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

Filed under: Lenses, Zeiss 11 Comments

Carl Zeiss 2/25 Distagon T* Review

The newly-redesigned, faster version of the 25mm Distagon is a power tool for reportage. With a higher asking price come improved handling and nearly flawless performance at near and middle distances. The new 25mm ZF.2 is more than a viable alternative for the big systems’ fast lenses of similar focal length, it just might be the preferred choice.


Carl Zeiss 1.4/35 Distagon T* Review

Despite strong roots in photojournalism, the Nikon F system somehow failed to maintain a stable of modern fast wide-normal lenses for most of its history. The landscape changed dramatically when, in the middle of 2010, Nikon users suddenly found themselves with choices of fast wide-normals to suit almost every budget and shooting style. The Zeiss Distagon in this review is the most controversial among these new options.


Faulty Distagon

Great news, I received a brand-new 1.4/35mm Distagon ZF.2 this week!  Unfortunately it is defective and will have to go back as soon as B&H will return from holiday.

The problem is that the ectronic aperture control is systematically off by half a stop.  i.e. 1.4->1.4, 1.7->1.4, 2->1.7, etc.  I suppose the widget that controls this was installed with a small offset inside the lens.  The manual aperture ring is accurate however, and my D700 is configured to use that instead now.

What's sad/funny is that this is only an issue because it's a ZF.2 lens; I would have been perfectly happy to buy this as a ZF.1 and would have nothing bad to say about this copy right now.  This is the first time something like this has happened to me (getting a bad product) and I'm annoyed that it happened to be a Zeiss lens -- the inspection certificate for the lens was signed despite this, so it's kind of meaningless.

The good news is that it is the first f/1.4 lens I actually want to shoot at f/1.4.

- Olivier


Carl Zeiss 2.8/25 Biogon T* Review

The 25mm Biogon is a wide-angle lens of a simple type that is currently specific to the M system. This imparts the lens its small size, simple distortions and excellent performance. In more ways than one this Biogon sits halfway between the 25mm Distagon ZF and 24mm Elmarit-M.


Biogon Preview

This is another lens that is short on flaws and sells for a pretty reasonable price.

Some say it's large for an M lens but, seriously, this size is nowhere near problematic.

Now I'm curious to see what the 21mm Biogon ZM can do.

Filed under: Lenses, Zeiss No Comments

Carl Zeiss 2/50 Planar T* Review


The 50mm Planar ZM is one of the simplest lenses ever made, yet performs more robustly and consistently than almost any other lens. It is very closely related to the more-storied 50mm Summicron-M, of nearly identical size and capabilities, that it challenges in the marketplace. This Planar is a fundamentally boring lens with its lack of buzzwords to rave about and also substantive flaws to gripe about.


Data for the Distagon 1.4/35mm ZF

Carl Zeiss recently posted the charts for the new fast 35mm Distagon.

You can view the other charts here on the Carl Zeiss website.

I had seen these charts before but now it just hit me: 40% contrast at 40lppm @ f/1.4 across the entire frame is pretty freaking great.  I also note that the peripheral brightness of the new lens wide-open is the same as my lens wide-open, but at one stop larger aperture.

This is going to be a very nice lens: sharpness, speed and Zeiss color and contrast in spades.  Expect a review from me later this spring.

- Olivier


Carl Zeiss 2/28 Distagon T* Review

The 28mm Distagon ZF is the best kept secret of the ZF lens program. Overall it is a powerhouse of a lens, with particularly excellent treatment of color, but some issues at full aperture have kept it in the shadow of more consistent lenses in the series. This Distagon is an excellent choice for a normal lens on APS-C cameras and a demanding (but rewarding) high-speed wide-angle on full-frame cameras.


Carl Zeiss 2/35 Biogon T* Review

The 35mm Biogon ZM delivers beautiful drawing, excellent sharpness, no distortions, decent speed, and compact size at reasonable price. In comparison the Summicron ASPH is even more compact, particularly if one accounts for the hood, but costs far more and doesn’t deliver very much improvement in terms of optics. Here Zeiss makes a quiet statement: spherical designs are still competitive in a world gone aspherical.