Carl Zeiss Planar is one of the oldest optical designs in the company's lineup, first invented by Dr. Paul Rudolph 1896. The original Planar had a simple (by modern standards) symmetrical Double-Gauss design, and while the design saw some tweaks over the years, the overall concept remained pretty much the same. And why not? Simple is often beatiful and the popularity of Planars over the years has proven this case. The 50mm Planars were continuously manufactured by Carl Zeiss in various camera mounts since early 1900s. The Contax/Yashica version of the lens, which is reviewed here, has been manufactured from 1974, when Carl Zeiss officially announced partnership with Yashica of Japan to manufacture its new RTS system, to 2005 when Kyocera (which acquired Yashica in 80s) exited the camera business.
Back to the Planar T* 50mm f/1.4. Like its slower f/1.7 cousin, Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 for Contax/Yashica mount was manufactured in AE and MM formats. The lens is a classical manual focus prime and sports dedicated aperture and focus rings. The build quality of the lens is superb, with a metal barrel and fully rubberized focus/aperture rings. The focusing ring is pretty smooth to operate and the aperture is snappy, snapping into positions with a satisfying click. The optical construction of the lens consists of 7 elements in 6 groups - a pretty timeless design. The lens is pretty compact, measuring only 6.3 x 4.1cm (2.4 x 1.6in), although the barrel of the lens extends slightly during focusing towards the closeup. The lens weighs a mere 275g (9.7oz). The minimum focusing distance is 45cm (1.5ft) and the minimum supported aperture is f/16 (the aperture ring moves in one full f-stop increments). The lens accepts 55mm screw-in filters.
Contax Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 is clearly one of the better 50mm lenses available on the market. As with other manual lenses, the major weakness of the lens is, well, the fact that it's a manual lens... It's certainly not the fastest 50mm lens on the market - that title belongs to Leica's Noctilux 50mm f/1 and now discontinued Canon EF 50mm f/1, but for practical reasons f/1.4 is fast enough for the majority of photographers out there. The lens clearly shows some weakness, specifically the image quality at wider apertures. Still, if you are looking for a 50mm prime and are not concerned about the largest apertures, then you should seriously consider Planar's slower fariation, the venerable Planar T* 50mm f/1.7- you will be able to save some dough without sacrificing any performance. If you do require a fast aperture like f/1.4, then makre sure to compare image quality of Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 and a number of other 50mm primes such as Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 and Leica's Summilux 50mm f/1.4. If you already own the lens - congratulations, it's a keeper!
|Lens Composition||7 elements, 6 groups|
|Angular Field||45 degrees|
|Minimum Focus||0.45m (1.5 ft)|
|Diaphragm Action||MM fully automatic|
|F stop scale||f1.4-2-2.8-4-5.6-8-11-16|
|Filter connection||Screw in type|
|Lens Hood||55mm G-11 soft hood, screw-in type No 4 metal hood (with 55/86 ring) screw-in type|
|Weight||275 grams(9.7 oz)|
|Lens Size||62.5x41 mm (2-7/16x 1-5/8 in)|
|Lens Cap||49mm K-41, snap type|
Product ($599) SN: ***2700/ ***6016
Condition: Like New (LN)
Warranty: 2 weeks shop warranty, covering manufactural defects
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