CONTAX T* 100MM F2 PLANAR LENS
Updated November 8, 2014
|First Year Available||1981 (AE Mount)|
|Lens Composition||6 Elements / 5 Groups|
|Floating Lens Group||No|
|Angular Field of View||24º @ 30 Feet|
|Minimum Focus||1 Meter / 3.5 Feet|
|F-Stop Scale||F2 to F22 in 1 Stop Increments|
|Aperture||Automatic on Contax RTS, fully manual otherwise|
|Filter Size||67mm, Non-rotating|
|Lens Cap||K-61 67mm Snap-type Plastic Cap|
|Lens Hood||67-86 Ring and #4 Metal Hood|
|Hood Cap||K-84 Metal Hood Cap|
|Rubber Hood||G-13 Soft Rubber Hood|
|Lens Pouch||No. 2|
|Lens Size||70mm wide x 84mm long / 2.75 in. x 3.375 in.|
|Weight||670 grams / 1.48 Pounds|
|MTF Chart||Contax 100mm MTF (PDF)|
It is easy to talk about sharpness and rank lenses based on their resolving capabilities, but there is more to a good lens than sharpness - such as: 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 these traits and easily transitions from shooting portraits to landscapes. Yes, the Contax 100mm F2 Planar is sharp, but that is a small part of what makes the Contax 100mm F2 Planar special. The Contax 100mm has distinct character which gives its pictures from those taken with Canon EF L primes. 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. The Contax 100mm F2.0 Planar is easily my favorite telephoto lens.
I have owned seven 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 $800 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 Zeiss 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE is a modern-day alternative (also available in Nikon F-mount). 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 as well - which has some pro's and con's.
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, thus no adapter is needed. Also, the ZE has a modern-day electronic aperture mechanism - this is a fully automatic aperture that functions like any Canon-made EF lens. It also provides complete EXIF information, including the selected aperture. But the ZE is larger and heavier than the original Contax 100mm. Being a macro lens, the 100mm ZE is longer too.
Perhaps most important, the "draw" from the Zeiss 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE is slightly changed too - more on this in a bit.