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Preaching to the converted maybe, but an important message for the times nevertheless:
"The best Zeisses all share a common house characteristic that I can best describe with the words "microcolor" and "microcontrast." They discriminate very well between very close shades of color on a minute level, and they have very good large-structure (5 lp/mm or 10 lp/mm) contrast.
They tend to even their sharpness out across the image height (i.e. the whole frame) and tend to be balanced for consistency up and down the aperture range. Add very good flare and veiling glare resistance and a warm bias, and you get an image morphology that goes far beyond simpleminded notions of sharpness.
It's very tempting to say something like "Zeiss looks at every image quality, not just sharpness." But that's over the top and kind of absurd, because of course other lensmakers look at other qualities too.
But I get a bit sick of all the sharpness talk. Sharpness is like crack to photo enthusiasts. They just want more more more without limit and never mind that there are sixty other considerations that go into the integrity of a lens image. And once they're on that crack, in true addict fashion, they let everything else in their photographic lives fall by the wayside."