Micro Contrast of CONTAX Lenses

Micro Contrast, or microcontrast, or tonal range, measures the ability of a lens to resolve shade variations. There has always been a debate whether micro contrast actually matters, or even exists at all. These debates typically also involve discussions of “3D pop” and “Zeiss rendering”. Over the years I’ve come to realize that some people perceive micro contrast and color differently than others. I can clearly see differences in micro contrast between lenses, while many cannot. Many do not realize that when they argue for, or against, micro contrast, what they are really arguing about is people’s ability to distinguish shades of color, which varies person to person. That being said, let’s talk a bit about the micro contrast of CONTAX Zeiss lenses.

I’ve always found something special about Zeiss glass. Whether it’s the coatings Zeiss uses, the optical design, the number of elements, or the end goal set upon by the lens designers, Zeiss glass, at least for me, has always outperformed competitor lenses. Even Zeiss Glass going back to the 1950’s. So why is this?

Take a look at this piece of driftwood I recently shot with the CONTAX Zeiss 100mm Makro Planar:

Shot with CONTAX Zeiss 100mm Makro Planar and Nikon z6 with adapter.

While there’s nothing special about the composition of this photo, it shows the level of micro contrast capable with the 100mm f2. For some elusive reason, there’s that “3D pop” to the image.

Over the past 20 years or so, there has been a push towards sharper and sharper lenses, and the removal of any and all chromatic aberration. While this may be great for MTF charts, it can end up having negative effects on the more indescribable aspects of a good image. This could be caused by the increased number of elements in modern lenses, and lens manufactures choosing sharpness above all other aspects of a lens.

Lack of vignetting – CONTAX Zeiss 100mm f2 Makro Planar

Unedited. Shot with the CONTAX Zeiss 100mm f2 Makro Planar on Nikon Z6

I’ve been using the 100mm f2 for the past few days and have been blown away by its performance. The image above is a test shot to assess any corner vignette. As you can see, there really isn’t any. Some of the zoom lenses from CONTAX will vignette quite heavily, the 28-85 comes to mind, but certainly not this prime. The images from this lens are as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen.

CONTAX Carl Zeiss 100mm f2 Makro Planar Wide Open

CONTAX 100mm f2 Makro Planar shot wide open at f2. Rowing team on a lake in Massachusetts.

I believe this lens to be pretty close to optically perfect. Colors and contrast are outstanding, even wide open. This image is scaled down for the web. The only edits were converting from RAW to JPG and downsizing. This is just a test shot, review to come shortly. I’m very impressed with this vintage lens so far.

CONTAX Zeiss 100mm f2 Makro Planar

Today I acquired the CONTAX Zeiss 100mm f2 Makro Planar and adapted it to the Nikon Z6 using the KIPON C/Y to N/Z adapter. Review to come shortly.

There is always healthy debate online as to which focal length is best for portrait photography. I’ve used the newer Zeiss 135mm f2 APO for portraits and find it to be outstanding. I’m curious to see how this 100mm f2 stacks up against the newer Zeiss glass. I tend to use 50mm and 85mm for portrait work for a stronger 3D feel and less subject compression. I’m curious to see if I can learn to love the 100mm focal length. Obviously this lens can handle much more than just portraiture.