Eric L. Woods

This Old Lens: Contax CY Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.7

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Preface

I recently mentioned this lens in a post about modern M Mount lenses. This got me to thinking that in addition to my series of This Old Camera posts I should also flesh out my This Old Lens posts. Had made this an also tag along with This Old Camera posts but lenses should be given their own mention since they are the largest determining factor in creating an image in my opinion. Film or digital, no matter the camera, if the lens is no good none of those other things will matter.

There will be no spoilers as I will like all of these lenses. It will by no means be an exhaustive vintage lens list, but ones I have had personal experience with. And this lens is a perfect starting point since it is one of my favorites of a group of favorites. I had written a post about this lens, but after some time with it this lens is worthy of a more detailed write up.

This will be a work in progress but I will try to create a standard set of fields across all of these posts.

Asking Price

Current asking price is all over the place. I paid $133 and it seems some can still be found for that price, but many cost more.

Value

Less than $200 for a brighter than f/2 Zeiss 50mm is a bargain all day in my book. A spanking brand new manual focus Zeiss 50mm f/2 in Sony mount runs $809.

Why I Bought It

Quality and versatility. I often marvel at how well built vintage film cameras are. I have a 1930s era Zeiss Ikon camera that looks every bit as fresh mechanically as a brand new camera.

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex II

Same applies here. Additionally that new Zeiss lens mentioned above cannot be used with a film Contax or Yashica SLR or for AF with a TECHART adapter on Sony digital.

Contax Planar 50mm f/1.7

I chose it over the f/1.4 variant since I suspected I would not miss that extra .3 bit of aperture for $160 less. And I was right. I have not once lamented not purchasing the f/1.4.

Image Quality

<ahem> It is a Zeiss lens.

Ok, more. Just an astonishing lens. Ticks off every single positive lens attribute box. Brief comments below but I will largely let the samples talk below, but again it hits it out of the park.

  • Flare
    • Well controlled and the flare that does exist is very pleasing, especially with film.
  • Sharpness
    • It is the Zeiss-eist. Wonderfully sharp with film and digital.
  • Colors
    • Zeiss scores again. Wonderfully color rendering. Looks better than the actual scene without looking artificial.
  • Bokeh
    • Another win. Not only in the amount of bokeh available but in the quality. No squirrely distractions like some other lenses. Just creamy backgrounds and foregrounds.

Samples With Film (Contax 137 MA Quartz)

Contax 137 MA Quartz w/ Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.7
Contax 137 MA Quartz
Lomography 400
Contax 137 MA Quartz
Lomography 400
Contax 137 MA Quartz
Lomography 400
Contax 137 MA Quartz
Lomography 400
Contax 137 MA Quartz
Lomography 400
Contax 137 MA Quartz
Lomography 400
Contax 137 MA Quartz
Lomography 800
Contax 137 MA Quartz
Lomography 800
img198
Lomography 800
Test Roll - Cinestill DF96
Kodak T-Max P3200

With Digital

Contax Planar 50mm f/1.7
Contax CY Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.7
Contax CY Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.7
Contax CY Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.7
Contax CY Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.7
Contax CY Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.7
CY Zeiss 50mm f/1.7
CY Zeiss 50mm f/1.7

Conclusion

Purchased at a fair price this is a stellar lens bargain. I highly recommend it for film and digital.

Contax 137 MA Quartz
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