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Thoughts on offbrand lenses



Fellow Contaxians (Contaxites, Contaxados, etc),

I was browsing ebay and I came across several off-brand lens for the Contax mount. Makers include one company I have never heard of, Samyang, and one I have heard of, Phoenix.

In no way would I ever buy anything but Zeiss for my Contax (that is why I own contax in the first place), but I was curious if anyone has ever tried an off-brand lens on their Contax.

Cost comparision:

Phoenix 19-35 F 3.5-4.5 going for 149.00
(closest comparision) Zeiss 17-35 F2.8 N mount 1499.99


Starblitz 500 F8 Mirror Lens 199.99
Zeiss 500 F8 Mirotar 799.99

Are you getting what you pay for?


Well-Known Member
> In no way would I ever buy anything but Zeiss for my Contax (that is> why I own contax in the first place), but I was curious if anyone has> ever tried an off-brand lens on their Contax.

Well , I think you're probably the odd one out here - alot of us use off brand lenses , even if only for that occasional focal length that you cant really justify the cost of buying the Zeiss version . Personally I have a Tamron 300mm F2.8 which I use a fair amount and its a damn good lens too - you dont want to know what the Tele Apo-Tessar costs..... Steve


You may want to do a search of the site, as this topic has been addressed often. Nice outside resource about third-party lenses (with tons of links)(Lynn has posted this before):

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My own opinion (based on my limited experience) is that some are worth having. I am very happy I own a Sigma 18-35mm. Contax does not have anything like that for the Y/C mount, and the times I have used it I have been very please. And for some good quality third-party lenses I would say the difference with Zeiss (if it exists) may be difficult to notice until you push the limits (in terms of flare, resolution, color or whatever). In particular, for some lenses you seldom use (like a 500 mirror) it may be that the Phoenix-Samyang is all one ever needs...

I am interested to hear opinions about other brand Lens for Contax 645. the zoom lenses are very expensive is the Hasselblad the only alternative in the 300mm range or are there other quality lenses out there that can be aadapted

Noel Greene


Well-Known Member
Ken ....

Thoughts from a fellow Ol' Contaxonian (Contaxophile)

Like Swoolf, I'm a happy 3rd Party lens user, Yashica lens user and Zeiss lens user!

This post reminded me of something I posted months ago under a completely different thread .... If you will allow me to repeat the quote ……

….. Thanks, Lynn

I once had a visit by the chief photographer from the Natural History Museum of London.

It was very interesting to hear what he had to say about Zeiss and other 35mm camera lenses.

Without trying to sound too elitist, he seemed somewhat amused by the antics of the public and professionals in the popular photo mags to try to compare 35mm lens quality, when, as he quoted, we do not always use the best film stock possible, kept under the correct conditions, seldom shooting on a rock-solid tripods under carefully controlled lighting conditions and then have the film processed by Joe Bloggs! We then view the prints on paper that cannot portray the qualities of the neg, or use inferior equipment to project our slides, he said!

Viewed like this ... I had a whole different outlook on my photographic ability, after that visit, or, at least my ability to make comparisons between different equipment!

I took what he said seriously ... I had previously seem his output ... albeit very specialize ... it was impressive, to say the least and he’s often published in the Natural History and Conservation press.

Won’t get me to give up my Zeisses though! But, I am happy to shoot with my Tamrons and budget lenses too!

Cheers, Bob

p.s. Oh! I did invest in some top-notch projection lenses and a better screen after his was worth it!

End quote.

My question is .... can you fully use what you pay for?

Cheers, Bob.


Well-Known Member
Hi Ken,

I own and use several Tamron-lenses with adaptall-mount to Contax. I have used the Tokina 24mm - but using the D2.8/28 the extra mm don't make it : There are worlds between these lenses qualitywise. I also have the Vivitar Series 1 (first production series which was better in build quality !) 2.8-3.8/28-105. If you can use f8 there is nothing to complain about. Very good build quality, focus-range (0.19m). But : I am using several brands(bodies) so I am using the Contax only with Zeiss primes now for best quality shots ! ;-) Paul


Well-Known Member
Ken, I regularly use an Exacta 18-28 Zoom. The first one I got (from Foto Walser) was pretty average but as it also had a focussing fault I sent it back. The next one I got is astonishingly good, given the relatively low price of around 200 euro. I also use a Zenit rectangular frame 180 degree16mm fish-eye. This is an amusing piece of optical ****. Unless you stop it well down the vignetting and sharpness are fairly dire. I use a Tamron 80-200 BBAR with an MM adaptall 2, which is OK and is nice and small for the focal length but is no CZ. Lastly of my non-CZ lenses I have an elderly but almost unused 200mm f2.8 Soligor , which is good when stopped at f3.5 and below but is VERY heavy and I think it may be 10 years since I last used it.


Well-Known Member
> >>>>>>>>In no way would I ever buy anything but Zeiss for my Contax (that is > why I own contax in the first place), I am sure many have. If someone had unlimited discretionary funds, such as a Contax RTSIII user back in the '90's interviewed by Contax USA, he said he owned every lens made for the RTS system made. I use Zeiss lenses. But I also have some Tamron that produce some very acceptable results, thus adapting them to Contax gave me a number of focal lengths right away. No, you won't buy a Tamron 50 1.7=Zeiss Planar 50 1.7T*. Obviously, there are some 3rd party lenses which are not equal to Zeiss glass. Everybody makes choices based on $$$ and what they are satisfied with. Zeiss had a nice reprint of a Japanese article, where they acknowledged the possibility of other medium format lenses being able to produce pro results. They also mention the quality control, workmanship, etc. which are more appreciated by some consumers.


Active Member
A very interesting thread ! Let me say it like this: If you are a Contax User, then you have a sense of quality. Otherwise you would not invest such a lot of money for a camera body which has (nearly) nothing what another brand doesn't have - instead of build quality, quality of service, quality of lenses. So not every 3rd party lens will fit for a Contaxian, there is really scrap on the market.

But there are lenses which are really good, eg. by Tamron, Sigma or Tokina (and maybe others) and there are lenses you cannot afford from Zeiss (shift, ultrawides) and which you do not need very often. So why not buying a good 70-210 for daily use by a 3rd party? Why not buying a Russian Shift Lens? And saving the difference fo buying the ZEISS-Lenses which are outstanding and not offered by 3rd party (e.g. 1.4/35) ?

And always be aware of the "Soft Facts": The additional lens should fit to your other equipment: direction of the aperture ring, filter diameters. With ZEISS lenses no problem, but for ex&le, the excellent 3.5/70-210 by TAMRON uses 62mm-Filters and no adapter 62->67 can be used because of the built-in shade. The question was, if the mentioned lenses are worth the price. This question is answered very easily: You have to decide it for yourself: If you need a 500mm Telephoto very rarely, a 199EUR-lens may fit. If you need it for professional photos, you may decide to buy a Mirotar. You may try to test the lens: Ask your dealer if he hands it out to you (if he is a good dealer and knows that you are a Contaxian, he will not hand out some lenses to you ...) for an hour or two and get the film developed by him. Then you know if the lens fits for you (but you need a dealer for that: No Mailorder, No ebay).



Ken, I am in agreement with most of the other posts about cost vs quality. I decided to buy a Tamron 90mm macro lens with a Yashica/Contax mount. I wanted a macro lens but decided that because I do not do macro photography on a regular basis I would not require Zeiss quality.


I'm new to photography, just 19. My first camera is my Contax 167, with a Planar lens, the 50mm. So I've been enjoying this conversation quite a bit.

Here's my question: If the Tamron lens are made in Japan and my lens is made in Japan, what's the difference? Aren't all the Contax lens made in Japan? So what's the difference?

I know they use to be made in Germany, but is there a lot of difference between Contax made in Japan and The better grade Tamron?

Just wondering


Thanks for all your thoughts. I really wasn't thinking about the decent companies like Tamron, Sigma, etc when I was talking about 3-rd party lenses (i was talking about the brands I have never heard of ie Samyang and Starblitz), but I guess you guys made a point.

This actually, would be very beneficial for me because I was looking to get a decent macro lens and my choices leave my wallet screaming (100mm... 1400).

Maybe I'll look at other brands, Zeiss maybe great but for occassional use, I don't see why I wouldn't invest in a decent Tamron lens for my occassional macro photography.



>for occassional use, I don't see why I wouldn't invest in a decent Tamro= n lens for my occassional macro photography.

If the issue is occasional use, another excellent option is rental. Here = in Minneapolis we have two shops that rent, and I know other cities do as= well. I have heard that some places rent by mail even, although I have= n't investigated those since I have a local source. Much as I love my Con= tax 35mm gear, I regularly rent a) a Contax 645 with the necessary lens f= or the job, and b) a big honkin' Canon EOS body and 300 or 400mm AF IS le= ns for birding. Buying a critical mass worth of either system would be pr= ohibitive, and rental rates are amazingly reasonable. If you're only goin= g to use something rarely, renting a good version is going to be cheaper = than even buying an off-brand, and the results will be better.

Question: I'm new to this forum and I notice that my posts acquire annoyi= ng random characters. Sorry! Does anyone have an idea about how this happ= ens? A function of my posting from MS Outlook? I send in "plain text", so= it shouldn't be picking up odd formatting....


Well-Known Member
If the Tamron lens are made in Japan and my lens > is made in Japan, what's the difference? Aren't all the Contax lens> made in Japan? So what's the difference?

One could spend hours discussing something like this!;-) This is a bit like saying whats the difference between a top of the range Lexus and a cheapo Mazda hatchback - they're both made in Japan too...... And by the way , the CZ lenses made in Japan are often superior to the usually older German made ones as they are newer updated designs . You really are only 19 arent you? ;-) Steve[wished he was 19 again!]


Well-Known Member
Ken , most people here and elsewhere have spoken reasonably highly of the Tamron Macro lenses , but if you only do macro work occasionally you could always consider Extension Rings of course . I get very good results with these..... Steve


Well-Known Member
Hi Ken,

esp. the Tamron 90mm macro lens is superb ! Even if not esp. the old 2.5/90 (which I have) - but some are saying that the new design of the 2.8/90 may even be better ! It's recommendable ! :) Paul


Well-Known Member
Contax lenses have outstanding mechanical build, but the 2nd tiers are actively designing with LD/AD glass and aspheric surfaces - at competitive prices. Since I also use Canon EOS, the latest offerings from Tamron, Tokina and Sigma are always worth investigating.

I rarely shoot long, so the 200/4 Yashica ML C is more than adequate, and $130 was the right price. I also snagged the Yashica 50/2 ML for $15: paperweights cost more than that! Smooth action, metal build - no complaints!


I use my Tamron SP90mm/2.5 macro a lot and it's a very good lens, even at f/32. I've done lots of insect and flower photography with it - I would like to see just how much better the Makro-Planar 100/2.8 is, but I know I can't afford one!



as someone mentioned, it's like comparing Mazda to Lexus. Both are worse than M1 Abrams
Kidding aside, the difference is in design, manufacturing, quality control and tradition. Zeiss is a company with deep scientific roots. Every lens that they make have gone through a lengthy design phase, where engineers made sure that what they had created on computer can be actually manufactured. They use optical glass of superb quality, their manufacturing facilities are state-of-the-art and quality control is outstanding. You can pretty much get any Zeiss lens and expect it to perform well. With any other lenses you're playing lottery. Variation from batch to batch can be also significant.

Exception is Leica and some Canon "L" series lenses. It's also Zeiss's tradition to make good products. As they say "superior German engineering". They built that reputation over a century and their products stand by it.

Look at most other manufacturers - you have to know which products are even worth looking at, not to mention buying!

A lot of 3rd party lens manufacturers started using advanced materials (like aspherical lenses, fluorite elements, ultra low dispersion glass, newer type of anti-reflective multicoating, etc). However, all this is just bells and whistles. It takes skill, experience and know-how to design AND produce a lens that would benefit from these materials. It takes great manufacturing tools to properly assemble it and test it. And it takes even more to stand by it (how many lens manufacturers out there will be even willing to repair your lens after warranty period is up?). So, using advanced materials and super-duper-new-computer software has nothing to do with final product. If it's not done right, it won't be anywhere near the blueprint specs.
People working at Zeiss are like craftsmen. They know exactly what they're doing and that's why they make such excellent products. Here is also another hint - most of successful lens designs offered by other manufacturers are clones of Zeiss design.