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View Full Version : Which collapsible lens for a Contax/Kiev?


wlewisiii
12-13-2004, 15:47
Seeing a place with a couple of sanely priced pre-war uncoated collapsables, I thought I'd see what which one the collective wisdom of the RFF believes I should get.

William

Brian Sweeney
12-13-2004, 16:29
Newcombe states that the 5cm f2 is superior to both Tessars, and that the F2.8 Tessar has superior color correction over the f3.5. He described the F3.5 lens as suitable for casual photographers...

FrankS
12-13-2004, 16:43
The only knowledge that I have that is relevant to your situation comes from the little 35mm Rollei VF cameras. They were available in Sonnar versions (f2.8) and Tessar versions (f3.5). They were both very sharp at mid to small apertures, but the Sonnar performed better at wider apertures (f3.5 and 5.6) as well as having an extra stop of speed. The Tessar seemed harsh/sharp compared to the Sonnar which is creamy/sharp. I voted for the Sonnar.

jdos2
12-13-2004, 17:41
Mr. Contax (Henry) reports that one of the Tessars is actually APO corrected and needs no focus adjustment for IR.

They are all good. I'd love one, someday.

rover
12-13-2004, 17:48
I voted to wait. Go all the way with your Tessar fancy!

I did check ahead in the Hans-Jurgen Kuc book, On the Trail of the Contax (vol. 1). He does not directly compare the performance of the 3.5 and 2.8 Tessars. My reading is that the 3.5 was very highly regarded, and seemingly the better lens. The 2.8 was a higher speed alternative to the 3.5.

Note too that there were two versions of the collapsable Tessars made, one before and one after 1936. You want to be sure to find one made after 1936 as it will collapse fully into your camera. Those made before have a longer tube and were made for the Contax I.

wlewisiii
12-13-2004, 18:10
Good point about the early lenses. I've just refeshed my memory by checking Mr. Gandy's Contax I page and the early one has a black face and the later ones are all chrome. The ad says chrome but has no photo so I'll need to ask if I decide to go ahead with one of these two.

William

rover
12-13-2004, 18:16
There is a measurement that can be taken to determine which version it is too. From the flange to ? is 15mm on the later ones vs 20mm on the early ones. I will have to look that up again. I don't think this book is that specific regarding serial number ranges for lenses, but I will check.

Tim
12-13-2004, 18:18
I'd go the pre war non coated Sonnar. But that's because I have one and apart from the tendancy to flare if you aren't careful, it's a lovely lens. It has a great character to it; at once soft and crisp. I'll see if I can dig up some shots to show what I mean.
I have the Rollei 35T with a Tessar 3.5, that's a nice lens too. Probably a bit sharper than the pre war Sonnar - but then, sharpness isn't everything...

tim

rover
12-13-2004, 19:39
William, no serial number info, but send me a PM with your email address and I will send you a couple pages of the text regarding the Tessars and Sonnars.

Roman
12-14-2004, 00:08
I don't have any experience with these Contax lenses, but with Sonnars and Tessars in other guises, and voted for the SOnnar, as it clearly is the superior lens type: better performance wide open, and MUCH better bokeh (Sonnars are the best lenses in that regard, and for portraits are the best lens type of all kinds).
Tessars are not bad either, but if you've got the choice of a Sonnar for not much more money, this is a 'no brainer', if you want the lens for picture-taking (for collecting, other arguments might be valid).

Roman

Brian Sweeney
12-14-2004, 02:30
How soon does the Poll close and you get your Mandate to go with the Sonnar?


Sonnar 5cm F2 Uncoated, Baby... (http://www.rangefinderforum.com/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/3043/size/big/sort/1/cat/614)

And Remember, (http://www.rangefinderforum.com/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/3044/size/big/sort/1/cat/614)

The Hat Chick has Spoken.

rover
12-14-2004, 02:52
Hmmm, I guess my comment on Brian's first shot means...

I voted for the Tessar, but the Sonnars are really good too.

wlewisiii
12-14-2004, 03:28
Well, both lenses are the same price... which does make me think. Between the information from "On the Trail of the Contax" sent to me by Rover and Brian's exquisite portaits, I think that you all have convinced me to get the Sonnar first. If the place still has it when the $$$ is available for the second, I'll get the Tessar and do a comparison for everyone.

Thank you all.

William

furcafe
12-14-2004, 11:47
My thoughts: I see 2 aspects to your question: (1) Speed--do you really need f/2 or can you live w/f/2.8 or 3.5?; (2) Lens qualities--Tessar v. Sonnar.

(1) Only you can answer the 1st question. From the fact that you're even considering the Tessar, I'm guessing that you don't absolutely require f/2. However, if you're going to be shooting a lot in the f/2-f/4 range, I would recommend the Sonnar, as the Tessar doesn't really shine until f/8 or so, IMHO.

(2) Based on my experience w/multiple examples of both the collapsible Sonnar (uncoated & after-market coated) & the collapsible Tessars (both f/2.8 & 3.5, both uncoated & post-war coated), I would say the Tessar actually has smoother boke than the Sonnar, particularly noticeable when shooting @ the larger apertures & when you have a busy pattern or point light sources (e.g. Xmas tree lights) in the background. The f/2 Sonnars never give you the super-"swirly" backgrounds that the f/1.5 versions do, but they can get close. Starting @ f/8 or so, boke is less of an issue & all lenses are sharp, but I believe the Tessar is better corrected against diffraction problems, etc. @ the really small apertures (f/16, f/22), so it's probably a better choice for landscape-type work. Some practical considerations: the Tessar, even the heavier chrome version, is lighter in weight than the collapsible Sonnar, but that's not a big deal w/such small lenses. However, it's easier to use filters & hoods w/the Sonnar, as it has the 40.5mm thread.

Below are some sample shots. Not too illustrative, but they're all that I have readily on hand. The 1st is w/the Sonnar (uncoated, c.1936) @ f/2.8 on Tri-X & the 2nd is w/the f/3.5 Tessar (post-war coated c.1945, but shouldn't make a big difference here) @ f/4 on Plus-X.


Originally posted by wlewisiii
Seeing a place with a couple of sanely priced pre-war uncoated collapsables, I thought I'd see what which one the collective wisdom of the RFF believes I should get.

William http://not.contaxg.com/files/0017/41617-06Jenn_St.Ex.jpg http://photos1.flickr.com/2186568_54aedadc87_o.jpg

furcafe
12-14-2004, 12:21
I'm not familiar w/the Newcombe work cited by Brian, but I would guess that Newcombe was referring to the pre-WWII f/2.8 & f/3.5 versions of the Tessar.

Originally posted by Honu-Hugger
I believe the earlier advice you received regarding the 2.8 Tessar being better than the 3.5 is in error; the 3.5 is an apochromatic lens and is very highly regarded.

Brian Sweeney
12-14-2004, 12:41
D2: Is the 5cm F3.5 Tessar an Achromat, ie corrected for 2 "zero points" in the spectrum, or an Apochromat, corrected for 3 "zeroes" in the spectrum? I thought that Apochromats required the use of low-dispersion glass or CFl. Are all Zeiss 5cm f3.5 lenses the same, or is this the reformulated Tessar using new glass from the later '50s? I have an old uncoated Tessar 5cm F3.5 on a Certo Dollina. Maybe I will remount it!

I have one superachromat, corrected for 4 "zeroes" using all CFl, a Pentax 85mm F4.5. It can be used from UV to longwave IR, at about 7um.

athans
12-14-2004, 12:46
Speaking about the rigid tessar, I just saw one in kevincameras.com (Contax RF -> lenses -> page 5) for $650.

Anyone has any experience with them btw? They seem to have some great (and expensive and maybe overpriced) stuff. But what a presentation of their items!

furcafe
12-14-2004, 13:10
I've bought some Contarex items from Kevin Li of kevincameras.com & he was easy to deal with. The items were as advertised & reasonably priced (can't say that about all of his inventory, but that's business!).

Originally posted by athans
Speaking about the rigid tessar, I just saw one in kevincameras.com (Contax RF -> lenses -> page 5) for $650.

Anyone has any experience with them btw? They seem to have some great (and expensive and maybe overpriced) stuff. But what a presentation of their items!

wlewisiii
12-14-2004, 15:18
As if I needed more options, what about this:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=30062&item=3860629377&rd=1

William

ps - thanks everyone, this discussion has been everything I hoped for. W.

Brian Sweeney
12-14-2004, 15:38
You have until the morning. Then, I will open fire. GET IT! Mine is Uncoated! I have found that spots/etc in the front coating rarely undermine the image if care is taken to keep direct sunlight from "flaring" it.

You can't buy a body cap for that price!

wlewisiii
12-14-2004, 15:51
Darn, I shouldn't have dithered. The ding in the mount is why I did, but I should have just gone for it. Oh, well, live and learn.

William

Brian Sweeney
12-14-2004, 16:00
Wasn't ME!

That ding in the mount can be fixed!

furcafe
12-14-2004, 19:17
This is what John Keesing, author of "Contax RF Lenses 1932-1962" has to say about the f/3.5 Tessar:

The 5cm Tessars were redesigned to suit the 35mm format . . . During the 30 year life span of the Contax, the f3.5 Tessar received minor optical formula updates as new glass types were developed.

And this is what he writes about the f/2.8:

The 5cm f2.8 Tessar could be described as a stretched version of the 5cm f3.5 Tessar, and was offered for sale a few months after that lens came on the market. The enlarged aperture caused a slight decrease in resolution and an equally slight increase in edge illumination.

BTW, I highly recommend Keesing's book for anyone interested in Contax lenses.

Originally posted by rover
I voted to wait. Go all the way with your Tessar fancy!

I did check ahead in the Hans-Jurgen Kuc book, On the Trail of the Contax (vol. 1). He does not directly compare the performance of the 3.5 and 2.8 Tessars. My reading is that the 3.5 was very highly regarded, and seemingly the better lens. The 2.8 was a higher speed alternative to the 3.5.

Note too that there were two versions of the collapsable Tessars made, one before and one after 1936. You want to be sure to find one made after 1936 as it will collapse fully into your camera. Those made before have a longer tube and were made for the Contax I.

wlewisiii
12-14-2004, 19:27
So according to this gentlebeing, what I'm going to want is a late model fixed mount 3.5 with my Tessar fixation (iow, the improved glass and overall better mount)? Actually that kind of makes sense.

I have a copy of "The Contax Way" by Freytag (7th? edition of 1956) that lists three levels of lenses - current, interesting and obsolete. The 2.8 is listed in the obsolete category.

If finances hold up (always an if this time of year), I'll get the Sonnar and wait for a fixed mount and coated 3.5 Tessar to fit my budget.

Thank you all for this conversation.

William

Brian Sweeney
12-15-2004, 02:13
The version of the Tessar depends on the look that you want. The Gentleman who bought the uncoated 5cm f3.5 collapsible Tessar from me Modified it to operate on his Nikon F3. He wanted "the Look" of the classic lens, "warts and all". It went for just under $250. Really is making me think to mount the Housing of the shutter/lens of the "Damaged Dollina" onto the Leica Helical that I have.

Newcombe, in "35mm Technique", 1946, would have easily been talking about the edge illumination for color film. I would still be interested in finding out if the Designers of the F3.5 Tessar either "hit" on a 3-color correction, designed it that way, or that the color aberration is just so low that there is no practical difference.