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Zeiss TeleApotessar T 400mm f4 N First Impressions

G

Guest

I used the 400mm N lens for an hour or so today and here are some initial impressions. First, and most obvious, this is a big lens. Weighs nearly four pounds and the front filter size is 102mm. The lens hood must be nearly eight inches long. It feels like one of the most well made lenses I have handled, solid, with a focus ring that is about 5 inches wide and with just the right amount of tension. The lens comes with a very solid tripod collar, and again there is just the right amount of tension when turning the lens in the collar to allow very precise movement. There is a filter drawer at the back of the lens just in front of the mount that accepts small filters - just as well as 102mm filters would cost way too much. The lens comes in a nice back-pack type carry case that looks like it would provide excellent protection.

Now for the thing that surprised me the most. There has been a significant amount of discussion regarding the focus speed and accuracy of the N1. Well, with this lens mounted, it never hunted once, just snapped into place, bang on the mark every time. Even from one extreme end of the focus scale to the other, it took probably less than a couple of seconds and was locked on. I think one reason for the speed is the fact that there is by all accounts a big motor inside this lens. The good news is that, if the fixed f/2.8 lenses that are planned use the same motor, then the N1 will truly be up there with the Canons and Nikons of this world.

I have not got the slides back yet (I will post any decent images but I was rushing), but my initial impression is that this is a high class lens from Zeiss, with the build quality you would expect and I bet the optics are there to match. It is fast focussing, accurate and I had a great time.

Would I / will I buy it. Well, this is a three week old used lens and is about 38% cheaper than the new cost. It is probably a one off chance to enjoy this type of lens and I would probably not lose too much if I sold it again in a year. I would definitely enjoy using it, so maybe I will be back there on Monday to take it home!

Simon
 
G

Guest

simon what kind of subject were u going after, when u talk about the = focus speed? i am hoping that the new lenses u mentioned are much quicker in = AF=20
 
G

Guest

I will post some images in a few minutes. I did try pointing it at someone walking towards me and it snapped right into focus. Of course the N1 does not have the funciton that my old F5 had, namely to only take an image if the subject is in focus (keep the shutter depressed and it fires when focus is achieved), so I am not sure how the CAF would fare. I suspect it would be fine.

Simon
 
G

Guest

I will post some images in a few minutes (there migth be one in this message if it worked!). I did try pointing it at someone walking towards me and it snapped right into focus. Of course the N1 does not have the funciton that my old F5 had, namely to only take an image if the subject is in focus (keep the shutter depressed and it fires when focus is achieved), so I am not sure how the CAF would fare. I suspect it would be fine.

Simon
 
G

Guest

OK, here is a link to some images taken with the 400mm N Tele Apo lens.

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The content is not very exciting, and as you would expect, these images pop on the light table but lose a bit when scanned. Anyway, you should get some idea of the quality of the lens. The out of focus areas look very nice, very creamy bokeh.

Simon
 
G

Guest

I am behind the news again. What is the street price of this new lens?

And by the way, I had to laugh at your comment (Simon) that the images you posted are not very exciting. I would like to have your "not exciting" images close by for shooting. I was thinking to myself today that everything is so very drab and dreary here this winter with no snow. We usually have tons of white stuff to clean up the winter landscape, but only a faint edging of snow exists on the northern exposures. Very dry, very brown. Think brown/tan/beige everywhere you look. No pretty signs to shoot, or nifty doorways nearby. So, your images ARE very exciting. ;) -Lynn
 
G

Guest

Lynn

The street price in the UK is £3,995. They are being advertised in the US for about $3,500. I am glad you found my 'study in UK street signage' interesting! I must admit, a 400mm lens on a tripod is not exactly made for street photography. All that beige might get a bit drab, but then so do London's streets when you live with them all day.

Simon
 
G

Guest

Simon, Thanks for sharing the attractive street images. Can you provide more technical details? film, scanner, etc..
 
G

Guest

Albert

The film was Provia 100F. Most of the shots were at f/4. The sun was out when I loaded the film so I decided on the 100. As soon as I got set up it went overcast and I wished I had used the 400F, so that I could try the smaller apertures. The scanner is a Nikon LS30 and the scanning software was Vuescan.

Simon
 
G

Guest

Simon -

Thanks for posting -- it's great (for those of us who would be sleeping under the stars with our cameras if we came home with such a lens particularly) to get a hands-on review (with pictures, no less!) of such an exotic lens -

John
 

tessar_man

Active Member
Simon:

Did you actually buy the N4/400? Or are you still planning to? I am very interested in buying this lens as my second lens for N1 (after 24-85).
Jan
 

sclamb

Well-Known Member
Jan

No, I didn't buy the 400mm. In fact, I got so disallusioned with Contax that I have now sold all my N kit.

Simon
 

tessar_man

Active Member
Simon:

Thanks for quick reply. This is highly interesting and concerning, since I was about to switch from Contax MM (Aria + 4 C/Y lenses and many 3rd party lenses) to N1.
Would you mind sharing what you main reasons were? Was it technical or just Kyocera's current sluggish support of their system? Do you still hold on to a C 645?
Thanks, Jan
 

sclamb

Well-Known Member
Jan

It was a number of things. First, the lenses for the N mount took a long time coming, and even now there is a limited selection. Once they did arrive I felt they were overpriced, although one would expect to pay a premium for Zeiss glass.

I didn't have a Contax 645 so there was no option to use those lenses on the N body.

The N Digital trod new ground with the full frame sensor, but now Contax is so far behind the state of the digital art they will never recover and assume any lead position.

The killer blow was seeing images from a Canon EOS 1Ds with Canon L lenses. Simply stunning quality, and all for less than the equivalent (and inferior) Contax N. I wanted a camera system that would suport a future move into digital, and is was not, and remains not, Contax. Even Leica made a bold move with the digital back for the R camera, although by the time it comes to market it will be old technology. It will sell though, because so many people have big money invested in R lenses and they don't want to lose that investment and start investing in another system.

I would hang on to your MM kit. I see no point in investing in a niche system like the N that has no foreseeable future, especially if you want the future flexibility of digital imaging.

It is your money so feel free to spend it how you see fit. For my money, it is going on Canon kit, because they have a future, they invest in development, they have got digital down to a fine art and the imaging capability is stunning.

Simon
 

tessar_man

Active Member
Simon:

Wow, you are paying WAY too much in the UK for camera equipment! And this may explain why you hesitated buying this lens. Look at todays prices from a popular mail order dealer in the US (B&H). For fairness I included the Canon 5,6/400 and the 100-400 Canon zoom to show that you do have more options with Canon (esp. for digital cameras where speed doesn't matter so much):

Contax 400mm f/4 N-AF Zeiss Tele-APO Tessar T* AF US $ 2,999.00 (Price After Rebate: US$ 2,749.00!)

Canon Telephoto EF 400mm f/4.0 DO (Diffractive Optics) IS USM US$ 5299.95
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM AF Len - US$ 6199.95
Canon Zoom EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM AF US$ $ 1,389.95
Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM US$ 1,099.95

Now I would really like to see a test of the Zeiss 400 and the Canon 4/400 IS DO lens, which it should really be compared to!
Jan
 

dirk

CI-Founder
Jan,

this is the burden we have in Europe. Prices are way more expensive than in the US or Asia. And it is not only because of different sales taxes


Comparing your prices, it is easy to decide for the Zeiss lense
 

sclamb

Well-Known Member
Yes, we do pay too much in the UK! Youcould compare the Canon IS DO lens but only in terms of image quality, not price. The Canon costs more because it is stabilised and has DO optics. One thing is for sure. Action shots will definitely be sharper with the IS lens.

Simon
 

tessar_man

Active Member
I agree, the IS DO lens is very attractive and compact. I heard mixed reviews about its optical quality though.
However, the point I was making was that when you get to professional lenses in almost all brands there is hardly a price difference to the Zeiss lenses. Same also with C 645 and Mamiya 645 telephoto lenses.
Jan
 

sclamb

Well-Known Member
Jan

I agree. But there is a technological difference. The Canon 400mm f/2.8 is both one stop faster and has IS, both of which can make a massive difference in telephoto photography. The Zeiss glass may arguably be better, but if you don't get the shot, clean and clear, then the glass quality doesn't matter.

Simon
 
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