Contax Standard- 50mm 1.7, 1.4 or 45mm?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Martin Francis, Aug 9, 2003.

  1. Okay, all Nikon equipment is gone now... good riddance! Hah!

    I am almost certain I want to buy Contax and a standard lens. The body will
    depend largely on about twenty minutes of handling and comparison and some
    internet searches for spec sheets. As for the lens... well, the f1.4 I used
    once gave startling pictures, but I usually balk at the idea of spending
    £100+ on a standard lens. I am aware that various optical facts-of-life mean
    the f1.7 will probably be sharper, and the CZ brand label brings with it
    some guarantees of quality, but how about that hard-to-quantify quality the
    yuppies call "bokeh"?

    And if i'm going to go all-out in my search for the unquantifyable, is the
    45mm worth considering as a 50mm alternative?
    Martin Francis, Aug 9, 2003
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  2. Martin Francis

    Jeremy Guest

    x-no-archive: yes

    As for the lens... well, the f1.4 I used
    Carl Zeiss' literature states that the 1.7 is as good as the 1.4--at
    apertures of greater than 1.7, of course. Theroretically the f1.7 should be
    a tad sharper, because less optical compromises have been made.

    They both have 7 elements in 6 groups. The 1.4 focuses as close as 0.45
    meters, as opposed to the 1.7, which has a close focus of 0.6 meters.
    Weight is 290 g for the 1.4 vs 195 g for the 1.7.

    Will you miss that extra half-stop? Only you can judge if the cost savings
    are worth it. If it ends up dogging you every time you shoot an image, then
    clearly you should go with the 1.4. I suspect that the 1.4 would have
    greater resale value, if that might be a consideration for you.

    Somehow the idea of buying Carll Zeiss lenses, and then fretting over a few
    dollars' difference between two lwnses, seems strange to me. That Zeiss 1.4
    lens is, arguably, one of the top 3 35mm normal SLR lenses in the world.

    Are you sure you want to pass that one up?
    Jeremy, Aug 9, 2003
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  3. Martin Francis

    John Guest

    Each to his/her own, if you want Contax then buy a contax. I have owned all
    of the lens' you refer to and was never terribly impressed by any of them.
    In fact the only Contax lens which really produced "fantastic" results was
    actually a Yashica 21mm but only when stopped down to f8 onwards. Not that
    there's anything wrong with the Zeiss lens', I was just never impressed by

    The Contax standard lens' are fine but I wouldn't rave about them. There is
    something unusual about the contax which is that the out of focus areas can
    sometimes look "better" than those shot with other brands of lens'. Not sure
    if it's caused by the iris design, but it's not a dramatic difference

    If you have an opportunity to start again then have a look at the Leica R
    50mm f2.0. This lens is stunning and relatively cheap as well. I have
    replaced all of my Contax with Leica and have never looked back, even though
    I had a couple of exotic pieces like the 85 f1.4 and 135 f2.0.

    In terms of image quality, buy the Leica R cameras and lens', you won't
    regret it.

    Anyway, even if you disagree with all of the above I would at least urge you
    to test anything before you buy it, including any Leica gear if you happen
    to go in that direction. If you're happy with the 45mm's image quality then
    buy it, but at least have a solid basis for a decision rather than the guff
    you read in a newsgroup or in a marketing brochure. I might be full of shit,
    but on the other hand I might have used some of the most exotic lens' around
    and have a good basis of experience to make a judgement, but how will you
    know which of these is true (I suppose you think I'm full of shit hey). And
    this is the problem with newsgroups, people give their opinions, usually
    based on a total lack of experience.

    Beg, borrow (don't steal) any lens you are interested in. Use it, at every
    aperture (ie the same image shot at every aperture), on a solid tripod, and
    keep notes. Shoot fine grain slide film, eg Fuji RDP3 or Velvia and use a
    good (strong magnification) Loupe to interpret the results. Don't use colour
    neg for the tests, it's not really fine enough to allow a decent test of any
    good lens. If you're happy then spend your money, but don't do it based on
    other peoples opinions.

    John, Aug 10, 2003
  4. Martin Francis

    Lewis Lang Guest

    Subject: Re: Contax Standard- 50mm 1.7, 1.4 or 45mm?
    Having real experience, myself w/ only the 50/1.4 (in the 80's), if you can
    afford it, get it, if you can't afford it, get it used. I don't have experience
    with the 50/1.7 but have heard it may have harsher bokeh than the 1.4. I also
    have no experience w/ the 45mm so I can't comment on it. I am not a yuppie
    though I do love good bokeh and most CZ lenses I've used deliver in this

    I've owned and/or used most 35mm systems of the last 25 years over several
    times (including both Leica M and Leica R, Contax, Nikon, Canon (FD, EOS,
    rangefinder), Pentax, Minolta MF, Maxxum, Olympus, Rollei, Konica and others
    too numerous to mention if I want to be able to finish this post ;-)), and have
    come to the conclusion that the lenses are all good in different ways, it all
    depends on what you want out of a lens signature (color balance, saturation,
    rendering of subtle tonality/tonal separation, bokeh, distortion, chromatic
    aberations, etc.). I've own the 50 R and it is an excellent lens, I've also
    used other R lenses such as the 28mm/2.8 Elmarit, the 24mm/2.8 Elmarit, the
    100/2.8 Elmarit macro, the 90/2.8 Elmarit and the 16mm/2.8 Elmarit (full frame
    fisheye). They are all superb lenses. However, CZ lenses may be a better value
    for the money for those whose pocketbooks are less than deep as the mm prime
    lenses in the 28-135 range, if not downright cheap are affordable, especially
    used. Leica R is also affordable used but usually not as nearly affordable as
    CZ lenses (though if one goes back far enough in time/generation one might get
    a good deal used like I did on my 28/2.8 which was later converted to 3 cam).

    I have _always_ noticed something special about CZ lenses - its not just their
    great bokeh both fore and aft or even their saturated colors but their high
    acutence (edge sharpness) which seems to equal or exceed some Leica lenses
    (particularly the 28/2.8 MM lens which is in a league of its own, ownly
    equalled by the extra subtle tonal rendition of the Leica 28mm/2.8 Elmarit, but
    possibly outdoing the Leica in the edge sharpness department. This edge
    sharpness sems to give CZ lenses a 3D quality that is best akin to the effect
    of a post card cut out-type of separation of the subject from the other planes
    (at the edges) whereas Leica lenses tend to have more of a larger format subtle
    tonality within the subject itself.

    What does any of the above have to do with your problem - only in general
    terms. Don't lose any sleep over not being able to (or wanting to own) Leica
    gear (new or used) as you'll be getting fantastic mileage for your money out of
    CZ gear and with whatever money you save you can put towards photo books, film,

    Both Leica and Contax have superb lens/body systems but, aside from the great
    lenses, I also prefer Contax for the excellently designed bodies that have
    features like built-in motor drives and AE bracketing that you'd have to pay
    top dollar with for Leica.

    Last peace of advice - check out the Contax mailing list (search Yahoo!) and/or
    its archives and possibly and for people's
    experience with the lenses in question.

    Happy shooting whatever you decide to shoot with,


    P.S. - One of my favorite 50s is the 50 f/2 ML Yashica but it is no match for
    either the Leica 50 R nor the 50/1.4 CZ, though for any normal lens it has
    wonderful sharpness, good color and pleasant enough bokeh. The only
    non-Leica/CZ lenses that compare with it are the 50/1.7 Pentax A and the 50/1.8
    Nikon Series E (and probably the infinite variations of this lens's housing on
    up to AF) - this lens has a lovely 3D effect that separates subject planes but
    not as nicely smooth bokeh as other CZ lenses and a bit flare prone too :-(.
    The older 50/2 AI Nikon lens is also superb though I prefer the 1.8's bokeh.
    Canon's 50mm f/1.4 FD is a great lens, ultra sharp and clear but it is a bit
    mushy (soft/less than tack sharp) wide open (Nikon's 50/1.4 and especially 1.8
    lenses seem to fare betterin this department). Enough rambling...

    Check out my photos at "LEWISVISION":

    Remove "nospam" to reply
    Lewis Lang, Aug 10, 2003
  5. Lewis,
    Sorry to trim your post down to the postscript, but while I am glad of
    your advice (and John and Jeremy's) I may have problems testing out these
    lenses, as I cannot find any on the Jacobs' system and my only option to
    handle these are to make a PITA of myself by ordering them in from branches
    of Jessops and not buying them. But anyway, onto the PS...
    My own experience of 50mm standards is not as extensive as your own;
    i've only shot with Zuiko 1.8 (very good for the money, but I won't go back
    to Oly) Nikon E and Nikkor 1.8 (the older version, closer to the 2.0). I
    didn't think much of the E, but the Nikkor was pretty darn good. I have also
    used the 50/1.4 CZ, and fell in love with it immediately (I am 85% certain
    i'll go with it). I cannot afford Leica- I want to keep the body+lens price
    to as far below £250 as possible, and I can't quite get a Leica R body for
    that- and i've never even considered Leica as an option. The words "bang for
    buck" have always been a watchword.
    My initial plan was to go with a Yashica FX-D Quartz, but I may instead
    get a proper Contax body. The 139Q and RTS look like the immediate
    contenders, though if I can get a bargain Aria i'll need to be shot to keep
    from buying it.
    Martin Francis, Aug 10, 2003
  6. There are other ways of making a PITA of yourself . . . . . but . . . . . .
    if you've been following this NG for the past few days you probably already
    know which NGs to cross-post to

    Tony Parkinson, Aug 10, 2003
  7. Martin Francis

    Lewis Lang Guest

    Hi Martin:

    The 139Q should be inexpensive but there are other choices to consider too... I
    have no idea what they go for in Brittish pounds, put if its not out of your
    budget you might want to consider the 137MD (no manual shutter speeds except
    possibly flash sync? but you can get around that with the AE lock which really
    locks in the exposure, not just holds it), 137MA (similar to the 137MD but has
    manual speeds too!), 167MT (the multi-mode (Programs (several for depth and
    high shutterspeed) Av, Tv, and manual) predecessor to the Aria and a really
    solid entry level camera, though a little loud on the winding/rewinding sound,
    has a push button interface which is no problem if you mainly stay in aperture
    priority and just turn the aperture ring but its not quite the same as having
    the shutter speed dial of the Aria) - all of these have built-in motordrives
    (the 167MT has 3 f.p.s. whilst the other two have roughly 2 f.p.s.), the 167MT
    (unlike the others) has DX coding and AE bracketing too). You also might want
    to look into the RTS II as well. There is also a 159MM which is like the 139Q
    but can use the MM (multi-mode) lenses and includes a 1/250 sec. flash sync
    (for studio flash, I believe), multiple program modes? (its been a while since
    I owned it), aperture priority and manual expsoure). There was a 3 f.p.s.
    motor-drive that's available for it as an accessory.

    Older Contax's have problems with the leatherette covering peeling off (so did
    an F100 I saw as a demo? at B&H so they are hardly unique, unfortunately, in
    that aspect), and the rubber covering on the 167MT has a tendency to grow, for
    lack of a better term (come loose/develop air pockets but when glued back down
    has to be trimmed again). These things may never happen to you (and/or you may
    not care about them anyway or wish to eventually get their coverings replaced
    by Contax or by using some leatherette provider on the web) but I figure I
    should warn you about this not so "fatal flaw" beforehand.

    Do they have "swap meets" (camera shows) in your area, you might want to
    consider those too.


    Lewis - a happy Contax 167MT owner (and previous 167MT and 137MD, 137MA and
    159MM owner too)

    Check out my photos at "LEWISVISION":

    Remove "nospam" to reply
    Lewis Lang, Aug 10, 2003
  8. Martin Francis

    T P Guest

    Now your problems start ...

    T P, Aug 10, 2003
  9. Martin Francis

    Rico Tudor Guest


    Lewis is the voice of experience in these matters :)

    For a light carry, I grab Aria, P50/1.4, and nothing more. Wide open,
    light fall-off is noticeable:

    Even then, sharpness goes right into the corner:

    The P50/1.4 has traditional construction: all metal, all markings
    engraved. Don't know about the P50/1.7, but the T45 has plastic cladding.
    Tessar is the lightest CZ lens, but slow and not that cheap.

    Don't forget the 2nd-hand market for excellent CZ prices. You can save
    further by acquiring Yashica ML glass: I bought a "LN-" 50/2 ML for $15
    from KEH. Madness!

    Rico Tudor, Aug 10, 2003
  10. Martin Francis

    Lewis Lang Guest

    Subject: Re: Contax Standard- 50mm 1.7, 1.4 or 45mm?

    Hi Rico:

    Thanks for the complement/humor?, I am only one of the voices of experience on
    this newsgroup (I am pretty sure you are one of the others) but with all the
    trolling that's been going on its getting harder and harder to tell where the
    others are ;-)
    Got a 502 "Website Not Responding" page out of this, is it up/functioning?
    Good for you! - great deal :) I got that one beat... by $15 ;-). My brother
    gave me his as a gift. Nice lens! :)



    Check out my photos at "LEWISVISION":

    Remove "nospam" to reply
    Lewis Lang, Aug 10, 2003
  11. What are the other 2?
    Pete McCutchen, Aug 11, 2003
  12. Martin Francis

    T P Guest


    As someone who recently abandoned Nikon, I can tell you that it's a
    minefield out there!

    Although I'm now using Pentax, I'm also considering a move to Contax
    35mm manual focus gear, but be aware that the service back-up for
    Contax in the UK is very limited and does not seriously address the
    needs of working photographers.

    Pentax is much better in that respect, and I have a guaranteed 48 hour
    repair and return service when I need it. I had the sense to buy
    several Pentax bodies so there is always a back-up available, even
    though it may not be up to the standard of the body I just sent for

    With Contax I would need at least four bodies to be sure, but with
    Pentax I can get along with three, although I do own five Pentax
    bodies (LX, MX, 2 Super A and an ME Super).

    Pentax gear is also very plentiful and you could easily replace most
    broken lenses within days using eBay (been there, done that!). Used
    Contax gear is far less plentiful.

    However, many Pentax lenses are optically poor when compared with the
    Zeiss glass for Contax 35mm MF SLRs. Many of the better Pentax lenses
    seem to cost about the same as their Zeiss equivalents, too.

    One of the best Contax bodies is the 167MT. I dislike the quirky
    control layout but it is otherwise a fine buy. The 139 and 159 are,
    in my opinion, no more than inexpensive Yashicas that were given the
    Contax brand name so they could be sold at unjustifiably high prices.

    You should be able to find a 167MT for £200. I have available a 50mm
    f/1.7 Carl Zeiss AE (pre-MM) lens in near mint condition. I paid £74
    for it and would accept the same price plus £4 insured postage.

    Let me know (on here) if you're interested.
    T P, Aug 11, 2003
  13. Martin Francis

    T P Guest

    Martin is talking about the reflex system, as you would have realised
    if you had read his message. ;-)

    The 45mm lens is the f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Tessar "pancake" lens, which is
    an OK lens but not in any way comparable with the 50mm f/1.7 and f/1.4
    Carl Zeiss Planars.
    T P, Aug 11, 2003
  14. Martin Francis

    Andy Evans Guest

    I have replaced all of my Contax with Leica and have never looked back>

    I went the other way and replaced all my Leica R with contax. Leica was
    beautiful, but contax was good too and about a third of the price with a much
    larger range of bodies and lenses and cheaper accessories. I just got fed up
    with carrying around in public a Leica kit worth several $thousands. with a
    Yashica body and a few prime Contax lenses I have most of what I need at a
    fraction of the cost. I admit Leica r has gone up (and digital back promised)
    while Contax has gone down in price. Kyocera seems to have forgotten its loyal
    punters with a plethora of confusing formats and poor service backup

    === Andy Evans ===
    Visit our Website:-
    Audio, music and health pages and interesting links.
    Andy Evans, Aug 11, 2003
  15. Martin Francis

    Andy Evans Guest

    My initial plan was to go with a Yashica FX-D Quartz, but I may instead
    get a proper Contax body. The 139Q and RTS...>

    the FX-D is surprisingly good - I have a few. the 139 is hardly much different,
    like other models from that vintage. The RTS range runs into serious spares
    problems. I've covered my back with 4 FX-D bodies and one for spares. Cheap and
    pretty reliable too.

    === Andy Evans ===
    Visit our Website:-
    Audio, music and health pages and interesting links.
    Andy Evans, Aug 11, 2003
  16. Martin Francis

    Lewis Lang Guest

    Subject: Re: Contax Standard- 50mm 1.7, 1.4 or 45mm?
    Hi Tony:

    Why the switch from Nikon to Pentax? Bokeh? Cheaper but sturdy bodies?
    Something(s) else? Why drop Nikon - an excellent system in itself? - I know you
    were/are very fond of the F4(s?), so I find this quite a bit of a surprise...
    WHat wasit that "pushed you over thedge" with regard to switching from Nikon to
    Pentax systems?




    Check out my photos at "LEWISVISION":

    Remove "nospam" to reply
    Lewis Lang, Aug 11, 2003
  17. Martin Francis

    Jeremy Guest

    x-no-archive: yes

    How could this TROLL, possible know anything about me?

    I've seen his posts on various subjects in a number of NGs. Others have
    commented that he has been kicked out of moderated NGs.

    How could the TROLL know anything about what "practical experience" I (or
    anyone else) have? The absurdity of his comments are obvious.

    He is like some kind of mad dog, stalking people on various newsgroups. He
    claims to be an expert in many fields--but he has yet to post a single image
    for anyone to see!

    Didn't I read a post of his somewhere, that he knew where Osama Bin Laden
    was hiding? And didn't he recently post something about having to put off a
    business trip to Iraq, because of the hostilities going on there?

    A certified nut! But he is amusing . . . :)
    Jeremy, Aug 11, 2003
  18. Martin Francis

    T P Guest

    Hi Lewis,

    It's simple. I needed cash to buy my Leica M outfit and a couple of
    Carl Zeiss lenses for the Hassy outfit. I had a lot of money tied up
    in my Nikon outfit, with lots of gear I didn't really need, and felt I
    could afford to trade down to a smaller Pentax outfit whilst still
    having good optics.

    It didn't work out that way. Almost all the Pentax lenses all seem to
    have rectilinear distortion that I cannot tolerate. Yes, the bokeh
    tends to be excellent, but I'm not willing to trade that for
    rectilinear distortion that's easily visible to clients who wouldn't
    know a bokeh if they tripped over one!

    There are some great Pentax lenses, including the A* and FA* series I
    mentioned earlier in the discussion, but good used examples are
    difficult to find and cost a lot of money when you *do* find them.
    And the Contax 'equivalents' tend to sell for much less.

    I might keep an MX and two or three lenses, but I really need better
    glass. Leica R appeals, but I can't really justify the expense when I
    have bought a lot of Contax gear at silly (low) prices this year. I'm
    gradually testing the Contax lenses and am very deeply impressed with
    their consistent lack of distortion, outstanding resolution, excellent
    contrast and bokeh.

    What more does a shooter need?

    But I'm still tempted by an F4E, F100, 17-35mm, 28-70mm and 70-200mm
    VR lenses ... my local Jessops has a mint (unused) F4E and I drool
    every time I pass their shop window - even though I could get a new
    F100 for £50 less!


    Best regards,

    T P, Aug 12, 2003
  19. Martin Francis

    T P Guest

    Yeah, right.
    T P, Aug 12, 2003
  20. Martin Francis

    Lewis Lang Guest

    Subject: Re: Contax Standard- 50mm 1.7, 1.4 or 45mm?
    Hi Tony :)
    Yes, those needs will certainly suck up a lot of Nikon gear ;-)

    I had a lot of money tied up
    I'm pretty sensitive to that too, but I thought this would be more of a problem
    with zooms rather than primes - is Pentax prime lens distortion really _that_
    bad? What kind of subject matter do you shoot that requires straight lines,
    buildings?, trees? For general scenics and people shots linear distortion may
    not make too much of a difference unless its really bad...

    Yes, the bokeh
    Bokeh... yummmmmmm! :)

    but I'm not willing to trade that for
    Which aperture range do you tend to shoot in?
    That would make sense.
    That's surprising, Pentax A* lenses prices must be in funny money land then.
    Because the N system has deflated the value of the MF Contax gear?

    More film and more money ;-)
    With me its the 25-50 AIS and the Nikon F3T, but I am foregoing any additional
    equipment until I come into additional money too ;-).



    Check out my photos at "LEWISVISION":

    Remove "nospam" to reply
    Lewis Lang, Aug 12, 2003
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