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!

A day hike with the CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm f3.3-4.

CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm on Nikon Z6 with KIPON adapter. Heavy crop of original image.
Original image. Roughly 50mm & wide open.

Today was a hike around town with the 28-85mm. A great zoom range if you’re not quite sure what you’ll be shooting.

A random train bridge. CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm @28mm f8.
Great Zeiss colors. Shot at 28mm & f8.
Martini glass. CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm. Shot at 85mm f4. Backgrounds of this lens are always pleasing.

Check out my main review of the CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm.

Extension Tubes with CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm

Robber fly shot with the CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm @ f11 and 18mm extension tube. Image taken at MFD.

I really enjoy shooting macro shots with the 28-85mm. Sure they’re not 1:1 and you loose infinity focus, but the images are great and you can certainly obtain insect and flower shots. The image above was from a hike today. I had an 18mm extension tube attached and the lens was at 85mm when this robber fly landed on a branch next to me. I tend to keep the lens at minimum focus distance and then move closer until the insect is in focus. I’ve also used the 28mm end of the zoom for some interesting shots. You can physically get much closer when the lens is extended to 28mm but since it’s 28mm and not 85mm, the actually image obtained is smaller on the sensor. It’s really a matter of how you want to frame your shot. Sometimes 28mm will be more appealing and other times you’ll want to use 85mm.

An exciting screw in a board. CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm @f5.6 with 18mm extension tube.

Notice the hexagonal bokeh this lens produces when stopped down. The lens is also devoid of chromatic aberration.

Water on a leaf. Shot with CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm lens
Water drops on a leaf. Shot with the CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm lens wide open, and 18mm extension tube.

Vintage Lens Flare of CONTAX Lenses

CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm f3.4-4 @ 28mm f8.

As I was walking to one of my favorite spots for photographing wildlife I noticed rays of light poking through the clouds. The sunlight also gave me a great opportunity to showcase the wonderful flare of the CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm lens. In today’s age of flare reduction, it’s hard to find lenses with appealing flare characteristics. New lenses either don’t flare at all, or flare to such a low level that they never really add anything meaningful to a photograph. If you enjoy the character flare can add, CONTAX lenses can certainly deliver. The image above shows how the 28-85mm performs with its six aperture blades stopped down as light hits each element. I love the effect.

Black and White Photography with CONTAX Zeiss Lenses

Today I spent some time with an old friend. I took along the CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm f3.3-4 because it was going to be a hike into the unknown and I like the zoom range the lens offers. My friend has recently become the owner of a brand new Triumph motorcycle, and I figured what better way than to capture this nostalgic beast than with a great nostalgic lens. We took a bunch of candid shots but as I’m writing this I realize I didn’t get his model release so here’s a pic of the bike 🙂

CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm f3.3-4 B&W Motorcycle
CONTAX 28-85mm f3.3-4 shot at 50mm wide open. Profile: Adobe Monochrome.

The 28-85mm really is like having a bag of primes in one lens. The micro contrast of Zeiss lenses really shows itself in black and white photography. Some shoot in black and white in camera, but I tend to shoot raw and convert to black and white in Adobe Lightroom. I like having the color photo as well. Could a newer lens achieve these results? Sure, but where’s the fun in that? Here’s a modern Triumph paying homage to another era, shot on a modern Nikon Z6, paying homage to another era with the CONTAX Zeiss 28-85mm. How cool is that! What a fun day.