Zeiss Distagon 18mm f/4 One of the oldest designs in the C/Y series but I love the rendering characteristics of this lens, the images it produces have great micro-contrast and real pop in the centre where it (mostly) counts. As a bonus it is also very compact and light. Not without weaknesses – the extreme corners do show up a little soft on the A7r and it vignettes more than some modern lenses. I also like it on an APS-C body like the A6xxx series.
Zeiss Distagon 25mm f/2.8 Another vintage design. I have the MM version, which is said to have been improved over the older AE version. Certainly in the case of my copy I do not believe it’s reputation for softness is entirely fair. I have made enough exposures to see that it’s a very capable lens on the A7r except in the very extreme corners. As an aside, if you do want sharpness above all else the Olympus OM 24/2.8 is better in that regard.
Zeiss Distagon 28mm f/2.8 A classic wide and one of the most highly regarded of all vintage manual focus 28mm wides. I found it to be an excellent lens on my Eos 1Dx and it’s proved very capable on the A7r. Like the 25mm the 28mm also is one of the lenses reported to have been improved in the AE -> MM transition.
Zeiss PC-Distagon 35mm f/2.8 Optically this lens is everything it is reputed to be. The PC-D was never made as an MM version as there is no mechanical linkage between aperture and body. Since I only use it adapted to digital this is no problem for me. The down side to this lens is really only that it is large and heavy but that is the price paid for this level of quality.
Zeiss Tessar 45mm f/2.8 A decent enough lens lens which is truly tiny when used on a Contax body. Sadly, with the adapter much of that advantage goes away when used on the adapter to Sony A7r, hence I have only really used it on my 159MM with film where it is great to have such a neat package.
Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.7 A very good lens, I have one of the late versions which are reputed to be the sharpest and I have no complaints on that score. the 1.7 seems to be slightly higher contrast than the 1.4, hence colour transitions are maybe a little more ‘modern’ looking and arguably less pleasing.
Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 The classic standard and an absolute gem of a lens, at like for like apertures it’s really quite close to the Sony/Zeiss FE 55/1.8 for sharpness, but has lower contrast and the colour transitions are a touch gentler. If I only had this Planar I’d still be very happy at 50mm.
Zeiss Makro-Planar 60mm f/2.8c Fabulous lens with AMAZING contrast, colour and 3d pop. Bought cheap with the idea of selling it on this lens is really special and has immediately joined the 18/4, 25/2.8, 50 & 85/1.4 in the indispensable category!
Zeiss Sonnar 85mm f/2.8 The f/2.8 Sonnar is a compact go anywhere lens. The sample I had made nice images, but I let it go as I have it’s big brother, the f/1.4 Planar.
Zeiss Planar 85mm f/1.4 Bigger and Heavier than the f/2.8 Sonnar it’s a long time favourite of mine. The Bokeh could be a tad harsher than with the Sonnar but the lens has a certain quality to it that I like.
Zeiss Sonnar 100mm f/3.5 The 100/3.5 Sonnar is a compact go anywhere lens very similar to the 85. The sample I had made strong images and there is no question that it’s a very nice lens but I’ve a blind spot for the 100mm focal length and would always choose the 85 or 135 ahead of it.
Zeiss Sonnar 135mm f/2.8 The 135mm Sonnar is sharp and contrasty, with really punchy colours. Solidly made, feels good in the hand and comes with a useful built in hood. Downside is CA which is actually worse than with my 80-200/4 Vario-Sonnar, limiting the 135’s usefulness.
Zeiss Sonnar 180mm f/2.8 A nice solid lens very reminiscent of the 300/4 Tele-Tessar but slightly sharper and with slightly less CA.
Zeiss Tele-Tessar 300mm f/4 I like this lens, it’s a bit of an under-rated bargain IMO. It’s big and heavy but the quality is good with surprisingly well controlled CA – considering there is no ED or aspheric glass. As always the build is superb, and like the 135 it has a handy Built in Hood.
Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 28-85mm f/3.3-4 The 28-85 is an enjoyable lens to use and has a lovely delicate colour rendering in subdued light which can be quite magical with the A7r. On the down-side it is the most flare prone of the Zeiss lenses I own.
Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 80-200mm f/4 This was a surprise. The prices are very low on this lens, for a Zeiss yet it comfortably bested my Tamron SP 70-210mm #19AH – lens which is reputed to be one of the very best Manual Focus tele-zooms and among the last Ad2 lenses discontinued.
Zeiss AF Lenses
Sony Zeiss FE Sonnar 35mm f/2.8 A good little lens which gives a nice compact but very high quality walk around camera when paired with the Sony A7r.
Sony Zeiss FE Sonnar 55mm f/1.8 A lens of very high quality which deserves ever accolade it has received in my humble opinion. I would, at time prefer the rendition of the C/Y 50/1.4 as it is a touch smoother (lower contrast) and possibly gives slightly nicer highlights.
Zeiss Sonnar 90mm f/2.8 Contax G A lens I used on my A7r with a 3rd gen Tech Art adapter. When it works it is very good and on the Sony you find a lens which is sharp and contrasty with surprisingly usable AF. Unfortunately while shooting a few portraits for a website recently the lens/adapter/camera combo let me down by constantly locking up so I can’t recommend this combo.