CONTAX Zeiss 100mm f3.5

The CONTAX Zeiss 100mm f3.5 Sonnar delivers exceptional quality in a diminutively small package. The lens is perfect for daily photography that requires a 100mm focal length. I’ve used it for portrature, wildlife, and candid street photography. Some may overlook this lens because of its minimum aperture of f3.5, but that shouldn’t be a concern. I reach for this lens because of its small size, perfect colors, and no need to stop down further, it’s just tack sharp from the start!

Check out current prices on Ebay:

I’m using the lens on a Nikon Z6 via a Kipon adapter. All images on this page are from that setup.

Wide open at f3.5:

Mechanically the lens is a joy to use. The focus ring is well dampened and the focus throw is geared just right.

Pros:

  • Very sharp with minimal light falloff towards the edges.
  • Very inexpensive for the level of build, and image quality.
  • Very small for a 100mm lens.
  • Excellent corner sharpness.

Cons:

  • Manual focus. A negative for some people and positive for others.
  • Not the fastest lens at f3.5. Focus peaking of the Nikon Z series cameras works better at wider apertures. You’ll be using the cameras digital zoom-in feature often.
Contax Zeiss 100mm f3.5 aperture markings.
Contax Zeiss 100mm f3.5 front view.

The CONTAX Zeiss 100mm f3.5 can be found on Ebay for around $300. The other option at the 100mm focal length would be the CONTAX Zeiss 100mm f2 Planar, a much larger and more expensive lens for those that need or desire f2.

Corner Sharpness

Contax Zeiss 100mm f3.5 corner sharpness image.

Excellent corner sharpness and minimal field curvature make the 100mm f3.5 perfect for landscape photography. The image above was shot wide open at f3.5. There’s not really any reason to stop this lens down other than to get more of the scene in focus. It’s wonderful wide open. If you click the image above and zoom in, you’ll see that both top corners do very well. The bottom corners are closer to me and therefore out of focus. This isn’t the best image to show the lack of vignette but I’ll have more on that later.

Bokeh

f3.5 at 100mm won’t give you the most blown out backgrounds. This is the price to be paid for making a small 100mm lens.

Contax 100mm f3.5 bokeh, wide open.
Contax Zeiss 100mm f3.5 @ f3.5 and minimum focus distance.

The Bokeh from the 100mm f3.5 isn’t overly distracting, but backgrounds definitely need to be managed more so with this lens than other faster lenses.

Contax 100mm f3.5 bokeh at f8.
Contax Zeiss 100mm f3.5 @f8 and minimum focis distance.

At f8 you can see the 6 straight blades in the bokeh balls.

Technical Specifications:

MFD: 1m (3ft)
Filter Size: 55mm
Elements/Groups: 5/4
Weight: 285g (10 ounces)
Aperture Blades: 6 straight

Click here for other posts we’ve written on the Contax Zeiss 100mm f3.5

Check out my post on the CONTAX Zeiss 100mm f3.5 for close-up photography with extension tubes.

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