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Old 19th February 2011   #1
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Contax 35-70/3.4 vs Zeiss ZE 35/2

I have had my eye on the Zeiss 35/2 for a while. I shoot a Canon 5D2 and currently use all Zeiss Contax lenses with adapters. For 35mm, I use today the Contax 35-70/3.4 zoom. I assumed the new ZE 35/2 would give me improved sharpness and better flare control.

I bought the Zeiss 35/2 ZE and compared it against my 20 year old 35-70/3.4 zoom. The result was the new Zeiss ZE was not quite as sharp as the Contax zoom. The new Zeiss also had some significant color fringing. These results were not what I was expecting!

Images from the test are attached. For this comparison, I focused 22' (22' is the hyper focal distance for 35mm) away at the cone in the center of the image using 10x live view and F11. I compared the corners and the center and the old zoom was slightly sharper, especially noticeable in the center. I am pretty sure I focused both lens correctly but I assumed being off just a little would not effect this test given I was focusing at the hyper focal distance and F11. F11 does bias the 3.4 zoom, given F11 is just 4 stops down versus the 2.0 Zeiss. However, I am a landscaper so this is how I would shoot the lens (near/far shots at F11).

I am wondering if I got a bad sample. Should I try another sample? Is it just too much to ask of the Zeiss 2.0 to complete with a 3.4 lens in this type of situation?
Attached Thumbnails
Contax 35-70/3.4 vs Zeiss ZE 35/2-full-image-zeiss.jpg   Contax 35-70/3.4 vs Zeiss ZE 35/2-center-contax.jpg   Contax 35-70/3.4 vs Zeiss ZE 35/2-center-zeiss.jpg   Contax 35-70/3.4 vs Zeiss ZE 35/2-left-corner-contax.jpg   Contax 35-70/3.4 vs Zeiss ZE 35/2-left-corner-zeiss.jpg  

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Old 19th February 2011   #2
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Re: Contax 35-70/3.4 vs Zeiss ZE 35/2

I also shoot with a Contax 35-70 3.4 Distagon with my 5DMkII and do a lot of landscape stuff. I have to admit that the 35-70 is one of my "go-to" lenses, (especially for the money ... I think I paid $250.00 for it!) My other go-to lens is a Contax 21/2.8 ... and I don't think I will ever part with that lens! Occasionally, I also use a ZF 28/2.0. Like your 35, my 28 also has a slight amount of fringing ... nothing that can't be easily fixed ... but it is still there. Maybe some of the older Zeiss lenses were slightly better? Who knows?
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Old 19th February 2011   #3
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Re: Contax 35-70/3.4 vs Zeiss ZE 35/2

Yes, I have the Contax 21/2.8, 28.2, 35-70/3.4, 100/2.8 MP and 135/2.8 and am very acquainted with their performance. I have been looking for a 35 prime and my expectations for the Zeiss 35/2.0 ZE was set when that lens was introduced.

At that time, I corresponded with an assistant to a professor and well known photographer on the faculty for Art at the University in Venice/Italy. The University does extensive and systematic research on Zeiss, Leica, Olympus etc. and MF lenses in combination with digital Canon FF cameras. They do their own MTF's under laboratory conditions and do them all for five different distances to the (flatfield) object starting from minimum focus to infinity. And they do this for every lens in the line up. To avoid sample variations, they have at least three copies of most lenses. With these photos they determine the sweet spot for center, extreme corners and average and compare the lenses with these findings.

This team at the University in Venice reported to me the the new ZF Distagon T* 35 mm f2 lens had by far the highest resolving power of any lens they had ever tested (exept of the 90 mm Apo-Rodagon). Hence, I was very surprised to see that my Contax Zoom delivered better sharpness.
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Old 19th February 2011   #4
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Re: Contax 35-70/3.4 vs Zeiss ZE 35/2

I've done some more poking around the forums and it is plausible for a specific sample of the 35-70 zoom to outperform a specific sample of the 35 ZE. The resolution of the ZE begins to decline after 4 stops down whereas the zoom is coming into its own. I am going to test another sample to see what I find because I could use some better flare control once in a while.
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Old 28th February 2011   #5
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Re: Contax 35-70/3.4 vs Zeiss ZE 35/2

Jon,
When the 35/2 was released in the ZF form I planned to buy one (I've also used the 35-70 VS for years) and luckily found someone selling a copy in Boston who was prepared to let me test it against my VS. I found the same as you and stuck with the zoom..
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Old 28th February 2011   #6
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Re: Contax 35-70/3.4 vs Zeiss ZE 35/2

I want a 35-70mm for an actual Contax film camera. They sure ain't $250 any more. You Canon DSLR guys are pushing up the prices!!
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Old 28th February 2011   #7
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Re: Contax 35-70/3.4 vs Zeiss ZE 35/2

I currently own the 35/2 and used to have the zoom. The prime reaches it's best sharpness at 4-5.6 while the zoom reaches it at 8. At 11 they're both not in their best shape, but I would imagine the zoom may be less affected by diffraction.

Also one should remember this is the sharpest zoom ever produced by Zeiss, who advertised it as being at least as sharp or sharper than equivalent primes in the Contax line.
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Old 22nd May 2011   #8
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Re: Contax 35-70/3.4 vs Zeiss ZE 35/2

Lately the Minolta Rokkor 58f1.2 seems to stay on my 5DMkii.
It is still new to me.
But in my same "go to" case is also the C/Y Zeiss 35-70f3.4, I love it.
Unfortunately, I don't have a Zeiss 35f2 to compare it to.
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