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Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 135mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 135mm f/2.8

Introduction

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 135mm f/2.8 is one of four Sonnar telephoto lenses that Zeiss used to manufacture in the C/Y mount (the other three lenses being 85mm, 100mm and 180mm). The company discontinued manufacturing Sonnar 135mm f/2.8 in C/Y mount after Kyocera, which holds joint development rights for the Contax brand name, exited camera business in 2005. Regretfully, Carl Zeiss, which created the original Contax camera system, cannot  re-use the brand name for another couple of years (until the contract with Kyocera expires). However, it's widely speculated that Zeiss will be interested in resurrecting the Contax lineup of cameras and lenses sometime in the future. In the meantime, Zeiss re-introduced Sonnar T* 135mm f/1.8 in ZA format for Sony's range of digital SLR cameras. The C/Y mount Sonnar is one of the most affordable lenses in the Carl Zeiss lineup - good quality used copies can be found for about US$200-$250 on eBay, while a new copy of Carl Zeiss Sonnar in ZA format for Sony SLR costs about US$1,350 at various online retailers.

The optical construction of the lens consists of 5 elements in 4 groups. The build quality of the lens is pretty solid - the lens mount and both barrel cams are metal. So is the built-in slide-type metal lens hood that could be extended from the front of the barrel to reduce amount of stray light hitting the front glass element. Both aperture and focus rings are fully rubberized. The inner lens cam extends by a few centimeters when focusing towards closelup. Both inner lens cam and the built-in lens hood wobble a little bit inside the lens, slightly diminishing the overall feel of the lens.

The minimum focusing distance of the lens is 1.6m (5.5ft) and the minimum aperture is f/22. In the domain of telephoto lenses, Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 135mm f/2.8 is average in size and weight - 585g (1.3lb) and 7.8 x 13.1cm (3.1 x 5.2in). It accepts 55mm screw-in type filters.

 

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To test the lens on Canon EOS body, I used a generic Contax/Yashica to EOS adapter without AF confirmation. Sonnar T* 135mm f/2.8 has very little surface area that does not move or rotate (the focusing ring is pretty much the entire lens barrel!), so detaching a tightly screwed-in adapter proved to be somewhat tedious - be careful not to break aperture ring or lens hood in the process.

 

Summary
Lens Composition 5 elements in 4 groups
Angular Field 18 degrees
Minimum Focus 1.6m/5.5ft
Focusing Action MF
stop Scale f/2.8-f/22, manual
Filter Size 55mm
Lens Hood Built-in + No.5 screw-in (optional)
Weight 585g/1.3lbs
Dimensions 78x131mm/3.1x5.2"
Lens Case No.3 (included)