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N lenses vc MF lenses


Well-Known Member
Hello Dear Friends,

I have G2 and RX...I use both systems.
Reading Dirk's comments about N1 lenses, I can not believe, that the quality of N-lenses is better, than MF discrete lenses. NEVER, NEVER Zoom lenses were better, than discrete...When I see remarks about superior SHARPNESS, I remember loudness in music...In my opinion old AE lenses are much better then MM - more alive, warmer...as old good tube &lifiers are much better, than novadays "cold" transistors...The matter is not in sharpness, but in "vividness" of the picture.
Do you really believe, that N 85mm is better than AEG 85mm? I can not believe in it....
I'd llike to know your opinion. What do you prefer: AX + MF discrete lenses or N1 + zoom 24-85?

Thanks a lot!
Hi Andrey,

please post only once the same message in the forum. This is an depth question which can not be answered in 2 lines. Just to keep the ball rolling 2 point to think about:

There are 2 different perspectives you can use while comparing N lenses vs. C/Y-mount lenses.

1. MTF charts, which is a theoretical comparison, because not many people know how to read them properly and they do not tell you something about flare reduction of a complete body-lens system and colour reproduction.

2. Real life experiences by taking pictures of the same subject side by side with bothe lenses, but without the requiremnst to make a scientific test or taking images for non every day shooting subjects.

For the MTF data, feel free to make up your mind by looking in the "manuals" section of this site.

What you will not find there are information on how Contax/ Zeiss improved the coating and flare reduction since 1996 for new lens designs and body designs too. Please bear in mind that flare reduction is not only a question of the lens. It is also a question of how you construct a body for reducing any flare. The combination of a lens with a specific body ends up then for the image quality of the system (apart of the film etc. obviously)

This is why you will see differences with many lenses in real life shootings. Of course there are lenses which are better in one system vs. the other and vice versa. But I can tell you i.e. that the 24-85 zoom is really good and on the whole (colours, flare reductions etc.) better than my old 85/2.8 at least in the images I have taken with both. The N50/1.4 is better than the C/Y equivalent, but only in the first 2-3 stops.

But to make a long story short. Actually it does not matter, since you will not see that much difference if you do not compare both. All Zeiss lenses are delivering great images. So it more important to have the right light and moment to take a great image.

But in respect for the achievemenets of the N-system, I am really impressed how good the N-lenses are, having in mind that they are AF and therefore much more difficult to produce at consistent high quality than the old C/Y manual focus lenses. That is the real surprise thanks to technical innovation over the last 15 years and new design know-how. You get AF without sacrificing any image qaulity. Even better, you get zoom ranges that are not available in the C/Y system.
I don't think there is any difference in optical quality between AE and MM lenses for the C/Y mount.

Regarding zooms vs. primes I think that in general a prime lens can be optimized in ways a zoom can't, and "in principle" it should be overall "better" when tested comprehensively. It often will be also faster.

Zooms give you an amazing amount of freedom, at a price. You can say that if you carried with you the C/Y 25 f:2.8, 28 f:2, 35 f:1.4, 50 f:1.4 and 85 1:4 you would be able to take some pictures that would be impossible to take with the V-S N 24-85. But it is one zoom vs. many primes-- more convenient.

Many have complained about the paucity of primes in the N system, and I think it's more about having fast lenses than about quality. In general, I cannot tell the difference between pictures taken with the N zooms and pictures taken with the C/Y primes, unless I set up a test.
Regarding the general statement "NEVER, NEVER were zoom lenses better than discrete...", I think it is somewhat extreme. My impression is that the VS 100-300 is known to be better (at 300 mm) than the 300mm Tele Tessar (both C/Y mount)...except the VS is f:5.6.

Except for the speed (which may be an issue if you want fast wide-angles), I would say that the N zooms are about as good as the older manual focus lenses, at least in my amateur non-hyper critical experience. I honestly cannot tell the difference when I project my slides. And one zoom that takes the place of 4 or 5 primes is pretty convenient (the same can be said about the MF 28-85, except it does flare a lot).

For all lovers of scores, here is a webpage to feel you justified in your love for CZ lenses:

Which shows not only that what there is for the N system is very good, but also that there are some big gaps for a comprehensive system. It also shows Sigma lenses can be very good...

Best regards,

Hi Juan,
You're missing two very important aspects of primes: size and weight.
With the C/Y system you can do street photography with say a 28 or 35mm and a 50 or an 85mm and have small, light, unobtrusive lenses with a 55mm filter thread - I hardly ever get a 'no' from the subjetcs and I mostly shoot with the 35mm.
While being interviewed for tv I found myself on the other side and really wasn't pleased by the enormous size of his lens - it was actually close in diameter to that of a 17-35 N lens.
P.S.: I for one will never go N unless Contax starts selling some f2.8 primes (and I hope they stick to the 55mm filter thread size).
Ricardo is right, although N lens image quility is comparible to the cy prime lenses, but they are big! if you compare the size for the 50 1.4, and 85 1.4, you see they really is huge, at least 30% bigger. and for the 17-35 2.8 N, this is crazily big and heavy! but that 17-35 is still remain my favorite!

To my mind there is one point missing in the discussion and that's flare ! For ex&le the VS 24-85mm lens for the N-system is the best zoom I ever had in terms of flare reduction. This is for ex&le one weak point of the famous VS 28-85mm which is optically perfect.
Flare is not only caused by having the sun in the picture as everybody is aware of. It's much more present by taking pictures of white surfaces, e.g. houses etc. when lightened by the sun.

The same effect as with the zooms is for the Planar 1.4/50mm. The MF version has flare especially wide open and up to aperture 4 whereas the N-Planar is free of any flare even wide open ! Both primes are identical in terms of lens construction.

What I know from Zeiss is that they have found some ways to reduce flare dramatically by using very black finish inside the lens and they use (optical?) elemts to reduce flare.

By the way, reduction of flare was one of the reasons for Zeiss to create the (optically identical) CFI and CFE lenses for the Hasselblad System.

At the end of the day the results are really significant and astonishing !

... as far as I remember, Zeiss is using 7 different "layers" of painting inside on the metal to reduce lens flare. I think Leica uses 5 and the industray standard is 2 or 3. It needs also a special black, not a random one to get optimal results.

But do not quote me on the numbers, it is over a year ago when someone from Zeiss mentioned that in a meeting.

But you can read it even in a Test of Erwin Puts (well known as a Leica Fan). He compared the Zeiss N24-85 vs. the newest Leica M90 Apo asph. and 35 asp. And both showed more lens flare than the Zeiss Zoom with 16 elements. I would call that impressive.
That's exactly the point I brought up in another thread discussing N zooms vs. Canon L lenses. I use the 24-85 as my standard lens, and I love backlit scenes. I truly love that lens!

... I forgot to mention that flare has not only to be reducd in the lens. Also the body is responsible for significant flare on images. Depending on the lens used (wideangle or tele) the flare-reduction in the body is more or less important. The weighting can be up to 50:50 (lens and body importance for flare reduction).

You will find better flare reduction in Contax models introduced from 1996 on. I.e. Contax Aria, G2, N-System, 645 etc.

In Hasselblad bodies an improved flare reduction was used earlier as far as I know. At Rollei it is only avalaible since the new 6008 Intergral2 and AF.