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Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2.8

Introduction

Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2.8 rounds up the trio of compact and light wide angle lenses that the company used to offer for its now discontinued Contax SLR lineup (the two other being Distagon T* 25mm f/2.8 and Distagon T* 28mm f/2.8). The Contax series were discontinued back in 2005, after Kyocer, a joint holder of the development rights on Contax brand name, exited camera business. Carl Zeiss still retains control over the Contax brand, but due to some legal restrictions cannot yet reintroduce any products branded under Contax name to the market (as of 2008). Fortunately, the company recently started to offer a number of its renowned SLR lenses for a few 3rd party mounts, including Nikon F, Pentax K and M42 universal screw. The new lineup, along with resurrected 25mm and 28mm primes, also includes a revised 35mm version - Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2.

The Contax version of Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2.8 is one of the most affordable lenses, with good quality copies of the lens typically going for ~US$200 on eBay (as of April 2007). Compare that to the price of ~US$800 for its slightly wider cousin, Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 (also in Contax mount), or to the price of ~US$900 for the new version of the lens in Nikon F (ZF) or Pentax (ZK) mounts.

Like its wider f/2.8 cousins, Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2.8 sports an excellent build construction - the barrel is fully metal and both aperture as well as focusing rings are rubberized for comfortable grip. The focusing ring is very smooth and the aperture ring snaps in into positions very nicely, even requiring a little bit of pressure. There is no play with the aperture/focus rings. Despite its lightweight construction, the lens measures only 62.5 x 46mm (2.4 x 1.8in) and weighs 250g (8.6oz), the lens leaves impression of being quite sturdy, with no wobbling inside or out.

The optical construction of the lens consists of 6 elements in 6 groups - pretty basic optical formula by todays standards. The lens focuses down to 40cm (1.5ft) and has the minimum aperture of f/22 (the aperture ring moves in one full f-stop increments). The inner cam of the lens extends a little bit during focusing towards closeup, however, the front element does not rotate, and this allows using circular polarizers without any problem. The lens accepts 55mm screw-on type filters.

Image

Like most Contax series lenses, Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2.8 is easily adaptable to a number of SLR cameras, including all APS-C and FF Canon bodies. To use the lens on Canon cameras, I relied on a generic, non-AF chipped Contax to EOS mount adapter. Since all Contax lenses were manufactured for full frame 35mm cameras, when the lens is used on an APS-C body with 1.6x crop sensor, its field of view will resemble that of a 56mm lens on a full frame body - hardly a wide angle and more of a standard prime. Like pretty much all other Contax lenses, the 35mm Distagon was available as an AE and MM versions.

 

Contax Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2.8 Summary
Lens Composition 6 elements in 6 groups
Angular Field 62 degrees
Minimum Focus 40cm/1.5ft
Focusing Action MF
f-stop Scale f/2.8-f/22, manual
Filter Size 55mm
Lens Hood G-11 soft hood or No.3 metal hood
Weight 245g/8.6oz
Dimensions 62.5x46mm/2.4x1.8"
Lens Case No.1 (included)