Unscientific Contax-Yashica 50mm comparison

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by david_smith|110, May 27, 2011.

  1. Please note that this is NOT a test. Absolutely nothing scientific about this other then an observation made after developing the test roll I ran thru my new Contax a few days back.
    I wanted a Contax body after fondling an RTS at a recent camera fair. It just felt like a really well made camera. And of course being able to use the legendary Zeiss optics was a real plus. I researched the brand a little and decided that a 167MT sits firmly at the crossroads of capabilites and cost. I really liked the 1/4000 top shutter speed and the spot metering. A little perusing of the auction site and a fairly clean body showed up on my doorstep.
    It did not come with a lens and since I had a 14 day warranty I quickly bid on and won a Yashica ML 50/1.9 ($40) which after a little more internet research had also seemed to sit at the capabilites/cost crossroads. Am I giving the idea that Im kinda cheap? Well, I am.
    While waiting for the lens to arrive I remembered that a local camera shop had a couple of Contax bodies and Zeiss lenses. I devised a plan. When my Yashica arrived I loaded up some Reala and headed over to said shop in hopes that the nice proprieters would be kind enough to loan me a Zeiss to take some quick shots around their shop just so I could compare the two lenses and get ready to start saving my pennies for a nice Zeiss 50mm. Sure enough they let me borrow a 50/1.7 so I snapped a few shots and then gingerly handed the lens back before I had an accident with it.
    The only thing I noticed when I was shooting them was that the Yashica actually had a closer focusing distance then the Zeiss. I was a little suprised by this but didnt think much of it. When I got the film home I was suprised again with how well the Yashica performed. I have heard a lot about Zeiss optics and I have to say that I didnt notice a whole lot in favor of the more expensive lens vs my cheaper Yashica. It was a pleasent surprise. I am sure that their are plenty of fine Zeiss optics that simply blow most everything away but for my meager skills (and wallet) Im thinking that I can do just fine with Yashica lenses for now. This is especially true since I want to acquire a macro lens for this wonderful little body and quite frankly the Zeiss Makro is out of my price range. The Yashica macro on the other hand...not quite so bad
    So...my very unscientific comparison can be seen in the shots below. You can see the closer focusing distance of the Yashica and it actually turned out quite nice vs the Zeiss. No, the two shots are not EXACTLY the same and the conditions weren't controlled due to varying light coming in the window but still...an interesting comparison. Also included is a photo of my lovely wife taken with the Yashica which seems to exhibit a little of the 'swirly bokeh' that several online posts said that this lens was capable of.
    taken with the Zeiss
    taken with the Yashica
    the lovely wife (with swirly bokeh)
    and a gratuitous shot of my lovely trio of favorites (taken with my Droid X)
    I may not have a Zeiss 50, but I do have a Nice 50. :)
  2. The 50mm lens is probably one of the best researched and understood lens designs so it does not suprise me that a less expensive brand compared to a prestige brand are not so far apart in normal practice. The Zeiss may employ tighter mechanical and optical tolerances and perhaps be more durable under heavy use than the Yashica but otherwise your results are not atypical.
    By the way, nice little family of classic cameras you have there.
  3. I wholeheartedly second John, that's why your results don't surprise me at all - as I am sure they didn't really shock you, it was a fun experiment I bet. I think this can be compounded by the fact that Yashica is in and of itself highly regarded for their optics, many people swear by their glass and would easily pitch it against anything on offer from more "prestige" name plates. Your test certainly seems to point in that direction:)
  4. As an avid fan of Yashinon lenses I'm not in the least surprised, John. Among my polyglot assembly of M42 lenses, the Yashinons stand out as the lenses I reach for most often, and the DX series must rate as some of the most handsome and best-constructed lenses around. Your later ML series are not quite so beautiful, but they're great performers. I got over paying huge sums for "name" glass, years ago...
  5. Alas, given the current prices of the Contax lenses for the C/Y cameras, I may also have to live with a Yashinon ML on my 139Q.
    Like David, I may be cheap, but I am also pleased with what the Yashica lens does.
  6. And your wife is still smiling as you plan to buy more gear. You've made a lot of good choices.
  7. John- Thats very true about the 50's. Im sure I would see much more differentiation as I move up and down the lens line when comparing Zeiss to other makes, even Yashica. But it does make me wonder just how much of the Zeiss legend is actually based on the lens being superior vs the definite feeling you get using a tool that has a certain mystique about it. Im sure there is a little of both involved. But unfortunately I probably wont be buying many Zeiss lenses due to my situational enforced budget. And by that I mean piss poor decisions I made about not staying in school all those years ago. :) And thanks for the compliment. I love those little black beauties.
    Peter- Im definitely going to start giving Yashica ML lenses a serious look. The consensus seems (and back in the day, seemed) to be that a smart way to go about the whole Contax/Zeiss/Yashica thing was to buy a cheap Yashica body and then load up on the quality Zeiss lenses. But I think today, for me at least, its the other way around. These Contax bodies are very well made and have specifications that, quite truthfully, outperform a lot of my other classic cameras. Higher shutter speeds, spot metering, newer electronics, silicon meter (vs. cds) just to name a few. To be able to pair up these wonderful bodies with the much cheaper but still well performing Yashica glass...well that just a no brainer.
    Rick- Believe it or not, my ML is actually very well made. It felt almost exactly like the Zeiss I tried out. If your older Yashinons feel even better then I will look for some to fondle at the next camera show.
    JDM- I looked at the 139q when I was Contax shopping. I like the way it looks a little better then my 167mt and the fact that it doesnt have the auto film advance. The only reason I went with mine was for the higher top shutter speed. Other then that the 139q is a sweet little camera.
    Charles- Lol, in all honesty I think the reason she is smiling is that she was just about to leave with her sister for a daytrip to San Fransisco and got to be away from me (and my cameras) all day. :)
  8. vdp


    I've used both a number of Zeiss and Yashica lenses. The Yashica lenses are quite fine, the only difference visually for me, is the Yashicas seemed to render the image in a slightly cooler tone while the Zeiss has that warmer more "Romantic" tone. I've used the Yashica 50 1.7, 1.9, the 35 2.8 and the 100 Macro as well as the 35-105 zoom. All are quite fine especially the Macro 100. I think the later Yashicas may have been built by Cosina and had more plastic. The Zeiss lenses (wich I still use) are great. the 50 1.4 and 1.7, the 35 2.8, etc. You can't go wrong with the Yashica ML lenses. My style of photgraphy has changed so I limit myself to the 50 or 35 mm lenses. If you can get hold of the Yashica 100 macro I think you will be delighted with it. All the best.
  9. My first real camera lens was a 50mm ML 1,7 (both were stolen) I found the ML to be one of the best optics. I believed back then the Zeiss stuff would be even better .. but now that I look back on my results then I see that it was one of the best 50mm I hae used! I have a 28mm ML now and a 2.0. Both very fine lenses. Often wonder why the Zeiss 28mm is typically 4x the cost!
  10. The "results" of the non-test don't surprise me either, as I too am a fan of the Yashicas, especially the MLs. However if, hypothetically, one were to set out to convince oneself of some reason grounded in optical performance to favor a premium lens like the CZ, one might want to stray out of the middle of the envelope a bit more. When you talk about a top lens versus merely a really good one, the difference, if any, might show up in things like flare control under flare-prone conditions, or sharpness in the corners wide open. If those aren't situations you commonly run into and you have to go out of your way to shoot them as a test, maybe you don't need the premium lens.
  11. August, you bring up a good point. Im sure the Ziess lenses earn their extra cost when you start shooting in a situation that requires more critical abilities, such as the sharpness wide open. That is actually one specification that I am concerned about since I shoot wide open quite a bit. I will use the ML lens for a while and get used to how it handles and if it looks like there might be some room for improvement in corner clarity then I will think about the justification of spending more money for the Zeiss equivalent. I will just have to weigh the perceived benefit of spending several times the amount of my current lens for a small fraction of a narrow performance increase. If money were no object sure, but I really like finding the sweet spot of value vs performance. And I think the ML might have that nailed.
    Chuck, glad to hear that in hindsight your ML was a strong performer. As I mentioned above, Zeiss carries the higher price for just that little bit more performance out at the edges of photography. You buying more ability on the fringe of things I suppose.
    Thanks for the vote for the Yashica macro Vincent. Im really enjoying that type of photography and I greatly want to compare an ML macro against my MD Rokkor which is a fine lens.
  12. I used to keep quiet about the capabilities of the ML lenses, lest I contribute to a supply-and-demand bump in market pricing, but now that I have all the lenses in the range I want, I can be a little more vocal in echoing the sentiments of others here. The 28mm is a little gem, and as has already been pointed out, the 50mm is too well understood in design terms for there to be too many duff ones. But I like the f/1.7 ML and the slightly faster f/1.4. Outside the 50-ish set, the MLs are not speed demons, so if you need a 1.4 35mm, then you'll end up looking elsewhere, but if you can live with an f/2.8 for most of the medium primes, you'll have as good a price/performance ratio as it's possible to get. You will get extra out of the CZ cousins, but as August points out, you have to be looking to the performance extremes anyway for that to matter.

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