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Zoom lenses possible switch from Nikon to Contax


I realize that these kind of questions can be very subjective, but here goes:

Here's my dilemma: I currently own a Nikon F100 with a 28-105 lens. I also recent bought a Contax G2 with the 45mm lens. I bought the camera
for the lenses and I am extremely impressed! Particularly the color and saturation from the lens -- it's amazing.

Now, I would like to upgrade my zoom lens for my autofocus SLR. Ignoring differences between camera bodies and between primes and zooms,
and ignoring pricing for now, I'd like some advice on lens choice. I plan to buy either a Nikon AF-S 28-70 2.8 zoom or the Contax N1 with the 24-85 zoom.

Does anyone have experience with these two lenses? How do they compare with respect to all aspects of lenses (sharpness, color, etc)?

Thanks in advance for any advice.


Active Member

Although my observation may be a bit controversial I will say this. Strictly sticking to the points of the glass my 24-85 3.5-4.5 variable may not be as fast as your 28-70 2.8 fixed, I find with the extra range fits my needs a bit better. In addition I have found the sharpness and color saturation truly remarkable for a zoom lens. In fact in my humble opinion I will go as far to say that this lens is superior to many primes that I have seen. You will not be disappointed in the glass. Just make sure the body will meet your needs.



Stephen: I found myself in the same situation about 2 years ago, except I had a N90S.

I got the N1 with the 24-85 because
1. I wanted to have the 24 mm range rather than starting at 28, and
2. it is a fantastic lens which can be had for about $800 grey. Compare that to the Nikon which is much more expensive, heavy and huge, and doesn't even have 24 mm. I don't really miss the F2.8 all that much. Choice was easy and I have the slides to back me up.

You can read my experiences with the 24-85 on epinions, should you care.



Thanks Gavin and Otola. Nice review in epinions Otola.

Anyone else also have experience to compare the the higher-end Nikon (28-70 2.8) and the CZ 24-85?


Well-Known Member

Did you also ask this question on the Nikon forum?

It might prove interesting!




Well-Known Member

I would include this one and any other one you participate in.

Go for it. See what happens.




Basically, whenever you want to shift to any system, the basic question is about what will be your actual need?

Taking this as an ex&le, disregarding the optical quality, 28-70 and 24-85 is already talking about two different applications. F2.8 and 3.5/4.5 is another. Another hidden question is what other ranges do you need?

I experienced this shifting struggling. I almost tend to choose Canon for the much more options in lens as part of the advantage. The lens speed of both Nikon & Canon zoom lens are also faster than N system, and even AF speed.

However, when consider deeply my shooting pattern, what i need is a very high quality lens, convenient zoom range for travel, occassionally big apperture, seldom sports and wildlife photos, etc. My conclusion is that N system fits me much and value for money.

No system is the best. Only a system "best fits" to your application.

The quality of CZ T* (I need to add T*!) is unquestionable. You may also see some reference to compare the lens quality among different brands in this forum.



While comparimng different zoom lenses, I would look closely at the ability for reducing lens flare, the clour reproduction, sharpness and also minimum focussing distance.

Even if you compare the manual focus lenses from Zeiss with the new N-lenses, you will see some surprises. The N24-85 zoom has a smaller minimum focus distance (0.5m) than the older lenses. This helps dramatically in using 85mm as a portrait lens. Try that with a 135mm which needs 1.6m distance or the 85/2.8 and 85/1.4 which need 1m.

Lens flare is absolute outstanding and colour reproduction as well. Only the softer image at 85mm (which is good for portait work) could be an issue for some people.


Well-Known Member
If I may share some direct user experiences.

I have shot extensively with Canon, Nikon,Leica and Contax/Zeiss 35mm glass. IMO, there is no comparison between the quality of the Zeiss zooms I've used (N 17-35/2.8, 24-85/3.5, and 70-300/4.5-5.6) and the other makers.

Canon L zooms, while improved, still show more distortion than the Zeiss versions. This includes the much touted 24-70/2.8 which shows more barrel distortion, and it is quite prone to flare despite the huge shade, (I have not tried the new Canon 18-40/4 as of yet). And the bokeh of the Zeiss glass is more pleasing than the Nikon zooms. I totally dislike B&W work from the Nikon glass where the Zeiss glass excells at it. I even prefer the Zeiss zooms over the Leica R versions, including the new 21-35/3.5 ASPH. That lens was a enough of a disappointment, considering its cost, to make me finally abandon Leica R altogether.

This is not a blanket endorsement of the Zeiss N line-up which is woefully short on fixed glass. Plus the 50/1.4 could and should be a better lens than it is (I dislike the Bokeh of this lens compared to the less expensive Canon version), and it exhibits no where near the performance of the ultra expensive, newer design 50 Lux from Leica. The 85/1.4 N however is worth every penny. But then again the Nikon 85/1.4 and Leia 80/1.4 aren't exactly bad themselves.


First, I want to thank everyone for all of their advice on this question. This forum is really great -- very informative and friendly!

I have come to realize that what is going to matter most is what I think about the difference in optics and the other advantages/tradeoffs
of switching from Nikon to Contax. However, answering this question is not as easy as I had hoped. This is mainly because I've had a very hard time finding Contax gear in my area (and I live in Philadelphia region!). Even my local "pro shop" doesn't carry the N1. (the G2 was much easier to find -- more on this later.) Well, I finally found a place that had an N1. The salespeople had no idea about how it worked, but luckily I had read extensively on the camera so I was comfortable with it after a bit of use. I found it very intuitive to use. I then went back to the shop to test the lens. The next challenge was getting them to let me shoot a role of film with it. At first they refused (even though they told me that the camera was just a s&le and, if I bought it, they'd have to order a new one for me). After I told them I'd buy 2 rolls of film from them and develop them there, they agreed! (Amazing!)

The caveats were that I had to use it in the store only and could only shoot 1 roll of film. Here's what I did: I had my Nikon F100 with me
and I used the following Nikon lenses: 28-105 (my current zoom), 85/1.8 (which I also own), and the store's 28-70 AF-S 2.8 (which they also, at first, were reluctant to let me use). For the N1, I used only the 24-85. Everything was done under store lighting and handheld. I tried to match focal lengths and f-stops as best I could among the lenses -- shooting with Contax then Nikon. I took a series of the photostore clerk (he was quite kind and patient to do this) and a series of photos of the store itself. For each, there were about 4 pictures each (1 for each lens,
except in a few situations were I had out-of-focus shots). I used Fuji 800 Superia X-tra film (had to use high speed because there was no flash
for the Contax). After the film was developed, I labeled picture on the back with the camera and lens info, shuffled them all, then sorted them
based on preference.

Before I give my impressions I want to emphasize 3 points: (1) this was a totally, totally subjective test. I was not trying to compare anything but an overall impression of the lenses. Although I have been into photography for about 25 years, I consider myself to be, at best, a medium-level amateur. (2) I was hoping that I would like the Nikon 28-70/2.8 lens the best. This way, I could buy that lens and keep my
other Nikon gear. (When it was time (some day) to move to digital SLR, I am confident that Nikon will have something to satisfy me). (3) I have been reluctant to even post this because I realize it's so subjective, but everyone has been so nice to give me their advice, that I figured it was only fair to share my experience.

Here's what I found:

For pictures of the store clerk:

I preferred Contax in 3 out of the 4 sets (each set was a specific focal lenght/f-stop). This wasn't even close. I tried this several
times --shuffling and reshuffling, waiting a week in between looking at them, and each time, I picked the Contax. In the 4th set (at 85 mm F4.5), the Contax came out behind the 85/1.8 (but ahead of the 28-70 at 70mm when I included that one in the set). (There was a 5th set here, but I
couldn't use it because the Contax shot was not in focus. I also discarded one of the 85/1.8 pictures in another set because it was out-of-focus).

For the pictures of the store (1 set), I also preferred the Contax

I also took some pictures of a sign in the store with just the 28-70 Nikon and the Contax and for these I sometimes preferred the Nikon and
sometime the Contax (depending on the week I looked at them), so I'd call this a draw.

Why did I tend to prefer the Contax?: it was not because of sharpness. (For 4x6 prints, I'm not surprised.) It was the color and contrast of
the photos. I just really like the saturation and the shadow details with the Contax. Also, I did found that there was a much bigger difference between the Contax and any of the Nikon glass (including the 85mm Nikon prime) than among any of the Nikon lenses.

So, what I am going to do? Well, I don't know yet. For now, I am going to wait and see if Contax comes out with a viable digital (not to
buy it but to make sure that they are really going to be in the digital game) . If they do, I will consider buying the N1 with the hopes of
someday moving to digital. For now, I will stick with my Nikon F100 for indoor photos and fast autofocus situations and use my Contax G2 (which
I am the VERY happy owner of for the past 6 weeks) for available light and travel photos.

So, that's my very, very subjective lens test. I don't have a scanner so I can't post pictures, but that might not even help. I am
now convinced (for myself) that Zeiss makes a lens that I personally find more appealing than the Nikon lenses that I tested. I don't mean
this in any way to be an answer for others, just my own personal experience.


New Member
> [well, here's my 2 cents on all this lens discussion. >=20 for stephen i note that a king of prussia mall store used to have n1's and=20 other contax stuff in stock.

i did a similar sort of subjective test with a camera store owner and=20 photographer (in mykonos greece, of all places) of the zeiss 24-85 and also=20= the=20 70-300 as against other marquee type glass with the same general results or=20 impressions. the zeiss 24-85 especially, seems to me to be a fabulous zoom= lens,=20 whiter whites, blacker blacks, better colors, etc., with the apparent qualit= y of=20 prime lenses, which is what the designers were aiming for.

i will note that on general principles, one would expect the nikon prime len= s=20 to be better than the zeiss zoom, as zoom vs. prime isn't really a fair=20 fight.

i tend to find the objective or supposedly objective lens tests in photo=20 magazines a lot of gobble-de-gook, with everything coming out of supposedly=20= of=20 good quality, worth buying. i think that part of this is a trade rag menta= lity=20 with a bias towards making advertisers look good, and all advertisers look=20 equallty good, and part of this is that stud lens design has outrun supposed= ly=20 objective criteria which some experts emphasize.

i found an intersting discussion of this in the leica papers (i don't have=20 the internet address handy at the moment) where the author discussed some of= the=20 considerations leica designers thought about in designing a new 50mm lens. =20= =20 to make a long story short, everything trades off against everything else, a= nd=20 there are a lot of objective criteria, such as lines per mil and degree of=20 vignetting, emphasized in supposedly objective tests, which may not be so=20 visible, which trade off against things that are definitely visible though d= ifficult=20 to measure, or not generally measured or emphasized in tests, like color,=20 clarity, resolution, tonality, bokeh or whatever you want to label these=20 qualities. also emphasis on wide aperture trades off against quality (alth= ough the=20 market will pay more for a wide aperture, thus discouraging quality emphasis= in=20 design), and cameras like the contax g or leica m have design edges in not=20 having to design around mirrors.

soooo.... i'm no expert, and it's practically impossible for an individual= =20 to get the equipment, hold everything equal, and do his or her own tests. =20 but stephen's subjective test may be more objective than it seems. and i t= hink=20 the owners of zeiss or leica optics can feel reasonably good about what they= =20 own, for reasonable reasons, even tho various objective tests might suggest=20 it's all mystique....

rusty =20

> ]


Well-Known Member
In the end, the only thing that counts is what your eyes tell you. Artistic confidence is born or reinforced out of that experience. There are many people who will argue you silly with logic, but you must go with what your eyes tell you...or in the end you will not trust your gear.
If you do not emotionally trust your gear it will effect intuitive confidence and thus, subconscientiously, your approach to photography. This is where science meets art...but art must prevail.


I have had Nikon glass (among others, F2.8/80-200 zoom) and now have the 24-85 and 70-200 for the N1. I also noticed that sharpness is not superior with the Zeiss lenses - but the contrast and color gradations are. Nikon is a bit more contrasty which may make it look "sharper" but the Zeiss lenses are just more pleasant to the (well, my) eye. More subtle, perhaps, and a bit less harsh. The N1 with Velvia 100 makes a killer combo while waiting a few more years for an affordable 18 MP digitial SLR.


Thank you again to all for your replies. I definitely have come to believe that it's what your own eye sees that's important to you (easy for me to say since I'm not a pro who has to sell his photos!). Also, I agree that artistic confidence is born/reinforced from the trust/confidence that you have in your gear.

So, I will hold off for now on more SLR investments and see what digital holds (again, hoping to integrate an SLR and digital SLR system -- and preferably Contax!). The G2 will certainly hold me in terms of lens satisfaction (and I have lots more learning to do with the rangefinder system)!