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Will we ever see a digital body for our Manual Focus lenses


Well-Known Member
In my humble opinion, the Contax N system was doomed to fail for many reasons, one is that the appeal of the Contax brand has always been in the Carl Zeiss glass, and Zeiss were never hot for such an idea as AF Zeiss lenses, in similar fashion to Leica.

From what I've seen, Leica has been quite successful with the DMR. The idea to marry the good old manual focus lenses with a digital back or body is excellent.

I believe the vast majority of us here are using the MF mount system. It would be great if that would happen sometime in the future.

We'll just have to convince a camera manufacturer (perhaps Cosina?) to make a FF digital body, not necessarily using Contax name, that would take our Zeiss lenses.

What do you think?


Well-Known Member
Dream on Edward.

There was nothing wrong with the N lenses, they were (are) optically the equal to, or superior to, the Manual Zeiss glass ... and offered real full manual focus for those that prefer it.

If Kyocerea had any passion for photography, we wouldn't be having this conversation.


Well-Known Member
Unfortunately true.

I have never personally used the N system but I'm sure the optics must be of high caliber to have the Zeiss name imprinted on them.

However, I do believe most Contax users have the manual lenses, so there should be a larger market for this mount.

Cosina has successfully built the Contax S2 (and probably others that I don't know of), they have also built the Epson RD-1 so they are no strangers to digital.

I do believe it is a viable project if we can find the right ears at Zeiss.

I know Kyocera still owns the brand for a few years to come, but this potential digital body could be branded Zeiss, Cosina, or whatever they feel like calling it.

I do realize it is just a dream, very unlikely to happen though


Active Member
couple of points:
n lenses represented (on the whole) the best that zeiss had to offer (within real world cost constraints) for the 135 format. they were also designed with real world digital micro-lenses in mind (ie somewhat more telecentric).
as for the contax resurrection....there is quite a lot of misinformation out there. kyocera is not quite the villain they are sometimes made out to be in all of this.
there will be a future, imho. businesses will always prefer to leverage brand equity. cynics may say that the contax brand is diminishing. sure. but it was almost deep frozen by the seventies, and the relaunch then worked well. what's not sure is when the rebirth will be...and whether it will be good enough...and most importantly for those of us who have invested bigtime in zeiss lenses, whether it'll support the n/645 (and even c/y) mounts. btw, i reckon there is , remedial, discussion between cz and kyocera, right now. i know for sure (industry sources) that the true story is not "out" yet.
but...i am an optimist


Well-Known Member
What misinformation? Please enlighten us.

Facts are: People invested heavily in Kyocera products under the Contax name ... in return they quite suddenly decided to get out, and the customer was left holding the bag ... of very expensive gear.

That company was never responsive to it's loyal customers, as anyone that has followed posts on this forum over the past few years full well knows. It was one of the the forum people here who finally contacted Adobe and got them to include RAW support for the Contax ND ... which made such a huge difference for that camera that it's not even funny. Now how hard would it have been for Kyocera/Contax to do in the first place? Not a peep of support for those who dropped a bundle of cash on the ND. None.

Now a camera company that actually has at least a modicum of passion for photography, like Leica, has at least tried to support it's customers. As mentioned, the DMR is indeed a decent digital solution for those with a bank vault worth of Leica R glass. Now comes the M8.

Zeiss is still in my gear bag, mostly MF Hasselblad lenses that have proven to be versatile and relentless performers.

My once dominate Contax gear is all gone, or soon will be. I need to make photographs today, not off in some far distant fairy tale land of make believe.


Well-Known Member
I wouldn't hurry to sell my CZ and CZJ glass. From amateur's point of view, these tools are not supposed to deliver any profit, but only beautiful pictures. I hope there are others like me. And everyone probably would agree that there is no 24x36mm alternative so far, except may be ZF series (though, it's not yet clear whether it's done or will be extended), and those spectacularly expensive Leica ones. In MF area IMHO things are even simpler - CZ only. Period.
So, I enjoy my Contax 645 glass, Pentacon-6 CZJ and Hassy lenses adopted to my Contax 645 camera, and also C/Y CZ glass attached to RTS III. My Nikon F100 is waiting for ZF to come. I also stay tuned for Canon DSLR news to come. What else do I need? Nothing. Life is beautiful. Well, at least for an amateur.


Well-Known Member

You're right, but wouldn't you be happy to use your lenses on an appropriate digital body instead of using them stopped down on a Canon body using poor made adapters? Zeiss manual lenses are that good with digital, just ask the Canon users.

Moreover, while the lenses themselves will probably last forever, I can't say the same about the Contax cameras. I'm concerned that soon we won't be able to find used Contax bodies in good condition, or find a place to repair ours. Here in Bangkok, I am not able to find any qualified technicians let alone spare parts.


Well-Known Member
Oh, yes. I'd be glad to have such body, but let's be realists. This is almost impossible (but this miracle may happen, like it happened with Minolta mount). Speaking of current film bodies... You know, I have "Zenit-ET" camera (M42 mount) made 25 years ago in Soviet Union. It still works. It even survived after Soviet Army service (as long as myself). If you care about your camera, it may live long. But you also need to be a little bit lucky.


Well-Known Member
Let's all email Cosina and ask them to make a digital body for C/Y mount :D

They make the Epson RD-1, the Zeiss Ikon and all lenses, all lenses of ZF and ZS mount. Even their name starts with the 2 first correct letters, they only need to change the remaining 4 ;)

I think they will be the next Kyocera.


Well-Known Member
That would indeed be great
but it would have to be very good indeed and I don't think they could do it
on the evidence of the RD-1 and it would have to be full frame to use our lenses properly which makes it even more unlikely
Looks to me as though we have to stay with film and scan to use our C/Y lenses digitally without buying a Canon full frame digital body. But Nikon and Sony may produce full frame too in the future which will be further options.
I think the way to go is to have an alternative digital system as well as Contax bodies and lenses.
I think that Cosina produce a body with C/Y mount so if all old Contaxes pack up we will still be able to use our lenses if Cosina continue to make it.
I like the idea of Co(si)n(a)tax. After all the Zeiss Icon is a Cosina.Good thought.


Well-Known Member
Just a question for those discussing this subject:

What is the burning need to substitute silicone for celluloid? From what I can tell it isn't a commercial need, which I could understand. So, I wonder why?

I also understand scanning film, which I do myself ... but even scanned film shows it's unique qualities compared to digital capture.

Just wondering these points out loud.

Your thoughts?


Well-Known Member

I think the answer to your question lies in the future. While digital is not perfect yet, it already has several characteristics which allow it to outpace film:

1 - Portable. Easy to e-mail w/ little effort and easy to backup.

2 - Searchable. Easy to setup a catalog of images which allow for immediate viewing on a monitor/computer.

3 - Enhanceable. Very easy to manipulate an image which starts off as digital.

4 - Sharable. This might be the best and certainly overlaps with item 1 (portable.). It is so easy to instantly share an image with friends and family. Whether this means e-mailing the image, posting to a web site, or just showing the family a photo you took by turning your camera around and showing off the camera's 2.5 inch lcd. This generates a sense of realtime excitement - a primary reason for photographers to take images. The "wow" factor.

My reference to the future is just that. Nobody wants the train to leave the station without being on the train. We all want to start the digital learning curve, looking forward to the exciting new possiblities digital will bring in the future.



Active Member
I have recently started to use an N Digital. Previously I have used an N1 as well as G series rangefinders. I plan to keep my film equipment. Mostly I have used the FUJI Velvia films.

If I am shooting a landscape, or something for my portfolio, I shoot film. I can have a 35mm slide drum scanned and converted into a 100 meg, prox, file which provides a lot more detail than what is available on a 35mm format digital slr. Also from an archival perspective, I feel secure knowing that I have more than an electronic file of a special image.

That being said, most of my photography is simply grab shots of my kids, family, birthday parties, or an occasional wedding. For these types of situations, I find that the effort in converting large amounts of slides into a digital format that can be e-mailed and shared is simply to time consuming. What I typically find is that I have a stack of slides lying around somewhere waiting for to be scanned and cleaned up, and that the reality is that this never happens. Also digital is less expensive as I am not paying for film and processing.

My skill level is probably best described as advance amateur. I've done some professional work, but mostly photography is a hobby for the benefit of myself and friends. So for the majortity of my pictures, digital is easy, inexpensive, and good enough.

The attached image was shot with Fuji Velvia 50 and scanned on my Minolta 5400.




Well-Known Member
1) For e-mail you do not need anywhere near Contax quality. The web is the great equalizer. In fact, I have found that lesser cameras do better on the web, certainly not worse. It's hard to see the difference between a 6 meg crop frame camera and my $30,000. Hasselblad H2D/39 meg 645 sensor camera with Ziess lenses mounted.

In fact, all the reasons you cite don't require Contax quailty or anything near it.

2 & 3) I do the same with scanned images. 35% of my files are from film. They are without a doubt in my mind the better 35% BTW.

#4) Showing the LCD ... yes, I agree it can be fun ... like Polaroids were, only easier and free. However "chimping" the LCD is the plague of digital shooting IMO. It's like everyone has lost their confidence and ability to focus on the subject without constant need gratification and reassurance ... and are compelled to look ... meanwhile the real picture happens.

I've watched people at weddings chimping their P&S digitals as the Bride is dancing with her dad. Might as well e-mail the wedding to them and they could just stay in bed. Pros are addicted also. I watched my second shooter gazing at the little screen, lips hanging like a monkey (which is where the term "chimping" came from I'd bet).

I'm not worried about the train leaving without me ... I'm the freaking Engineer driving it. However, I will tell you that if you think digital is better than film for soul and depth and a host of other asthetic qualities, you will eventually be ... disappointed.

Shoot film for as long as you can. The digital learning curve will be completely different
by the time that happens ... so you're not really missing a thing, except a ton of expenses.


Well-Known Member
Man Mark, that is DEPTH ... positively 3D looking.

Sorry for the endless questions, but why shoot and scan slides for casual photography?

The first time I took a digital SLR on vacation with me, I ended up processing 600 shots after returning ... and that was no picnic. Now I shoot film and the lab does the work. The only time I take a digital on vacation is to test it out before shooting a commercial job with it.


Active Member

I was obsessed with improving my skills, using the best equipment, and getting the best quality, highest resolution, etc..., period.

Then a couple of years ago I took a workshop with David Alan Harvey who had essentially given up his Leica and was shooting assignments for National Geographic using a Nikon D70, and used a flesh colored band-aid over his flash for a diffuser.

I came away from the workshop with a general sense that I had been preoccupied with equipment and that as a result it had gotten in the way of my artistic development. David's advice to me was keep it simple and focus on capturing the moment.



Well-Known Member
Exactly Mark.

Check out my stuff at :

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I'm all about the decisive moment (except the required wedding formals).

That has nothing to do with the equipment ... unless it gets in the way.

I find digital gets in the way more than when I shot with film.


Well-Known Member
[Pkipnis] I rarely post, I'd rather let others have their say. However, in the late 70's I was commissioned by Hewlett Packard to do a study about electronic versus conventional haloid photography. I even got to play with a converted Nikon handmade mule" camera that was able to take eight black and white photos by guess since there was only an optical viewfinder for composition and focus. I have an extensive background in haloid photography in addition to having represented Hasselblad, Agfa, Zeiss and a few other companies. After a few months of study it became obvious that haloid photography was going to become an art form and that electronic photography if it could be made practical would become the consumer product. Time has born out our study and in the next few years we may see haloid photography disappear much like other art forms. Anyone remember medium speed sheet film? Exposing for the highlights, developing for the shadows? However, until then, take photos, enjoy the craft, use your imagination and create beautiful images. The technology isn't that important.


Well-Known Member

As far as i'm concerned , there is absolutely no preference for digital over film. I just want to feel secure that my lenses will be usable when film disappears, which will eventually happen. I personally have learned the hard way that photography isn't about bells and whistles. My latest SLR equipment was a 167MT and a few Zeiss lenses, when I decided to jump on the digital wagon 4 years ago. I sold the Contax and bought a 300D, less than a year later, I was seriously missing full-frame, I sold the 300D and bought a 1Ds. Another while later, the 1Ds files were not satisfying for many reasons, so I sold this one again and bought a 5D. Again, I reached the sad conclusion that my 5D will never be as good as my Velvia film for color and contrast. Every time I got the look I wanted from my raw files, the image was unusable for other reasons like too stretched histograms causing posterization... etc. Then I took a drastic decision and sold the 5D for 2 Canon film bodies which was the logical decision since I owned over 10 EF lenses. But again, I found myself trying to focus manually most of the time, unsuccessfully because of the dim focusing screens and the short-travel focusing rings of AF lenses. I decided that if I can't focus manually there would be something missing in my photography, I was sick of focusing by pushing buttons and coinciding AF points with my subject. So now I'm currently selling all my Canon gear, and have purchased 2 bodies and 9 fine lenses of a system which is already dead. A crazy move probably, and a backward one for sure, but I have given digital a chance for 4 years and now I came back where I started, with Contax manual focus system and film. And there must be a reason why the equipment has doubled in price since 4 years ago. Now we'll need to convince Zeiss to resurrect the brand ;)

Cheers, Edward


Well-Known Member
''Now we'll need to convince Zeiss to resurrect the brand ''

I would hope so but as far as in practice, it will takes many years before you can see the resurrection of Contax. Look at the resurrection of Zeiss Ikon. In truth, it happened many years after the termination of production, what they resurrected is actually more of a Leica M.

Is my C-Y gears irreplacable ? I have 11 lenses and 4 bodies. I am keeping them becauses I liked them, but I do believe in terms of performance, they could be replaced quite easily. What is the point of their resurrection ?

Although the Canon people might think my C-Y 21 2.8 is irreplacable, to me I can get better performance with medium format. You might think my C-Y 28 2 is irreplacable, because it is 28 with f2. I could replace it with Leica M28 f2. The other candidate is the new ZF 25 2.8 which can focus even closer. I don't have C-Y 55 1.2, but I should believe ZF 50 1.4 is very good.

The one difficult to replace is C-Y 60 2.8. Can you replace it with Leica R60 2.8 ? I would say no. Can you replace it with NF50 f2? The answer is no. Can you replace it with Hassy 110 f2 ? I would think it is too big. This lens has a size and taste difficult to replace by the others. I had very nice portraits shoots from this lens.

What about C-Y 85 1.2 ? There are many other lenses having very good performance with different tastes like Leica R or M90 2 ASPH, ZM85 2, ZF 85 1.4.

Can my 100 2.8 Makro-Planar be replaced by the new ZF 100 2 Makro-Planar ? Not in clinical applications when the former is able to do 1:1.

What about my 200 f2. Even though Sony is producing a Zeiss 135 1.8, I don't think it can replace my 200 f2 easily. I heard that Leica 180 2 is better, but Leica can't replace a Zeiss.

Could Canon EF-S 60 2.8 replace Makro-Planar 60 2.8 on a Canon 350D ? The former has excellent optical performance, auto-focus and automatic aperture. The answer is no. The Canon manual focus is never as smooth as the Zeiss and Leica counterpart. When you are shooting small objects, smooth focusing is very important. The Canon manual focus has a frictional feel. In fact, I tried one day to ease the focusing a bit by droping oil into the canon lens. Well, I ruined it. The one and only one Canon lens has gone from me.

People like me would wish to see the resurrection of Contax, but I doubt if there are enough of us to make this worthwhile. What happens if the Leica factory got bombed one day by terrorist, resurrection will happen straight away. That's the difference between Contax and Leica. Contax is like an orphan.