PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux

27Aug/105

A note on the Zeiss 2/24mm ZA

Did anyone note the price on this gem? B&H is taking pre-orders for $1250 at the moment. That’s such an attractive price, it’s bordering on incredible really.

These days it seems we can’t get a good lens from Nikon without a price tag over $2K. It’s the new default price for quality. Yet here is a German-designed T*-coated lens for half the price of the Nikkor 24mm.

Hey Carl Zeiss : Can we get this with a ZF mount please?  Pretty PLEASE?

(Also, can we get MTF charts for these guys?  Is there some hideous fact that is being hidden?  I have to wonder in absence of data.)

EDIT (10 minutes later): I have found the charts!

That's very 'ok' performance.  Definitely the APS-C portion of the frame is very good starting from wide-open aperture.  On full-frame I'm worried about the power-dive that all constrast figures take towards the corners, even the coarse 10lppm figure is bad.  Beyond this there is a bit of astigmatism that never goes away at small apertures and the corners won't live up to expectations for resolution-hungry shooters on full-frame at any aperture (though 20lppm figures are good enough that photographic quality will impress most viewers even there).

I would definitely want to try one on the F mount.  I do worry about that corner contrast on full-frame... I expected better, but Sony appears not to value full-frame as much as others.

Final EDIT (1 hour later)

Having stared at this data a bit longer, I still think this is an aggressive price and would relish the opportunity to see the lens with an F mount.  However it is not as much of a bargain as I originally thought.  The wide-open performance appears comparable or slightly worse than the 24mm Nikkor also wide-open, i.e. it is lagging the Nikkor by a solid stop of aperture in performance.  This makes some sense given how much simpler the optical design is and I think that fits Sony's marketing needs well: upsell to APS-C users with the promise of FF coverage (but not the most substantive FF coverage).


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  1. I do agree with you on that 2k price that thing. Seems like by marking 2k as the price, Nikon deems it a pro grade lens even though it maybe not.

    But I have to admit, Sony’s version looks very impressive and it doesn’t seem to break the bank…(not that bad at least…)

  2. Now if that Sony ZA was F/1.4 then maybe we could compare prices with the Nikkor.

    • Everything can always be compared given the appropriate hypothesis. The question is not which is cheaper, it’s whether that f/1.4 stop is really worth a $1000 premium. My personal answer is that it probably is not, except for bragging rights.

      During the brief time that I had this Nikkor in my bag, I used it most at f/2.4-2.8. At that aperture the Nikkor delivered the performance I crave, and wider than that it didn’t. If the Zeiss delivered the performance I want at the same aperture then the two would be perfectly interchangeable in my mind. All of this being said I doubt the Zeiss ZA does this (based on charts) so the Nikkor’s premium probably has _some_ basis in reality.

      • if you’re shooting in low light, that 1 stop is most certainly worth it. it is for me. 😉 but of course, that all depends on the photographer, not everyone shoots the same.

        then there’s another question of whether this lens will even be made for the F-mount. probably not, based on the fact that none of ZA lenses have been made for nikon or canon cameras.

        • I shoot in low light. Low-ish. I do not take pictures when I have difficulty seeing with my eyes, that’s for sure.

          I’m not holding my breath for the ZF version of this lens, I don’t expect it to come for many years. In time Zeiss recycles designs so we may yet see a derived version in some future line-up.


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