Contax Vario-Sonnar 4.5-5.6/100-300 for landscape

Started 4 months ago | Discussions thread
fferreres Veteran Member • Posts: 6,674
Re: Contax Vario-Sonnar 4.5-5.6/100-300 for landscape

backsidewalkaround wrote:

I have the lens for a little more than half a year now. More and more it feels like my arm or leg. I can't imagine going on a photo trip without it :-).

You might not like the lens itself: It's quite big and heavy, especially in combination with a mirrorless camera (in my case a Sony A7R III), but compared to other 300mm options it really isn't big at all. At least for me it works well: I can fit it in my large holster bag on camera with two other lenses. The weight doesn't bother me much.
It generally isn't a trouble free lens. Many owners report lens separation in the rear element. It is supposed to be curable by a japanese guy who offers the service of recementing the rear elements.

Knowing about that problem, I asked the seller of my lenses very specifically about it, so it wasn't one for me. I did have to get a second copy, though, because the first one was decentered. It's really sad, because it delivered noticably more micro contrast than my current copy. Also it didn't have zoom creep like my lens now has. It was a neewer version of the lens with a serial number starting at 84... .
Still for landscape the decentering bothered me too much (for portaiture or close-up work it wouldn't have mattered), so I sold it again for quite a bit less (telling the buyer all about it) and got another copy. It's an older copy starting with a 74... serial number. Its sharpness is distributed uniformly across the frame at all focal lengths. Color and contrast are great, just not as mind blowing as with my first copy. Still excellent.

It is very versatile with its focal range and it never disappoints. I love to do panorama shots using it at 100mm or sometimes even more. If an image is lacking every once in a while it's my fault, because I know that the lens delivers every time (in the second panorama below I messed up focussing (it was extremely cold and windy) - in the panorama you don't notice it unless zooming in).

Besides using it for landscape you can use it quite well for close-ups too, just pack one or two extension tubes und you might not need a macro-ish lens anymore (well true 1:1 macro you'll still need a dedicated lens, but for many close-up scenarios you won't be disappointed.

Recently I've been able to find some extraordinary weather conditions, so I can show you some of my results (if you like to see some more, you'll find them in my non-commercial hobby blog here):

Cintematic Winter

Islands in the sea of fog.

20°C below not counting the wind chill, but worth it.

Sunset. The glowing mountain in the back is Germany's highest peak (Zugspitze). It is 100km away.

Confirms two things. That I have the right lens, but live in the wrong place

While there are better, modern lenses with higher contrast, I find that lenses many old lenses resolve around what I think is ideal for a 42MP camera. And after shooting with a 42MP camera for a few months, I seems to me it's about the limit of what I feel comfortable using, maybe 40MP to 50MP range, and definitely not 61MP or 80 MP.

At 42MP, I find myself focusing at the level of detail where often times, I can notice my own breathing and micro displacements in the focus plane. And due to the small detail, I need to be steady if to keep the shutter speeds I was used to. Likewise, the subject needs to move slower. I also note that oftentimes, the best would be to pan with my camera, that it's best with no IBIS if the shutter is slower, and that sharpness get too much attention vs the overall idea and look of the picture. While not related to the 100-300 directly, it hits a sweetspot between speed, weight, zoom, ergonomics (rapid change in FL), look of the image, colors, sharpness that is perfect for anything, from low resolution shots up to 42MP. Anything much sharper than the 100-300, or much faster, would be of very little practical advantage.

The only thing I'd love to see is a like Leica does, that the do a 20th anniversary edition, with the same exact formula, solve the creep and add EXIF for full axis auto IBIS by FL.

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