Zeiss Contax Price List

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The year is 1973. Zeiss is a fractured camera company, split by an iron curtain. Halves of a company that were once collaborators have been turned into competitors. While the Zeiss of the West’s cameras are up in space being used in the NASA space programme, however, it is on Earth where this vacuum left by the breakup of Carl Zeiss is causing trouble for the German camera powerhouse. 

Since the 1950s, post-war Japan’s economic boom and love of photography has seen its camera industry ascend, with manufacturers like Nikon, Pentax and Canon taking over the market with offerings that are not just high quality, but incredibly affordable. In Germany, Zeiss Ikon’s production lines in Stuttgart have been shut down. Unable to keep up with the Japanese rate of releases and innovations, the writing is on the wall – if Zeiss is to keep its prominent place in the camera market, it must form partnerships in Japan. 

Their partner of choice: Yashica, an innovative camera manufacturer who also owned the legendary Tomioka lens works. Top Secret Project 130, as it is known, is underway – a plan to build a new camera, a fusion of German and Japanese industriousness and ingenuity. Together they would revive a brand that had helped pioneer the SLR camera before the Second World War, a brand with global recognition and heritage. The brand’s name? CONTAX. 

The lenses that came from this partnership are absolute stunners. Their relative ease of conversion, stable and affordable price, robust housings and classic, sharp Zeiss look made them an easy choice for my very first vintage lens set. And I am not alone in that assessment – there are many others, including vintage lens community member and anamorphic expert Tito Ferradans who felt the same. Now they are one of the community’s staple lens sets, a prime choice for those seeking a nice balance between modern and vintage looks.

Contax Zeiss lenses have cemented themselves as one of the mainstay lens sets of the vintage lens community. And their quality has left a long lens lineage in their wake. Their designs would form the basis for the Zeiss Classic lenses that would be popularised as a budget cine option at the dawn of the DSLR revolution, gaining prominence as one of the first major lens sets that would make “cinemodding” so popular. These lenses, in turn, became the Zeiss CP.2 cinema lenses that are now one of my first recommendations for newbies entering the world of filmmaking. A hell of a legacy!

Perhaps because these lenses have only recently started being rehoused, prices of the Contax Zeiss range have always been very stable. Where a simple slower-speed set might run only a couple of thousand US Dollars, the full premium set – including the 15mm f/3.5, 21mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.4 and more can drive that price way, way upward.

As with our Canon FD Price List and Leica R Price List, this list is a verified, checked and triple-checked archive, referencing a variety of international online sales platforms to ensure the utmost accuracy at the time of writing. We cover every official Contax Zeiss lens produced, ranging from the mainstay 50mm f/1.4 Planar to the highly sought after “Hollywood” 28mm f/2 Distagon lenses that helped put Contax on the map.

Prices are in USD, have eBay links for quick searching and are banded as follows:
High prices – Are for mint examples, perfect for your next rehousing project.
Low prices – Are for rough beater lenses, the kinds that have a little dust, a little fungus, and maybe a little more going on.

Our intention is to review these lenses every six months, adjust our table, and to also give an annual “state of the market” review every year so that the entire VLFV community can see where the market is headed with analysis of price trends.

But we do not want this to be a static, detached page either. We want this to be a living, breathing document, and we would love your feedback and where our data might be wrong. Have you managed to make a massive sale that sets new peaks for the market? Do you see trends showing that certain lenses are actually selling for a lot less than we are saying? Please tell us and we will try to incorporate your data into our findings when the next review rolls around!

Lens NameLow Price
High Price
Distagon 15mm f/3.510002000Find on eBay
F-Distagon 16mm f/2.87501500Find on eBay
Distagon 18mm f/45001000Find on eBay
Distagon 21mm f/2.815003000Find on eBay
Distagon 25mm f/2.8300500Find on eBay
Distagon 28mm f/210003000Find on eBay
Distagon 28mm f/2.8200600Find on eBay
Distagon 35mm f/1.47502500Find on eBay
Distagon 35mm f/2.8150450Find on eBay
PC Distagon 35mm f/2.87501250Find on eBay
Tessar 45mm f/2.8150450Find on eBay
Planar 50mm f/1.4250750Find on eBay
Planar 50mm f/1.7100350Find on eBay
Planar 55mm f/1.230006000Find on eBay
Makro-Planar 60mm C f/2.8300600Find on eBay
Makro-Planar 60mm f/2.8300600Find on eBay
Planar 85mm f/1.215003500Find on eBay
Planar 85mm f/1.4350750Find on eBay
Sonnar 85mm f/2.8250500Find on eBay
Planar 100mm f/2400900Find on eBay
Makro-Planar 100mm f/2.8200600Find on eBay
Sonnar 100mm f/3.5200400Find on eBay
Planar 135mm f/26501500Find on eBay
Sonnar 135mm f/2.8150350Find on eBay
Sonnar 180mm f/2.8200400Find on eBay
Aposonnar 200mm f/220003500Find on eBay
Tele-Tessar 200mm f/3.5100200Find on eBay
Tele-Tessar 200mm f/4200350Find on eBay
Tele-Apotessar 300mm f/2.830004000Find on eBay
Tele-Tessar 300mm f/4125275Find on eBay
Mirotar 500mm f/4.530004500Find on eBay
Mirotar 500mm f/8450650Find on eBay
Vario-Sonnar 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5150350Find on eBay
Vario-Sonnar 28-85mm f/3.3-4100300Find on eBay
Vario-Sonnar 35-70mm f/3.4250500Find on eBay
Vario-Sonnar 35-135mm f/3.3-4.5350550Find on eBay
Vario-Sonnar 40-80mm f/3.5100300Find on eBay
Vario-Sonnar 70-210mm f/3.5200600Find on eBay
Vario-Sonnar 80-200mm f/4150400Find on eBay
Vario-Sonnar 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6300600Find on eBay


What are “AE” and “MM” lenses?

AE = Auto-Exposure, made from 1975-1984
MM = Multi-Mode, made from 1984-2005
The first lenses in the Contax line offered aperture-preferred automatic exposure, and thus were named “AE” lenses. Halfway through the production life of the Contax Zeiss range, multiple changes were made to the lenses, accommodating a range of additional features including redesigned irises, modified coatings and shutter-priority and programmable functions. Some lenses are only available as AE versions even when made later. The later MM lenses can be identified by the highest F-stop being painted green, and a special electronic connector pin on the rear.

Are there big differences between AE and MM lenses?

Overall, the Contax lens range are some of the most consistent lenses ever made. But there are some slight differences in the image they create that are worth bearing in mind. AE lenses, when opened up beyond f/2.8, exhibit a “ninja star” iris shape that does affect bokeh. Contrast differs between the two ranges as a result of the coatings. And per the reports of community member Yiorgos Tryfonas, the MMs are more prone to element separation and haze, which can also have an effect on many aspects of the image. Whichever traits you value, it wouldn’t hurt to try and find samples of each lens to see which look suits you best before buying. 

What is this I hear about fake MM lenses?

Buyer beware: Some unscrupulous sellers, in order to increase prices for lenses, some sellers will paint the highest F-stop green. These lenses will be missing a pin on the rear for additional lens controls. But what if you cannot see the rear of the lens in an online listing? If you see a lens with a 5xxxxxxx serial and a green f/16 mark, you know you have a fake, as these lenses are much too old to be MMs. These fake lenses can also be identified with a mis-matching colour for high stop. Always research the lens you plan to buy!

Does it matter in which country a Contax lens was made?

Not at all. There is no difference in consistency and quality between lenses made in Germany (or “West Germany”, as older lenses are marked) and those made by the Japanese factories. Some lenses were only made in one country or the other, making full Japanese or German sets impossible depending on your focal length choices.

Is matching generations or serials for a set important?

Vintage lenses, even ones by companies as prestigious as Zeiss, regularly experience slight differences in colour cast and overall performance between production runs. This comes from slight QC differences in coatings, age, and a variety of other factors. While very common with Leica shooters, some Contax owners also like to match their lenses either by serial (to match production period), generation (AE and MM) or country (Germany or Japan).

It should be noted that even though the lenses were made in the same year, this does not 100% ensure equal performance, and thorough testing should be undertaken to ensure solid performance and matching. However, “matching” sets can be attractive for resale purposes.

What are Yashica ML lenses?

Yashica was the Japanese company who collaborated with Zeiss on the Contax brand. Many of the greatest Japanese lenses of the 60s and 70s, including the famed Tomioka and Yashinon lenses, were made by Yashica. 

Yashica were the manufacturers of the Japanese Contax-Zeiss lenses, which of course were Zeiss-branded. But they also had their own lenses. Visually similar to the Contax Zeiss line’s housings, these Yashica ML lenses were highlighted for their “multi-layered” lens coatings. Other lenses made by Yashica are marked as “MC” (for multi-coating) and DSB (single-coated). These lenses have the same mount as Contax-Zeiss lenses and are a nice budget option for those not able to spend on more premium Zeiss glass. Please try them!

What options are there for remounting or converting Contax Zeiss lenses?

There are a number of sellers, including Simmod Lens and Leitax, who sell replacement mounts that sit atop the Contax Zeiss mount, allowing for remounting to the Canon EF mount in a way that can be easily reversed. Along with the EF conversion kit, the popular lens modding company Simmod now also offers the LPL conversion kit for Contax Zeiss lenses. If you are using mirrorless systems, lens converters are common. 

For those looking to get your lenses cinemodded by professional technicians, Duclos Lenses are amongst many other great technicians around the world!

Where can I rent Contax Zeiss lenses?

Contax Zeiss lenses are only rehoused by a small number of companies at this time. As such, only a few rental companies have Contax Zeiss glass in their inventories ready for your next big shoot. But we expect numbers to steadily increase with time.

Should I only ever pay the prices in this price guide?

A lens is only ever worth the price you are willing to pay for it. You really want a lens, but it is more than the prices you see here? That is ok! As long as you are comfortable paying a little extra to get what you want, that is perfectly fine. Just make sure that you buy responsibly and check the lens is in tip-top condition in order to warrant a tip-top price!

Written by Peter Cooper

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