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Iscorama and Contax Zeiss


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Long time lurker, finally decided to register to learn and contribute.  I've been doing a little testing with some of my Contax Zeiss glass as a taking lens to my Iscorama.  Previously, I've only used a Helios 44-2.  The Zeiss is noticeably sharper and seems to work well.  Sorry, no lens flares here - just a quick test of overall sharpness and bokeh.






I tried using a Contax Zeiss 45mm f2.8 pancake, which made a a nice, compact setup, but it unfortunately wasn't as sharp and I'd hoped for.



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Thanks Lucian...yes the Contax Zeiss is very sharp glass.  Note that the 28mm and 50mm are shot at f2.8.  If I brought out a softbox light and stopped down further, I should be able to get those shots razor sharp.  The 100mm seems to prefer being farther away from the subject (which I couldn't do in my kitchen).  I couldn't get it sharp enough until I stopped down to f5.6 and bumped up the ISO to 1600.  But if you have distance in front of you, the 100mm is probably the sharpest of them all.


I'll look into the DSO.

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Hi Drewski,


I'm using a Zeiss Jena Biometar zebra 80mm (medium format lens) on my GH2 using a Fotodiox Pentacon adapter as my taking lens. My anamorphic is a Sankor 16D.  The nice thing about the Biometar is that it's medium format f2.8.  Somehow f2.8 for a medium format becomes something like f1.8 on micro 4/3.


When using the GH2 as a standalone lens I could tell the Biometar had classic Zeiss characteristics, but it was a kind of muddy at distance.  I figured it needed recalibration, so I sent it to Henry Sherer at zeisscamera.com for complete rebuild.   Henry specializes in Zeiss Icon/Contax camera and lens repair and is pretty amazing.  He checked the collimation with the Fotodiox adapter and found it was acceptable.  He then proceeded to rebuild it.  The main thing he found was that after 50 years the oils in the focus ring grease had evaporated and redeposited almost everywhere including the lenses.  After cleaning the optical performance should be near original.

I also had him declick the aperture which cost a bit more (around $65) because it's not a simple job.  He also used fixodrop when applying a high-quality lubricant to the focus ring to keep the lubricant from migrating to other parts of the lens.   After full cleaning and rebuild it should be here tomorrow.

As soon as I get it back I'm going to check it out with the Sankor.   If the pipeline still needs work I'll probably send the Sankor to Bernie for re-collimation.


Good luck with your Contax.   I highly recommend Henry if it needs work.  His rates a pretty reasonable and he really sharp.

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Be sure to add the 85mm f2.8 sonnar to your collection.  An incredible match for the rama IMO.


I find the helios 44 being 58mm is the best lens overall since it is the widest you can go on full frame.  As Lucian kindly commented, an oval aperture FF58 is awesome on a rama since it boosts the ovals to 2x and the oval results in a stopping down the lens speed to f2.8 and keeps the overall sharpness a little more refined than when a helios 44 is wide open and since the oval aperture is as tall as a round aperture is at f2, you maintain the same shallowness in depth of field in the verticals.


here's a full size sample of the sonnar I mention, attached to and iscorama 36 :-



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Hi eris,

Thanks for the tip, I will keep zeisscamera.com in mind if I ever need repair.  My Contax primes have all gone to Duclos Lenses to de-click the aperture and add the one-piece focus ring gear.


richg101, yes, I've downloaded your picture before...amazingly sharp!  I'm currently shooting on GH2s and a GH3 so I have a few more options available.  Thanks for the recommendation, I'll definitely look into the 85mm f2.8, and that oval FF58 sounds great...any sample footage?

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...any sample footage?


This was a 1.5x oval aperture and the iscorama 36 in very low light:-  



not really a good indicator of sharpness but it illustrates the more pronounced 2x ovals


being a m4/3 user you have the advantage of being able to use the speed booster to get away from the loss of lens speed.

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I'm on the hunt for Zeiss Contax lens's too.


I have a Kowa Bell and Howell and have the zeiss contax 45mm pancake on my pocket cinema camera and with the BMPCC speedbooster it is un-usable.  not sure if it's just so compact and everything is magnified right there at the sensor.  If I stop it all the way down it's sort of ok. The other issue is if you add a 62mm redstan clamp it's very difficult to adjust focus - fingers don't fit.  If I use a normal C/Y to MFT adapter it works but still soft focus like you say.  


I have borrowed a zeiss ZF 50mm f2 makro it was ok.  I think the issue is I need an evf to de-squeeze so you can see what you are shooting better.  But focus was good.  and it will vignette with a speedbooster.  Also testing a zeiss ZF 35mm since I can't find any contax lenses at the moment.   I'm back to a non speedbooster adapter for shooting anamorphic.



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Hi Jim,

Love my little Contax Zeiss collection!  These are the Duclos cine-modded ones.  I also have the 35-70 and 45.




I had the same issue as you with the 45.  Hanging that big anamorphic onto that tiny pancake wasn't workable.  Very hard to adjust the focus ring, and the added weight seemed to make the focus ring harder to move.  I'll try the Iscorama on my s-planar 60mm macro next.

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Thank you very much for the extra info.  I do like the duclos stuff and there is also the place in Grand Rapids MI - RP Lens.  I did get a couple of leitax contax to nikon kits for when I do find some lens's.  KEH is slim on anything marked MM...


And thank you for showing the 60mm.  This helps step out of the way of everyone looking for 35mm and 50mm.



edit... well the 60mm aint cheap either.




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Yes the 60mm isn't cheap, but it's very sharp and the macro feature is an added bonus.  Definitely cheaper than the 35mm f1.4.  The 50mm f1.4 is more widely available and affordable, but I don't believe it's as sharp as the 60mm.  As for the 45mm, I bought it to try on the Iscorama, but now I'll probably sell it.



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Is this contax 60mm makro the same as the Zeiss 50mm f2 makro.  I borrowed the Zeiss 50mm makro and it did not work well with the speedboosted pocket camera.  You could see the inside of the lens barrel.   I have the non speedboosted metabones nikon adapter on the way, maybe I will give it a try again.




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Spent last Saturday at the beach testing the lens combos:



My thoughts:

  • The Contax Zeiss 60mm f2.8 S-Planar Macro is my favorite taking lens...easily the sharpest lens I own
  • The 28mm f2 (aka "Hollywood 28") adds distortion that becomes noticeable if you're shooting a scene with lots of straight lines
  • Some focus adjustment of the taking lens is necessary, even though the Iscorama is supposed to be a single focus setup.
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Thanks Lucian.  The 60mm macro is sharp wide open at f2.8.  The 28mm and 100mm are also sharp wide open at f2.  The 50mm I'm guessing would have to be stopped down before getting as sharp as the others...I didn't use it that much on this day.  I didn't have an ND filter with me, so all the daytime shots were stopped down almost all the way.

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Strangely I was so unlucky with the Contax Zeiss: I was experimenting with the 35mm F2.8 and 28mm and I was very unhappy with them.

They were inferior to my Canon FDn's and so I sold them. The W. Germany Zeiss with Rolleimount (50mm  1.4) is totally different. Color is different and much sharper. Mine is on par (not better) with Canon FDn 50mm 1.4

I think there are big differences where or when they were made? 

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