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Archive 2013 · leica vs zeiss
  
 
sebboh
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · leica vs zeiss


i see a lot of generalizations about the zeiss look and the leica look thrown about the internet and often a lot of them are contradictory. i'd like to see some direct comparisons of leica lenses versus zeiss lenses to see what the differences in rendering are and whether they can actually be generalized across different examples. i'm not interested in talking about which is better, but how one is different than the other and whether it's consistant across the brand. anyway, i'd love to see other people's opinions and see some examples to back them up.

my personal opinion is that both brands have a lot of lenses where they are trying to accomplish different things that can have widely differing characteristics, but they also have some familial traits e.g. color (zeiss is warmer and leica is cooler) and standard optical sacrifices to accomplish their goals e.g. U shaped field curvature in zeiss lenses and midzone dip in mtf in leica lenses (not sure what exactly causes the dip usually?). anyway, i'm interested to see actual proof of the various traits across the lens families. obviously this will be complicated by distinctions between modern leica and old leica that often seem very different and old zeiss and modern zeiss, which to me seem more evolutionary.

i'll start off with a very poorly controlled comparison of leica 35/1.4 to zeiss 35/1.4 wide open near mfd, sadly i didn't manage to get the focus points identical:





the zeiss is first and it is the c/y 35/1.4 the leica is the m summilux pre aspherical.

i'll post some real comparisons between the two soon as i have time, as well as throwing the leica 40mm cron and contax g 45/2 into the mix. looking forward to hearing other peoples observations particularly regarding more modern lenses.



Feb 16, 2013 at 10:16 PM
carstenw
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · leica vs zeiss


The Leica 35/1.4 pre-ASPH is a very old lens, and won't give you much of a relevant comparison. I do own both the ZF.2 35/1.4 and the Leica 35/1.4R, and can put up some shots at some point, but don't have the time or desire right now, so I hope you are patient

I have owned very many Leica (M and R) lenses and various Zeiss lenses, from Contax to ZF.2 to Hasselblad to Rolleiflex 6000 and Contax 645, and my general feeling is that the Zeiss lenses have more contrast and a more transparent, realistic rendering with "interesting" boke, and the Leica lenses have beautiful painterly boke but a less realistic rendering. The Leicas have also been generally harder to focus. I would say that the average Leica lens I have owned (mostly fairly modern) have had more raw optical performance than the Zeiss lenses, but also have prices to match, and they aren't necessarily outright more desirable.



Feb 16, 2013 at 10:22 PM
sebboh
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · leica vs zeiss


carstenw wrote:
The Leica 35/1.4 pre-ASPH is a very old lens, and won't give you much of a relevant comparison. I do own both the ZF.2 35/1.4 and the Leica 35/1.4R, and can put up some shots at some point, but don't have the time or desire right now, so I hope you are patient

I have owned very many Leica (M and R) lenses and various Zeiss lenses, from Contax to ZF.2 to Hasselblad to Rolleiflex 6000 and Contax 645, and my general feeling is that the Zeiss lenses have more contrast and a more transparent, realistic rendering with "interesting" boke,
...Show more

indeed, the pre-asph design is roughly 20 years older than the more modern c/y design, which incorporates a floating element and an aspherical surface. the c/y lens is also 10x the volume and an slr lens rather than a rangefinder lens. on the other hand they were both in production at the same time for a least a decade (maybe two?) and i believe the lux was considerably more expensive? i'm more interested drawing style and how they differ, and i think the lux is pretty representative of the other pre-asph summilux lenses in terms of how they draw. though there obvious differences compared to modern asph luxes though or even crons from the same era.

i'd definitely patient and look forward to the comparison of the two slr 35/1.4 lenses though those two lenses aren't really contemporaries either.



Feb 16, 2013 at 10:37 PM
sebboh
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · leica vs zeiss


little comparison of the two lenses at infinity as well.

whole frame:



and some crops, first at f/4, which the smallest aperture before diffraction starts to show up on the NEX-7.

zeiss:


leica:


then at f/8.

leica:


zeiss:


note, the zeiss turns out to be a little bit longer in focal length than the leica, so the 100% crops look bigger. also white balance is set to the exact same settings in both of these rather than set to a white point in the image (i couldn't find one), so you can see the difference in color between the two lenses. focus point for each image was on the transamerica building. shots were handheld, but shutter speed was fast enough for that not to matter.



Feb 16, 2013 at 10:49 PM
tsdevine
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · leica vs zeiss


Wow, that f/4 Leica crop is spectacular.

-Tim



Feb 16, 2013 at 11:11 PM
rscheffler
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · leica vs zeiss


I posted this awhile ago in a few threads:

50 Lux ASPH:






ZM50P:






A couple bonus Voigtlander:

50/1.5:






40/1.4:






These were shot on the GXR. WB based on the ZM image, brightness adjusted to match the white in the C of Canon. Of the various LR3 parameters, contrast was set to zero, black point at 5, clarity at zero. I guess this is more or less a bokeh test. There's hardly any color, so that won't really be a factor. Other than bokeh, the difference is really the degree of SA and how that affects contrast.

I don't have an apples to apples Leica-Zeiss 50mm comparison because I don't own a Leica 50/2. But I think these two offer some insight into the apparently different priorities of the two brands. This test actually disfavors the Leica considerably because it's weakest at minimum focusing distance, despite having a floating element design. It's surprisingly sharp wide open at infinity, though stopping down improves contrast/micro contrast. IMO, the 50 Lux ASPH, and other Lux lenses I own/tried, have some similarities. They tend to be dual-personality lenses. Wide open can be a bit gentle or slightly dreamy due to residual SA (see the softness long the top edge of "Canon"), yet still are very sharp. But the SA affects micro contrast. It's an interesting combination that results in a gentler rendering, which tends to be more pleasing for typical portraiture distances. Stopped down they're brutally sharp. Another goal of modern Leica lenses seems to be across frame performance with as flat a field of focus as possible, seemingly optimized for wide open too. I'd guess this is what aspherical elements help achieve? I see it particularly in the 21mm lenses. The 21 Lux has a much flatter plane than my ZM21/2.8. At nearer distance and equivalent apertures, this results in more background blur towards the image edge for the Lux.

Back to the 50s: the ZM50/2 is quite high in contrast, especially stopped down and I guess is fairly characteristic of Zeiss. That contrast/sharpness also holds at nearer distances, as can be seen in the greater 'pop' in the camera's textured finish. Whereas the 50 Lux ASPH has that wavy mid zone dip, which I think is caused by Leica pushing for an 'on average' flat plane of focus (edges recover to a similar point relative to the center), the Zeiss 50 has typical u-shaped field curvature. At infinity it seems to be better in the center and takes a while to catch up in the corners, meanwhile the Leica is really good from wide open. I never wanted to shoot infinity shots with the Zeiss wide open, but won't hesitate to do so with the Lux.

Then there is background rendering... The Lux ASPH, as you can see above, is very neutral. Even compared to the pre-ASPH version (see recent posts in the Leica M thread), there is quite a difference whereby OOF specular point sources tend not to have hard edges and there is less structure to background objects (the last aspect is not evident in these images above). The Zeiss does render harder edged circles. I feel the Zeiss is more consistent in its look through the aperture range with none of the dual-personality seen in the Luxes.

Then there are some of the newest Leica lenses, such as the 50AA, 21/3.4 and maybe the 24/3.8 too. These seem to lean into Zeiss territory, being very consistent in look across the aperture range, and also high in sharpness/contrast/micro contrast. I have a difficult time telling the difference between the 21/3.4 and the ZM21/2.8, in terms of contrast/color characteristics. Beyond f/5.6 it's also really difficult to see a resolution difference, but the Leica is superior wide open, with an extremely flat plane of focus. Carsten, it's interesting you mention transparency as a feature of the Zeiss lenses. I can recall this has come up numerous times in the Zeiss image thread. It's also a feeling I have about the 21/3.4. When I look at landscape shots I've done with it, it's a feeling of everything being sharp and well defined. I don't see telltale lens characteristics at play, other than perhaps pleasing contrast and color. So, my feeling is not only are some modern Leica lenses dual-personality, but so is the current Leica lens line. Some lenses will inject a certain type of character into the final image, whereas some seem to be quite neutral, very sharp, and seemingly transparent.



Feb 17, 2013 at 12:15 AM
Bijltje
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · leica vs zeiss


Agree with Ron and Carsten,

After using a lot of ZM and M lenses I always felt it like:
The Zeisses have more contrast and to my feeling slightly cooler, well maybe not cooler but more vivid colors. Great for landscape and architecture and those popping pictures.

The leica's feel more neutral overal, have less contrast and have more skin like colors.

Sharpness never was a issue with both of them.

However the differences are not the same with every lens:

The ZM 18/4 and 18/3.8 super elmar-M ASPH look quite similar.

The ZM 28/2.8 was way more contrasty than the 28/2 summicron-M ASPH but the 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH also has more contrast than the cron and is more close to the zeiss.

The biggest difference between the 50/2 ZM planar and the 50/2 summicron-M is for the the slightly more classic look with the cron. The ZM planar was really modern.

I think the most different colors I got from the ZM 35/2.8 and the 35 summicron-M ASPH. They both are really sharp and have clean rendering. But the 35 ZM-C looked more cool to me than the leica does. That one has more neutral colors.


Unfortunately I never had one type of lens at the same time so never did make comparing shots.


btw, that f/4 crop from the 35 lux pre ASPH looks really good. I thought the VC 35/1.4 classic to be really similar to the lux pre, but I never got that kind of performance out of it.



Feb 17, 2013 at 12:46 AM
rscheffler
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · leica vs zeiss


Robert, regarding your last comment: that's where I think the $$$ goes in Leica lenses. My impression is the Voigtlander 35/1.4 was made to 'feel' like the Lux pre-ASPH but not to withstand the close inspection possible of the 35 Lux. I must also admit, I have zero experience with the 35 Lux pre-ASPH and the infinity crop above really impresses me. I was always under the impression it was a lens for low light reportage type photography and not for technically demanding applications. But then, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that it shares some aspects I've experienced with modern Luxes.

BTW, rumor is there will be a ZM35/1.4 this year and it will be very interesting to see how it renders... My hope is it shares some traits found in the ZE/ZF version instead of aiming for sheer sharpness/resolution/contrast performance.



Feb 17, 2013 at 02:18 AM
JaKo
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · leica vs zeiss


sebboh wrote: i'd like to see some direct comparisons of leica lenses versus zeiss lenses to see what the differences in rendering are and whether they can actually be generalized across different examples. i'm not interested in talking about which is better...

Based only on a few pairs I own both brands are different and both are supperb in their own way. There is no clear (objective) winner, if you had to chose one, therefore many people own both versions, just like yourself.

It's hard to compare current Leica M with Zeiss .ZF/ZE (Japan) as there is no common full frame platform, IFAIK. (I cannot comment on .ZF flagships like MP100, Distagon 2.8/21 vs. their ZM counterparts as there are no equivalnents) My guess is they're very comparable and differences may be greater between cameras sensors rather than lenses themselves, who knows, someone who owns both can chime in.

Reposted comparison:
























Feb 17, 2013 at 04:20 AM
redisburning
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · leica vs zeiss


one of the things I will say that I think mirror's Ron's thoughts are that Leica lenses seem to have a bit lower contrast at the smaller lp/mm measurements (e.g. 10 and 20) but do pull ahead at mtf40 or 50.

Roger Cicala did a really good 50mm comparison on his site and mtf50 alone says the Canon 50s are better than any of the Zeiss 50s but they sure dont look that way to most of us, myself included. not that I don't belive it, of course, just a design choice and one that shows apparent sharpness and accutance are not the same thing.



Feb 17, 2013 at 04:59 AM
 

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sebboh
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · leica vs zeiss


Bijltje wrote:
Agree with Ron and Carsten,

After using a lot of ZM and M lenses I always felt it like:
The Zeisses have more contrast and to my feeling slightly cooler, well maybe not cooler but more vivid colors. Great for landscape and architecture and those popping pictures.


i definitely agree that zeiss seems to emphasize contrast more and have bolder colors. i've heard many people claim that zeiss has cooler colors while leica is warmer, but i've never seen it in any lens i've shot with (i've also not shot any comparisons with a modern zeiss or leicas). every time i've compared a zeiss lens directly to other lenses the zeiss has always had the warmest colors and my leicas have all turned out to be cooler than anything except my minoltas. you can see this is the case in the infinity crops above too. maybe zeiss has changed things for the their Z* lenses?

Bijltje wrote:
btw, that f/4 crop from the 35 lux pre ASPH looks really good. I thought the VC 35/1.4 classic to be really similar to the lux pre, but I never got that kind of performance out of it.


keep in mind that the crop isn't from the corner and i'm shooting an aps-c camera (though one with a really high pixel density). corners on the 35 lux pre asph are still pretty weak at f/4, but they get much better than what i've seen from the voigtlander at infinity. i think the voigtlander was designed to have a similar look but without the effort to get flatness of field at infinity that obviously went into the lux. the lux seems noticeably softer closer in than at infinity too. my feeling is that they designed the lens for reportage where reportage means being able to take a picture of a scene that takes up the entire frame at f/1.4 because you absolutely need the speed. going back to the comparison with the c/y 35/1.4 the lux kills it at f/1.4 at infinity. the contax looks terrible everyplace except for the center while lux looks pretty decent detail wise with some heavy coma and spherical aberration layed over the details.



Feb 17, 2013 at 05:28 AM
sebboh
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · leica vs zeiss


rscheffler wrote:
I posted this awhile ago in a few threads:

These were shot on the GXR. WB based on the ZM image, brightness adjusted to match the white in the C of Canon. Of the various LR3 parameters, contrast was set to zero, black point at 5, clarity at zero. I guess this is more or less a bokeh test. There's hardly any color, so that won't really be a factor. Other than bokeh, the difference is really the degree of SA and how that affects contrast.


thanks for posting these again. one other thing that stands out to me that you didn't mention is that the 50 lux asph has considerably less loCA than the other lenses. i've noticed that most of the m lenses i've tried (including the 35 lux) also seem to have lower loCA than i'd expect for their speed. have you seen something similar in your more modern leicas? zeiss lenses always seem to show more than usual loCA, but i'm not sure if it just seems like more because of their higher contrast.



Feb 17, 2013 at 08:01 AM
sebboh
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · leica vs zeiss


nearly forgot, the same infinity crops with the contax g 45/2 and 40mm summicron.

at f/4:

leica:


zeiss:


at f/8:

zeiss:


leica:


note: the g 45 is the best landscape lens i've used. it can handle the NEX-7 sensor from corner to corner at f/4 with no problem and i feel comfortable opening it up to f/2.8 when shooting landscapes at infinity if light is low. the 40 cron unlike the 35 lux seems to perform better at portrait to medium distances.



Feb 17, 2013 at 08:14 AM
rscheffler
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · leica vs zeiss


Derek, that's a good question (loCA). To be honest, it's not something I've carefully looked for, but will keep an eye out for it. My impression is the Leica lenses don't exhibit much, but with the 50 Lux ASPH, for example, I do notice that OOF background elements in higher contrast areas (like OOF branches against an overcast sky) can show a bit of greenishness one would associate with loCA. That said, nothing like I've gotten from my 85L where it seems to explode from the image in certain scenarios. I had the chance to shoot the ZM85/2 Sonnar last year, and would like to give it another try. My hunch is it's worse for loCA. It certainly purple fringes quite strongly wide open in high contrast scenes. This is another thing I don't see much with Leica lenses, but quite frequently with Voigtlander. For example, in my 21mm shootout, the 21/1.8 definitely PFs more than the 21 Lux. and the CV50/1.5 does while the 50 Lux ASPH doesn't (sorry to steer into CV territory here).

There also seems to be a general difference between my Leica M and ZM lenses when it comes to regular CA. The ZMs generally have little or none. For example, the 21/2.8 is essentially CA free to my eyes. Yet, all my Leica glass has some degree of CA. The 21/3.4 is probably the best corrected but still has some. The problem with this lens is it's so sharp, that in areas of extremely fine detail, the CA adds a sort of confusion to the sharpness, even though the CA is not very wide. The worst is the 21 Lux. It's really strong, but fortunately it cleans up pretty well in LR4, along with it's purple fringing. The 28 Cron and 50 Lux ASPH have some CA, but it's generally not that noticeable. The 90 Summarit has a bit more than those two, but also not too terrible, though maybe more than one would expect from an $1800 lens. But maybe that's what one gets 'on a budget.'



Feb 17, 2013 at 08:56 AM
rscheffler
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · leica vs zeiss


OK, here are some 21mm comparisons at 70cm, which is minimum focusing distance for the Leica lenses, while the
Zeiss will focus down to 50cm, but RF uncoupled. Of course this is handy on a mirrorless camera, though on
something like the NEX, the helicoid adapter is good to have.

These images are from my 21mm shootout, so hit the link
if you want to download full-rez files. Otherwise, I upsized them to 1600 pixels here for a bit better comparison.
Perhaps better to open them in separate tabs and flip back and forth.

Lenses in order of appearance (and as indicated in the watermarks): 21 Lux @ f/1.4, f/2.8, ZM21/2.8 wide open and
21/3.4 ASPH wide open.

My observations: The 21 Lux at f/2.8 has more background blur, and a bit smoother too, than the other two lenses wide
open, and is a touch lower contrast. At f/1.4 I think you can see that it has a bit of glow to its sharpness that you don't
see in the other two. Between the ZM and 21 SEM, it's kind of a toss up. I want to say the ZM is a touch higher
contrast and saturation, but the trouble is the time of day when these were done, the sun was close to setting and the
light was constantly changing in subtle ways as I ran through each lens's full aperture range.











































Here's another group, in the same order. With this one, particularly in the full-rez versions, you can see the field
curvature of each lens in the text on the grave stone as you go up from the center of the frame. In the center is the
name Greening, then at the top right is Greening again. You'll note that with the ZM21/2.8, the plane of focus curves
from the lower Greening to the upper Greening. With the Lux and SEM, the plane of focus just goes straight up. Also,
you'll see this is where the SEM destroys the ZM for across-frame resolution/sharpness (assuming one was shooting a
relatively flat, 2D scene).























Feb 17, 2013 at 09:19 AM
AhamB
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · leica vs zeiss


sebboh wrote:
every time i've compared a zeiss lens directly to other lenses the zeiss has always had the warmest colors and my leicas have all turned out to be cooler than anything except my minoltas. you can see this is the case in the infinity crops above too. maybe zeiss has changed things for the their Z* lenses?


From the comparisons between Z* and C/Y and other lenses I've seen, the Z* versions generally seem to have a considerably warmer color rendition, so that should make the difference with Leica even greater.



Feb 17, 2013 at 09:51 AM
Toothwalker
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · leica vs zeiss


AhamB wrote:
From the comparisons between Z* and C/Y and other lenses I've seen, the Z* versions generally seem to have a considerably warmer color rendition, so that should make the difference with Leica even greater.


I don't think this can be generalized. There was considerable variation in the color balance of my C/Y lenses, even between different copies of the same lens.



Feb 17, 2013 at 11:36 AM
sebboh
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · leica vs zeiss


Toothwalker wrote:
I don't think this can be generalized. There was considerable variation in the color balance of my C/Y lenses, even between different copies of the same lens.


there certainly seems to me color differences in the coatings of contax lenses made at different times, but my statement spans samples 20 years apart and the zeiss always seem very warm compared to my other lenses (pentax is also pretty warm). i'm sure zeiss has tweaked colors many times over the years, but i would be surprised if they decided to drastically change the color balance. the issue seems hard to get at these days due to the fact that people rarely directly compare color balance to a measured value or another lens. auto white balance means that many people could actually get the opposite impression of a lenses color characteristics because in my experience auto white balance will usually over compensate for a lenses color cast.



Feb 17, 2013 at 06:15 PM
sebboh
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · leica vs zeiss


rscheffler wrote:
OK, here are some 21mm comparisons at 70cm, which is minimum focusing distance for the Leica lenses, while the

My observations: The 21 Lux at f/2.8 has more background blur, and a bit smoother too, than the other two lenses wide
open, and is a touch lower contrast. At f/1.4 I think you can see that it has a bit of glow to its sharpness that you don't
see in the other two. Between the ZM and 21 SEM, it's kind of a toss up. I want to say the ZM is a touch higher
contrast and saturation, but the
...Show more

thanks!

the lux definitely looks like the odd one out in rendering, though color does seem more similar between the two leicas. perhaps it's just my imagination though if the light was changing, but the zm looks warmer especially the headstone shot. are these all the same white balance or did you do something to equalize color across pictures?

the lux definitely seems to have more blur and less microcontrast, i'm assuming the increased blur at like apertures is due to the larger front element. the SEM seems very similar in this regard to the zm though despite the aperture difference. the difference in flatness of field is interesting, do you ever find that the zeiss's U shape focus plain is helpful?



Feb 17, 2013 at 06:28 PM
douglasf13
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · leica vs zeiss


sebboh wrote:
there certainly seems to me color differences in the coatings of contax lenses made at different times, but my statement spans samples 20 years apart and the zeiss always seem very warm compared to my other lenses (pentax is also pretty warm). i'm sure zeiss has tweaked colors many times over the years, but i would be surprised if they decided to drastically change the color balance. the issue seems hard to get at these days due to the fact that people rarely directly compare color balance to a measured value or another lens. auto white balance means that many
...Show more

Several months back, I tested the recent Leica 50/2 (not AA) and ZM 50/2 on the M9, and, if memory serves me correctly, the Leica was cooler by around 400K. I deleted the test shots, so I can't confirm it, but I believe that is about right.

FWIW, the ZM seemed to transmit a bit more light and had less vignetting.



Feb 17, 2013 at 07:38 PM
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