CONTAX Zeiss 135mm f2.8

CONTAX Zeiss 135mm f2.8 attached to Nikon Z6 via KIPON adapter.

I owned this lens years ago, sold it, wondered why I would ever sell this lens, and purchased it again. The results are outstanding. The version I currently own is an AEJ model, it exhibits ninja star bokeh at f4, but only at f4.

I can’t recommend any other manual focus 135mm lens more than this one. Sure there is the 135mm f2 from CONTAX, a newer ZF f2 version from Zeiss, the Nikon AI 135mm f2.8, and an assortment of newer autofocus lenses in this range, the Nikon 135mm f2 DC comes to mind, with its terrible chromatic aberration wide open. While the CONTAX 135mm f2.8 isn’t an f2 lens, it’s much lighter and much less expensive than any of the f2 products on the market, either new or vintage. So the only real question becomes, do you absolutely need f2? Personally, I don’t, and I find that during a portrait shoot it’s quite difficult to get both eyes in focus at f2 anyway.

So what is so great about this lens? Two things immediately come to mind: It’s sharp wide open, and it controls chromatic aberration exceptionally well. Check out the image below:

Just a lamp post. CONTAX Zeiss 135mm f2.8 @ f2.8

Here’s the crop:

Crop of an exciting lamp post. Where’s the CA? Shot in RAW. No corrections.

If the image about was taken with a Nikon 135mm f2 DC there would be loads of CA in the glare on the glass and along the highly contrasted black pole. There’s none here. That’s why I use CONTAX lenses. And this lens costs me roughly $135 on Ebay.

The lens also renders backgrounds smoothly. Out of focus areas are very pleasing to the eye. Tonalities are rich and colors are life-like. Typical of CONTAX Zeiss lenses. See image below:

A neighborhood tree. CONTAX Zeiss 135mm f2.8 @ f2.8

Corner sharpness is also outstanding. Here’s a crop of the berries in the top left corner of the image above:

Corner crop. CONTAX Zeiss 135mm f2.8 @ f2.8
The lens easily out-resolves the 24mp sensor of the Nikon Z6. This image is also scaled down for the web. CONTAX Zeiss 135mm f2.8 @f8.
The lens exhibits great micro-contrast even wide-open, making it great for black and white photography. This was shot at f2.8.
Possibly the parasol mushroom. CONTAX Zeiss 135mm f2.8 @ f2.8.

This review is a work in process. Check back often as I walk the streets with this lens and add pics to this review. As of now I have nothing bad to say about this lens. The last thing I want to mention is the nice built-in lens hood. A convenient addition to an already great lens. They don’t make lenses like this anymore. Literally and figuratively:

Built-in lens hood extended. CONTAX Zeiss 135mm f2.8.