Review: Contax 100-300mm f/4,5-5,6 Vario-Sonnar

Contax Vario-Sonnar 100-300mm


After the first photos this will be the word that will be out of your mouth when you will see the results.

The pictures made with this handy zoom literally pops-out from the screen, even from the tiny one of the digital cameras, not to mention from an iMac!

By any means this it’s not a cheap lens.

When it came out its price was out of range for most professionals. And even used, now, its price is stable around the 500/700 euro.

But, believe me, it is worth every cent.

contax 100-300 vario sonnar

Luminosity aside, carrying this tiny (for the focal range) lens is like carrying around a full set of top-grade fixed focal lenghts.

Contrast, color, definition; it’s all over the top. The only lenses that I know of that are marginally better of this zoom are some fixed Zeiss focal lenses: the Contax 85mm f/2,8, the 100mm f/2 and the 100mm f/2,8 Makro. Period.

Even the Contax 300mm f/4 falls short in comparision.

Long story short: unless you shoot sport, if you manage to find one buy it, and you will not regret!

Rating: ★★★★★

Review: Yashica 28-85mm f/3,5-4,5 ML

Yashica 28-85 ML

One of the best “bang for the bucks” out there.

Its strongest point is the colour rendition, tipically Zeiss despite the Yashica lineage.

The first weakest point is the relatively vast amount of flare when shot in backlight (otherwise it would have scored a full 4 stars).

Its second weakness is that the macro focus range starts at an odd distance – 1.7 meters! -, and because the focus is splitted between the normal manual focus ring and the macro one, that makes difficult to take pictures at typical reportage distances.

A solution is to focus near or at the minimum distance with the primary focus ring and then to use the macro one to follow the subjects. However this is more of a nuisance than a deal breaker.

Overall a great performer, pretty sharp at both ends, that you may buy used for the price of a Contax metal hood alone: 60 euro more or less.

At this price definitely a “must have”.

Rating: ★★★½☆ on Canon 5D Mark II

UPDATE: quite surprisingly this lens performs quite a lot better on the – supposedly more demanding – A7r sensor than it did on the Canon 5D Mark II. Go figure…

Rating: ★★★★½ on Sony A7r

Review: Canon 24-85mm f/3,5-4,5 Usm

Great value for the money.

This compact lens is a very good travel companion, light and reasonably sharp at all zoom settings and apertures.

At least in my own sample sports the best results at the wide angle end, while at 85mm is softer.

First row 24mm, left center, right borders;  second row 85mm, left center, right borders (on Canon 5D Mark II):

Like other zoom lenses if you try to correct focus in camera you have to choose a specific focal, because the amount of correction needed is vastly different from wide angle to tele.
canon 24-85

Not a great lens by any mean, but a great value for the price. And it will be light on your neck.
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Review: Nikon 80-200mm f/2,8 AF D ED

Aside for the average vignetting (stronger on film or FX, obviously) you may see at the long end @ f/2,8 this lens is a very capable performer.

It is sharp, it doesn’t flare so easily like its inheritor, the 70-200 VR, and it is shorter and somewhat smaller too.

The firs D version (without tripod collar) it has been held as the sharper one of the numerous versions of this zoom, but the differences are so small that you will be better served finding a version with the tripod collar.

nikon 80-200 af d

On the D300, at least in the worst conditions (mountain, shooting at black branches against a snow-covered slope), sometimes you will note a strong purple fringing, easily removable with a little of post-processing.

Rating: ★★★★½

Review: Nikon 18-35mm f/3,5-4,5 AF D IF ED

If you don’t need the extra speed of the 17-35/2,8 this is a good purchase.

It is quite sharp and don’t flare easily, even shooting into the sun. Obviously you have to keep the front lens religiously clean to avoid the ghosts.

In short a very good lens, without the stellar sharpness of his “rich sibling” but with a more affordable price tag too.

But I prefer the 20/2,8 or the 18/3,5 for the same usage, because they are less than half sized, and their borders are crisp like the center.

Instead with this lens for landscape work you have to stop down very well until f/8 or f/11 to make the borders as good as the center, so in my mind this lens is more suited to reportage work (but not in low light).

Rating: ★★★½☆