Good day you awesome and war torn camera geeks! If you have seen any of my YouTube videos you will hear me often say that the reason you don’t know what the next Camera Legend will be is because I don’t know and that is no truer than today!
In this posting I will give you my images and impressions on the Contax G1 and the legendary 16mm f/8 Carl Zeiss Hologon ultra-wide angle lens. But first a little bit of my experiences…
THE CONTAX G1
The Contax G1 is the original Contax G legend introduced by Kyocera in 1994. It is a high end rangefinder-styled (not a true rangefinder) autofocus, interchangeable lens camera. The camera is handsomely finished in titanium and oozed appeal from nearly all camera lovers for its luxurious looks as well as for the superb line up of Carl Zeiss lenses made for it.
The G1 was followed up in 1996 by the Contax G2 which improvements and refinements such as a higher top shutter speed. The G1’s top shutter speed is 1/2000 while the G2 is 1/6000 but the most noticeable difference between the two cameras is the improved autofocus performance of the G2.
MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE G1
I lusted for the Contax G1 the first time I saw it in the photography magazines in the 1990s but I did not get my first copy till 2005. As with most people, my first lens for it was the superb 45mm f/2 Planar. I used that combo for about a year and loved the results. However, as I do too often, I sold the outfit to buy other equipment. Don’t forget the mid 2000’s were an incredible time for digital camera development and I was bit hard by the digital bug then!
I eventually got another G1 and also a G2, and I got these when the tide was low and prices were super low on film bodies.
While the main complaint about the G1 seemed to be on its autofocus performance, I never really felt it was an issue for me. Yes, the G2 has better AF but I could live with the G1 mostly adequate autofocus and its smaller size. I mostly used the G1 with the 28mm f/2.8 Biogon and the 35mm f/2 Planar.
The 16mm Hologon was never a consideration really due to its price and rather restrictive specs. It really seemed like a specialty lens.
For those of you who prefer a more dynamic experience here it is! As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m not a videographer but I’m trying to improve the video production as you’ll see. It’s still low budget, don’t get me wrong, but I’m trying! 😍
The “Mystery” Of The Hologon
The 16mm f/8 Hologon is no mystery really. It’s out there and every hardcore Contax G user knows about it.
Where it is a “mystery” is the fact that while it’s a lens Contax G users know, it’s also the lens that few G users own. At least in my circles!
None of the Contax G users that I know personally has one. And if you go online in the forums you can also decipher that not many G users there have them either.
Why? Perhaps the same reasons I had. As mentioned before, it is the most expensive G lens and it’s also got a very specific and restrictive specs. That is, it’s very wide at 16mm and it has a fixed aperture of f/8.
That slow fixed aperture is not only hard on night photography but as I learned in my YouTube video, it’s also restrictive for bright daylight. As a person used to fast lenses and low light, I found myself overexposing shots. Trying to master this lens I feel will help me become a better photographer!
I bet most hardcore Contax G users had these same thoughts: They probably said to themselves (like I did) hmmm, I sure would love to get my hands on the Hologon! Then reason sets in and they might have said…well it’s too expensive and/or what am I going to do with a 16mm f/8 lens?
The Contax G users I know as well as the ones online usually stick with the popular and affordable G lenses such as the 45mm f/2 Planar and if they want wide they usually go for either the 28mm f/2.8 or 21mm f/2.8 Biogon. Both faster and more affordable lenses. Plus all three lenses I mentioned are much more suitable to traditional street photography.
So why did I get this lens? Because I got it for an insane deal at half price!!
Yes once in a while you find a rare deal and if you see it, and you got the funds, don’t forget as I always say in my videos (which I got from Steve Winwood!) “While You See A Chance…Take it!” 😎👍🏻
Sample Pics On Film
Here are some samples from my first roll. The film was Tri-X 400 and the developer was X-Tol. Keep in mind that this was the first time I ever used this lens so these photos are not going to be the best Hologon pics ever! I also just finished another roll but knowing the way I work, it would take another month for me to complete the video if I added those pics in. Plus it would make the video too insanely long! I’ll do another post here with those pics 😎📸👍🏻
Samples On Digital
Here are some samples taken with a Sony A7s and adapter. Be careful to make sure you do not damage your camera should you want to try this as the protruding rear element of the Hologon may hit the sensor in some camera models. As always, do your research! For comparison, I’ve also included images from the iPhone X which is around 28mm at its widest.
Price & Availability
The Carl Zeiss 16mm f/8 Hologon is still relatively easy to find and the prices are trending from $1000-1400.
It is the most expensive lens in the Contax G line, the only G lens made in Germany and the showpiece of the Contax G lens system.
The prices are very much dependent on whether or not the lens comes with the finder and/or the 4x Gradation Filter. I found both necessary but at the very least get the finder if you plan to use it on film.
What can I say? The 16mm f/8 Hologon is one of finest, most legendary lenses I’ve ever had the honor of using. I am a mere mortal. This lens is a Legend!
The 16mm Hologon is one of the few lenses that I really get excited about! Yet at the same time, it also proved to be one of the hardest lenses for me to master. Because of its wideness I had to change the way I think when it came to composing. I also had to learn how to deal with the fixed f/8 aperture.
This lens is not your every day lens! However after using it for the past few months I’ve come to appreciate even more what Contax and Carl Zeiss gave us in the 1990s and that is superb optics at the very highest levels.
If you like wide angles and think you can live with its limitations then I can recommend the Carl Zeiss 16mm f/8 Hologon as a Legend of a lens that you will cherish to have in your collection and better yet, as a lens you’ll really want to shoot!
If you can’t find the 16mm f/8 Hologon for a price you like, you are fortunate today to live in a world with many great alternatives! Here are some. Buying from these links help support this site and helps me to create more content for you. Thank you!
Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Wide Heliar
The Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 is a spectacular ultra wide angle that I have personally used. Not only is it sharp but it is also marginally wider and a lot faster than the 16mm f/8 Hologon. You can get the lens in Leica M or Leica screwmount so there’s no need for mount coversion like the Hologon.
Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6 Ultra Wide Heliar
Going even wider is the 12mm f/5.6 Ultra Wide Heliar. I have not used this lens but have always lusted for it. Images I have seen are stunning.
Voightlander 10mm f/5.6 Hyper-Wide
If you are REALLY a wide angle freak the 10mm f/5.6 Hyper-Wide has your ticket! This might be my next wide angle!