PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux

17May/092

Op-ed: What’s next for Zeiss?

It looks in the last year Zeiss went around and tied all their loose ends. The 21mm Distagon is back, they embraced Canon’s EF mount and their rangefinder line-up is looks like a complete system now. So what’s next?

That’s the topic of this speculative article. This is 100% fiction, but looking at the past as a predictor of the future.  I'll even include some prices I think Zeiss might shoot for.

First I think that there are a few classic lenses still open for renewal:

  • 8/16mm Hologon super-wide-angle lens for rangefinders ($1100).
  • 2.8/16mm F-Distagon fisheye lens for SLRs ($800).
  • 2.8/200mm, 4/300mm, 5.6/400mm Tessar telephoto lenses for SLRs ($1400 each).

I think that in time we’ll see all of these. The first two are slam-dunks that could ship and sell today. The tele-photo lenses have a more difficult position in that they could not offer IS/VR on the Pentax/Nikon mounts without an electronic update of the Zeiss mount. I suspect the Canon version would not have this problem and could ship even now – I pray they will not split and leave ZF behind now that they have their shiny ZE mount.

Second, there are also some spots for innovative new lenses:

  • 1.4/50mm ASPH lens for ZM ($1800).
  • 2/28mm ASPH lens for ZM ($1600).
  • 4/24-100mm and/or 5.6/100-400 zooms for ZF/ZE ($1400 each).
  • 2.8/200mm APO-Makro lens for ZF ($1600).

Zeiss hasn’t made a serious pass at the high-speed lens market for a while. Leica is ahead in this area by a commanding and ever-increasing lead. I want to see some competition on this front, so we can all benefit from aggressive development and pricing.

Third, we’re all dying to see some innovative digital cameras:

  • Digital Ikon ZM, color and monochrome versions ($2400 each).
  • Digital equivalent of Nikon FE, color and monochrome versions ($1800 each).

Oh we wants it my preciousss, the Digital Ikon! There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t hope to see some rumor of it pop up. Get here already!


Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I’d love to see an F-Distagon, that’s for sure. A manual-focus, well-built, Zeiss would be a perfect choice for a fish-eye — a lens that you’d want to buy once and keep for decades, and one that wouldn’t benefit hugely from present or future electronic wizardry.

    Would a tilt-shift lens or two make sense also, given that Zeiss could simply use the optics from a Hasselblad lens with basically no modification, à la Hartblei?

    The Olympus E-P1 represents a small step towards the digital rangefinder we all want.

    What’s next for this blog? (Sorry!)

  2. Hi Specularist!

    The Hartblei lenses are already counted among Zeiss lenses. Their CEO has commented on this blog before, here: http://ogiroux.wordpress.com/2008/04/23/photographers-rise-demand-affordable-tiltshift-lenses/

    I am also very excited about the E-P1. I haven’t commented on it mostly because I don’t have any firsthand experience with it (something that’s on my todo list). Briefly, I think the E-P1 is a historic camera just the same way that the 5D (mark I) and the Leica M3 were historic cameras. It’s unlikely that it’ll be remembered in 50 years but I am thinking that its descendants will play a big role for photography in the future.

    It’s not a rangefinder though. It’s going to be a pretty miserable platform for manual focussing. I am somewhat committed to keeping my money until a rangefinder shows up on the scene.

    >> What’s next for this blog? (Sorry!)

    I am presently taking a deep breath before a dive into the deeper side of the photography pool. I’m sure you’ll see accelerated postings over the next few months.

    I’m getting a new Zeiss in the middle of this week. I’ll be renting another Zeiss in ~3 weeks, as well as a teleconverter for testing with the 70-200VR. Then in ~4 weeks I am scheduled to shoot my first wedding for a friend of my wife’s.

    All of this should make for blog generation.


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