Showcase Zeiss 45mm f/2.8 (Contax Tessar T*) (Carl Zeiss)

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Got this one because I like to have options in the 40-50mm range and, well, because I was simply curious how this lens would be like. Some shots taken today with the A7 during a sunny spell. EXIF data included, click on the pictures for a full-res image.


f/4


f/8


f/8


f/5.6


f/4


f/8

More boring (test) shots

This was Carl Zeiss' contribution to the pancake hype that lasted for a short while in the 1980's. Older folks will remember this, in those days we had the Olympus 40/2 (very nice), Minolta 45/2 (yuck), Pentax 40/2.8, Konica 40/1.8 (nice) and of course the Minolta/Leica M 40/2. After a while everyone returned to the old habit of producting affordable, fast and good 50mm lenses; after all, an SLR with a "pancake" lens is still almost un-pocketable. The good thing is that this short-lived fashion produced a number of 40-45mm lenses, the Olympus 40/2 is one of my favorites.

This Tessar 45mm lens lives up to its Zeiss heritage despite the simple optical design. I wouldn't use it at f/2.8 but it's quite sharp and contrasty at f/4 except for the corners, which are sharp by f/8. Bokeh is a bit different from better corrected lenses, I like it, reminds me a bit of the bokeh rendering of my Schneider Xenar bellows lenses which have the same optical base design (4 elements in 3 groups, most commonly known as Tessar design). The images are punchy but can look a bit devoid of colour because you have to keep the contrast lower in post and that keeps saturation down as well; bumping up vibrance is sort of a standard procedure. Also the white balance is cooler than what I'm used to of Minolta/Olympus/Konica lenses.

It's very light and small, pity you need an adapter that is bigger than the lens. The lens is so flat that handling is impaired, the focus ring is very thin and hard to grasp once you mount a lens hood on it. Its minimum focus distance is 0.6m which results in a reproduction ratio of 1:12, hardly spectacular, the short travel was probably dictated by the barrel's short length. I tried a Minolta Close-up lens No. 2 (+2 diopter) which worked fairly well, resulting in reproduction ratios from roughly 1:12 to 1:6. I had some difficulty adjusting to the 45mm field of view and I think I'll continue to prefer 40mm as a standard lens; that is, if I don't use the FE 24-70mm.
 
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NickCyprus

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Good results from this lens and some great photos from you Ad ;)

Thanks for also sharing this good information ;)
 

chalkdust

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Thanks, Ad, that is wonderfully informative. I noticed that I responded strongly to these images...they look so REAL to me, real, the way an image SHOULD look. I suspect that is because I grew up looking at my father's projected 35mm slides. Most of those were shot with a 50mm Zeiss Tessar. I notice that I tend to prefer lenses with relatively few elements, specifically 4 or 5 (classic Tessar or Heliar, not necessarily every lens named Tessar or Heliar).

In both of the tree shots (#1 and #2) and in the yellow post (#4) I see the tree or the post clearly in 3D in front of the background. The realism, as I see those images, is remarkable.

Thanks for presenting this little lens.
 

Nexnut

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They look pretty fine to me, Ad - thx for posting. Did you tweak the contrast for #3 & 4 as well? I love the transparence and gradation I see there, especially in #3.
 
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They look pretty fine to me, Ad - thx for posting. Did you tweak the contrast for #3 & 4 as well? I love the transparence and gradation I see there, especially in #3.
You're welcome :). Yes, I bumped contrast quite a bit in both, as well as white and black points. In #3 the yellows were processed to stand out more as well, in the Color tab of LR and by local adjustments.
 

DYNOBOB

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Thanks for taking the time to share the history of these lenses and your analysis. I can't add much except a few A7 jpegs from my copy. I think the 45 makes 'friendly' looking pictures :)

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These came from A7II so benefited from ibis.
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Full sized followed by a crop.
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.
 

Nexnut

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These look pretty good to me as well; the OOF rendering is certainly a lot more relaxed than that from the 45mm Contax G. As long as I'm shooting APS-C though adding another 45 doesn't make a lot of sense to me but I keep that lens in mind for when I finally pull the trigger on an A7II.
 

sven karma

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One of the first adapted lenses I bought, but neither on m43 nor aps did I get much joy out of its focal lengths so it went to the back of the cupboard. Lot more useful on FF:

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