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Introduction

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 85mm f/2.8 is a classical manual lens manufactured by Carl Zeiss for its now defunct Contax mount. The company discontinued manufacturing the lens Kyocera, which jointly owned Contax development rights, pulled out of the camera business all-together in 2005. Zeiss recently reintroduced a number of its SLR lenses in ZF (Nikon F), ZA (Sony Alpha), ZS (M42 universal screw) and ZK (Pentax K bayonet) mounts. Unfortunately, so far (September 2007) Carl Zeiss decided to release Sonnar 85mm in ZM rangefinder format.

The optical construction of the lens consists of 5 elements in 4 groups. Typical of Carl Zeiss lenses, build construction of the lens is superb - the lens barrel is metal and both focusing and aperture rings are fully rubberized for easier grip. The lens is pretty compact and lightweight, especially when compared to its faster brethren, Planar T* 85mm f/1.4. It measures 6.1 x 5.6cm (2.4 x 1.8in) and weighs 230g (8oz). The lens actually extends slightly during focusing towards closeup, adding another 10mm or so to the overall length of the lens. The minimum focusing distance is 1m (3.2ft), the minimum aperture is f/22 and the filter size is 55mm (screw in type).

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Contax branded Sonnar T* 85mm f/2.8, while not the most popular  used lens on the market, does pop  up more or less regularly on used markets, with good quality copies selling for about US$300. As with  most other Carl Zeiss manual lenses in C/Y mount, the Sonnar T* 85mm f/2.8 is easily adaptable to a number of alternative mounts. Within the scope of this review, the lens was tested on Canon APS-C and FF cameras using generic, nonn AF chipped adapter. Since there is no aperture coupling between the lens and the camera, you end up using such a setup in either fully manual or aperture priority mode. Since the lens was originally designed for traditional film 35mm cameras, when used on APS-C type cameras with 1.6x crop factor, the lens has a field of view similar to that of a 136mm lens on a full frame body.

 

Summary
Lens Composition 5 elements in 4 groups
Angular Field 27 degrees
Minimum Focus 1m/3.3ft
Focusing Action MF
f-stop Scale f/2.8-f/22, manual
Filter Size 55mm
Lens Hood Built-in, No.5 metal (optional)
Weight 230g/8oz
Dimensions 61x46.6mm/2.4x1.8"
Lens Case No.1 (included)