CONTAX Zeiss 300mm f4

Contax Zeiss 300mm f4.
CONTAX Zeiss 300mm f4

I spent the day shooting with the CONTAX Zeiss 300mm f4. Right from the start I can say this is a lens for deliberate shooting. The kind of shooting where your subject isn’t moving, possibly posed, and you need the compression of 300mm. The optics are great, the build is great, but the focus is geared for precise movement.

Optical quality:

There’s not much to say here. Optically the lens is outstanding. It can suffer from some CA wide open, probably more than the 180mm f2.8 from my tests, and it doesn’t have as much of that “Zeiss 3D pop” of shorter focal length lenses because it’s a 300mm lens. Sample photos below:

Contax Zeiss 300mm f4 @ MFD.
Random propane cylinder from cookout. CONTAX Zeiss 300mm f4 @ f4 and MFD (11.5 ft) . Backgrounds are pleasing and not distracting.
Image showing out of focus areas of the Contax Zeiss 300mm f4.
CONTAX Zeiss 300mm f4 @ f4. No post processing besides converting from RAW to JPG for the web.
Image showing out of focus areas of the Contax Zeiss 300mm f4.
CONTAX Zeiss 300mm f4 @ f8. No post processing besides converting from RAW to JPG for the web.
A tree in light to show possible CA of the Contax 300mm f4.
Was able to produce some CA in this high contrast image. Crop below. CONTAX Zeiss 300mm f4 @ f4
Heavy crop to show chromatic aberration of the Contax Zeiss 300mm f4.
Crop showing CA. CONTAX Zeiss 300mm f4 @ f4.
Contax Zeiss 300mm f4 at infinity focus showing minimal vignette. shot wide open.
Radio tower @ f4. Slight vignetting in the corners. Clears up by f8.
Contax Zeiss 300mm f4 at infinity focus showing no vignette. Shot at f8.
Radio tower @ f8. CONTAX Zeiss 300mm f4.

All above photos are straight from the camera and converted to JPG for the web. Optically there’s not much going on. Resolution is high. I’d say it matches or slightly outperforms the Nikkor 300mm f4.5 ED. I’d have to give focus usability to the Nikon though. It’s simply easier to focus than this lens.

Build Quality:

The build quality of the CONTAX Zeiss 300mm f4 is outstanding. That’s always something you know you’re getting with a CONTAX Zeiss lens.

Contax Zeiss 300mm f4.
CONTAX Zeiss 300mm f4 tripod foot and hood extended.

It comes with a built-in lens hood which I found to be very adequate and useful. The tripod foot has internal indents for snapping into position around the body, rather than a typical collar that you can lock down with a nob.

Focusing:

The lens focuses down to 11.5 feet. Focus is a bit stiff on my particular copy. I’m not sure if this is because of the age of the lens or just normal for this particular lens. Stiffness is about the same for my 180mm f2.8 so it may be how the lenses are designed. My CONTAX Zeiss 80-200mm f4 takes almost no effort to focus so I’ve been a bit spoiled by that lens. This 300mm f4 just feels a little more stiff than it should be. The focus throw is also very long, 3 or 4 turns to cover the full focus range. It’s why this lens is really for deliberate shooting and not things like wildlife. Unless they are stationary.

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