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Archive 2013 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use
  
 
MichaelErlewin
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


This is not technical review, so don't remind me of that please. There are all kinds of MTF charts and technical details out there. This post is more about falling in love with a lens, which I have not done for a long time.

I am the mentor for the close-up and macro forum on NikonGear.com, but not a professional photographer by my own choice. I shoot nature subjects. I want to say something about this new APO Zeiss lens.

How do I know I have found what is (for me at least) a great lens? Of course there are the photos, but that is not the whole of it. It is when once I have the lens in my hand and am learning to use it that (without thinking) I just find myself daydreaming about it. The new Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO is such a lens.

Its promise teases me, leads me on, and gets me up earlier in the morning. If one can have a love affair with a lens, I am having one with this new Zeiss. And even though Zeiss is made in the same factory as my beloved Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar was, up to now, try as I might, I could not get into the Zeiss IQ, except for some of their industrial and scanner lenses, which I like.

I have read countless reviews of the Zeiss Makro-Planars of which I have the 100mm and 50mm macro lenses. A really good Zeiss review finds me digging out my two Makro-Planars and having another go at them, but within a day or so they are back in storage. As sharp as they are, and they are sharp enough for me, the lack of lens correction somehow makes them (in my eyes) a little too ordinary, especially when I have the CV-125 APO and a couple of Leica macros sitting around. Why not just use the Voigtlander 125mm or a Leica every time? Mostly I do.

When I first heard about this new Zeiss 135mm APO, I did not think much of it since it's not a macro lens and has a reproduction ration of 1:4, not what I am generally looking for. I did note how fast the lens is and f/2 is very good on the eyes, plus a 77mm filter is a good sign. I like large diameter lenses.

But when I saw a couple of posts suggesting that the new Zeiss might be a CV-125mm APO killer, I had my doubts. Not likely, I thought. And at $2200 a copy, I was not about to run out and buy one.

But time tells all, and by increments I kind of pieced together a plausible story that I could sell myself on about why I might just have to try one out. For one, $2200 is less that folks pay for a CV-125mm in good condition. But close-focus at 2.62 feet (.80 m)? That's not very close and I have all kinds of lenses that are not quite close enough, like the Voigtlander 180mm APO, and so on. Yet, 2.62 feet is kind of close for a telephoto, although it is a short telephoto lens.

And so it went, with the evidence gradually piling up to the point that I could no longer ignore it. But what really turned the tide for me is my intuition. I woke up one morning with the hunch that this really could be a great lens.

And then there is how I go about buying an expensive lens. I certainly don't ask my wife. First I read all about it, and tell myself I can't afford it. Then I read some more. And again. And there comes the day when I am looking at a review of it for the umpteenth time, and I just buy it. I have no excuse other than that if not now, when? Should I wait until I am old? Hey, I am already getting old. Can my budget digest such expenditure? Well, not well, but screw it. Somehow I will limp by. And I can always sell some equipment. That's what I tell myself.

Anyway, suddenly I am looking at a screen message "Thank you for your order," and that little rascal inside me is once again in hog heaven. And then I wait. I usually can hear the UPS truck coming down our street, and for sure I hear that big truck door slam and race to the door. I know I have to sign for something like this.

And the box is soon open and the lens is in my hands. I have bought a lot of expensive lenses over the years. I have maybe two lenses that are not top quality in my whole collection, and I just happened on them. The rest all are very distinguished.

So this new Zeiss APO lens has gotten my full attention. I can' wait to get up in the morning and read more about it. I get up in the middle of the night, so there is no light to go outside, so I either go to my little studio, read more about it, or write about it, as I am now. When dawn comes, I go outside and fight the Michigan wind.

As for this APO Zeiss, all the signs are good. The nay-sayers that I have read don't even have a copy of this lens, so what do they know. Those that have it seem to love it. And who cares? My lens needs are kind of specialized, and with the Zeiss I am pushing it beyond what it was designed for and toward my close-up requirements, and it works. Like my CV-125mm APO, the Zeiss just works and works.

It works at a distance, and it works close-up. It even works well enough with extension, even with a lot of extension, and I hate extension. When I zoom in to the finest detail on my D800E or D7100 (no AA filter), the Zeiss is right there. If I had to guess, I would say it outperforms any camera I have. I am not a techspert, so I can't say with authority, but if I had to bet money, that's how it would go down.

And here is the clincher: aside from the fact that I cannot get to 1:1 with this lens, I have to honestly say it outperforms my treasured Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar in every way. Certainly it is sharper. As for color correction I can't say for certain, but because don't so those kind of tests, but they must be about equal. Color correction is IMO the key element for me in lenses. Apparently I can see the difference every time.

And the last (and most telling) word is that when I find myself thinking of shooting, I am now thinking of that Zeiss APO, not the CV-125. And that was at first shocking!

I have corresponded with Zeiss, and while they won't discuss unannounced products, they are fully aware of our need for an APO Macro Zeiss. IMO this is a landmark lens, and I have some of the best-corrected lenses ever made, including three of the Printing-Nikkors, the El-Nikkor APO 105mm, the Coastal Optics 60mm APO, Leica APO lenses, and so on.

I am done testing this lens and will begin shooting with it, heavy and cumbersome as it is.

Anyone else like it?



Jun 25, 2013 at 11:21 AM
j.liam
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


Thanks for your valuable insights, Michael. As an exile from the hostile atmosphere of Nikongear, it's good to see your posts here. And as a fellow owner of a cherished CV 125, it's bittersweet to hear the old girl may have been bested.

I did check out your images on the aforementioned site and was impressed by the beautiful color and sharpness but I will say the thing that struck me most was the apparent greater DOF of the Zeiss at the same -stop. I don't understand the optics for that, especially since the Zeiss is just 8% longer in FL. The sumptuous, soft fall-off in focus from extreme sharpness at the focal point seen with the CV that your images demonstrate, is one of the 125's charms that appeals most.

As far as an APO Macro, I read some time ago (can't remember where) that there is likely to be a 180 APO Macro in the near future. Would address your issues, I imagine. I doubt they'd cannibalize sales of the 100 by introducing a direct competitor. Perhaps in the distant future as part of the higher-end line, along with the upcoming 55/1.4.

You also mention you're exchange with Lloyd Chambers; funny, I had asked him about a direct head-to-head against the CV 125 when the 135 was first announced and he balked at it with a similar dismissiveness. Uncharacteristic, I might add, because he usually answers thoughtfully.



Jun 25, 2013 at 12:27 PM
FlyPenFly
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


Saaamples and comparison would be nice.


Jun 25, 2013 at 12:50 PM
MichaelErlewin
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


I have done this on NikonGear. I am done testing this lens and going to start using it. I will post some here as soon as I have something halfway finished.


Jun 25, 2013 at 01:41 PM
sflxn
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


So much praise from so many sources for this lens. I would rather hear the negatives. We never hear the negatives till a few years out. I just sold a big camera kit that weighed 5lbs to carry. A D800 with ths lens is 4lbs. That's a lot of weight to hand hold and manual focus. For your purpose, you're probably not concerned with weight since you're shooting macros on a tripod.


Jun 25, 2013 at 04:23 PM
MichaelErlewin
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


Well, it takes time to really dislike this nice a lens. It is heavy, a trifle clunky, BIG, hangs off the mount with weight. Hopefully that will get you started.


Jun 25, 2013 at 04:38 PM
MichaelErlewin
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


Nikon D800E and the new Zeiss APO 135mm

http://www.flickr.com/photos/98006906@N05/



Jun 25, 2013 at 07:36 PM
sflxn
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


Whoa. I'm not a macro shooter, but I must say these images have major 3D pop. The portrait images I've seen from this lens have also been fantastic. It's lens like this that GAS is based on.


Jun 25, 2013 at 08:37 PM
user222
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


The image quality and the lens itself is beautiful.

Love to see quality craftsmanship in this age of cheap throw away junk.

This would be larger and heavier than my 100MP...and I have the FL covered with a nice zoom.
There I've already talked myself out of it. Phew!



Jun 25, 2013 at 11:39 PM
MaxBerlin
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use



They say that every lens is a compromise?

Not any more.

Just getting started - some casual shooting.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/zeissgeist/sets/72157634501030325/

PS - Do not photograph any woman over the age of 14 with this lens!!! EVER

Edited on Jul 11, 2013 at 10:19 PM · View previous versions



Jul 06, 2013 at 02:16 AM
 

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MichaelErlewin
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


More examples of the new Zeiss 135mm APO lens here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/98006906@N05/

Edited on Aug 12, 2013 at 06:50 PM · View previous versions



Jul 06, 2013 at 09:01 AM
sflxn
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


How is the manual focusing with this len? Would I be able to get critical focus with an optical viewfinder with this thing? Would I be able to manual focus on a subject quickly? I tried manual focusing with a 25/2 at a local store and could never achieve tack sharp images. I had to use liveview to get sharp images. This lens seems like it may be a great portrait lens, but the weight and manual focus seems to negate that.


Jul 06, 2013 at 11:41 AM
MichaelErlewin
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


The lens has a reasonably long focus throw. As for focusing quickly, this is up to you, and something we all learn. It is not for everyone, but for those who want it tack sharp, this is the lens. You can always use a higher aperture to hide your lack of focus ability. I tend to use this lens on a rail with a fine adjustment handle.

As for me, I am well beyond convenience with macro and close-up lenses. There are very few lenses (and I have a lot lenses) that are as well corrected as this lens is, plus being fast and sharp wide-open. F/2 does not hurt either.



Jul 06, 2013 at 12:49 PM
MaxBerlin
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


I just finished Imatesting this lens on the NEX7 it scores 4000-4100 on unsharpened straight from camera RAW -->JPGS via LR. It seems to prefer 2.8-4.0. Other Zeiss lenses are equally sharp - my old Contax Yashica Zeiss 50 1.4 (best at 4.0) and the 85 1.4 (best at 5.6) can meet the numbers but the 135 color correction are amazing (unnoticeable) at 2.4 and up. I can detect some CA at 2.0 but it's cleaned easily and without artifacts.

Very long throw! I prefer the live view and critical focus of the NEX7 over the 800s so I can't comment.

Edited on Jul 30, 2013 at 10:27 PM · View previous versions



Jul 11, 2013 at 10:26 PM
MaxBerlin
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


sflxn wrote:
So much praise from so many sources for this lens. I would rather hear the negatives.


The main negative is you will no longer be happy with any other lens you ever had or purchased.

I am now waiting for the 55mm Distagon.

The 135mm makes me feel like a true artist because it never gets in my way of making the shot I want to make. It only helps me. No other lens I've ever had does that.





Jul 11, 2013 at 10:30 PM
MaxBerlin
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


My original review and why I bought this lens

I went to a local camera shop and tested a number of lenses in focal lengths important to me.

While I've been a fan of Zeiss color, consistency, bokeh and high resolution, I've come to realize that some of the newer designs and processes were creating what possibly might be 'better' lenses.

My method for the test wasn't the best as I didn't choose one plane that would cover the range of the various lenses I wanted to test. I was more concerned with not disturbing the store ops too much.

With an opening in the space between 85mm and 180mm, I decide to first look at the 100 Makro and the 135 APO and compare them to the 85mm 1.2.

I've been trying to buy one of these lenses in the $900-1200 range but the sellers have been awfully stingy. Knowing I might eventually migrate to Nikon there's no harm in looking at ZF2 glass as it will work on my NEX and a future Nikon if Sony continues to drag their feet.

In general, they all performed well (testing f2, 2,8, 4,0 and 5,6) Diffraction clearly attacks my NEX after 5.6 so I rarely bother with going further.

However, the new designs appear to exceed in a noticeable degree with regards to control of ACA and the APO was EXTRAORDINARY. There was a slight hint at 2.0 and zero at 2.8. The fringing was easily managed at 2.0 with only 1-2 on the LR4 slider (defringe at 30/70 (all) for purple hue) needed to eliminate it completely. I couldn't tell for sure but 1 appeared to and 2 guaranteed it. Additionally there were no artifacts or visible impacts to those areas once defringed.

The 85 1.2 needed about 4-5 to clean at 2.0, 2-3 to clean at 2.8, and by 4.0 it was happy with the defringe sliders have zero effect.

The 100 wasn't so kind - at 2.0 it needed 10 to be clean, 6-7 at 2.8, 3-4 at 4.0 and maybe 1 or 2 at 5.6 to be completely happy.

I did a little post clean up at 300% on one area of the shot and then applied it across the board to all of the photos. They all looked about as good as each other until I scanned around and found that a cloth binding on a book was amazingly clear with the APO. Of course there was a 'reach out advantage' so I moved closer to see if I could see the same with the 85 and 100 as I got closer - unscientific I know but again - I couldn't reshoot the whole set. It's not my shop.

Then I moved on to the 21mm comparing my 21mm to the new model as well as the 25mm f2 (the almost APO) to my 28mm Hollywood in Imatest. The advantage in the new lenses (and I was only looking at centers) was to the new models but by 4.0 everything was equal or + or - withing the error of my poorly run and hastily set up testing.

I've done enough of these (1000s) to know to throw out the misfocused shot. I can even predict to some degree how high an ROI might score when I go to select it.

I also used each lens to shoot some interior security bars against a very bright background for the lens of interest.

The APO sailed through this, the 25mm f2 also was stellar but then again so was my old Hollywood.

Lastly I used a single bright LED to test sagittal coma flare which the Hollywood has an abundance of. Once the lens goes off axis but is still directly gathering bright light the lens comes alive with coma (Satan's Rainbows).

The 28mm failed as always, while the new 25 2.0 would produce a single larger and more diffused whiter coma. I'm not sure how this would clean up in post - it could be easier - could be worse.

So with my case of old Zeiss glass and itchy money in my pocket, I decided there was only really one lens I needed to have today. The 135mm APO.

It is incredible and it is the best lens in my arsenal now. And I'm not just saying that because it's new. It's just really really good.

The rest of them won't cause me to lose sleep. For the way I shoot and the things I do, the old c/y glass is still working great for me.



Jul 11, 2013 at 10:39 PM
MichaelErlewin
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


I continue to be amazed at the Zeiss 135mm APO for close-up use. The link shows a couple recent shots with the Nikon D800e and the Zeiss APO, where you can see the original shot and then the quality of the 100% crop for the original. The clarity is beyond my expectations.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/98006906@N05/



Aug 12, 2013 at 07:00 PM
Sam_W
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


MaxBerlin wrote:
[...] Then I moved on to the 21mm comparing my 21mm to the new model as well as the 25mm f2 (the almost APO) to my 28mm Hollywood in Imatest. The advantage in the new lenses (and I was only looking at centers) was to the new models but by 4.0 everything was equal or + or - withing the error of my poorly run and hastily set up testing.
[...]
The rest of them won't cause me to lose sleep. For the way I shoot and the things I do, the old c/y glass is still working great for me.


Not to derail this conversation too much, but on the topic of APO...

So you have the original C/Y mount Distagon 2,8/21 and a new ZE/ZF.2 mount one, right?

Have you done an "open book test" (so CF at f/2,8 on top of a book page to see whether the OOF text gets green borders in the background and purple in the foreground)?

I have a sneaking suspicion that the new ZE/ZF.2 D21 will have much worse LoCA than the older C/Y mount one.

Looking at a few photos I took with my old C/Y years ago before I sold it, I don't see any LoCA in a test like that, which leads me to suspect that it's, essentially, APO as well, whereas the new one isn't. (Also note that Zeiss made prototypes of a PC-Apo-Distagon 2,8/25 around the time of the D21.)



Aug 13, 2013 at 12:17 AM
lostinjapan
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


Sorry to hijack this thread. I currently have the 21 Distagon, the 35mm 1.4, the 50 MP, the 85 1.4 and 100mp. I was kinda toying with selling the 100mp and upgrading to the 135mm. My most used focal lengths are 50mm and wider, but the 100mp does get some use.

Any thoughts or insights would be greatly appreciated.

Ryan



Aug 26, 2013 at 12:56 PM
JimUe
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use


do it


Aug 26, 2013 at 01:37 PM
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