PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


55mm Distagon, Concisely Explained

Even though there is still very little information available on this lens, I believe I just read in a web forum what is the definitive meaning of it.  This lens, and the new family to come with it, is the answer to the Leica S system.

There are a few tests published online that compare the D800 to the S2 (Ming Thein's is excellent, and free to view) and every one of them ends with "but the D800 doesn't have as good lenses".  This lens puts an end to that.

I can't wait to get more information.  More than a vague comment.

Also: I hope this isn't the industrial design they're going with.

- Olivier

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  1. Yeah, I don’t like the design either, I mean, I’m not sure I understand where they are going with it. Maybe they feel they’re lenses look antique and, by comparison the S system lenses are far more modern looking? It makes sense..

    Also, where is the aperture control ring on this one?

    I’m glad you came back posting, I enjoyed you latest review on the CZ 2/25 Distagon!

    All the best,


    • The main thing for me is that I don’t want rubber on it. My Summarit-M 75mm is the only lens I own with rubber on it and I despise it (the rubber specifically, the lens is good).

      There does appear to be an AI indexing ring at the back of the lens in the picture above. Open it larger and notice the little notch at the back.


  2. Also, what’s up with the Carl Zeiss 135/2 APO Sonar, newly announced? The design language seems to be the traditional one, however it’s from the same manifesto as the 55mm Distagon.

    Here’s the link:

    Oh, and thanks for S2/D800 comparison link.

    • There is a disconnect with the Sonnar. It looks exactly as I expect it to, and it is a very high-end lens – the charts are just nuts.

      My sense is that the 55mm Distagon is shown in a mule body right now, and that it will end up looking like a copy of the Sonnar with only the glass substituted. The 82mm filter thread is daunting though, I hope they manage to squeeze it into a 77mm body.


      • It seems Lloyd know’s a great deal more about this stuff than us:

        He mentions three lenses on the pipeline, all in the new category. Considering this, the 135/2 APO Sonar launching is even more curious..

        Maybe Zeiss wants to redefine hi-end lenses so that the current crop of 21/2.8, 100/2 and 135/2 look cheap? :))

        • I do not think Zeiss wants to redefine hi-end lenses. At least, not to have the current series look cheap.

          Zeiss has a good point (I think). The upcoming new FF cameras (D800 being the first) have enormous sensor resolution and, following Moore’s law, it will not stop at 36 MP. As we all know: the more MP on the same surface, the better the lens needs to be. Zeiss knows this too and wants to substitute their sales in the Medium Format area with these new lenses. Think Zeiss argues (and rightfully, I think) that the current crop of MF camera’s will soon be eclipsed by the FF 24×36 mm camera’s. They want a piece of that pie!

          A different question is, however, how useful this MP race is for us, amateurs. When does it stop to become more useful and visible in the pictures on the wall? My take is that 24 MP is more than enough. Lloyd Chambers obviously thinks that >100 MP will still improve visibly on that. I think that this may be true but maybe not in the picture on the wall but at 100% view on the screen. Only time will tell ;-)…..

      • I saw the prototype Distagon T* 1.4/55 at Photokina. Although not quite production-level in fit and finish, it gave me every impression of being a final and carefully considered design in terms of style and mechanics.

        It looks more modern and ‘technical’ compared to the Z-series lenses, which are more ‘retro’ (though not gratuitously or excessively so, in my opinion). The new look may reassure buyers seeking outright optical performance rather than a warm fuzzy feeling.

        Personally, I prefer the look of the Z-series lenses, though no Zeiss is beautiful in the way Leica lenses often are.

        By the way, the Distagon T* 1.4/55 construction is similar to the Z-series lenses, in that the barrel is traditional aluminium alloy. The new look made me fear some kind of plastic was used, but no.

  3. Hi,

    Here are some samples with the 135/2 APO. The bokeh strikes to me as a bit odd, comparing with the 100/2. That’s not necessarily a good shot to evaluate bokeh though.

    It seems completely free of chromatic aberrations, deserving the APO designation. We need more samples 🙂

    • Hi Florin,

      I saw those and tried to form some opinion from them… I don’t think I’ve yet seen anything that couldn’t have been shot with 100mm ZF. I think that such a beast does exist, it’s just not in this gallery.

      Lots of excitement to come this week, we’ll certainly know more by Friday.


      • Holly, it seems Leica is the real star this week. Two new M cameras and a new S, new lenses..

        I am really glad to see this revival of Leica, I only hope it will have a bootstrap effect on Zeiss and Voigtlander..

        Only a couple of years ago Leica seemed doomed and now look at it.. Very cool times..

  4. Hi Oliver (and others)!

    The lens is released! It is the first in the new Otus series and according to Lloyd Chambers (who already reviewed it; see Also an interesting interview with Zeiss here:

    The price is also interesting: >US$ 3000 bringing this lens in Leica territories :-). But, of course, Leica does not produce any lenses for both Nikon as Canon so Zeiss obviously wants to become the Leica of the non-RF world. Hmmm, now that I mention that: why did Leica not think about that too?


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