How bad is Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 ZE Planar?
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philber
Registered: May 21, 2008
Total Posts: 7642
Country: France

I think that quite a few people mistake focus shift with softness. At f:2.8 this lens is very sharp indeed, though not in a in-your-face way, like ZE Makro Planars. The only issue one can have is when combining both close-up focusing and wide apertures, but, as Makten has demonstrated, it is not that the lens can't do it, but rather that it takes some talent and effort to get there.
If you want a lens that you can shoot without thinking twice, and you want to shoot wide open and close up, this one isn't for you. If you like a lens with character that also happens to be (relatively) inexpensive (for a Zeiss, that is), and compact and lightweight (again, for a Zeiss), then you might well love it.



Jim Schemel
Registered: Oct 18, 2006
Total Posts: 4822
Country: United States

philber wrote:
I think that quite a few people mistake focus shift with softness. At f:2.8 this lens is very sharp indeed, though not in a in-your-face way, like ZE Makro Planars. The only issue one can have is when combining both close-up focusing and wide apertures, but, as Makten has demonstrated, it is not that the lens can't do it, but rather that it takes some talent and effort to get there.
If you want a lens that you can shoot without thinking twice, and you want to shoot wide open and close up, this one isn't for you. If you like a lens with character that also happens to be (relatively) inexpensive (for a Zeiss, that is), and compact and lightweight (again, for a Zeiss), then you might well love it.



I agree.The reason that i wanted to try this lens was because of its rendering, there was something to the images that it created that i really liked.so i was willing to give it a try understanding its 'weaknesses'
-Jim



Makten
Registered: Jul 14, 2008
Total Posts: 4048
Country: Sweden

Yeah, if you want the smoooooothest bokeh and best sharpness wide open, close up, get the Sigma 50/1.4. It beats anything there, and I hate it because it's so bloody boring and characterless.



carstenw
Registered: Dec 26, 2005
Total Posts: 16052
Country: Germany

Makten wrote:
Sorry for using the same old example all the time, but I've taken most of my stuff down from the net...


You've *got* to put that brown leather chair shot back online, and some of the old Volvo shots in the forest!



carstenw
Registered: Dec 26, 2005
Total Posts: 16052
Country: Germany

This isn't the most exciting shot, but I think it demonstrates the 50P characteristics which I love, D800, f/2:

http://throughthelensdarkly.com/forums/CW_20121104_NikonD800_0008.jpg



Mescalamba
Registered: Jul 06, 2011
Total Posts: 3336
Country: Czech Republic

3D tree on right and lovely smooth rest.. loads of character in this lens.



carstenw
Registered: Dec 26, 2005
Total Posts: 16052
Country: Germany

Here is another Berlin fall shot from today, not so exciting, but shows off the 50P, D800, f/2.8:

http://throughthelensdarkly.com/forums/CW_20121104_NikonD800_0042.jpg



wfrank
Registered: Feb 09, 2011
Total Posts: 2977
Country: Sweden

Some somples I repost now and then I think, this is the CY version

One of the thing to avoid are backrounds with DR much beyond or higher than the subjecs themselves.





kiddik
Registered: Sep 24, 2009
Total Posts: 187
Country: Iceland

I'm a big fan of the 50P, I've come to love it's "weaknesses" as they make it stand out from most other 50s, and it's closed down ubersharpness is a bonus, although I'm the wide-open bokeh-lovin' type. For me there's reason to own both :-) Here's a quick demo I made once to demonstrate key close-up & wide-open differences between the 50P and the 50/2 Makro-Planar to my friends:

First the 50P:


Then the 50MP:


Close-up crop from the two:



Gunzorro
Registered: Aug 28, 2010
Total Posts: 6827
Country: United States

Jim Schemel wrote:
Gunzorro wrote:
Mine had terrible, unusable focus shift. (I'm in the minority here, and the lens may have been faulty.)

I have outstanding results with my Contax Zeiss 50/1.4 (plus several Canon EF), so not bothering to pursue the ZE 50/1.4 again.


The focus shift is real.But i learned to use the stop down button on the canon cameras with great success.Of course if you are shooting wide open then focus shift is impossible.


I think to be more accurate, mine was a combination of focus shift and focusing error. IIRC, I was using non-MA bodies (5D, 60D, and 1Ds2) and was not able to adjust the focusing. A sort of double whammy. But I found the focus shift a problem since I wasn't shooting in stop-down AE mode, and here the auto aperture feature worked against me.

Regardless of the which induced the most error, I was not a happy camper when (at that time) my most expensive 50mm lens failed me.

As I say, I'm in a small minority here. I'm glad most are happy with their lenses.

It wasn't a complete loss -- it helped result in me finding my ideal 50mm -- the Canon L f/1.2. I prefer its look, handling, and AF. That's my main go-to lens, but I also have the EF 50/2.5 macro when I want something sharp and closer focusing, and the Contax/Zeiss 50/1.4 when I want that cooler color and character. But I would keep the 1.2 L out of all these four.



Jim Schemel
Registered: Oct 18, 2006
Total Posts: 4822
Country: United States

Jim,
I think my terminology might have been wrong.What helped me was using the EcS focus screen on the 1DsII and then when i would set the aperture at say f2 or anything smaller than wide open i would use the "Depth of field Preview Button" this worked very well for me in showing me where the real focus was when stopped down.
-Jim



Gunzorro
Registered: Aug 28, 2010
Total Posts: 6827
Country: United States

Jim -- I agree. In many cases, the "S" screen is a great solution for photographers with fast lenses. I ruled out that screen because I sometimes use slower lenses (24 TS-E II, 28-300L, Leica R 28-70) and that screen it makes those lenses seem darker than they should be for composition or manual focusing. Different needs. So I stick with the standard screen and haven't had a problem with other MF lenses.

The ZE 50/1.4 was just a venture that didn't work for me on several levels.



TSY87
Registered: Jan 15, 2010
Total Posts: 689
Country: United States

im waiting for the 55mm 1.4.... its going to be EXPENSIVE, but hopefully it will also be awesome!



Mirek Elsner
Registered: Oct 03, 2005
Total Posts: 1025
Country: United States

bushwacker wrote:

Okay guys...

I am about to make a decision buying Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 ZE Planar, based on several reviews, forums and blogs I found out they're all consistent on claiming this lens is soft below f/2.8. DXO labs even rate this lens lower than the Cheapo Canon 50mm f/1.8

If this is the case how sharp is Zeiss 50mm 1.4 at f/2.8? Can someone please post a 100% crop shot f2.8.


I don't have the 1.4, but it is my understanding that the bad performance in tests like DxO, Photozone and others is given by the fact that their methodology uses relatively small targets shot from relatively close distance and the Planar is optimized for infinity and the performance at close distances is not necessarily great. I was considering buying this lens at one point, but I had the impression that it is very temperamental. Some shots are absolutely stunning with beautiful background blur and some have pretty dizzying background blur. Representatives of both categories can be also seen in this thread. I ended up with the Makro-Planar.



philip_pj
Registered: Apr 03, 2009
Total Posts: 3141
Country: Australia

Love the title of the post, kind of like 'how long have you been beating your wide for?' - lol.

The images posted here confirm my views that: (i) we see differently; and (ii) I have no idea why anyone would willingly pursue the ragged and tortured bokeh of the ZE planar 50/1.4, apart from a special effects lab doing post for a Blair Witch Project remake perhaps. The 50MP, by comparison, is serene, super sharp, has lovely OOF and a graceful rendering. Much less CA too by the looks of it. Might be too 'good' for some?

'im waiting for the 55mm 1.4'...'it will also be awesome!'
A safe bet, going by CZ's latest gems.

Next up is the 135/2 Sonnar - at last a modern Sonnar to join the circle. It comes after 4 Planars and 8 Distagons in ZE. There were 12 Sonnars in the Contax line, including all the zoomlenses.



Makten
Registered: Jul 14, 2008
Total Posts: 4048
Country: Sweden

philip_pj wrote:
The 50MP, by comparison, is serene, super sharp, has lovely OOF and a graceful rendering.


Not at a couple of meters distance. Take a look at Carstens examples. The MP would look like crap in those.



Jochenb
Registered: May 25, 2010
Total Posts: 1831
Country: Belgium

Philip, I think the 50MP is fantastic. It was my first Zeiss lens and used it a LOT. However... I sold it after I got used to the planar.
The MP is sharper and the better allrounder (because of the great close up performance), but it looks more clinical. The planar has a character. One not everyone will like.
The bokeh of the planar really is something to get used to. Wide open, close up range it's indeed nervous IMHO. Stopping it down to f2-2.8 makes it a lot more pleasing to my eye.
It's part of the character of this lens. It can ruin a photo or make it really special (in terms of rendering of course).
When shooting a subject at medium distance you can get nice subject separation when shooting wide open.


Some of my examples:


Smoking break by Jochen-B, on Flickr


Waiting... by Jochen-B, on Flickr


Elena II by Jochen-B, on Flickr
(It's impossible to get this look with the 50MP)


Iza by Jochen-B, on Flickr
(Stop it down enough when shooting closeups)


Elena by Jochen-B, on Flickr



carstenw
Registered: Dec 26, 2005
Total Posts: 16052
Country: Germany

Mirek Elsner wrote:
I was considering buying this lens at one point, but I had the impression that it is very temperamental. Some shots are absolutely stunning with beautiful background blur and some have pretty dizzying background blur. Representatives of both categories can be also seen in this thread. I ended up with the Makro-Planar.


I bought the 50MP before I bought the 50P, and I had a lot more trouble with boke and corners on the 50MP than I ever did with the 50P. If you learn how to avoid the trouble-spots for the 50P, in my opinion the look beats the 50MP almost all the time. The 50MP does have one characteristic which can make it better in some scenarios: an unusually large depth of field at a given aperture, with a very fast falloff. This can work well in portraits, for example, or if you have one object isolated in space, with quite a bit of distance to the next object, then the large DoF of the 50MP can help put the whole object in focus, and drop everything else out. The 50P has a more gently decreasing depth of field with distance.



carstenw
Registered: Dec 26, 2005
Total Posts: 16052
Country: Germany

philip_pj wrote:
The images posted here confirm my views that: (i) we see differently; and (ii) I have no idea why anyone would willingly pursue the ragged and tortured bokeh of the ZE planar 50/1.4, apart from a special effects lab doing post for a Blair Witch Project remake perhaps. The 50MP, by comparison, is serene, super sharp, has lovely OOF and a graceful rendering. Much less CA too by the looks of it. Might be too 'good' for some?


Well, in my case it was the other way around. The dark and smudgy extreme corners of the 50MP drove me to distraction, and its boke is generally more harsh and less beautiful than that of the 50P. The large DoF of the 50MP also made it hard for me to get shots like those above. Here is an example showing how large the DoF of the 50MP is, in comparison to the 50P, both wide open (yes, that isn't exactly fair, but the 50P at f/2 still has much less DoF than the 50MP, and in this case, I wanted minimal DoF). Try opening these in two tabs and switching back and forth. I have a series of photos comparing boke between these two lenses, but these are already posted in the ZE/ZF/ZM thread, so I won't repeat them here.

http://throughthelensdarkly.com/forums/CW_20110420_NikonD3_37904.jpg

http://throughthelensdarkly.com/forums/CW_20110420_NikonD3_37905.jpg



Edgars Kalnins
Registered: Mar 09, 2007
Total Posts: 708
Country: Latvia

I can add that from my limited experience and unscientific testing ZK was softer then canon FD 50L. I have also had ZF (the same really) which I did not pitch against others but it showed similar effect wide open. I might have mistaken haze for lack of resolution though - it was a while ago. However, stop it down and it beats even the legendary now contax g 45/2 and the modern ZM 50/2 - according to MTF data and only by a small margin. I do not know how good canon 50/1.4 is closed down - never owned the lens.



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