Cine-Modding Contax Zeiss lenses

For a few weeks, I scoured antique stores and searched online for vintage Contax Zeiss lenses that would provide some more character to my set. Then, I decided to cine-mod them myself to save a few bucks, since I didn't care about de-clicking them. Hopefully, my experience (good and bad) will help you in your cine-modding endeavors. 

Purchasing

When you begin looking for places to buy your new set of used lenses (I'm aware of the irony in that sentence), you're probably going to end up feeling pretty overwhelmed. Luckily, there is a great resource on reduser.net that can help you out. It's the most in-depth source of information you will find on these Contax Zeiss lenses. 

Once you've done your research and know what you want, it's time to get buying. I purchased all of my lenses through eBay, but websites like keh.com may provide a better overall experience. When buying from eBay you will want to:

Inspect the Lens! The most important thing to note is that the listing say's, No Haze, No Fungus, and No Scratches. Dust in an old lens is perfectly fine and normal, but haze, fungus, and scratches will accumulate if the lenses were not cared for properly. Haze, in particular, is a tricky one to catch. The majority of ebay sellers don't actually know what haze is or how to look for it. Sellers will post photo's that look fine, but until you shine a strong light into the lens you won't know if it has haze. The glass in their photo's might look pristine but that doesn't mean its going to be under inspection. The first lens I received looked like this under a light. 

It was like pulling teeth to get the return. The seller didn't speak English very well, so he thought listing the item "sold as is," meant "no returns" and if the item didn't match the description then too bad because it's "sold as is." This highlights the importance of what I mentioned before. Make sure the lens is listed as having "No Haze, Fungus, or Scratches" or you might find yourself stuck with a lens you're less than thrilled with. 

The Cine-Mod

Now that you have gone through the most difficult process, it's time for the fun part. You've got all of the lenses in front of you and they're looking so fine! Problem is you can't mount them and they are essentially very pretty doorstops. You're going to need to change that and this is where Leitax.com comes to the rescue. Hands down, they sell the best permanent mounts on the market. Once fitted, you will feel like the lens were originally made that way. On the Leitax site, look for the Contax for Canon tab at the top. Pull up this list:  Lens Adapters. This will help make sure you order the correct mounts. They ship from Spain, so you'll want to order all the adapters at the same time. I made the rookie mistake of having multiple shipments and the price added up fast. Also you will want to order them with the upgraded shipping option like he recommends, it's worth the extra few bucks. 

Once the adapters show up, it's time to get your tools ready and jump in. Leitax also has PDF's explaining, with photo's, how to put on the adapters. The most helpful thing I found for this process was having a small magnetized screwdriver. Every screw is tiny on these lenses and having this screwdriver sped up the process. Also make sure the environment is prepared. I put up a flex light and set a towel on the table so if a screw fell it wouldn't roll away. 

Now that you have you're adapters on you can finally put them on your camera of choice and test them out! But if you want to finish the Cine-Mod you will need to get some solid follow focus gears. You can purchase some cheap ones on Amazon that will get the job done, but if you want to make your new lens a cinema lens you will want a semi-permanent option.

I went with Cordvision follow focus gears since they offered custom molds and also sell 80mm front adapters for a variety of lenses. Although, Cordvision ships from outside of the USA, so be prepared for a wait. Out of this whole cine-modding process, attaching the gears was probably the most intimidating part. This is because custom fit gears will not fit onto the lenses right out of the box. They must be heated up first, and as they cool they will shrink onto the lens. This means you put them into the oven, they heat up, you take them out and have about 30 seconds to get them leveled onto the lens exactly where you want them before they are permanently mounted...no pressure, haha. Cordvision will send instructions with the rings.

Once you get through this process and the gears are on, you will be super happy with the results. They don't budge. I've tried them with wireless follow focuses and haven't had any issues; It's like the lenses were made for cinema. I would highly recommend Leitax and Cordvision if you're wanting to mod, although I'm sure there are some good alternatives out there.

Conclusion

If you are wanting to cine-mod for yourself to save some money, or because it's super fun, then I would say go for it! But if this all makes you a little too uncomfortable, I would say just send your lenses over to Duclos Lenses. They can do whatever type of Mod you need, including de-clicking the lens.