Upload & Sell: Off
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:
- This light is only one kind of light. Other kinds might yield different results.
- This is only one style of shooting. Other styles yadda yadda.
- 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.
- 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.
- I did not compensate for slight colour differences, since I do not want to fiddle much with Lightroom, for fear of introducing bias.
- 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):
- The Leica is smaller (half the volume perhaps?) and has a built-in hood. The weight is not so different though.
- 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.
- The Zeiss focus movement is lighter and smoother, but the travel is much shorter, and thus a bit less accurate.
- The Zeiss focuses to 29cm or so, the Leica to 50cm or so.
- 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.
- The Leica can have kinda messy corners wide open.
- The Zeiss appears a little warmer, but see caveat above.
- The Zeiss has a fair amount more CA, as much as double (measured by width in pixels in OOF regions).
- The Zeiss has higher contrast, i.e. the Leica has more detail in the shadow regions.
- The rendering characteristics make the Zeiss easier to see focus accurately with.
- 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.
- The Leica has quite a bit more vignetting, but it is often attractive.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Leica's depth of field rolls off slower (probably another way of saying the same thing).
- The Leica has a couple of mm shorter focal length. I do not know which is closer to 35mm.
- The Leica is sharper when stopped down. In fact, it is bloody sharp. The Zeiss is only very sharp
- 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.