Everybody knows that a zoom lens is best when it comes
to compositional options. The lens allowed me to play
with a close-up of this colorful chair, and then turn
to the side and zoom back to get the porch. Every slat,
every tile, and every straw on the chair seat came out
sharp and crisp.
Photos © 2003, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved
At a street price of just under
$3000 the Vario-Sonnar T* 45-90mm f/4.5 lens is not to be trifled with.
It is a serious optical instrument for those who require zoom lens flexibility
for their Contax 645. But those in the wedding, location, industrial,
corporate, and travel stock business who understand what this lens can
do for them will see their investment pay off in startlingly sharp images
and a newfound flexibility in their work. Weighing in at 2.6 lbs and measuring
4.5" long, with a filter diameter of 95mm, the lens does add considerable
weight to the Contax body. But considering that the lens offers a fairly
wide to normal range (equivalent to about 28-60mm 35mm format view), a
constant f/4.5 aperture throughout the zoom range, and a minimum focusing
distance of about 1.6 ft (0.5 meter) throughout the zoom range there's
a lot to be said for making this the standard lens rather than the stock
80mm lens (over $1500 street) that ordinarily comes as part of the Contax
Zeiss lenses are world renowned
for their clarity and lack of distortion, and the maker's claim
is that this lens matches fixed focal length quality at virtually every
point within the focal length range. Of course, there is always a "sweet
spot" for every lens, and that's usually when working with
the middle aperture (this lens offers half-stop clicks from the maximum
f/4.5 to minimum f/32 apertures) and at the longer focal length settings.
But one thing that people always brag about with their Zeiss lenses is
the "3D" look it yields. Some folks call that "Bokeh."
Basically it's the natural look of out of focus backgrounds in an
image. For others, the clarity and color richness of the Zeiss optics
just can't be beat.
1.6 foot minimum focusing distance throughout the focal
length range only adds to this versatile lens' versatility.
This lintel and street number sign is covered with some
sort of plant, and zooming in with the 90mm focal length
ensured that no shadow would fall in the frame.
But does this zoom lens live up to the reputation? Photographers we know
rave about the 45mm f/2.8 and 80mm f/2 lenses for this camera. When you
go to the zoom you yield some of the speed, with its maximum aperture
of f/4.5. And zooms still carry the "curse" of their forebearers,
being the oft-repeated claim that no zoom can match the quality of their
single focal length brethren. Most importantly, can this one lens actually
carry the quality of two? For inexpensive zooms this is not much of a
debate, and most folks understand that they get what they pay for. This
45-90mm Vario-Sonnar certainly does deliver the goods, and although not
the lightest lens we've worked with it seems to be the perfect companion
for the Contax 645.
The lens itself delivers the equivalent of 28-55mm in 35mm format, wide
enough for great scenics while the 2x zoom does leave room for compositional
tweaking. The 2.6 lbs in weight is a bit of a burden, it must be admitted,
and the 4.5" length does take up some room in your kit bag. But
the ability to tweak focus manually even while in AF mode, and the sharp,
contrast rich images the lens delivers more than makes up for the bulk.
The folks at Contax tout this one as a great choice for wedding photographers,
but we found it's also a great choice for travel, stock, and street
For more information, visit Contax's web site, www.contaxcameras.com.
Lens Construction: 12 elements, 10 groups
Focal Length Range: 45.9-87.5mm
Mount: Contax 645
Minimum Focusing Distance: 0.5 meters (1.6 ft)
Minimum Aperture: f/32
Filter: 95mm screw-in
Weight: 2.6 lbs
Price: Street, $2900