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Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4

Introduction

Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 and the slower Distagon T* 35mm f/2.8 were two 35mm primes offered for the now defunct Contax/Yashica mount. Carl Zeiss discontinued manufacturing all C/Y lenses in 2004 when Kyocera, which was then its manufacturing partner and joint holder of Contax brand name, exited camera business all together. Carl Zeiss recently re-introduced a number of its SLR lenses, including Distagon T* 35mm f/2 in Nikon Ai-S (ZF), standard M42 screw (ZS) and Pentax K (ZK) mounts. Despite the recently introduced 'newer' 35mm lens, the old C/Y mount 35/1.4 Distagons remain in very high demand on used markets, with good quality copies fetching ~US$1200. The lens was manufactured as an AE and later MM variant, both in Japan as  well as in the West Germany. Thus you can encounter a total of four different variations of this lens: an  AE copy made in the West Germany or Japan, and an MM copy made in Japan or West Germany. There does not seem to be any optical changes between the AE and MM versions of the lens, at least according to the publicly available sources.

The optical construction of the lens consists of 9 elements in 8 groups, including a single aspherical element and a single floating element designed to correct various forms of aberration at close distances. The build quality of the lens is superb and is similar to other Carl Zeiss lenses of that period for Contax mount - all metal barrel, rubberized focusing and aperture rings. The focus ring is very smooth, the aperture ring is snappy and there is no wobbling of any sort inside or outside the lens. And like all Carl Zeiss Contax lenses, Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 is a fully manual lens, meaning that there are no electronics of any sort in the lens and both focusing and aperture have to be set on the lens rather then through your camera. Speaking of the aperture - the ring moves in one full f-stop increments.

The lens looks a feels a little bit bulky (someone not familiar with this lens might even think it is a medium telephoto prime, not a wide angle), especially when compared to its slower brethren Distagon T* 35mm f/2.8. At 600g (1.3lb) it is one of the heavier wide angles I have seen so far. The lens measures 70 x 76mm (2.75 x 3in), but since the inner cam extends during focusing towards closeup, the actual length of the lens is slightly longer when fully extended. The minimum supported aperture is f/16, the minimum focusing distance is 30cm (1ft), while the filter size is 67mm (the lens accepts screw-in type filters).

Image

To mount the lens on Canon cameras, I used a generic non-AF chipped C/Y to EOS adapter. I ended up operating the camera in manual and aperture priority modes with all but center weighted metering disabled. The lens is designed for full-frame cameras, so if you're using it on APS-C type body with 1.6x crop factor, the field of view of the lens will be equivalent to that of a 56mm lens on a full-frame body, making it a standard lens rather then a wide-angle.

 

Summary
Lens Composition 9 elements in 8 groups
Angular Field 62 degrees
Minimum Focus 30cm/1ft
Focusing Action MF
f-stop Scale f/1.4-f/16, manual
Filter Size 67mm
Lens Hood G-14 soft or No. 2 metal (optional)
Weight 600g/1.3lb
Dimensions 70x76mm/2.75x3"
Lens Case No. 2 soft (included)