Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 60mm C f/2.8

 

Introduction

Carl Zeiss Planar T* 60mm C f/2.8 was one of the three macro prime lenses that Carl Zeiss was manufacturing in Contax/Yashica mount. The review is for MM lens manufactured by Tomioka (optical division of Kyocera), serial number 7441513. Carl Zeiss discontinued the Makro-Planar T* 60mm C f/2.8 after Kyocera, which was its partner and joint holder of Contax brand name, discontinued manufacturing Contax-branded cameras. However, the company recently updated its Makro-Planar lineup with Makro-Planar T* 50mm f/2 and Makro-Planar T* 100mm f/2, both in ZF format for Nikon Ai-S mount as well as with Makro-Planar 120mm f/4 in ZV format for Hasselblad. The MM version of Makro-Planar T* 60mm C f/2.8 for C/Y mount is readily available on used market and you can find good copies selling for about US$400 on eBay and slightly higher at various used photo-equipment dealers. On APS-C type cameras like Digital Rebel XTi used in testing, the lens has field of view similar to that of a 96mm lens on a full-frame body.

The optical construction of the lens consists of 6 elements in 4 groups. The lens is quite lightweight and compact for a macro (the C in the name actually stands for 'Compact'), weighing only 260g (9.2oz) and measuring 6.6x5.1cm (2.5x2.1in). The lens actually extends when focusing towards macro, almost doubling in length (both the focusing ring itself as well as the cam extend forward during focusing). Both focus and aperture rings are rubberized and the lens barrel is made of lightweight metal, so the lens feel quite sturdy. The minimum focusing distance is 27cm (10.7in) and the minimum aperture is f/22. The lens offers 1:2 scale macro capabilities at 27cm but obviously can be used for general purposes as well. Like most of Zeiss Contax lenses, Makro-Planar 60mm accepts 55mm screw-in type filters.

Image

To test the lens, I used generic Fotodiox C/Y to EOS adapter without AF confirmation chip. This means that I had to use the camera in either fully manual or aperture priority mode. The lack of connection to the camera mount also robbed me of all but center-weighted metering.

 

Summary
Lens Composition 6 elements in 4 groups
Angular Field 39 degrees
Minimum Focus 27cm/10.7in
Focusing Action MF
f-stop Scale f/2.8-f/22, manual
Filter Size 55mm
Lens Hood G-11 soft or No.4 metal hoods (optional)
Weight 260g/9.oz
Dimensions 65.5x51mm/2.5x2.1"
Lens Case No.1 (included)

 

Field Tests

The lens showed quite good overall performance with accurate color rendition and pleasing image contrast. Overall sharpness was about on the same level in the center as with most other standard focal length Zeiss lenses. Borders seemed somewhat softer at wide apertures. Bokeh was uninspiring at all, simply due to the lens's small maximum aperture.

 

ISO 400, 1/80, f/2.8, 60mm (Canon 5D)
ISO 400, 1/80, f/2.8, 60mm (Canon 5D)

 

Bokeh handling was kind of unimpressive. OOF highlights were round and uniformly lit, bit carried distinct bright highlights around edges. Contrast transitions around OOF objects were  rather harsh. There were no visible double-edging around foreground and background OOF objects.

 

Vignetting @ f/2.8 - full frame vs 1.6x crop
Vignetting @ f/2.8 - full frame vs 1.6x crop

 

The lens did not show any vignetting on an APS-C camera, ditto for a full frame 5D. CA, barrel distortion and flare were also well under control for both APS-C and FF cameras - not surprising for a standard prime lens.


 

Lab Tests

Please note that MTF50 results for APS-C and Full-Frame cameras are not cross-comparable despite the same normalized [0:1] range used to report results for both types of cameras.

 

Canon APS-C: Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 60mm C f/2.8 showed very solid results in the center, where it performed consistently across the tested aperture settings. Performance around borders is a different story though. Here the lens was somewhat soft at f/2.8, gradually improving with stopped down aperture and reaching its peak around f/5.6-f/8. Overall, you would get very good 16in and decent 19in prints at these aperture settings. Conclusion? With the exception of border performance at f/2.8, this is a pretty solid standard lens that also happens to have 1:2 macro capabilities. And while this rather weak border performance wide open slightly bothers me, this is not the worst case I have seen (and certainly not the best either).

 

MTF50 (Line Width/Inch on the Print) @ 60mm
MTF50 (Line Width/Inch on the Print) @ 60mm

 

Normalized raw MTF50 @ 60mm
Normalized raw MTF50 @ 60mm

 

Typical of Zeiss lenses, Makro-Planar T* 60mm C f/2.8 showed negligible amount of chromatic aberration wide open and literally no CA with stopped down aperture. What can I say, it is becoming rather boring testing Zeiss lenses for CA - I have yet to find one Zeiss lens that shows any significant CA.

 

Image borders @ 60mm (100% crop): f/2.8 vs f/8
Image borders @ 60mm (100% crop): f/2.8 vs f/8

 

Canon FF: Makro-Planat T* 60mm C f/2.8 did not really produce any miracles on a full-frame camera. Center performance was pretty decent with wide open apertures from f/2.8 to f/4, and by f/5.6 reaching outstanding level. Border performance was outstanding with stopped down aperture (f/5.6-f/11), but quality clearly suffered with wide open aperture. Here the lens shows a rather average performance. Conclusion? What can I say, the lens shows consistent results on both APS-C and FF cameras and is still worth your consideration, assuming you can live with a somewhat average border quality with wide aperture settings.

 

Normalized raw MTF50 @ 60mm
Normalized raw MTF50 @ 60mm

 

Like with an APS-C camera, the lens showed minimal levels of chromatic aberration on a full-frame Canon 5D. CA was less then 0.2px in the center with wide open aperture and even less so once stopped down. CA around borders did not exceed 0.3px throughout the aperture range.

 

Image borders @ 60mm (100% crop): f/2.8 vs f/8
Image borders @ 60mm (100% crop): f/2.8 vs f/8

 

Alternatives

As mentioned earlier, Carl Zeiss used to manufacture two other dedicated macro lenses for Contax/Yashica mount, so naturally you might want to consider those when looking for a macro lens. The recently updated Makro-Planar T* 50mm f/2 and Makro-Planar T* 100mm f/2 also come to mind, but both of these lenses are significantly more expensive compared to the older variations (about US$1,200 and US$1,900 respectively). Leica APO Macro Elmarit R 100mm f/2.8 has traditionally been considered by many as one of the best macro lenses on the market - if you decide to go with this lens, prepare to spend about US$2,000 on a good used copy. Finally, if you feel really adventurous, you can try adopting macro lenses from even more 'exotic' mounts such as Hasselblad and Mamiya.

 

Recommendation

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 60mm C f/2.8 is an interesting standard lens and while it might not be a suitable replacement for your Planar T* f/1.7 or Planar T* f/1.4, its compact size and macro capabilities make it a viable choice for those of us who don't need extra speed and would occasionally benefit from having a macro lens handy. Of course you need to keep in mind that this is a fully manual lens and as such probably is not quite suitable for your average photographer. On the other hand, if you already own this lens (from your old RTS days) you might as well put it to use.