The Contax 100-300 Vario-Sonnar

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Registered: Apr 03, 2009
Total Posts: 3103
Country: Australia

Last week I received my converted (no reversible mount possible) one of these for Alpha mount, from Leitax. Did a series of careful comparisons with a Minolta 200mm f2.8 APO HS and Sony's 70-300mm mid-level zoom - it revealed a few things.

(using cord-anchored CF tripod, MLU, dwell of 8 seconds, no SSS, no filter, cable release, no wind, neutral settings in RAW, no RC sharpening, focus bracketing)

Photozone test of the esteemed 200/2.8 APO:

The VS is so close to the APO Minolta that the only resolution difference is smaller than focus error, at the best aperture for each of f5.6...the Minolta may just shade the VS at short range.

The other characteristics of real importance to me all run in favour of the VS: beautiful defined bokeh, as good 3D as I could wish for, colour tonality which lends itself to 3D, clarity, and midtone separation in another league from the Minolta's rather flat output and too smooth bokeh. I shoot landscapes and travel I should add. I see no trace of lateral CA in fine twigs against a bright (250/255) sky near long edges. Same 'accurate yet beautiful' greens seen in photoe's images above.

The Sony zoom was outclassed, despite nice colour and contrast.

And this at 200mm which is the downslope on the VS MTF chart (optimum is 100-150mm, a wise choice by Zeiss IMO). At 100mm it is simply excellent, showing a noticeable lift in performance over longer FLs.

What's not to like? Focus is expectedly fussy, given the ability to focus past infinity and no LV...and it makes a real difference in my focus bracket shots to get it exactly right.

I rate it as 'better' than the Contax 35-70/3.4, really more of the same but at longer FLs. It impresses me as much as the 21mm Distagon. I have yet to see poor image from it, so consistency is another feature. It also sits nicely on a full frame body despite lacking a full focal range collar option. I'll do a few jpgs when I get to it.

I could get to like the comparo business, it's very informative in a way you can never see otherwise.

Registered: Feb 22, 2008
Total Posts: 321
Country: United States

Philip, thanks for the comparison. Is the Sony zoom you compared it to the 70-300mm G? How much of a fall off in performance is there with the VS from 200-300mm? Lastly, if you don't mind my asking, what did David charge for the mount conversion. Thanks.

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