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Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 100mm f/3.5

Introduction

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 100mm f/3.5 is a rather uncommon lens by all standards, not a rarity, since used copies pop up once in a while on eBay. Good quality samples fetch about US$350 (as of March 2009). Carl Zeiss first introduced this prime in 1983 for its Aria/RTS series of cameras, however, the lens quickly (relatively speaking) disappeared from the camera catalogs and today Carl Zeiss does not even provide any historical information or data sheets on this lens. This leads some to speculate that the lens failed to attract much interest among photographer, and considering an in-house competition from Planar T* 100mm f/2 as well as Makro-Planar T* 100m f/2.8 probably was not profitable to manufacture. Carl Zeiss used to manufacture this lens as AE and MM variants, with no known differences in optical formula for either of these versions. And it seems that this prime was exclusively manufactured in Japan by Kyocera - at least so far there has been no record of any copy manufactured in West Germany at Zeiss factories.

The build quality of the lens is typical of all Contax branded Carl Zeiss lenses - metal barrel, rubberized focusing and aperture rings. For a 100mm prime, the lens is pretty compact and light (partially thanks to the relatively slow maximum aperture, which did not require Zeiss to incorporate a large front element). The lens measures 61 x 61mm (2.4 x 2.4in) and weights only 285g (10oz). The barrel of the lens actually extends slightly during focusing towards closeup, thus adding extra 15mm or so to the overall length of the lens. The minimum focusing distance is 1m (3.2ft). The optical construction of the lens consists of 5 elements in 4 groups, also a pretty conventional optical design by modern standards.

Like all Contax/Yashica lenses, Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 100mm f/3.5 is a fully manual lens, so both focusing as well as aperture control are done using dedicating focusing and aperture rings. The focusing ring is pretty smooth and the aperture ring snaps into positions softly but without any play. The minimum aperture setting is f/22 and the ring moves in one full f-stop increments. The lens accepts 55mm screw-in type filters.

Image

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 100mm f/3.5 was designed for traditional 35mm film cameras, meaning that it is a full frame lens when it comes down to dSLR naming conventions. As such, when used on APS-C cameras with 1.6x crop sensor, the field of view of the lens will resemble that of a 160mm prime on a full frame camera. The lens can be easily adapted to Canon and Olympus/Panasonic Four Thrids cameras using adapters. Within the scope of this review, the lens was tested on full frame and APS-C type Canon cameras.

 

Summary
Lens Composition 5 elements in 4 groups
Angular Field 24 degrees
Minimum Focus 1m/3.2ft
Focusing Action MF
stop Scale f/3.5-f/22, manual
Filter Size 55mm
Lens Hood No.4 screw-in (optional)
Weight 285g/10oz
Dimensions 61x61mm/2.4x2.4"
Lens Case No.1 (included)