP FOR THEM - DON'T GET "G", "N", or "645". ONLY "RTS"

For our purposes, you only want to get the ORIGINAL SLR line of glass. The RTS line with the C/Y bayonet. They adapt to EOS (and other mounts) very easily.

Avoid the following, which do not:

G glass: these are rangefinder lenses (think Leica M)

N glass: this is a short-lived line of autofocus lenses that are very expensive to convert to EOS (http://conurus.com/contax/lens-modification-service).

645: These are Medium Format lenses that competed with Hasselblad, P6, Mamiya, etc.


6) CINEMA MECHANICS & QUALITIES:

As stated repeatedly, like ZF/ZE’s, Contax lenses have great cinema mechanics. They focus the right way, have an aperture ring, and the focus rotation on many lenses reaches 180 degrees. Many have much more. They rack focus beautifully. As they are still lenses, there is some breathing on some of them, but nothing insane that has ruined any of our shots.

Their disadvantages are that they don't have matching T stops (hey, they’re still lenses!). They get quite slow in the wides (the 18 is an F4, the 15 a 3.5). Even the 21 is only a 2.8. The fastest "wide" is the 28 f2. The AE's are no longer serviced by Zeiss, keep that in mind. Never been an issue for us - and truth be told, if I have a problem with a lens, I’d send it to Duclos anyway...but be advised.

Because the wides are slow, you will almost certainly need to compliment your kit with a Tokina/Duclos 11-16 2.8. Or do what I did and find an affordable Standard Prime 16mm T2.

(Here’s where I beleive the Leica R’s have a clear advantage, their 19mm is a 2.8...which is pretty amazing).


7) AE vs MM, GERMANY vs JAPAN

This stumps everyone. Germany vs Japan? AE vs MM? The questions get dizzying. Here’s the answer to all of this, broken down.

AE lenses were made between 1975 and 1984. MM's from 1984 to 2005. Zeiss made the jump to MM's in order to enable camera control of the aperture. Otherwise, the transition from AE was meant to be seamless. The mount is exactly the same, and barring a couple of exceptions...ALL the lens designs are the same. It’s really not a huge deal.

You can spot an MM if the last number on your aperture ring is GREEN. If it's WHITE then its AE.

Only 4 lenses were "officially" improved during the jump to MM: the 25 2.8, 28 2.8, 135 2.8, and 135 f2. The 50 1.7 and 180 2.8 are also rumored to be better in MM. Otherwise, you should notice no optical or mechanical difference between the two lines. I have a mixed set and barely notice the difference. AE’s and MM’s all color match. The only differences are minor ones in the coating and aperture shape which I'll go into below.

COATING DIFFERENCE:
The AE’s (generally having serials in high 5’s, until mid to high 6’s) look a bit more organic to me, and def flare more. The 85 2.8 AE for example flares A LOT (which I love), whereas the MM does not (they fixed that!). MM’s, especially later ones (8s, 9s, etc), can look a bit cleaner, more modern. But it’s subtle...

When the AE's flare, they generally flare white, evenly, and when overwhelmed by a direct source, can reveal a touch of green ghosting.

When the MM's flare, they control it much better (you have to force it more), but when they do, and the coating is overwhelmed by a direct source, the coating will break out into more distinct, tight Zeiss purple flare marks. I found the newer the lens, the more you see this...generally speaking...

If you like vintage flaring, the AE’s are great. If you don’t want to deal with that, hunt for MM’s.

UPDATE - In my experience, the MMs generally start in the 66X-XXX serial range. This isn't a science, but an approximation. Expect to get some "tweeners" in this range, as there are reports of some MM's with Ninja-Stars having serials that fall into the transition era btw AE & MM.


DREADED NINJA-STAR:
In my experience, ALL AE’s have the Ninja-Star. I own (or have owned) an AE 25 2.8, 28 f2, 28 2.8, 35 1.4, 45 2.8, 50 1.4, 50 1.7, 60 2.8, 85 1.4, 85 2.8, 135 f2, 135 2.8, and 200 3.5...and ALL OF THEM have the Ninja-Star. Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit.

ALL of my MM’s do NOT have the Ninja-Star, so I’m going to say this is a Maxim. My MM 18 f4, 21 2.8, 35 2.8, 50 1.4, 50 1.7, 85 1.4, 135 2.8, 180 2.8, and 300 F4 are all W/OUT the Ninja-star.

So this reasoning is pretty bullet proof.

What IS the Ninja-Star? It’s a very charming (or annoying, depending on your POV) design to the aperture blades that looks like a “crooked” ninja throwing star. You NEVER SEE it wide open, because the blades aren’t engaged. But on CERTAIN LENSES (with wide barrels) you def see it prominently at your SECOND and THIRD F-stop position (counting wide open as your FIRST position)

For example, I notice it by far the most on my 35 1.4 and 85 1.4. It doesn’t really ever pop up on my 25 2.8, 28 f2, 50 1.4, or 135 2.8

Wide open, the 35 1.4 and 85 1.4 are fine (circular bokeh). But at F2 and 2.8...you def notice it if you have a very busy frame with lots of bokeh. I find it charming, it’s a lot like the Cooke 8-blade star you see in the back of every True Blood “Merlots” shot, so I dig it. But if you guys love circular bokeh and find this bit of personality too intrusive, then do yourself a favor and skip it and get the MM’s. They don’t have it.

I also feel that the ninja-star may “funkify” the bokeh a bit...give it a touch of painterly magic...but that may just be me...and this wild opinion is something I may need to test out a bit more!


GERMANY vs JAPAN.
Anyone who says a lens made in Germany is “better” than the same lens made in Japan is full of shit. In my experience, Japanese and German lenses are equally good. Zeiss’s quality control was extremely demanding. Proof of this is that arguably their most famous lens...the 21...was ONLY made in Japan.

However, I won’t argue that having a lens that says “Made In West Germany” is wicked cool.

To be clear, since their inception in 1975, Contax lenses have ALWAYS been made in either Japan or Germany - during both the AE and MM eras. Conveniently, Contax has an easy nomenclature to determine the era and origin of a lens:

AEG - AE lens made in Germany
AEJ - AE lens made in Japan
MMG - MM lens made in Germany
MMJ - MM lens made in Japan


8) ADAPTERS
Contax RTS glass can easily be adapted to EOS. Fotodiox (http://www.amazon.com/Fotodiox-Adapter-Contax-Yashica-Digital/dp/B001G4SHT0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342153651&sr=8-1&keywords=Fotodiox+Contax+Eos) adapters work fine ($15) (They are conservative and tend to overcompensate by a millimeter or two, so they can make your glass focus past infinity at the tail end, a bit annoying but nothing terrible). They are also a little sloppy on the mount, which can be alarming. HappyPageHK (http://www.ebay.com/itm/AF-Confirm-Contax-EOS-PRO-Adapter-Hi-Precision-OPTIX-V6-firmware-1/280893752399?ssPageName=WDVW&rd=1&ih=018&category=155707&cmd=ViewItem#ht_4595wt_1080) are considered to be the best removable adapters ($90). And Leitax (http://www.leitax.com/Zeiss-Contax-lenses-for-Canon-cameras.html) makes SPECTACULAR permanent mounts for $75 (Duclos uses these, nuff said).

I personally recommend using Leitax adapters. They are by far the most convenient option.

You can also use the ALL-STAR mount (http://allstar-cine.myweb.hinet.net/html/red_accessories/A_Mr.htm) to use CONTAX RTS glass interchangeably alongside PL glass, such as Contax’s cinema cousins, Super Speeds and Standard Speeds.

Nick Morrison
12-28-2012, 06:15 PM
9) SIMILARITY TO SUPER SPEEDS & STANDARDS?

I’m one of the blowhards (haha) that has routinely made this claim that Contax glass shares a lot of the same pedigree as it’s medium format and cinema cousins....Standards, Supers and Hasselblads, respectively. You can see my well-documented (http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?82392-CONTAX-ZEISS-LIKE-SUPERSPEEDS&highlight=Contax+Super+Speeds) ranting about this on this thread here.

Ryan de Franco called my bluff recently, and he let me sit in on his informal test looking into how similar Contax in FACT are...to Standards and Super Speeds. You can see our informal results HERE (from me) (http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?82392-CONTAX-ZEISS-LIKE-SUPERSPEEDS&p=1108727&viewfull=1#post1108727) and HERE (from Ryan (http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?90586-Canon-CN-Primes-vs-the-new-Zeiss-Superspeeds&p=1113704&viewfull=1#post1113704)).

To summarize, yeah...they look remarkably similar. In fact, at 5.6 Contax, Supers and Standards looked IDENTICAL. The Hasselblad we threw up also seemed to have an uncannily similar T* coating too. I think it’s safe to say all these lenses from this era of Zeiss optics have remarkably similar coatings and “magic”. That’s NOT to say all the designs are the same.

The Standards were w/out a doubt the sharpest wide open. At T2 they beat out Supers and Contaxes. Wide open, Contax glass seems as mushy as Supers. It’s by no means unusable, but don’t expect a Contax at F2 to perform like an Ultraprime. These are still’s lenses, and as Ryan De Franco correctly points out...are designed to MAXIMIZE their resolution at F4 or 5.6.

That said, many still photographers (and DPs) have gotten magic out of these lenses at an F2 or faster. Th 85 1.4 at an F2 for portraits...is KILLER.

These are creative tools, use them as such. But don’t expect them to have the even performance of a set of Ultraprimes or Masterprimes (where many of the primes are not only similar in size and weight, but also perform similarly at matching T stops!). That would be asking a lot of these budget lenses.

Also, Super Speeds are a 1.2/1.4 at 18mm and 25mm. Whereas Contax is an F4 at 18mm, and 2.8 at 25mm. So where Contax wins in coverage (they are FULL FRAME, and will cover Dragon and beyond), they lose out in speed (they are F4 at 18mm! Fuck!).

Nothing is free. The wides are slow. Live with it. Or buy Supers. Or get a Duclos/Tokina 11-16.

To me, Contax are a GREAT way to affordably get a very real cinematic look from a golden age in Zeiss optics. If you are like me and are interested in building up a large, varied kit of lenses that can fit every job...then Contax are a great choice. But if you want SPECIFIC tailored performance, than RPP’s, Cookes, or Ultraprimes are probably a better choice (for many times the budget).


10) WHERE TO BUY
KEH.com (http://www.keh.com/) is without a doubt the best place to buy Contax glass. Their “EX+” is as good as “LIKE NEW” on ebay. Their “EX” is also close to MINT on ebay.

After that, B&H and ADORAMA are great choices. B&H’s “9” rating is mint and superb, as is “EX+” at Adorama.

I’ve had great success on ebay, but only from premium buyers.


11) ZEISS NOMENCLATURE
Zeiss has their own “language”, their own nomenclature, for lens designs that is very useful to be familiar with as you start hunting for lenses. Here’s a little short-hand:


A) WIDE-ANGLES

DISTAGON: Generally speaking, Zeiss refers to a wide-angle design as a "DISTAGON". In Contax, that corresponds to all lenses 35mm and wider (down to 15mm).


B) NORMALS & TELES

Generally speaking, these fall into 3 lens types, categorized by how fast and complex they are. These terms refer to all lenses 45mm and up (to 500mm).

PLANAR: These have the most elements (7+?), and are generally the fastest, most modern designs. Most of them are F2, 1.4, and 1.2. But with the extra glass comes a greater possibility for imperfection/aberration. Wide open not all them deliver as strongly as stopped down, for example.

SONNAR: These have less elements (6?). Are usually 2.8. Sonnar originally meant "Sunny", because historically these used to be the bright, fast designs when they first came out. With less glass comes more consistency. Wide open these are more likely to deliver a strong image that is consistent up and down the aperture. I've noticed these designs are more likely to create punchy, contrasty images, too.

TESSAR: These have even less elements (5?). Are usually 3.5 and F4. Are often more traditional designs. Are not only the slowest, but frequently the most classic. The bokeh behaves differently than with Sonnars and Planars and I find these can give the image an interesting look. For example, the 200 3.5 Tessar was "updated" with a Sonnar 180 2.8. I own them both. The 180 is cleaner, sharper and technically better. But I now have the 200 and I have to admit, the bokeh is very pleasing and captivating, and I prefer it.


12) OTHER OPTIONS BEYOND CONTAX
Contax are by no means the only cool, vintage kids on the block. Besides Leica R’s, also give Nikkors (obviously), Canon FDs, and Minolta Rokkors a good look. These last two are challenging to adapt to EOS because of their flange length (call Peter at RP lens, he can help), but if you can get them on your RED, they are also fantastic budget options. Canon FD's are the predecessors to Canon L glass, and have a superb pedigree. Björn Benckert (http://www.reduser.net/forum/member.php?6102-Bj%F6rn-Benckert) is a huge fan. They have a pleasing organic rendering that is not dissimilar to Contax.

Minolta Rokkor lenses have a cult following in the stills world. Often referred to as "Baby Leica's", their distinct rendering (ie "bokeh") and design philosophy caught the attention of Leica, who hired them to collaborate on lenses (the Leica R 16 2.8, 24 2.8, 35-70 f4, 70-210 f4, and 500 f8 were all born out of this partnership). This collaboration is believed to have left an "imprint" on Rokkor, and the Minolta designs from this era have a wonderful, Leica-esque coloring and look to them.

So you have options. Explore. Research. Find what works for you.


ADDENDUM: WHAT LENSES TO GET?
Almost six months after I wrote this guide, I decided to update it with a quick survey of what lenses to consider - a general overview of the Contax lineup, if you will.

You can skip ahead and read that HERE (http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?92044-Contax-Zeiss-Survival-Guide&p=1209006&viewfull=1#post1209006).


THE CONTAX LENS GUIDE - 2015 EDITION

The most up-to-date guide to almost every Contax lens ever made. My attempt to be as thorough as possible!

READ THAT HERE!! (http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?92044-Contax-Zeiss-Survival-Guide&p=1491766&viewfull=1#post1491766)

Kemalettin Sert
12-28-2012, 06:38 PM
WOW! thanks Nick im building Contax set in soon :)
how do you understand if its MM or not ?
http://www.ebay.de/itm/Contax-Carl-Zeiss-Planar-T-1-4-50mm-Top-Zustand-voll-funktionsfahig-/281042619475?pt=DE_Foto_Camcorder_Objektive&hash=item416f720c53#ht_500wt_1156
cant see aperture ring on these photos.red T* counts as MM?

Nick Morrison
12-28-2012, 06:58 PM
WOW! thanks Nick im building Contax set in soon :)
how do you understand if its MM or not ?
http://www.ebay.de/itm/Contax-Carl-Zeiss-Planar-T-1-4-50mm-Top-Zustand-voll-funktionsfahig-/281042619475?pt=DE_Foto_Camcorder_Objektive&hash=item416f720c53#ht_500wt_1156
cant see aperture ring on these photos.red T* counts as MM?

Hey Kemalettin, just from the serial number (64X-XXX) that looks like an AE. MM's usually start later, at about 66 at the earliest. I don't see the green dot, and that all black back is usually AE.

So I'm 95% positive that's a LATE AE. An EARLY AE would have serials in the high 5's, or low 6's.

Domenic Barbero
12-28-2012, 07:20 PM
Please show me where this 200 f2 is!!!!

Kaku Ito
12-28-2012, 07:38 PM
Hi Nick,

Thank you very much for your effort to share your finding.

I would only add, that there are Japanese manufactured Contax/Yashica Zeiss in Japan with Zeiss glass with Japanese coating (manufactured under Zeiss license). These are called MMJ and known to be having better condition with preserving the coating.

I have a set of MMJs, starting from 21mm F2.8, 35mm F1.4, 50mm F1.4, 85mm F1.4, 100mm F2, 135mm F2.8, 180mm F2.8 and the Mutars.

Nick Pasquariello
12-28-2012, 07:57 PM
SUPER thanks for this guide.

Just went and checked what I have:

50/1.7 SN: 6470215
35/2.8 SN: 7411738
50/1.4 SN: 15176908

The latter two have the LAST NUMBER on the aperture ring in Green instead of white. But there is no Green Dot anywhere. All three lenses say Made in Japan. And I got some Ninja Star bokeh (not pointy though; take the points and file them down flat. So the aperture blades definitely aren't lining up perfectly, but they aren't creating points either) on the 35. Or it may have been the 50 1.4. But it wasn't the 1.7, because I didn't get that lens until after the shoot where I saw the bokeh effect.

I bought the 1.7 because the price was too good to pass up; what I really need is a wider lens, but lack the funding at the moment. I haven't done enough shooting yet to really compare and contrast the 1.4 and the 1.7. Nor have I done enough shooting to comment confidently on the quality of flaring or contrast on any of them.

Still, having read everything you've written up (which, again, SUPER helpful), given the serial numbers and the lack of any green dots, I still don't know if I have AE or MM. And the serial number on the 50 1.4 seems incredibly high, no?

Timur Civan
12-28-2012, 07:58 PM
Awesome read dude. Best of material.

Tom Greenberg
12-28-2012, 08:02 PM
Nick P. - lenses like your 35/2.8 and 50/1.4 with the last (largest) number on the aperture ring in green are MM lenses...since made in Japan, they are called MMJs. Your 50/1.7 is an AE lens, based on it's serial number and lack of green last number...since made in Japan, it is an AEJ.

Tom Greenberg
12-28-2012, 08:12 PM
As many of you know...I have been a strong proponent of Contax Glass on REDUSER for a while now. I get asked lots of questions. So I figured I would write up a little CONTAX SURVIVAL GUIDE that tries to answer them all at once...
Nick, this is a fantastic compilation of information...thank you very much for sharing your knowledge with all of us on RU! Without a doubt, you have been a tremendous resource for me as I built my own set of Contax. Glad to see that the interest is building...

Nick Morrison
12-28-2012, 08:14 PM
SUPER thanks for this guide.

Just went and checked what I have:

50/1.7 SN: 6470215
35/2.8 SN: 7411738
50/1.4 SN: 15176908

The latter two have the LAST NUMBER on the aperture ring in Green instead of white. But there is no Green Dot anywhere. All three lenses say Made in Japan. And I got some Ninja Star bokeh (not pointy though; take the points and file them down flat. So the aperture blades definitely aren't lining up perfectly, but they aren't creating points either) on the 35. Or it may have been the 50 1.4. But it wasn't the 1.7, because I didn't get that lens until after the shoot where I saw the bokeh effect.

I bought the 1.7 because the price was too good to pass up; what I really need is a wider lens, but lack the funding at the moment. I haven't done enough shooting yet to really compare and contrast the 1.4 and the 1.7. Nor have I done enough shooting to comment confidently on the quality of flaring or contrast on any of them.

Still, having read everything you've written up (which, again, SUPER helpful), given the serial numbers and the lack of any green dots, I still don't know if I have AE or MM. And the serial number on the 50 1.4 seems incredibly high, no?

The "green dots" is a misnomer. I meant the last number on the aperture ring is green. The first catch of the day!

By the serial numbers alone, the 35 2.8 and 50 1.4 are DEF MM's. That 1.4 serial number is out of control HIGH. It was probably made RIGHT BEFORE THE TRANSITION TO ZF/ZE lenses. Super Cool! It would be really interesting to compare that to an early ZF 50 1.4 to see how much the T* coating evolved. Did it really change from Contax to ZF/ZE? Or has the T* coating just been CONSTANTLY UPDATING. If your 1.4 is very similar to the ZF/ZE, then we'll know the coatings have been evolving organically. If there is a BIG DIFFERENCE, then we'll know categorically that Zeiss changed their special sauce when they went to ZF/ZE.

Your 1.7 is almost certainly an AE, and will have the Ninja start at F2 and 2.8 for sure. I have an AE 1.7 in that exact same range.

Nick Pasquariello
12-28-2012, 08:20 PM
I'm not that far from NYC, and head down every so often. If you want to get in the same room and do a test to compare the 50/1.4 to a ZE/ZF, I'd be more than willing; just shoot me a line.

Jimmy Gilmore
12-28-2012, 08:52 PM
Nick,
Great write up.

How much worse is the Yashica ML in your opinion? And do you think the coatings match the Contax. I have several of the ML lenses and I find them to be remarkably good quality but only had a Planner 50 1.7 to compare it to, which I've since sold.

Shervin Mandgaryan
12-28-2012, 08:58 PM
I had a feeling Nick was up to making a guide like this. Expect there to be bidding wars on eBay now, the gates of CONTAX HELL have been unleashed. :) Thanks buddy.

From what I've found, eBay is definitely a reliable source of getting cheap Contax glass... I've gotten some incredible deals on there so far, but it's definitely a crap shoot. You'd have to troll the Contax listings for a few months to put a perfect set of lenses together.

Glad I got my entire set. 28/2, 28/2.8, 35/1.4, 50/1.4, 85/1.4 & 135/2.8. Might get them fully rehoused, or just do a cine-mod, we'll see. I might outgrow them faster than I think. Still out hunting for the 21/2.8 and the 100 Makro.

PS: I went all MMJ, except a few lenses I own that you can't find MMJ of. Hate the ninja star BS on the older glass and I like that somewhat punchy look of current ZE/ZF glass. The flare's don't really bug me, nor would I have gotten AE lenses specifically for the flares.

Lliam Worthington
12-28-2012, 09:49 PM
Brilliant job Nick. Really. Informative and equally hilarious in parts :) I'm sure it will prove a resource for many many people over the years. Well done mate. Though I have to say, until you put in a lens review on each lens, I think you will continue to be fairly regularly PM'd :)) Though I'm sure that info is pretty well covered actually if you read through your post history :)

" it’s a lot like the Cooke 8-blade star you see in the back of every True Blood “Merlots” shot"

Uh! Have noted and wondered at that many times! Even googled it but couldn't find any info. Never shot with Cooke's so thanks for solving that.

Have a couple of possibly helpful thoughts on your magnificent guide, but please feel free to ignore.

*Maybe a brief note to your Cinema "mechanics and qualities" noting that as you'd expect of Zeiss, the overall build quality is superb. (Probably the 50 1.7 the most notable exception) I think in this day and age it can be more relevant than a few people might realise. I mean I love my 11-16 Tokina, but in a fist fight with a Contax... And is probably the main criticisms I've heard of the Rokinon cine primes for example... One of the things I love most about buying lenses is that they don't easily become redundant. So investing in lenses makes sense, and investing in lenses with great build quality makes even more sense. I think this is overlooked by many new and emerging shooters who probably aren't thinking realistically about ten years + from now, building sets that still perform brilliantly and potential resale value...

* You reference it a few times, so maybe a short section on Cine Mod? The what and why. Some people seem to think you "need" to cine mod... which they may. But may not, and should not see investing in Contax as also the expense of always "needing" to cine mod. A shout out to RP lens as well as Duclos would be good too.

Again, amazing job mate.

Happy new year to you and yours,

Best

Lliam

Phil Holland
12-28-2012, 10:37 PM
Nice write up Nick!

Here's a list of of the full names of Contax lenses that are easy to adapt to EF.

Primes:
15mm F3.5 Distagon
16mm F2.8 Distagon-F (Fisheye)
18mm F4.0 Distagon
21mm F2.8 Distagon
25mm F2.8 Distagon
28mm F2.0 Distagon
28mm F2.8 Distagon
35mm F1.4 Distagon
35mm F2.8 Distagon
35mm F2.8 Distagon PC
45mm F2.8 Tessar
50mm F1.4 Planar
50mm F1.7 Planar
55mm F1.2 Planar Anniversary
60mm F2.8 Makro Planar-S (1:1 Macro)
60mm F2.8 Makro Planar-C (1:2 Macro)
85mm F1.2 Planar Anniversary
85mm F1.4 Planar
85mm F2.8 Sonnar
100mm F2.0 Planar
100mm F2.8 Planar-Makro (1:1 Macro)
100mm F4.0 Planar-Makro (1:1 Macro)
100mm F3.5 Sonnar
135mm F2.0 Planar
135mm F2.8 Sonnar
135mm F3.5 Sonnar
180mm F2.8 Sonnar
200mm F2.0 APO-Sonnar
200mm F3.5 Tele-Tessar
200mm F4.0 Tele-Tessar
300mm F2.8 Tele Apotessar
300mm F4.0 Tele-Tessar
500mm F5.6 Tele Apotessar
500mm F4.5 Mirotar
500mm F8.0 Mirotar
600mm F4.0 Tele Apotessar
800mm F8.0 Tele Apotessar
1000mm F5.6 Mirotar

Zooms:
28-70mm F3.5-F4.5 Vario Sonnar
28-85mm F3.3-F4.0 Vario Sonnar
35-70mm F3.4 Vario Sonnar
33-135mm F3.3-F4.5 Vario Sonnar
40-80mm F3.5 Vario Sonnar
70-210mm F3.5 Vario Sonnar
80-200mm F4 Vario Sonnar
100-300mm F4.5-F5.6 Vario Sonnar

I'll have to send an update to Pebble Place:
http://www.pebbleplace.com/Personal/Contax_db.html

Their list does have accurate MM/AE info for you purchasing needs.

Clayton Burkhart
12-29-2012, 12:27 AM
One thing I want to mention here is that I have found the new 50/1.4 ZE and ZF's to be MUCH softer wide open than my Contax 50/1.4. No comparison. So not everything has gotten better over time. I have no idea why this is so and why they continue to sell this dog which takes until at least 2.8 to get reasonably sharp. The 50 should be among the easiest to get right because the optical path is among the simplest.

As I have been in the market for a set of CP.2's this is really a pain. The standard 50 1.4 and 2.1's are the same poor lens and paying 4700 USD for the "superspeed" version is crazy. So the only other choice is the 50 macro T2,1 which is grotesquely oversized to the point where the huge barrel actually gets in the way of the close focusing capacity of the lens! Insane.

To use your own terminology, when it comes to the 50mm I wish Zeiss would wake the fuck up as well.

Scott Miller
12-29-2012, 12:44 AM
What an amazing amount of learningand research condensed and shared....

thank you very much! I had a Zeiss 70-210 and loved it...

Gunleik Groven
12-29-2012, 01:21 AM
Thanks Nick!

Great stuff

Appreachiate it a lot!

Ryan De Franco
12-29-2012, 01:46 AM
Nick, awesome thread. I remember years back when it was Pebble Place, Fred Miranda, a few random flickr pages and foggy lens tech folklore for figuring out this old glass. I thought I knew a bit but I just learned so much! Thank you!

I would take Contax Zeiss over Canon "Cine Primes," Zeiss Compact Primes, or the new "Superspeeds" any day. Give the AC a good follow focus and a rehearsal and make magic. After a year I know the barrel of each lens so well I can shoot documentary style and hit focus wide open by hand--the mechanics are just silk.

I am thinking of selling the lenses we tested together. If anyone wants seven of the best Zeiss lenses ever made, PM me. Your choice if you want them Cine-modded or not. (Nick hope you don't mind my piggy-back!)

Nick Morrison
12-29-2012, 01:58 AM
Nick,
Great write up.

How much worse is the Yashica ML in your opinion? And do you think the coatings match the Contax. I have several of the ML lenses and I find them to be remarkably good quality but only had a Planner 50 1.7 to compare it to, which I've since sold.

Honestly, I haven't shot with a lot of ML glass, so not sure. But mechanically they look superb (after all, Yashica was MAKING Contax lenses...). And their reputation...is pretty good. I don't think the coating is the same as Zeiss T*, though I wouldn't be surprised if Yashica tried their hardest to match. I do know the following however:

1) The Yashica 500 f8 Mirror lens has a superb reputation. I own one, and love it. There are some stills guys who say it's better even than the fabled Contax 500 f8, so there you have it...for 1/5 the price...Mine isn't crazy sharp, but for $300 it's hard to beat....an works perfectly with a Contax Mutar.

2) The Yashica 21mm is also supposed to be no slouch.

In general, after Canon FD and Rokkor glass, I think Yashica ML glass could be a REAL STEAL for budget conscious lens shoppers. Nice call.

Nick Morrison
12-29-2012, 02:00 AM
I am thinking of selling the lenses we tested together. If anyone wants seven of the best Zeiss lenses ever made, PM me. Your choice if you want them Cine-modded or not. (Nick hope you don't mind my piggy-back!)

Don't mind at all...All I want to know is...what you are you getting instead? Leica Rs? Do tell...!

John Galeano
12-29-2012, 04:01 AM
Awesome post Nick... Thank you, that was very informative!

Clint Lealos
12-29-2012, 08:50 AM
Damn Nick! That was rad :). Thanks dude... Learned a ton.

Bill Sepaniak
12-29-2012, 08:53 AM
My C/Y Zeiss lenses have been a WAY better investment than money in the bank (or the stock market). I paid around $250.00 for my 35-70/3.4 and around $800.00 for my 21/2.8 ... both in mint condition! Those were the days. Of course, that was way before RED and Leitax adapters. Back then, not all C/Y Zeiss lenses could be adapted for EOS cameras .... some lenses required minor surgery to make them useable.

__________________________________
Scarlet X # 1859 “Bettie Page”
“… preparing to ‘whip’ the competition …”

Zeiss Lenses:

CY 21/2.8
ZF 28/2.0
CY 35-70/3.4
CY 50/1.4
ZF100/2.0

Nikon Lenses:
G 14-24/2.8
G 24-70/2.8
D 80-200/2.8

Tokina Lenses:

11-16/2.8

Saumene Mehrdady
12-29-2012, 09:20 AM
Badass thread, been looking around for a guide like this

Ryan De Franco
12-29-2012, 09:42 AM
Bill that is an insane price for the 21, it's been hovering around 2,000 for as long as I can remember. Those were some days...

Nick my set is definitely for sale now!

Leitax adapters, 80 mil fronts and caps, de-clicked on request. Plus big wide focus rings that make em as wide as a Leica Summilux-C or Cooke mini-S4. 21, 28, 35, 50, 60, 85, 135, 28-135; folks PM me for the full deal. I love how they look on 35 neg and Red, it really pains me to see them go. I have nothing to replace them with, looks like I'll be borrowing and renting for a while :)

Happy new year fellow Contax friends. Also one incredible note: the close focus on these lenses will make your eyes pop.

John Galeano
12-29-2012, 09:46 AM
Bill that is an insane price for the 21, it's been hovering around 2,000 for as long as I can remember. Those were some days...

Nick my set is definitely for sale now!

Leitax adapters, 80 mil fronts and caps, de-clicked on request. Plus big wide focus rings that make em as wide as a Leica Summilux-C or Cooke mini-S4. 21, 28, 35, 50, 60, 85, 135, 28-135; folks PM me for the full deal. I love how they look on 35 neg and Red, it really pains me to see them go. I have nothing to replace them with, looks like I'll be borrowing and renting for a while :)

Happy new year fellow Contax friends. Also one incredible note: the close focus on these lenses will make your eyes pop.

Ryan Pmed you

Ian Webb
12-29-2012, 10:12 AM
Just brilliant. Thanks Nick.

Nick Morrison
12-29-2012, 10:15 AM
Thanks for the props guys! Appreciate it! I'll add some extra notes soon - about cinemodding (good call Tom!), and extra little tid-bits that have been hitting me.

Happy New Year to all.

Gunleik Groven
12-29-2012, 10:45 AM
Thanks for the props guys! Appreciate it! I'll add some extra notes soon - about cinemodding (good call Tom!), and extra little tid-bits that have been hitting me.

Happy New Year to all.


Stuff like this is what makes me come back here...
When someone with a bit of real knowledge share it, instead of fighting a "better than or worse than" illusional techie fight.

Looking foreward to more info on this. Fits perfectly in my Epic & Old Glass philosophy... thanks again!

And happy new year!

Shervin Mandgaryan
12-29-2012, 10:47 AM
Take the time off Nick, you've done a service to this community and housed a whole wealth of information in one thread... I don't think you should add anymore things without a proper breather first!

Uli Plank
12-29-2012, 01:47 PM
Thanks, Nick!

If I may add one thing: you wrote about Fotodiox adapters: "They are conservative and tend to overcompensate by a millimeter or two, so they can make your glass focus past infinity at the tail end, a bit annoying but nothing terrible."
While all of your other information is great, I wouldn't subscribe to this, at least as far as wides are concerned. Retro-focus designs for wides – in particular those with floating elements – are getting critical when the flange distance they were calculated for is not kept.

I'm going to write a Minolta Rokkor survival guide one of these days to pay back.

Shervin Mandgaryan
12-31-2012, 12:41 PM
So I decided to go into the relative unknown and purchase the CZ Vario-Sonnar 35-70 F3.4 to see if it's 'variable prime' status was actually up to par... and boy does this lens deliver.

Albeit the lens is a bit slow at F3.4, it's very, very sharp wide open and has basically the same IQ and Zeiss look as my 35 1.4 stopped down to the same aperture. Totally blown away by the macro ability at 70mm on this zoom but that mode is unusable if you want to pull focus into a macro shot because it's a bit jerky and there's alot of breathing. The actual zoom range from 35-70 without it's macro feature is very nice and the lens does sustain focus while zooming in an out... so it is parfocal. Colors are rich and it has that nice zeiss punchy look that CP's or ZE/ZF's deliver. My particular copy is MMJ in the 74XXXXX range and would play well with my other MMJ lenses.

I've attatched a quick shot of my dog (German shepherd jack russel mix if anyone is wondering... yea... I know...) in .r3d for you to see what this lens can do, wide open, at 70mm and with no color correction. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/A001_C008_1231VW.0000963F.R3D You may want to bring up the iso to 800 to see some of the finer detail... I shot this really quick handheld and forgot to shoot it as native ISO.

Here's another one wide open showing how fine the detail is: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/A001_C003_0102CK.0000165F.R3D

Nick, you've got me hooked, lined and sunk on these lenses...

Nick Morrison
12-31-2012, 04:11 PM
So I decided to go into the relative unknown and purchase the CZ Vario-Sonnar 35-70 F3.4 to see if it's 'variable prime' status was actually up to par... and boy does this lens deliver.

Albeit the lens is a bit slow at F3.4, it's very, very sharp wide open and has basically the same IQ and Zeiss look as my 35 1.4 stopped down to the same aperture. Totally blown away by the macro ability at 70mm on this zoom but that mode is unusable if you want to pull focus into a macro shot because it's a bit jerky and there's alot of breathing. The actual zoom range from 35-70 without it's macro feature is very nice and the lens does sustain focus while zooming in an out... so it is parfocal. Colors are rich and it has that nice zeiss punchy look that CP's or ZE/ZF's deliver. My particular copy is MMJ in the 74XXXXX range and would play well with my other MMJ lenses.

I've attatched a quick shot of my dog (German shepherd jack russel mix if anyone is wondering... yea... I know...) in .r3d for you to see what this lens can do, wide open, at 70mm and with no color correction. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/A001_C008_1231VW.0000963F.R3D You may want to bring up the iso to 800 to see some of the finer detail... I shot this really quick handheld and forgot to shoot it as native ISO.

Nick, you've got me hooked, lined and sunk on these lenses...

Shervin, congratulations. Just so you know, and we're clear, if you go into the stills forums, you will find that this lens has a real CULT status. There are several Contax lenses that have recieved this type of frothing cult status, and make the manual focus vintage lens enthusiasts go bat shit crazy (these are the same guys that love the Nikor 85 1.4, the Leica 90 f2, etc).

They LOVE the 35 1.4, because wide open the BOKEH is sick. Look up sample shots on flicker and you'll see countless, near macro dreamy shots with this lens. The near focus is almost an inch. Mind blowing.

The 21 2.8. This lens has an MTF rating of about 98 WIDE OPEN. And 98 stopped down. It's a monster. It may be the best lens they ever made. The stills guys love to test this lens and compare it to others but none have beat it. Not even the (admitadelly amazing) Nikon 14-24 2.8.

The 28 2.8 gets a lot of love. Stopped down, the MTF is so sick, they go bat-shit crazy for this on a 5D for landscapes.

And then there's the 35-70 3.4. This lens has it's own THREADS. The resolution stopped down is off the chain. The MTF ratings are in the strong 90's. At all focal lenghts. Remember, Zeiss is VERY HONEST with it's MTF scores. So they are consertive numbers compared to other manufacturers (Canon doesn't even post theirs). I've seen one guy compare the Macro function of this lens alone to a Canon 50mm Macro, and it actually out-resolved it. So the Macro funtion is no joke. But mostly, it's the travel photographers that ADORE it. On the 5D, the 35mm looks like a 21mm, with superb resolution. And the 70mm is ideal for portraits. And the Macro is great for details. There were reports of one well known travel photographer that basically took it as his main lense. The stills forums are full of ravishing travel shots and landscapes. It is a very, very high resolution lens. Stopped down at 35mm, it delivers specatularly.

You have a GEM.

For a while, this lens used to be $350. Then it's cult status began to drive up prices (and supply) and prices hit $800. It looked like it was going to crest over $1,000. But then calmer minds prevailed, and it's back to $500-600.

But I think...in several years, when supply runs short (they no longer make it)....and the word begins to travel in our community and others...this rare, amazing bionic gem will soon, no doubt, start to fetch way over $1000. In my book, it's worth $1500. Its reputation deserves that much.

Bill Sepaniak
12-31-2012, 06:41 PM
The 35-70/3.4 is a real gem of a lens, and, as Nick has said, it, along with the 21/2.8, has achieved real cult status. Think of the 35-70 as a set of variable primes (just a little on the slow side). The only thing you may want to consider if you use the 35-70 a lot is that it tends to act as mini vacuum cleaner. Being a push-pull design, it does tend to suck in a bit more air and dust that eventually finds its way to the sensor. It is something I really see when I use it for several days straight on my 5D MkII ... there will be dust spots on the sensor. The same thing with my Scarlet (but dust on the sensor seems a lot less visible-w-motion sequences). In either event, it is something that can be usually remedied by a few quick squeezes of air from a bulb-blower. Now, start looking for a 21/2.8.

__________________________________
Scarlet X # 1859 “Bettie Page”
“… preparing to ‘whip’ the competition …”

Zeiss Lenses:

CY 21/2.8
ZF 28/2.0
CY 35-70/3.4
CY 50/1.4
ZF100/2.0

Nikon Lenses:
G 14-24/2.8
G 24-70/2.8
D 80-200/2.8

Tokina Lenses:

11-16/2.8

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-02-2013, 12:36 AM
Just did some outdoor tests with this lens earlier today and my god, I'm still speechless. If it weren't for the push/pull zoom feature and the rotating front, this lens would've been a cinematic masterpiece of a lens a while ago.

I'm going to deal with some of the mechanical setbacks of this lens on set just because I love this thing way to much. If you're reading this and wonder what the hell Nick, Bill and I are talking about, pull out your wallet and go hunting for a copy of this lens. I'm still in awe. The IQ speaks for itself.

Nick Morrison
01-02-2013, 07:03 AM
Just did some outdoor tests with this lens earlier today and my god, I'm still speechless. If it weren't for the push/pull zoom feature and the rotating front, this lens would've been a cinematic masterpiece of a lens a while ago.

I'm going to deal with some of the mechanical setbacks of this lens on set just because I love this thing way to much. If you're reading this and wonder what the hell Nick, Bill and I are talking about, pull out your wallet and go hunting for a copy of this lens. I'm still in awe. The IQ speaks for itself.

Haha, I love you right now Shervin. Also goes to show how conservative Zeiss's MTF charts are. Even then, if you compare this to a lot of their primes it's frequently their equal (or better). I think it's conservative speed helps in this regard. Zeiss are big fans of publishing MTF charts and telling you what a lens if for. They don't like to hide, and like engineers, tell you very directly what a lens is for. They advertised this and the 28-85 as lenses that could match primes...and they weren't fucking kidding. If they SAY that, they mean it. Remember, these guys don't say anything they don't back up. You can find an MTF chart for just about every stills lens they've made since the 60's (believe me, I've spent most of the holidays reading a lot of them).

Yeah...if if weren't for the push pull, this lens would be THE DESTRUCTOR. It's an amazing piece of glass. Currently, it's probably the Contax Zeiss glass with the greatest cult status (among three or four that are vying for first place). Which is why it was one of my EARLY targets. I got one at Adorama for $350, before they realized what they were selling...

Again, would not surprise me if this lens is worth over $1,000 by 2015. It's worth $1,500.

Uli Plank
01-02-2013, 08:25 AM
If you are looking for something similar, but two-touch, watch out for a Minolta 35-70mm, it's a construction they developed for Leica. Prime level too.
Admitted, it doesn't have the Zeiss look, but it's a great piece of glass on it's own and still cheap, you can get one in mint condition for less than 100,-

That said, I have a nice set of Zeiss Contax primes too, but I still hesitate to hunt down a zoom with one-touch.

Daniel Reed
01-02-2013, 12:02 PM
Awesome write-up, thank you Nick! :thumbsup:

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-02-2013, 01:29 PM
I'm turning into a junkie... and I feel the need to share. Here are some .r3d's of my two favorite primes wide open.

CZ 50mm F1.4 Planar wide open (F1.4): https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/A001_C002_0102N0.0000838F.R3D
(F2.8): https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/A001_C002_0102N0.0000096F.R3D

CZ 135mm F2.8 Sonnar wide open (F2.8): https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/A001_C001_010269.0000963F.R3D

The 50 has a bit of a spherical aberration and CA wide open, but if you add a bit of contrast, it goes away and gives a nice soft look. A lot of people mistake this 'glow' wide open for the lens not being sharp... sharpness is there, it just needs a bit of work to come out. This is going to be my mainstay lens for closeups.
The 135 is very sharp and punchy wide open, best bargain Contax lens there is. Very solid focus throw and build quality also.

Domenic Barbero
01-02-2013, 01:33 PM
http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?91943-Still-from-Scarlet-shoot

Heres some stills from a shoot i dp'd. all contax zeiss. 25 2.8, 35 1.4, 50 1.4, 85 1.4, 100 2.8 macro

Scarlet 320 iso

Uli Plank
01-02-2013, 01:51 PM
The 50 has a bit of a spherical aberration and CA wide open….

Try the 50mm 1.7 !

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-02-2013, 01:53 PM
Try the 50mm 1.7 !

I'm planning on finding a very recent copy, serial number into the 8XXXXXX if I can to try out. From what I've heard is that they're very sharp wide open. I'm loving the 50mm 1.4 though, got it at a bargain price on eBay and love it's compact size.

Daniel Reed
01-02-2013, 06:11 PM
Sadly, the 50/1.7 doesn't work with the Leitax EOS mount conversion


Try the 50mm 1.7 !

Daniel Reed
01-02-2013, 06:19 PM
Did Contax actually reach and pass into the 9xxx serial range? I was under the impression they ended somewhere around 89xx

I have yet to see Contax lens with a serial starting at 9xxx - if anyone's got one, please do show :coolgleamA:




...MM’s, especially later ones (8s, 9s, etc), can look a bit cleaner, more modern. But it’s subtle...

Nick Morrison
01-02-2013, 06:43 PM
If you are looking for something similar, but two-touch, watch out for a Minolta 35-70mm, it's a construction they developed for Leica. Prime level too.
Admitted, it doesn't have the Zeiss look, but it's a great piece of glass on it's own and still cheap, you can get one in mint condition for less than 100,-

That said, I have a nice set of Zeiss Contax primes too, but I still hesitate to hunt down a zoom with one-touch.

You mean the famous "Beer Can" that they also licensed to Leica? It's a 35-70 f4 right? That lens is AWESOME. Has lots of fans, and it's own beloved following, if I know it's reputation correctly....

Nick Morrison
01-02-2013, 06:52 PM
Did Contax actually reach and pass into the 9xxx serial range? I was under the impression they ended somewhere around 89xx

I have yet to see Contax lens with a serial starting at 9xxx - if anyone's got one, please do show :coolgleamA:

I do, one of my 50 1.4's is in the high 9's. Nick Pasquariello (http://Nick Pasquariello) has a lens in the 1,000,000's!!! These are obviously end of era lenses, possibly from the 2000's, right at the end of Contax's "life" before Zeiss moved to ZF/ZE (which also have 1,000,000+ serials).

Uli Plank
01-02-2013, 10:47 PM
I'm not sure if the 35-70 f4 is dubbed "beer can", I think that's the 70-200mm Minolta zoom.

The 35-70 is very compact. I always admire it's mechanics: the f-stop is kept constant by adjusting the aperture internally when zooming – not many still cameras zooms do this.

BTW, if you want to mount Zeiss Contax lenses which can't be 'leitaxed' to RED cameras, you could go the route I took for Minoltas: get the Leica-M mount, there are adapter for this from China: http://stores.ebay.de/sjjobs/_i.html?_nkw=contax+leica+adapter&submit=Finden&_sid=1082187991

Nick Morrison
01-03-2013, 03:17 PM
I'm not sure if the 35-70 f4 is dubbed "beer can", I think that's the 70-200mm Minolta zoom.

The 35-70 is very compact. I always admire it's mechanics: the f-stop is kept constant by adjusting the aperture internally when zooming – not many still cameras zooms do this.

BTW, if you want to mount Zeiss Contax lenses which can't be 'leitaxed' to RED cameras, you could go the route I took for Minoltas: get the Leica-M mount, there are adapter for this from China: http://stores.ebay.de/sjjobs/_i.html?_nkw=contax+leica+adapter&submit=Finden&_sid=1082187991

Or just use the All Star Mount, which is what I plan to do...

Steve Sherrick
01-03-2013, 03:19 PM
I think I might need to check in with Nick and test some of these lenses using my Allstar mount. Very curious....

Nick Morrison
01-03-2013, 04:11 PM
I think I might need to check in with Nick and test some of these lenses using my Allstar mount. Very curious....

Anytime. Whenever you're next in NYC, lemme know. I'm getting my set modded pretty soon. And once it's on the A-Mount, it will be ready to really rock and roll.

Nick Pasquariello
01-04-2013, 08:35 AM
I'll post a photo of my lenses tonight to confirm the absurdly high serial on my 50/1.4.

You guys are unhealthy for my wallet; I just ordered an EX+ 35-70 f3.4 and an UG 80-200 f4 on Keh ($570 and $94 respectively) based on all the gushing in this thread.

Bill Sepaniak
01-04-2013, 12:38 PM
... You guys are unhealthy for my wallet; I just ordered an EX+ 35-70 f3.4 ...

I think we you will be very happy with the 35-70. Even though the prices have gone up, I doubt you will ever lose money on that lens.

__________________________________
Scarlet X # 1859 “Bettie Page”
“… preparing to ‘whip’ the competition …”

Zeiss Lenses:

CY 21/2.8
ZF 28/2.0
CY 35-70/3.4
CY 50/1.4
ZF100/2.0

Nikon Lenses:
G 14-24/2.8
G 24-70/2.8
D 80-200/2.8

Tokina Lenses:

11-16/2.8

Nick Pasquariello
01-04-2013, 03:22 PM
Taken with my phone, back when I first posted the serial numbers, just so I didn't have to write them down.

http://www.icarusrex.com/czserials.PNG


And yeah Bill, from what everyone has said about the 35-70, even if I have to sell it, I can't imagine doing so for a loss. Whereas with the 80-200, I figured for under $100, worst case scenario is I sell it on eBay for around the same.

I'll tell ya, the deciding factor for me for starting to go all in on Contax Zeiss rather than other glass, is that I can see the trend of the lens prices going up and up for the next few years. It's pretty nice knowing that the worst thing that will happen, is that I sell them and break even, as opposed to selling other gear (bought new) at a loss.

That, and the memory of the first time I stepped behind a piece of Zeiss glass; it was love at first sight.

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-04-2013, 03:34 PM
You won't sell your 35-70, trust me... the pictures it produces makes you think you've got a much more expensive lens.

That 50 1.4 is insane... definitely must have been made in the mid 2000's... just before they stopped making lenses for the Contax line. Wonder how it will stack up to an early ZF/ZE 50 1.4.

Nick Morrison
01-04-2013, 03:39 PM
Taken with my phone, back when I first posted the serial numbers, just so I didn't have to write them down.

http://www.icarusrex.com/czserials.PNG


And yeah Bill, from what everyone has said about the 35-70, even if I have to sell it, I can't imagine doing so for a loss. Whereas with the 80-200, I figured for under $100, worst case scenario is I sell it on eBay for around the same.

I'll tell ya, the deciding factor for me for starting to go all in on Contax Zeiss rather than other glass, is that I can see the trend of the lens prices going up and up for the next few years. It's pretty nice knowing that the worst thing that will happen, is that I sell them and break even, as opposed to selling other gear (bought new) at a loss.

That, and the memory of the first time I stepped behind a piece of Zeiss glass; it was love at first sight.

That serial number on the 1.4 is mind boggling!!

You can see the evolution of the coating just from these shots. Look at the glints/flares on the 50 1.7. Mixture of greens, blues, and some purples (it's a healthy AE with serial in the 64s). The older Contaxes trend more towards greener flares, with some purple mixing in a bit. My 85 2.8 (very old serials) is all green. Where as look at your bonkers 50 1.4 and its crazy modern serial (dude that must have been made in 2005, cuz I've seen ZF's with serials only a bit higher)....the flaring is all a healthy purple. If you point that at a direct source you'll notice less veiling flare, but a greater tendency towards purple "splotches" at the points where the coating gets overwhelmed. But the flaring will be more controlled, better managed.

Nick Pasquariello
01-04-2013, 03:40 PM
Yeah, when I opened the package from Keh, my first though was "...counterfeit?" based on what everyone had written on the serial numbers.

I'm certainly up for getting it in the same room as an early Contax 50/1.4 and a ZE/ZF 50/1.4 to see which it looks closer to.

Nick Morrison
01-04-2013, 03:40 PM
That 50 1.4 is insane... definitely must have been made in the mid 2000's... just before they stopped making lenses for the Contax line. Wonder how it will stack up to an early ZF/ZE 50 1.4.

Wondering same thing. How close it's coating is to ZF/ZE.

Bill Sepaniak
01-04-2013, 07:42 PM
... I'll tell ya, the deciding factor for me for starting to go all in on Contax Zeiss rather than other glass, is that I can see the trend of the lens prices going up and up for the next few years. ... and the memory of the first time I stepped behind a piece of Zeiss glass; it was love at first sight.

I don't want to feed your addiction ... or be your pusher ... or cause a break-up in your marriage or relationship ... but KEH has a "like new" 21/2.8 Distagon for $1,950.00. A little more than $1,000.00 over what I paid for my copy ... but knowing what I know now about that lens ... I would jump on it in a heart-beat.

__________________________________
Scarlet X # 1859 “Bettie Page”
“… preparing to ‘whip’ the competition …”

Zeiss Lenses:

CY 21/2.8
ZF 28/2.0
CY 35-70/3.4
CY 50/1.4
ZF100/2.0

Nikon Lenses:
G 14-24/2.8
G 24-70/2.8
D 80-200/2.8

Tokina Lenses:

11-16/2.8

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-04-2013, 08:04 PM
I don't want to feed your addiction ... or be your pusher ... or cause a break-up in your marriage or relationship ... but KEH has a "like new" 21/2.8 Distagon for $1,950.00. A little more than $1,000.00 over what I paid for my copy ... but knowing what I know now about that lens ... I would jump on it in a heart-beat.

"And just like that... it's gone."
http://smashfly.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/andlikethathesgone.jpg

Nick Morrison
01-04-2013, 09:38 PM
Yeah I saw that lens there too....it's an unreal lens. GONE. Was on the store for 24hrs only. Haha.

Nick Pasquariello
01-04-2013, 09:42 PM
Don't have that kind of scratch right now anyway. Shame too; I need a good wide angle.

Tom Greenberg
01-05-2013, 06:55 AM
I saw it too...thought about it seriously for about 10 seconds...came THIS close to pulling the trigger...then thought about what my wife would say...and closed the browser and walked away from the computer.

Daniel Reed
01-08-2013, 01:41 AM
Thanks Shervin! I always wondered about the 35-70, what a treat to play with the R3D frame in RCX.
Looks like a fun and impressive lens!


I've attatched a quick shot of my dog...

Nick Morrison
01-08-2013, 08:35 AM
Thanks Shervin! I always wondered about the 35-70, what a treat to play with the R3D frame in RCX.
Looks like a fun and impressive lens!

The 35-70 is great. It's cousin the 28-85 is essentially just as good, it just displays some distortion at 28mm, doesn't have a constant F-stop (loses half a stop at the end...goes from 3.3 to f4), and doesn't have any macro. But in many ways it's greater range makes it more usable.

But the 35-70 is just flawless. That's why it's special. Besides the push-pull and fact that it's not a 2.8, there are no "buts".

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-11-2013, 06:47 PM
If you guys are looking into Canon mounting your Contax lenses and don't feel like dropping a wad of cash to Leitax each lens... look no further.

I bought 5 adapters from various sellers on eBay to test to see which is the best. I don't have a Leitax adapter to compare them with but I do have a $175 Kindal/Rayqual adapter from Japan which is king of the removable adapters to test them to. I did my own assessment based on how snug the adapters fit, if they focus to infinity, and if they don't throw off focus marks.

3 of the 5 adapters I bought were pure garbage. One would slip on and off as if the mount were covered in grease and would not click into place... and the other two slid on easily but couldn't stay snug when you mounted them on a camera.

The two adapters that were even WORTH mentioning are the best... each have their pro's and con's.

Big_Is Adapter (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Big-is-Contax-Yashica-CY-Zeiss-Mount-Lens-to-Canon-EOS-EF-Adapter-1100D-1000D-/120991748218?pt=US_Lens_Adapters_Mounts_Tubes&hash=item1c2bab907a)

+ VERY Cheap at $9 shipped
+ Most snug adapter (You can't put the adapter on with bare fingers... that's how tight it goes on)
+ Infinity
+ Focus marks are correct
- Silver Brass
- Edges are VERY rough... changing the iris on lenses with this adapter is somewhat dangerous

The X Vision Adapter
(http://www.ebay.com/itm/Black-Contax-Yashica-C-Y-Lens-to-Canon-Eos-EF-Brass-adapter-for-50D-600D-550D-/150978165839?pt=US_Lens_Adapters_Mounts_Tubes&hash=item2326fffc4f)
+ Black Brass (Looks excellent and makes lens look like it's got a Canon mount nativley)
+ Soft edges
+ Very nice finish... dare I say better than my Japanese made one
+ Fits tight with just a little bit of play... nothing forward and backward to throw off focus... only play between where the C/Y mechanism of the adapter locks onto the lens
+ Infinity and correct focus marks
- More expensive than all the other Chinese adapters
- Not readily available

So you guys can pick your poison. I opted to purchase 5 Black Brass adapters from The X Vision for my Contax Zeiss primes and they work fantastic. The silver adapters are the BEST fitting ones but they're butt ugly and are not properly finished... I want to make sure my AC still has fingers when he changes the Iris. I'm happy and saved a buttload of money from not having to purchase Leitax. Nothing beats having a permanent mount... I'd still like to someday switch them all to Leitax but until then these cheap adapters will do the job.

Nick Morrison
01-11-2013, 09:12 PM
If you guys are looking into Canon mounting your Contax lenses and don't feel like dropping a wad of cash to Leitax each lens... look no further.

I bought 5 adapters from various sellers on eBay to test to see which is the best. I don't have a Leitax adapter to compare them with but I do have a $175 Kindal/Rayqual adapter from Japan which is king of the removable adapters to test them to. I did my own assessment based on how snug the adapters fit, if they focus to infinity, and if they don't throw off focus marks.

3 of the 5 adapters I bought were pure garbage. One would slip on and off as if the mount were covered in grease and would not click into place... and the other two slid on easily but couldn't stay snug when you mounted them on a camera.

The two adapters that were even WORTH mentioning are the best... each have their pro's and con's.

Big_Is Adapter (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Big-is-Contax-Yashica-CY-Zeiss-Mount-Lens-to-Canon-EOS-EF-Adapter-1100D-1000D-/120991748218?pt=US_Lens_Adapters_Mounts_Tubes&hash=item1c2bab907a)

+ VERY Cheap at $9 shipped
+ Most snug adapter (You can't put the adapter on with bare fingers... that's how tight it goes on)
+ Infinity
+ Focus marks are correct
- Silver Brass
- Edges are VERY rough... changing the iris on lenses with this adapter is somewhat dangerous

The X Vision Adapter
(http://www.ebay.com/itm/Black-Contax-Yashica-C-Y-Lens-to-Canon-Eos-EF-Brass-adapter-for-50D-600D-550D-/150978165839?pt=US_Lens_Adapters_Mounts_Tubes&hash=item2326fffc4f)
+ Black Brass (Looks excellent and makes lens look like it's got a Canon mount nativley)
+ Soft edges
+ Very nice finish... dare I say better than my Japanese made one
+ Fits tight with just a little bit of play... nothing forward and backward to throw off focus... only play between where the C/Y mechanism of the adapter locks onto the lens
+ Infinity and correct focus marks
- More expensive than all the other Chinese adapters
- Not readily available

So you guys can pick your poison. I opted to purchase 5 Black Brass adapters from The X Vision for my Contax Zeiss primes and they work fantastic. The silver adapters are the BEST fitting ones but they're butt ugly and are not properly finished... I want to make sure my AC still has fingers when he changes the Iris. I'm happy and saved a buttload of money from not having to purchase Leitax. Nothing beats having a permanent mount... I'd still like to someday switch them all to Leitax but until then these cheap adapters will do the job.

WOW. Nice work!

Lliam Worthington
01-11-2013, 09:35 PM
Cheers Shervin. I've bought quite a few types of the cheapos and can second the big. Know what you mean bout getting them on! But they've been rock solid after which was a relief after having a few other brands that were rubbish and thinking I would definitely have to pull the trigger on the some leitax. Re AC's fingers Hah! Funny. Not "that bad" though :))
But I haven't tried an Xvision. Will definitely get a few in to try. Thanks.

Yean Loon
01-11-2013, 10:21 PM
Anyone got image shift problems whole pulling focus with their contax lenses? My 25mm is particularly bad.

Yean

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-11-2013, 10:37 PM
Cheers Shervin. I've bought quite a few types of the cheapos and can second the big. Know what you mean bout getting them on! But they've been rock solid after which was a relief after having a few other brands that were rubbish and thinking I would definitely have to pull the trigger on the some leitax. Re AC's fingers Hah! Funny. Not "that bad" though :))
But I haven't tried an Xvision. Will definitely get a few in to try. Thanks.

Thanks for the comments guys... just had to share this info with the rest of you.

@ Liam: I'd only get X vision's adapters if you're a sleek "All Black" nut like me... can't stand silver adapters. Both adapters though are cheaper and pretty much better than the Rayqual adapter which was the first one to start the craze.

Lliam Worthington
01-12-2013, 01:18 AM
What??

Are you joking Shervin? i thought silver adapters were the equivalent of lens bling? :) I only defaulted to silver as I couldn't find gold... :)

No I prefer clean black too. had a black one - didn't buy came with one my lenses - but far too lose. So cheap Ill definitely try a couple of the X visions and see. Thanks agin for the link.

Yean, I assume your talking about lens breathing? Interesting. I don't have the 25mm. I'm sure it's still a great lens but I had heard this lens get bagged a little to be honest in relative terms of Contax performance ranking. The IQ of the 28's considered superior and the 25 is said to fall off more in the corners. Photographers criticising this aspect largely, but for cine work not such a bad thing. But I hadn't heard about the breathing issues with the 25. I was pretty concerned with potential breathing issues before buying into Contax myself, but I have had no issues anywhere I would consider close to genuinely problematic with my set... perhaps it's the design of the 25? * Sits down to wait for Nick to come in and educate me :)

Martin the moderator had an old breathing test with CY glass on here. He might be a good resource too?

Nick Morrison
01-12-2013, 01:52 AM
What??

Are you joking Shervin? i thought silver adapters were the equivalent of lens bling? :) I only defaulted to silver as I couldn't find gold... :)

No I prefer clean black too. had a black one - didn't buy came with one my lenses - but far too lose. So cheap Ill definitely try a couple of the X visions and see. Thanks agin for the link.

Yean, I assume your talking about lens breathing? Interesting. I don't have the 25mm. I'm sure it's still a great lens but I had heard this lens get bagged a little to be honest in relative terms of Contax performance ranking. The IQ of the 28's considered superior and the 25 is said to fall off more in the corners. Photographers criticising this aspect largely, but for cine work not such a bad thing. But I hadn't heard about the breathing issues with the 25. I was pretty concerned with potential breathing issues before buying into Contax myself, but I have had no issues anywhere I would consider close to genuinely problematic with my set... perhaps it's the design of the 25? * Sits down to wait for Nick to come in and educate me :)

Martin the moderator had an old breathing test with CY glass on here. He might be a good resource too?

The 25 Distagon is a really old design. I heard along the way that it's a legacy design, from pre-Contax RTS. It's one of the classics within the halls of Zeiss.

If you look at the MTF charts, the 25 is sill pretty good (but does fall apart at the edges, as so many wide angles). I like that focal length A LOT on S35, and I'm a big fan of mine. I have a late AE and it flares magically, and has great close focusing. Is it technically as good as the 28 f2 or 28 2.8? NO. But the 28mm focal length to me is a different animal. It doesn't feel wide yet. To me the 28 is my widest standard prime. Whereas the 25 is my first WIDE.

But lets get into the nitty gritty and really compare the MTFs. Here we go:

CONTRAST at 10lpm (this is generally used to measure "sharpness"; a 90 is excellent)
25mm 2.8 @2.8 = 92 Center/70 S35 edge @5.6 = 96 Center/90 S35 edge
28mm 2.8 @2.8 = 95 Center/70 S35 edge @5.6 = 97 Center/90 S35 edge
28mm f2 @f2 = 74 Center/73 S35 edge @5.6 = 96 Center/93 S35 edge

So in terms of everyday sharpness, you can see that 25 2.8 is actually pretty impressive. They all are. The f2 is soft wide open, but that's to be expected. All of these lenses absolutely explode at 5.6, giving extremely even performance from center to edge on S35mm sensors (approaching the levels of the new 15mm 2.8 Distagon, which at @5.6 = 96 Center/96 S35 edge).




RESOLUTION at 40lpm (this is generally used to measure the resolving power of fine details <think hair, or small landscape details>... a 60 is excellent)

25mm 2.8 @2.8 = 70 Center/22 S35 edge @5.6 = 80 Center/18 S35 edge
28mm 2.8 @2.8 = 70 Center/40 S35 edge @5.6 = 82 Center/38 S35 edge
28mm f2 @f2 = 42 Center/38 S35 edge @5.6 = 76 Center/40 S35 edge

These numbers don't paint the whole picture, cuz if you see the chart you'd see the 25mm bottoms out really quickly. It's resolving power over small details at the edges is it's achilles heel. In the centre it's fine. But the resolution plummets to 22 and 18 very fast, about half way across the edge of frame on S35mm.

Whereas the 28 2.8 has a more languid downward slope, and even at it's worst has twice the resolution of the 25mm (40's vs 20's).

The 28mm f2 is also peculiar. Yes it's not great wide open in the centre, but like all excellent lenses it has incredibly even performance across the frame. It stays at a steady (albeit it ordinary) 40's clip from center to edge, with little to no variance (an even "look"). Stopped down, it doesn't scream in the middle as much as either the 25mm or the 28mm 2.8. But what you can't see is that...as we extend outside of S35mm ...the 28mm f2 starts to IMPROVE...and at the edges of a FULL FRAME sensor it ticks back up to 70! So the 28mm f2 has several muscular attributes of a great, noble lens. But the numbers don't lie. In some key metrics, the 28mm 2.8 is better.

CONCLUSION
All three lenses are very sharp and have great contrast. However, not surprisingly, as many landscape photographers have discovered, the one with the greatest RESOLUTION of fine details is the 28mm 2.8. It's no surprise they love it for panoramas and gobble it up on ebay.

Nick Morrison
01-12-2013, 02:30 AM
Anyone got image shift problems whole pulling focus with their contax lenses? My 25mm is particularly bad.

Yean

What adapters are you using? Image shifts happen a lot when you have a sloppy, loose adapter. The lens is essentially "loose" on the mount, so your image can bounce around a bit. But that's an adapter issue, not a lens one.

I've owned over 30+ Contax lenses, and only ever had one mis-aligned optic that actually "shifted".

Otherwise, it's usually the adapters that are causing the problem.

Uli Plank
01-12-2013, 03:23 AM
@ Yean: Same here, my Contaxes shift very little if at all, especially when compared to any modern electronic lens. Could it be that yours was bumped once in it's lifetime, if it's not the adapter? If you are referring to breathing, there is some, but less than in many other still lenses. And they all have a very wide focus throw compared to other still lenses.

@ all: Found some time today to test my recent acquisition, the 28 to 85mm zoom, against some primes.

@28 against the slower 28mm 2.8 prime:
Center resolution about the same, the zoom is bit less contrasty WO. The 28mm has traces of CA in corners, zoom has obvious CA, which is not improving much @ 5.6. Corner sharpness and contrast when both are @ 5.6 is remarkable, about on par, but @ 5.6 the contrast of the prime in center is definitely better than the zoom.
The prime seems to have some minimal field curvature on changing the aperture (which is not rare for a wide that is well-balanced when open).

@ 35mm against the slower 35mm 2.8 prime (I didn't afford the 1.4):
Both WO center is about the same, corner sharpness impressive, nearly the same, but some more CA and less contrast again in the zoom. The prime is not completely free of CA, but it's minimal. Center contrast improved @ 5.6, nearly on par, CA still visible. My 35 seems to be a tad weaker than my 28.


@ 50mm against the 50mm 1.7 (a very sharp lens!)
The zoom is a tad sharper in the corners against the prime @ 1.7, but @ 2.8 the prime overtakes the zoom and kills it at 5.6, but it's my sharpest 50mm of them all, even better than the Planar 1.4 or the Rokkor PG, which are already analytical.

@85mm against the 85mm 2.8 (not the Planar 1.4):
WO the zoom is considerably softer, while on par in CA – both minimal, @ 5.6 the zoom is improving considerably and nearly touches the prime.

General observations on the zoom:
The zoom is generally improving regarding CA when going towards the long end, but it's also getting softer in contrast. Bokeh is very nice, no hard edges and minimal deformation in the corners. Go for MM to avoid Ninja blades, though. Zeiss is cheating a bit on both ends, the zoom is neither as long as the 85 nor as wide as the 28 primes. Color not quite the same, zoom seems to be a bit warmer than all my primes (more glass?).

Verdict (quite personal one):
This is a very impressive zoom, I did massive pixel peeping to spot the differences and it's true that it's very close to these primes. I'm sure it leaves many weaker primes in the dust. OTOH it's not constant aperture and has a one-touch zoom. It is parfocal if you manage to keep it straight when zooming, but I'd rather consider it a variable prime in practical use. Even if my zoom tube is still stiff compared to other one-touch constructions I held, it slides if tilted up or down.
While the mechanical construction is on excellent Zeiss level, this is caused by massive weight. It weighs a bit more than any three primes I could pick from the above (slower) ones and it needs a huge filter diameter and the filter rotates. I feel like I'm going to sell it again and rather hunt the 180mm now ;-)

Nick Morrison
01-12-2013, 10:23 AM
@ Yean: Same here, my Contaxes shift very little if at all, especially when compared to any modern electronic lens. Could it be that yours was bumped once in it's lifetime, if it's not the adapter? If you are referring to breathing, there is some, but less than in many other still lenses. And they all have a very wide focus throw compared to other still lenses.

@ all: Found some time today to test my recent acquisition, the 28 to 85mm zoom, against some primes.

@28 against the slower 28mm 2.8 prime:
Center resolution about the same, the zoom is bit less contrasty WO. The 28mm has traces of CA in corners, zoom has obvious CA, which is not improving much @ 5.6. Corner sharpness and contrast when both are @ 5.6 is remarkable, about on par, but @ 5.6 the contrast of the prime in center is definitely better than the zoom.
The prime seems to have some minimal field curvature on changing the aperture (which is not rare for a wide that is well-balanced when open).

@ 35mm against the slower 35mm 2.8 prime (I didn't afford the 1.4):
Both WO center is about the same, corner sharpness impressive, nearly the same, but some more CA and less contrast again in the zoom. The prime is not completely free of CA, but it's minimal. Center contrast improved @ 5.6, nearly on par, CA still visible. My 35 seems to be a tad weaker than my 28.


@ 50mm against the 50mm 1.7 (a very sharp lens!)
The zoom is a tad sharper in the corners against the prime @ 1.7, but @ 2.8 the prime overtakes the zoom and kills it at 5.6, but it's my sharpest 50mm of them all, even better than the Planar 1.4 or the Rokkor PG, which are already analytical.

@85mm against the 85mm 2.8 (not the Planar 1.4):
WO the zoom is considerably softer, while on par in CA – both minimal, @ 5.6 the zoom is improving considerably and nearly touches the prime.

General observations on the zoom:
The zoom is generally improving regarding CA when going towards the long end, but it's also getting softer in contrast. Bokeh is very nice, no hard edges and minimal deformation in the corners. Go for MM to avoid Ninja blades, though. Zeiss is cheating a bit on both ends, the zoom is neither as long as the 85 nor as wide as the 28 primes. Color not quite the same, zoom seems to be a bit warmer than all my primes (more glass?).

Verdict (quite personal one):
This is a very impressive zoom, I did massive pixel peeping to spot the differences and it's true that it's very close to these primes. I'm sure it leaves many weaker primes in the dust. OTOH it's not constant aperture and has a one-touch zoom. It is parfocal if you manage to keep it straight when zooming, but I'd rather consider it a variable prime in practical use. Even if my zoom tube is still stiff compared to other one-touch constructions I held, it slides if tilted up or down.
While the mechanical construction is on excellent Zeiss level, this is caused by massive weight. It weighs a bit more than any three primes I could pick from the above (slower) ones and it needs a huge filter diameter and the filter rotates. I feel like I'm going to sell it again and rather hunt the 180mm now ;-)

Nice one Uli! Yeah, the push-pull nature is a bit frustrating on the 28-85, but that's also made up by the FANTASTIC barrel rotation (180 to 360 focus throws!). This zoom's 28-85 range is VERY versatile. What I'm considering...to transform this lens into a true variable prime...is to cover the entire barrel in a focus gear (think like a Macro lens). The focus gear will be three inches wide, meaning that the Follow Focus can engage the zoom no matter where it's pushed or pulled. So you're just popping the FF gear in and out as you're reframing. Not ideal, but better that the current way it works. The FF will also keep the zoom in place, stop it from sliding.

You def have the Contax fever, btw!

Cameron Chin
01-13-2013, 06:38 PM
The 25 Distagon is a really old design. I heard along the way that it's a legacy design, from pre-Contax RTS. It's one of the classics within the halls of Zeiss.

If you look at the MTF charts, the 25 is sill pretty good (but does fall apart at the edges, as so many wide angles). I like that focal length A LOT on S35, and I'm a big fan of mine. I have a late AE and it flares magically, and has great close focusing. Is it technically as good as the 28 f2 or 28 2.8? NO. But the 28mm focal length to me is a different animal. It doesn't feel wide yet. To me the 28 is my widest standard prime. Whereas the 25 is my first WIDE.

But lets get into the nitty gritty and really compare the MTFs. Here we go:

CONTRAST at 10lpm (this is generally used to measure "sharpness"; a 90 is excellent)
25mm 2.8 @2.8 = 92 Center/70 S35 edge @5.6 = 96 Center/90 S35 edge
28mm 2.8 @2.8 = 95 Center/70 S35 edge @5.6 = 97 Center/90 S35 edge
28mm f2 @f2 = 74 Center/73 S35 edge @5.6 = 96 Center/93 S35 edge

So in terms of everyday sharpness, you can see that 25 2.8 is actually pretty impressive. They all are. The f2 is soft wide open, but that's to be expected. All of these lenses absolutely explode at 5.6, giving extremely even performance from center to edge on S35mm sensors (approaching the levels of the new 15mm 2.8 Distagon, which at @5.6 = 96 Center/96 S35 edge).




RESOLUTION at 40lpm (this is generally used to measure the resolving power of fine details <think hair, or small landscape details>... a 60 is excellent)

25mm 2.8 @2.8 = 70 Center/22 S35 edge @5.6 = 80 Center/18 S35 edge
28mm 2.8 @2.8 = 70 Center/40 S35 edge @5.6 = 82 Center/38 S35 edge
28mm f2 @f2 = 42 Center/38 S35 edge @5.6 = 76 Center/40 S35 edge

These numbers don't paint the whole picture, cuz if you see the chart you'd see the 25mm bottoms out really quickly. It's resolving power over small details at the edges is it's achilles heel. In the centre it's fine. But the resolution plummets to 22 and 18 very fast, about half way across the edge of frame on S35mm.

Whereas the 28 2.8 has a more languid downward slope, and even at it's worst has twice the resolution of the 25mm (40's vs 20's).

The 28mm f2 is also peculiar. Yes it's not great wide open in the centre, but like all excellent lenses it has incredibly even performance across the frame. It stays at a steady (albeit it ordinary) 40's clip from center to edge, with little to no variance (an even "look"). Stopped down, it doesn't scream in the middle as much as either the 25mm or the 28mm 2.8. But what you can't see is that...as we extend outside of S35mm ...the 28mm f2 starts to IMPROVE...and at the edges of a FULL FRAME sensor it ticks back up to 70! So the 28mm f2 has several muscular attributes of a great, noble lens. But the numbers don't lie. In some key metrics, the 28mm 2.8 is better.

CONCLUSION
All three lenses are very sharp and have great contrast. However, not surprisingly, as many landscape photographers have discovered, the one with the greatest RESOLUTION of fine details is the 28mm 2.8. It's no surprise they love it for panoramas and gobble it up on ebay.

LOL.. What a great tread Nick. For the last month I'd been hunting down a set of Contax primes. Looks like I'd just got done it time... well at least I got the four starter ones that I'd wanted. 28 f/2, 50 f/1.7, 85 f/1.4, 100 f/2.

What I'd used as an aid to the hunt was this website, this person seemed very knowledgeable about lenses.

http://slrlensreview.com/web/reviews/carl-zeiss-lenses-swhorizontalmenu-172

Yean Loon
01-14-2013, 04:12 AM
It's definitely not lens breathing. It's more like the image jumps! I remember someone doing a test a when the epic first came with stills lenses and noticed it too. I'll definitely look into my adapter. It's cheapass ones I got from China. $2 each.

Yean

Ketch Rossi
01-14-2013, 05:04 AM
Nick,

you have written a great extensive and comprehensive post on the Contax Zeiss lenses, BRAVO!


Only thing I can add to those going the Contax Zeiss route, is that it is important to understand that because of the age of this lenses, despite their original high quality glass, this with age tends to shift in color rendering, especially so on the wide side, so its imperative that any conversions be done by an expert, and that such conversion is not limited to the mechanical but also to the Extreme Careful cleaning and polishing of the Glass element themselves.


Other then that, I just like to Specify, that when you said as good as T* coated glass as in the Hasselblad's, this is only true for the older Hassy glass, when they were produced by Zeiss, as current coatings and elements polishing techniques have greatly changed as the elements themselves as they are no longer produced by Zeiss.

Again, great job, and this is what this community yet again should be about, sharing our collective knowledge for the benefit of us all... ;)

Mark K.
01-14-2013, 05:39 AM
I don't want to feed your addiction ... or be your pusher ... or cause a break-up in your marriage or relationship ... but KEH has a "like new" 21/2.8 Distagon for $1,950.00. A little more than $1,000.00 over what I paid for my copy ... but knowing what I know now about that lens ... I would jump on it in a heart-beat.


Is the Distagon 21mm the same glass as they use in the Compact Primes? My 21mm CP.2 is probably my favourite lens that I own, lovely, lovely piece of glass.

Uli Plank
01-14-2013, 05:45 AM
@Yean: I'm 99 % sure it's the adapter then. Have a look at Kipon for something decent or Novoflex for first class – a Zeiss deserves it.

Nick Morrison
01-14-2013, 06:18 AM
It's definitely not lens breathing. It's more like the image jumps! I remember someone doing a test a when the epic first came with stills lenses and noticed it too. I'll definitely look into my adapter. It's cheapass ones I got from China. $2 each.

Yean

Yeah, definitely sounds like the sloppyness that comes from a cheap adapter. You need a very firm, solid connection otherwise the lens is going to be bouncing around and give you that "jumping" you are seeing.

Nick Morrison
01-14-2013, 06:27 AM
Is the Distagon 21mm the same glass as they use in the Compact Primes? My 21mm CP.2 is probably my favourite lens that I own, lovely, lovely piece of glass.

Mark, if you look at Zeiss's MTF charts, and compare the lens designs, they are ALMOST identical. Only one of the 16 elements has been tweaked in the new ZF/ZE/CP2 design. The MTF scores are also almost identical, except the ZF/ZE's maintain sharpness a bit better to the edges (again, it's subtle).

That being said, the Contax 21 2.8 is also the only outrageously expensive Contax. They are a collector's item, and prices have reached as high as $3000. So no one's going to fault you for getting the ZF/ZE/CP2 instead. The trick is to scour ebay and Keh methodically till you stumble on a real affordable one (too me over a year).

Happy hunting!

Nick Morrison
01-14-2013, 06:30 AM
Nick,

you have written a great extensive and comprehensive post on the Contax Zeiss lenses, BRAVO!


Only thing I can add to those going the Contax Zeiss route, is that it is important to understand that because of the age of this lenses, despite their original high quality glass, this with age tends to shift in color rendering, especially so on the wide side, so its imperative that any conversions be done by an expert, and that such conversion is not limited to the mechanical but also to the Extreme Careful cleaning and polishing of the Glass element themselves.


Other then that, I just like to Specify, that when you said as good as T* coated glass as in the Hasselblad's, this is only true for the older Hassy glass, when they were produced by Zeiss, as current coatings and elements polishing techniques have greatly changed as the elements themselves as they are no longer produced by Zeiss.

Again, great job, and this is what this community yet again should be about, sharing our collective knowledge for the benefit of us all... ;)

Thanks Ketch for dropping by, really appreciate it! Reduser is the only place I can share this stuff and not feel like a weirdo. I feel like a trekkie at a convention.

Joshua D. Lassing
01-14-2013, 12:33 PM
Shervin, thank you so much for posting those R3ds. Great help. All of you, thank you.

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-14-2013, 12:50 PM
Shervin, thank you so much for posting those R3ds. Great help. All of you, thank you.

Josh, not a problem. I added a few more R3D's to those posts for you guys to tinker around with.

My dog makes a great model for judging sharpness and micro-contrast. She's a natural born star!

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-14-2013, 11:24 PM
Finally found the old MTF charts for each of the Zeiss Contax lenses. Check it out: http://web.archive.org/web/20071012034108/http://www.geocities.com/ilprode/TestZ.htm

Nick Morrison
01-14-2013, 11:37 PM
Finally found the old MTF charts for each of the Zeiss Contax lenses. Check it out: http://web.archive.org/web/20071012034108/http://www.geocities.com/ilprode/TestZ.htm

Good one. There's also this:
http://www.zeissimages.com/mtf.php

Nick Morrison
01-15-2013, 09:24 AM
Finally found the old MTF charts for each of the Zeiss Contax lenses. Check it out: http://web.archive.org/web/20071012034108/http://www.geocities.com/ilprode/TestZ.htm

Hey Shervin, these guys on your link have plotted out an MTF "score" per F-STOP for the majority of the Contax lineup. Super cool! Do you know where they got those findings? A lot of what their numbers actually lineup pretty well with a number of Contax musings I've heard numerous times (that you can't already deduce from Zeiss's MTF diagrams)...such as that the 60 2.8 Macro actually outperforms the 100 2.8 by a hair, etc, etc.

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-15-2013, 09:26 AM
I'm not too sure where they got their findings, but apparently this was a series of tests possibly published on Zeiss's website. I'm only saying that because the guys on the photography forums use these charts to compare numbers with other lenses... they all refer to that page as the 'source'.

Ben Scott
01-15-2013, 10:02 AM
I'm in a bit of a quandary....

As it stands right now I have an equal number of Zeiss and Samyang lenses. In an ideal world I'd love to get a bunch of ZEs (work well with my DSLR for timelapse and I've never once needed to do an iris pull in 15 years so electronic iris isn't an issue for me). However, I'm at the end of budget until the next big job comes in.

I need an 85mm but am thinking for the price of the Contax 85mm f1.4 Zeiss I could pick up a Samyang Cine T1.5 85mm PLUS a Canon 100mm Macro.

Furthermore, I currently have a Samyang 24mm f1.4. Was toying with the 25mm f2.8 Contax (although I really really want the ZE f2 25mm but it's out of my budget). Do you reckon it would be worth it? Zeiss is Zeiss, but two stops is not to be sniffed at, especially as I don't often have a ton of lights at my disposal. Thoughts?

Worth jumping on the 2.8 25mm and the 85mm f1.4 Contax or should I save the money and get the ZEs when I can?

Ben Scott
01-15-2013, 11:58 AM
Oh, just to add I was watching the BBC drama 'Ripper Street' last night when I noticed a couple of shots with fairly extreme ninja star bokeh... No technical information on IMDB as to what it was shot on/with sadly but you never knwo

Nick Morrison
01-15-2013, 04:33 PM
I'm not too sure where they got their findings, but apparently this was a series of tests possibly published on Zeiss's website. I'm only saying that because the guys on the photography forums use these charts to compare numbers with other lenses... they all refer to that page as the 'source'.

Hmmm...def Zeiss's MTF pdf's are "the source", I have them all downloaded from here:
http://www.zeissimages.com/mtf.php

(I've also grabbed docs for Hasselblad, and other Ziess lenses from here too. Very cool source, fyi).

However, these official Zeiss MTF charts only tell you TWO things. How a lens performs WIDE OPEN. And how it performs stopped down to 5.6 (or sometimes f8), which (presumably) is where Zeiss designs it's lenses for maximum resolution. So, you get info for TWO different f-stops. That's it.

What fascinating about YOUR LINK:
http://web.archive.org/web/200710120...rode/TestZ.htm (http://web.archive.org/web/20071012034108/http://www.geocities.com/ilprode/TestZ.htm)

Is that they give you an MTF "score" (whatever that is) for most of the Contax lineup...across ALL F-STOPS.

If their numbers are accurate, then that's really fucking cool. Even if I don't know what an MTF "score" is yet, if these numbers are good...we can FINALLY SEE metrics on these lenses across every aperture...something MUCH MORE than what Zeiss's MTF docs currently give you. And it gives us a better way to compare the Contax lenses to each other (how does the 100 f2 compare to the 85 1.4 at f2)

I know a bunch of photo magazines back in the 90's and early 2000's did comprehensive tests and reviews of Contax, I wonder if they lifted the numbers from one of those?

Nick Morrison
01-15-2013, 04:41 PM
I'm in a bit of a quandary....

As it stands right now I have an equal number of Zeiss and Samyang lenses. In an ideal world I'd love to get a bunch of ZEs (work well with my DSLR for timelapse and I've never once needed to do an iris pull in 15 years so electronic iris isn't an issue for me). However, I'm at the end of budget until the next big job comes in.

I need an 85mm but am thinking for the price of the Contax 85mm f1.4 Zeiss I could pick up a Samyang Cine T1.5 85mm PLUS a Canon 100mm Macro.

Furthermore, I currently have a Samyang 24mm f1.4. Was toying with the 25mm f2.8 Contax (although I really really want the ZE f2 25mm but it's out of my budget). Do you reckon it would be worth it? Zeiss is Zeiss, but two stops is not to be sniffed at, especially as I don't often have a ton of lights at my disposal. Thoughts?

Worth jumping on the 2.8 25mm and the 85mm f1.4 Contax or should I save the money and get the ZEs when I can?

Tough call. If you like the look of the Samyang and ZE's, then maybe stick with that. They look more modern and "clean" to me. If you like that, stick to that. The Contax's may look a little more organic than you're used to, esp the old ones. Nothing you can't grade out...but FYI.

The Contax 85mm 1.4 can be had affordably though.

The Contax 25mm 2.8 is good, but you may want to consider the 28mm 2.8 which is cheaper, and "technically" better. It's very, very sharp. I prefer the FOV of a 25, but for the budget...the 28mm is amazing. The stills guys LOVE IT. Look for an MM with serials in the 8's. Will look more modern and clean, and the 28 2.8 "MM" was supposed to have been tweaked and improved slightly over the 28 AE.

Good luck.

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-15-2013, 04:50 PM
I know a bunch of photo magazines back in the 90's and early 2000's did comprehensive tests and reviews of Contax, I wonder if they lifted the numbers from one of those?

That's what I'm thinking, though no official sources have been cited on the tests, it may have been pulled from articles or done independently, not sure. Though alot of the photography forum guys refer to those tests for 'official' MTF results... they're a lot easier to read than Zeiss's graphs and they're all in one place.

The MTF numbers at different apertures are incredible to have. Must have taken someone A LONG time to produce these results. Kudos to whomever did 'em.

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-15-2013, 04:58 PM
Oh and I believe that where the results are for "Real Aperture" in those tests may actually be the measured T-Stop? Not too sure but it seems likely.

Nick Morrison
01-15-2013, 05:42 PM
That's what I'm thinking, though no official sources have been cited on the tests, it may have been pulled from articles or done independently, not sure. Though alot of the photography forum guys refer to those tests for 'official' MTF results... they're a lot easier to read than Zeiss's graphs and they're all in one place.

The MTF numbers at different apertures are incredible to have. Must have taken someone A LONG time to produce these results. Kudos to whomever did 'em.

Yeah KUDOS indeed, and you know what? They look legit. Look at how all the numbers line up with conventional wisdom.

The 50 1.7? WOW. That thing explodes on their test.

The 60 2.8 looks amazing, which confirms some of the macro guys saying...hint hint...that it had the highest resolution of any Macro they'd ever seen (remember, it's a 1:1 macro, and even the current ZF/ZE offerings are only 1:2)

The 100 f2 detonates.

You get my drift.

Peter Lyons Collister, ASC
01-15-2013, 06:10 PM
Nick,

What I want to acknowledge is your efforts here. To impart the history of cinema/still glass and to also convey a certain passion for glass that is wonderful.
Sometimes we get caught up in the tech specs of glass. The MTF and mechanics ..... We forget that glass is what helps us convey the mood and feeling of scenes, along with our lighting , production design, costumes and maybe smoke.
Thank you for reminding about the emotional component of lens choice

Nick Morrison
01-15-2013, 06:35 PM
Nick,

What I want to acknowledge is your efforts here. To impart the history of cinema/still glass and to also convey a certain passion for glass that is wonderful.
Sometimes we get caught up in the tech specs of glass. The MTF and mechanics ..... We forget that glass is what helps us convey the mood and feeling of scenes, along with our lighting , production design, costumes and maybe smoke.
Thank you for reminding about the emotional component of lens choice

Mr. Collister, thanks so much. Really appreciate it. I didn't realize my romantic love for glass leaked through so much! But you are right...I do believe that glass makes a huge difference...emotionally. Thanks for seeing that.

Ben Scott
01-16-2013, 01:58 AM
Thanks for the advice nick. As always very much appreciated.

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-21-2013, 01:20 PM
As mentioned before, the 50mm F1.7 is no slouch... and it sure isn't! Quite remarkable sharpness at F2.8 for such a small and cheap lens. Micro contrast and color reproduction is fantastic as well. Only correction I did to this photograph was to increase RAW color temperature, that's it.

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/marley28.jpg

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-25-2013, 12:03 PM
For those not wanting to go the 'pro' Cine-Mod route, you can do it yourself with decent results. I managed to get a bunch of black C/Y adapters, step up rings, and some lens gears from eBay and decently cobbled together a set.

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_9014.jpg

Nick Morrison
01-25-2013, 04:45 PM
As mentioned before, the 50mm F1.7 is no slouch... and it sure isn't! Quite remarkable sharpness at F2.8 for such a small and cheap lens. Micro contrast and color reproduction is fantastic as well. Only correction I did to this photograph was to increase RAW color temperature, that's it.

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/marley28.jpg

Oh yeah, the 50 1.7 wide open is much sharper then the 1.4. It's an amazing lens. The 1.4 is deemed to have a more "classic" bokeh. Whereas the 1.7 can be bussier. But other than that...yeah...the 1.7 is kind of amazing.

Nick Morrison
01-25-2013, 04:45 PM
For those not wanting to go the 'pro' Cine-Mod route, you can do it yourself with decent results. I managed to get a bunch of black C/Y adapters, step up rings, and some lens gears from eBay and decently cobbled together a set.

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_9014.jpg

WOW. NIce set! Wacha got there? Looks like a 25/28, 35 1.4, 50, 100, 135 and 180. Am I right? You're all MM right?

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-25-2013, 05:24 PM
WOW. NIce set! Wacha got there? Looks like a 25/28, 35 1.4, 50, 100, 135 and 180. Am I right? You're all MM right?

21 2.8, 28 2.8, 35 1.4, 50 1.4, 100 2 and 135 2.8. Missing is the 85 1.4 and the 35-70 3.4

I've got a bunch more on the way, and ALL MM. Can't get enough of these guys while they're cheap to buy.

Nick Morrison
01-25-2013, 05:31 PM
21 2.8, 28 2.8, 35 1.4, 50 1.4, 100 2 and 135 2.8. Missing is the 85 1.4 and the 35-70 3.4

I've got a bunch more on the way, and ALL MM. Can't get enough of these guys while they're cheap to buy.

Nice, haha I know the feeling. Any Macros on the way? Love those...

A real gem is the 100 3.5 sonnar. Not fast, but INSANELY SHARP. It's the 1.7 of the Contax telephotos. Its MTF score at 10lpm is about a 96 I believe...maybe inching higher (and remember, that's MEASURED, not computer ESTIMATED like most brands publish).

Even wide open it screams. And it's tiny. By the MTF charts anyway (and by general word of mouth) its one of the sharpest Contax's of them all. And for a budget price to boot!

Samir Patel
01-25-2013, 06:01 PM
This may be a dumb question but can someone please post R3ds of the same shot using Canon 50L and Contax 50/1.4,1.7 to show difference in sharpness?

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-25-2013, 06:08 PM
Sharpness shouldn't be the main factor in swaying your opinion to go for Contax. It's all about the look for most if not all the people who buy older glass. If sharpness is your concern then I'd stick with Canon (Though perhaps maybe the Contax are sharper... I don't have much experience with Canon L primes).

Samir Patel
01-25-2013, 06:18 PM
Thanks Shervin. I'm looking through the other thread about the contax lenses to see more examples.

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-25-2013, 06:25 PM
If I had Canon L glass here I'd do a test for you, but I don't.

Someone else probably does and perhaps they could test it for you, but it wouldn't be too much of something to look at, as I mentioned before, the look (Color and contrast) is the biggest difference between Contax glass and mostly all other glass out there. That alone swayed me to go Contax... the sharpness that came along with them was a nice bonus.

Nick Morrison
01-25-2013, 06:28 PM
Sharpness shouldn't be the main factor in swaying your opinion to go for Contax. It's all about the look for most if not all the people who buy older glass. If sharpness is your concern then I'd stick with Canon (Though perhaps maybe the Contax are sharper... I don't have much experience with Canon L primes).

This is a tough one. Because in my opinion "sharpness" in optics hasn't really improved that much over the decades.

On the stills boards, many guys routinely say that Contax glass outperforms Canon optics. But they are talking about more than just sharpness, they also mean character, micro contrast, 3D feel, etc.

As Shervin suggests, sometimes we have to go beyond the numbers, and look at the aesthetics.

But bear in mind Contax were some of the best stills lenses in the world only 10-15 years ago. In optics, that ain't that long ago. Many of these lenses are off the charts superb.

What modern lens designs have improved upon (in my opinion), are obviously autofocusing, a bit of distortion, high quality zoom lense designs, and wide open lenses are losing some of that vintage softness.

But general sharpness and muscularity of image has been around for a while. Especially over the past couple of decades.

There's a reason lots of people love Contax glass. Not just because of how they look, but because they are technically excellent. Especially stopped down.

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-25-2013, 08:47 PM
Nick has pretty much nailed it, and he's had experience with a lot of glass.

I'm just a sucker for how nice the pictures come back from using these lenses on my Scarlet and on my 5D Mk II. Here's a shot from the 100mm F2 wide open. Quite a bit of CA in the bright areas but color rendering is natural and pleasing. Decently sharp too.

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_9019.jpg

It's these small imperfections (my opnion) that makes this glass have so much character, and give it so much more visual appeal than newer glass that's way more sterile and clinical. If you guys appreciate that older look and don't own Contax glass yet, pick up something cheap and have it amaze you. If you get the addiction bug like many of us have, and got the funds to feed such addiction, picking up a set would definitely be in your best interests.
(https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_9019.jpg)

Nick Morrison
01-25-2013, 08:49 PM
Nick has pretty much nailed it, and he's had experience with a lot of glass.

I'm just a sucker for how nice the pictures come back from using this lens on my Scarlet and on my 5D Mk II. Here's a shot from the 100mm F2 wide open. Quite a bit of CA in the bright areas but color rendering is natural and pleasing. Decently sharp too.

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_9019.jpg

Yeah the 100 f2 is the bomb.

Uli Plank
01-26-2013, 12:03 AM
If you want to gain a deeper understanding of how humans perceive sharpness, have a look at Otto Schade's research ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_H._Schade ). He has proven that it's not the max. MTF (which is easy to measure), but the integral below the MTF curve that has most influence on our subjective impression of sharpness. That's why micro-cotrast is so important and why Zeiss has always excelled in this (they obviously went after such findings). There used to be a great video presentation at Panavision's website, but I can't find it any more.

Samir Patel
01-28-2013, 05:50 PM
Well thanks Nick. I ordered a Contax Zeiss 50mm 1.7 used from Adorama. Will find out if I got an AE or MM when it arrives. I just hope I didn't start up a new addiction. Anything I should be looking for in the images from this particular lens? I didn't much like the one example of the ninja star bokeh on a youtube video. Also I got the 1.7 because I tried going after a 1.4 a few times and never could get one. (that and I don't trust much of the sellers on ebay)

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-28-2013, 06:24 PM
The 1.7's only drawbacks is that it's got a plastic housing and the minimal focus distance is only 60cm (The 1.4 is 45cm... big difference), otherwise its a lot sharper than the 1.4 at all apertures. Bokeh is a bit busier and not as creamy but if you like the pictures it produces it'll be a gateway drug, just make sure your wallet has enough funds to feed the addiction. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Samir Patel
01-28-2013, 06:31 PM
oh geez...

Ben Scott
01-29-2013, 05:23 AM
Bit of relevant UK/EU spamming but just a heads up. I have a #6 serial 50mm f1.4 in London for sale in the 'Jobs / Equipment for hire' sub forum at the moment.

Ben Scott
01-29-2013, 08:13 AM
BTW, not sure if there have already been any pics that I missed but I just uploaded these as an example of Ninja Star bokeh for an interested potential buyer and I thought it might be handy for people to see what precisely the 'ninja star' refers to. Contax 50mm f1.4 AE. Shot late at night on a Canon C300.

Ninja Star Bokeh

http://i585.photobucket.com/albums/ss294/soma1975/ContaxZeiss50mmbokeh1NinjaStar_zps8cac86b8.jpg

Same street, same lens and same minute probably. Just a click of the iris dial and Regular Bokeh

http://i585.photobucket.com/albums/ss294/soma1975/ContaxZeiss50mmbokeh2_zpsf81d67ee.jpg

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-29-2013, 08:46 PM
I've got quite a startling discovery I made with an older Canon telephoto zoom and it's likeness to MMJ Contax. Doing a few more tests then I'll publish my findings, but so far it's quite promising.

It's done. Check it out here: http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthr...agic-Drainpipe (http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?94011-Canon-80-200mm-F2-8-L-A-Real-Magic-Drainpipe)

BRANDON JAMESON
01-29-2013, 09:05 PM
BTW, not sure if there have already been any pics that I missed but I just uploaded these as an example of Ninja Star bokeh for an interested potential buyer and I thought it might be handy for people to see what precisely the 'ninja star' refers to. Contax 50mm f1.4 AE. Shot late at night on a Canon C300.

Ninja Star Bokeh

http://i585.photobucket.com/albums/ss294/soma1975/ContaxZeiss50mmbokeh1NinjaStar_zps8cac86b8.jpg

Same street, same lens and same minute probably. Just a click of the iris dial and Regular Bokeh

http://i585.photobucket.com/albums/ss294/soma1975/ContaxZeiss50mmbokeh2_zpsf81d67ee.jpg

You can see the "Ninja Star" of an 85mm 1.4 at TC 00:42 of this lens breathing test.

https://vimeo.com/58489933

Nick Morrison
01-29-2013, 09:50 PM
BTW, not sure if there have already been any pics that I missed but I just uploaded these as an example of Ninja Star bokeh for an interested potential buyer and I thought it might be handy for people to see what precisely the 'ninja star' refers to. Contax 50mm f1.4 AE. Shot late at night on a Canon C300.

Ninja Star Bokeh

http://i585.photobucket.com/albums/ss294/soma1975/ContaxZeiss50mmbokeh1NinjaStar_zps8cac86b8.jpg

Same street, same lens and same minute probably. Just a click of the iris dial and Regular Bokeh

http://i585.photobucket.com/albums/ss294/soma1975/ContaxZeiss50mmbokeh2_zpsf81d67ee.jpg

Gorgeous samples Ben. The MM's basically look like your second pic, when you closed down a bit.

Ben Scott
01-30-2013, 01:58 AM
Thganks Nick. I have to say the ninja star is kinda funky and not unattractive...

Nick Morrison
01-30-2013, 04:06 PM
Thganks Nick. I have to say the ninja star is kinda funky and not unattractive...

I agree. Sometimes, it's not the right feel, but a lot of the time it adds a bit of character and funk that I too...really like.

Considering most lenses theses days don't have any personality, what the ninja star at least does is REEK with Character. Drips and oozes a certain personality that I have to admit...I find a total breath of fresh air.

Samir Patel
01-30-2013, 05:03 PM
I've got quite a startling discovery I made with an older Canon telephoto zoom and it's likeness to MMJ Contax. Doing a few more tests then I'll publish my findings, but so far it's quite promising.

Don't leave us hanging...

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-30-2013, 06:27 PM
Don't leave us hanging...

http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?94011-Canon-80-200mm-F2-8-L-A-Real-Magic-Drainpipe

Tommaso Alvisi
01-31-2013, 12:28 AM
Shervin, please post uncorrected frame grabs if you can! ;)
thanks!!!

Ben Scott
01-31-2013, 06:33 AM
Watched season2 episode one of Luther last night and there were tons of shots with ninja star bokeh in them... Would be interested to hear about their lens choices on that show. It looks great. Desaturated but with real depth.

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-31-2013, 10:45 AM
Cooke lenses (S4's) have ninja starring, as well as a whole mix of older lenses (Including older Canon's as well). Ninja star bokeh isn't just limited to the AE Contax set.

Ben Scott
01-31-2013, 11:28 AM
I agree. Sometimes, it's not the right feel, but a lot of the time it adds a bit of character and funk that I too...really like.

Considering most lenses theses days don't have any personality, what the ninja star at least does is REEK with Character. Drips and oozes a certain personality that I have to admit...I find a total breath of fresh air.

Word :)

Ben Scott
01-31-2013, 11:30 AM
Cooke lenses (S4's) have ninja starring, as well as a whole mix of older lenses (Including older Canon's as well). Ninja star bokeh isn't just limited to the AE Contax set.

Ah okay.. Actually on IMDB it says S4s were used so good call there. Still worth pointing out that flagship productions like thathave no issue with it and don't see it as a problem per se.

Nick Morrison
01-31-2013, 02:25 PM
Cooke lenses (S4's) have ninja starring, as well as a whole mix of older lenses (Including older Canon's as well). Ninja star bokeh isn't just limited to the AE Contax set.

WOW, Shervin. Didn't know that. Love this forum!! I know that Cooke's have a very clear OCTAGON pattern that looks A LOT like the Ninja-Star. I see it in the back of Merlots shots on True Blood, saw it in Zero Dark Thirty, and it comes up in The Hour and Downton Abby. All I believe shot on Cooke lenses.

But those are modern shows, presumably shooting on new glass, so maybe they have the Octagon bokeh now, and no longer the Ninja? Either way, cool to know the Ninja-Star was "a thing". That's a new wrinkle to the story I like.

I remember reading somewhere that Zeiss believed the Ninja Star help control distortion. Not sure if that's true, as they ended up removing it (while not changing the lens designs for the most part: I guess they took it out for aesthetic reasons, to keep the look more consistent?).

One thing I've noticed is the ninja star certainly can add funk to the bokeh, esp on a really busy background where you can't even see the Ninja Star: it can create a wonderful busy "pattern" that the MM's can't always replicate. That's an aesthetic note I'm still trying to nail down to see if that's always the case. Not sure yet...but that's certainly my educated hunch right now.

Nick Pasquariello
01-31-2013, 03:37 PM
WOW, Shervin. Didn't know that. Love this forum!! I know that Cooke's have a very clear OCTAGON pattern that looks A LOT like the Ninja-Star. I see it in the back of Merlots shots on True Blood, saw it in Zero Dark Thirty, and it comes up in The Hour and Downton Abby. All I believe shot on Cooke lenses.

I was watching an older episode of 30 Rock today and noticed that the Christmas lights in the background had a very distinct octagon pattern. I stared at it, wondering if it was a ninja-star bokeh. Now, knowing all this, I'm gonna guess Cookes.

Uli Plank
01-31-2013, 10:27 PM
I'd say the Ninja star is something specific to Zeiss AE, the Cookes have more of a sawblade look.
I don't believe it helps with distortion, there ain't any difference regarding that on the MM lenses.

Nick Morrison
01-31-2013, 10:53 PM
I was watching an older episode of 30 Rock today and noticed that the Christmas lights in the background had a very distinct octagon pattern. I stared at it, wondering if it was a ninja-star bokeh. Now, knowing all this, I'm gonna guess Cookes.

I love that I'm not the only one deciphering BOKEH while I watch TV.

HAHA.

Shervin Mandgaryan
01-31-2013, 11:10 PM
I'd say the Ninja star is something specific to Zeiss AE, the Cookes have more of a sawblade look.

The Cooke's have a more sawblade look because they have more iris blades than the paltry 6 on the Contax set, so the ninja star effect is less pronounced. If Cookes had the same aperture blade like the Contax's, they'd be the same.

Uli Plank
02-01-2013, 01:08 AM
Did Cooke ever state why they use such a shape?

Shervin Mandgaryan
02-04-2013, 11:39 AM
Not too sure... and I could be wrong on this so someone would have to clarify, but I don't think the sawblade/ninja star effect is on the new series of 5i and Mini-Pancro's.

Perhaps older S4's suffer from that problem (Since the S4's are pushing on almost 14 years of manufacture now). Older cooke's, especially from the Speed Pancro era had pretty rough OOF bokeh areas...

Nick Morrison
02-04-2013, 10:05 PM
Not too sure... and I could be wrong on this so someone would have to clarify, but I don't think the sawblade/ninja star effect is on the new series of 5i and Mini-Pancro's.

Perhaps older S4's suffer from that problem (Since the S4's are pushing on almost 14 years of manufacture now). Older cooke's, especially from the Speed Pancro era had pretty rough OOF bokeh areas...

Yes but Uli has a point. Lens designers 20 years clearly thought the ninja-star served a purpose, otherwise we wouldn't be seeing it both within the German halls of Zeiss, and the English halls of Cooke. Though charming, it's certainly fair to call the ninja star an aesthetically risky choice: it's not present at all apertures, and it can call quite a bit of attention to itself. This leads me to assume that it's certainly possible the designers believed it delivered a technical advantage.

I think the key is to find out what this advantage/purpose was.

I think it's also fair to say the designers may have realized the ninja-star didn't do anything, because almost the entire Contax lineup made the switch to MM w/out any optical design changes at all (so it's not like the lenses had to be altered to compensate for the loss of the ninja-star). Indeed, it kinda looks like the ninja-star was unceremoniously dumped at the jump to MM.

Which still leaves us with the question? Why the ninja-star in the first place?

I find it incredibly charming. But now I want to know more. Was there originally some science BEHIND the ninja-star? Was was it supposed to ​do?

Uli Plank
02-05-2013, 04:43 AM
Well, you get more complex star patterns around point lights, that's for sure. I think I can see a tendency to double lines in OOF a bit less defined (if there are any at all) with AE too, but that might be auto-suggestion …

But I'm glad I bought most lenses without it, got all my cheaper ones in 2.8 anyway. My two fast lenses, the 50mm and the 85mm 1.4, have it. So I can always have it where it shines, but when I'd stop down, I can switch to MM. The 50mm 1.7 and the 85mm 2.8 were cheap in MM, and they are sharp as a Ninja blade without it's bokeh ;-)

Couldn't afford the 35mm 1.4 anyway, so I got that in 2.8 MM again, like the 28mm, and MM.

James_Mills
02-05-2013, 04:18 PM
Could someone possibly write up a chart listing the best of each kind of Contax lens? I mean for each size... also, a listing of their average pricing would be great.

I've had a very hard time differentiating between which lens is which and what's a good price for one and what's not. I also don't understand what the "MM or not" debate means... it's also super confusing that when you search for them on ebay they come in all different sorts of colors so they don't really look like a set at all, i guess?

Shervin Mandgaryan
02-05-2013, 04:49 PM
Could someone possibly write up a chart listing the best of each kind of Contax lens? I mean for each size... also, a listing of their average pricing would be great.

I got some free time, so here we go:

From Wide to Telephoto (The lenses worth getting and their price as of this posting)

Zeiss 18mm F/4 Distagon - $600 avg
Zeiss 21mm F/2.8 Distagon - $2000 avg
Zeiss 25mm F/2.8 Distagon - $500 avg
Zeiss 28mm F/2 and F/2.8 Distagon - $1100 and $350 avg
Zeiss 35mm F/1.4 and F/2.8 Distagon - $1500 and $350 avg
Zeiss 50mm F/1.4 and F/1.7 Planar - $350 and $200 avg
Zeiss 85mm F/1.4 and F/2.8 Sonnar - $700 and $350 avg
Zeiss 100mm F/2 Sonnar - $1050 avg
Zeiss 135mm F/2 and F/2.8 Sonnar - $1700 and $250 avg
Zeiss 60mm F/2.8 Makro Planar - $600 avg
Zeiss 100mm F/2.8 Makro Planar - $1000 avg
Zeiss 35-70 F/3.4 Vario Sonnar - $500 avg

These lenses are the most worth getting IMO of the entire Contax set.

Obviously prices are dependant on condition, but the average prices above are typical for most decent condition lenses to be priced at. Give or take $100-$200 in either direction for Like New to Well Used variations of the lenses. If you want to compare lens performance in numbers, look here: http://web.archive.org/web/20071020151236/http://www.geocities.com/ilprode/TestZ.htm

James_Mills
02-05-2013, 05:29 PM
Awesome, thanks so much, Shervin. Which are your very favorite ones? Are there any lenses of the same size that you prefer over their faster and more expensive counterpart?

nd do all these look the same? For clients that only know the term "Zeiss", I don't want them to be dismayed by a collection of multicolored lenses that look ancient and not from the same glass...

Obv this isn't the case in actuality, nor does it make much sense. But many clients aren't interested in actuality and making sense.

Shervin Mandgaryan
02-05-2013, 05:34 PM
Awesome, thanks so much, Shervin. Which are your very favorite ones? And do all these look the same? For clients that only know the term "Zeiss", I don't want them to be dismayed by a collection of multicolored lenses that look ancient and not from the same glass...

Obv this isn't the case in actuality, nor does it make much sense. But many clients aren't interested in actuality and making sense.

My personal favorite is the 21 2.8, 28 2, 50 1.7, 85 1.4, 100 2 and the 35-70 3.4. So much so in fact I bought them all and use them with excellent results.

They all have a very similar look and feel to them. I have an MMJ set with very similar serial numbers. As for 100% colour matching, they definitely do not. Some lenses are a bit warmer than others and some have better CA performance and wide open contrast etc... but it's nothing to REALLY be thrown off from... the differences are very minor and subtle. If you were to show the average joe or jane photos from the different lenses I doubt they can tell any difference. If you're going for a set of lenses make sure they're all either MM or AE and from the same manufacturing era (Similar serial #'s is a decent way to go). I don't think even the CP's Zeiss makes today are colour matched. It may be a big deal in post for some but for me I don't really mind.

Shervin Mandgaryan
02-05-2013, 05:42 PM
Nick would have a better answer for you in regards of which of the lesser counterparts are better than the expensive ones. He owns way more Contax glass than I do.

James_Mills
02-05-2013, 06:11 PM
Thanks so much, Shervin. That was extremely helpful.

Nick Morrison
02-05-2013, 08:52 PM
I got some free time, so here we go:

From Wide to Telephoto (The lenses worth getting and their price as of this posting)

Zeiss 18mm F/4 Distagon - $600 avg
Zeiss 21mm F/2.8 Distagon - $2000 avg
Zeiss 25mm F/2.8 Distagon - $500 avg
Zeiss 28mm F/2 and F/2.8 Distagon - $1100 and $350 avg
Zeiss 35mm F/1.4 and F/2.8 Distagon - $1500 and $350 avg
Zeiss 50mm F/1.4 and F/1.7 Planar - $350 and $200 avg
Zeiss 85mm F/1.4 and F/2.8 Sonnar - $700 and $350 avg
Zeiss 100mm F/2 Sonnar - $1050 avg
Zeiss 135mm F/2 and F/2.8 Sonnar - $1700 and $250 avg
Zeiss 60mm F/2.8 Makro Planar - $600 avg
Zeiss 100mm F/2.8 Makro Planar - $1000 avg
Zeiss 35-70 F/3.4 Vario Sonnar - $500 avg

These lenses are the most worth getting IMO of the entire Contax set.

Obviously prices are dependant on condition, but the average prices above are typical for most decent condition lenses to be priced at. Give or take $100-$200 in either direction for Like New to Well Used variations of the lenses. If you want to compare lens performance in numbers, look here: http://web.archive.org/web/20071020151236/http://www.geocities.com/ilprode/TestZ.htm

Shervin's list is pretty spot on! I agree if you are going to start a set, keep it either AE or MM. When I began I didn't know any better, and had a a MIXED SET, so over time this has made me less of a purist.

So far, in post we've been able to color match AE & MM w/out much of an issue. At the beginning...when I started collecting I got a 35mm 1.4 AEG (its serial is a 66X). It cuts pretty effortlessly with any MM I have. Over time I've ended up building an AE and MM set, but my 135 f2 is an AEG (the MM is wildly expensive). Was I not going to use it cuz it's AEG? Nah. Also my 28 f2 is AEG too (most are). I've lamented over all this a bit, but in the field it turns out no one could tell the f*cking difference! ESPECIALLY when you go back to grading the R3Ds. The thing that stands out much more than the coatings is the Ninja Star, truth be told. Which is why I started getting MM's just so I had a backup.

But...I love the flaring of some of my AE's, so I've always held on to them. When you want that look, they are the best.

Truth us, all these lenses were designed to color match, so they are all reasonably close. Having divergent serial numbers will not create a rainbow patchwork of mismatching "looks". The newer ones are bit more vibrant and contrasty and flare a bit less. That's it.

To be specific, I would say that an old AE (60X,XXX) may be bit warmer and faded than a really new MM (8XX,XXX). But again, fixable in post.

In my early days collecting Contax, I had no idea what I was doing and no one knew the coatings didn't match. Only I, after becoming fanatically obsessed, started to call it out. Not a single DP cared or brought it up.

You have to remember, even 15 years ago these were some of the best stills lenses in the world. Zeiss was never going to let them become a weird patchwork of unmatched coatings. It's just not their style.


Now in terms of lenses, Shervin's list is spot on. The only ones I would ADD are:

1) 60 2.8 Macro: if you look at the MTFs, it's technically a bit sharper then the 100 2.8. See here:

60 2.8 MACRO: 94/65@2.8 , 96/75@5.6
100 2.8 MACRO: 91/60@2.8, 94/70@5.6

The RED numbers are the MTF score at 10 lp/mm (the most common measure of "sharpness" for stills lenses; its measured out of 100 and anything over 90 is considered superb). The PURPLE numbers are the MTF score at 40 lp/mm (the most common measure of "resolution", the key to lenses ability to render very fine detail; anything over 50 is good).

As you can see, the 60 outmuscles the 100 wide open, and stopped down...both in terms of sharpness and resolution.

In fact, I've poured over ALL THE MTF charts for Contax, and can report that while almost all the lenses hit 90+ at 10 lp/mm @ 5.6...very few can hit 96.

This 60 2.8 Macro is one of those very few, which is why it gets my vote to be added to Shervins list. A 60 is also a cool focal length to have. You can also get it for $500 to $600 if you look hard enough.

PS - in terms of their macro ability, both the 60 and 100 are very similar performers. The 60 may actually be a bit better at 1:2 and 1:1, but the 100 is more edge to edge consistent.

The only knock on the 60 is that it's not designed to focus at infinity with maximum resolution. So it's not a landscape lens. Its more for macro and portraits.

The 100 on the other hand, can do it all. BUt for almost twice the price...


2) 100 3.5 Sonnar:
This incredibly overlooked GEM is one of the other few Contax lenses that can hit 96. It has a very devout small cult following in the stills forums for this very reason.

In fact, it may be the sharpest Contax telephoto prime of them all (if you don't count the extravagantly priced 200 f2 and 300 2.8 which I don't even factor for mere mortals). Take a look at the data:

100 3.5 Sonnar: 94/61@3.5, 96/69@5.6

Now it certainly has more distortion than the 100 2.8 Macro, so it's not better overall (it's also slower), but for raw SHARPNESS it does leg out the Macro. It's also 1/3 the price. (You can find it for $350 if you try).

People love this little gem because it literally is the feather-weight that can outslug the heavies. It's also physically very small, not much bigger than a 50 1.4. A rare oddity of a lens, indeed.


2) 80-200 F4 Vario-Sonnar

I don't have all the data on this in front of me, but trust me its pretty sharp for a zoom and looks great. Very, very Contax. For $250 to $300 I think it may be one of the best lens deals EVER. RUN, don't walk, to get this. The constant F4 aperture is ideal. Yes it's push pull, but for the price...this lens is a NO BRAINER.


ABOUT DATA:
If you guys like all this type of data, then you'll be happy. I've been compiling it all, slowly converting all the Contax MTF charts into easier to digest numbers. I've been intending to publish, but I realize now I should probably get a move on!

This will be in the format I deliver them in:

100 3.5 Sonnar: 94/61@3.5, 96/69@5.6

---> where RED is 10 lp/mm and PURPLE is 40 lp/mm
---> this "data line" makes sense right?

I'm also going to add each lenses distortion levels. I realize...it's important too. For example the 100 f2 isn't as sharp as the other two 100's, but it has the LEAST DISTORTION of almost any Contax lens. As a result, it has one of the most pleasing images of them all. So, sharpnes and resolution aren't everything...cuz Zeiss changed it up on the 100 f2 and clearly made a BEAUTY.

I just LOVE seeing how the NUMBERS line up with the AESTHETICS!

Anyway. Now you know how I spend my free time in edit....

Shervin Mandgaryan
02-05-2013, 09:42 PM
I don't know how Nick finds the energy to post that much concentrated wisdom... my god. Cheers buddy :)

Nick Morrison
02-05-2013, 09:52 PM
I don't know how Nick finds the energy to post that much concentrated wisdom... my god. Cheers buddy :)

I had a long slow night in edit...haha.

James_Mills
02-06-2013, 02:07 AM
I don't know how Nick finds the energy to post that much concentrated wisdom... my god. Cheers buddy :)

Word, but it doesn't go unappreciated. Thanks, Nick.

David W. Jones
02-06-2013, 06:44 AM
Here is the 60mm macro mentioned earlier. Since this lens is a macro, there is an incredible amount of focus rotation, as well as barrel extension. Just something to consider if you have not used this lens. Like the PL conversion I had been renting a few years back, I had Stuart at Focus Optics install a longer focus gear so repositioning of the follow focus is not necessary due to barrel travel..

Lliam Worthington
02-06-2013, 07:34 AM
I just LOVE seeing how the NUMBERS line up with the AESTHETICS!


Thanks for yet another great post Nick and excellent work Shervin. Your complied charts sound fantastic Nick.

Contax lenses continually blow me away for quality to cost, but when I look at a very basic but incredible budget set you could purchase for under a grand with a... 28 2.8, 50 1.7, 80-200 F4. The quality cost ratio just blows my mind. Is there a better?

Question to all the Contax users...

If you could only have one Contax lens. Which would it be?

Myself I just can't seem to leave the house without the 35 1.4 in my kit.

David W. Jones
02-06-2013, 07:52 AM
Question to all the Contax users...

If you could only have one Contax lens. Which would it be?

Myself I just can't seem to leave the house without the 35 1.4 in my kit.

Only one? Come on, you know very well these lenses are like crack, once you get your first taste you are scratching for more!

Nick Morrison
02-06-2013, 08:34 AM
Only one? Come on, you know very well these lenses are like crack, once you get your first taste you are scratching for more!

Haha, agreed. But if I had to vote for one, it would probably be the 35 1.4, agreed. You can shoot an entire movie w/ just that lens.

Nick Pasquariello
02-06-2013, 09:37 AM
I don't have the 35 1.4 (I do have the 35 2.8), but I gotta say, the first lens that actually blew me away was the 35-70 3.4. I *liked* the Contaxes I had before that, but that was the first lens that made me *get it*, really.

James_Mills
02-06-2013, 09:48 AM
Just as the 35 1.4 suggest, I notice a discrepancy in your guys' favs / descriptions and that Italian "Wayback Machine" site's ratings that Shervin kindly shared...

Would you recommend me NOT going off their charts? If so, is just going by price the best indicator to tell which lenses are best?

Greg McDonald
02-06-2013, 09:59 AM
I'm off to picking up my cine-modded set from Duclos right now. But yeah, I'd have to say the 35mm 1.4 would be the one I would keep if I could only keep one.

But it was quite a hassle getting mine serviced - it had fungus on the back element. So I send it to TOCAD in New Jersey, the official Contax service rep in the U.S. They sent it to Japan. Japan says they don't have the new part so there's nothing they can do. Japan sends it back to New Jersey. TOCAD sends it back to me. That whole process took about 2 months.

I called a few places in LA but they only service cine-lenses. Then I found Focal Point in Colorado, that specializes in hard to do lens repairs on still glass and they clean it and I get it back all within about 2.5 weeks for cheap, $300. Much cheaper than having a cine lens serviced anyway. Highly recommend them if your Contax needs to be repaired.

The problem with actually having it sent to Contax in Japan as I learned, is that they're not going to repair anything. All they want to do is replace the part that is causing the problem with a new part. In my case it was the glass element. And if the new part isn't available and they can't swap it out, they won't do anything.

But now my 35mm 1.4 is in mint condition and can't wait to pick it up from Duclos and give it a whirl.

Shervin Mandgaryan
02-06-2013, 10:27 AM
Just as the 35 1.4 suggest, I notice a discrepancy in your guys' favs / descriptions and that Italian "Wayback Machine" site's ratings that Shervin kindly shared...

Would you recommend me NOT going off their charts? If so, is just going by price the best indicator to tell which lenses are best?

The chart only shares sharpness, vignetting and distortion values. Lenses that perform poorly still may be considered amazing because of their IQ or the look that they provide. My 28 F2.8 actually outperforms the 28 F2 however, the wide open look that the 28 F2 gives you is incredibly cinematic and the reason why they nickname it the "Hollywood". I have the 35mm 1.4 and wide open it gives you an almost oil painting effect that's hard to describe. It's not the sharpest lens in the world but it's character puts it ontop. There's also the "3D Zeiss effect" which some lenses exude quite easily and others do not. Take that into consideration as well.

Only look at charts and numbers if you want to compare stats between lenses and see which ones are best bang for buck. Real world tests with different lenses may be the final factor in determining which lenses are your particular favorite, and not just the ones that are the best on paper.

James_Mills
02-06-2013, 11:48 AM
Only look at charts and numbers if you want to compare stats between lenses and see which ones are best bang for buck. Real world tests with different lenses may be the final factor in determining which lenses are your particular favorite, and not just the ones that are the best on paper.

I mean yes, optimally, of course. However in the real world these lenses aren't that easy to just run into on set (whereas a RED Prime set or CP2 set is ubiquitous these days), so I'm worried about making these purchases for lenses that I may not even like. Especially when they're so hard to c ome by and the process of obtaining them isn't as easy as just walking to the local camera shop and picking them up...

Shervin Mandgaryan
02-06-2013, 11:51 AM
Do what many of us did, purchase a cheap member of the Contax set... like a 50mm 1.7 or a 135mm 2.8... and then make judgement as to whether or not you like the image and want to pursue purchasing the entire set. If you don't like the lenses, you could always sell the tester lens you purchased.

Nick Morrison
02-06-2013, 04:22 PM
The chart only shares sharpness, vignetting and distortion values. Lenses that perform poorly still may be considered amazing because of their IQ or the look that they provide. My 28 F2.8 actually outperforms the 28 F2 however, the wide open look that the 28 F2 gives you is incredibly cinematic and the reason why they nickname it the "Hollywood". I have the 35mm 1.4 and wide open it gives you an almost oil painting effect that's hard to describe. It's not the sharpest lens in the world but it's character puts it ontop. There's also the "3D Zeiss effect" which some lenses exude quite easily and others do not. Take that into consideration as well.

Only look at charts and numbers if you want to compare stats between lenses and see which ones are best bang for buck. Real world tests with different lenses may be the final factor in determining which lenses are your particular favorite, and not just the ones that are the best on paper.

Perfectly said.

BRANDON JAMESON
02-06-2013, 04:40 PM
You are so cool.

Thank you, Nick.

Nick Morrison
02-06-2013, 04:41 PM
I mean yes, optimally, of course. However in the real world these lenses aren't that easy to just run into on set (whereas a RED Prime set or CP2 set is ubiquitous these days), so I'm worried about making these purchases for lenses that I may not even like. Especially when they're so hard to c ome by and the process of obtaining them isn't as easy as just walking to the local camera shop and picking them up...

James I'm going to agree with others. Before you jump into the deep end, start with a simple purchase. Start with a 50 1.4 ($350), or even a 50 1.7 ($250). A 35 2.8 ($350) is great too. Or splurge a bit and get the 35-70 3.4 ($500), which is a phenomenal lens.

Start with one. See if you like it. You'll know right away if you dig the look/vibe.

If you do, but still want to take it easy, you can continue with a simple set like this: (28 2.8, 35 2.8, 50 1.7, 85 2.8, 135 2.8).

No need to invest a lot at the beginning if you don't have to. The budget lenses are still great. Most of them are actually razor sharp wide open.

Samir Patel
02-06-2013, 04:58 PM
why do many people prefer the 28 2.8 over the 25 2.8? In the many image examples I have found online I see many more people shooting with a 28 2.8 over the 25 2.8, Is it simply because it is less costly or other reason? Note: not discussing the 28 f2 "hollywood"

Nick Morrison
02-06-2013, 05:31 PM
why do many people prefer the 28 2.8 over the 25 2.8? In the many image examples I have found online I see many more people shooting with a 28 2.8 over the 25 2.8, Is it simply because it is less costly or other reason? Note: not discussing the 28 f2 "hollywood"

Hmmmm. Good question.

Truth is, empirically the 28mm is a slightly newer, more refined design. It has better edge performance than the 25mm (which is an older, more classic design). So that wins it lots of fans who shoot landscape on 5D, and plus its much cheaper than the 25mm (the 28 can be had for $350, whereas the 25 goes for $500 and up).

So for a budget landscape shooter, there'e almost no better deal than the Contax 28mm 2.8. It's a SUPERB lens.

But here's the kicker....I'm not convinced you'll really notice the edge loss on the 25mm on a cropped sensor. I have an AEG and I love it.

I'm also a big fan of the 25mm focal length, and prefer it to the 28 (on S35mm).

But here's the deal...not everyone loves the 25. I've noticed in particular that MMJ owners are more likely to complain about it's performance. However, most AEG owners seem very happy. I had a DP friend who's owned both and noticed the same: his MM wasn't sharp, but his AEG was great.

My guess is that maybe there's something in the construction of the MMJ's that's led to elements getting loose...not sure.

Either way...this rare inconsistency of performance does seem to have tarnished the 25's reputation.

However again...mine is terrific. And stopped down...it SCREAMS.

My suggestion is to play it safe and get an AEG. Or at least make sure you can test your MMJ before you buy (or have a solid return policy).

I hate casting a cloud on any Contax lens, especially on one of my favorite lenses, but I think this needs to at least be brought up.

James_Mills
02-06-2013, 06:42 PM
Hmmmm. Good question.

Truth is, empirically the 28mm is a slightly newer, more refined design. It has better edge performance than the 25mm (which is an older, more classic design). So that wins it lots of fans who shoot landscape on 5D, and plus its much cheaper than the 25mm (the 28 can be had for $350, whereas the 25 goes for $500 and up).

So for a budget landscape shooter, there'e almost no better deal than the Contax 28mm 2.8. It's a SUPERB lens.

But here's the kicker....I'm not convinced you'll really notice the edge loss on the 25mm on a cropped sensor. I have an AEG and I love it.

I'm also a big fan of the 25mm focal length, and prefer it to the 28 (on S35mm).

But here's the deal...not everyone loves the 25. I've noticed in particular that MMJ owners are more likely to complain about it's performance. However, most AEG owners seem very happy. I had a DP friend who's owned both and noticed the same: his MM wasn't sharp, but his AEG was great.

My guess is that maybe there's something in the construction of the MMJ's that's led to elements getting loose...not sure.

Either way...this rare inconsistency of performance does seem to have tarnished the 25's reputation.

However again...mine is terrific. And stopped down...it SCREAMS.

My suggestion is to play it safe and get an AEG. Or at least make sure you can test your MMJ before you buy (or have a solid return policy).

I hate casting a cloud on any Contax lens, especially on one of my favorite lenses, but I think this needs to at least be brought up.

lol now I'm really confused... I thought you guys said the MMs were better than the AEGs? And is an MM the same as an MMJ? How can I tell which is which?

Also, do you guys prefer the 50 1.4 or the 50 1.7? Thanks for helping, totally cool of y'all...

Nick Morrison
02-06-2013, 07:04 PM
lol now I'm really confused... I thought you guys said the MMs were better than the AEGs? And is an MM the same as an MMJ? How can I tell which is which?

Also, do you guys prefer the 50 1.4 or the 50 1.7? Thanks for helping, totally cool of y'all...

I don't think it's fair to categorically say the MM's are better than AE's.

For excruciating detail on the differences, I'd suggest looking at the Contax Guide (http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?92044-Contax-Zeiss-Survival-Guide&p=1127700&viewfull=1#post1127700) again. It's all there.

But in a nutshell, the MM's are newer (1984 to 2005). The AE's older (1975 to 1984). A few of the designs were said to have been improved (25 2.8, 28 2.8 and 135 2.8). But truth is, they are all pretty similar. In real life shooting situations, AE's and MM's all cut together pretty seamlessly.

The MOVE to "MM" happened because Zeiss wanted to be able to enable aperture control on the lenses via the camera. Otherwise the shift to MM was meant to be seamless.

However one can't discount TIME and AGE. A lens made in 1975 will have an older version of the T* coating than the same model made in 2005. In 30 years, it's fair to assume that coating improvements would have happened. I've def noticed that.

In my experience newer MM lenses have a tad more contrast and saturation, and control flare much better.

The AE's are a bit less contrasy and saturated (easily adjusted in the grade)...but they can flare MUCH MORE (something you can't "add in post"). I personally LOVE the way AE's flare. It's very organic. And can look very beautiful. Which is why I hesitate to say MM's are "better". They are often a shade more modern and clean, but the AE's rendering has a lot of personality.

Which bring us to the ninja star. The AE's almost ALL have the ninja-star, the MM's DO NOT. (Its a buzz-saw shaped aperture that appears at the 2nd and 3rd aperture positions).

SO: TO SUMMARIZE

AE = older, more organic, flaring, ninja star (and more likely to be "Made in West Germany")
MM = newer, cleaner, less flare, no ninja star (hence why they are becoming more popular, they are the "safer bet").

Hope this helps.

Shervin Mandgaryan
02-06-2013, 07:07 PM
Also to add to Nick's post is that MM lenses are denoted with a green aperture number (Typically the aperture value that's the smallest ie.. 16 or 22..). AE lenses have all white markings.

Tom Greenberg
02-06-2013, 07:40 PM
My entire set of primes are AE (I do have a couple of MM zooms), and personally I love the understated look the AE's deliver. I think the ninja star aperture adds tons of character and as Nick says, they flare beautifully. I think it is a matter of personal preference...not that one is better than the other...to me, AE's and MM's are like siblings, closely related in many ways, but with individual personalities.

James_Mills
02-06-2013, 09:15 PM
Hope this helps.

It certainly does, thank you all.

But about this "ninja star", is this the actual clinical term for it or is it just a lens geek idiom we've made up? And does it have to dow ith the flare being shaped like a ninja star or something? What does this particular apature do that others do not? That doesn't make much logical sense to me that one apature would be dramatically different than the others...

Also, when you guys talk about flare from the AEs being more dramatic, do you mean lens flare or just flare (ie the halo effect around highlights that give the dreaded foggy look; at least I dread it)?

James_Mills
02-06-2013, 09:17 PM
Also, if you're not completely sick and tired of my pestering yet, may I ask if there's a way you can tell the lens' year and model and everything just by asking for the serial number? Is there a quick way to tell just by reading the serial number, ie the higher the newer?

edit: oh and what about the 50 1.4 and 50 1.7, which is the general preference around here? might be my first purchase...

Nick Morrison
02-06-2013, 09:21 PM
My entire set of primes are AE (I do have a couple of MM zooms), and personally I love the understated look the AE's deliver. I think the ninja star aperture adds tons of character and as Nick says, they flare beautifully. I think it is a matter of personal preference...not that one is better than the other...to me, AE's and MM's are like siblings, closely related in many ways, but with individual personalities.

Nicely put.

To get a sense of what AE's look like, you can even check out these Hasselblad 150 2.8 tilt/shifted pics. This Hassy has serial numbers in the AE range (late 5's), and gives a pretty good preview of the T* coating from that era. Apologies for not having anything better - it's all I got right now!

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8062/8238326729_640a6873b3_c.jpg

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8345/8239389226_653e39ddf7_c.jpg

Lliam Worthington
02-06-2013, 09:30 PM
@ David, hah! Lens crack indeed. Technically picking 1 "should" be harder. But I actually don't think it is. I seriously considered asking what eeryone's 3 favourites were, tried to decide on mine, and went shit that's waaaaay to hard. But was still keen to see where everybody really aligns or doesn't.

@ Nick and Shervin, damn it's great reading you guys on here. Cheers. "could shoot a whole movie with this lense" Exactly. Wide, CU, low light, can do it all. Funny watching a DOP work with my set a few weeks back, and how by the end of the shoot it organically became his go to lens.

@ James re 50 1.4 or 1.7. Just to make matters worse for you. I prefer the build quality and the half stop of the 50 1.4 and the cost and pop/micro contrast of the 1.7 :))

Thery're all great to fantastic lenses really, and you can test/buy in cheaply and have no fears about resale and losing money. In fact you may make money :) As Nick and others have said, I've never had an issue cutting AE's or MM's together, and I have heard/read people argue both ways as one being better than the other. As Tom just said, aside from the ninja star (which we are only really talking about wide open) I think it's largely just about a bit of extra flare and maybe a little less contrast, which is better viewed as a personal or project based aesthetic choice, as opposed to being a which is "better".

Samir, AGAIN as Nick referred too, I'd read some bad reports about the 25mm ( though I have heard some good ones to) whereas the 28 was a known stellar performer with two high quality options one to suit each budget. For mine as I had the 21, I opted for a 7mm increment. Though I'll buy the 25 too eventually :) But I also know a lot of DOP's besides Nick really like the 25mm focal length. There's a thread on here somewhere where quite a few people list it as their favourite focal length in fact.

Best

Lliam

Nick Morrison
02-06-2013, 09:34 PM
It certainly does, thank you all.

But about this "ninja star", is this the actual clinical term for it or is it just a lens geek idiom we've made up? And does it have to dow ith the flare being shaped like a ninja star or something? What does this particular apature do that others do not? That doesn't make much logical sense to me that one apature would be dramatically different than the others...



I don't know. It's been called a "ninja-star" for as long as I've been looking into Contax. It's certainly not a term that was made up on these forums. The name's been around for a while. The stills guys use it all the time. I doubt it a "technical" term.

No one knows what "it does". It baffles all of us.

Believe it. It comes. And it goes. It's usually only "engaged" for TWO f-stops on any lens. It's usually pretty subtle. You notice it much more on telephotos. Not so much on wides. It shows up in the bokeh, yes. In particular at night, when you see the aperture shape in lights, it becomes very noticeable. Again read the guide. It's kinda like a buzz-saw shaped version of the Cooke 8-blade "star" you see at the back of countless shows/movies (True Blood, Dowton Abby, Zero Dark, etc).

But again, it's not a big deal. If you don't want it, just get MM's.



Also, when you guys talk about flare from the AEs being more dramatic, do you mean lens flare or just flare (ie the halo effect around highlights that give the dreaded foggy look; at least I dread it)?

We mean, if you try and flare it, it has a great flare. Not the halo effect, no (that I'm aware of).

Nick Morrison
02-06-2013, 09:45 PM
Also, if you're not completely sick and tired of my pestering yet, may I ask if there's a way you can tell the lens' year and model and everything just by asking for the serial number? Is there a quick way to tell just by reading the serial number, ie the higher the newer?


Unfortunately, I don't know a way to tie a serial to a year/date, no.

Generally speaking, the higher the serial, the newer the lens. AE's tend to go form high 5's (so for ex, 596342) to about 66's and 67's (so for example (665978). These were made btw 1975 and 1984.

MM's go from 67's to as high as the millions (so 1,009,646). Most MM's are in the 7's and 8's though. These were made from 1984 to 2005.

I'm assuming people who are trying to serial match their MM's are probably targeting lenses either in the 7's or 8's, as those are the easiest to find. 7's are the easiest actually, by far.



edit: oh and what about the 50 1.4 and 50 1.7, which is the general preference around here? might be my first purchase...

Get the 1.4. It has much better build quality. Not as sharp wide open, but sharper stopped down, and looks more "classic". If you ARE going to get a 1.7, I'd suggest an AE. The build qualities were actually better on the old ones. As the years rolled on, the started introducing more and more plastic into the 1.7's, and the later ones (though very sharp and clean), feel the most budget of any Contax lens. It's kind of a shame. But...the were​ the budget lens after all...

Nick Morrison
02-06-2013, 09:49 PM
Samir, AGAIN as Nick referred too, I'd read some bad reports about the 25mm ( though I have heard some good ones to) whereas the 28 was a known stellar performer with two high quality options one to suit each budget. For mine as I had the 21, I opted for a 7mm increment. Though I'll buy the 25 too eventually :) But I also know a lot of DOP's besides Nick really like the 25mm focal length. There's a thread on here somewhere where quite a few people list it as their favourite focal length in fact.

Best

Lliam

PS agreed about the 25mm. A very, very interesting focal length that cannot be ignored. It's on many people's lists, yes. That's why for me it was a no brainer to get it. When I don't need the crazy look of the 28 f2, I actually prefer the FOV of the 25. I'm very glad I have a good one. Feel kinda lucky actually...

Samir Patel
02-06-2013, 10:13 PM
Hmmmm. Good question.

Truth is, empirically the 28mm is a slightly newer, more refined design. It has better edge performance than the 25mm (which is an older, more classic design). So that wins it lots of fans who shoot landscape on 5D, and plus its much cheaper than the 25mm (the 28 can be had for $350, whereas the 25 goes for $500 and up).

So for a budget landscape shooter, there'e almost no better deal than the Contax 28mm 2.8. It's a SUPERB lens.

But here's the kicker....I'm not convinced you'll really notice the edge loss on the 25mm on a cropped sensor. I have an AEG and I love it.

I'm also a big fan of the 25mm focal length, and prefer it to the 28 (on S35mm).

But here's the deal...not everyone loves the 25. I've noticed in particular that MMJ owners are more likely to complain about it's performance. However, most AEG owners seem very happy. I had a DP friend who's owned both and noticed the same: his MM wasn't sharp, but his AEG was great.

My guess is that maybe there's something in the construction of the MMJ's that's led to elements getting loose...not sure.

Either way...this rare inconsistency of performance does seem to have tarnished the 25's reputation.

However again...mine is terrific. And stopped down...it SCREAMS.

My suggestion is to play it safe and get an AEG. Or at least make sure you can test your MMJ before you buy (or have a solid return policy).

I hate casting a cloud on any Contax lens, especially on one of my favorite lenses, but I think this needs to at least be brought up.

Thanks Nick. Unfortunately I can't try before I buy. I bought a MMJ version a week back and received it on Monday. Took a few shots with my 5D and all looked fine at least to my eyes. I guess since I am shooting scarlet the far corners won't be a problem considering the crop.

Nick Morrison
02-06-2013, 10:19 PM
Thanks Nick. Unfortunately I can't try before I buy. I bought a MMJ version a week back and received it on Monday. Took a few shots with my 5D and all looked fine at least to my eyes. I guess since I am shooting scarlet the far corners won't be a problem considering the crop.

If you have a good one, then GREAT!!!

I'm not saying ALL MMJ's are bad. Not at all!!! I've just observed that the complaints seemed to trend much more MM.

But hey, tip of the hat to ya! If you've got a good one, then awesome.

Again...it SHOULD BE a good to great lens...especially on a cropped sensor, yes.

Samir Patel
02-06-2013, 10:20 PM
PS agreed about the 25mm. A very, very interesting focal length that cannot be ignored. It's on many people's lists, yes. That's why for me it was a no brainer to get it. When I don't need the crazy look of the 28 f2, I actually prefer the FOV of the 25. I'm very glad I have a good one. Feel kinda lucky actually...

Now when you say you prefer the FOV of the 25 are you meaning on a Full frame camera? on 5K? or 4K crop on the scarlet? Essentially 25 x 1.62 = 40.5mm?

Nick Morrison
02-06-2013, 10:32 PM
Now when you say you prefer the FOV of the 25 are you meaning on a Full frame camera? on 5K? or 4K crop on the scarlet? Essentially 25 x 1.62 = 40.5mm?

I mean on S35mm (ie 4K). I try and keep focal length discussions to their traditional S35mm elements, otherwise it gets confusing fast. Also when I read American Cinematographer, those guys are all talking S35mm too, so I just stay there mentally.

When I think about framing for 5K, I usually "do the math" and figure out what lens I'll need by reverse engineering the crop factors (so a 25mm at 5K....gives me approx the FOV of a 20/21mm at 4K/S35).

But that's just me.

Having these larger sensors requires doing a lot of math...

David W. Jones
02-07-2013, 06:37 AM
Here is a shot of the Ninja Star effect from an 85/f1.4 from memory around f2.

And yes that badly posterized noisy area got fixed & covered with client graphics.

David W. Jones
02-07-2013, 06:48 AM
Here is the same 85mm wide open at f1.4

James_Mills
02-07-2013, 09:28 AM
Unfortunately, I don't know a way to tie a serial to a year/date, no.

Generally speaking, the higher the serial, the newer the lens. AE's tend to go form high 5's (so for ex, 596342) to about 66's and 67's (so for example (665978). These were made btw 1975 and 1984.

MM's go from 67's to as high as the millions (so 1,009,646). Most MM's are in the 7's and 8's though. These were made from 1984 to 2005.

I'm assuming people who are trying to serial match their MM's are probably targeting lenses either in the 7's or 8's, as those are the easiest to find. 7's are the easiest actually, by far.



Get the 1.4. It has much better build quality. Not as sharp wide open, but sharper stopped down, and looks more "classic". If you ARE going to get a 1.7, I'd suggest an AE. The build qualities were actually better on the old ones. As the years rolled on, the started introducing more and more plastic into the 1.7's, and the later ones (though very sharp and clean), feel the most budget of any Contax lens. It's kind of a shame. But...the were​ the budget lens after all...

Thank you so much for all this, Nick. I owe you a beer in Brooklyn next time I'm over there.

Nick Morrison
02-08-2013, 01:36 PM
Hey guys we did a branded piece recently for H2 and Hype Park on Hudson. Shot on our two Scarlets and Contax Primes (Duclosed 35 1.4 and 85 1.4 @ F4. AE's). You can see how sharp they are, and how they hold up in a studio environment.

I was very impressed. This was graded in the Avid too. Imagine if we'd gone balls out in RCX or Davinci. I love the latitude on his face, and how SHARP these are. YIKES!

Take a look. And be kind. It was a fast turnaround job (though I think it came out nicely). Thx.


https://vimeo.com/56189840

Shervin Mandgaryan
02-08-2013, 01:42 PM
Looks ace there Nick! Just wish Hyde Park on Hudson was shot on Contax as well! :P

Ben Scott
02-09-2013, 03:15 AM
Nice Nick. I finally got the 135mm 2.8 out on the Scarlet on a shoot this week with me in a room filled with 42 scantily clad models. Will post images when I find something work safe :)

Nick Morrison
02-09-2013, 07:24 AM
Nice Nick. I finally got the 135mm 2.8 out on the Scarlet on a shoot this week with me in a room filled with 42 scantily clad models. Will post images when I find something work safe :)

Looking forward to it! Gotta say....love the 135 2.8. I think the 135 is a great, great focal length. A little outdated, a little overlooked, very, very nice on faces.

Uli Plank
02-09-2013, 08:02 AM
In particular with smaller sensors, like the GH2 or BMCC, or Scarlet shooting at 3K HD for higher frame rates or HDRx (nearly exactly the same as BMCC, BTW).

That length grew on me, I didn't like it that much from the start. It's like the difference between the girl that catches your eye and the one you marry ;-)

Jerome Garnier Brun
02-12-2013, 12:25 PM
Hi guys, do you know if the contax AEJ have the ninja star bokeh?
Thanks
Great thread btw, thanks so much!

Shervin Mandgaryan
02-12-2013, 12:27 PM
Hi guys, do you know if the contax AEJ have the ninja star bokeh?
Thanks
Great thread btw, thanks so much!

Yes, All of the AEJ's and AEG's do.

Jerome Garnier Brun
02-12-2013, 12:29 PM
Ok thanks

Clayton Burkhart
02-12-2013, 12:43 PM
Looking forward to it! Gotta say....love the 135 2.8. I think the 135 is a great, great focal length. A little outdated, a little overlooked, very, very nice on faces.

42 scantily clad models and all he can talk about is the 135/2.8. Man now I know I am in the right place.
Geeks unite!

Nick Morrison
02-12-2013, 04:55 PM
42 scantily clad models and all he can talk about is the 135/2.8. Man now I know I am in the right place.
Geeks unite!

Haha. Thanks Clayton.

Ben Scott
02-15-2013, 07:43 AM
42 scantily clad models and all he can talk about is the 135/2.8. Man now I know I am in the right place.
Geeks unite!

Hahaha...

Brice Ansel
02-20-2013, 04:05 AM
Thank you Nick for the really nice thread.
I have a question about the CZ 35-70, does it exist in AE version?
I haven't find any yet.
Best
B.

Tommaso Alvisi
02-20-2013, 05:35 AM
Brice, I don't think they made it in AE, it's a recent design, in MM only.

Shervin Mandgaryan
02-20-2013, 08:20 AM
Tommaso is correct. They only made the lens in two batches... one in 1987 and one in 1994. Both are MM.

jordan levy
02-20-2013, 08:31 AM
are AE more desired than MM? i feel like more people are looking for and own AE series contax zeiss, when i was thinking from this thread that MM was a better lens series, no?

Shervin Mandgaryan
02-20-2013, 08:34 AM
There are benefits of either. You can't say that one is better than the other... each have their own characteristics that people may find to be a turn off or to be desirable.

MM's are a bit more contrastier and deal with flare a lot better. Bokeh is also normal compared to the AE Ninja Star (God I hate saying that.... there has to be a scientific term for it). The inverse is true for the AE set.

Ben Scott
02-20-2013, 09:43 AM
So to recap on the zooms... All lovely except the non push-pull one, the 28-85, is that right?

Tom Greenberg
02-20-2013, 09:53 AM
The 28-85 is push-pull and is a very nice lens with about 180º of focus rotation. I think you mean the 28-70 which was more of a "kit lens" for them.

Brice Ansel
02-20-2013, 09:53 AM
Brice, I don't think they made it in AE, it's a recent design, in MM only.


Tommaso is correct. They only made the lens in two batches... one in 1987 and one in 1994. Both are MM.

Thanks guy's,
I will keep the MM version I found at 200€ then. :-)

Ben Scott
02-20-2013, 10:28 AM
The 28-85 is push-pull and is a very nice lens with about 180º of focus rotation. I think you mean the 28-70 which was more of a "kit lens" for them. Oops yes totally meant that. Thanks, :)

Nick Morrison
02-20-2013, 03:51 PM
I have a question about the CZ 35-70, does it exist in AE version?


Nope, they only made it in MM. The closest thing to it in AE was the 40-80 3.5 zoom...which was discontinued when it was replaced by the 35-70 during the MM era.


Brice, I don't think they made it in AE, it's a recent design, in MM only.

Exactly.


Tommaso is correct. They only made the lens in two batches... one in 1987 and one in 1994. Both are MM.

WOW. Shervin this level of specificity is blowin' my mind. How'd you find that out? COOL!!


are AE more desired than MM? i feel like more people are looking for and own AE series contax zeiss, when i was thinking from this thread that MM was a better lens series, no?

You have to define "better". Both do different things "better".


There are benefits of either. You can't say that one is better than the other... each have their own characteristics that people may find to be a turn off or to be desirable.

MM's are a bit more contrastier and deal with flare a lot better. Bokeh is also normal compared to the AE Ninja Star (God I hate saying that.... there has to be a scientific term for it). The inverse is true for the AE set.

Exactly.

AE=organic, flaring, less contrast, ninjastar
MM=cleaner, less flares, tad more contrast, no ninja star (all subtle differences...but still...there).


So to recap on the zooms... All lovely except the non push-pull one, the 28-85, is that right?

The 28-85 is AMAZING. It rivals the 35-70 optically, it just suffers from more distortion (especially on the wide end) as the design is more ambitious. The more conservative 35-70 is optically much less compromising (and thus even more "prime like"), which certainly explains why it enjoys an even greater cult status than the 28-85 (which has it's own loud following too, but not on the same level).


The 28-85 is push-pull and is a very nice lens with about 180º of focus rotation. I think you mean the 28-70 which was more of a "kit lens" for them.

Correct. The 28-70 should be considered a third party "kit lens"; if you look carefully you'll notice what looks like practically the same lens available in the Leica R line as well. The only differences presumably are that one has the Zeiss coating, and the other the Leica. I've handled this lens in person and it even at first glance the images didn't not have the pop I was used to. Not a lens I would keep or recommend, to be honest.

Shervin Mandgaryan
02-20-2013, 03:55 PM
Nick, let's just say I have a book in my possession (or was rather) that had the Zeiss manufacturing codes and dates. The 35-70 is the only zoom to have only been made in two batches. Roughly 20,000 were made. Other primes, notably the rarer ones were sometimes made in 2 or 3 batches.

There's two other zooms that should share the same notoriety with the 35-70... the 35-135 and the 100-300. Both zooms are incredibly sharp and worth looking for if you're after slow and sharp zooms (And don't mind the push/pull bit either).

Nick Morrison
02-20-2013, 04:16 PM
Nick, let's just say I have a book in my possession (or was rather) that had the Zeiss manufacturing codes and dates. The 35-70 is the only zoom to have only been made in two batches. Roughly 20,000 were made. Other primes, notably the rarer ones were sometimes made in 2 or 3 batches.


WOW. I wish there was a way to scan and make a PDF of that thing!!!



There's two other zooms that should share the same notoriety with the 35-70... the 35-135 and the 100-300. Both zooms are incredibly sharp and worth looking for if you're after slow and sharp zooms (And don't mind the push/pull bit either).

I would probably add the 28-85 in that category. But yes, at the time, when Contax was being sold, they pushed the 35-135 as their "flagship" zoom and it was priced accordingly.

I think over time, people have come to discover (and cherish) the 35-70, 28-85 and 100-300 quite a bit more.

That being said, I think the sheer SIZE of the 35-135 is probably part of it's limited appeal in the STILLS world. Obviously, in our community that doesn't matter anywhere near as much.

FYI...I think the 35-135 is quite rare. I read somewhere only about 4,000 were ever made. So again, I think just the sheer rarity of it adds to it's allure. It has also has an impressive macro function, even more so than the 35-70. Read the Pebblespace review here (http://ww.pebbleplace.com/Personal/Contax_35-135_Vario_Sonnar.html).

Tommaso Alvisi
02-20-2013, 04:28 PM
WOW. I wish there was a way to scan and make a PDF of that thing!!!

+1 !!!!!!!!!

Samir Patel
02-22-2013, 03:15 PM
Hey guys. I just ordered a 135/2.8. I was looking for an opinion on 135/2 vs 135/2.8 from someone who owns both. I have read a few conflicting reports about the f2 version. Mainly that the lens is not sharp at all at WO. Considering I would rarely use the focal length for portrait I decided to go with the 2.8 and instead maybe save up for a 28/2 or a 35/1.4 when one of those comes across my radar in the future. Any thoughts?

Domenic Barbero
02-22-2013, 03:19 PM
Hey guys. I just ordered a 135/2.8. I was looking for an opinion on 135/2 vs 135/2.8 from someone who owns both. I have read a few conflicting reports about the f2 version. Mainly that the lens is not sharp at all at WO. Considering I would rarely use the focal length for portrait I decided to go with the 2.8 and instead maybe save up for a 28/2 or a 35/1.4 when one of those comes across my radar in the future. Any thoughts?

samir, let me know how that lens is. my next two lenses will be 135 f2.8 and 180 f2.8 very curious to hear some feedback.

Dom

Nick Morrison
02-22-2013, 03:37 PM
Hey guys. I just ordered a 135/2.8. I was looking for an opinion on 135/2 vs 135/2.8 from someone who owns both. I have read a few conflicting reports about the f2 version. Mainly that the lens is not sharp at all at WO. Considering I would rarely use the focal length for portrait I decided to go with the 2.8 and instead maybe save up for a 28/2 or a 35/1.4 when one of those comes across my radar in the future. Any thoughts?

I own both. The 135 f2 wide open is a bit soft, but its pleasing for portraits. Stopped down its a hair sharper than the 2.8

The 135 2.8 is quite sharp even wide open, and has remarkably even performance across all apertures (like most Sonnars). I love it for portraits (I own two), and I think for the price it's the best telephoto in the Contax lineup. There are two for under $200 at KEH right now.

Bang for buck the 135 2.8 is almost impossible to beat. Only the 50 1.7 comes close, IMHO.

The 180 2.8 is also good. Not as sharp wide open as the 135 2.8, but sharper than the 135 f2. It's a rare telephoto with a floating element that's optimized for closeup focusing (and I presume...portraits).

Together the 135 2.8 and 180 2.8 give you great tele range while you're shooting, with that amazing Zeiss look, at an unbelievable budget.

I look forward to 5 years from now...when all these lenses are gone...and people will be kicking themselves for not having jumped in sooner and acquired them for these insanely low prices.

Domenic Barbero
02-22-2013, 03:40 PM
Nick if you get a good lead on a 180 let me know. i just bought the mmj 135 from keh :) cant wait to put it on my epic.


I own both. The 135 f2 wide open is a bit soft, but its pleasing for portraits. Stopped down its a hair sharper than the 2.8

The 135 2.8 is quite sharp even wide open, and has remarkably even performance across all apertures (like most Sonnars). I love it for portraits (I own two), and I think for the price it's the best telephoto in the Contax lineup. There are two for under $200 at KEH right now.

Bang for buck the 135 2.8 is almost impossible to beat. Only the 50 1.7 comes close, IMHO.

The 180 2.8 is also good. Not as sharp wide open as the 135 2.8, but sharper than the 135 f2. It's a rare telephoto with a floating element that's optimized for closeup focusing (and I presume...portraits).

Together the 135 2.8 and 180 2.8 give you great tele range while you're shooting, with that amazing Zeiss look, at an unbelievable budget.

I look forward to 5 years from now...when all these lenses are gone...and people will be kicking themselves for not having jumped in sooner and acquired them for these insanely low prices.

Samir Patel
02-22-2013, 03:47 PM
Thanks Nick. Your knowledge on Contax is invaluable.


I own both. The 135 f2 wide open is a bit soft, but its pleasing for portraits. Stopped down its a hair sharper than the 2.8

The 135 2.8 is quite sharp even wide open, and has remarkably even performance across all apertures (like most Sonnars). I love it for portraits (I own two), and I think for the price it's the best telephoto in the Contax lineup. There are two for under $200 at KEH right now.

Bang for buck the 135 2.8 is almost impossible to beat. Only the 50 1.7 comes close, IMHO.

The 180 2.8 is also good. Not as sharp wide open as the 135 2.8, but sharper than the 135 f2. It's a rare telephoto with a floating element that's optimized for closeup focusing (and I presume...portraits).

Together the 135 2.8 and 180 2.8 give you great tele range while you're shooting, with that amazing Zeiss look, at an unbelievable budget.

I look forward to 5 years from now...when all these lenses are gone...and people will be kicking themselves for not having jumped in sooner and acquired them for these insanely low prices.

Tom Greenberg
02-22-2013, 05:37 PM
I have both the 135/2.8 and the 180/2.8 in AE versions. As Nick says, they are both extremely sharp over the entire aperture range. I love having these longer lenses that really pull you into people's faces. Nothing against an 85 (that is one of my go-to lenses), but these teles give an extra intimacy that an 85 lacks. The other thing I love about both these lenses in the amazing, rock-solid construction. They are built so well compared to a similar Nikkor...they have a certain heft to them, and silky smooth focus rotation that is close to 270º.

Nick Morrison
02-22-2013, 05:55 PM
I have both the 135/2.8 and the 180/2.8 in AE versions. As Nick says, they are both extremely sharp over the entire aperture range. I love having these longer lenses that really pull you into people's faces. Nothing against an 85 (that is one of my go-to lenses), but these teles give an extra intimacy that an 85 lacks. The other thing I love about both these lenses in the amazing, rock-solid construction. They are built so well compared to a similar Nikkor...they have a certain heft to them, and silky smooth focus rotation that is close to 270º.

BOOM. Exactly.

Ben Scott
02-26-2013, 02:28 AM
Despite my procrastination over the last month or so about whether to go Zeiss ZE I finally made an executive decision and just swapped out the 50 f1.4 I had for a 1.7 AEJ, and took delivery of an AEG 25mm f2.8 - both in mint condition. Very happy with them, although it's scary that having offloaded my Samyangs, I currently don't own any fast glass...

Domenic Barbero
02-28-2013, 10:37 AM
Hey guys. anybody have any experience with the contax 300mm 4.0? I really want a good long lens. Is this one worth getting. ive got 25 2.8, 35 1.4, 50 1.4, 85 1.4, 100 2.8 macro, 135 2.8, and 180 2.8. would it be better to get an older fd canon 2.8 300 or is the zeiss good even at 4.0?

Nick Morrison
03-03-2013, 08:03 AM
Despite my procrastination over the last month or so about whether to go Zeiss ZE I finally made an executive decision and just swapped out the 50 f1.4 I had for a 1.7 AEJ, and took delivery of an AEG 25mm f2.8 - both in mint condition. Very happy with them, although it's scary that having offloaded my Samyangs, I currently don't own any fast glass...

Get yourself a Contax 85 1.4 my friend!

Nick Morrison
03-03-2013, 08:17 AM
Hey guys. anybody have any experience with the contax 300mm 4.0? I really want a good long lens. Is this one worth getting. ive got 25 2.8, 35 1.4, 50 1.4, 85 1.4, 100 2.8 macro, 135 2.8, and 180 2.8. would it be better to get an older fd canon 2.8 300 or is the zeiss good even at 4.0?

Zeiss gets knocked around a lot for not making AMAZING telephotos. Something Canon, for example, has always excelled in. It's what they do (and always have) arguably better than anyone else.

Now, Zeiss HAS made great telephotos. They are just not affordable to mere mortals. Their 300 2.8 and 200 f2 are just, well...insanely expensive. And if you read reviews about them, you almost hear complaints that they are TOO SHARP (or their bokeh's too "harsh"). They don't seem to have the forgiving beauty of their other lenses cuz, well, presumably for $10k they were basically jet fueled and obliterated whatever Lion or Tiger they were being used to film with.

Not saying their other lenses aren't amazing, they are...but from my research it seems that to make a great TELEPHOTO, you need to mix up the special sauce. New rules apply. You have to use low dispersion glass, and other optical wizardry, to cut through and really deliver a sharp telephoto image. It's almost like a different branch of optical design, another specialty, that has nothing todo with the other focal lengths.

Point is, the Tessar 300mm F4 is NOT one of these lenses. It does not have low disperson glass, nor an APO design, and in fact uses the more simple Tessar design with fewer elements and is trying its best to cut through. In general, it does on OK job. But it's not "sharp". Its fine for portraits, and is quite affordable (you can find for $300), and I like it's rendering, but it does not have that "oomph".

However, the 100-300 4.5-5.6 DOES use low dispersion glass, and the latest lens alchemies, and fucking DESTROYS. Its the 35-70 on CRACK. Even wide open at 300mm this zoom is tack sharp and turns the Tessar into dust. This zoom has quite a following on the stills boards cuz, well...it obliterates, while also sporting that lovely Zeis coating. Get one while you can, they are running out...fast.

Another option is the Canon 300 2.8 FD. Fucking amazing lens that does use all of Canon's wizardry and is fucking blazing sharp...but...as it's a bit older has a nice, forgiving coating. You can find them modded to Arri and PL mounts quite commonly. They are popular in our community.

Shervin Mandgaryan
03-03-2013, 10:33 AM
Here's a full poster with most (Not all) Carl Zeiss lenses made for the Contax RTS system.

http://www.cameraserviceone.com/page20.jpg

As well, here's a link to the Contax System Brochure with detailed descriptions of many of the lenses and accessories: http://www3.xitek.com/catalog/contax/ver1/contax1.htm

Ben Scott
03-04-2013, 01:15 AM
Get yourself a Contax 85 1.4 my friend!

Yeah I think that has to happen. Alternately one could just buy this beauty, especially at such a bargain price...

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Contax-Carl-Zeiss-55mm-f-1-2-Planar-T-100-Jahre-Contax-Yashica-Mt-99-MINT-/190667056089?_trksid=p5197.m1992&_trkparms=aid%3D111000%26algo%3DREC.CURRENT%26ao%3 D1%26asc%3D14%26meid%3D6001866647246058713%26pid%3 D100015%26prg%3D1006%26rk%3D1%26sd%3D190667056089% 26

Clayton Burkhart
03-04-2013, 01:23 AM
Yeah I think that has to happen. Alternately one could just buy this beauty, especially at such a bargain price...

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Contax-Carl-Zeiss-55mm-f-1-2-Planar-T-100-Jahre-Contax-Yashica-Mt-99-MINT-/190667056089?_trksid=p5197.m1992&_trkparms=aid%3D111000%26algo%3DREC.CURRENT%26ao%3 D1%26asc%3D14%26meid%3D6001866647246058713%26pid%3 D100015%26prg%3D1006%26rk%3D1%26sd%3D190667056089% 26

Just mounting that lens on your camera would mean losing at least a $1000 on it's value. A touch of wear on the mount and it's finished. Purely for collectors.

Shervin Mandgaryan
03-05-2013, 12:42 PM
I just got a hold of the 28-85 zoom, and it's pretty decent. Nowhere near the image mastery of the 35-70 F3.4 but it does hold it's own and it has a very useful zoom range. My only gripes with it are the CA issues on the wide end and the softness at 85.

The CA doesn't seem to go away even stepped down at 28mm which is bothersome, especially on full frame where it gets very very nasty in the corners. Going to 35 and beyond it's not that much of an issue but it's still there.

Wide open at 85mm seems to bring out coma in the image... but depending on how you look at it, it could be beneficial. Sharpness is still there but the soft 'glow' of the image works very nicely on skin tones.

Either way, it's a very decent buy for around the $400 range. Obviously with these Contax zooms, push pull and rotating front end are issues, but if you can deal with them, you'll have a lens that will provide you with boat tons of the 3D effect for little money. I'm glad I ditched my Tokina 28-70 F2.8 for this guy, albeit it is slower.

Shervin Mandgaryan
03-05-2013, 12:45 PM
Here's a quickie shot at 85mm wide open. Note the 3D effect and color pop. Bokeh is quite nice as well.

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_1102.jpg

Mikey Piliero
03-05-2013, 12:55 PM
So where is everyone finding these lens now that so many have been snatched up? Still KEH and ebay? Are there any particular key words to search for?

Domenic Barbero
03-05-2013, 12:57 PM
Man i just got a 135mm from keh, great price, they listed as ex+ but when i got it the aperture was loose, and lens wouldnt focus at all past 8 ft. had to send back. Very sad. THough my 180mm contax i just got on ebay is a beautiful lens. One of my new favorites. :)

Shervin Mandgaryan
03-05-2013, 01:05 PM
So where is everyone finding these lens now that so many have been snatched up? Still KEH and ebay? Are there any particular key words to search for?

eBay is the place to look now. Keep a saved search on the keyword 'Contax' and filter by newly listed. Every time you check it you'll see the newest lenses for sale.

I've never ever found a dud lens on eBay, and I've purchased 10 out of my 13 Contax lenses from there. Not too sure about KEH but they only have like two lenses in stock for Contax and they're generally overpriced. Japanese sellers on eBay are notorious for selling flawless Contax glass at insane prices. Keep an eye out and you'll eventually find gems :)

Ben Scott
03-05-2013, 03:09 PM
I just got a hold of the 28-85 zoom, and it's pretty decent. Nowhere near the image mastery of the 35-70 F3.4 but it does hold it's own and it has a very useful zoom range. My only gripes with it are the CA issues on the wide end and the softness at 85.

The CA doesn't seem to go away even stepped down at 28mm which is bothersome, especially on full frame where it gets very very nasty in the corners. Going to 35 and beyond it's not that much of an issue but it's still there.

Wide open at 85mm seems to bring out coma in the image... but depending on how you look at it, it could be beneficial. Sharpness is still there but the soft 'glow' of the image works very nicely on skin tones.

Either way, it's a very decent buy for around the $400 range. Obviously with these Contax zooms, push pull and rotating front end are issues, but if you can deal with them, you'll have a lens that will provide you with boat tons of the 3D effect for little money. I'm glad I ditched my Tokina 28-70 F2.8 for this guy, albeit it is slower.

Interesting... The Tokina 28-70 is precisely the lens I was thinking about sacrificing in order to get one of these...

Shervin Mandgaryan
03-05-2013, 03:21 PM
Ben,

The Tokina 28-70 is a great lens mechanically and optically. Internal focusing and two touch capability is great, and it definitely saved my ass out in the field. Not to mention it's very robust (The Pro I version).

Optically it is deficient in a few areas. Wide open at 70mm is very very soft. Stepping down to F4 helps it out greatly but it's still nowhere it really needs to be (But again it's a $350 lens right?). Otherwise it's color reproduction is much better than other offerings from lens manufactures... it's got a nice pastel 'filmic' look to it that's very hard to describe. Bob Gundu and I have used the Tokina for very nice results recently.

Compared to the 28-85, in terms of color and contrast there's almost no comparison, the Zeiss destroys it in every way imaginable. The tradeoff is poor cinema mechanics and slower speed. To be honest the Tokina 28-70 should have been a 3.5/4 lens like the 28-85 to keep it's sharpness performance on par. You do get an extra 15mm length on the Zeiss which is very handy. Also close focusing on the Zeiss is better than the Tokina... and Zeiss focus rotation is 180 degrees vs about 80 on the Tokina.

The Tokina is more tame. The Zeiss is almost like an immature teenager with a prodigal gift... doesn't do everything excellent, but in certain areas it does it incredibly well.

I'd buy both lenses and see which one you like best.

Jake Wilganowski
03-05-2013, 03:24 PM
Yesterday I saw a 85 1.4 pop up online. I went to another page then came back 5 minutes later to buy it and it was gone. I KNOW IT WAS ONE OF YOU!! ; )

Ben Scott
03-05-2013, 04:05 PM
Thanks Shervin - I already own the Tokina and I love it for the money and like you it has saved my arse in a couple of recent shoots. Not 100% positive whether mine is the v1 or v2 but it certainly displays all the qualities (good and bad) that you mentioned.

Except for the macro stuff done on a Canon 100mm, and the DSLR shots, all the Red stuff in this recent video was either the Tokina or Contax Zeiss. The interviews were definitely the Tokina.


https://vimeo.com/60715650

password: model

I missed out on the zeiss zoom auction I was following, but will grab the next bargain one that comes my way...

Nick Pasquariello
03-05-2013, 09:49 PM
Yesterday I saw a 85 1.4 pop up online. I went to another page then came back 5 minutes later to buy it and it was gone. I KNOW IT WAS ONE OF YOU!! ; )

Haha! Wasn't me this time, but I'm pretty sure I did that to someone when I snagged my 35-70.

Shervin Mandgaryan
03-05-2013, 10:23 PM
Oh and I forgot to mention, the 28-85 breathes less than some of my primes... at all focal lengths. I'm starting to really, really like this lens more and more. If you can find one for $400 and are on the fence... don't even think, just buy it.

Nick Morrison
03-05-2013, 10:39 PM
Oh and I forgot to mention, the 28-85 breathes less than some of my primes... at all focal lengths. I'm starting to really, really like this lens more and more. If you can find one for $400 and are on the fence... don't even think, just buy it.

Yeah it also has SICK close focus at 28, and it holds focus amazing well. Don't know why. It's kind of amazing, really. Only draw back is that it has more visible distortion on the wide end than the primes (ie at 28).

Other than that...kind of the shit really.

Nick Morrison
03-06-2013, 09:43 PM
Hey guys check out this parrallel thread going on in the sales section now:

ZEISS S16 Super Speed & Contax Set (http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?95874-Zeiss-S16-Super-Speed-set&p=1163705&viewfull=1#post1163705)

Argyris, the DP selling his mixed Super Speed & Contax set, was kind of enough to share about this. Apparantly this mixed set was pretty common back in the day, and the lenses did indeed perform incredibly similarly. See what he says here:


Hi Nick,
this kind of mix was quite common at those days.
I remember we might get a tiny color shift, no more than one point in photochemical printing, but the contrast was practically the same. Of course these lenses did not have the great mechanical virtues of the super speeds but they did not share their price tag either. :-)

After looking at the pics of his set, I actually noticed that his 35mm 1.4 has the Rollei coating (HTF), not the Zeiss T* coating (though they are thought to be very similar), and I asked him if this maybe led to the tiny color shift? We'll see.

Either way, even more important I thought was his reminder that back in the day mixing Super Speeds and Contax was a pretty common thing, because they looked and performed so similarly. That's music to my ears. As Super Speeds continue to skyrocket in price ($60k a set now?), it's great to know that our little Contax lenses are hitting WAY above their weight, and delivering staggeringly similar imagery at a fraction of the price...all the while covering Full Frame and easily covering Dragon.

Shervin Mandgaryan
03-06-2013, 10:00 PM
Mitch Gross I think on another forum mentioned how he was using Contax primes on his Aaton... of course this was done in the 90's... way before the internet or free knowledge. Would've loved to have seen Contax primes be popular amongst filmmakers to the extent that they are today back then... the primes would be worth a metric jack ton now.

Nick Morrison
03-06-2013, 10:05 PM
Mitch Gross I think on another forum mentioned how he was using Contax primes on his Aaton... of course this was done in the 90's... way before the internet or free knowledge. Would've loved to have seen Contax primes be popular amongst filmmakers to the extent that they are today back then... the primes would be worth a metric jack ton now.

True. None of us could probably afford them. Haha!

Nick Morrison
03-12-2013, 11:18 PM
Here's something you don't find out every day:

I just read on his blog that ROGER DEAKINS shot his first feature using adapted Contax primes (http://www.rogerdeakins.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2267&p=11413&hilit=Contax&sid=fb8afaa4eceeea885b6a417385539d82#p11413)!!

From the man himself:


"My first feature film was shot using adapted Contax lenses. It was shot on Super 16 and a number of experienced professionals swore that it had been shot on 35mm."

On another post (http://www.rogerdeakins.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1741&p=8865&hilit=Contax&sid=fb8afaa4eceeea885b6a417385539d82#p8865) he elaborates:


I shot one of my first features, called 'Another Time Another Place', in 1983 and it was done on Super 16mm with an optical blow up. For the shoot I had some Contax stills lenses remounted to fit an Aaton camera.

He dishes again here (http://www.rogerdeakins.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=251&p=1057&hilit=Contax&sid=f8119ad2d20034d4fbf248be5651bea4#p1057):


One of the first films I photographed, "Another Time Another Place', was shot with an Aaton with Contax prime lenses that I had adapted for the camera. When the film won some awards nobody believed me when I said it was shot Super 16. We used a slower stock than is possible today but I still shot one scene under a single light bulb I seem to remember.

Samir Patel
03-12-2013, 11:43 PM
^^ :thumbup:

Brice Ansel
03-13-2013, 06:10 AM
Nick,
I wanted to say thank you for your time sharing your knowledge about those wonderfull piece of glass.
This thread is unvaluable for the people who are looking for a good glass investment.
I still can't understand why those C.Z Contax are so cheap.

My set so far (All AE)
25 Distagon, 28 Distagon, 35 Distagon, 50 Planar(1.7), 60s Planar, 35/70 Vario Sonnar, 85 sonnar,135 Sonnar, 200 Tele-Tessar
Looking for the 100 F2 (hard to find in AE version)
Did I miss something?
Nick do you have other sugestion to complete my AE set?


Here's something you don't find out every day:

I just read on his blog that ROGER DEAKINS shot his first feature using adapted Contax primes (http://www.rogerdeakins.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2267&p=11413&hilit=Contax&sid=fb8afaa4eceeea885b6a417385539d82#p11413)!!

From the man himself:



On another post (http://www.rogerdeakins.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1741&p=8865&hilit=Contax&sid=fb8afaa4eceeea885b6a417385539d82#p8865) he elaborates:



He dishes again here (http://www.rogerdeakins.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=251&p=1057&hilit=Contax&sid=f8119ad2d20034d4fbf248be5651bea4#p1057):


Ps:
35mm Distagon @F2.8
Shot with one light bulb (115w) in a chinese ball 2 meters distance from the talent.
NO SHARPENING APPLY!


http://brice.media@brice.media.free.fr/pics/contax/35distagonF2.8.jpg

Best
B.

Nick Morrison
03-13-2013, 10:06 AM
Nick,
I wanted to say thank you for your time sharing your knowledge about those wonderfull piece of glass.
This thread is unvaluable for the people who are looking for a good glass investment.
I still can't understand why those C.Z Contax are so cheap.

My set so far (All AE)
25 Distagon, 28 Distagon, 35 Distagon, 50 Planar(1.7), 60s Planar, 35/70 Vario Sonnar, 85 sonnar,135 Sonnar, 200 Tele-Tessar
Looking for the 100 F2 (hard to find in AE version)
Did I miss something?
Nick do you have other sugestion to complete my AE set?

Best
B.

Brice, love the pic!

Your set is pretty complete! You might want to consider the 18 as a wide (though its kinda slow at f4, the Tokina 11-16 is faster, but has different feel).

The one lens I'd say definitely look out for (in AE) is the Sonnar 100 3.5. It's cheap ($350-400), but kind of amazing. It's unbelievably sharp. Like the 85 Sonnar, but sharper. It's actually sharper than the 100 f2 across the board, at all apertures (the f2 planar has almost no distortion, though, so has its own magic that can't be dismissed...its famous for a reason). However the 100 Sonnar, for raw brute force, is hard to beat. It's charming. And tiny. I kind of love it. It has it's own "following" on the stills boards. Not as big a fan base as some of the regular All-Stars (100-300, 35-70, 35 1.4, 100 f2, etc)...but well loved for being a remarkable lens in a tiny package. Kind of like the 50 1.7. On crack.

Brice Ansel
03-13-2013, 10:14 AM
Brice, love the pic!

Your set is pretty complete! You might want to consider the 18 as a wide (though its kinda slow at f4, the Tokina 11-16 is faster, but has different feel).

The one lens I'd say definitely look out for (in AE) is the Sonnar 100 3.5. It's cheap ($350-400), but kind of amazing. It's unbelievably sharp. Like the 85 Sonnar, but sharper. It's actually sharper than the 100 f2 across the board, at all apertures (the f2 planar has almost no distortion, though, so has its own magic that can't be dismissed...its famous for a reason). However the 100 Sonnar, for raw brute force, is hard to beat. It's charming. And tiny. I kind of love it. It has it's own "following" on the stills boards. Not as big a fan base as some of the regular All-Stars (100-300, 35-70, 35 1.4, 100 f2, etc)...but well loved for being a remarkable lens in a tiny package. Kind of like the 50 1.7. On crack.

Hé hé you just sold me on the 100 F3.5 :-)
I already have the Tokina 11/16 and also the 19mm Elmarit in R mount wich I tend to prefer.
I was happy with the Leica R set but frankly I prefer the lowcon and organic feeling of those AE lenses.
At least I stayed a German groopie.
Thanks again Mr Morrison
Best
B.

Nick Morrison
03-13-2013, 12:06 PM
Hé hé you just sold me on the 100 F3.5 :-)
I already have the Tokina 11/16 and also the 19mm Elmarit in R mount wich I tend to prefer.
I was happy with the Leica R set but frankly I prefer the lowcon and organic feeling of those AE lenses.
At least I stayed a German groopie.
Thanks again Mr Morrison
Best
B.

Haha. No prob. I'm charmed by how the AE's have won you ever. I kinda pegged you as a Leica R guy, so happy to see you've fallen for the other germans as well.

Yeah, the organicness of the AE's is kinda sick. Also, the MM's have more barrel stiffness to them when you focus. The AE's are more silky smooth generally. I only built a backup MM set so I could shoot w/out the ninja-star if I needed to (in case a client had an issue with it). Im much more attached to my AEs. Seeing the "Made in West Germany" gets me every time.

Another lens for you to consider is the 180 Sonnar. I know you have the 200 Tessar, so it may be overkill, but the 180 is interesting in that it has a floating element to enhance it's close focus. Something you don't find often in telephotos. It's sharp, but doesn't have a ton of fine detail resolution (the 200 is better stopped down for this), but the 180 at 2.8 gives you a shallow plane of focus that's hard to replicate otherwise. I'd look for that after the 100, more as gravy than anything else. I kinda love the 200 tessar myself (I have the 3.5), so you are kinda covered.

Uli Plank
03-13-2013, 01:15 PM
He sold me on the 100 3.5 too. I got a minty one for 250 Euro in MM version. That beast is sharp!

But I went for both lines, AE and MM nevertheless. Since everybody seems to be hunting MMs, I went for slower MMs and got the fast AEs (50, 85).

I can't confirm a stiffer focus on MM in general. But that may be sample variation, after all these are all used lenses.

Nick Morrison
03-13-2013, 04:05 PM
I can't confirm a stiffer focus on MM in general. But that may be sample variation, after all these are all used lenses.

All my MM's primes in the 7's have stiffer focus. The Zooms are all fine. My later MM primes (high 7s, 8s, 9s) have silkier focus. Something happened in that large batch of early 7s when a lot of the production moved to Japan. Not a huge deal, just something to keep in mind. I'm also just used to the AE's and how smooth they are, so its also about being a creature of habit. The stiffness is by no means a problem, just something small I noticed and cateloged to myself. If I'd never tried the AE's, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about it, to be honest.

Tom Greenberg
03-13-2013, 06:52 PM
I'm also just used to the AE's and how smooth they are
I love my set of AE's! I recently got the 100 3.5, on Nick's recommendation (I think he is personally responsible for a worldwide shortage of this lens, lol)...bought mine from a dealer in Hong Kong for $475...it is sharp and smooth all at the same time.

We've been shooting some beauty shots for the new RP Lens website...I'll post some pix of my AE set in the next couple of days.

Nick Morrison
03-13-2013, 08:07 PM
(I think he is personally responsible for a worldwide shortage of this lens, lol)

Haha, thanks Tom


I recently got the 100 3.5...it is sharp and smooth all at the same time.

Yeah I think pound for pound (its tiny) and dollar for dollar (its pretty affordable, really)...the 100 3.5 enters pretty rarified company. I'm not going to say something categorical like "for the price and the size, its the best lens of all time", but it's certainly in a very small elite group. It's just astounding how good it is, and yet how small and affordable it remains. The only chinks in its armor (if any) are it's speed (its slow) and separation (it can't get crazy shallow), and its distortion is common place (whereas the 85 1.4 and 100 f2 are WORLD CLASS for their lack of distortion, which I think must explain their hallowed reputation as superb portrait lenses).

But for sheer raw power, this thing is a monster. It's sharper than both the 100f2 and 100 2.8 Macro. EVEN WIDE OPEN it's sharper than the 100 f2 at any aperture, and is as sharp as the 100 2.8 Macro at 5.6. Kinda dizzying really.

It's the Manny Pacquiao of lenses.

Brice Ansel
03-14-2013, 05:40 AM
Haha. No prob. I'm charmed by how the AE's have won you ever. I kinda pegged you as a Leica R guy, so happy to see you've fallen for the other germans as well.

Yeah, the organicness of the AE's is kinda sick. Also, the MM's have more barrel stiffness to them when you focus. The AE's are more silky smooth generally. I only built a backup MM set so I could shoot w/out the ninja-star if I needed to (in case a client had an issue with it). Im much more attached to my AEs. Seeing the "Made in West Germany" gets me every time.

Another lens for you to consider is the 180 Sonnar. I know you have the 200 Tessar, so it may be overkill, but the 180 is interesting in that it has a floating element to enhance it's close focus. Something you don't find often in telephotos. It's sharp, but doesn't have a ton of fine detail resolution (the 200 is better stopped down for this), but the 180 at 2.8 gives you a shallow plane of focus that's hard to replicate otherwise. I'd look for that after the 100, more as gravy than anything else. I kinda love the 200 tessar myself (I have the 3.5), so you are kinda covered.

So today I was hunting for the 50 1.7 under steroid, I mean the 100 F3.5 (wich is a scary assumption 50 1.7 is already crazy sharp) and I finally found a 100 F2 AE.
Me think in the F2 league it will be a nice complement to my summicrons. ;-)

Best
B.

Tom Greenberg
03-14-2013, 06:16 AM
Here's a shot of my AE lenses, modified by RP Lens, here in lovely Grand Rapids...a little lens porn to start your day...

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-XFJdacNGVyM/UUHL8qoCF7I/AAAAAAAAAFc/JCeX-A_eYZk/s912/TG_Contax_AE_Set2.jpg

and a few with Allstar A-Mount...

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-1RO7z1vob-g/UUHL-DD7btI/AAAAAAAAAFk/zJzWSMQsVUs/s912/TG_Contax_Allstar.jpg

Nick Morrison
03-14-2013, 09:49 AM
So today I was hunting for the 50 1.7 under steroid, I mean the 100 F3.5 (wich is a scary assumption 50 1.7 is already crazy sharp) and I finally found a 100 F2 AE.
Me think in the F2 league it will be a nice complement to my summicrons. ;-)

Best
B.

Haha. Nicely done.