[Carl Zeiss] Planar 85mm f1.4, legenary portrait lens

85mm f1.4 Planar from Carl Zeiss is very effective and powerful portrait lens since its debut in 1973. It was regarded as the standard lens of portrait for a long time

Planar Proto type grad 900px.jpg

Started from Proto type as above, then released slightly different configuration for Rolleiflex SL35.

This lens has very unique ‘triangle aperture’ which can be found only Rolleiflex and Contarex mount. Of course the lens makes triangle bokeh too.

2nd release of 85mm f1.4 was for Contarex camera, the flagship of Zeiss Ikon and optical design is identical with Rolleiflex Planar. Looking from outside, Contarex lens has different lens barrel and aperture control mechanism. But internally they are the same and both have the triangle aperture. Total production of Contarex Planar 85mm is about 500 (to be verified), so it is very scarce and price sky rocket. Better to leave off for collectors. Rolleiflex Planar HFT 85mm f1.4 is not common also, produced about 3,300 units but far more than Contarex’s 85/1.4 thus not attract collector’s attention (yet)

Planar Rollei_Contarex grad 900px.jpg

After shut down Zeiss Ikon factory, trade mark ‘Contax’ transferred to Japanese company, Yashica (later merged to Kyocera). And they release 85mm f1.4 Planar lens for their Contax RTS camera. But the lens lost its unique triangle aperture. Contax Planar 85mm has more ordinary 8 blade aperture. Triangle aperture never revived to newer design since then….



2015 Jan 08

The Planar lens for Contax RTS seems to be the same optical design with previous ones, Rolleiflex and Contarex. This is not 100% confirmed but I don’t have any other information which tells Contax Planar is different, so I believe it is highly reasonable assumption.

On the other hand, AF version Planar for Contax N mount is completely different lens. It’s optical configuration is much complex than manual lens, almost looks like zoom lens. The lens element (4,5) work as floating elements for internal focusing. 85mm f1.4 lens is heavy stuff due to large lens elements and lens barrel need to move longer distance to focus than standard lens. AF speed inevitably influenced by these facts, so some 85mm lenses, especially Canon 85/1.2 is notorious for slow AF, despite its unparalleled rendition on portraits.

Floating elements is a solution for this issue. AF mechanism moves internal floating elements (typically 1 or 2 components) in short distance. Therefore AF is quicker and drain less current from battery. Challenge of this method is mechanical tolerance and accuracy of focusing mechanism which requires about 10 times higher than ordinary focusing method.

Planar Contax ND AF 900px.jpg


Latest Planar 85mm is made for modern DSLRs, e.g. Nikon, Canon, Pentax as below. The lens is optimized further but overall layout is similar with old Planar. There is not many thing to improve from old design & proves original design was excellent from the beginning.

Planar ZF grad 900px.jpg



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