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Zeiss 85/2.8 vs Zeiss 135/2.8



I am new to the Contax world, just having bought a 167MT. I would like to get a portrait lens and due to budgetary constraints the 85/2.8 and 135/2.8 CZ seemed a logical choice. My questions to the more experienced users are:
1. Is there any difference in terms of optical performance only, between the AE and MM version of these lenses?
2. Given that the 85/2.8 is about 40% more expensive than the 135/2.8, besides the obvious advantage in portability, are there other performance related features that would justify the added expense?

Anticipated thanks for the reply(s)



Hi Andrei,

welcome to the Carl Zeiss world!

As with most CZ lenses, these are a great coupling (shows you how non-discriminating I am).
My only reservations against the 85mm f2.8 is the 85mm f1.4 and the likelihood that you'll acquire one as long as you stay in the Contax/CZ tradition.

I use a 135mm f2.8 MM and a 85mm f1.4 AE for projecting slides mostly. I didn't go for the 85mm f2.8 years ago; instead I saved up for a extra year to make up forthe f1.4 I'm not convinced by the portability argument; at least er, not until I saw a beautiful silver 45mm Tessar...) Carrying an extra 300grams on a camera body has never been absolutely critical for me; I'd rather shave the weight off myself than my camera, or carry a lighter tripod head and bag.

The 85mm f2.8 is light - here in the UK, it was marketed as a mountaineering lens (lightweight and portable). It is more flexible and easier to operate (a bit like a standard lens) than the 135mm lens.

The 135mm lens is not particularly large (only around 9-10cm long) however has a longer focus travel (not ideal for panning, candids and grab shots). It weighs around 565g, which balances beautifully with your 167MT too. At f5.6 onwards it is pristine and sharp (beware of camerashake at this focal length, especially handheld). You might not be able to handhold that, particularly given its extra focal length. If you don't carry a tripod regularly, consider that as a rationale for opting for the 85mm f2.8 which is easier to handhold without shake, and hence more flexible.

Since you are now in the Carl Zeiss system, do you envisage never ever owning a 85mm f1.4 lens? I can't say how much I love this lens; in its German incarnation, I consider it the most perfect lens in my collection; yes, its large in diameter, weighs exactly the same as the 135mm f2.8, however you have a four-fold gain in speed. Yes, it vignettes with Cokin A filters when a 67-62mm step-down ring is used (you might want to find out if that's true for the 85mm f2.8 if you use squares). The 135mm does not have a problem with the Cokin A system even wide-open.

Consider whether the depth of focus is shallow enough at f2.8 for portraiture; I enjoy the extreme Victorian out-of-focus experience which I get with a wide-open 85mm f1.4. You just don't get that with a 85mm f2.8. With the 135mm's extra compression in perspective and the shallower depth of focus, it's not a problem.

Considering your enquiry about differences in AE and MM versions of the CZ lenses, I do believe Michael has given a few comments about this.

Any difference is beyond me at projection level; I've resigned myself to believing that anyone who can ascertain any fine tuned discrepancies in either contrast or resolution between AE and MM lenses may have a third eyeball somewhere.

Perhaps as the AE lenses are older, subjected to fungi attacks, and mould on the coatings in humid countries and many more years of abuse by previous owners. Get a MM new one if you can afford it then.

You might want to consider the minimum focusing distance; the 135mm is around 1.6metres, which may put you off if you do portraiture or studio work, or get you up against a wall in order to fill the frame. It is a moderate telephoto and I quite love the perspective it gives, for landscapes anyway. However the pincushion distortion might be a little more evident than on 85mm f2.8 or f1.4 (which is just not noticeable to me). I don't find the 135mm as contrasty as the 85mm either.

The 85mm lens has a minimum focus distance or around 1metre - that's quite invaluable for a portrait lens if you're using it for portraits.

Should I throw another spanner in the works by mentioning the 28mm-85mm zoom; for the sake of f0.5 - is it really worthwhile having a prime 85mm, when such a beautiful zoom exists?

Best wishes in your hunt for perspective.



I just last night saw my first shots taken with the 135/2.8, and am very pleased with the results. I was handholding it mounted on an Aria shooting 100-speed slide film. Every shot has well-saturated color and there are no obvious signs of camera shake. I'd like a shorter minimum focus distance and will consider getting the extension tube set to make it possible to get closer. The built-in lens hood is much appreciated, as is the common 55mm filter size.

I've not tried portraits with this lens but don't see why it couldn't be used for the purpose. I'll guess that it will noticeably flatten facial features, which may work or not, depending on one's intent.

The 85/1.4 is an remarkable lens (mine's a German AE version I've had seemingly forever). It's an uncanny portrait lens. Of my other lenses, only my 90mm Sonnar competes with it for this purpose. The 135 is perhaps a less capable lens but, based on my brief experience, is an amazing bargain in the Contax line.




I gather you shoot with a G1/2 system for the 90mm sonnar? If you do, have you been able to mount any of the larger C/Y lenses like the 85mm onto a G2 without viewfinder imaging problems?



Hi Joe,

I don't own a GA-1, so cannot comment on how much viewfinder image is bitten off using SLR lenses. The effect would be at its minimum with an 85, because the viewfinder would be zoomed all the way out. I suspect wide angles would cause significant problems.

I presume you're proposing use of the 2.8 and not the 1.4. There's no way a lens with as great a diameter as the 1.4 could be used with the G.

My experience with the 35-70 VS is that with a lens hood, I lose a significant corner of the viewfinder at 35mm. Racked out to 70 the impact becomes minimal.



Since when are Y/C lenses compatible with the G mount?
Is there an adapter that one would use?
Or am I misunderstanding the gist of where the thread is going?


Yes, the aforementioned GA-1 adaptor does just that--allows the use of C/Y lenses on a G. IIUC it requires taking a distance reading from the G's distance scale then setting the lens using its distance scale. I can't say I've been tempted to get one.



Mr J Wojtaszek; that was my fault for spinning off a yarn. I was just intrigued to hear Rick compare the 85mm 2.8 to the 90mm sonnar.

Partly, I'd been toying with the idea of gaining all of those glorious silver coloured pretty barbie lenses which perform as good as they look on the G2, and having compatibility with my boring black rugged well-used CZ manual focus lenses. The only swaying factor for using the G2 body for me would be the lenses, and compatibility with CZ manual lenses. However Rick has pointed out how clumsy the focusing system would then be.

It wasn't my intent to hijack this post. It's a shame that retrofocus designed lenses can be compatible with rangefinder cameras lacking the mirror assembly, but not the other way around. Having said that, I'm a little miffed that Rollei can release a rangefinder with a Carl Zeiss lens, in a Leica M mount, and hence offer compatibility between Leica and Carl Zeiss lenses through a Rollei.

Sugar. I am hijacking this post after all.
Well, yes, the comments on the 85mm vs 135 still stand.



Well-Known Member
! As Joe Tweed already mentioned: "You might want to consider the minimum focusing distance;"

Both Sonnar/Planar @85mm 1m vs. 1.5m @135mm need an extension ring in my taste! Or the Contax AX Body, respectively. The Zeiss Vario 4/80-200 features 1m too. 135mm flattens long noses.
I personally ended up with several 100mm Makros (incl. Yashica Dental Eye II), Have a great day! Rainer


Hi Andrei, I agree with Joe's comments. I have both the 85mm f1.4 lens and the 135 f 2.8. Both are great lenses and take very sharp photos. The 85mm lens is outstanding; it was the first CZ lens I bought because of its reputation. People who see prints taken with that lens constantly comment on how the prints have a "3D quality". I am not familiar with the 85mm 2.8 version; I'm sure it's a great lens but would agree with Joe that if you stay with the Contax system you will eventually want to get the 1.4 version. Then again, you can't beat the price of the 135 2.8. Rob