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Contax N-System



I don't have the review in front of me, but I remember that there was a general comment that the resolution figures were comparable (or "on par"?) with the manual focus lens; the implication of this, and the wording you quote is that the lens they tested was a good or better than the manual focus lens. I will try to find my old copy of the Pop Photo test (Feb 99) that compared 50mm 1.4 optics from several manufacturers, to see that actual lines-per-mm results for the manual focus lens. The review of the NX is now on the web, at
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. Unfortunately the lens tests aren't. I was surprised at the results of the 28-80 N zoom lens test; it appears to be a superb lens, despite its relatively low cost.



Here are the resolution tables from the 2/99 and 6/02 PopPhotos:

manual 50/1.4 N 50/1.4

1.4 60/32 60/30
2 75/36 67/35
2.8 95/43 76/42
4 85/43 76/42
5.6 85/50 76/50
8 85/55 67/53
11 75/57 67/53
16 60/48 60/48

Again, has anyone actually used the N 50/1.4 and
what do you think of it's performance? Also, any
comments on mirror vibration in the N1?




Paul W. wrote: "Here are the resolution tables from the 2/99 and 6/02 PopPhotos"

If I understand your schema right, the 'old' manual 50/1.4 according to these tests is significantly superior to the 'new' N-AF 50/1.4 in all apertures from 2.0 to 11 - and on par as far as aperture 1.4 and 16 goes.




Paul, those are interesting results, indeed. I already have a good autofocus system (Canon EOS) and if I want autofocus on my Zeiss lenses, I can always pick up a used AX body. Thanks for going to the trouble to find and post the figures.


Do you really think those numbers alone are a criteria for the overall quality of a lens ? Please read the appropriate articles by Zeiss, available at this web side.



Thanks for posting the Pop Photo resolution results for the 50mm manual and N-series lenses; saves me finding the old magazine. These results are weird. I can't understand why there should be much difference between the manual and autofocus versions. The information sheets show that, apart from nuts and bolts changes made to accommodate the larger N series lens mount, the optical design is almost identical (most critical parameters are within 0.1mm). Note that the famous Zeiss MTF charts, which supposedly come from actual measurements of production lenses, are also practically identical! What is going on here? Do individual lenses vary this much? Are Pop Photo resolution tests reliable? Are the Zeiss MTF charts reliable?




I would suspect the lenses are optically identical, with the difference being s&le variation. For many years I followed Modern/Pop Photo's resolution tests on the Canon 50/1.4 manual focus - one of my favorites. Their results for various s&les of this lens more than covered the above range, with no design change.

I don't consider their evaluation of lens quality very useful, but their resolution test is probably reliable.



You should not put to much faith in Pop Photo's tests - if you take the time you can find many strange result. Does everybody remember the glowing report they wrote on the Nikon 24-120 lens? I think everybody agrees that this lens is mediocre at best. They have also tested numerous Sigma lenses which apparently beat the pants of many a camera maker (Nikon, Canon). Take their reports - even their resolution charts - with a huge grain of salt. I personally only trust Chasseur D'Images; they have no problem calling a lens bad when they see one, another thing you will rarely, if ever, encounter on Pop Photo. Color Photo also has good "scientific" tests of lenses.
If I may summarize, then, stop wondering about those mysterious pop Photo charts - they are NOT reliable! (I will still keep my subscription, though)


N1 is really great fun to use. People often coment on the lack of performance on AF yet i think they miss a point. The design of this camera allow people to use both AF and MF at the same time, and to me, the AF will bring the object to near forcus, yet the MF allow detail on the image on which part to be forcus on! I have made some amazing drangon fly photo using this approach which was immpossible before using my milnota! I think this is new way to take photo!


I found some comments by the Leicaphile Erwin Puts on
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in which he says that the viewfinder is "relatively dark and coarse-grained". His other comments appear to suggest that the N1 is well-built, but very fundamental, and fits uneasily into a niche for "a user who knows his craft and wants specific support". That's me, but the comment on the "dark and coarse-grained" viewfinder is worrying, as the reason I sold my Aria and CZ lenses was because I now need autofocus to help my worsening eyesight. Can anyone say whether they have found the same trouble with the N1 viewfinder, and is there a workaround, such as a Beattie screen available ?


"I found some comments by the Leicaphile Erwin Puts on N1"

Hi Robin,

this so called "review" of Erwin Puts is rather an misplaced outing of Erwins Leica enthusiastic.

Erwin Puts tests Leica lenses and published also a book about this Leica lens testing recently. In general he tries to test objectively, what might be easier for him as long as it is Leica only.

I have his book about Leica and I am looking also at his Internet site regularly. But this article is somehow very, very strange. First of all, it seems that it is not accessable anymore via his website, just by searching in Google.

Secondly, I doubt that this is really his own writing because there is so much nonsense in it, that I can hardly believe, that he was writing this. Someone with such a dedication in photography can just not write an article like this one.

But lets go into the facts:

1. Regarding the N1

I do think that everybody has to make his own decision whether he likes the N-system or not. But to declare that there is no market for the N1/N-system, is just an act of blindness and the last breath for Leica marketing. If that is all he can say about it, I would get nervous in the shoes of Leica....

You have to be always aware of the thread a new Contax system can make to Leica sales, if people start to switch from Leica R to Contax N because they want to have AF. Of course Erwin Puts will say that the N1 is a niche product with neither/ nor mentality, because Leica can not keep up with this new camera system.

What else shall he say? "Great product, sell your Leica R and buy the Contax N-system because it is more innovative, has AF additional to great manual focus ability and is because of the N-digital at the same time an investment for the future?" - I do not believe he would recommend that

The only chance Leica has in the moment is to market "their back to basics" philosophy even more, because they do not have anything else. So if you define the market for yourself in Leica M6 on one hand and Canon top high speed AF on the other hand, of course there is no market. I wonder why Nikon, Minolta, Konica (Hexar) are selling so good...

But if you look closer to it, you will see that Leica just came out with an M7 after they have seen how good the Konica Hexar RF is selling. They just came out with theit digital compacts after having realized that people wnt to have it. Look at their recent improvements within the last 5 years. You name it - it alsways the same approach: first you say this is not what people want to have, second you offer it too (as soon as you have the know how to do it).

"the viewfinder is only 90% of the film area and relatively dark and coarse grained".

I disagree. Viewfinder is not dark at all and while manual focussing a do not see any grain. Viewfinder covers 95% of the film plane (see the specs), which is industry standard.

2. The lens comparison

This is actually really a shame for Erwin Puts (if he really wrote this article) and Leica lens design. Just think about it: A comparison of the two very best lenses Leica can offer in their WHOLE system (new Apo Asph. M 2.0/90 and new Apo Asph. M 2.8/24). These are by the way FIXED FOCAL LENGTHES compared with a Zeiss ZOOM OF THE RANGE 24-85 !

Come on, give me a break ! Are Leica lenses so bad that you have now to compare FFL with a Zoom????

But here the sensation starts becoming really interesting, and this is why I think that you will not see this article anymore on Erwins webpage: If you read twice the lens performance comparison, you realize, that the Zeiss Zoom is actually better then the two Leica FFL!

If you compare the performance of two FFL closed down by one stop with a fully opend zoom, of course you will get a better performance of the FFL. But how about stopping down the Zoom too?

How can it be, that the flare reduction of a 16 (!) lens Zoom is better then of the best Leica FFL available? And remember this is not a 35-70 zoom, it is from 24-85.

To sum it up, I am not sure whether this article was really written by Erwin Puts. There are just to many statements wrong and the lens comparison has not the normal "Erwin Puts-thoughtfullness".

If that article is really from him, it would outing Erwin Puts as a marketing organ of Leica and it would be actually no good news Leica lens design.



Hi Robin,
Regarding your fear of the focusing screen on the N1.I had trouble trusting wide angle focusing on my R8 in low light. I mainly use M6's, but a zoom 24-85 is very useful for function and event coverage so I bought the N1. After familiarising myself with the controls/functions/results for 2 weeks I did my first event recently and it was brilliant. Use the centre focus spot only in manual focus, metz mz54 flash TTl-2/3 and all the worry of is it in focus or nor gone. I love it.
It is the most user friendly auto camera I have ever used, the change over was painless. I have sold all my R gear and now have a 645 with 80 F2 lens and adaptor to use said lens on my N1. 80 f2 very useful. And of course maybe in a year the N digital. What a brilliant system.I don't know about MTF stuff. I , maybe naively, presume if you buy Contax you get something thats top class and the photos so far havent disapointed me at all.


Hi Dirk and Phil,
Thank you for your swift reassurances on the N1 viewfinder. I have read E. Puts before, and loved the "justification" of the Leica M7 he wrote when it came out - apparently it is still a genuine Leica in principle, even though Leica have been preaching battery non-dependency for years ! (I really used to believe all that sort of thing.)I have been a Leica user since 1965 and have owned and used every Leica rangefinder and SLR made since then, plus most of the Nikon AF SLRs and have just sold all my Canon gear as I could not stand the plastic feel of them. Now I have bought some basic Minolta stuff, as the camera body has got control knobs, but I feel I am going to have to take a thumping loss on it all, as I can see the difference in results between the Minolta lenses (even the G lens, 17-35) that I have, and the G2 lenses. Once you have Zeiss lenses, it is painful to have to put up with anything less ! Again, many thanks for your input. I have to stiffen my financial sinews, and just got for the N1. (If you read about a messy axe murder in the South of Spain by the enraged wife of a retired photographer, you will know I bought the N1 !)


I am considering the purchase of an N1, but have two questions.
1.How do the relatively small apertures of the long zooms compare to the wide aperture Canon L zoom lenses? Do the Canon lenses with the small apertures and the image stabilizers allow for sharper shots, hand-held,of wildlife,etc?
2.How does the relatively simple contax TTL flash system compare to the Canon E-TTL or the Nikon 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill Flash, especially for fill flash, both indoors and outdoors?
Thanks, Elliot


These seem to be leading questions. But I'll bite. Until recently, I had three 35mm SLR systems: Contax N1, Canon EOS and Nikon.
I shoot professionally, everything from still shots to be edited together for test TV commercials, to very candid weddings, to travel work and even some nature "Bird" shots
for a local wildlife painter to use for reference.
So I've put each of these systems to the acid test.

The Canon system has the best wiz-bang technology. It's flash system and IS lenses are hard to beat. However it is lagging Nikon in terms of Digital capture. The D1X is a generation ahead of the Canon 1D image wise, but more importantly it is way faster to navigate for control. Nikon is very close to launching its' 80-200/2.8 AFS ED, VR lens thus putting an end to Canon's recent IS domination of this focal length. All in all, the Nikon equipment is smaller and I found it to be tougher than the Canon gear. With the introduction of the Newest Nikon radio control flashes, I see no difference in the flash control and power in every day use. The Nikon flashes ( like the lenses) are just smaller and lighter.

So, I'm in the process of selling all my Canon gear in favor of the Nikon...Mainly due to digital ( I no longer have a Nikon film based camera.)

Which leads me to the N1 system.

I also shoot with a Contax 645 and got the N1 as a companion 35mm so I could mount the 645 lenses on it and reduce the amount of gear I lug to a wedding when I'm shooting film.

The N1 DOES NOT perform on par with the Canon or Nikon systems in technical terms.
Yet, for some reason, it outperforms them all in terms of the images I seem to capture with it. There is something about how everything comes together when I use this system. Maybe it's the AF/manual focus combo or the
5 point array...? Damned if I can figure it out, but it delivers consistantly superior results far and above the other cameras despite it's short comings on paper. My best work comes from 2 camera systems that supposedly are behind everyone else in their
catagories...Contax N1 and Leica M & R gear.

Who gives a crap for all the wiz bangery if something simplier delivers better results?
I'm not a camera dealer, I shoot for a living and the END RESULT IS ALL THAT MATTERS!


Elliot. Three letters: EOS.

There is a reason top photojournalist use Canon.

And an equally good reason they'd all choose the slightly slower less accurate Af of Nikon over Contax any day too.

To read more of my reasoning/agrument for the Canon's superority go to the thread on the N1 and Germany's press on this site.

Don't buy the more expensive (overall because of the lenses) and slower/worse/less consistent performing N system.

Remember who you're asking for advice, Elliot. A bunch of Contax users who if they are unhappy have to convince themselves it is worth it anyhow.

If you aren't a true believer in the N system.
I'd ask myself why and follow that gut reaction
towards Canon for a serious look.

Try a head to head comparison.

Mount any L lense on EOS 3 or 1V and the comparable lense on an N. See how the Canon tracks not stutters with its focus. Also see how the Canon focus pops and locks. And the Contax focus searches and settles eventually in comparison.


Dear Peter and Elliott,

I think we all realized by now in different threads, that Peter fell in love with the Canon AF speed. This is fine for him, but he has to accept that others might not need Canon speed to make good photos. I do not think that Contax users are "A bunch of Contax users who if they are unhappy have to convince themselves it is worth it anyhow" as you stated in your last comment. Interesting that die-hard Canon user still looking at other brands

But as stated already in other comments, the AF speed is not a guarantee for good pictures and above all not everybody needs this kind of speed. If sports and press people are using mostly Canon, the main reason is convenience, not better image quality. They just do not have to worry anymore, whether this shot will be in focus to be able to sell it to the press.

The ongoing discussion which is faster reminds me more at runners in the olympic games. They are anyway faster then I would ever be, so I (as a private person) do not worry about the difference between each runner.

But this Contax User Forum is supposed to help Contax users with their questions and so we should focus on what was really asked by Elliott.

I had the impression that the question of Elliott went into another direction:

"1.How do the relatively small apertures of the long zooms compare to the wide aperture Canon L zoom lenses? Do the Canon lenses with the small apertures and the image stabilizers allow for sharper shots, hand-held,of wildlife,etc?"

For me this is a question about shaking free photos and image quality of the final picture, not AF speed (Elliott please correct me if I am wrong). There are more criteria for sharpness and it is not exactly the same as focussing fast and accurate.

Shooting shake free handheld is one thing, having high resolution and contrast the other. You can have the fastest lens and the best AF, if the lens gives you just an average image quality, it would be cheaper to by the poster in the store...

My personal view on image stabilizer is, that it will be hard to beat these stabilizers if you are in extreme situations i.e. low light with a 50 or 100 ISo film. I never used such a system, but according to articles in the media it really works. This gives you a graet advantage if you do not want to use faster films.

Wide apertures for the sake of having it brings you nothing except very narrow DOF with telelens and a lot of weight. BUT if the decision is to have a shot quite shake free or not, the wider apertures can be the solution - as long as you can live with its disadvantages.

If you want to do wildlife shootings, I assume you will need very long telelens/zooms and converters. For converters, a wider aperture brings you a lot, for the very long telelens not so much, because you need a tripod anyway with this weight. Or you use extreme fast film, which makes the expensive investment in this lens obsolete.

"2.How does the relatively simple contax TTL flash system compare to the Canon E-TTL or the Nikon 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill Flash, especially for fill flash, both indoors and outdoors? "

Here others are asked, I use seldom flash and with Canon I do not have any flash experience at all.



"Also see how the Canon focus pop and locks. And the Contax focus searches and settles"

My last comment on AF accuracy, since there is little interest. For context, I use Canon SLR AF, but consider it far from perfect.

Does the Canon 'pop and lock' because the design priority is speed, while the N1 'searches and settles' because it's optimized for accuracy? I don't know, don't have access to an N1, but it is possible.

With the Contax G2, if there is a difference between CAF and SAF, the former is usually more accurate, in spite of/because of all the 'searching'. However, the difference is never large.

I guess it's obvious that I enjoy controlled experiments almost as much as photography.




Peter and Dirk seem to be die hard users of their respective camera brands. From their arguements back and forth they both obviously
have little in-depth experience with the systems favored by the other. Peter makes all positive comments about Canon gear and conviently leaves out the short comings. This is a Contax not a Canon forum, but I would be happy to fill in the blanks Peter has failed to mention...which, as I indicated in my previous post, is based on first hand experience with all the systems mentioned in this thread.

In general, Canon gear is HUGE and heavy and a little unbalanced. All the important L lenses have no aperature ring, and manual focus control is VERY sloppy and unprecise.
The faster lenses in the system are increadibly slow in focusing even on the EOS-1V, where in everyday use they are inferior to the supposedly slower focusing Nikon large aperture lenses. My experience
with Canon gear compared to Nikon and Contax is one of a higher rate of equipment faliure. I had a IS zoom fall apart internally, and a brand new EOS 1 D fail after one day of testing in the studio. Both the Nikon and Contax skin is more rugged than the Canon which scratches just taking it in and out of the camera case. The Canon plastic L lenses look and feel just that...plastic. Using the photojournalist argument is okay, but they don't pay the penality you will with marred gear when you go to sell it. Finally, many of the excellent Canon electronic features require a degree from MIT to access. Pros working 10 hours a day 24/7 get it down, but it ain't easy for a person shooting less than that. The Canon 1D is a navigational nightmare compared to the D1X which is way ahead in user convience, especially under fire. What difference does a nano second in AF speed
matter if it takes 5 minutes to set the camera controls correctly for the shooting situation?

So, in reality, each has its +s and -s.
The N 1 offers more personal control, and the features are slanted that way. I like the aperture ring on both the N1 and Nikon lenses. I like the positive manual feel of the focus of these lenses compared to the sloppy
vague feel of the Canon lenses. I would certainly like the N1 to focus as quickly as the
EOS when in certain situations, but not at the cost of personal control.

Most other considerations are ones of subjective opinion. Image characteristics of all three systems are different. I found that I liked the B&W images from the Canon lenses but not the slightly pastel look of Canon color. Nikon delivers more punchy, saturated images in color, but I disliked the B&W images. The N1 Zeiss lenses favor the German ideal at least in some respects, and I find both the color work superior in spectrum gradation, and B&W in tonal seperation.

In the end you have to sort out which works for your objectives. If you are a stringer for a News organization or a sports photographer then the
Canon or Nikon systems are probably for you.
If you are a control freak, and like to have artistic input then the Contax is a real possibility. Contax knows it will not unseat
Canon or Nikon for certain professional applications. So they went their own way and designed a system for a smaller market who also like to go their own way.



I have spoken with several professionals who shoot sports and nature/wildlife primarily. Their reasons for using Canon or Nikon vs Contax, Minolta, Pentax, etc have little to do with focussing speed or accuracy. The primary reason given is availability of a wider system of lenses and accessories. For ex&le, a person specializng in shooting birds or wildlife would desire a system that provides a good selection of long lenses and teleconverters, which at this time would probably be Canon or Nikon and not the Contax N-mount.

I'd suggest that this Contax forum wasn't created for your personal crusade to "educate" the rest of us on the superiority of your favorite camera brand. Please don't be offended... I'm sure you mean well.