Comparing an assortment of CONTAX Zeiss lenses at minimum focus distance

For this test I wanted to see how my current collection of CONTAX Zeiss lenses compared at minimum focus distance. This will give you a sense of the focal lengths, lens compression, bokeh, and other characteristics while choosing a CONTAX Zeiss lens. No images have been corrected or modified in any way.

For this test I have sheepy in front of a miniature Christmas tree. He never moved for the test.

First up is the 28mm f2.8

CONTAX Zeiss 28mm f2.8 at MFD & f2.8

Followed by the 50mm f1.4

CONTAX Zeiss 50mm f1.4 at MFD & f1.4

Followed by the 28-85mm f3.3-4

CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm at 28mm & MFD & wide open.
CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm at 85mm & MFD & wide open.

Followed by the 100mm f3.5

CONTAX Zeiss 100mm f3.5 at MFD & f3.5

Followed by the 135mm f2.8

CONTAX Zeiss 135mm f2.8 at MFD & f2.8

Followed by the 80-200mm f4

CONTAX Zeiss 80-200mm f4 at 80mm & MFD & f4
CONTAX Zeiss 80-200mm f4 at 200mm & MFD & f4

Followed by the 180mm f2.8

CONTAX Zeiss 180mm f2.8 @ MFD & f2.8

Followed by the 300mm f4

CONTAX Zeiss 300mm f4 @ MFD & f4.

What conclusions can I make from this?

For starters, the 50mm f1.4 seems to give a very pleasing rendering, which is able to capture enough of the sheep, while also melting away the background. The zoomable 28-85mm f3.3-4 has a fairly poor minimum focus distance at 28mm, meaning I couldn’t isolate the sheep, and ended up getting much of the couch in the photo; however, it does a more pleasing job at 85mm.

Surprisingly, the 80-200mm f4 can get closer at 80mm than it can at 200mm, and our winner in the tight crop department has to be the 180mm f2.8, I could only get the head in the frame at MFD. The 300mm f4 has the most compression, no surprise there, but it’s not able to blur the backgrounds like the 180mm f2.8 or the 50mm f1.4.

Let me know your thoughts below!

CONTAX Zeiss 50mm f1.4 vs Nikon 55mm f1.2

This is a quick comparison showing the minimum focus distance of the CONTAX Zeiss 50mm f1.2 to Nikon’s 55mm f1.2. The vintage 55mm from Nikon has been my go-to “Nifty 50” for quite some time. I’d really like to see how it stacks up against the 50mm from CONTAX.

Minimum Focus Distance of CONTAX 50mm f1.4

I’m really impressed with the close focus distance of the CONTAX lens. Here it is at MFD wide open at f1.4:

CONTAX Zeiss 50mm f1.4 @f1.4 and minimum focus distance.

Minimum Focus Distance of Nikon 55mm f1.2

Nikon 55mm f1.2 @1.2 and minimum focus distance.

I’m really impressed with the CONTAX 50mm f1.4. I would have assumed that my Nikkor lens had a better ability of blurring the backgrounds as an f1.2 lens, but the ability of the CONTAX lens to get closer to the subject actually gives it more background blur. Here are the two images side-by-side:

Nikon 55mm f1.2
CONTAX Zeiss 50mm f1.4

The Nikkor lens appears warmer in this example but that’s not typical from what I’ve seen. It may just be the light through the window changing.

First Snow of the Year. CONTAX 28mm f2.8

Contax Zeiss 28mm f2.8 @f11 ISO 100 1/250s

January 7th and this is the first real snow of the year in Northern Maryland, and just a few inches. I’ve been using the 28mm f2.8 a lot for landscapes lately. Contrast and color is great. The lens will flare if pointed directly towards the sun. I managed to get this photo without any flare.

Shooting Landscapes with the Contax 28mm f2.8

I’ve been walking around with the Contax Zeiss 28mm f2.8 for a little over a month. I can easily say this has become my go-to landscape hiking lens. It’s small enough to not be bothersome on long hikes, and the image quality is superb.

A landscape image shot with the Contax Zeiss 28mm f2.8 lens.
Contax Zeiss 28mm f2.8 @ f11.

The image above is from conservation land in my town. I chose f11 because of the depth of this scene and wanting to have most of it in focus. The lens exhibits typical Zeiss colors. I did find the image much warmer at f11 than at f2.8. The image below is wide open at f2.8:

Contax Zeiss 28mm f2.8 @f2.8

The above images were shot within seconds of each other. Notice how much cooler the second image is at f2.8. I shot a few images at both f-stops to confirm this effect. ISO for both images was 100. The f11 image was shot at 1/1600s and the f2.8 image was shot at 1/125s. My guess is that the sensor of my Nikon Z6 chose interprets scenes differently based on the amount of light entering the lens. Keep in mind that with no mechanical or electronic connection to the camera, this lens was at f11 during metering, instead of stopping down after metering, the way a modern lens would. The warmer colors of the f11 image is how I saw the scene while taking the photos.

Corner sharpness isn’t great at f2.8. See image below:

Contax Zeiss 28mm f2.8 Corner Sharpness @f2.8

Center sharpness is great. These corners aren’t looking great at f2.8. They’re also out of focus so not the best test.

Below is an image at f8:

Contax Zeiss 28mm f2.8 @f8

While corner sharpness isn’t great at f2.8, I’m not really in the habit of shooting landscapes at f2.8, and much prefer f8 and higher, and that’s where this lens shines for landscapes.