Contax Vario-Sonnar T* 35-135mm f3.3-4.5 Zoom 35mm Zoom

Vario-Sonnar T* 35-135mm f3.3-4.5 Zoom

The 3.85x zoom ratio of this lens provides tremendous versatility in meeting typical photographic requirements. It also offers close focusing to within 26cm of the subject. This high-speed optic assures superb contrast, color balance and resolution for unmatched image quality.

User Reviews (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6  
Phil   Expert [Feb 26, 2014]
Strength:

Great zoom range, fine for general walk around photography. To cover everything add a super wide angle and a telephoto. Very sharp, nice and contrasty, easy one-touch zoom, which I like. High quality build. Very useful macro facility of 1:4.

Weakness:

Some vignetting. Distortion at the wide angle end, but easily corrected. Flare if you try quite hard. I didn't find the Contax lens hood to be useful, and have had more luck with a very cheap 3-in-1 rubber hood, which needed to be cut down a bit to avoid vignetting at 35mm. The front element turns when focusing (although a well-known review elsewhere says it doesn't - maybe my second-hand lens has been 'got at'?).

I bought this lens second-hand by mail order for £600 a few years ago. First impressions: it's a chunky beast. Quite big, quite heavy, reassuringly solid. I went digital - Canon 1DS ii - and it works fine on the camera. Of course, the two make for a weighty combination, but I don't mind that, and quality is often heavy. I'm used to medium and large format, so weight is not an issue for me, especially when this lens can replace a clutch of prime lenses (1280g for the 35, 50, 85, 135 lenses Vs 860 for the zoom). Invest in a good camera bag / backpack to take the strain. In fact, I prefer solid equipment to lightweight plasticky stuff. People complain that it's too heavy for all-day use, I find it's ok if you use the neck strap and cradle the camera/lens in one hand.
Maybe it won't have exactly the same performance as the primes, but it's very close. It's become my favourite lens, I really do love it.
On the 1DS I use the microprism focusing screen as this works best for me. I've tried the cross split image and the newer plain screen but neither was particularly good. Even so there are times when I have to zoom in first to focus and then zoom back out to a wider focal length. Canon viewfinders just aren't designed for manual focus lenses...if they had the RTSIII viewfinder, it'd be heavenly!

It's a sharp lens, I've enlarged up to 12x16" and it looks good to me. Contrast is nice too. There is some distortion, but it's easy enough to deal with in post processing. I have a Vario-Sonnar 70-210 which is heavier still, even bigger, and nowhere near as sharp.

It's a great walkabout lens, covering just about what I need. Yes, a bit wider at the wide end would be nice, but then greater zoom ranges result in bigger lenses, or a greater compromise in terms of quality. Perhaps we demand too much from our equipment!
In 'Only Zeiss Carl Zeiss T* Lens' published by Kyocera in 1993, the write up for this lens reads: "The Vario-Sonnar t* 35-135 f3.3-4.5 zom lens covers a range of focal lengths used heavily by many photographers. Image quality has been preserved and is the equivalent of single focal lenses in this range" They would say that, wouldn't they? But image quality is very good. As I said earlier, this lens is my favourite!

Similar Products Used: I have other Zeiss zooms: 28-70 (ok), 70-210 (not particularly sharp, but the sharpness it has goes from corner to corner) Other Zeiss lenses 28/2.8, 35/2.8, 50/1.4 & 1.7, 100/3.5.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
VincentD   Intermediate [Nov 20, 2002]
Strength:

Razor sharp, great color saturation.

Weakness:

none

This is a fine, fine lens. I use it with my Contax RX. They are perfect mates. The color saturation is superb. This lens is as sharp as any of my zeiss primes. The fact that it is so large and heavy (nearly 2 lbs) is in its favor since there is less chance of camera shake.

Customer Service

Never used

Similar Products Used: zeiss primes, yashica 35-105 ml & dsb, Tokina 80-200.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Dieter Hindl   Intermediate [Oct 24, 2002]
Strength:

Excellent sharpness and colour even full open. Very useful focal range for traveling. High weight enables hand held shooting at low exposure times. Build in macro (1:4) possibility.

Weakness:

Heavy, requieres big and heavy camera body like RX, AX or RTSIII. Long and somewhat unbalanced at 135mm setting, 2-ring zoom, large 82mm filters, only screw-in hood. Some flare because of big front lens element. Akward macro mechanic, macro only at 35mm setting which results in a ridiculous small distance to the object.

After testing nearly half of the Zeiss-Contax lens line I found "my" lens in the VS 35-135. This lens delivers excellent results in terms of sharpness, contrast and colour saturation. The focal range is very good for landscape and outdoor photography, combined with a 25 or 28 Distagon this lens gives a perfekt travelling set. Together with a body like RX this lens lies very good in hands. Shooting always slide film I can say this lens gives very good slides and has never disappointed me. Compared to VS 28-85 it´s just as sharp, but has a better, not so hard contrast, pictures look very natural.

Customer Service

not needed

Similar Products Used: Zeiss VS 28-85, Zeiss VS 28-70, Zeiss VS 80-200 and many other Zeiss-Contax fixed focal lenses.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Douggy   Expert [Jun 18, 2000]
Model Reviewed: Vario-Sonnar T* 35-135mm f3.3-4.5 Zoom
Strength:

1) Suprisingly super sharp at close focusing range. Even sharper than the Makro-Planar 100/2.8 (optimized for this ranges) at its closest focusing range(???) in both widly open (F:4.0) and stop down (F:8.0). Definitely, its color is superb at this focusing range, too. You only see degraded performance compare to other primes when it was shot at 7m or longer but only at shadow details. All the tests were performed with heavily tripod and ASA50 films. 2) Versatility. 3) Building like a tank

Weakness:

Very heavy and bulky. Expensive filter (82mm). Easy getting dust inside the lens. Easy getting flare by light stray due to the large front element (lens shade might help).

When I've wanted to purchase a zoom (because of convinient) for my Contax 167MT, my first choice would be the Zeiss 28-85/3.5MM because of its rave reviews. Right before I placed the order, I checked one more time with Contax's technical support for the best quality of their zoom 28-85/3.5 comparing with their zoom line-up. I asked him is the 28-85/3.5 is their best zoom lens and the technical supporter answer firmly and loudly "NO"! He said that the Vario-Sonnar 35-135/3.5MM is a better lens, but the 28-85 has popular zoom range. I asked why and he answered:"it is big it should be big and it is heavy it should be heavy." At that time I didn't beleive them because I just thought they want to sell their expensive lense that might stay in their stock for a long time. My first picture with it was not great because of the flare by light stray. I was very dissapointed and almost wanted to sell it away. However, I got it very good deal because it has some tiny dust inside. That's why I gave it one more chance and all next pictures surprisingly came out superbly. I performed, again and again, a lot of tests lately for comparing with other Zeiss primes. The result is: STOP carrying primes with me. I sold the Makro-Planar 100/2.8 because it could not compete with the 35-135 in close focusing range (I want to use the M-P 100/2.8 in both shooting portrait and macro.) This zoom is now always attached to my 167MT body instead of carrying other primes. I might be lucky because of picking up a good one. However, every body has the same experience please share with us. I wish I can optain the Planar 100/2 to compare with this zoom because I saw a lot of wonderful Planar's (100/2)pictures.

Customer Service

Helpful

Similar Products Used: Contax Zeiss 50/1.4, 85/1.4, Makro_Planar 100/2.8, 135/2.8, and other Zeiss lenses for Contax.
Nikon 50/1.8AF and Nik
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Jonathan Brewer   Professional [Jun 01, 2000]
Model Reviewed: Vario-Sonnar T* 35-135mm f3.3-4.5 Zoom
Strength:

Very sharp! I've used the Carl Zeiss 50,85(1.4),100(2), and this lens is in that same general ballpark in terms of sharpness. When I say sharp I mean that except for grain, that a sharp 35mm lens will let you blow up to 11x14 or larger with some surprising results. The zoom range regardless of what most people say covers most of what amateurs and professionals will ever need unless you are out there in the jungle trying to shoot tigers from way off. I would recommend this lens to anyone who wants a do it all lens of excellent quality. Like most Carl Zeiss lenses, you hold this lens in your hand before you've even taken your first exposure with it and you KNOW you're going to end up with some great shots.

Weakness:

Big and heavy which I like but would be considered a weakness for someone slight of build with small hands. Understand though, the bigger and heavier a camera is, the less it is susceptable to shake, vibration etc.

This lens is a dead ringer for another lens I use to own namely the original Vivitar Series 1 35-85 which has the same feel and heft and mode of operation. The lens is big and stubby but after using it extensively, you do not want to go back to switching back and forth between Primes lenses and maybe another zoom. The lens isn't a sleek looking lens, but so what! You get great looking pictures and you can go from a group shot to a tight head portrait with the same lens. Don't let anybody con you about these 28-200 or 28-300 supposed APO whatevers which are more a tribute to advertising than real performance. We're talking Carl Zeiss here and 35-135 and a lens you will not be able to take off your camera it is so convenient to use.

Customer Service

I've never had any problems with any Zeiss lens except my 50 and that was after a number of years. Yashica took their time fixing it.

Similar Products Used: Nikon, Zeiss, vivitar series 1
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Kevin Yang   Intermediate [Apr 03, 2001]
Strength:

Very high quality built lens. The glass and structure are first class. Large front element help eliminate the dark corners at wide angle. Zoom is smooth.

Weakness:

One touch zoom limits the possibility of useing the long end to focus and framing at the desired length. Very expensive filters and polizers due to the large front element.

I always heard people say that "such such lens is worth every penny of its price". I never really understood what it meant until I bought this lens. The performance of this lens reaches its peak almost at fully opened. Stop down only improves a little. Usually people buy Zoom lenses only can expect the lenses perform well at one or two stops down. It is not true for this lens. I used it half stop down and the results can be compared with any fixed focus lenses at the same aparture, especially around 50mm range. At the long side, the color saturation is a little less than the the similar range Carl Zess lenses but the resolution is probably better. Distorsion is marginal compared with the similar zooms from other manufacturers. I am very glad I bought this lens. It really worths every penny I paid.

Customer Service

Never use it.

Similar Products Used: Nikon. Pentax. Tokina.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-6 of 6  

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