Carl Zeiss C/Y Distagon T* 18mm F/4 [AE, MM]

Ultra-wide angle prime lens • Film era • Discontinued


C/Y (Unofficial acronym) The lens is designed for Contax RTS series 35mm film SLR cameras.
T* Multi-layer anti-reflection coating is applied to the surfaces of lens elements. This anti-reflection coating boosts light transmission, ensures sharp and high contrast images, minimizes ghosting and flares.

Features highlight

Extreme AoV


Production details
Production status: Discontinued
Original name:Carl Zeiss Distagon 4/18 T*
System:Contax/Yashica (1975)
Optical design
Focal length:18mm
Maximum format:35mm full frame
Mount and Flange focal distance:Contax/Yashica [45.5mm]
Diagonal angle of view:100.5°
Lens construction:10 elements in 9 groups
Floating element system
Closest focusing distance:0.3m
Maximum magnification:<No data>
Focusing modes:Manual focus only
Manual focus control:Focusing ring
Diaphragm mechanism
Diaphragm type:Automatic
Aperture control:Aperture ring (Manual settings only)
Number of blades:6 (six)
Physical characteristics
Maximum diameter x Length:⌀70×51.5mm
Filters:Slip-on 70mm
Lens hood:Not available
Teleconverters:Carl Zeiss Mutar T* 2X I (AE) → 36mm F/8
Sources of data
1. Manufacturer's technical data.
2. Contax/Yashica 35mm SLR Camera System booklet (177 pages).
3. Contax system accessories & lenses booklet.
4. The finest optics by ZEISS: interchangeable photographic lenses with Contax/Yashica mount booklet (October 1975).
5. Contax Real Time Photography booklet (PUB. CXS-GB).
6. Contax Real Time System booklet (PUB. CX-28 GB).
7. Contax System brochure (PUB. CX-Sys GB) (May 1995).
8. Contax Carl Zeiss T* (T-Star) Wechselobjektivsystem brochure (in German).
9. Contax Real Time Photography booklet (PUB. CXS2-D, in German).
10. Contax Real Time System booklet (PUB. CXRTS-D, in German).
11. Das Contax System booklet (in German) (1994).
12. Das Contax System booklet (PUB. CX-Sys D, in German) (September 1996).
13. Contax 139 Quartz booklet (in German).
14. Contax Aria booklet.
15. Contax AX booklet (in German).
16. Contax RTS III booklet (in German).
17. Contax RX booklet (in German).
18. Contax S2 booklet.
19. Yashica FX-1 instruction booklet (June 1975).
20. Yashica FX-3 instruction manual.
21. Contax RTS II Quartz booklet.
22. Yashica/Contax Confidential Dealer Price List No. 10 (January 1980).

Manufacturer description

This Distagon® lens with an angular field of 100º has a time-honoured design. Its special features are excellent image quality, a good distortion correction unexpected in this type of lens and an exceptionally compact design.

This lens provides the same image quality as the well-known and time-tried design when photographing subjects at a long-distance. New, however, is the design of the focusing system. When the lens is focused to short distances, the positions of the lens groups change in relation to each other. This counteracts the loss in image quality in the outer zones of the image and extends the useful range of the lens to 0.3 m.

Filters: clip-on 70 mm, or 86mm with 70/86 ring.

From the article "CONTAREX AND CONTAX RTS: COMPARING THE LENSES" (ZEISS HISTORICA, Volume 14 Number 1, Spring 1992)

The 18mm Distagon f4 [for the Contarex] that came on the market in 1968 was a great success even at that time. To attain a distortion-corrected field of view of 100 degrees in a retrofocus lens was quite an achievement.

In their construction, the Contax and Contarex lenses appear to be absolutely identical. But the Contax lens has an improved fine correction that affects its imaging performance. This lens also demonstrates a change in correction philosophy which has taken place. At the time of the Contarex, one was content to optimize the lens for reproducing distant objects. Today, one also can better control images in the close range - thanks to modern computers and programming.

The 18mm Distagon f4 for the Contax is not focused by an overall lens adjustment, but merely by repositioning the front element. In this way, too great a refraction of the tangential image lap is avoided, and close range image quality in the field of view is noticeably improved.

From the Modern Photography magazine

This ultra wide angle has a 100° diagonal angle of view. It's the widest wide-angle lens Contax/Yashica owners can buy - the next step is a 16mm full-frame fisheye. Compared with other lenses in this category, this Distagon is of average size - not larger or heavier than most. When judging wide-angle lens performance there are two important aspects to consider: the amount of vignetting that occurs, and sharpness, especially at the corners. The somewhat slow maximum aperture of f/4 helps alleviate inherent vignetting problems. At f/5.6, in the extreme corners, illumination is only 1.1 stop less than at center, well within laboratory tolerances. Zeiss utilized a floating-element design in this Distagon optical system, thus improving image sharpness at the corners in shots at close subject distances, as our tests verified.

At a working focal length of 18mm, picture taking can generate perspective distortion problems. In outdoor pictures, the subjects near the edges of the picture showed the typical swollen, pulled-out look. But scenics and long-range shots with few straight lines were exceptionally clear. The image clarity in color transparencies taken with this lens belie the fact that they were taken with an 18mm ultra-wide· angle lens.

From the editor

The lens was designed to be used with the special slip-on 70/86 ring. The lens itself has no filter thread, so the 70/86 ring uses suction to stay attached. You attach an 86mm filter to the outer side of the ring. Contax made a 86mm lens cap, so the lens, ring, filter and two cap set can always be stored and carried intact.

There is no special lens hood, so you need to be aware of the position of the sun and other bright light sources when you are shooting with this lens.

This lens set up is not tiny or light, especially with the step-up ring and filter (350g plus ring and filter), but it is not so huge or heavy that you can't carry it around for even occasional use.


  • The AE version can be distinguished from the MM version by the green minimum aperture setting on the aperture ring.

Typical application


Slow full-frame ultra-wide angle prime lens • Professional model

Professional model

  • Combination of focal length and speed meets professional demands
  • Compatible with teleconverters

Genres or subjects of photography (5):

Landscapes • Cityscapes • Buildings • Interiors • Travel photography

Adaptation to digital SLR cameras:

Canon EOS SLRsSigma SD SLRsSony SLRs/SLTsPentax SLRsNikon SLRsMore information

Not adaptable

In order to adapt the lens, the flange focal distance (FFD) of the lens mount must be equal to or greater than the FFD of the camera mount. This lens has the Contax/Yashica mount with a FFD of 45.5mm. This is even shorter than the FFD of Canon EOS digital SLR cameras, which have the shortest FFD of 44mm of any modern digital SLR cameras. Therefore, this lens cannot be adapted to any digital SLR camera.

Recommended slowest shutter speed when shooting static subjects handheld:

1/20th of a second

Alternatives in the Contax/Yashica system

Sorted by focal length and speed, in ascending order

Lenses with similar focal length

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Table of contents
Pros and cons
Technical data
Carl Zeiss C/Y series lenses (48)

Copyright © 2012-2023 Evgenii Artemov. All rights reserved. Translation and/or reproduction of website materials in any form, including the Internet, is prohibited without the express written permission of the website owner.

35mm full frame

43.27 24 36
  • Dimensions: 36 × 24mm
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Diagonal: 43.27mm
  • Area: 864mm2


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Image stabilizer

A technology used for reducing or even eliminating the effects of camera shake. Gyro sensors inside the lens detect camera shake and pass the data to a microcomputer. Then an image stabilization group of elements controlled by the microcomputer moves inside the lens and compensates camera shake in order to keep the image static on the imaging sensor or film.

The technology allows to increase the shutter speed by several stops and shoot handheld in such lighting conditions and at such focal lengths where without image stabilizer you have to use tripod, decrease the shutter speed and/or increase the ISO setting which can lead to blurry and noisy images.

Original name

Lens name as indicated on the lens barrel (usually on the front ring). With lenses from film era, may vary slightly from batch to batch.


Format refers to the shape and size of film or image sensor.

35mm is the common name of the 36x24mm film format or image sensor format. It has an aspect ratio of 3:2, and a diagonal measurement of approximately 43mm. The name originates with the total width of the 135 film which was the primary medium of the format prior to the invention of the full frame digital SLR. Historically the 35mm format was sometimes called small format to distinguish it from the medium and large formats.

APS-C is an image sensor format approximately equivalent in size to the film negatives of 25.1x16.7mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2.

Medium format is a film format or image sensor format larger than 36x24mm (35mm) but smaller than 4x5in (large format).

Angle of view

Angle of view describes the angular extent of a given scene that is imaged by a camera. It is used interchangeably with the more general term field of view.

As the focal length changes, the angle of view also changes. The shorter the focal length (eg 18mm), the wider the angle of view. Conversely, the longer the focal length (eg 55mm), the smaller the angle of view.

A camera's angle of view depends not only on the lens, but also on the sensor. Imaging sensors are sometimes smaller than 35mm film frame, and this causes the lens to have a narrower angle of view than with 35mm film, by a certain factor for each sensor (called the crop factor).

This website does not use the angles of view provided by lens manufacturers, but calculates them automatically by the following formula: 114.6 * arctan (21.622 / CF * FL),


CF – crop-factor of a sensor,
FL – focal length of a lens.


A lens mount is an interface — mechanical and often also electrical — between a camera body and a lens.

A lens mount may be a screw-threaded type, a bayonet-type, or a breech-lock type. Modern camera lens mounts are of the bayonet type, because the bayonet mechanism precisely aligns mechanical and electrical features between lens and body, unlike screw-threaded mounts.

Lens mounts of competing manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony etc.) are always incompatible. In addition to the mechanical and electrical interface variations, the flange focal distance can also be different.

The flange focal distance (FFD) is the distance from the mechanical rear end surface of the lens mount to the focal plane.

Lens construction

Lens construction – a specific arrangement of elements and groups that make up the optical design, including type and size of elements, type of used materials etc.

Element - an individual piece of glass which makes up one component of a photographic lens. Photographic lenses are nearly always built up of multiple such elements.

Group – a cemented together pieces of glass which form a single unit or an individual piece of glass. The advantage is that there is no glass-air surfaces between cemented together pieces of glass, which reduces reflections.

Focal length

The focal length is the factor that determines the size of the image reproduced on the focal plane, picture angle which covers the area of the subject to be photographed, depth of field, etc.


The largest opening or stop at which a lens can be used is referred to as the speed of the lens. The larger the maximum aperture is, the faster the lens is considered to be. Lenses that offer a large maximum aperture are commonly referred to as fast lenses, and lenses with smaller maximum aperture are regarded as slow.

In low-light situations, having a wider maximum aperture means that you can shoot at a faster shutter speed or work at a lower ISO, or both.

Floating element system

Provides correction of aberrations and ensures constantly high image quality at the entire range of focusing distances from infinity down to the closest focusing distance. It is particularly effective for the correction of field curvature that tends to occur with large-aperture, wide-angle lenses when shooting at close ranges.

The basic mechanism of the floating element system is also incorporated into the internal and rear focusing methods.

Closest focusing distance

The minimum distance from the focal plane (film or sensor) to the subject where the lens is still able to focus.

Closest working distance

The distance from the front edge of the lens to the subject at the maximum magnification.

Magnification ratio

Determines how large the subject will appear in the final image. For example, a magnification ratio of 1:1 means that the image of the subject formed on the film or sensor will be the same size as the subject in real life. For this reason, a 1:1 ratio is often called "life-size".

Manual diaphragm

The diaphragm must be stopped down manually by rotating the detent aperture ring.

Preset diaphragm

The lens has two rings, one is for pre-setting, while the other is for normal diaphragm adjustment. The first ring must be set at the desired aperture, the second ring then should be fully opened for focusing, and turned back for stop down to the pre-set value.

Semi-automatic diaphragm

The lens features spring mechanism in the diaphragm, triggered by the shutter release, which stops down the diaphragm to the pre-set value. The spring needs to be reset manually after each exposure to re-open diaphragm to its maximum value.

Automatic diaphragm

The camera automatically closes the diaphragm down during the shutter operation. On completion of the exposure, the diaphragm re-opens to its maximum value.

Fixed diaphragm

The aperture setting is fixed at F/4 on this lens, and cannot be adjusted.

Number of blades

As a general rule, the more blades that are used to create the aperture opening in the lens, the rounder the out-of-focus highlights will be.

Some lenses are designed with curved diaphragm blades, so the roundness of the aperture comes not from the number of blades, but from their shape. However, the fewer blades the diaphragm has, the more difficult it is to form a circle, regardless of rounded edges.

At maximum aperture, the opening will be circular regardless of the number of blades.


Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

Maximum diameter x Length

Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

For lenses with collapsible design, the length is indicated for the working (retracted) state.

Weather sealing

A rubber material which is inserted in between each externally exposed part (manual focus and zoom rings, buttons, switch panels etc.) to ensure it is properly sealed against dust and moisture.

Lenses that accept front mounted filters typically do not have gaskets behind the filter mount. It is recommended to use a filter for complete weather resistance when desired.

Fluorine coating

Helps keep lenses clean by reducing the possibility of dust and dirt adhering to the lens and by facilitating cleaning should the need arise. Applied to the outer surface of the front and/or rear lens elements over multi-coatings.


Lens filters are accessories that can protect lenses from dirt and damage, enhance colors, minimize glare and reflections, and add creative effects to images.

Lens hood

A lens hood or lens shade is a device used on the end of a lens to block the sun or other light source in order to prevent glare and lens flare. Flare occurs when stray light strikes the front element of a lens and then bounces around within the lens. This stray light often comes from very bright light sources, such as the sun, bright studio lights, or a bright white background.

The geometry of the lens hood can vary from a plain cylindrical or conical section to a more complex shape, sometimes called a petal, tulip, or flower hood. This allows the lens hood to block stray light with the higher portions of the lens hood, while allowing more light into the corners of the image through the lowered portions of the hood.

Lens hoods are more prominent in long focus lenses because they have a smaller viewing angle than that of wide-angle lenses. For wide angle lenses, the length of the hood cannot be as long as those for telephoto lenses, as a longer hood would enter the wider field of view of the lens.

Lens hoods are often designed to fit onto the matching lens facing either forward, for normal use, or backwards, so that the hood may be stored with the lens without occupying much additional space. In addition, lens hoods can offer some degree of physical protection for the lens due to the hood extending farther than the lens itself.


Teleconverters increase the effective focal length of lenses. They also usually maintain the closest focusing distance of lenses, thus increasing the magnification significantly. A lens combined with a teleconverter is normally smaller, lighter and cheaper than a "direct" telephoto lens of the same focal length and speed.

Teleconverters are a convenient way of enhancing telephoto capability, but it comes at a cost − reduced maximum aperture. Also, since teleconverters magnify every detail in the image, they logically also magnify residual aberrations of the lens.

Lens caps

Scratched lens surfaces can spoil the definition and contrast of even the finest lenses. Lens covers are the best and most inexpensive protection available against dust, moisture and abrasion. Safeguard lens elements - both front and rear - whenever the lens is not in use.