PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


Unboxing, part 2

The 2/35mm Biogon ZM T* is small - shockingly small compared to the Distagon ZF.

I decided to get the Zeiss Ikon kit with the 35mm Biogon as my first lens.  I have a preference for the 35mm focal length for everyday shooting and this Biogon is, I believe, the best 35mm lens ever made by anyone.  The Summicron ASPH is a great lens for sure, but you have to assign high value to its 20~25% smaller size (*) because on paper the Biogon is actually a better performer and costs 3x less.

In your hands the lens is wonderful.  It's cute.  I wish it had a rectagular hood though.

- Olivier

(*) It's all about viewfinder obstruction.

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  1. I love this lens. I shot it exclusively for a year with a Bessa R2a, and it’s now welded to a Leica M4 that someone passed on to me. I agree with the comment on the hood/viewfinder obstruction – eventually I just started shooting it without a hood, and I haven’t seen any real problems with flare in my results. I can’t wait to see some of the output once you get to shooting with it.

    • Thanks for the comment Mark. I guess the pressure is on me to shoot something great with it. I expect a fair learning curve at first, with plenty of mis-framed & mis-focused images…

      • Ah, the mis-framed ones are often the happy surprises. But I will say it is nice once you get to know a lens in-and-out. Everything becomes automatic. It *was* funny using a different camera after a year of shooting nothing but the RF – I kept putting my eye up to the left edge of the camera body, even if it was an SLR.

  2. I recently acquired this wonderful lens (used, unfortunately without hood) and since then it’s permanently attached to my Leica MP. I absolutely love its rendering! You will really enjoy it.

    • Thanks Manuel. I’m almost ashamed to put only B&W through the camera for a while, as the Biogon probably has wonderful color rendering (and I’m guessing that’s part of your comment).

      • I’m working up the courage to shoot some velvia 100F I’ve acquired, I’m worried because the I’ve seen some great results with the Velvia and it’s far too expensive to want to use regularly!

        • In the past I found Velvia to be a little bit overrated. It is more expensive and quite a bit more of a hassle to get processed. The slides look heroic in your hands, but once scanned they don’t really justify their extra burden to me.

          It’s fair to say that I have NO INTEREST WHATSOEVER in landscape photographs. They don’t nourish my inner photographer at all, they’re like high-fructose corn syrup to me. So Velvia isn’t really aimed at me either, something like Tri-X, TMAX100, Portra 400VC… they’re more for me. If I worked up the courage, I would develop my own B&W.

          • For the most part I agree with you, however I recently saw some of the 100F used for street work and was really quite impressed with the way it rendered urban colours, strong reds and yellows really popped out from grey stonework. Also the skin tones are much better than the Velvia 50 which helps somewhat.

            However, if someone was to offer me the choice of either 10 rolls of Velvia 100F or 3 rolls of Tri-X I’d take the 3 rolls (or sell most of the Velvia for even more Tri-X!). So really I’m on the same page as I only shoot landscape with my Nikon digital.

          • I understand. I also saw some Velvia that was shot under fluorescent, and some Velvia that was cross-processed… that looked pretty cool when used right.

            I’ve always wondered about cross-processing. I’ve always wondered if I can ask somebody process Velvia with C41 chemistry. Is that what that means?

          • Yeah, I believe so… That’s another step beyond my current use of colour films so I’d double check that one!

          • Cross processing is indeed defined as developing film in chemistry it is not supposed to be developed in. So developing an E6 slide film in C41 is cross processing as well as the other way round.

            Problem with cross processing is that it kind of “ruins” your chemicals. So that is the reason why labs will not do this for you.

            Maybe a good excuse to go develop your own film?

      • I mainly shoot B&W (Tri-X) with my MP/Biogon, so don’t be ashamed. But yes, I recently shot some Kodachrome with it and liked it very much. But color film, especially slide film, is so expensive to shoot on a regular basis… it’s good that I prefer black and white for most of my private photography.

  3. I do love my 2/35 ZM, but I have to say that although I use the 35 focal length more than any other I prefer the 50 Planar and the 25 Biogon (the 25 is amazing by the way, out of all the ZM’s, ZF’s and Nikon lenses I own I think it may be the most perfect lens I’ve used).
    Having said that I may have a dodgy copy of the 35, as in bright conditions the left edge of the image frame is frequently over exposed by a couple of stops, I’m still trying to work out whether it is the lens or my M6 – Gotta feeling it’s the lens. Anybody else had this problem?

    Anyways, You’re going to love the RF style. It is utterly addictive for photographing people and places. I don’t know if you have shot alot of the BW400CN before now, but I use it rated to 250 ISO and dev as normal, it holds highlights like glue!

    • Dr Naud, with your 25mm ZF recommendation you’re getting close to my 2nd lens which I will reveal on Friday. I looked at the 25mm long and hard.

      I’m sad to hear about your exposure problem. I think it would be odd for a lens to show a geometric exposure problem that is concentrated on one side (decentering would show contrast problems though). To me that points more to the camera, especially if it shows a kind of straight line along the edge.

      This is my first time shooting with BW400CN. I was more of a Fuji color guy before. I chose BW400CN because I was looking for a permissive yet fine-grained negative film that would develop easily (not by me) and scan with ICE in a Coolscan 5000ED. The orange layer of BW400CN (there to print on color paper) turns out to be the key to getting ICE to work on B&W film (real B&W fails ICE as you may know, as does Ilford’s C41 film without the orange layer).

      I did have the habit of rating negative film about 1/2 a stop lower than it says on the box – so right now my Ikon is set to 320.

      • Initially my thoughts were that it would be the camera, but I’ve had no such problems with the 25 or 50 lenses even in the same lighting conditions. Having inspected the camera I also can’t see any reason for the exposure issue. So yeah, I guess I’m a bit stumped on that one. I’ll probably have the camera looked at professionally soon and shoot the 35 on my M4 to see if it exhibits the same symptoms. Well, I think I’ve bored everyone enough with my suppositions, sorry y’all.

        I’m going to have to guess at your next lens being a Leica 2.8/28 Elmarit-M. Pretty much because it was in the running when I decided on the Zeiss 25, and it’s a ‘reasonable’ price, lol.

  4. What makes you say the 35 cron asph is a good lens? Ever shot with it? It’s extremely sharp, but has a crazy drawing defect in the oofa – it looks like a checkerboard overlay, an Tom A describes it as “pixely”

    Graphs mean nothing in photography, they cannot possibly show the important subtle features of a modern lens, especially drawing.

    Good choice on the Ikon. You should also get a Minolta CLE – the Ikon’s big brother, from whom Zeiss bought all the intellectual property, even down to the shape of the sidewalls…..

    Enjoy shooting, just keep the thinking in the real world and grounded in the image, not the graph :j

    • Jipps,

      I’m sorry but the “graphs mean nothing” mantra is kind of bullcrap. A good graph is a pre-requisite for a certain look to your images but it is not sufficient – that is a more accurate philosophy. Conversely a very bad graph shows clear defects you would think are detrimental to imagery.

      You’ve got a point though, I’ve never actually shot a 35mm Summicron ASPH. That statement I made was a bit empty as you point out, I was only looking at charts. I didn’t mean it as an endorsement however, as much as a peace offering to any Leica hardcore who want to take me to war on my statement that the 35mm Biogon is “the best”. Clearly I can’t make that statement until I’ve shot every other 35mm lens, so it would be more accurate to say it has the best charts.

      As for the CLE… you come off angry here. The Ikon has a noted advantage over the CLE right now, in that its parent company is not in smoking ruins and there is warranty & service coverage available for the camera. I’m not looking for a historically-meaningful camera so much as a productive M-mount rangefinder – I’ve got one, so I’m not looking for another. Until there are more digital options, that is.

      Thanks for the send-off… I’m already having a lot of fun on my first rolls. I should drop something to be processed very soon.

      – Olivier

      • The graphs point I made assumed that we’re talking about modern, high-end lenses, so sharpness etc will be (should be) over the perceptible level of quality, and all the assessment variables are pushed out into the image….

        On the CLE point, I’m not remotely angry but instead really happy that this wonderful camera is enjoying a revival at the hands of Zeiss. Given how cheaply it can be bought, and it’s absurdly bright .58 viewfinder (brighter than my M7 or MP) I can’t rate it highly enough, especially if you need a camera to go with a superwide….

        And never sop to us Leica buyers – I’m happy to admit that Leica gear is often some of the most compromised, uninnovtive stuff in the Market. Why use is sharpness when the oofa is veiled behind some liminal tartan?


      • For all the MTF charts in the world I find that lens choices for me are still somewhat subjective. The way a lens draws is that emotive element that will make die-hard brand fans (I admit that I’m a huge fan of the consistency of the Zeiss ‘look’), once you’re in love that’s it, send the money.

        However, charts are best used to research technical behaviour which is damn useful when predicting the ACTUAL behaviour of the lens in real world use (as well as justifying the cost to the pocket book).

        There is certainly a case that both are equally important, but I find that it is because of the emotive element of the former that the worlds forum members frequently get in pissing matches.

        If it’s good, and I need a certain type I’ll consider anything by anyone – I’m not lensist, lol.

        A word on the Ikon, great camera – If or when I find a nice black one at a good price I’ll probably buy one – I think that technically speaking it is probably up there with the best film RF’s right now.

        Thanks for all your good work around here Olivier, it’s always nice to ‘stop by’ and have a look at what’s new. Good Job!

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