PEBBLE PLACE REVIEWS  

Contax Carl Zeiss T* 100mm F2.0 Planar Lens & Canon 1Ds Mark II & Mark III

 
 

OVERVIEW

The Contax 100mm F2.0 Planar is my favorite telephoto lens for the Canon EF dSLR system. In my opinion the Contax 100mm F2.0 Planar trumps the well-known Canon 85L (both the original and new Mark II version), Contax N 85mm F1.4 Planar and the Canon EF 135mm L F2. It is easy to talk about sharpness and rank lenses on their resolving capabilities, but there is more to a good lens than sharpness. Other important considerations are contrast, coloring, distortion, light gathering, light fall off and bokeh (background blur). All these factors culminate into how a lens “draws” a scene. The 100mm Planar represents a nice balance of the above traits and easily transitions from shooting portraits to outdoor landscapes. Yes, the Contax 100mm F2 Planar is sharp, but that is a small part of what makes the 100mm F2 Planar special. The Contax 100mm has distinct character which gives its picture an extra nuance often not found with Canon EF L primes.


I have owned at least six Contax 100mm F2.0 Planars over the years and all were excellent. Being an older lens there will be good and bad copies depending on how well the previous owner(s) cared for them. Optically I did not see any significant differences between the AE vs MM variants; however, Zeiss no longer services AE lenses, so I would suggest paying a bit more and finding a newer MM version. Prices tend to be in the $700 to $1100 (USD) range. Add in the adapter, metal lens hood (67-86 Ring + Metal Hood #4) and the K-84 metal lens cap, and the total price can be expensive. If buying a used lens sounds unattractive, the new Zeiss 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE is now available (also available in Nikon F-mount too). These new Zeiss lenses offer the classic performance with updated optical designs and automatic apertures. They are not simple re-issues of the original Contax designs, Zeiss has updated the optical formulas.


CONTAX AE OR CONTAX MM OR ZEISS ZF OR ZEISS ZE?

I have tried the Contax 100mm F2 Planar AE, 100mm F2 Planar MM and Zeiss 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE & ZF all side-by-side on a Canon 1Ds Mark III. Since the Contax AE, Contax MM and Zeiss ZF are all mounted via adapter, there is no mechanical advantage of one over the other. All three are “dumb” lenses on the Canon body, meaning there is no electronic communication or automatic aperture.

In contrast, the Zeiss ZE version is a native Canon EF mount, so no adapter is needed. Also, the ZE has electronic aperture mechanism - this is a fully automatic aperture that functions like any other Canon EF lens. It also provides complete EXIF information, including the selected aperture. For convenience purposes, I would select the 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE, but the ZE is larger and heavier than the original Contax versions.

 

CONTAX T* 100MM F2.0 PLANAR LENS

Lens Composition

Angular Field of View

Minimum Focus

Diaphragm Action

F-Stop Scale

Filter Size

Lens Cap

Metal Lens Hood

Metal Cap for Hood

Rubber Hood

Len Pouch

Weight

Lens Size

First Year Available

MTF Chart

6 Elements / 5 Groups

24 Degrees @ 30 Feet

1 Meter / 3.5 Feet

MM & AE - Fully Automatic

F2 to F22 in 1 Stop Increments

67mm, Non-rotating

K-61 67mm Snap-type Plastic Cap

67-86 Ring and #4 Metal Hood

K-84 89mm Metal Cap

G-13 Soft Rubber Hood

No. 2

670 Grams / 1.48 Pounds

70mm x 84mm / 2.75 in. x 3.375 in.

1981

Contax 100mm MTF (PDF)