The Contax 85 1.2 60 Year Anniversary Lens by Mark Wu

The Contax 85 1.2 60 Year Anniversary Lens

by Mark Wu

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Hello, my name is Mark Wu.

I have been following Steve’s wonderful site for about a year and was always thinking about writing something to contribute. After getting the Contax 85/1.2 60 years anniversary, I think the time has come for me to write something about it.

I got this lens through auction by chance. Since this lens has the fame for both superb image quality and the high price, I have not thought about to get it at such a reasonable price.
When this lens comes to me, after unpacking I was first astonished. What a huge piece of glass! It is a 77mm f1.2 lens, the glass is just gorgeous! On the body it says “Contax 60 years”, and actually it is a limited lens which has an older version of “Contax 50 years”. The lens itself is in great condition and I’m satisfied about it.

Now here comes the real user report. I used an adapter to put it on my Sony a7 body, the balance is not so good as the a7 is just so light. Any way, I take this combination to the CP+2015 and got some shots. You can see the pictures below. The results are just amazing.

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Sharpness:

What can I say? Already quite sharp at f1.2, even at the corner compared to lens like Noctilux 1.0 which is a twice expensive lens. At the center, every thing within the focus area is clear and with appropriate contrast, out of the focus area, the BOKEH is so smooth that makes is a perfect lens for portrait. From f2 and upper, I can hardly see very much improvement in sharpness.

CA or purple fringe:

Just like other fast lens and tele-lens, this one also suffers from obvious CA at f1.2. It disappears after going down to f2.8 totally. Though, it can be adjusted in Lightroom or Photoshop or anything else, it is just so obvious that even these softwares can not fix it completely. I use a little trick in those pictures, I lower the saturation of purple in particular area, it may appear to be a little weird, but I dislike the “purple” more.

BOKEH:

BOKEH is smooth and beautiful but it may appear to be a little uncomfortable due to particular objects. And just like other wide aperture lens, the aberration makes the BOKEH looks like ellipse at the corner though I find myself quite fond of this kind of imperfectness.

Vignetting:

Of course it is obvious, but I don’t care.

Mechanic:

Nothing to complain about. German-made top grade quality same as Leica.

I have heard of the tale of this lens, that Zeiss got angry because people keep complaining about their Contax 85/1.4 being soft. So may be this lens is a kind of show off. But look at the Leica 50 summicron APO ASPH, does it not? Well I see them as a challenge towards the greatest optical quality of man-made lenses.

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14 Comments

  1. The ellipses at the edges are caused by mechanical vignetting (back elements not big enough, probably due to mount constraints?). Not “aberrations”. Very nice lens, you are lucky to have it.

  2. what a lens! Curious to see how it compares to the new Otus 85, but the 1.2 is a nice advantage. Most people don’t even know this lens exists and they are hard to find for a reasonable price and so little info on them and examples.

  3. Mark, you say obvious CA …

    Which one?
    Lateral or/and tangential?
    In these picture I don’t see evidence of tangential chromatic aberration, but they are PP manipulated, so, you might say something more.
    The unacceptable aspect of these lenses, as a lot others of all brands, is the strong blu-purple fringings.
    So, now you well know why you have paid this lens, less than expected.

    • > The unacceptable aspect of these lenses, as a lot others of all brands,
      > is the strong blu-purple fringings.
      > So, now you well know why you have paid this lens, less than expected.

      CA (lateral and longitudinal) is a problem that plagues fast modern lenses as well (if you do not got to apochromatic designs like the Zeiss Otus 85 f/1,4.

      It is not too difficult to work around the problem at the time of taking the picture = and this is well worth the effort, as other aspects of the rendering done by a lens like this are quite pleasing if used well.

  4. Hi Mark
    I used this lens before and it’s not worth it when you compare today lens.
    A fujifilm 56mm f1.2 is a way better one; the pictures taken by this lens is very sharp and clear. Bokeh is just as good, vignetting is close to none and it is auto focus which is 95% dead on.
    You should read Steve comment and report of it.
    Best regard
    X-Ray

    • @X-Ray

      Use the Fuji lens on a full frame body and say again what you said.

      Ah – wait a minute:

      It works on a crop sensor only.

      Case opened and closed…

  5. Hadn’t ever heard of this anniversary version, and am quite surprised that it posesses this level of contrast on such a fast optic. You certainly managed to get your hands on a lovely lens, going by the shots you’ve posted.

  6. Back in the seventies I used to have an original 85mm f2 Contax lens. I took great pictures and cost £25.

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