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Zeiss Vario Sonnar 35-70/3.5-5.6



What about the G-zoom, compared to the G-primes?
Is there a lag in sharpness, contrast, "3D" or "bookeh"?
What's your opinion about the focal range? Is it just an extended 45mm?

Perhaps somebody owns the zoom in addition to the prime-lineup. It could be interesting to know in which situations you choose the zoom over the primes and vice versa.

Sometimes I dream about a more integrated system. By extensively handling photographic equipment I become a photographer and get out of the scene, which is often unwanted. One point is continously mounting and dismounting lenses, hoods etc.


Hmmm... I own a zoom for some time and I find it to be not as sharp, warm and fast as the primes. But in many situations it's a life saver. If you are outside on the sunny day with 400 speed film loaded you should have no problems. The sharpness loss is a bummer since I got used to the quality of the prime lens. I heard from people that there is a terrible fall off while shooting wide open but I didn't experience anything that Photoshop couldn't fix. Also I try to shoot at f8-f11. The reason I would say that the zoom is a life saver is because in many situations on the run I just can't change lenses. It used to be that my G1 had a 90mm mounted and my G2 had a 35mm. I would swing the cameras up and down trying to frame the wedding the right way. Since I was using strobes, speed of the lens was not important. Now with 35-70 I can knock out half the wedding with G2. Later on I will just grab a G1 with a 90mm and finish up with some nice sharp portraits.

But the bottom line is.
-lens is not as fast (so faster film is recommended)
-lens is not as sharp in comparison to the primes
-lens is bigger and heavier
-lens is not as warm
-fall off at the corners
-no more lens changing
-convenient, one all around lens

I would not consider a zoom my only lens and I will throw in a 35mm (or/and 90mm) into my bag for low light/sharp shooting. By any chance that lens is not a representative of Zeiss quality optics BUT it is a nice addition to your kit.

Some ex&les can be seen here:
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it seems that there are not many people using the G-zoom.

Thanks for the advice!
I did not expect that there is realy a noticeable difference compared to the primes. (There was some photo mag raving that they have never tested a better zoom lens.)

After all, I think the best complementation to the G-system might be the T3. It not only keeps f 2.8 and reportedly high quality but adds unobtrusive shooting. Plus, last not least the "take-me-everywhere"-factor.

You are right to point out to me the zoom's weight and slow apperture.


> [I love the G zoom. I have a G1 and G2 and the zoom allows me to switch films in a second. With a 90 its about all I need but like most compulsive Contax owners I take the 28 & 45 because I love primes for the low lights or close ups]


Last time I checked teh 35-70 zoom (silver) with US warranty was $899 and there was a $50 mail in rebate until Feb 03. Gray market version of this lens was anywhere from $750 to $800.


I'm a beginner like to take photos but rare to research the camera or lens, could someone teach me what is the meaning for the lens likes 16mm, 21mm, 28mm, 35mm, isn't it the lens' specification or some other meaning.

thanks a lot


Hello Michael,

The numbers like 16 mm, 21 mm or so on give the focal lenght of a lens. The shorter this number the wider is the angle of field the lens covers.
Go for a book like the National Geographic Field Photo Guide. Everything will be explained in there!



These numbers are the focal lengths (FL) of the particular lens. When you see a lens such as this 35-70 f3.5-5.6 this means its a zoom lens with a min FL of 35mm and a max. of 70mm. 35mm FL being somewhat wideangle for a 35mm format negative. the f number (in this case f3.5-5.6) is the minimum aperture the lens is capable of. This is a zoom so the aperture is variable (hince the "Vario Sonnar") because as you move the focal length of the lens farther away from th film plane you have some light loss. By the way the smaller the f-number the larger the lens openning and the more light reaches th film allowing you to shoot in lower lighting situaltions. You'll notice that the faster lenses 1.2 or 1.4 and so forth are usually more expensive compared to slower lens of the same focal lenth.

Hope this helps


if the above field guide isn't technical (confusing) enouph for you try Ansel Adams: the camera.


Hi Matthias,Kevin,

Very detailed, I have learn a lot, thank you very much.



Gentlemen, May I ask one stupid question about the shutter & aperture using different speed films.
For exp&le, correct aperture/shutter speed as f.16 at 1/125 on a sunny day with ISO 100 film.
If use ISO 200 film, can I keep same aperture/shutter speed with change the camera's film speed to ISO 200 only.



The short answer is no. You are citing a Rule of Thumb for exposure known as Sunny 16. It allows you to estimate exposures when you don't have a meter available. In the ex&le you cite with iso 200 film you would need a shorter exposure time to compensate for the faster film. Using Sunny 16 you'd shoot at 1/200 @ f16 or 1/250 if 1/200 is not available. Changing your camera's iso setting has no effect on exposure if you are not using your meter. The iso setting adjusts your meter so it can give you correct exposure for that speed film.


The answer I need is the ISO setting adjusts the camera's meter only not affect the exposure of film speed.

thank you


Just wondering if there are any more comments about the zoom out there....Pete.


The Vario sonnar is an outstanding lens. If you are in doubt about buying it, don't be. It is extremely versatile and optically brilliant at every focal length. It realises the true potential of the G2's compactness and level of control.


Good morning,

Yesterday I was able to pick up my 35-70 after being repaired by Contax. There is still some play in the rear element, but much less than previously.

This week I'll be taking transparancies under various conditions with this lens set at 35 and 45 mm and comparing to the 35 and 45. I don't yet have a scanner, so I won't be able to post, but I'll provide my 25X microsope observations. If not satisfied, my dealer has agreed that they'll take it back. (I can't ask for more.) Thanks for everyone's comments,



New Member
I am also looking to get the 35-70 Vario-Sonnar T I like to enlarge up to 16x20.How well will this fine little zoom handle 16x20 ?.....Frangee


Hi there, stupid question - I bought a used Vario-Sonnar 35-70 recently and was surprise to see that the front barrel with the filter thread rotates - is that normal?