The “Hollywood-Distagon” 2/28 is one of the few lenses with a nickname. It is an adapted cinematic lens design for the Contax SLR cameras, but does it’s performance live up to the cool nickname?
- Diameter: 62.5mm
- Length: 76mm
- Weight: 530g
- Filter Diameter: 55mm
- Number of Aperture Blades: 6
- Elements/Groups: 9/8
- Close Focusing Distance: 25cm
- Mount: Zeiss C/Y
More information in Zeiss’ official data sheet (german).
The younger MM version usually sells for a little bit more than the older AE version.
There are two versions of the Zeiss Distagon 2.0/28 T* for Contax.
The older AEG-version introduced in the mid 70’s won’t allow program and shutter-priority with film cameras. The younger MM-version can be identified by the green color of the f/22 marking.
This review is about the AEG-version of the lens which was made in Germany. Unlike some other Contax lenses, the 2/28 only has Ninja-star shaped aperture blades at f/2.8. The other stops are not affected and don’t show Ninja-star shaped aperture blades.
Some people claim that the coatings and the optical design have been improved when the MM version was introduced but I couldn’t find any reliable source to back it up. Zeiss still services the MM version but not the AEG version.
One largely unknown version of this lens is the Pentax branded clone SMC Pentax 2/28 for the Pentax K-Mount, a result of an only 12 month lasting partnership between Zeiss and Pentax.
The later Zeiss Z-Series Distagon T* 2/28 for DSLR-cameras is based on this lens. The differences are discussed at the FM Forum.
Build quality is superb and the lens feels amazingly solid. All Contax Zeiss lenses have top notch build quality, among the best of all legacy lenses.
The barrel is made of metal with very tight tolerances. Both focus and aperture ring are rubberized and easy to grip. All markings are engraved.
Size, Weight and Handling
The Zeiss Distagon 2.0/28 is pretty long but thin for a 28mm lens and reminds me of slow tele lenses like the Sonnar 3.5/100. It is a bit front heavy on the Sony A7II. The weight of this lens is 530g which is nearly twice the weight of the Distagon 2.8/28. Compared to it’s smaller brother, the Distagon 2.0/28 is also 26mm longer. Both lenses share the same diameter.
The focusing ring travels about 100 degrees from 0.25m to infinity. The transmission is reasonable, but a bit steeper than the transmission of the 2.8/28. Focusing was a joy at every distance. The focusing feels very precise.
The aperture ring has full stops from f/2.0 to f/22. It is possible to select half-stops between the clicks. In my opinion, the Zeiss C/Y aperture Rings are the nicest aperture rings for photographers. Resistance is just right and every stop very distinctive.
Despite the weight and the length with an adapter, the handling of the Distagon 2.0/28 is flawless.
I don’t own a hood for the Distagon 2.0/28 but according to mir.com there were two different hoods: The Metal Lens Hood No.1 and the Soft Lens Shade 55mm G-12.
The 55mm filter thread is made from metal. The front of the lens does not rotate so polarizers are easy to use.
Vignetting wide open is very pronounced. At f/2.0 it is 2.7 EV. Stopped down to f/5.6, the vignetting is reduced to a value of 0.9 EV.
The Distagon 2/28 shows a small amount of barrel distortion, a setting of +4 corrects it very well in Lightroom.
I took this aperture series with the Sony A7R.
f/2: Good contrast and sharpness in the center. The mid-zones show a visible dip in sharpness, the corners suffer from astigmatism and spherical aberrations.
f/2.8: Contrast and sharpness in the center are excellent, the rest of the image is slightly improved.
f/4: The midrame improves dramatically, the corner contrast is improved.
f/5.6: Excellent in the center and in the midframe region with very good contrast. The corners show good sharpness.
f/8: Excellent sharpness in the center and in the midframe region. Very good contrast across the frame. The corners show very good sharpness
f/11: A little softer and less contrasty across the frame due to diffraction.
I’d prefer f/8 for landscape photography. Great contrast and sharpness across the frame.
f/2: Good resolution but low contrast
f/2.8-f/5.6: Excellent sharpness and contrast in the center.
Thank’s to floating elements, the close up performance of this lens is very good. At f/2.0 the resolutionis decent but the contrast is very low. This gives the images a dreamy look, just look at the whole image under the crops. Contrast and sharpness improve significantly at f/2.8 from where they are on an excellent level.
The Distagon shows a significant amount of field curvature. The plane of focus is comparable to a sphere around the camera. The extreme corners are focused significantly behind the center which will result in a greater subject isolation towards the edges (in comparison to a lens fith a very flat field of view). The impression of depth of field is more shallow than the f/2 value may suggest. This property of the lens defines it’s character and is great for close-up photography with shallow depth of field since it conveys a three dimensional impression.
Nevertheless, this attribute is challenging when it comes to landscape shots. Careful focusing is needed to achieve even sharpness across the frame stopped down.
Lateral CAs are moderate in the extreme corners. 75% of the image is mostly free from lateral CAs. Here is a corner crop:
Longitudinal CAs are low for a fast lens like this although it is possible to find some if you do the paper test:
In a real life situations, loCAs are not very pronounced. The sample below shows that in a nice way.
The Distagon 2.0/28 has two faces when it comes to the bokeh. At closer distances it has a creamy and dreamy look, which is outstanding for a lens from that time. Other sample images in this review confirm that impression.
However, with mid-distance subjects and distant backgrounds, the bokeh suffers a bit. The situation below is exemplary for that:
The 100%-crop of the bokeh shows more pronounced lines, I would rate it as neutral.
Although the aperture blades show a ninja star shape at f/2.8, I can’t find an image where that shape is reflected in the bokeh balls. They are very soft and simply not well defined at that aperture. Stopped down, the bokeh balls take on a hexagonal shape.
Sunstars & Flare Resistance
The Zeiss Distagon 2.0/28 only has 6 aperture blades so sunstars only have 6 strokes. Their shape is never very defined although they are quite visible at f/11. The sunstars don’t differ much from the ones that are found in the Distagon 2.8/28.
Thanks to effective T*-coatings, I could not find significant veiling flare. Ghosting is visible, although the size of the artifacts is nice to handle. In general, I would rate the flare resistance as very good.
The following image is exemplary for both phenomenons:
Coma & Astrophotography
The Zeiss Distagon 2.0/28 shows significant coma at f/2.0 and f/2.8. It is greatly improved at f/4 and mostly gone at f/5.6.
Due to it’s bad coma performance, low corner sharpness wide open and the high vignetting, I don’t recommend this lens for astrophotography.
Regarding the optical performance of the “Hollywood”-Distagon 2/28, there are lots of pros and cons.
It’s not a perfect landscape lens due to the significant field curvature, weight, lateral CA and odd sunstars. But since it is quite sharp across the frame and not very susceptible to flare I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for landscape photography when it is in my bag.
The high coma and vignetting limit it’s usefulness for astrophotography although it’s a pretty fastlens.
The build quality is impressive but the lens is also quite long and heavy.
If you ask me whether the Contax Zeiss Distagon 2/28 is so special that it deserves the cool “Hollywood” nickname my answer is yes. Not because it’s perfection but due to it’s imperfections. Many people are asking for “character lenses” these days and the Distagon 2/28 is definitely one of them.
The dreamy bokeh wide open, the field curvature which reduces the depth of field towards the corners, the good close-up performance, the great colors and the good flare resistance make this lens predestined for close-up wideangle photography with shallow depth of field. The Distagon 2/28 is an expert lens for that purpose and can create images with high plasticity and three dimensional rendering. If this is your style of photography, this lens is for you.
The downside of this quality and it’s cool nickname is, that is has many fans which are willing to pay quite a lot for it. Therefore it is quite rare and has got a hefty price tag. It is probably one of the most expensive 28mm legacy lenses, only surpassed by some Leicas.
If you are just looking for a nice general purpose 28mm lens and don’t do much photography with shallow depth of field, there are other more economic options.
Contax Zeiss Distagon 2.8/28 – This lens has a lot in common with it’s bigger brother. The stopped down corner performance seems to be a tad worse, the close up performance is also worse due to the lack of floating elements and the close up bokeh is not nearly as spectacular. On the other hand, you get the same contrast/sharpness across the frame and top notch build quality in a much smaller and lighter package at a fraction of the cost.
Sony FE 2.0/28 – This lens is probably the most obvious and appealing alternative. It has half the size and less than half the weight of the Distagon 2.0/28. It has autofocus and transmits EXIF data. Stopped down, it has great corner perfomance and a nice bokeh wide open at half the price of the Distagon 2.0/28. Obviously, this an easy choice and most users will buy that lens. Nevertheless, when it comes to real images, I must admit that I personally prefer the rendering of the Contax lens. The colors seem to be more vivid, the contrast is higher and the amount of loCA is lower. The images have more plasticity while the Sony lens looks slightly flat to me.
Voigtländer Ultron 2.0/28 – Equally to the Distagon 2.0/28, the Ultron 2.0/28 suffers from field curvature (at least on Sony A7 cameras). The difference is, that the plane of sharpness of that lens bends forward towards the corners which gives a much different look and a less pronounced subject isolation. Apart from that, the Ultron has got nice bokeh, lovely sun stars, comes in a much smaller and lighter package and offers decent sharpness stopped down (although there is a midzone dip, even at f/5.6).
Pentax K SMC 3.5/28 – Unquestioned, the Distagon 2.0/28 is a better alround lens but this could be a better alternative if you look for a landscape lens. It has high contrast, less field curvature, less loCA and great flare resistance.
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32 thoughts on “Review: Contax Zeiss Distagon 2.0/28 T* AEG (C/Y)”
Just an FYI: your link to the Zeiss data sheet goes to the f/2.8 version rather than the f/2 Distagon that you’re reviewing here.
Thanks Mike, I have just fixed it.
Be great to find how similar the Z series 28/2 is. It’s no much more expensive new with warranty where I live…
Hi David, I have linked the FM-discussion in the article for that. They are basically the same although some people claim that it has lost some of its magic (3D) in the Z-Series.
Yeah I read the thread. Didn’t seem to be anyone who had really had real experience of both. The field curvature is much the same on the ZE/F according to various sources, so the 3D (and the need to compromise focus at infinity) should be the same. Certainly the block diagram looks very similar, but there are a lot of details that could be hiding.
Very tempted to try out the ZE. Only slight hassle is that for enviro portraiture, AF is handy. But then I don’t think anyone will make a modern AF with this much field curvature again (for better and for worse!)
My C/Y Distagon 2/28mm is an AE version “Made in West Germany”, that should mean at Oberkochen Germany, and it should obtain an service there, if required!
The newer MM Version should be serviced by the TRITEC Service Company, in order from KYOCERA Japan!
what du you think about olympus OM 2/28?
(-in comparison to other 28s-)
I haven’t used mine a lot but it has very funky bokeh at f/2 and isn’t very sharp. Stopped down the corners never really sharpen up. What I like is the bokeh and sharpness at f/4. I got mine for cheap but I don’t think I will keep it.
For your interest and “Alternatives”, though I haven’t tried either, is the SMC Pentax “K” 28/2, made to the exact same design as the Distagon reviewed here, (though with SMC Coatings, not T* of course), when Zeiss and Pentax briefly “co-operated” before Zeiss “linked” with Yashica.
A couple of links below:
He mentioned it in the “Versions” section of the article.
I just wanted to point out that, since the Ebay link Jannik gave doesn’t distinguish: the Pentax-M and Pentax-A 28/2 lenses do _not_ have the same optical formula, and are not held in such high regard, as the original Pentax “K” 28/2 lens (it was just called “smc Pentax”; the “K” is a convention users came up with after the fact to distinguish from the later M, A, F, FA, DA, and D FA lines).
One of above links “misfired”, here is the correct one:
I’am very surprised when I compare my results with this lens and yours!
On your streetpictures with f2 for example I miss the strong fieldcurvature, where in case of the sitting man at the busstation the left part of the station would be strongly out of focus compared to the center and that would be visible in the scharpness pattern on the street on the right side: not here however?!
Further, even at f 11 my corners are not sharp at all, I have to crop 1/8 off the picture to achieve that. And that is what I have seen on some examples on flickr too.
And how can it be that at some pictures the exifdata give the aperture value?
I think there is another alternative for Zeiss. It’s Zuiko OM 28mm f2.
I own one and I would disagree with you. Super nervous bokeh wide open and mush corners even at f/11
And have you any experience with the 28 f/2 Rokkor?
I was looking for the Pentax version of this lens but ended up buying the Zeiss version. I am very impressed with it. Centre sharpness is superb from f2.8 (and very good wide open) At f8 its sharp across the frame.
One of it’s strengths is the close focusing: I would guess it is about 1:4 at it’s closest focus distance. It is superb for shooting close-ups. It’s now probably my favourite legacy prime lens. I also have a Pentax K 28mm f3.5, which I rate very highly, but overall the Zeiss is a much more versatile lens.
Hi friend, I/m confused between zeiss 28mm 2.0 and sony fe 28mm 2.0
I love the 28mm field of view that gives you that “beautifully Asymmetric/You are there” feel. With decent subject isolation, it drags you into a point deep in the image. The batis is 25mm and hence I’m not really interested in it. I’m stuck at deciding between the FE 28mm, the zeiss 28mm 2.8 and zeiss 28mm 2.0 (or any other option, preferrably under 1000 dollars, or atleast under 2000$). Since this is the view I’ll be using a lot (and the camera themselves are expensive), I’m not worried much about the price as much as I’m worried about the performance. I’m confused between the FE 28mm, Zeiss 28mm 2.8 and Zeiss 28mm 2.0. I lurk around flickr, vimeo, review places like yours and youtube looking at photos to see what works for my mood, so all of my opinions are based only on that.
An example of a video I love taken from sony FE 28mm:
Do you think such ones are possible out of zeiss (either the 2.8 or 2.0), in terms of field of view and looks. I couldn’t find much videos taken on the zeiss (other 28mm in general)
The problem I see with the FE is that for photos, It gives less of that 28mm feel I love compared to the zeiss lens (yet somehow work good for video). It’s not bad per say, just that I get a better feel from most of the zeiss photos as compared to the sony. The sony gives somewhat like a 30 or 35mm look (or like a mild crop over the 28mm), as opposed to the 28mm look (maybe that’s why it looks cuter for vidoes, but I’ll still have a 35-70mm lens for that). The hit rate on the photos I like from sony is lesser as I scroll through flickr. Am I looking at the wrong photos, or is it that the high distortion correction makes it look that way (it’s more like a 26mm without distortion correction I guess)?
Photos I like from zeiss:
Photos I like from sony:
I see that the distagon 2.0 has really good sharpness throughout and the distortion is also well controlled (slightly more than distagon 2.8), except for some fringing which is okay I guess. Not sure how vignetting compares but zeiss looks perfect from f/4. I also see that the lens here is a CY mount, which is hard to find. Any idea how the newer zeiss for nikon F mount available on bhphotovideo (ZF.2 I guess), performs on a7 cameras (would be easier since the other 105mm lens would also be of the same mount I guess). I’ll have to hunt for CY mount but it’ll also be fine I guess since the 35-70mm shares the same mount.
I am looking to get either a7rIII or a7siii (if it has 4K 60Fps when it launches, waiting). I’m into street photography, long exposures and a little bit of portrait. For videos I’m into first person view/adventures like beaches, roller coaster ride etc. So I’m 100% fine with manual focusing. While I do enjoy depth of field, I’m more into sharper image with nice 3d feeling colours (and free of aberrations). The other lens I’d be getting are the contax 35-70mm 3.4 and nikon 105mm AiS 2.5.
Thanks. Sorry for long post.
oops, I made a mistake. The last 2 images are not Zeiss. I copied from the 35mm favorites.
Oh.. Now that I went through my favourite photos on Flickr again, I finally realised that I am actually a fan of the field curvature. Thanks a lot for mentioning it in the review. I now learnt about my most favourite look (you can call it aberration) for photos. That is what gives the 3d feel. Yes it’s a compromise, but if I really wanted to shoot landscapes I would have been going even wider (and I don’t shoot landscapes). The picture of the bicycle you took looks wonderful. The field curvature goes away when stopped down right?
So Zeiss 28mm f/2 ZF.2 it is. Is the ZF the same as the CY, and pairs well with the a7 cameras right?
It’s pretty much the same from what I can tell, and I’ve read all the forum posts and reviews I can find. The Z versions may have better coatings, and some people report that the C/Y versions have more neutral colors.
It pairs well with an A7 series camera but with the exception of the far corners, which will show aberrations even at f8. It won’t really affect environmental portraiture, though.
Thanks for the nice review. You, and other people, noticed a strong field curvature with this lens. But can you get sharp corners at f/2.0 if you focus there? Or are the corners always blurry whatever the focusing point?
there is another version, the Rollei 2/28 in QBM so far as I know is the same exact lens. It was sold at a period when the SL line was no longer being manufactured and thus there aren’t many copies of it.
The way this lens renders when f5.6 or higher has a bit of a wavy nature:
The sharpness tests goes from center, to the lens absolute weakest spot near 14mm from the center (mid frame) to then the extreme corner after 21mm diagonal, where the sharpness drops brutally (and abruptly).
The scene features very low contrast scene with very low contrast brown, which in general is very de-saturated and also generally darker. The features of the trees are way smaller than the resolution of the camera. This also makes the sharpness test even worst, as a single pixel would get light partially from the tree part but also from the background. Back to the very small contrast pale darker brown, which is more intense in red and green, all the very weak frequencies also imply the resolution seen is not very representative. First, there’s the very low contrast already, then the long wavelength which is usually the one most affected.
And last, in these very unfortunate test, you have very important atmospheric factors that will affect even further results, as things further away (ie. and in a wide angle this is so much exacerbated due to the wider angle of view) these factor may be playing a very big role outside the lens itself.
The lens is a dream to use at very close distances, for portraits, etc. I think the selection of subjects and test photos could represent mode what this lens is best for.
Lastly, it seems from the photo the lens itself may not be with very clean glass. It’s not easy to tell just from the photos, but it seems as having haze or not being very clean glass inside.
All in all, I think this review shows the absolute worst you can get from this lens, zooms into that, in all aspects and in the worst conditions possible way (ie. many even outside the lens itself). While unintended, I think anyone reading this lens would benefit from doing additional research. Not for no reason was this lens used in films, and inherited a name that so many other lenses could have (it’s not at all the first lens in PL and other film mounts, especially for Zeiss glass). However, none of those got the nickname, and this one did. So it must have some reason why this one ended with the flattering name.
I was told that only AEG version of 28 f2 can be called ‘Hollywood’ not MMJ. Is this right?
It’s only a nick-name so there’s no real fact of the matter. Any of the C/Y 2/28 lenses look very similar as the optics didn’t change, and often both are called ‘Hollywood”.
Some people also call the Zeiss Classic Zx 2/28 “Hollywood” too, as it is said by some to be an improvement on the same basic design. Maybe that’s going too far. But as I said, there’s no real fact of the matter.
The design of the Distagon 1: 2/28 mm originates – according to the known sources – from the Rollei QBM era, the calculation was made by Erhard Glatzel in the mid-1970s (probably 1973) unchanged for the Contax / Yashica bayonet ported. The basic optical construction is based on a Carl Zeiss lens for professional cinema cameras. Therefore (and because of the very pleasing bokeh) the lens enjoys the nickname “Hollywood”.
Finally picked up my pentax version of this lens an I am super impressed with it. Sharper than. My pentax k and m 35 f2 wide open and I sort of like the softer contrast at f2. My version has slightly sticky aperture blades but that doesn’t effect me on my Sony A7ii.
Thanks for the review! Just a quick question regarding this statement:
“The plane of focus is comparable to a sphere around the camera. The extreme corners are focused significantly behind the center which will result in a greater subject isolation towards the edges […].”
If the focus plane is spherical with the camera being in the center, would objects in the corner that are in the same distance as the object in the center not be pushed behind the focus plane? In other words, the focus distance in the corners would be shorter than in the center. Then it would appear that the corners were focused significantly before the center, not behind it as the text says.
While writing this, I was thinking that one could simulate this with a Minolta MD 24/2.8 VFC and its ability to choose the field curvature. Never tried it with mine. 🙂
I own the Pentax version and the vivitar (komine) 28 f2 close focus and on full frame I notice very little difference between the two other then coatings.