CONTAX Zeiss 35-70mm lack of CA

I’ve been shooting with the CONTAX Zeiss 35-70mm f3.4 for a few weeks now and one thing really stands out about this lens, the complete lack of chromatic aberration, even wide open. Take a look at this 100% crop in bright light:

CONTAX Zeiss 35-70mm f3.4 @f3.4

Typically, bright white areas directly against a darker subject would produce green or violet aberrations, but not with this lens.

CONTAX Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Initial Impressions

Today I took an early fall hike with the CONTAX Zeiss 85mm f1.4.

CONTAX Zeiss 85mm f1.4 @f1.4

Backgrounds are pleasing with this lens. Just a random test shot of Anna above, but this gives you an idea of the bokeh quality. It’s perfectly sharp in the center at f1.4 at close distances but does experience some reduced contrast at longer distances at f1.4.

CONTAX Zeiss 85mm f1.4 @f1.4. 200% crop of a different image.
Original image. CONTAX Zeiss 85mm f1.4 @1.4

Personally I enjoy the loss of contrast at a distance at f1.4. Modern lenses wouldn’t still have this level of smoothness at 200% crop. Notice the lack of vignette in the corners even at f1.4.

Detail is incredible stopped down a bit. The below image was shot at f5.6.

CONTAX Zeiss 85mm f1.4 @f5.6

There’s so much detail in the above image that I had to scale it down to 2500 pixels on the long edge to get it under 10mb. If you zoom in you’ll also notice the beautiful sun stars this lens produces.

Another image of the fall foliage below:

CONTAX Zeiss 85mm f1.4 @f5.6

I have no optical complaints with this lens. It’s simply a joy to shoot with. My version is the AEG, so it will exhibit ninja-star bokeh at f2 and f2.8. No big deal to me since I’m either shooting the lens wide open or stopped down to f5.8 or f8.

I’m having a great time with this lens. Full review to come shortly.

Initial Impressions of the CONTAX Zeiss 35-70mm f3.4

CONTAX Zeiss 35-70mm f3.4

When thinking of a standard zoom from CONTAX, it’s usually the 35-70mm f3.4 that people rave about. I’ve always shot with the 28-85mm and never really understood the lure of the 35-70mm. After shooting with it for a few days I’ve come to learn a few possible reasons for its highly regarded reputation. The first is the lack of corner light falloff, or vignetting. Take a look at the top corners of the image below shot at 35mm:

Contax Zeiss 35-70mm f3.4 @35mm & f3.4

Notice the complete lack of light falloff? Now take a look at the top corners of the 28-85mm f3.4-4:

CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm f3.4-4 @ 28mm & f3.4.

As you can see, the 28-85mm has a great deal of light falloff in the corners. At 35mm the differences are less noticeable. Personally, I’d rather have the extra on the wide end and just correct in post.

As I continue to review this lens I’ll do some comparisons to figure out if one lens is sharper than the other. The 35-70mm f3.4 is definitely smaller and lighter. It’s the lens I would walk around with all day, while the 28-85mm is starting to exceed the size of what is comfortable for a day hike.

Left: 28-85mm f3.3-4. Right: 35-70mm f3.4

I enjoy the extra zoom range of the 28-85mm but the extra weight of it has me often going for the lighter 35-70mm f3.4.

Here’s another shot from the 35-70mm f3.4:

CONTAX Zeiss 35-70mm f3.4

Typically Zeiss colors and contrast, although the above image is getting a bit dark towards sunset. This is another issue to consider when adapting a vintage lens to your mirrorless camera, metering may not always be perfect, and if you stop down the lens, the lens is stopped down right away, thus allowing less light for the camera to figure out the proper metering. None of this is a problem if you shoot in manual mode, and even in aperture priority the cameras usually does a good job at properly metering the scene.

Macro

One interesting aspect of this lens that sets it apart from the 28-85mm is the macro section of the zoom ring. If you’re zoomed out to 35mm and turn the focus to minimum, you’ll be able to go further than minimum and into the macro range. This adds the additional versatility of not only having focal lengths from 35mm to 70mm, but also macro capability. Below is shot at minimum focus distance while in macro mode:

CONTAX Zeiss 35-70mm f3.4 at Minimum Focus Distance. 35mm @f8.

The colors and detail at macro distances are outstanding.

CONTAX Zeiss 35-70mm f3.4 at Minimum Focus Distance. 35mm @f3.4

Check back for the full review coming shortly. As of now, this is turning out to be an outstanding vintage lens.