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Zeiss 200mm F4 or Zeiss 180mm F2.8?



Hi all,

Just wondering what your opinions are for these two lenses.

My opinion is to get the 180mm F2.8 because of the F2.8, however I do think the cost of the 180mm is a little more than a 200mm. At used I think I can get a 180mm at about 600 while the 200mm at about 400.

Was there a reason why the 200 was discontinued? Is it because the 180mm replaced it?

Let me know what you guys think.


The 200/4 replaced the cumbersome 200/3.5 (in the mid eighties, I think). The 180/2.8 is one of Zeiss' most traditional and famous lenses, its first ancestor is the "Olympia Sonnar", introduced in 1936. Bot are very good lenses though the 100-300 zoom is said to be superior. You have to decide whether you prefer a small lightweight tele lens with a common filter thread (55mm) like the 200/4 or whether you need this one stop more light (and narrower DOF) that the 180/2.8 offers. I chose the 200/4 and am very happy with it.


Well-Known Member
Not having to walk forward or backward 1000 yards to get the composition you want!


Zeiss MTF curves, light falloff and distortion data (available as PDF files on this website) seem better for the 100-300 at 200mm (f:5) than for the 200 f:4. I guess this is the superiority (besides the obvious advantage of the zoom variable focal lengths). Of course, the 100-300 is bigger, heavier, darker and much, much more expensive!



in a site i found it listed mtf grades for the sonnar t 180 f2.8, the vs t 80-200 f4, and the vs t 100-300f 4.5-5.6 all at a grade of 3.8


Hi Steve,

about 13 years ago -- when the 4.0/200 was still in production --, I had to answer this question for myself. I opted for the 4/200 because of its lower price, lower weight, smaller size and 55mm filter thread. I'm still using it, and I don't have any plans to replace it.

The 2.8/180 is reputed to be one of the weaker performers (by Zeiss standards), but I have never tried it myself.

Hope this helps,
-- Harald


The 180 is a darn nice performing lens, I use it for most of my head shots. The only serious problem with the 180 (for me) is the lack of a tripod collar. I shoot a lot with the camera in portrait aspect from a monopod, and the combination tends to swing down. There's a lot of weight up front. It has to be secured VERY strongly. The built in lens hood takes care of flare nicely, and you don't have to think of packing it, which is a big plus. It's the easiest lens to critically focus that I use, whether the magnification or the contrast inherent to the lens, I don't know.
It makes a very useful "spot meter" when used with a body that only has center weighted capabilities.
It's not a hand holdable lens at the typical shutter speeds that I use (125 and slower), but a capable performer with a monopod and good breath control.
That being said, if I could afford the extra weight, bulk, and expense; I'd opt for a Canon with IS and autofocus. That's a lot of extra gear for basically one focal length.
Joe W


Active Member
[When I first bought the 180, I was dissappointed with the lack of "3D effect" (ie. color separation) that I've grown accustomed to with Contax Zeiss Lenses. But, when I compared it with my Nik*or 180, the accurate color reproduction was obvious.

The choice between the 180 and 200 is determined by your needs. Contrary to what others say, the extra 1 stop and shallow depth of field do make a difference. When you push the limits and alreay use ASA400 film, you need a 2.8 lens and not ASA 800 film. ie. faster lens compared to faster film.

The 180 is good for portraits, and I use it to photograph my kids at the playground, which is shaded. The ability to take candid portraits (head shots), and soft bokeh combine to give a very nice effect

I've only used a borrowed 200/4 for a few minutes, and the images appear sharper. Is it because of more DOF, I cannot remember (anyway, my comments are all subjective). I would recommend the 200 for taking photographs from a distance (maybe sports or landscape), But for portraits, the 180 is just more pleasing to the eye. As others have mentioned, if you don't mind an f4 lens, the 100-300 is a good choice. The MTFs and convenience of zoom, speak for themselves.

I do use my 180 for lanscapes, but I stop it down to 5.6-8. If you plan to do that, no point paying for the extra 1 stop.

I haven't mentioned weight and size because that's never been a consideration when I buy lenses. But yes, the 180 is heavy and is not comfortable to use when I put it on my backup Yashica FX103 body.

Lastly, there was a quote from a Zeiss employee comparing these 2 lenses. His personal choice was the 180 for 2 reasons: the extra 1 stop, and the ability to use the Mutar 2 (the 200 can only use the Mutar 1). I think I downloaded the document from

Hope this helps. ]


Nicolas, I guess the Zeiss employee spoke about the 3,5/200 that actually cannot be linked to the Mutar II. Instead, 4/200+Mutar II is one of Zeiss' explicitly "recommended combinations". I used this combo for some months and the results were convincing, even close-up shots in the 1:2 range came out well. For me, this is an important advantage of the 4/200 over the 2,8/180: With tubes or a decent achromate, it serves as a long macro lens.


I have the 200mm f4 from about 1980 and love it. Image detail and clarity matches my 85 1.4 and the camera assembly isnt too heavy to manage.


I prefer the Zeiss 200mm F3.5 that was replaced by the 180mm F2.8. If you look at the MTF charts comparisons you see that the Zeiss 200mm F3.5 is a very nice lens and the price is very cheap compare to the Zeiss 200mm F4.0 or the Zeiss 180mm F2.8.