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Whatbs the final verdict about 300mm f4


Well-Known Member
I have been very hesitant to buy this lens mainly because of the very low photodo rating of 3. Comparing the Zeiss MTF charts suggest a better performance than photodo rating, but still very far from the performance of the similar Canon EF lens. I know this issue has been debated before but I couldn't find any conclusive answer. Thanks.


Well-Known Member
From my long experience with Zeiss lenses, MTF charts can only mislead you. It is the imperfections that render photos with the look so unmistakable. Let your eyes be the judge, not some idiots that post arbitrary numbers on photodo.


Hello Edward, I can not comment on the comparison with the Canon EF but I can say that I have 2 300s, both of the early style, and they can take great pics. By way of illustration I can provide these very boring test shots taken from my rear window. The box marked in the standard shot shows the area covered by the 300 with a Mutar II (so any poor quality will be &lified) and shot on an Olympus E-1 via a Cameraquest adaptor. The 'distant rev' image shows a farm building over 2 miles from my home - you can see where it is in the '320 feet away' shot as an out of focus blur. Using this kit has turned the 300mm into a 1200mm but for the lens to be able to resolve that detail at such a very extreme range I find quite impressive. It's a heavy piece of glass and not popular, so ebay and s/h prices tend to be low - perhaps there's a dealer near you with one you could try first...but they can be a bargain.


Well-Known Member

Buying lenses has been made more complicated by the increasing number of so-called lens comparison test sites on the web...but only if you let them make it more complex!

The majority of these testers used flawed methods, I have even seen one comparing lenses from hand-held shots! the trouble is, some of them have flashy web sites with in some cases excellent photos and people are fooled into thinking they know what they are doing...Rockwell is a case in point. Most testers are not in the slightest bit objective. Most have very biased and bigoted views towards one particular brand. I ignore them all, with the exception of Sean Reid. I actually refer to photodo as PHOTO decide why!

My advice; if you fancy a C/Y 300/4 then just buy one and try it for youself and make up your own mind! the later version, preferably MM, this will be the most desirable and easiest to re-sell. Buy it in mint or near mint condition and buy from ebay from a reliable seller. Buy at a low price, then try it. If you are unhappy then simply sell it back onto ebay, if you buy well, you should be able to use it and re sell at little or even no loss of money.

cheers Steve.



As a basic intermittant photographer I aquired the 25mm 35mm 50mm 60mm 70-210mm and 300mm using an RTS II body. All Ae German, for the purpose of capturing moments in life of my first child. My knowledge is slightly more than what the owners manuals provide.

Some of my best photo's, outdoors, were with the 300mm, I found it's contrast and satuaration of color to just, pop. People would say, WOW what a great photo. The photo's were mostly candid shots made close by the use of this lens. The sharpness and focus were also..well just exceptional.

I used to laugh that I had "bought" my skill and the photographic results. This aplies to outdoor clear day photographs. I found the next lens that became most trusted was the 60mm, again with the same purpose and same great results for sharpness, contrast and color saturation/rendition.

If you value and want to capture the moment by distancing yourself from the subject, the 300mm will deliver. The rich true to life colors produced by the contrast probably stand out most.


Well-Known Member
Thank you all for your replies.

I find it amazing that MTF charts could be so misleading, especially with Zeiss glass. I guess there are other lens characteristics which cannot be measured scientifically. But then why would Zeiss post MTF for all their lenses, even though some of the charts are definitely not very favorable.

I have previously relied on photodo ratings exclusively to buy all my Canon glass and I was never disappointed. I do believe their measurements to be quite accurate, at least for the s&les they have tested. There are however some surprisingly low results such the C/Y 25mm f/2.8 and the 300mm f/4 as well as the Canon 300mm f/4 IS.

Anyways, you convinced to let go of some hard earned cash


Well-Known Member
Edward, that's the thing. MTF charts are reliable in assessing Japanese glass and late Leica lenses. Older Leitz, Zeiss and Schneider lenses defy the whole concept of "quantifying beauty" because real beauty is never 100% perfection.


Well-Known Member
Hi Edward,

I do find Canon's MTF graphs confusing. They do not give you the f. number with the curves, it would make their MTF graphs meaningless.

Zeiss provides people with the MTF graphs for scientific reasons. They care very little with their commercial value.

Recently, I am thinking about getting short telephoto for the Hasselblad V system. From various sites you can see that 180 f4 is better than 150 f4. In this case, the MTF does help to tell me to get 180 f4.

In terms of letting go of hard earned cash. You could think of buying lenses as an investment, although you lose money most of the time. The best valve for money is to buy Leica M system, you get more from what you pay after some time. Same applies for rare Contax glasses. Canon depreciates a lot.


Well-Known Member
Hi Edward

me too! I was surprised by the low old.photodo rating of the zeiss Contax 4/300 (not sure how many s&les they tested usually). However, I owned the Canon 4/300 IS L for some time.

For my "targets" it was too long and not long enough for situations where you need a tele lens. And it was far too heavy and bulky to carry around for my taste (1.2kg) (and NOT using it at all)!

I could recommend the Sigma 5.6/400 APO flavors, though there are about 5 different versions over time. (BTW, In german magazines they scored much higher than at photodo). Hope that helps, rainer


Well-Known Member
Thank you all again for your interesting feedback. I'm starting to believe now that somehow the Zeiss magic is beyound MTF charts. I took last Sunday my newly acquired and never used 18mm f/4 on a walk at one of the many local temples with their very intricate detail. As you know, this lens suffers from one of the worst MTF graphs, especially in the corner. After scanning the Velvia transparencies, I was very surprised to see how sharp this lens is.


Well-Known Member
Hi Edward,

Thanks for that, it shows what a superb lens that 18mm is. The colours are lovely and the resolution is great, and what a lovely place to be in. Thanks again.


Well-Known Member
I do not think you can get this kind of image result with the DSLR. Imagine if you fit your Zeiss 18mm f4 to Canon 5D of IDs2, you will get good resolution of fine details, but the colour rendition will not be as good.

What you are achieving now is better than any DSLRs.


Well-Known Member
Well, the colors are definitely the result of the lens/film combination, Zeiss couldn't have done it alone without the help of our good old friend Fujichrome Velvia 50. However, I have to admit that perhaps in resolution terms Zeiss glass is not always the best, and resolution is only important when you make huge enlargements. Zeiss glass has 2 clear advantages that are much more important to normal picture taking than resolution: color and contrast.

After I quit digital, I bought 2 Canon film bodies to go with my EF lenses. Color is subjective si I can't really comment other than I really prefer Zeiss colors by far. But contrast is another story. I always had to boost the contrast on scanned files from my Canons, but now that I'm back to Contax, I sometimes feel there is a little too much contrast, which is great for the perception of sharpness in normal sized enlargements.


Hmmm, how did we get from the 300mm to the wides & zoom? Better get the thread back on track ... I need a long lens for December - my longest currently is the CZ 180mm - I'm torn between the Canon 100-400mm/4 IS L and the CZ 300mm/4 ...


Well-Known Member
Nice Pics!!!

My longest lens currently is also the 180mm but I've also bought the Mutar III which gives me a nice 250mm f/4, untill I get myself the 300mm f/4.