VARIO SONNAR 45-90 for CONTAX 645 

Review of using the VARIO SONNAR 45-90mm(Kyocera/CONTAX) with a Leica S digital camera.

Table of contents

Gallery / Photo example from LEICA S Typ007

This lens was released in 2002, three years before the demise of the CONTAX 645. Like the DISTAGON 55mm, it is said that only a small number of units were manufactured, but there is always a supply on the used market.
The zoom range is 45mm to 90mm, which covers the standard range of 36mm to 72mm for the LEICA S.
The zoom lenses with a constant f-number may have followed the image of high-end zoom lenses from the days of manual cameras, but when used in P mode in today’s advanced electronic cameras, changing the f-number of a zoom lens is not so much of a problem, so I would be happier if the variable f-number increased the brightness on the wide-angle side. I think I would be happier if the variable F value increased the brightness of the wide-angle side of the lens. However, since this lens has twice the zoom range, even with a variable F value, it will probably stop at F3.5-4 on the wide-angle 45mm side, so a variable F value through F4.5 may not make much difference.

I had been holding off on purchasing this lens because I had the HCD35-90, but since the DISTAGON 55mm and Planar 80mm seem to be difficult to obtain due to their price, I purchased this lens in the hope that a ZEISS lens would cover that range.
The lens performed as expected, and when I checked the DNG developed images, the sharpness was on par with a single focal length, although the f-number was darker.
The lens is not an internal zoom, but the total length changes with zooming. The length change with zooming is a little irregular: the 45mm position is about 5mm longer, the 55mm position is the shortest, and the 90mm position is the longest, extending forward by about 9mm.

When used with the LEICA S typ007 + LEICA S Adapter C, the focal length is stored in the EXIF of the image file so that you can check later what focal length you shot at, giving you the same ease of use as with a modern zoom lens. Like other CONTAX 645 lenses, the autofocus speed is not very fast. There is a slight lag between turning on the power and actually being able to shoot, and sleep recovery also takes some time to establish communication between the camera and the lens.
As for the sleep mode, I often turn off the main switch when I am done using the camera, so I have never experienced a freeze on sleep mode.
When shooting with the Auto Extension tube 13mm, I used MF mode because I could not release the shutter in AF mode. In any case, the AF of LEICA S typ007 is not good at focusing when taking close-up pictures, so it is better to use MF mode when taking close-up pictures.

The HASSELBLAD HCD35-90 and LEICA VARIO ELMAR 30-90 are available as zoom lenses for medium format cameras, but the VARIO SONNAR has the narrowest focal length range.
The LEICA VARIO ELMAR has the widest zoom range of 30-90mm, the same lens size as the VARIO SONNAR, and the brightest aperture of f/3.5, making it the best spec among the three. This is thought to be due to the lens design being new and optimized for the 45*30mm digital medium-format sensor.
The reason why the focal length range of the VAIRO SONNAR 45-90 was not set to 35-90 is assumed to be due to the fact that a wide-angle 35mm lens would make the lens larger and that covering 35mm with a zoom lens would eliminate the position of the DISTAGON 35mm in the product mix. The hood is a used GB-104 hood.

As for the hood, GB-104, a dedicated hood, is scarce in the used market and expensive.
The GB-101 hood for the DISTAGON 35mm has a diameter of φ100, which is the same as the GB-104 hood, and the bayonet claw position is also the same, so it can be used to the VARIO SONNAR 45-90.
Although the GB-101 hood is not long enough for the focal length, it is better than no hood at all, so I use it outside in the daytime and in the field.


Zoom lens with a focal length of 45mm-90mm, or 35mm-72mm when used with LEICA S.
A dedicated lens hood (GB-104) is used.
The specifications of the HASSELBLAD HCD35-90 and the VARIO ELMAR 30-90 are shown in the table at right for comparison.

Lens nameCONTAX
Local length(mm)45.9〜87.536.3〜8730〜90
Max aperture4.54.5(5.6)3.5(5.6)
Min aperture323232
Lens Construction12elements in 10group13elements in 11group14elements in 11group
Min distance(m)0.50.650.65
Lens length(mm)115167113.5
Lens Max diameter(mm)102102.5101
Filter Size(mm)959595
Release dateY 2002Y 2016(Orange dot)Y2012
Y2023 Uesd ¥150,000〜
Y2023 Used ¥300,000〜
Y2023 Used ¥500,000〜

Reference links



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Post comment