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This lens comes in 3 forms. The original AE type which is heavier than the redesigned body with a more streamilned appearance; an AE type with the new, streamlined body (both made by Zeiss in West Germany); the MM type with the same streamlined body but revised mount, later MM coating (warmer). There are also 2 versions of the MM type - most are made in Japan but a small number were also produed by Zeiss in Germany and these command quite a price premium.
Although I state that optical quality is a weakness in the early AE version, this is a relative statement as it is still one of the best 300 f4 lenses available - it is just that contrast wide-open is not very strong, creating an impression of slight softness in the image. This was corrected in the redesign, even though the optical formula is unchanged. It has a pleasing, soft bokeh and although a f4, edge definition is slightly soft, central definition remains strong. Best overall performance is between f5.6 and f11.