Last summer instead of my usual Nikon gear I took a Contax G2 body with 45 and 28mm lenses on holiday with me. I visited Normandy and took many pictures of the beaches and war graves and coastal villages. The results were excellent and in particular beach and sky shots were outstanding. Friends and relatives universally pick out those photographs as their favourites in my albums!
Do you think the Carl Zeiss lenses are particularly suited to these types of photographs? I have never used polarised filters - should I be using them on my Nikon lenses? Why do the Contax G lenses make the sky look so beautiful without filters? Why am I having doubts about Nikon lenses? The Contax lenses are very good value indeed! Do all Carl Zeiss lenses have this characteristic? Would say a Contax RX or AX SLR with Carl Ziess lenses take the same "type" of photograph as the G system?
I would be very interested to hear your views.
Incidentally anyone from the States would have a fantastic holiday in Normandy and a visit to the landing beaches and war cemetaries is something else.
Phil Gardner in England
#1. "RE: lens characteristics" | In response to Reply # 0f8bthere Basic MemberSat 08-Jun-02 09:22 PM
I use both Leica M series lenses as well as my Nikon gear, and there are places where the Leica lenses excel and places where the differences are not so clear. In my experience, f/8 is the great equalizer, so my favoring the rangefinder lenses is usually at wider apertures. Even when sharpness is equal or better, there are other non-measured aspects, like bokeh. For example, I like my 50mm f/2.0 Leica Summicron at full aperture better than my 50mm f/1.4 or f1.8 AI Nikkors at f/2.0. I think all of the lenses have a similar level of sharpness, but the background blur of the Leica lens is so smooth. Another example is my 35mm lenses from Leica and Nikon. My 35mm f/1.4 Nikkor is sharper at f/2.0 than the Leica is, but the blur of the Nikkor can be very harsh at certain distances. If you were only reading lens tests, some of this would not be revealed.
It is very much possible that your Zeiss optic can out perform an SLR lens, especially the wide-angle, because when the lens designers don't have to factor in a mirror box, they can produce lenses of a very high quality. Look how close the last element comes to the film in your Contax. For the Nikon (and any SLR), that is impossible. The old 21mm f/4.0 from the early 1960s, which was a mirror up lens is still one of the best Nikkors in this range, because it is a simple design without the compromise of having to be used with a flipping mirror. I too have seen Leica shots that I would swear were polerized, but they were not. The lenses have such contrast and efficient light transmission that there is definitely a clarity boost.
One thing to remember, there is already an unfair advantage for the RF camera, so if you are making a side by side comparisons with Nikkors, don't compare a prime Contax lens with a zoom Nikkor. I only compare same focal length Nikkors and Leica lenses to keep things even. Even a $100 50mm f1.8 AF Nikkor can make a $300 Zoom look bad. A simple clean optical design with less glass can show a marked difference in contrast over a multi-element zoom... where many of those elements are only to correct aberrations from the zoom design.
If you are interested, I posted a test from a magazine that you can look at. It compares standard lenses from Leica, Nikon, Canon and your 45mm Contax. The Canon and Nikon lenses are out classed quickly, and at very wide apertures, the Leica Summicron is clearly ahead. After f/5.6 or so, the Contax is consistently chosen as the best, based on blind (not knowing which is which) observation of the photos and slides.
Some times I think about going "all rangefinder", but then I need to do a macro or long tele shot and I remember why I love my Nikons. The two systems make a good team.
#2. "RE: lens characteristics" | In response to Reply # 1philgardner Registered since 23rd Apr 2002Sun 09-Jun-02 01:24 AM
many thanks for your response - which I found most interesting and informative. I would really like to own both a rangefinder and an slr system but finances dictate otherwise! I have not even held a leica camera but the contax was a beautiful thing to own. Certainly there are times when the compact nature of these systems are very attractive - however, like you say, there are also times when the Nikon (mine's an F100)is what you need!