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Contax branded Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 21mm f/2.8 is one of the very few lenses that literally has a cult-like following among alternative gear-heads. Some even attribute the whole recent craze about alternative lenses to this particular prime. The cult following certainly affects the demand for this lens and so despite Carl Zeiss recently releasing a brand new, slightly redesigned Distagon T* 21mm f/2.8 in Nikon, Pentax and even Canon mounts, the old Contax version still holds its prices and sells for only a small discount when compared to the new version. At ~US$1,400 for good quality samples, Distagon T* 21mm f/2.8 is certainly not cheap, but every time a sample pops up on eBay, it gets sold within days.

The optical construction of the lens consists of 15 elements in 13 groups - a pretty complex construction by wide angle standards. The build quality of the lens is superb, and is similar to the other Contax lenses, The barrel is all metal, the focus and aperture rings are rubberized for comfortable grip. The lens has a little bit unusual shape, with an elongated central section and a wide half-dome shaped front  that hosts large front element. The lens is larger then your usual manual focus super wide, measuring 85 x 90mm (3.4 x 3.6in), and weighing 515g (18.2oz). The barrel of the lens does not extend during focusing, keeping the overall length constant at all times. The minimum aperture level is f/22, with the aperture ring moving in half f-stop increments. The filter ring size is 82mm.




Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 21mm f/2.8 was designed for traditional 35mm film cameras, so when used on a digital camera with an APS-C type sensor, the field of view of the lens will resemble that of a 33mm prime on a full frame body. The lens is adaptable to a number of alternative mounts, including modern digital systems like Canon and Olympus, using readily available adapters. Within the scope of this review, the lens was tested on an APS-C type Canon Digital Rebel XTi, full frame Canon 5D and 5DMk2.


Lens Composition 15 elements in 13 groups
Angular Field 92 degrees
Minimum Focus 22cm/9in
Focusing Action MF
f-stop Scale f/2.8-f/22, manual
Filter Size 82mm
Lens Hood W-1 metal (included)
Weight 515g/18.02oz
Dimensions 85x90mm/3.4x3.6"
Lens Case No. 4 (included)