No announcement yet.

Buying a lens with tiny scratches

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • #16
    Standard Speeds and Superspeeds from the same era mix and match, they have very similar coatings. He also stated that the general design is the same but the actual design differs, that's true for every lens produced by any manufacturer, most lens designs within the same family (Planar, Distagon, etc) share similar design principles. For example search the story behind the Pentax PK 28mm f2 which is supposed to be a copy of the Zeiss Contax 28mm.

    In any case enjoy your beautiful lens, if you're happy with the results all these details -however fascinating- don't matter anyway


    • #17
      Originally posted by jpblack View Post
      Standard Speeds and Superspeeds from the same era mix and match, they have very similar coatings. He also stated that the general design is the same but the actual design differs, that's true for every lens produced by any manufacturer, most lens designs within the same family (Planar, Distagon, etc) share similar design principles. For example search the story behind the Pentax PK 28mm f2 which is supposed to be a copy of the Zeiss Contax 28mm.

      In any case enjoy your beautiful lens, if you're happy with the results all these details -however fascinating- don't matter anyway
      Yes, I've read about that Pentax 28mm. I love this Zeiss Contax 28mm because of its unique character without being full of CA and fringing like most "charismatic" lenses. And it's definitely different than the other descendants like the ZF.2, Milvus, etc. On our last production, I went back to the Master Primes, which are considered by many the gold standard of lenses today and it was the right project for that sort of clinical and tack sharp lenses. But there is this special look about that old beautiful T* coating that I just love. It's definitely not so "MTF correct" as the Master or Ultra Primes, or even the Otus or the Milvus, but that's ok.


      • #18
        Just a few more grabs to show how the fantastic floating element design makes this 28mm lens perform exceptionally well in close ups:


        • #19
          This is indeed a very interesting lens to talk about with a long history and lot of fame. I'm an owner of a very extensive Contax Zeiss set (16 lens all "cinemoded" plus a few extras) that I started building some years ago. Currently, for some strange reason, I own both the AE and the MM versions of this lens. The MM version of this lens is rare and goes double the money of the AE. I'm going to sell one of these but haven't decided which one just yet.


          To answer your question, a scratch on the back element is a tricky one. It depends on where it is and how deep it is. It depends how long it is; just a little dent on the side of the element is not the same as a deep scratch at the center. Also if you are only planning on using this lens on S35 sensors, that scratch might be completely out of your image circle. I have a 25/2.8 Contax that I tried hard to remove some haze from an internal element ending up scratching it really badly but all it did was causing a pleasant bloom in the highlights; no loss in sharpness/clarity. Often, many lens defects never even affect the image and people end buying a second "mint" copy only to find out that sample variation alone is enough to make the 2nd "mint" lens worse than the first copy with the defect. My MM 28/2 above, with perfect glass, actually used to perform a little worse than my 28/2 AE version which has some dents in front, a little "hit" scratch on the back and some thin circular haze inside at the time of the tests. It had much more purple fringing especially wide open. One could wrongly generalise and start posting about how the MM version is worst than the AE but that's wrong; what we are dealing here is sample variation or perhaps some damage during bad servicing in the past. After servicing properly, both lenses perform exceptionally. Imagine now you paid $2000 for that 28/2 MM (that's how much they go these days); you would probably be happy about it and think that's how the lens performs when in truth the lens could perform much better. In either case, as others suggest for a little more than 700Euro you could just import one from Japan; or well buy a little more expensive one as you did. My experience with collecting those lenses is that you can't bother too much about these things. You either drop the cash and buy them in top condition or you just buy whatever "junk" is left around cheaper. Unfortunately, although it's more likely you are getting a better lens, giving more money is usually associated with their cosmetic condition and not their performance.

          There is a large difference between the Zeiss Standard Prime 28mm T2.1 and the Zeiss 28mm f2 for C/Y mount: their image circle. The cine lens is made for Super35 cameras and the stills lens for 35mm SLR cameras. The 28mm Standard Prime will NOT cover "Vista Vision". Thus it's not the "exact" lens as some people mistakenly suggest around the net. How close one lens design is to another is also quite irrelevant; not just because of their different image circle (and different focusing distances) which suggests quite a difference in the lens itself, but because it's rather the quality of the glass, the process it took to create it and the quality control applied that makes a lens great.
          All this doesn't say anything about the quality of the 28/2 lens; cropping in the S35 area to compare directly, it could perhaps look "better". And that's something very complicated because "better" is such a relative term. Most people will measure things like sharpness, CA wide open, flaring and distortion, and others will focus on things like definition, tonality and dimensionality - all of these attributes equally contribute to the "character" of a lens along with its coatings of course. I will recommend here having a look at the Contax Zeiss 28mm f2 datasheet and compare it with the Zeiss Classic 28mm f2 (people use the designation ZE/ZF.2 to refer to this more modern lenses but "Classic" is the correct designation as given by Zeiss). If you carefully look both datasheets you will realise that both are the exact same lens, only with the 3rd element from the back split into two and its top part cemented to the element above - a very small, mainly manufacturing, change. The same exact design as the Classic is also found in the 28mm T2.1 CP.2 - CP.2s are all cine-rehoused Classics although the best copies of the glass are chosen for the CP.2s. So, talking about lens designs and optical performance, getting the Classic lens (easily found around ebay in mint condition for $400~$700) is actually a superior buy. That lens compared to the Contax, has much better mechanics with a smooth helicoid and modern grease (no haze!), modern adhesives instead of balsam (no separation!) and a much better sealed body (no fungus!). Of course it also has the more modern coating that "pops" more but it's less "organic" than the older T* version; a subtle difference really when compared to other lenses out there. My point here is to not get caught in that "lens design", "Hollywood" or "organic coatings" mambo-jumbo and dismiss the technically superior and wonderful Classic line.

          Now on to some history. The Contax Zeiss 28/2 lens comes into two "flavours" an AE version and a hard to find "unicorn" MM version. Both of these versions were only ever "Made in West Germany". The reason for that is that manufacturing of this particular lens has stopped early on and the assembly line never moved to Japan like it happened with most other Zeiss still lenses (by the way, just to mention, in the case of Zeiss Germany equals Japan in terms of manufacturing quality and the two lenses are equal). An odd thing about this lens is that Zeiss has used the same exact glass and coatings on both versions; the MM version is identical to the AE version only with the mount and aperture mechanism changed. This is not standard with MM lenses as they usually had their optical assemblies and their coatings upgraded along with their bodies. That can also been seen in the serial numbers; while MM lenses normally have serial numbers starting at late 60s and up to mid late 80s (those are just serial numbers nothing to do with manufacturing date), the 28/2 MMs have serial 62x and 63x serial numbers. As the MM system was not even around at the era of those numbers one can only conclude that Zeiss used old unsold AE versions to put the MM versions together for the presentation of the MM system in 1984; that's not unique to the 28/2 it also happened to the 135/2. Having both AE and MM lenses in my possession, and having done extensive tests between them I can confirm that both lenses share the same exact coatings. By having been inside the lens I can also confirm both share the same exact lens group assemblies and bodies, minus the mount/aperture. So the only reason to get the MM version would be if you are obsessed with the aperture not having the ninja star shape at f2.8 - which is so hard to see on a wide angle lens anyways. If you really really want the 28/2 with more modern "MM" ear coatings, you can hunt for the HFT Rollei version of this lens with a 67+++ serial; those have the exact same lens as C/Y 28/2s and are actually coated by Zeiss. For some reason Zeiss stopped producing those lenses for C/Y but kept producing them for Rollei for a while and well into the MM-era.

          Last but not least about the condition of those lenses. I have been through many dozens of Contax lenses and unfortunately the findings are rather disturbing. Those lenses were definitely not made to last that many decades. Number one hazard is the grease used in helicoids and apertures causing haze on the lens elements deep under their coatings. That's impossible to clean without removing the coating; a coating that due to its rare elements use (now banned due to environmental concerns) can't be made ever again. This is a permanent damage and it's extremely common. The second common damage is element separation, also referred to as "balsam" separation because at some point manufactures used to use Canadian Balsam to cement elements together. In either case, the adhesive used to cement Contax lenses together keeps falling apart day by day. My perfectly great and mint 21/2.8 suddenly got one of its groups separated only with mild use in perfect conditions (supposedly it takes putting a lens in front of a strong fire for a while to separate the elements and that's for older lenses - I have barely used the lens under normal conditions). I have also seen several other lenses with elements separation, notoriously the 35/1.4 MM model. Luckily there are a few specialists around the world that can fix this problem but not for a price that makes every lens worth repairing. The thing is that it takes quite some experience to really detect both of those problems. It's not the kind of thing you see by raising the lens into a light or the sun and looking through. It needs a dark room, a strong flashlight, shinning through the lens and looking at the other side and observe carefully by focusing your eyes layer by layer and turning the lens/light to see different angles. When I posted about this on a facebook group, I received about a dozen private messages with people showing me their findings on lenses that they bought as "MINT" and it was quite scary. I have also been a victim of the "MINT" lens quite a few times; I have bought 4 such lenses that ended up having haze. Another common problem with these lenses are their focusing helicoids being too stiff or loose or bumpy; that is totally repairable by a technician. If you are collecting just the small Contaxes all of those problems are kinda minor. You are paying about $300 per lens; a hazy Contax is still a better lens than many modern lenses out there at that price. But if you are getting into the "premium" Contaxes (15/3.5, 21/2.8, 28/2, 35/1.4, 85/1.4, 100/2 etc) things get much more complicated. First, rest assured that every truly great copy of this lens is being sold away some years ago when all this Contax craze started. What you see on eBay is mainly scraps with an occasional "okay" copy. Those "okay" copies are sold for a premium and that's the lens you should be getting. But here's something to contradict everything I write in this paragraph: as I mentioned at the beginning of this reply, a defect in the lens does not necessarily result into worse performance or something you will experience; I have seen lens with haze or separation that absolutely never affects anything and lens with scratches that perform much better than "mint" lenses. In either case, once you find a satisfying lens, I'm afraid you will need to add in a nice service for it. Nobody uses Standard/Super speeds that haven't been serviced for 30~50 years; neither should you use those Contaxes without a good service. Don't be scared of servicing; just make sure you shop around and get a good quote from a specialist. An advice speaking from experience: don't do it yourself. Sure you can change an element in the "small" models or decklick a lens but once you get into the more complex lenses (21/2.8, 28/2, 35/1.4 for example) things get nasty with floating elements and more complex designs. I have fixed some lenses but probably broke more (thankfully repaired by specialists) and I swore to never open up one again.

          Or, you can instead drop all this (unjustified in my opinion) Contax "organic" craze and buy-in the perfectly great "Classic" line which includes the same exact designs of the best of the Contax lenses (21/2.8, 28/2, 35/1.4, 50/1.4, 85/1.4) along with some newer superb designs (15/2.8, 18/3.5, 25/2, 35/2, 50/2, 100/2). As I explained above, all of those Classics can be found in great condition (even brand new if you search!), for a equal or better price than the premium Contaxes and will deliver the same great Zeiss images, in fact with even more "pop" than the Contaxes. By the way, the Classics have a coating very similar to the Ultra Primes. I'm writing all these because I see many people jumping into this Contax thing thinking they are buying something magical and superior at a budget price; this is very untrue. Nick's Contax Survival Guide that all of us refer to was written many years ago when the Classics were still new and expensive and the Contaxes looked like a bargain, especially the small ones. At that time, thousands and thousands of Contaxes were on the sell because photographers were changing their lenses to the Classics. So one could easily find a well cared mint Contax for a fair price. This is no longer the case and the Classics are definitely a more attractive and better choice. I have talked with many people that were struggling finding a good copy of a Contax lens and were stuck in infinite buy/return cycles. I have recommended to them to get Classics for the hard to get lens and the ones that followed that advice are currently very happy users without regrets; some of them even sold up their Contaxes and went full on Classics.
          I made a chart some time ago to demonstrate the differences (and similarities) between different versions of Zeiss stills lenses.


          That said, when I run into a random problem (like discovering some haze or separation or the focus is behaving badly) I often think to just sell all my Contaxes away (worth around $12,000) and just buy a nice brand new Classic line. But then I feel there is something special with these lenses that goes beyond their coatings and their design: they are part of Zeiss history, lens that are never going to be produced again and these days it gets harder and harder to find around. An okay version of the 15/3.5, 21/2.8 or 28/2MM go for $2k and that's without any mods or servicing. 35/1.4MM and 135/2MM go for $1.5k or more. That's nearly Milvus prices and certainly more than the Classics - the main difference is that you can find Milvus and Classics easily but in the case of Contaxes, even if you have the money that might not be the case. Also, that price doesn't reflect their performance. It's like how a set of MK3 SuperSpeeds can cost nearly as much as a brand new set of Master Primes although they perform much worse. Looking at what happened with anamorphic adapters back in the day (used to be "thrown away" for $200 then today some of them sell for $5k) perhaps, getting a good Contax now, servicing it and keeping it in good condition, might be like getting bitcoin back in 2012.
          Last edited by pidulgi; 11-15-2019, 10:28 PM.