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Zeiss 50mm f1.4 or 1.7




I am considering purchasing a 167 MT and am wondering which I should start out with as a standard lens... Aside from the maximum aperture difference (to me this alone is not worth the price), are there significant differences in optical quality? Or is the f/1.7 nearly as good as the 1.4?




> Isn't the 1.7 generally considered the sharper lens, particularly wide open?


Check out the MTFs on this site.

with both lenses wide open the 1.7 beats the 1.4.

That is, the 50/1.7 at 1.7 beats the 50/1.4 at 1.4

BUT with both lenses at 5.6 the 1.4

-is slightly sharper than the 1.7 -has slighty higher contrast -has less distortion

REMEBER BOTH these lenses are superb.

However in 15years of using both lense I would agree with the MTFs.

In general the 1.4 is better, I also much preffer the bokeh of the 1.4 (the quality of the out of focus highlights)



basically they have their strengths but more importantly is the minimum focusing distance of the 1.4 is less than that of the 1.7.


Active Member
I would have to agree that the minimum focusing distance of the 1.4, combined with its high contrast and sharpness wide open, make it an extremely desirable lens. It is a crime, that these lenses sell for so little on the used market. (Except, that this means everyone can buy one!)


If I were you I'd purchase the 1.4 (expecially if you don't have other lens). If you consider the possibility to add a 2x converter(not necessary a MUTAR)after, you'll have an extraordinary and extremely economic opportunity in terms of results, obtaining an excellent luminous 100 mm (like a f= 2,8 against a 3,4!)


I opted for the f1.7 but only because I did not plan to use my 50mm as my "standard lens" (I tend to carry my camera around with either my 35mm f2.8 or my 85mm f1.4). Otherwise, I would have gone with the f1.4 version.


In general the Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f1.7 is sharper at wide open. However, if you find the right copy of the Zeiss Planar T* 50mm F1.4 it is also very sharp at wide open f stops. The focusing distance is very useful at time along with the f1.4 for low light even when you are using high ISO capable DSLRs. The sharp one in general has the Ninja star blades at wide open f stops. I love both copies and since they are cheap to obtain I got both of them.



Active Member
I just performed a side-by-side comparison of the 50/1.7 and the 50/1.4 (with "ninja-star blades) using a Canon 1DsMkII.

In short, I found the 50/1.4 to be slightly sharper, but the 50/1.7 to have more contrast. Wide-open, the 50/1.4 is disappointing, whereas the 50/1.7 shot wide-open is more than acceptable. Center distortion is much better on the 50/1.4, whereas edge distortion is better on the 50/1.7. Bokeh is highly subjective, but I prefer the 50/1.4 because it seems to handle color transitions differently. In general, the tonal gradations seem to be smoother on the 50/1.4, whereas the colors are "harsher" on the 50/1.7 due to its boost in contrast.

As Son says, you should have both lenses. Sometimes you want the extra "in-your-face pop" of the 50/1.7, and sometimes you don't.


Well-Known Member
Interesting thread..just bought some Contax cameras on e-bay and ended up now having the 50/1.7 MM, the 50/1.7 AE, a 50/1.4 AE and the MM version and finally a 45/2.8 Tessar pancake lens. This should make for an interesting test project.


Well-Known Member
Hi, just a late post to this thread: I bought the 1.7/50 MM (I thought it would be better in resistance to flare than the 1.4/50), but would recommend the 1.4/50 today, because in available light/indoors the 1.7/50 is surprisingly difficult to manually focus (on a 159MM body and non existing choice of Beattie Intenscreen or Maxwell Hi-Lux screens)

resistance to flare is NOT covered be MTF diagrams, nor is performance on real world 3D targets.

Actually, any 50mm lens is damn good.


Well-Known Member
I have both and they are both difficult to focus in backlit situations. I tend to believe however that this is more likely to be a flaw in the Contax cameras design rather than in the lens as the photos taken at such occasions have no such flare seen in the viewfinder.