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  1. #2851  
    Senior Member Nick Morrison's Avatar
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    ZOOMS TO GET

    28-85
    35-70
    35-135
    80-200
    100-300


    28-85 3.3-f4 ($2,450 new , $650 today/used)
    The 28-85 3.3-f4 is the most useful Contax zoom for filmmaking. A bag of primes in one lens (and once as expensive at the 35 1.4), it’s range makes it ideal on set. Unbelievably sharp wide open and stopped down, this marvel of a zoom is also blessed with great close focusing and gorgeous bokeh. We bring it on almost every job. It’s push pull design makes it ideal for run and gun - but not as convenient in a studio. Has tremendous barrel rotation, so rack focuses beautifully (approx 270 degrees even @ 28mm...unheard of for a full frame wide-angle!). Almost flawless. Only mild drawbacks are it’s gentle distortion at 28mm, and it’s stop loss of light going from 28mm to 85mm.


    35-70 3.4 ($1,750 new , $500 today/used)
    The 35-70 3.4 is not as convenient as the 28-85 on set - but many say it’s better. Has probably the biggest cult following of any Contax lens (some say its one of the best full frame zooms ever made). Its combination of technical brilliance and superb color and 3D "pop" have earned it almost iconic status. Sharp wide open. World class stopped down. Has a 3:1 macro function. Does everything with brillo inside a tiny package. Has become one of the most sought after Contax lenses ever made. For photographers trying to save on size/weight, this zoom is a no brainer. But if you're filming on set (and your kit already weighs 15lbs), the 28-85 is hard to resist.


    35-135 3.4-4.5 ($3,800 new , $1,250 today/used)
    Is the 35-135 the Cadillac of Contax zooms? Outrageously expensive brand new, this 4X zoom was designed with tremendous range and versatility in mind. Large and heavy by Contax standards, this lens is nevertheless blisteringly sharp across the board. Add in a robust 1:25 macro function, and you can see how it's truly "many lenses in one". Paired with a 21 2.8 you could shoot all day outside. Only drawbacks are it's size, mild distortion at 35mm, it's one stop loss of light from wide to tight, and it's overall speed. For filmmaking it can be quite special - as there are very few FF zooms with this combination of range, versatility, and performance. On Vista Vision Weapon it would probably destroy. But it still seems best suited for shooting outdoors, where its speed and push-pull design make it well suited for run n gun shooting.


    80-200 ($2,000 new, $300 today/used)
    The 80-200 - Once quite expensive, and now outrageously affordable, the 80-200 is one of my favorite Contax lenses. For the price, it's almost impossible to beat. It's telephoto range is ideal on most jobs - but what makes it extra special is it's close focusing. Whereas most 200mm lenses focus down to btw 6-10 feet (the Nikkor 200 f2 @ 10 feet, the Contax 200 f2 @ 6 feet), this zoom can focus down to 3 feet at 200mm - making it a shockingly beautiful and creamy macro "tele" that's quite rare. Rack focuses gorgeously too. Only drawabacks are it's push pull design, slight slow speed at F4, and it's mild loss of resolution at 200 wide open (but still very professional).


    100-300 4.5 -5.6 ($??? new, $1,250 today/used)
    A world class zoom, the 100-300 has earned itself a cult following almost on par with the 35-70. Built with an "APO" design, this lens is unbelievably sharp, outclassing many primes. Even more surprising is it's tiny footprint - even though it covers more range than the 80-200, its actually smaller. For travel and doc work requiring a world class telephoto, this zoom is worth a long look. Only drawbacks are it's speed - it's quite slow for filmmaking at 4.5-5.6, but for exterior work it's a stunner. Remains quite expensive to this day. Close focusing not as dynamic as the 80-200, but still very good (4.5 feet).
    Last edited by Nick Morrison; 04-06-2015 at 09:35 PM.
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  2. #2852  
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    OTHER ZOOMS


    40-80 f4 ($??? new, $350 today/used)
    The venerable 40-80 AE was replaced by the iconic 35-70 MM. This classic zoom is quite old (there are West German copies with serials in late 5's), and is the only short range zoom w/ the ninja star. Plagued with distortion both at 40mm and 80mm, this lens was nevertheless very strong at 50mm. We've never used it, but appears to have nice bokeh, with lovely vintage character. Perhaps because of it's lack of premium attributes, was never very popular? Easy to see why it was replaced by the legendary 35-70. Hard to recommend unless you're looking for a classic (though flawed) AE zoom with character (my gut tells me it flares like crazy, esp the very old ones).


    70-210 3.3 ($??? new, $1,250 today/used)
    This AE telephoto zoom is a conundrum - it remains outrageously expensive, though the 80-200 is arguably better for 1/4 the price. However, in it's hayday the 70-210 was almost certainly commendable. It was fast at 3.3 and provided a tad more range than traditional 80-200's. Also blessed with gorgeous macro close focusing. Never spectacularly sharp, its hefty price may have been a tough sell. Was eventually supplanted by the more modern and affordable 80-200 MM, and also by the spectacular 100-300. For the price, hard to recommend (unless you are specifically looking for a vintage AE tele zoom).



    OTHER PRIMES


    45 2.8 ($585 new, $350 today/used)
    This pocket sized Tessar is tiny - but also hard to work with on set. However for specialty applications where a truly tiny medium prime is needed, this Tessar certainly fits the bill Proffessional wide open, sharp stopped down, and with minimal distortion, this micro prime is commendable. However hard to pick over the faster, better and more affordable 50 1.7. Designed with even more plastic than the 1.7, the build quality is also below normal Contax standards.


    60 2.8 C Macro ($??? new, $450 today/used)
    Allegedly the same optical design as it's bigger brother (the 1:1 "S") this smaller, lighter "C" can only focus down to 1:2. Some believe the "S" is superior across the board, but the MTFs suggest the "C" is also a fine lens. That said, hard to recommend when the prized "S" is only modestly more $$$.


    200 3.5 ($??? new, $350 today/used)
    Expensive in its day, and only marginally cheaper than the faster 180 2.8, this Tessar must have struggled to emerge from under the Sonnar's shadow. A poor seller, it was eventually replaced by the smaller and cheaper 200 f4 (a more true "budget" tele). Suffering from CA wide open, this vintage tele is not demandingly sharp. However its older coatings, ninja star, and classic design give it a unique render thats worth a second look. Terrific build quality too. I personally kind of like it.


    200 f4 ($??? new, $350 today/used)
    An updated, budget version of the 200 3.5, the f4 is smaller, making it better suited for travel. The MTFs suggest it's a fine lens. Though for the $$$ you're likely far better off getting the 180 2.8 or 80-200 f4 (depending on your needs).
    Last edited by Nick Morrison; 06-11-2015 at 06:43 PM.
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  3. #2853  
    Senior Member Nick Morrison's Avatar
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    "EXOTIC" PRIMES
    I have personally never used any of these lenses listed below. But I will try and quickly sketch what I know:


    15 3.5 ($11,000 new, $2,000 today/used)
    Jaw droppingly expensive brand new, this design was allegedly liscenced to Leica as well (for the R line). When it was introduced, this non fisheye full frame 15mm must have been a revelation, a technical feat (Leica's interest in the design is understandable). Professional wide open, and sharp stopped down, the MTFs nonetheless suggest its woefully outclassed by Zeiss' new mastepiece...the 15mm 2.8. Nevertheless, for a vintage fullframe 15mm...you'd be hard pressed to find anything better. But...considering how expensive this lens remains, its hard to recommend wholeheartedly...esp when the 15 2.8 is similarly priced. Im a shameless supporter of vintage glass, but only when the cost/performance ratio makes sense. This collector's item borders on almost not being worth it, IMHO.


    55 1.2 60th ($??? new, $5,000 today/used)
    One of the legendary Jahare lenses released to commemorate Contax's 60th Anniversary, this 1.2 Super Speed remains extravegantly priced. Designed for big spending collectors, this lens was considered a masterpiece when released. Famous to this today for its beautiful bokeh, this lens has a small but passionate fan base. I have to admit - Id love to see it on Vista Vision Weapon!


    85 1.2 60th ($??? new, $8,000 today/used)
    From what I can tell, everything about the 55...applies to the 85 - except it's even more expensive!


    135 f2 60th ($??? new, $3,000 today/used)
    Another Jaher, this lens allegedly has the exact same design as the standard 135 f2, except now made with modern/improved materials. From one test I saw, the new version may indeed be a smidge sharper. Not sure it's worth the extravegant cost though.


    200 f2 ($15,000 new, $5,000 today/used)
    Outrageously expensive brand new, still extravegantly priced today, this rare telephoto allegedly has minimal CA wide open, though also believed to have "harsh" bokeh at faster stops. One thing's for sure - according to the MTFs, this lens is screamingly sharp. However for the price, hard to justify when the superb Nikkor AIS 200 f2 costs many times less.


    300 2.8 ($30,000 new, $10,000 today/used)
    I know very little about this lens, except it remains outrageously expensive. I assume much of whats true about the 200 f2, may also apply to the 300 2.8. Again, for the price...hard to justify when the superb Nikkor AIS 300 3.8 is many times less.

    I remember once seeing a original PL mount version of this on ebay, so it appers Zeiss made some of these for cine specifically.


    500 f8 Mirror ($??? new, $2,000 today/used)
    This iconic lens is regarded by some as the best 500mm mirror ever made. The MTFs certainly suggest its very sharp, esp for a mirror lens. The biggest advantage of a 500 mirror is of course its size - its not much bigger than an 85mm prime! Though slow, its ideal outdoors. The signature "donut" bokeh can be great, or distracting. Still very expensive, it's hard to justify for the price...especially when its main rival, the Rokkor 500 f8 (rebadged by Leica) is so much more affordable.


    500 4.5 Mirror ($36,000 new, $??? today/used)
    This lens is sort of an urban legend. I saw one on ebay once for almost $20k! Its the size of a Howitzer. Impractical for filmmaking. For the price, you'd almost need to be delusional to get this (esp with so many great 400mm primes available). A collector's item only.


    1000 5.6 Mirror ($80,000 new, $??? today/used)
    Same as above. Except even larger and more expensive! Probably as much as a set of Super Speeds!! This lens is insanely rare. An absolute collector's item. Have to admit - would love to see it on a Weapon Vista Vision! If you can find one!!
    Last edited by Nick Morrison; 04-06-2015 at 09:58 PM.
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  4. #2854 Buy them now! 
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    I have one thing to say about Nick writing an update to the thread; If you are still buying Contax lenses, hurry up. You know how the second hand market prices went up last time he did this! :-)

    Seriously, thanks Nick! We appreciate how willing you are to share what you have learned.
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  5. #2855  
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    Damn, thanks Nick! Always excited to get more info and input, love these lenses!
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  6. #2856  
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    @ Janis:
    What about Sigma 18-35? It's not too far off in color too and really good value for the money.

    @ Nick:
    Thanks for all the work! You confirmed all of my buying decisions (and the passes too)!
    Regards,

    Uli

    My Red is called Vertov after a Russian avantgarde filmmaker, a pioneer in modern cinematography, a true revolutionary who later suffered under Stalin's bureaucracy.
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  7. #2857  
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    Found me a marvel, albeit not Zeiss:
    Sorry for posting this here, but among vintage lovers, you may understand my enthusiasm: I got me a Minolta/Sony 135mm 2,8 STF (actually T 4.5).
    This unique construction must be the ultimate bokeh machine. I only wish Sony, who is holding the patents now, would make a 85mm version, since 135 is a bit long on S-35.
    This lens is not like a Varisoft Rokkor or a Nikon DC (Defocus control), but it has an apodization optical element to produce the smoothest bokeh ever. Even the Contax 85mm 1.4 can be harsh in some backlight situations, but this one never is. No problem to adapt to my A7R, but I don't know if you can put it on a RED.

    Photos soon, but you can read about it here: http://www.the135stf.net
    Regards,

    Uli

    My Red is called Vertov after a Russian avantgarde filmmaker, a pioneer in modern cinematography, a true revolutionary who later suffered under Stalin's bureaucracy.
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  8. #2858  
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    Thanks Nick for the Guide!
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  9. #2859  
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    As always, thanks Nick. Your dedication not only to us redusers but to the Contax line of lenses is unsurpassed. You're the reason I switched to Contax. Thanks for making images I capture so much better.
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  10. #2860  
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    Nick .. just logged in for the first time in a week or so. Wow! Thank you for the amazing amount of work you put in to the update and continue to put into this thread.
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