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Archive 2013 · leica vs zeiss
  
 
carstenw
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p.2 #1 · p.2 #1 · leica vs zeiss


Well, I shuffled my day today and went out explicitly to test the Leica Summilux-R 35mm f/1.4 against the Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/1.4 ZF.2. The light today was very flat, but bright enough to provoke some CA in branches against sky. I tried to shoot at various distances, focus in various parts of the frame, and also tried to provoke some 3D (the latter largely without success in any significant way).

Keep in mind when reading this that I would rate both lenses as being among the best I have ever owned, both better than 9/10 (but both not reaching 10/10). Also:


  1. This light is only one kind of light. Other kinds might yield different results.
  2. This is only one style of shooting. Other styles yadda yadda.
  3. I have only one copy of each. I believe them both to be good, but it is possible that one is better than the other.
  4. My Leica-Nikon replacement mount appears not to quite reach infinity. It did on my D3, but not on my D800. I will have to adjust it.
  5. I did not compensate for slight colour differences, since I do not want to fiddle much with Lightroom, for fear of introducing bias.
  6. The focus point moves around a little, despite an effort to use the same focusing spot for each shot. I think in one shot it may even move a lot, due to operator error.


I would summarise the lenses as follows (some of which is personal, and thus debatable):

Mechanical:


  1. The Leica is smaller (half the volume perhaps?) and has a built-in hood. The weight is not so different though.
  2. The D800 interacts fully with the Zeiss, but does not even know when the Leica is mounted. I set up a non-CPU lens slot to get EXIF.
  3. The Zeiss focus movement is lighter and smoother, but the travel is much shorter, and thus a bit less accurate.
  4. The Zeiss focuses to 29cm or so, the Leica to 50cm or so.


Rendering:


  1. The Leica has more resolution near the middle, less near the edges, when near wide open. In other words, the Zeiss's sharpness is more evenly distributed.
  2. The Leica can have kinda messy corners wide open.
  3. The Zeiss appears a little warmer, but see caveat above.
  4. The Zeiss has a fair amount more CA, as much as double (measured by width in pixels in OOF regions).
  5. The Zeiss has higher contrast, i.e. the Leica has more detail in the shadow regions.
  6. The rendering characteristics make the Zeiss easier to see focus accurately with.
  7. Both have field curvature, the Leica more, and I think in opposite directions. I am not sure if I am judging this right due to limitations of the samples I have available.
  8. The Leica has quite a bit more vignetting, but it is often attractive.
  9. When out of focus, the Leica gains "haze", the Zeiss "softness". It is hard to describe what I mean by this, but I see a distinct difference when focusing with live view. This helps make it harder to see if the Leica is in focus.
  10. Stop for stop, the Leica exposes a tad darker (1/4 stop maybe), and carries more depth of field. The further away from the plane of focus, the more similar the amount of blur is. The Leica's DoF region is somehow fatter in the middle, but overall similar.
  11. The Leica's depth of field rolls off slower (probably another way of saying the same thing).
  12. The Leica has a couple of mm shorter focal length. I do not know which is closer to 35mm.
  13. The Leica is sharper when stopped down. In fact, it is bloody sharp. The Zeiss is only very sharp
  14. The Leica has noticeably less distortion.


It is not possible for me to overstate how much of this is just small tendencies, nothing that I would really notice, except by comparing directly. Both lenses are awesome, really amazing glass. A few of the differences are larger. Overall I would say that the Leica is better optically, but this does not necessarily make me prefer it. I am still undecided, but leaning very slightly towards preferring the Zeiss for its overall balance of pros and cons compared to the Leica (before seeing the results today, I preferred it even more, but the Leica is very impressive). Note that I own 6 other Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, so the Zeiss fits better in my collection. I am also a bit lazy and prefer electronically coupled lenses.

Here are some samples to demonstrate some of these points, Leica always first. These are all un-processed, other than importing into Lightroom 4.2, occasionally bumping the Leica exposure one notch, and then exporting. I do not know if Lightroom auto-corrects the Zeiss...

Not all have identical focusing points, so don't obsess about small differences (hard not to do when all there is is small differences ). Also, most are unfortunately in portrait orientation, so I cannot make them as large as I otherwise would.

I do need to go out one day when the light is harsher, and I also need to compare skin tone rendering. I think the Leica may win both of those contests.

If someone will give me a mini-tutorial on using photos with DropBox, I can put some full-res samples there (36MP), or perhaps downscaled to 18MP, or some other number.


































































































Feb 17, 2013 at 08:28 PM
rscheffler
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p.2 #2 · p.2 #2 · leica vs zeiss


sebboh wrote:
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
...Show more

I also get the feeling the ZM is slightly warmer. I double-checked my LR settings. Color temperature and tint setting was identical for each lens in each set. This was intentional to show any slight color differences.

On this note, I have noticed that my Leica lenses have some slight color differences, primarily in tint. The biggest anomaly in my set of 21 Lux, 21 SEM, 28 Cron, 50 Lux ASPH and 90 Summarit, is the 28 Cron, which is consistently about 5-10 points more magenta than the others. It is extremely obvious, to me, in images with blue skies, as the 28 Cron shots always have a navy blue vs. 'sky blue' tendency. But of my Leica lenses, I think the 28 Cron is also the odd-one-out in its combination of contrast, saturation, color balance and persistent vignetting.

Going strictly by memory, I think my ZM lenses are a bit more consistent, but also probably have a slight cyan/green bias in blue shades compared to the Leicas. In the 21 comparison images I posted here, the Lux seems to have a slight magenta shift compared to the ZM and SEM.

Carsten, thanks for that comparison. Based just on these, my preference is slightly towards the Zeiss. BTW, that looks like an interesting cemetery. I also find them to be ideal camera/lens test locations since I'll generally be left alone. Regarding dropbox, if you have a Google account, you could also use Google Drive to store files and make links available.

Edit: I forgot to address the field curvature question.

Thus far I have not found the ZM's field curvature characteristics useful for my needs. There are probably situations where it could be put to use, such as when a slightly nearer central subject and distant peripheral subject content is also needed in focus and working stopped down is difficult. So far I have not run across such a scenario. Stopping down to 5.6 or more hides the ZM's field curvature and usually offers sufficient depth of field.

Personally, u-shaped curvature that falls off away from the camera towards the edges annoyed me while researching whether to enter the M9 system. The vast majority of RF lens samples/tests I read appeared to have such receding curvature. I found it annoying to see edges/corners transition towards less blur/separation than the central area of the frame. I recently noticed this characteristic when I had the chance to try the Leica 50/1. It's also evident in my 21mm shootout when comparing the CV21/1.8 against the Lux, and is one of the primary reasons I intend to keep the Lux despite how well the CV addresses many other aspects at a considerably lower price. I would rather see field curvature towards the camera because it will blur the background towards edges/corners more and sometimes I have found it useful when closer peripheral subjects are in the image. This is particularly true of people photos, where perhaps a group curves a bit towards the camera, or where people towards the edges of the composition are closer to the camera. I do a fair amount of candid people photos at events I cover, and people tend to stand in circular groups of 3-5. My Canon 16-35 has this type of field curvature and sometimes it has been useful. Lenses with the opposite type of field curvature, when used in such situations, tend to place sharp focus on one individual and the rest in such a circular group are considerably blurred as the focus bends away, instead of nearer to the camera.

But given the choice and based on what I like to photograph, I prefer to have minimal field curvature. I think most, if not all, of my Leica M lenses address this quite effectively, particularly the two 21s and the 50 Lux ASPH. The 28 Cron might be the weakest here, but I will have to look at it more closely to confirm.



Feb 17, 2013 at 08:59 PM
RustyBug
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p.2 #3 · p.2 #3 · leica vs zeiss


When I first came to the Alt Forum, I was taught what the term "drawing style" meant. Ever since then, I've been one to suggest "different" vs. "better". Glad to see this OP being focused on the perspective of difference rather than the bent of better.

Not much that I can contribute with images re: Leica vs. Zeiss, as I really don't have any comparable glass between these two mfrs. The closest I've got is the Elmarit 90/2.8 vs. C/Y 80-200/4 ... i.e. not really close enough to illustrate brand tendencies.

With a bag of Oly, Leica, Mamiya, Nikon, Canon, Tamron, Sigma, C/Y glass ... it is always about "different" depending on how I want to approach an image. If I want smooth tones, I reach for some, but not others. If I want max center resolution, it'll be another. Thus, glad to see the "differences" (i.e. not "better") being discussed instead of the typical "Which is better?" debate.



Feb 17, 2013 at 09:31 PM
Dudewithoutape
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p.2 #4 · p.2 #4 · leica vs zeiss


Thanks everyone for the wonderful comparison and pictures. I also agree that overall (does not include all lenses from a given manufacturer) leica has more painterly "smooth" bokeh or OOF areas and zeiss has more contrast and "pops" more. Depending on the individual lens, they can both have high microcontrast.

I believe comparing the brands like this is extremely hard. Not every lens of their respective manufacturers' has the signatures mentioned above. Not to mention there are some lenses with histories that include other manufacturers. Leica partnered with Minolta at one point. Zeiss with Yashica, Cosina, and Sigma. Finally, these lens companies have been around for a very long time, making it extremely hard to compare and make a blanket statement about the lens brand or the lens brands' signatures. I own multiple copies of the C/Y 50mm 1.4 and I can see the difference based on their serial number (late vs early models), much less comparing C/Y vs Z* vs Contax AF. I think comparing individual lenses at equivalent FL and aperture values or actual value is the only true way to compare.

Take for example, the latest Sigma primes (35, 50, & 85). I don't believe they have "character" or perhaps the following is their character. They're very sharp even WO, are excellent clinically, and you may run into AF accuracy issues. The above statements only apply to the primes, they cannot be said for ALL Sigma lenses.

Carstenw, I don't believe you mentioned it, but if my eyes are correct, the fist pic is Zeiss and the the second Leica. You have two wonderful 35mms there, BTW.



Feb 17, 2013 at 10:54 PM
zhangyue
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p.2 #5 · p.2 #5 · leica vs zeiss


Carsten, Thanks for the detail comparison. It pretty much echo my feeling about both. but I don't have them both at the same time. One thing I really like about Leica and Zeiss (especially Leica), there is no copy variation. You can expect the performance pretty much represent with MTF.

Leica 35lux could be the sharpest 1.4 lens on center I have tried if I can nail the focus AT PORTRAIT DISTANCE. Thus, it is great for certain thing. But extreme corner require stop down to f8 to get sharp. I didn't do LV focus, so I think I might be able to focus at corner so get overall better cross sharpness picture earlier(than f8) with sacrificing a little on center. with Zeiss 35mm, I have problem to nail focus, not so much with Leica, I am not sure it is because my skill improved or Leica is easy. But Zeiss DOF seems relative shallow to me, as focus error can be more easily seen.

Since this is not 35mm comparison thread I will stop here



Feb 17, 2013 at 11:04 PM
Gary Clennan
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p.2 #6 · p.2 #6 · leica vs zeiss


Thanks Carsten for your efforts. Much appreciated!


Feb 17, 2013 at 11:22 PM
carstenw
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p.2 #7 · p.2 #7 · leica vs zeiss


Dudewithoutape wrote:
Carstenw, I don't believe you mentioned it, but if my eyes are correct, the fist pic is Zeiss and the the second Leica. You have two wonderful 35mms there, BTW.


I did, really! "Leica always first". It is easy to see the difference if you open both in two tabs and switch back and forth. The Zeiss is always warmer. The EXIF should also be present for doubters. By the way, the apertures are of course always identical between Leica and Zeiss, and the Zeiss has full EXIF, so if you are interested, just use a browser EXIF plugin to see. Many are wide open, a few are at f/2.8 and f/4, and I think one is at f/8.



Feb 17, 2013 at 11:32 PM
zhangyue
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p.2 #8 · p.2 #8 · leica vs zeiss


Derek, I feel it is pretty hard to category Leica or Zeiss rendering. For example, I have use different Leica from 1960 to latest 50lux ASPH, and Leica R to Leica M. They are all very different.

As for Zeiss, even modern Zeiss has different rendering in their line. for example: 35, 50, 85 1.4 and 25, 35, 50, 100 f2 have very different rendering. not to mention all kind of different one associate with different brand name: contax, Rollei, Hassy.

I guess we want compare them because they both from Germany, and both very high quality build manual glass.

Since they are boutique brand, generally speaking, their lens usually rank/perform higher at the same period of time over other manufactures. They don't have dogs. so people respect them. But I don't feel they have magic powders in term of lens design or performance. Modern Canikon/sigma can do the same thing with AF but poorer mechanic.

I choose Leica or Zeiss

1. they have extreme good build quality, a pleasure to use manually.
2. their performance is better or as good compare to other lens. The copy variation is very minor.
3. I don't worry they can go wrong over the years. and they keep their value well.

I generally like Zeiss color better, like Leica R for portrait rendering and M for its size. Both ZM and lasted ASPH leica M have very similar high performance cross frame. We may hard to tell them apart.

So, I feel It might be a better way to do is compare particular focal length lens like you and Carsten did than general brand comparison.












Feb 17, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Toothwalker
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p.2 #9 · p.2 #9 · leica vs zeiss


Dudewithoutape wrote:
Carstenw, I don't believe you mentioned it, but if my eyes are correct, the fist pic is Zeiss and the the second Leica.


Perhaps it is time to visit an optician. If not for you, then for me.



Feb 17, 2013 at 11:38 PM
sebboh
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p.2 #10 · p.2 #10 · leica vs zeiss


carstenw wrote:
Well, I shuffled my day today and went out explicitly to test the Leica Summilux-R 35mm f/1.4 against the Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/1.4 ZF.2. The light today was very flat, but bright enough to provoke some CA in branches against sky. I tried to shoot at various distances, focus in various parts of the frame, and also tried to provoke some 3D (the latter largely without success in any significant way).

Keep in mind when reading this that I would rate both lenses as being among the best I have ever owned, both better than 9/10 (but both not reaching 10/10).
...Show more

thanks a ton for the comparison carsten! i'll have to look over images more to form a better opinion, but your description of haze versus softness in the oof regions sounds like an excellent way to describe what i've seen in other lenses with uncorrected spherical aberration. that lens is a post mandler design, correct?



Feb 17, 2013 at 11:41 PM
 

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carstenw
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p.2 #11 · p.2 #11 · leica vs zeiss


Paul, I am curious what you spotted in these shots to decide what was Leica or Zeiss? Or did you just read what I wrote?


Feb 17, 2013 at 11:41 PM
carstenw
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p.2 #12 · p.2 #12 · leica vs zeiss


The 35 Lux-R was designed starting sometime before '84, with a release in '84. Dr. Walter Mandler was with Leica Canada until '85. The 80 Lux-R construction and rendering qualities bears a strong family resemblance to the 35 in some ways, and I expect that Dr. Mandler had a hand in the 35 Lux-R design.


Feb 17, 2013 at 11:47 PM
carstenw
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p.2 #13 · p.2 #13 · leica vs zeiss


It occurs to me that the difference in the sharpness can be described as gentle sharpness for the Leica (although it is not one of the gentlest Leicas), and crunchy sharpness for the Zeiss (although it is not one of the crunchiest Zeisses). I expect part of the "sharpness" of the Zeiss is actually attributable to perception due to the higher contrast.

The haze part is hard to explain, as I mentioned. It is as if, while you are focusing, the sharpness remains, but more and more blurriness is added on top. This makes it tricky to focus. The Zeiss just loses its sharpness when defocused.



Feb 17, 2013 at 11:50 PM
Toothwalker
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p.2 #14 · p.2 #14 · leica vs zeiss


carstenw wrote:
Paul, I am curious what you spotted in these shots to decide what was Leica or Zeiss? Or did you just read what I wrote?


I compared the pictures with these lines in mind:


  1. The Leica can have kinda messy corners wide open.
  2. The Zeiss appears a little warmer, but see caveat above.
  3. The Zeiss has a fair amount more CA, as much as double (measured by width in pixels in OOF



while assuming you meant defocus color fringing, not CA in the strict sense, and then the choice is obvious. I notice only now that you mentioned the picture order in your post.

This I did not understand:


  1. The Zeiss has higher contrast, i.e. the Leica has more detail in the shadow regions.



Nice comparison by the way.




Feb 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM
carstenw
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p.2 #15 · p.2 #15 · leica vs zeiss


Toothwalker wrote:
This I did not understand:

Nice comparison by the way.



I mean that the higher contrast of the Zeiss loses it some shadow detail. The first shot was the most indicative of this, on my computer, although I fiddled a bit with the exposure to equalise them a bit, so the smaller versions don't make it so clear. There wasn't enough light today to see if the higher contrast of the Zeiss also loses it highlights, compared to the Leica. In some sense, the Leica is an HDR lens

If you look through all the shots, and examine the shadows, you will often see that although the overall exposures are quite similar, the Zeiss shot has darker shadows.

Thanks!



Feb 17, 2013 at 11:56 PM
sebboh
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p.2 #16 · p.2 #16 · leica vs zeiss


the warmth of the zeiss and the fact that it has a central oof rendering similar to my c/y (including loCA) make it easy to pick out in these samples. also the ghosting in slightly oof high contrast areas is something i expect from the leica but not the zeiss.


Feb 18, 2013 at 12:02 AM
carstenw
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p.2 #17 · p.2 #17 · leica vs zeiss


I find it quite amazing that the fifth pair (of the bush) is at the same aperture. The Leica has so much more depth of field there.


Feb 18, 2013 at 12:06 AM
philip_pj
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p.2 #18 · p.2 #18 · leica vs zeiss


carsten, thanks for doing this for us. For your preferred form of photography, which would you choose and why?


Feb 18, 2013 at 01:42 AM
jcolwell
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p.2 #19 · p.2 #19 · leica vs zeiss


Thanks Carsten.

When it comes to "Leica vs. Zeiss", I always say, "Yes"!



Feb 18, 2013 at 01:47 AM
Mescalamba
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p.2 #20 · p.2 #20 · leica vs zeiss


jcolwell wrote:
Thanks Carsten.

When it comes to "Leica vs. Zeiss", I always say, "Yes"!


+1



Feb 18, 2013 at 02:29 AM
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