CI Photocommunity

Register a free account now!

If you are registered, you get access to the members only section, can participate in the buy & sell second hand forum and last but not least you can reserve your preferred username before someone else takes it.

Comparisons of Lenses


Active Member
Just found an interesting page with a lot of brief tests:
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!

Interesting, but not quite understandable: The old Yashica 35-70 beats the ZEISS 28-70.

OK, the 28-70 is not the best ZEISS-Lens ever built and the 35-70 has very good recommendations, but ... maybe the tests are not comparable.



I have been keen for some time to get opinions from Contax Users on a couple of important considerations--I am soon going to need to join the autofocus crowd because my eyes are not so young anymore.

My heart would tell me that nobody builds autofocus glass that has the snappy contrast and vibrant color reproduction that the Zeiss lenses deliver...unfortunately, my head tells me that the high-end Nikon ED and Canon L series lenses are probably just as capable.

Can anyone speak to:

1) Comparison between Zeiss MF lenses such as the 85 1.4 and the 28-85 Zooms and the Zeiss N-Series counterparts.

2) Comparison between Nikon ED (say 28-70 and 80-200) or Canon L series (same ranges) and the Zeiss Autofocus lenses?

I am most interested in Contrast and Color reproduction, not autofocus performance or strict razor-sharpness.

Any reviews would be much appreciated!

Mike Wagner (Leica owner and ex Contax RX owner)


Well-Known Member
Hi Mike !

I only have some other comparisons :

I own a Canon EOS with 2.0/35, 1.8/50 and 2.0/100.

I am still using Contax (137MA) and Yashica (FR + FR 1) with many Zeiss-lenses too.

I don't use zoom-lenses like the ones You mentioned.

The color of the Zeiss-lenses is something special which is pleasing my eyes. The shots made with the Zeiss-lenses are ... what can I say (english is not my mother language)

some may call it 3d-effect, they are jumping in your eyes.

If you compare the lenses the Canon-primes are equally sharp (comparing grass on the ground, hair at portraits) but they are lacking something....

But what I read here is that the N-mount Zeiss-lenses are even better than the older ones. Especially the 24-85 should be the best zoom-lens in that region (24/28-70/80/85/90) you can imagine.

Interesting experiences by myself :

I never tried a NIKON but Leica, Rollei and Pentax too.

The Leica-lenses were never as sharp and contraty as the Zeiss or even like the Canon, Rollei and Pentax (1.2/50 Pentax, Rollei 1.8/50, Planar 1.4/50 vs 2.0/50 Leica and Pentax 2.5/135 vs. Rollei 2.8/135 vs. Leica 2.8/135, Canon 2.0/100 vs. Leica 2.8/90)

If you want to buy AF- or DSLR-gear and can afford it - stay with your Contax besides the new one!

Best wishes




as most of you know, I am very cautious to recommend currently the Contax system, because Kyocera seems not to be interested in the Contax line anymore and also makes no progress at least to try to communicate whether they want to drop that brand name or not. There will be new Contax digital bodies in the future, but as you know if you offer in this competitve environment every 2 years only one body, you are basically committing suicide - or shall I say harakiri

The only reason I still stick to my Contax gear are the Zeiss lenses. I do not expect anything good anymore from Kyocera, since they disappointed us too many times in the past. After a certain time you just believe not anymore a person, once you realize he is cheating on you again and again.

So let's focus on the positive part, let's focus on Zeiss. The Zeiss 24-85 zoom with N mount is better in colour reproduction and contrast than the manual focus 28-85. The MTF charts are slightly better of the 28-85, but I could not see the difference in non-scientific real life shootings.

But the difference in lensflare reduction is with all new N-mount lenses SIGNIFICANT better compared to the manual focus counterparts.

I do not own the 85/1.4 myself. But what I heard is that the new N85/1.4 is at least as good as the old manual focus one. Lens flare is again with the N-lens better.

Most N-lenses have also a smaller minimum focus distance than their counterparts for the manual focus line. This is giving you more flexibility in using certain lenses. Look for this in our manual section, where you will find all technical data of all Zeiss lenses.

If you think about going digital you should definitely stay with Contax - or look at Sony or Olympus E-1. What many people do not realize is that the Contax N-system was made especially for the use with digital cameras. The purpose was to offer fullsize chips and all lenses are designed to deliver excellent results with fullsize chips. No 1.6x or whatsoever factor of your lens. You get true widangle and the lenses are designed to give also good performance with the more demanding fullsize-chip - also in the corners, not only in the center of the image.

In this respect, I would it compare to the Olympus E-1 efforts, which are also soleley for the digital use, except that you can use additionally film with the N-system.

The downside is the pure arrogance and ignorance of Kyocera about costumer needs (hopefully Mr. Inoue and Mr. Nakatani from Kyocera in Japan will get that posting forwarded personnally).

But it is Zeiss lenses what we want, no matter which body is behind it. So Sony would be currently the only alternative - except you want to shoot Medium Format with Rollei or Hasselblad. Sony showed with the F828, that they are also able to produce for the high-end market (look at
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!
). I am sure that the F828 is not the last body in this semi-professional segment with Zeiss lenses on it.

But there is still hope. I am sure that Zeiss does not sit and wait and prays for the intelligence of Kyocera. I would bed that they have already thought about alternative cooperations. I am also sure that Zeiss will offer in the future its costumers excellent alternatives to the current Kyocera nightmare.

So to come back to the original point, I would recommend performance wise definitely the switch to the N-System. The rest is a more political question and nobody knows what the future will bring. I would recommend to go to your dealer and test the N-System against the Canon/Nikon-System. I am sure the Canon system is better in autofocus, same counts for Nikon. But they do not use Zeiss lenses, so check the image quality of the final prints to each other before making a decision.

Also the handling is quite different with N-System and the manual focus system. The N-lenses are bigger, but not really heavier. The N-lenses do not give you the same pleasure in focussing manually as the old manual focus system give it to you. The N-focussing ring is 50% steeper than the C/Y-line, the split screen focussing circle is tiny compared to the one of the Aria or RTS III. With all this you see, that the N-system was developped for the AF purpose and less for the MF-purpose, although they achieved a very good compromise (at least better than Canon and Nikon). There simply does not exist a perfect system

Hope that helps


Active Member
Hello Mike, if you need AF because of your eyes - did you consider the AX ? It is not the fastest AF at all, but maybe sufficient. Your lenses and accessories will fit. matthias


I don't know your location, but there are still places to rent equipment for a day, weekend or week, usually shops that cater to pros. Calumet does rentals, for ex&le. Nikon and Canon will be easy to find in rental - Contax not so easy to find. My personal preference if not shooting zeiss is to shoot Canon L series. As a matter of fact, because of the current state of things with Kyocera/Contax and the beginning of failure in my present collection of very old equipment, I am going to be buying new equipment myself shorlty - and it looks like I"ll be buying back into Canon. I shot Canon for many years but had to sell it 2 years ago. I shot Nikon before that but never warmed to it like I did Canon. I started looking at old images of mine from Canon L glass and it is awfully pleasing stuff! I like the color balance and the lens characteristics quite a bit. Nikon seems a little cooler to me. Do shoot them all under rental conditions - look at them with your own eyes - and then think about what you are getting for the money you are spending. Not all lenses in all lines are as good as others either - so best to test the ones you really want to buy. That's the best way to find your answer. (rental is cheap too) Good luck! -Lynn


Hi, All!
Thanks for your input--it is much appreciated.

Matthias, with regard to your AX suggestion, that is one of the options I have been pondering. The two questions that relate to AX are whether the autofocus is able enough (subjective, no doubt) to handle "normal" conditions...I would not need lightning-fast predictive autofocus such as is required for sporting events--just fast enough to catch a baby crawling. The other question relating to AX is the lenses...if the autofocus lenses were not quite the same in color reproduction and contrast as the famous Zeiss MF counterparts, I would probably opt for the AX rather than N-series.

However, what I'm reading so far is that the N-Series glass is somewhat better, with the added benefit of slightly closer focus distances. This makes me lean much more in the N-series direction.

Lynn, I have plans to do the 'Rental Thing' so that I can see some things with my own eyes...the problem is that, as you say, it is a bit problematic to find the Contax N gear on a rental basis. And...the Canon L rental places are at a considerable distance from where I live.

But all of your comments are very much helps a great deal for making my decisions.


Mike Wagner


Active Member
Hi Mike,
I have the N1 and AX with large collection of C/Y and N lenses. It is not always true that the N-lenses have better performance than the C/Y counterparts. According to the MTF charts, the CY30-70 f3.4 VS & CY 28-85 VS are slightly sharper than the N 24-85. But MTF charts don't tell the full story about the lens in a real world. The N24-85 is still an outstanding zoom, it has wider zoom range, internal focusing and manual focusing overide. Similarly, the C/Y 100-300 VS is sharper than the N70-300 VS. But the N70-300 VS is still a stunning performer considering its large zoom range.

The main problem with N-system is the shortage of prime lenses compared with the old manual system. With the N-system, you have to live with a somewhat limited range of lenses. Particularly, there is a lack of affordable short and long telephoto primes. The longest you can get is the Tele-apotessar N400 f4 costing a few thousands dollars. On the other hand, there are many unsurpressed, affordable C/Y classic lenses available in the second-hand market.

To choose between N- or C/Y- system is a matter of personal taste and photograhy style. Many C/Y users stick to the manual system becuase they like to focus manually and love the old classic lenses.

PS: The new Sony digital F828 causes quite a stir recently, it has 8 mega pixels plus a new 4 colour sensor and a fast high quality built zoom T* 28-200mm f2-2.8 Vario-sonnar and a price tag of $1000!!!! I am old fashioned and not keen on digital photograhy. But the F828 seems an exciting new product.


New Member
Hello group,

being an AX owner myself for the past year, I can add that iot focusses beautifylly at ambient light conditions; should you have low light situations, the auto focus is uncertain.

I use CX primes (mainly 28/2.0, 85/1.4)

In all, I went for the AX also because of ageing sight - and I have never regretted it....

Kind regards
Lars Lund


All, thanks again for your comments...they have been terrific!

Sing, thanks for your info regarding the MTF're right, alot of the decisions come down to personal one time I was keen to own a 100-300 Vario Sonnar...but when I actually mounted and tested one, the viewfinder was incredibly dim, and I found it wouldn't suit my approach to things. Others have found it an incredible tool.

As you use your AX and N1, could you tell me what your experience is in terms of the contrast and color reproduction of the N lenses? In particular,I have wondered if the new formulations have been able to continue the incredible snappy contrast and wonderful colors?

Second, how does the N autofocus perform for you? Apparently Zeiss have built it with some incredible sensitivity...I have seen some user reports who loved their N autofocus, and others who were incredibly frustrated.

Thanks again to all of you who continue offer some great insights!



I got both the AX and N1 with their zoom lenses such as the 100-300, 28-85, 70-300 and 24-85. From my experience, I can assure you that the new lenses will all deliver extremely good contrast and colour you would expect from Zeiss. I'm now using both AX and N1 depending on the need. N1 can focus more faster than AX especially under unfavourable and low contrast situation. From a functional point of view, I'll recommend the N1.


Active Member
Hi Mike,
You will be hard pressed to tell the differences in terms of contrast/sharpness between N- and C/Y zooms: such the 100-300VS and N70-300VS, or N24-85VS and 28-85VS. These N- and old C/Y zooms have expensive elements made of anomalous partial dispersion glass and/or aspherical elements. I don't see any noticetable difference in term of "colour reproduction" between N- and C/Y zooms. Every user takes photos of different subjects under variable conditions so every individual user's opinion based on films tests can vary a lot.
Regarding the N-autofcus, I find it quick and accurate with N24-85VS, at least enough for most of my applications. I think it's even quicker with large aperture prime lenses. I like the positioning of the 4 sensors; at the intercepts of Rule of the Third divsions. This makes more sense than clustering all the sensors in the middle. The AF point selection rocker switch is positioned in such a way you can activate it without taking your eye off from the viewfinder(unlike the AF points selection dials of the Canon EOS-3 or rocker switch of the EOS-30 which I find annoying and slow to use).
The AX is suitable for users who like manual focus most of the time and autofocus occasionally. Its power consumption is very high if you use AF full time, because lots of energy required to move the large "inner body" in a short time.