PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


Two small bits of Zeiss excitement

2/24mm Distagon Review

A review of the 2/24mm Distagon SSM was posted at DpReview today, and it has me shaking my head and crying : can we please get this lens in ZF.2 mount!?  Especially at that price, $1250 is a crazy low price for this lens.  Skip straight to the charts here.

New ZE/ZF Lenses in 2011 : My Analysis

Looking back at 2010, just now from memory, I can’t recall Zeiss delivering anything new for still photographers.  Both ZF and ZM lens programs went without love this year.  They did announce the 1.4/35mm Distagon ZF at Photokina but it won’t actually be delivered until early next year.

Analysis after the break...


Carl Zeiss 1.5/50 C Sonnar T* ZM Review

The 50mm C Sonnar ZM is a very unique option for a normal lens. In a nutshell this lens looks and draws as if were a compressed version of the 85mm Planar ZF, in ZM mount. The Sonnar is unusually compact even for its focal length and speed class, but costs far less than Leica’s more modern aspherical lens of similar specifications. There are some well-known issues with this lens however, which should dampen the enthusiasm of many.


Carl Zeiss 2.8/25 Distagon T* Review

The 25mm Distagon ZF is a typical wide-angle lens on paper, conservatively specified and priced. In practice it is a versatile lens that could be recommended to many who wish to concentrate on their photography skills. For various reasons the appeal of this Distagon is centered on APS-C cameras where it offers a handy field of view, delivering much the same experience as the 2/35mm Distagon ZF does on full-frame cameras.


Carl Zeiss 1.4/85 Planar T* Review

High-speed 85mm lenses are not the most versatile of lenses but their association with portraiture runs deep in photographic traditions.  The 85mm Planar ZF will appeal to those who seek a look from a bygone era, which is another way to say that it is a bit of a throwback.  Nevertheless, the Planar can stand toe-to-toe with the best of modern lenses at smaller apertures.


1.4/35 Distagon ZF still a ways off

Next year?  Ugh.  I like the price though, I think that’s a good price.

Comes standard with more glass than the
previous version.

There is very little to say about this lens at this time.  The one fact we can discuss is that it’s not a small thing.  The 72mm filter thread is the same size as the 1.4/85mm ZF and it weighs 60% more than the 2/35mm ZF.  It’s going to be really subtle when you whip this out at a party.

I will say this lens has to justify its size/weight/price because the 2/35mm Distagon (my review) is quite excellent and not that expensive (B&H).  If you want to read more there’s a brochure out there.  Rather than steal his thunder, I’ll point you to Diglloyd’s post for the PDF (no charts, I know, I’m sad too).

I will be testing this lens when it comes out, with _particular_ attention to its Bokeh.  The sample in the PDF is really of terrible quality but you can tell there is some slight ringing to the larger circles of confusion.  That’s very much like the 2/35mm ZF and I expected the 1.4/35mm lens to fix that.  Hrm, we shall see.  Next year.


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).

Filed under: Lenses, Zeiss 5 Comments

Current rumors

Looks like I just tempted fate, because we’ve got lots of rumors of digital rangefinders this month.

My 2 cents is that the Zeiss rumor is quite believable. The key technical aspects look to me like they’ve been solved. They have been partners with Sony for a very long time. Sony has an excellent full-frame sensor that will get the backlit-silicon treatment (Exmoor-R) soon. Sony also has nothing to lose from adding a rangefinder to the line-up, and much street-cred to gain.

There’s two basic ways this can play out:
1) Zeiss develops an Ikon Digital camera with Cosina’s body, and a sensor from Sony.
2) Sony develops a Hexar D-RF camera with its own sensor, and body parts from Zeiss/Cosina.

It all depends who you see as the driving force. A company like Sony has a marked advantage with the overall implementation of an electronics-rich product like this, but do they have the will to do it? I think Zeiss has the will right now, it’s time, but do they have the electronics know-how and the support network? It can be a partnership but someone’s got to be on top and I’m not sure who it is.

My bet is that we’ll see this Zeiss/Sony rangefinder camera at Photokina 2010. We might get a sneak peek before that if Solms makes noise about its own plans.

The Leica rumor – that 9/9/9 story – doesn’t sound right to me. It’s not impossible we’ll get an announcement about the M9’s development, but I don’t expect a tangible M9 camera. Ditto for a “Digital CL” or whatever an entry-level M-camera might be called.

The only way I see an M9 showing up on 9/9/9 is if they aborted a sensor upgrade plan for the M8.2 and re-branded that into an M9. This is something that might have gotten shelved to work on the S2, now being rolled-out to make extra money this coming Christmas season. There was some hint of that upgrade idea long ago if you recall Mr. Lee’s comments.

That could take the shape of an integrated IR filter (a technology which they admit they have now) and/or a boost to a slightly higher resolution and lower noise sensor still with the same 1.33X crop factor. The problem with a resolution change is that it would almost guarantee you’d need to swap every other piece of electronics to match data rates, which pushes further in time for me.

Maybe I’m underestimating Leica’s engineering freedom and manpower. I don’t know. I’m being pessimistic maybe.


Unboxing, part 3

Close cousins, Ikon and Biogon 2/35mm ZM T* next to the N80 and Distagon 2/35mm ZF T*.

Even though the Biogon is petite next to the Distagon, the Ikon is not dwarfed by the N80.  I suppose a film transport has the same size anywhere.  Not that I wished it were much smaller, really.

I'm going through some early ergonomic issues with the Ikon...

  • With my glasses I can see the 35mm framelines, but not anything beyond.  This is acceptable but not optimal, I can't even see metered shutter speeds unless I move my eye.  Without my glasses I can see how much I'm missing and I want it all.  I guess I'll be getting myself contact lenses soon.
  • Another issue is that the rangefinder patch disappears quickly if your eye isn't at the exact right place for the viewfinder.  I am fairly sure this is another issue with eyeglasses.  I think the lengthened viewing distance makes the eyepiece much more sensitive than normal.
  • My fingers want to wrap around the camera and often block the rangefinder window, also causing the rangefinder patch to disappear.  When this happens, I tend to confuse this with the previous issue and move my eye around until I finally figure out my fingers were in the wrong place.  D'oh!

This is all stuff I'm going to work through.  I'm practicing the quickdraw (*)  at work while waiting for code to compile.

- Olivier

(*)  Camera up, frame, focus, camera down, defocus.  Repeat.


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.


Unboxing, part 1