Oh So Tempted by Zeiss 2/35 ZF.2

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by stevejw, Jan 23, 2012.

  1. As per title. I have only tried out the Nikon 24-70 and 14-24 which have excellent image quality. The size and weight, especially of the 24-70 did put me off a little. On the other hand I'm blown away by the images from Zeiss lenses that I've seen online. As I'm sure you all know Zeiss are manual focus lenses, this coupled with the fact that Nikkor make some pretty decent glass is making me second guess my decision to buy a 2/35 ZF.2 lens for my D700.
    So far I've only used a Nikon 50 1.8G and it's a great lens, it's just that lately I've wanted something a bit wider. With that said, is there anyone else here that has gone ahead and bought a Zeiss 2/35 ZF.2 instead of any Nikon lens that covers 35mm and regretted it? Also, would it be more advisable to buy the 1.4/35 ZF.2 instead? I find the 2.8/21 ZF.2 very appealing as well.... I know.
    Also, how important is it to get a focus screen installed in your D700 to use manual focus?
    Thanks for any help with this. It's time to buy my next lens and I'm a little unsure as I'm looking at a third party lens. The only thing I know for sure is that I want something wider than 50mm. Because of this, I've considered a virtual myriad of glass. The Nikon 35/1.4, 24/1.4, 14-24/2.8, 24-70/2.8 and the 16-35/f4VR. Zeiss wise, I've considered the lenses above 2/35, 1.4/35, 2.8/21 and more recently all other ZF.2 primes wider than 50mm such as the two 25mm and the 28mm.
    What I shoot is really a mixed bag. I do low light cityscapes, day & low light, hand held Street-esque stuff. So the large aperture does come into it to a degree. Above all what I'm after is image quality, hence considering the ZF.2 series. That's not to say that Nikon doesn't have IQ, it's just that Zeiss seems to have something else, a certain character & a different kind of contrast & depth.
    I know I'm asking a lot and throwing a lot of options out there but this is kind of where I'm at decision wise.
    Thanks
     
  2. I manually focus with a D200 and lesser lenses, don't sweat it. For the Zeiss price, however, the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G gives noticeably superior optical performance, an extra stop of light, and autofocus for not much more money, considering what you get. The also-manual lens Samyang 35mm f/1.4 is as good a performer as they come, for about 1/3 the price of the Zeiss. Or, you could just buy a manual focus Nikon which gives about the same performance: 35mm f/1.4 AiS for about $600 or 35mm f/2 AiS for about $200-$250. The Zeiss is good, but I don't think it has commensurate pricing.
     
  3. What Ariel said tho I find manual focusing a fast wide angle kinda tough, say, for quick candids.
     
  4. I was oh so very tempted by the Zeiss 35mm f/2.... I think optically you will not find a better 35mm lens easily. I ended up buying the AiS 35mm f/1.4 for a lot less money (like half of what the Zeiss costs new). If you want a different character, this Nikkor sure does have it (lots of it, maybe too much of it).
    If I'd be buying now, the Samyang would probably end up high on the lists. Tests are very favourable, as is the price. At the other end of the spectrum, the AF-S 35 f/1.4G sure delivers too. And despite all that, I can understand the attraction of the Zeiss lenses still... see if you can rent them, and then make up your mind. It's a lot of money for its specific character.
    I use this (and other) manual focus lenses on a D300, it's not always ideal (at f/1.4) but certainly doable.
     
  5. Some very personal thoughts:
    • "... Zeiss seems to have something else, a certain character & a different kind of contrast & depth." I think it is called autosuggestion. Reality is what it is. Contrast and depth are not magical concepts.
    • Manual focus lenses at such price, -with a recently designed 35/1.4G available to be used on a D700 or superior Nikon-, seem to me a not-so-good idea. It is cool, maybe, but no so practical.
    • I`d get a split-image screen to focus MF lenses under dim light. Otherwise, focus accuracy matter of luck to me.
    • If you haven`t tasted a MF lens yet, I`d get a cheaper MF Nikkor (f2 or even f2.8 version) before the big expense.
    • Why not a 45P? Chipped and minimal, it is certainly a special lens (not so wide, I know).
    • About the 35/1.4AiS... what Wouter says. If you want "character", it has loads of it!
     
  6. Just to clarify, I don't want a manual focus lens. I would much rather have the convenience of auto focus. I did mention Nikon lenses so don't get hung up on the idea that your suggestions have to be manual focus. It's just that the Zeiss, with it's magical image quality, happen to be manual focus.
    I've only tried manually focusing with my 50 1.8G, I admit that on moving subjects it was a lost cause, for static subjects it was fine, although it took me a few goes for one or two shots. The arrows and dots in camera can be very touchy sometimes. That is of course, if it's not all in my head as well.
    With everything being as expensive as it is, I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Sigma 30mm, unless I have convinced myself that it's better than it really is as well?
     
  7. I'm a happy user of 35/2 ZF.2 Distagon for a couple of years already. On D700 it is a great lens for indoor shooting, especially concerts involving a mess of different light sources and colors. This lens is very easy to focus manually in comparison with AI-S glass - and I have about 10 AI-S lenses on my shelves to compare with. While I love my MF and AF Nikkors, I do really consider that is not autosuggestion about the quality of Zeiss glass. I have various lenses for portraiture and I tested even more... 70-200/2.8, Nikon 85/1.4 D, Sigma 85/1.4 D, Nikon 135/2 DC, Nikon 105/2.5 AI-S, Nikon 105/2.8 VR micro... all being great lenses... but I put my hand on fire than no one render the human skin so beautifully like Zeiss 100/2 MakroPlannar does. Of course you need a model with beautiful skin to make the difference :)
    Back to 35... for the situations when I need AF I bought an inexpensive 35/2 AF-D and I am happy with it.
    I must confess that I love fast primes and I had a serious NAS attack with the 35/1.4 last year. I went in a shop with my D700 and I tested the trio from Nikon, Zeiss and Samyang. IMHO after this test I found that Zeiss is too heavy for my taste, Samyang looks like a dog :) and Nikon is quite slow in AF. IQ wise, to my surprise, coming at home I must confess that without to look into Exif I was unable to tell which picture was shot with which lens. Of course that it was an unscientific test and in the real life there are situations when each lens will show its character, making a difference. And yes, the IQ is really great and one day I must go for Nikon 35/1.4 G especially if D800 will make obsolete my 35/2 D.
    As for the OP. if I'd be in your shoes, for the type of applications you have I'll look for the new Zeiss 25/2 ZF.2 I'll be very tempted to buy that lens but I already have Nikon 24/1.4.
     
  8. I think you'll find the Sigma 30mm is a DX lens.
     
  9. Oh, well there ya go. :)
     
  10. The physical mechanisms to focus lenses are similar with regard to MF and AF. They both use helicoid threads to move glass back and forth but, in effect, the gearing ratios are a world apart.
    Some AF lenses go from 'end to end' ie min focus>infinity in less than a 45 degrees of rotation of the focus collar. Making small changes is quite tricky.
    Most MF lenses have at least 180 - 270 degrees. My 55mm 2.8 AIS Nikkor Macro has way over 340!
    This translates as slower but more precise focusing. This is, in no way, a fault of AF lenses, they're just built that way to allow a motor to do it's job quickly and efficiently.
     
  11. I haven't shot this Zeiss, but Zeiss lenses are really heavy--the build quality will be the first thing you notice. I found that you can easily use the in camera focus aids (Canon shooting) but you have to get used to how they work. On mine, if you focused from close in towards infinity, the aids were perfect, the other way infinity in, they were off and the image OOF.
    The Zeiss lenses are probably the best when compared head to head with the MFG lenses, or a draw at worst and the 35 is one of their best. Of course, that doesn't mean you will see the difference or that the differences will be critical to how you work. But photography is also a psychological game and having complete faith in your equipment can be a game changer.
    Good luck.
     
  12. I have used several manual focus lenses on Nikon D300, D700, D7000. On D700, I used an adapted Leica Elmarit 35mm f2.8. Manual focus was not a problem for landscape-style photos. Learn to use the green dot. The following observation may be of interest. Comparing the Nikon 200f4 AIS and Voigtlander 180f4 ApoLanthar, I found my focus better with the Voigtlander. I suspect that sharpness and smooth bokeh at widest aperture may affect ease of manual focus.
     
  13. I don't think anyone mentioned the 40mm f/2 Cosina-Voigtlander. OK it's not very wide, but it is a bit wider than the 45P that was suggested above, and it is supposed to be very high in quality. It's also chipped, a good thing for digital shooters. The 40mm focal length is also a very good walkaround general purpose lens.
    I didn't see a lot of support for the 35/2 AIs Nikkor. It was mentioned, but not with any enthusiasm. It's a good lens, though!
     
  14. "I've only tried manually focusing with my 50 1.8G, I admit that on moving subjects it was a lost cause,"
    Makes you wonder how we ever used to manage this! Seriously it's not that difficult once you get a few basis techniques, and 35mm is a fairly forgiving focal length unless used wide open. Try prefocussing and using a bit more DOF. Manual focus is not a reason not to buy a lens.
     
  15. Tony: the way most of us used to do it involved focusing screens that did a lot more to help us. In the manual focus days, a typical focus screen had a split-image in the middle, surrounded by a ring of microprisms, and outside that a screen that diffused the light quite a bit, so when something was out of focus, it looked out of focus.
    Most modern finder screens have precisely none of that. No split image or microprisms at all, and a screen with minimal diffusion. That gives a substantially brighter view, but doesn't show focusing or depth of field very accurately at all. That's not to say that manual focusing is impossible, just that most current cameras do a lot less to help out than manual focus cameras usually did.
     
  16. Save yourself a bundle of cash and get the Samyang 35mm f/1.4. The Samyang beats the Zeiss on distortion, vignetting, CA and resistance to flare. There's nothing to choose between them in resolution either on an aperture-for-aperture basis, except, of course that the Samyang has an entire stop extra in hand for low light or getting a really shallow D-o-F.
    Downside: The Samyang is bigger and heavier than the Zeiss, but balances quite well on a D700. Mechanical quality of the Samyang feels solid, and generally a lot better than most AF lenses. The handling is smooth and comfortable, and it doesn't feel like you've grabbed hold of a metal-worker's file by the wrong end! This might be a consideration if you're ever working on a cold day without gloves.
    The only other manual focus competition to the Zeiss or Samyang readily available is the Ai-S Nikkor 35mm f/2. Above f/5.6 its corners lag behind the Samyang and Zeiss, but the little Nikkor is a lot more compact and lightweight though.
    The supplied focus screen in the D700 is more than good enough for manual focusing BTW.
     
  17. But new cameras have arrows that tell you which direction to focus, along with an AF confirmation lamp, so it's not as bleak as you make it. Also, my D200 doesn't have the arrows, plus it has a smaller viewfinder, and I still manage.
    The 35mm f/2 AiS that I mentioned before is being a little undersold here. It was in every wedding photographer's kit back in the day, but it probably does pretty poorly with flare and ghosting, due to its lack of modern coatings and being an 8-element lens (the new 35mm f/2 AF-D is 6 elements, the 35mm f/1.4 Ai is 9 but is multicoated, and the 35mm f/1.4G is 10). The Voigtlander is another great choice as mentioned. Really, it's up to you in the end, but as has already been said, if you always wanted the Zeiss, and you're still going to be thinking about the Zeiss even after you buy a different lens, then just get it over with and pick up the Zeiss so that you can move forward unencumbered.
     
  18. If you can focus this lens properly it may be worth a try. Can you live with 20% of your images in focus? Can you stand taking whole bunch of action pictures and later finding all of them are slightly out of focus? I can't, I use autofocus lenses for 98% my handheld, action photography - 2% being manual focus fisheye lens.
     
  19. Ariel, the Ai-S 35mm f/2 is multicoated. Along with every other Nikkor Ai and Ai-S lens produced since at least 1975. No, it doesn't have Nano-crystal coating, but then neither does the Zeiss or AF-D Nikkor.
    IME the 35mm f/2 is one of the more contrasty MF Nikkors and reasonably resistant to flare. If found in good condition (i.e. not overcleaned or otherwise abused) it can yield sparkling images, although it's best fitted with a hood since the front element isn't at all recessed.
     
  20. Steve, do you want to learn to focus manually or not? Do you have the spare time and frustration tolerance to learn it "for your 35mm Zeiss"? Ok, if you do landscapes and seated portraits exclusively, it's easy. Much less so for street life, pets, children, sports etc. And yes, how much extra weight do you want to carry?
    The split prism screen helps in quite a few situations. In others (very dark, fine patterns) I go for the green ones. It's money very well spent, absolutely.
     
  21. No, Steve already said he doesn't want manual focus. He does want the results he's seen from the Zeiss lens. Thus he has a conflict he hasn't been able to resolve yet: either give up AF or give up the quality he's expecting from the Zeiss. How to do this, since there is no AF Zeiss ZF 35mm for the Nikon. That's why he started this thread: for ideas to help resolve what seems an unresolvable conflict; a Gordian knot.
    How do you solve a Gordian knot? You have to cut it. Steve: ask Yourself what you really, really, want. Not what everyone else thinks. And whatever it is, get it.
     
  22. Buy the Zeiss and never look back.I am a little surprised that you get answers like Samyang is better ... It is definitely not!But of course everybody has its opinion.As for the Zeiss magic try it once and you will see that is ... true.
     
  23. Steve I have a Nikon D3s for Sports and Wildlife and a Canon 5DII for hiking and landscapes. I too loved the Zeiss look and purchased the f2.8 21 and f2 35 Zeiss lenses for my 5DII. I still have both lenses. The f2.8 21 will give you exactly what you would expect, micro contrast, color, sharpness. Its a magical lens. The f2 35 not so much. The 35 is very very good but it is not a stand out. Its a great size weight and manual focus is not a big deal on such wide angles. If I shot landscapes with my Nikon I would probably get the 14-24 f2.8 since on paper it compares that well with the Zeiss. I used my 21 and 35 on most of my rocky mountain gallery at www.brianboland.net if you care to see them. Also if you google the 14-24 vs the 21 you will get a lot of hits as this is a question a lot of people are interested in. Hope this helps.
     
  24. There's obviously no point in further presenting Zeiss fans with MTF figures, hard technical data or blind picture-versus-picture examples. Because it's well known that the guys at Cosina use the breath of dragons to smelt glass ingredients gathered from the foothills of Shangri-La. This glass is then ground in Elven foundries to be polished over millenia on the wings of fairies, lubricated by the tears of unicorns. The elements are coated using a secret distillation of philosopher's stone, sphinx blood and gorgon spittle. Each lens is lovingly assembled by gagged Sirens into perfectly machined barrels, of which only one in twenty-million meets the strict tolerance requirements, as measured by the smallest of Borrowers using Naniatechnology. Yes, those Cosina - sorry, Zeiss lenses really are magic!
     
  25. As mentioned, MF-only lenses are generally much more precise, which makes them both slower to use, and more likely to be in focus. The shorter throw of an AF lens doesn't allow for much margin of error when manually focusing.
    One of the largest benefits of the Zeiss lenses is that they generally 'breathe' less. By that I mean that as you focus a Zeiss lens, the magnification ratio does not change as much as other lenses. My experience is that most MF lenses breathe a little, and most AF lenses breathe a lot, although there are obviously a ton of exceptions. Either way, this is a very strong point for video, but not generally relevant for still photography.
    However, building a lens like that is very expensive, and is probably not too important with your current setup. I would say that if you might do some video later, buy the Zeiss and start learning to use it now. If you don't see yourself getting into that, the AF Nikkor is more-or-less the same, minus objective differences, and gives you autofocus.
     
  26. Whilst 'magic' probably overstates it 'brilliant' does not. With the exception of the Nikon 35mm f1.4G, of which I have no direct experience, the 35mm F2 ZF is clearly superior to all the other Nikon primes both AF or AiS all of which I have owned. Similarly the 24-70mm is good at 35mm and the 14-24mm is very good however for me they ended up being too ungainly/heavy and in the case of the 14-24mm useless for filters.
    On the AF thing well it just depends what you want to photograph. For children running about MF is clearly much harder and for that my Nikon 50mm f1.4G comes into play. But for street/travel/landscape photography it is fine. I do a lot of nocturnal landscapes now too and having a hard infinity stop is crucial for that - something that AF lenses simply don't provide.
    Honourable mention should also go to the Voigtlander 40mm f2 as Rob F mentioned earlier. It is broadly as good as the Zeiss, chipped, smaller and cheaper. A no brainer frankly and if anything I use it more than my 35mm ZF for the smaller size when I use my FM3a/FA etc which the relatively large ZF can overpower.
    Anyone wishing to invest in the ZF line ( I have six!) should cough up for the diglloyd reviews as they are done thoroughly and intelligently unlike the photozone ones.
     
  27. And yes getting a proper D700 focusing screen is important - particularly if you ever end up getting something like the 100mm Makro-Planar which is staggeringly good.
     
  28. I use mostly all zeiss zf lenses. 18, 25,50,85. The only auto focus lens I use is the nikkor 180mm 2.8. I really love manual
    focusing and rarely have a problem getting critical focus on the D700. I think the ZF line is great especially for studio still
    life and landscape.
     
  29. I think the focusing screen is important. If you want really good focus, you need the super-precision screen or live view. I have a super-precision in my Canon 5D1 and Live View on my Canon 5D2. Live view is best for wide lenses, a good focusing screen is best for long lenses, in my experience. best, jamie
     
  30. What looks to have magic is the name "Zeiss". Like on soldiers, bravery is always assumed.
    If you check photozone.de tests on the D3X, -Zeiss f2 vs G Nikkor f1.4- (I don`t have neither of them), you will see that performance is on pair, being the Nikkor one stop faster.
    So, to me, it`s matter of AF vs MF. Well, we can then argue about the "creamery" or "buttery" thing (and all that kind of words about bokeh...); there will be always anything in favour of one or another.
    This is the "magic" effect...
     
  31. Jose I am not sure anybody is criticising the 35mm f1.4 G - yet. If it had existed when I bought the 35mm ZF I certainly would have considered it.
    That said - and here is the criticism of the of the 35mm f1.4 G - its autofocus was found to be fairly seriously flaky - at least on early samples. http://diglloyd.com/blog/2010/20101226_2-Nikon35.html
    Autofocus is great if it works well but if it is very unreliable it is better not to have it at all. I simply don't know if this has now been fixed but I am sure someone on this thread will be able to update us on that point.
     
  32. @ Jerry Coffin
    Jerry, I am aware of the old screens (I have been around far too long) but my point is, given some pre-focussing and reasonable depth of field, you can get a majority of keepers. The D700 will also take screens just like the old ones so even for critical focus no problem really. I used to shoot motor racing with a Pentax MX and motor drive and very rarely had time to accurately focus using split image or microprisms, just be prepared, watch the subject into frame (using the "other" eye) then hit the shutter. My point was that we can all learn (and benefit) from these old techniques even with an AF camera. Certainly manual focus should not be the determining factor as to whether or not to buy a lens.
     
  33. James, I find the ZF line interesting, too. My temptation, the Makro Planar 50/2. I`m sure yours was a wise move :)
    I was not aware of the Nikkor issue... hope this has been already solved.
     
  34. it's well known that the guys at Cosina use the breath of dragons to smelt glass ingredients gathered from the foothills of Shangri-La. This glass is then ground in Elven foundries to be polished over millenia on the wings of fairies, lubricated by the tears of unicorns. The elements are coated using a secret distillation of philosopher's stone, sphinx blood and gorgon spittle. Each lens is lovingly assembled by gagged Sirens into perfectly machined barrels, of which only one in twenty-million meets the strict tolerance requirements, as measured by the smallest of Borrowers using Naniatechnology.​
    comment of the year? LOL.
    to the OP, i think it depends on how often you are doing street photography and/or in situations where MF will be a liability. personally i would rather have the nikkor 24/1.4 G and that way i get AF. if i was going to get a MF lens, it would probably be the 40/2.
     
  35. One thing that gets written about fairly often in threads about lenses; is almost completely missing from this one; and would probably be enlightening, is an effort to describe whatever it is that is perceived as the special quality of a lens. Granted this is not easy to do, thus the temptation to use words like "magical." Yet, people do manage to put the image quality into words, using the admittedly limited vocabulary that's available for it. One sees comments like,
    "The main subject looks three-dimensional, and pops from the background."
    "The background is too harsh for me."
    "This lens produces a painterly, soft-sharp look."
    "It achieves a liquidly cinematic look." (No idea what that one means)
    And stuff like that. Would anyone feel moved to try to describe the imaging qualities of the lenses mentioned thus far? Qualities they do or do not like? After all, Steve was moved to start this thread based on something he likes about the Zeiss. But how to describe it in a way that serves as a common ground we can all relate to?
     
  36. Rob, the reason these discussions lack objective terms is because it is very difficult to describe art or an artist's tools in an objective way, while still validating the all-important 'X' factor. Let me do the best I can, using two lenses I own.
    I have the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AiS and the Minolta 58mm f/1.2 PG Rokkor. Both are excellent lenses, and both should be snapped up immediately at their (relatively) low price point if you can use them on your camera. In using them on mirrorless systems though, I find that the Nikon is overall sharper than the Minolta, at all apertures. Both are fairly free of CA, unless the subject is backlit and/or shiny metal - then it's CA like crazy. Backlighting is more of an issue for the Nikon, which the Minolta has more issues with shiny, harshly-lit metals.
    That is where the objectivity ends. The Minolta has much more bloom (blown-out haze around highlights) than the Nikon. This can be described as a 'dreamlike quality', or as a design flaw, and both are equally true. The Minolta also has much less detail in the out of focus areas. You can say it has better, creamier, or smoother bokeh, or you can say that the Nikon has a harsher, busier, or more jagged bokeh. If you shoot for a shallow DOF, the better bokeh on the Minolta will result in better subject isolation. If you shoot for sharpness, the extra detail on the Nikon will make the transition from 'in focus' to 'out of focus' areas less abrupt.
    But wait, there's more.
    I've owned the Nikon for many years, and it's been my go-to lens for the last decade. But after using the Minolta on a mirrorless, I now strongly prefer the Minolta over the Nikon for digital work. Why? Reasons I can describe even more poorly than the last paragraph. Between the older coatings and the older lens design, the way that particular lens renders tonal range and the transition from shadow to highlight is just much more pleasing to my eyes. And unfortunately, that's not something that you can really see on an MTF chart. If you test the lenses side-by-side, I have every reason to believe that the Nikon will come out on top every time. Sure the Minolta is brighter, but the image at f/1.2 is so hazy that it doesn't even count. Even though the Minolta lens is objectively worse, subjectively it has qualities I cannot describe well that I prefer.
    And that's why you never see a fully objective assessment of lenses. If you just stopped at the objective paragraph, you'd think I liked the Nikon lens better ... but that's not the case at all.
     
  37. I`m afraid I`m going to enter into an embarrassing field...
    Maybe the most well known "description" is the "Leica glow". It is a reality, it can be objectively explained as the result of that design with certain aberrations/corrections... whatever.
    Being a Leica, I see many people are willing to pay astronomical prices or to get mad looking for a sample, just to get this magic "glow" everybody talks.
    Imagine that this "glow", or a very similar effect can be achieved with a Nikkor, Voigtlander or even with an Arsat lens. Nobody mentions the "glow" on this lenses, nobody are willing to pay such prices for this... the thing is to have the "glowing Leica"; a glowing Arsat is just junk, a glowing Nikkor is a lens with flare "issues". This is where the name "Leica" practises its magic.
    (Another; I use to make "Hasselblad looking" b&w square prints from my Mamiya 6 negatives. Sometimes, I received a comment this type: "Wow! What a sharp looking photo... from a Hasselblad isn`t it?" -No, from a Mamiya-, I respond. The charm is lost. End of comments.)
    I suspect some of that abstract definitions are not based in real perceptions; the "creamery and buttery" could be somewhat subjective, but sometimes... not that much.
    This is the magic I`m refering to.
    >>>Please notice that I`m not saying the OP is wrong, or bewitched, or that Zeiss users are blind... not my intention.<<< It is proven that Zeiss lenses are amongst the best, and this is why experienced photographers and/or photography enthusiasts know and want to own their products. I include myself in this group.
     
  38. Magic aside (but maybe that's the point?) , if it can really be seen, then it can be quantified scientifically. Agreed it's not as simple as just MTF graphs, but with so much image analysis and software for optimising/filtering/manipulation out there, it is possible.
    It just takes the correctly toned targets at the right distance under identical lighting etc to make them comparable.... after all there are only 2 variables, namely focused distance and aperture.
    So if you want to put a £900 Zeiss 35mm and a £50 Nikon E-Series 35mm lens on your Nikon and duplicate lab based shots, go ahead and come back to us. If you read through this post, whenever anyone has done something similar, they can't tell the difference.
    I remember in my old darkroom days trying to emulate the soft-focus B/W Hollywood type portrait images by stretching stockings over the enlarger lens and always being disappointed. It was only much later when I realised that this has to be at the taking stage as the highlights are diffused into the shadows. This doesn't have the same pictorial effect in negative. I suspect something of the fabled 'glow' etc is the unique way these lenses/coatings handle local contrast and this should be measurable.
    Whether you personally like or loathe any of these quantifiable lens properties is a whole new issue... ;-)
     
  39. Mike, I don't think it's measurable in a understandable way. Take the example of paint: your average oil paint maker makes at least two different blacks, and usually multiple whites too. Some painters can tell the difference between blacks, and some cannot. You can analyze them in a spectrometer and real minute differences in colour reflectivity, but without being both a painter AND a scientist, you probably won't be analyzing it correctly. Also if you're not a painter AND a scientist, the results won't mean anything to you.
    So, like lenses, the only way to explain the difference to your average art fan(and I include myself here) is to either have them try both, or to use subjective terms like 'richer' or 'colder.'
     
  40. I remember years ago here on photo.net I first saw someone write the phrase "Euro-glass snap." I thought it was pretentious then, and I guess I still do. And that's coming from someone who owns a number of Zeiss lenses and really likes the images each produces. Oh well, some things never change.
     
  41. Rob, good point, also a good point in respect to the assumption that MTF charts tell you which is the better lens.
    I mentioned much earlier in this thread the AiS 35 f/1.4. Many people dislike it because at wide apertures it has a number of optical flaws - the before mentioned "character". Some people will count this heavily against this lens and consider it unusable wide open. I like all the funky tricks it does, and try to make use of those qualities. I love the lens because it is flawed, not despite. It's the silly glow it has at f/1.4, the veiled low contrast, which holds amazing more detail than it seems. It's the biting unreal sharpness in textures it renders stopped down, a completely different thing from its wide open performance...There is just that "thing", that other lenses don't have.... It's creatively a tool unlike others, even when it's one that cannot be used for each and every occassion.
    Now sure somebody can cough up a MTF chart and tell me the lens does not resolve as much lines as the others. Might be true. I love that lens all the same, and while the Zeiss most likely is optically superior, I'm happy to have chosen this Nikkor. Even while I think the Zeisses just as well have a special thing to them... Seen too many photos to deny there is something special about them - for me.
    As Zack said: nothing measurable in a scientific understandable way. And most of all: subjective, very subjective.
     
  42. I don't think that all of the ZF range are so special and they are heavy and overpriced. However, having said this. the 21/2.8, 35/2. 50/2, and 100/2 are very good going by reviews and MTF charts etc, the others less exciting. The 35/1.4ZF is ridiculously heavy and large - that would prevent me from buying it straight off the bat - however good it is. The 21mm ZF particularly is a standout since really good ultrawides are rare from Nikon (and Canon). In the OP's shoes though I think I would go for the new Nikon 35/1.4 which is excellent and has AF.
     
  43. It's quite laughable to see people on this forum put down a lens they have never used. Ariel S even says, "the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G gives noticeably superior optical performance". It certainly does not and I would bet that Ariel hasn't even used the Zeiss 2/35 ZF.
    I have the Zeiss 2/35 ZF.2 and use it on my D3. I owned the Nikon 35 f/1.4G before I tried and bought the Zeiss and to me the Zeiss is better of the two so I sold the Nikon. Specifically in the area of colour rendition, sharpness was similar but I'd give the Zeiss a slight edge there too. The Zeiss 2/35 is an extremely sharp lens, beautifully built with metal and glass, not plastic. The focus is a joy to use and even superior to the older manual focus Nikon lenses in this respect which in turn make the modern AF lenses feel cheap.
    Zeiss lenses are made by Cosina in Japan using Zeiss equipment and supervision from Zeiss. Quality control is very high and each lens comes with a signed off check list from a technician. The reason they are made in Japan is to keep the price reasonable. If they were still manufactured in Germany the price would be horrendous. In fact it is said that the Japanese do a better job by some although that is just speculation. The one thing Zeiss need to do though is change the lens caps - they're fidly and hard to get on and off. Most people change them for a Nikon pinch style cap.
    I find manual focus a breeze and prefer it over AF, although to be fair, I have been using MF Nikon and Leica lenses for more than thirty years. On a full frame camera I think you'd have no trouble with MF because the focusing is so smooth and precise - then again, only you can determine that for certain.
    Once you have used a modern Zeiss lens you'll be hooked. I have the Zeiss Makro Planar 2/100 ZF.2 and would love to get the new Zeiss 2/25 ZF.2.
    I think if I had to choose one lens to keep it would be my Zeiss Makro Planar 2/100 ZF.2 even ahead of my Nikon 200 f/2.
     
  44. Sam, thanks for the comments. Do you find the weight of the Zeiss 35/2 to be within reason for a walk around town, or in the country, with extended time away from the car? Or does it get to be burdensome? I can't recall what I read: either 530 grams, or more like 850?
     
  45. Zeiss 35/2 is weighting 530g at 65 x 97 mm size buing not small nor big :) but moderate, so its perfect for taking it in the town.
     
  46. Rob, as Mihai said. It's perfect as a walk around town lens and has a nice solid feel to it. I personally don't like a lens to be too light as a little weight also helps to steady things. On the other hand I'm not that keen on lugging my Nikon 24-70 around with me all day when on holiday.
     
  47. I went and tried out a 2/35 at a camera shop. It was really nice, the build quality makes a lot of other stuff look & feel pretty cheap. The IQ is excellent, there was a decent amount of vignetting and CA wide open with a small amount of distortion. The distortion and vignetting are fixed in LR with one click but the CA didn't go away, although the CA was only really apparent in one shot where I caught the ceiling lights just so. The colour and '3D depth' is great in some of the shots I took, as is the contrast. I like it.
    I tried out the Nikon 24G, 16-35VR and 20 2.8 as well and to be honest I would have them as well. Alas, I can only chose one at this point...
    Before buying anything, I'd still like to try out the 2.8/21 and the 35 1.4G. Maybe the CZ 25 & 28 as well.
    Manual focusing on the Zeiss was not a big thing, it's made for it and made well. The focus ring has a long throw and is ultra smooth with the perfect amount of resistance. I probably couldn't say the same for focusing on a moving subject but that's my MF skill level at the moment as well.
    Very keen to try out the 21 now.
    Cheers. :)
     
  48. Steve, try to find a Zeiss 2/25 to try - might be hard to find though as they're new model.
    As mentioned by Rob F earlier, the Voightlander Ultron 40/2 SL is well worth a try too. A friend uses one on his Canon 5d MkII and loves it.
     
  49. I just love this bit....
    The IQ is excellent, there was a decent amount of vignetting and CA wide open with a small amount of distortion.
    Maybe these are the 'dreamy' qualities that are so hard to quantify ?? :)
     
  50. Just about all lenses, particularly fast ones have a fair bit of vignetting wide open. My new 200 f2 VR II has it too. As for CA, I can't say I've ever noticed it on the Zeiss 2/35.
     
  51. I guess a 35mm f2 is hardly fast....no?
     
  52. Mike Halliwell , Jan 28, 2012; 01:50 p.m.

    I just love this bit.... The IQ is excellent, there was a decent amount of vignetting and CA wide open with a small amount of distortion.

    Maybe these are the 'dreamy' qualities that are so hard to quantify ?? :)

    Dreamy qualities, seems a bit over the top. However, one way for you to find out for yourself would be to try the lens in question instead of posting sophomoric questions.
     
  53. Mike Halliwell , Jan 28, 2012; 03:49 p.m.
    I guess a 35mm f2 is hardly fast....no?

    Hardly fast??? Any lens of f2 could be called fast, hardly or otherwise.
     
  54. Sam, I suppose you'd call a 50mm f2 fast would you? No thought not.
    Now 200mm f2, that's fast!
    Half the people here that own one of these beauties have openly admitted they can't tell the difference when they do a test with other lenses.
    Sophomoric? Cheers for that. Bit unnecessary name calling..... don't seem to remember insulting YOU?
     
  55. Mike, I said fast, not very fast or super fast. I would indeed call a 50 f/2 lens fast, a 50 f/1.4 lens very fast, a 50 f/1.2 super fast.
    Steve Wakeman, posted about trying a Zeiss 2/35 lens at a store. As you seem not to have had any experience with the lens, posting a sarcastic comment in response to that, is sophomoric and is a bit unnecessary too.......no?
    I don't know whether half the people that own the Zeiss 2/35 lens have admitted that they can't tell the difference or not in a test with other lenses; I somehow doubt it. Nevertheless, each lens has it's own character and in the two Zeiss lenses I own I see a difference in colour, particularly blues, which I find very appealing. This is not an illusion to me or some others and nor is the exemplary build quality.
     
  56. Anyway... The CA was only noticeable in one shot where I managed to catch the ceiling lights in such a way as to bring it out, probably more than it normally would show. I don't mind the vignetting but I really don't like distortion, fortunately the distortion is mild and both are fixed with one click in Lightroom.
    I'll try and get some samples up today and post links to them.
     
  57. I'd be extremely interested to see those Steve, as I'm considering an eventual swap from my Nikons to an NEX and that very lens. Any idea if the performance of F and M mount lenses varies? I would assume the M mount lenses are slightly less susceptible to ghosting (less airspace between lens and sensor), but I'd image performance should be identical otherwise.
    And Mike, that was very sophomoric. Everyone else is attempting to have a serious discussion, and you seem to be hung up on the fact that the discussion isn't going the way you want it to. You can either take part in the conversation the way it is, or you can start a new one with a different thread - not both.
    Sorry dude, but I calls 'em like I sees 'em. I'm sure you're a nice guy and didn't mean anything by it, but that's how it reads.
     
  58. Rather than go on too much here, I decided to write a quick Blog post about the 2/35 with samples. That plus the fact that I couldn't manage to post my photos here from my Google+ album...
    Here's a link to my Blog and here's a link to the Zeiss Blog post.
     
  59. Dang. I love it. I was almost hoping I would read something about it that made me not want one.
     
  60. The only negative that I can think of for myself personally is manual focus on moving subjects but if you're good at that then I can't see why you wouldn't like this lens.
    Just thought I'd mention also that the samples, many online photos for that matter, look better in IE9 as it supports the AdobeRGB colour space. In my Google Chrome browser they look less saturated and less contrasty. I still use Chrome though, I just like it so much more than IE9.
    I'm going to do a short Blog post on the 24G next, I really liked that lens as well. I'll post a link when I do. :D
     
  61. Excellent blogs Steve.
     
  62. Steve, I'd be very interested to see your Blog comparison with the Nikon 35mm 1.4G, afterall, it would provide you with the AF you said you wanted back in post No.1!
    Sam, Zack, I'm sorry I reduced you equally nice guys to personal comments but I guess I was getting frustrated by the complete lack of objectivity.
    I was not being sarcastic when I called them beautiful. They are, their feel, built quality, materials etc are obviously second to none...Oh and yes, thanks for that, I have used one of these in-store. Liked it, but no-way could I justify the cost.
    If those qualities make the photographic process better, and who doesn't prefer to use nice tools?, then that may be born out in the results, but it's the process not the optical qualities.
    Dropping that much money on a lens that's aimed at landscape photographers and needing some Distortion Correction in post? What about the poor film guys? Sure, design compromises have to be made to produce fast very wide angle lenses, but this lens in neither of those. My Series E 35mm 2.5 has no measurable distortion, but admittedly does feel pretty lightweight and built down to a price.
    ....and Sam, if I gave you a box with a fast 50mm lens inside and you were expecting an f2, I'd think that a little un-usual..... :)
     
  63. Thanks Sam, I'm going to continue putting up little blurbs about the lenses I try out.
    It's my journey and I'm merely sharing it, if it helps others decide what they want to use or buy then that's really up to them. It's only meant to document my progress as a photographer from the beginning but as gear is expensive, choices become more crucial and so I suppose sadly, that's part of it as well.
     
  64. There are a couple of other possibilities for a high quality 35mm lens in Nikon mount:
    1. From time to time I see an ad for a Rollei 35/2.8 Distagon HFT in Nikon mount. I don't know anything about it--I suspect the Nikon mount may be grafted on, in which case the auto-diaphragm probably doesn't work. But if it does, and if f/2.8 is acceptable, it would be a chance to own a Zeiss 35mm for a lot less money than the 35/2. It says "made by Rollei," which could be true, or it could be made by Zeiss and rebadged Rollei. Has anyone used this lens or know about it?
    2. My 35/2.8 PC-Nikkor outperforms my 35/2 AF-D Nikkor, as well as my 28-105 AF-Nikkor at the 35mm setting. It's quite sharp, and is uniform across the field. Again, it is only f/2.8; and in addition it has to be used in stop-down mode, since there is no auto-diaphragm at all. For these reasons I'm not sure it belongs in this discussion. But for photographing things that don't move, I often use it for its good optical performance. And there is the benefit of being able to correct perspective when needed.
    Any thoughts about these two?
     
  65. >>> The only negative that I can think of for myself personally is manual focus on moving subjects...

    That's an excellent point - one that I can't stress strongly enough.

    I have a Zeiss 35mm f/2.0 Distagon ZE (Canon mount) for my 5DII. It's a very nice lens. But... For the photography I
    like to do, street photography and street portraiture, I ultimately went with Canon's 35/1.4. Why?
    Autofocus. Can't live without it.

    >>> ... but if you're good at that then I can't see why you wouldn't like this lens.

    Much easier said than done; especially if you need to shoot quickly. And that's even after installing the precision focusing screen.

    Shooting static subjects where you have plenty of time, such as products, buildings, landscapes, statues, etc, it's a fine lens...
     
  66. Mike, speed is relative. Remember that technically, an f/stop is a self-referencing number. We say that it relates to what the eye can see because on many lenses and to many eyes it's a similar amount of light (and I tell my photo students to think of it that way too), and the math is just WAY easier. But really, a lens' f/number only tells you how bright that setting is relative to that focal length, physical length, and lens opening/diameter. This is why f/2 is not particularly fast on a 50mm prime for 35mm-sized cameras with a 52mm diameter, but it's very fast for the 200mm lens, which is 4 times the focal length, about four times the physical length, but less than twice the diameter. F/2 is also very fast for a medium format 50mm lens, as they are usually longer than a 35mm-sized 50mm lens, but don't generally have a diameter much larger. This has a lot to do with why there are basically no large format f/2.8 lenses: the focal lengths and physical lengths are so long that the maths required to get an f/stop that large would make the lenses so massive that they'd rip the bellows right off.
    This is also why high-end cine lenses are rated with t/stops rather than f/stops. T/stops are a measurement of brightness in general, as opposed to brightness relative to that lens.
    So yeah, f/2 is fast for a 35mm prime lens. It's not really fast, but it is fast.
     
  67. And just to add, in case the question is coming: the 35mm f/1.8 DX lens is the speed it is, and many other compact DX lenses are much faster than their similarly-sized FX versions, because the smaller image circle that they project means that the lens has a much larger opening, relative to itself.
     
  68. Steve, lots of opinions have been posted on this, but here goes...If you would like to try Zeiss lens quality, think about picking up a used Sony DSC-R1 camera. It is equipped with a Carl Zeiss 24-120 T* Vario Sonnar lens. Use it to complement your Nikon, you don't need to mess with manual focus unless you feel the need. I have a Nikon D7000 that sits around a lot while I am using the R1. Tons of fun for 2 or 3 hundred bucks. With the money that you save you can get more Nikon lenses.
     
  69. The Zeiss offerings for 35mm lenses seems to be 2.8, 2 and 1.4 with a rough doubling of price for each increment.
    Nikon's current 35mm lens line up for AF FX is 2 or 1.4, (MF @1.4) at a similar cost per jump.
    When it comes to relative speed, Nikon never seems to have made a lens slower than f2 for 50mm, with 2.8, 2.5. 2 and 1.4 for 35mm.
     
  70. I think you misunderstand what I mean by relative speed. If you take 10 different models of 50mm f/whatever 35mm format lenses and put them onto a mirrorless, or something else that can function with all of them, and shoot them all at the same aperture, you may not get the exact same exposure. It will be very close, but you may find that Brand A's 50 f/1.4 set to f/2.8 is a fraction of a stop different than Brand B's 50mm f/2 lens also set to f/2.8.
    Obviously this doesn't matter for still photography, because each image is separate. But it's important for video, because you don't want your exposure to shift in the slightest if you change lenses or switch to a different camera. If you go by t/stops, everything that says T/2.8 exposes exactly the same.
    As far as formats go, every lens transmits about the same amount of light at a given f/stop. But a smaller format allows the lens to 'bottleneck' that same amount of light down and concentrate it more, which is why Nikon's 35mm f/1.4 FX is so much larger than the 35mm f/1.8, even though it's only slightly brighter.
    Do you see what I mean now when I say that lens speed is relative, and that 'fast' means different things on different formats and lenses? I mean, a snail that travels at 1 mile an hour is technically fast.
     
  71. Zack, Snail racing? Never thought I'd think about it that way :) But yes, I understand speed is relative, but to call a 35mm f2 fast is not necessarily a relative term. There's a numeric fast and a verbal fast. ie, for a 35mm 35mm lens, 2.8 is slow, 2 is medium and 1.4 is fast. But as you say they are all relatively fast.
    Just how different are lenses these days? If I put all my available lenses on my D300 (to allow for my FX and DX lenses) and shoot at what the camera says is f5.6 in a studio environment, what sort of deviation can I expect?
    Is it just a case of the stills industry just not needing such repeatability to make it worthwhile??
     
  72. If they're all Nikon, I'm assuming (there's that word) that they will all be the same. Even if they aren't, the deviation should be very small. I'm not knowledgable enough to give you specifics, but I think even if you had two lenses that tested on the extreme bright and dark ends it should still be well under a single stop of difference.
    And yes, I'm guessing 'lack of necessity' is a very nice way to say why still lenses aren't measured universally. SLR Magic can market an f/.95 lens that's really around T/1.2 (almost a full stop different) because the maths that determine f/stop say it's less than one. Since the industry isn't clamoring for absolute consistency - and really doesn't need it - I'd use the more impressive number too.
    Apologies to all for my threadjacking. The Zeiss 35 f/2 looks phenominal, and the OP, myself, and everyone else should go buy one.
     
  73. So what Nikon lens would you two recommend instead of the Zeiss?
     
  74. No idea. I'm going to buy the Zeiss.
     
  75. I didn't buy the Zeiss and sell my Nikon 35 f/1.4G, at a considerable loss I might add, without a good reason.
    There is a very good Zeiss thread at Fred Miranda under the Alternative Gear and Lenses forum.
    http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/860134/1
     
  76. Nice link Sam, most of those shots are superb. I can almost see where your coming from..:)
    Mind you, they have as bad a case of Acquisition Syndrome as any Nikon user here on PNet! Interestingly most seem to use Canon though. Could be just a thread quirk?
     
  77. Yes, Mike, I too noticed the prevalance of the Canon 5d MKII users on that thread. I suppose it's because that particular camera is very popular with lanscape photographers.
    You're right about the Acquisition Syndrome. As many Nikon users call it "NAS" the Zeiss-holics probably call it "ZAS".
     
  78. There's one caveat for those for whom ghosting and flare are important. Some like to shoot directly into the sun, as for sunsets, backlit shots, and the like. While the 35mmZF is not the worst in this respect (the 35mm Nikkor is just as bad), there are better lenses for this. The ZF's many elements put it at risk for ghosting. In searching the reviews, I found this:
    http://mansurovs.com/zeiss-distagon-35mm-f2-zf2-review
    I thought I's post the link for anyone who might be disappointed by this aspect of the ZF's performance, before laying out multiple Benjamins for it.
     

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