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Old Contax vs Newer Contax vs New Zeiss


Well-Known Member
OK so I am a total newbie in the world of photography. I've purchased some Leica, Canon and Sony equipment plus some Zeiss lenses.

Here's the thing - so I am talking to this really knowledgeable person that's been in the camera business for decades and he knows it inside and out. And I mean really knows it.

Here is the jest of what he said - "there's a reason Contax Yashica went out of business. They made crappy equipment, unreliable. The glass for the c/y lenses was made by Zeiss but the mechanisms were all made in Japan and they got worse as time went on. The mechanisms are the most expensive parts of the lens, not the glass. We get 100 c/y lenses in for repair and 50% of the time we have to send them back - unrepairable. Bad supply chain, no parts, no distribution - nothing we have to send them back. With the German stuff we can fix it 100% of the time."

So my thoughts are -

1. Are people "in the know" dumping their c/y lenses off to newbies like me ?

2. Is there a difference between c/y AEG and xxJ especially in the mechanisms ?

3. Is it only **J Varios that I should worry about and were AEG Varios and primes made with the same meticulous German engineering as one would might expect?

4. Would someone be better off buying new Zeiss glass - the kind that's warrantied by Zeiss today and all German built ?

The good news - the Zeiss stuff I am really fond of right now are all primes and all AEG: the 28,35, 85s, 180 and 300 so they should be 'reliable' given that I don't drop or abuse them. At least that's what I am hoping.

Any thoughts ?


Active Member
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Hi Max,

Yes, I think your knowledgeable person is full of it. The facts of lens cost are 1) the glass material is the number one cost, followed by 2) grinding and polishing costs 3) assembly and test costs 4) mechanical components cost.

Contax went out of business because they were too small a maker to compete in digital where new top of the line cameras started coming on a 3 year cycle. So their parent company Kyocera stopped production before incurring losses. Not making sensors puts camera manufacturers in a bind. Konika, Minolta, Pentax and Olympus all had major problems related to this.

I've been buying Contax cameras and lenses for more than 45 years and they are well built. That said I never buy sight unseen, unless the lens comes with a return policy that includes recovery of all costs including shipping if the equipment is judged defective by me.

Since there are many opinions as to how to grade used equipment and since buying a used lens is like buying a used car, and since I usually get better prices this way, I buy used at cameras shows or directly from reputable dealers.

Answers to questions:

1) No, but this business is a lot like horse trading.

2) No except the MMG and MMJ have a slightly different iris control and an added communication tab.

3) All lenses were made to Zeiss specs fully tested by Zeiss reps regardless of where they were made. The quality control plans were written by Zeiss. All lenses were warranted by Zeiss.

4) New Zeiss glass for still pictures is virtually all Japanese. If you are going to use a Canon or Nikon full frame instead of your NEX 7 then the new lenses which would not need adapters would be the way to go.


Well-Known Member
Thanks for the thorough advice. I am unsure if my friends advice is biased. I think he's a Rollei shooter. But I like the Zeiss and will probably keep on. I've got too much in to it.