Conclusion

At stated, the purpose of this quick comparison was to establish how good the Canon 24mm was in relation to the benchmark Contax 21mm, particularly given that many have questioned the validity of claims that it is the ultimate 24mm on the basis of experience with their sample. The L is clearly a very fine lens.

Though obviously not the equal of the Distagon, a little foot zooming enables us to place them on a relatively level playing field. The Canon 24mm acquitted itself better than most candidates pitted against what is probably the finest SLR wide ever made. Before we tally the points accrued, we should make an adjustment for flare, chromatic aberration and distortion, as follows:

Flare: the Zeiss Contax 21mm does suffers from internal reflections and flare, whereas the Canon 24mm is pretty much on top of these.

Chromatic Aberration: The 21mm shows almost total mastery of CA, with only the merest trace in the corners at f2.8; for the Canon it’s problematic.

Distortion: This is without the doubt the Distagon’s Achilles’ heel: the corners are particularly prone to positive geometric distortion; the Canon is better controlled in this regard and more easily corrected.

Please see other tests of these lenses for further details . . .

 

Performance summary
Canon 24mm f1.4
Contax 21mm f2.8

‘Sharpness’ :

78.25 / 90
84.25 / 90

Chromatic Aberration :

9 / 15
13 / 15

Geometric Distortion :

10 / 15
9 / 15

Bright Light Handling :

11 / 15
9 / 15

Magic & Sparkle :

13 / 15
13 / 15

Overall Rating (%) :

80.8%
85.5%

For further details on how scores are calculated, please visit the rating explanation page. At the time of writing, however, this pair are the top guns in this focal length range. How you reckon the convenience of auto focus and auto exposure in favour of the Canon will depend on your shooting preferences and priorities.