VARIO SONNAR 45-90 for CONTAX 645 

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

Table of contents


  • Photo example from LEICA S Typ007


The Vario Sonnar 45-90mm was released in 2002, three years before the demise of the CONTAX645 camera.
Like the DISTAGON 55mm, it is said that the number of units manufactured is small, but it seems like there are always a few in the used market.
The zoom range is 45mm to 90mm, and when used with LEICA S typ007, the lens covers the standard range of 36mm to 72mm.
A zoom lens with a continuous F-number may be based on the image of a high-end zoom lens from the era of manual cameras, but when used in P mode in today’s electronic camera era, the F-number of a zoom lens is I think it would be better to increase the brightness on the wide-angle side with a variable F value, since the change is not so much of a problem. However, this lens has a 2x zoom range, so even if you use a variable F value, it will probably only stop at F3.5-4 on the wide-angle 45mm side, so even if you change it to F4.5, it might not make much of a difference.

I had put off purchasing this lens because I already had an HCD35-90, but since the DISTAGON 55mm and Planar 80mm seem to be difficult to obtain due to their price, I was hoping that a ZEISS lens would cover that range. I bought it. It will overlap with the DISTAGON 45mm, but let’s ignore that.
The performance of the lens is as expected, and when you look at the image developed with DNG, the F value is dark, but the sharpness is comparable to that of a single focus lens.
The overall length of the lens changes by zooming, not by internal zoom. The length change due to zooming is a little irregular, it becomes about 5mm longer at the 45mm position, the shortest at the 55mm position, and the longest at the 90mm position, extending about 9mm forward.

When used with LEICA S typ007 +LEICA S Adapter C, the focal length remains in the EXIF of the image file, and you can check later at what focal length the image was taken, making it as easy to use as modern zoom lenses. You can get As with other CONTAX645 lenses, autofocus speed is not very fast. There is still a one-tempo lag from when you turn on the power until you can actually shoot, and it takes a little time to establish communication between the camera and lens even after returning from sleep mode.
As for returning from sleep, I often turn off the main switch when I’m done using it, so I’ve never had it freeze when returning from sleep.
When taking pictures using the Auto Extension tube 13mm, the shutter could not be released in AF mode, so I used MF mode. In any case, the LEICA S typ007’s AF is not good at focusing when taking close-up shots, so it is better to use MF when taking close-up shots.

There are zoom lenses for medium format cameras such as HASSELBLAD HCD35-90 and LEICA VARIO ELMAR 30-90, but VARIO SONNAR has the narrowest focal length range.
HASSELBLAD HCD35-90 is large and heavy. LEICA VARIO ELMAR has a wide zoom range of 30-90mm, the lens size is the same as VARIO SONNAR, and the aperture is bright at F3.5, making it the best spec of the three. This is likely due to the new lens design and the fact that it is optimized for a 45*30mm digital medium format sensor.
The reason why the focal length range of VAIRO SONNAR 45-90 was not set to 35-90 was because the wide-angle 35mm lens would make the lens larger, and if a zoom lens covered 35mm, the DISTAGON 35mm would lose its position in terms of product composition. I assume that this lens spec was chosen based on this consideration.

The hood is a special GB-104, and there are few on the used market, so the price is high.
I got a new dead stock GB-104 on June 2, 2023. It’s a shame that I can’t use it since there are no scratches, but I think I’ll try it outdoors someday.
GB-101 for DISTAGON 35mm has a hood diameter of φ100, is the same as GB-104, and has the same bayonet claw position, so it can be used. The hood length of the GB-101 is not long enough in terms of focal length, but it’s better than nothing, so I use it outdoors during the day.


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

Update history

  • 2024.03.04:update
  • 2023.06.25:First draft

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