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Intermediate digital camera for Zeiss/Contax lenses?


New Member
Hi Guys,

I have a Contax S2b (& Yashica backup), several Zeiss/Contax lenses (50/180/18/80-200mm), and a Tamron SP 60B 300/2.8 (Adaptall2).

My son (14) has become an avid photographer, and I would like to buy him a digital body, intermediate price, which would also allow good use of these manual lenses.

I've found various info in camera forums, such as "I think you will only get Nikon and Pentax to do auto aperture with any of the old no electric contact lenses."

So I'm hoping someone has advice here, would you recommend any particular digital camera that would allow optimal use of these lenses; and are there also particular adapters that I should get?
Hi Contra

welcome at Contaxinfo.com!

If you want to use your existing Zeiss lenses with gthe full potential, only Canon can deliver. I personally do not like Canon that much, although I use a Canon 5D. But Canon offers APS Sensor and fullframe and can be used in perture priority also with the Zeiss lenses via an Contax-Canon adapter.

This adapter is cheap. You should buy one for each lens. Look at ebay. Prices between 15-45 Euro each.

But are aware, that there will be of course no AF, no full program mode possible and stop-down metering.

All other brands are not bad at all, but Pentax does not offer fullframe, Nikon is not compatible with the Contax lenses and Sony I do not know for sure, but I guess not. Olympus would be another choice, but Olympus has a crop factor of 2x, so depth of field is an isse. And your Contax 18mm becomes on an Olympus DSLR a 36mm. Not really exciting ;)

So Canon is IMHO the best choice. Also price wise. You get a used Canon 5D already for around 1000 Euro. This is fullframe (no crop factor) and 12MP. A good & big viewfinder (although not Contax quality) and good image quality.

Keep us informed and if you have further questions, feel free to ask. We are the specialists :)

Best wishes
Thanks very much Dirk!

The advice you give sounds good and matches other responses I've received over at MLlenses.com. Given your input I'm not averse to upping my budget a little, and getting full frame.

A detail I've been alerted to is that the manual 18mm collides with the 5D mirror, requiring shaving a little of the glass off, and the 50mm requires its aperature fin trimmed; http://www.16-9.net/lens_tests/adapters_5d.html

And, as you point out, prices are coming down on used 5D's, which is great. I'll buy a few rolls of Velvia and teach my son to shoot with that, while waiting for the light to return to our northern latitudes.

And thanks for fixing my username, if that was your doing!
I use an Eos 10D and the only lenses that don't work are:

60mm Macro Planar
Mutar I
Contax Automatic Bellows as the overhang of the pentaprism prevents the bellows being attached.

You will get random "Error 99" errors and the only choice is to power the camera off and back on again. This problem even affects genuine Canon lenses, so it isn't a reflection on the adaptor that you choose.

I use a German made adaptor that I got through Carsten of Classic Camera Exchange. It specifically warns in the instruction leaflet of problems with the Canon Eos 5D and the following lenses

Distagon 15mm f3.5
Distagon 16mm f2.8
Distagon 18mm f4 (but I can use it on the 10D)
Distagon 28mm f2.8
Distagon 28mm f2
Tessar 45mm f2.8

There are some interesting articles on the different adaptors available at the address below. And I'm going to have a look at the focus confirmation adaptors to see what the prices are like.

I'm not a fan of Canon either, but it's the only choice at the moment. Aside from the film-based AX, of course. And that's a good camera choice secondhand.


Thanks Nick!

Very glad to get tips on adaptors, considering what one pays for and expects from the parts on either end of them. Over at MFLenses there is a thread about CA on a Zeiss lens, where one participant said that a poor adapter of his had caused such a problem (a link to pebbleplace also there).
Canon 5D adapter


I have tried a CZ Makro Planar S 60mm with an adapter on a Canon 5D.

If the lens was focused at infinity, the mirror hung up on the back of the lens (not the glass, but the ring around the glass) on the down swing. The picture was taken. A slight bump of the focus ring on the lens, away from infinity, freed the mirror. There was no apparent damage to the camera after many shots, and only a small rub mark on the back of the lens. Again, the glass was not impacted, just the black retaining ring around the back element.

I checked the thickness of the adapter with a digital caliper and found that it was slightly under spec, so this could have been the problem.

By spec. I mean the difference in flange distance between Contax and Canon. See http://www.markerink.org/WJM/HTML/mounts.htm for more information than what has been mentioned above. You can also see from this table why the other cameras won't work.

Thanks for the link, Ron.

Still patiently watching the number of used 5D's slowly increase on our local auction site (Scandinavia).

Have meanwhile got a C/Y-EOS adapter from Hoada, and another from Steve Gandy.

Being such an antedeluvian, I look at the little chip-thingamagigs on the Hoada adapter, and wonder what they are for...

Will they transmit the lens image to my iPhone, do they play a song on my birthday, or what, exactly?
Focus Confirm


Canon EOS bodies will not normally give a focus confirmation in the viewfinder with manual focus lenses. The "chip" in the adapter is there to fool the camera into thinking that an AF lens is mounted and being used in MF mode.

So, ostensibly, the focus confirmation dot in the viewfinder should light when the lens is in focus. I have heard of some issues with this feature.

Here is some more reading for you: http://www.photoethnography.com/ClassicCameras/index-frameset.html?Lens-adapters.html~mainFrame

I also suggest that you measure the accuracy of the adapter thickness.

I see the prices of good used 5Ds very slowly declining. My guess is that they will bottom mid summer. Spring is always a high demand period for photo gear. Be patient and you will be rewarded.