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Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon T*

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Reviews Views Date of last review
40 51306 Aug 7, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
98% of reviewers $1,566.56
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.98
8.62
9.7
21mm

Specifications:
The new horizon
This legendary super wide angle lens will set new standards in its focal length class. Exceptional color control allows for extraordinary high contrast pictures without any color fringes. Thanks to the Carl Zeiss T * anti reflection coating and its outstanding attenuation of stray light, the Distagon T * 2,8 / 21 provides brilliant results under all lighting conditions. With a close focusing of only 0.22 m (0.72 ft) it is as attractive for landscape photography as for subjects with dramatic perspectives. The Distagon T * 2,8 / 21 with F bayonet (ZF), EF bayonet (ZE) and K bayonet (ZK) is suitable for analog or digital full-frame SLR cameras. The large front fi lter diameter even allows for the use of standard screw-in fi lters when combined with the standard lens shade.

Focal length 21 mm
Aperture range f/2.8 f/22 (1/2 steps)
Focusing range 0.22 m infinity
Number of elements/groups 16/13
Angular field, diag./horiz. 90/81
Coverage at close range 18 x 12 cm
Filter thread M 82 x 0.75
Dimensions (with caps) 87 mm, length 109 mm
Weight 600 g
Camera mounts F Mount (ZF & ZF.2) EF Mount (ZE) K Mount (ZK)


 


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bocaminus
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Registered: Apr 19, 2006
Location: Canada
Posts: 515
Review Date: Aug 7, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,350.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Exceptional build quality, tack sharp, color rendering and micro contrast
Cons:
Nothing

This is the latest addition to my Zeiss arsenal. I have 50mm Makro Plannar, 35mm f/2, 100mm f/2 and 85mm f/1.4 and they are all amazing performers but I got to say, 21mm Distagon is just a notch above.

Although the lens is a pure landscape beast, it can be used in many other situations. It's tack sharp wide open ... sharper than any other wide angle I used in the past 15 years. My trustworthy Nikkor 17-35 f/2.8 didn't stand a chance, I sold it with no regrets whatsoever. In terms of sharpness, the Nikkor 14-24mm comes close but at the same time pictures are just plain sterile.

Color rendering and micro contrast are typical Zeiss therefore you can expect amazing results at any given aperture. When shooting with this lens, the subject simply pops up ... 3D effect at the best. It reminds me on some Leica glass I owned long time ago. The build quality is just superb. No plastic nonsense, just pure CNC processed metal.


Aug 7, 2014
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Peter Kirk
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Registered: Sep 25, 2004
Location: Australia
Posts: 309
Review Date: Jul 15, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: solid build, super sharp, excellent colour and micro contrast
Cons:
Slightly expensive, bad front lens caps (as with ALL ZE range)

Best 21mm Landscape I have tested to date. Really great look for Landscape photography. Easy to use and handle, and super sharp @ 2.8 especially the corners of the frame. Beautiful lens. A little bit of moustache distortion, but it generally does not affect my type of shooting.

Jul 15, 2014
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Peter Kotsa
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Registered: Nov 1, 2007
Location: Australia
Posts: 267
Review Date: Jul 6, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Build quality, image quality, look
Cons:
$pricey

From 2.8 this baby shines...outsanding resolution to the edges and great for landscapes..deliver a particular look which is beautifully suited to landscapes.
5 Stars.


Jul 6, 2014
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rewart
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Registered: Mar 11, 2013
Location: N/A
Posts: 14
Review Date: Mar 31, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,450.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very high sharpness (in my copy, straight to the corners, unlike some other reviewers), rich colours, and a surprisingly strong 3D effect wide open (especially given that this is both a wide angle lens, and "merely" f/2.8)
Cons:
Some distortion in the corners, apparently. Lens cap needs to be replaced right out of the box - a broken-record complaint for Zeiss' entire lens lineup.

This is the nicest wide angle lens that I have used!

A very close second is the Leica 24mm Elmarit-M ASPH. The Zeiss matches the Leica's incredible sharpness and contrast, and the wide angle images just beg to be scrutinised and perused for every last tiny morsel of detail.

I have also used the Nikon AF-S 17-35, Canon 17-40, and Canon 16-35II. I find the Zeiss easily supplants the Canon offerings, especially when looking off-centre. I found that the images from the Zeiss were just more compelling in terms of sharpness and contrast than those from the highly-regarded 17-35, but not by a huge margin.

Another similar lens that I still own and currently use is the Canon 24Lmk2. The Zeiss' contrast and sharpness, again, just feel a little bit higher and compelling, and the out-of-focus areas are a bit smoother. The 24/1.4 a very good lens, but the Zeiss, again, just possesses a certain added quality.


Above all, though, shockingly, I find the Zeiss 21mm is able to exhibit that 3D look that so many other lenses in the lineup are fabled for, despite being a wide angle lens with 2.8 maximum aperture. The effect isn't as pronounced as it is with higher focal lengths, but is still very present. The quality of the out-of-focus areas, in tandem with the terrific sharpness would seem to play a large roll in this. It is in this regard that the lens really wins out over all of the other wide angle lenses that i have mentioned.

The ZE21 seems to me even to echo my old Hasselblad CF 50mm FLE in its 3D rendering.

The Canon 24LmkII is able to do a good job at creating depth with its 1.4 aperture, but the Zeiss still wins out, to my eye, in making it seem real. The Canon 24/1.4 is able to emphasize the focal plane apart from the fore- and backgrounds, but the Zeiss still makes me feel more as though I am looking at a real scene. It isn't a matter of the one feeling more or less out-of-focus, it is a matter of the sense that if I move my head to the side a bit, more of the background will reveal itself behind the subject.


Architectural photographers will notice some funny distortion in the corners. In street and landscape photography, I have never, ever noticed this. I gather that Adobe lens profiles for the lens solve the issue satisfactorily.

For landscape work, the Zeiss 21mm handles being stopped down to f/16 very well.


The front of the lens, which takes an 82mm, is a little wide, and even moreso with the hood. I find I have to be a bit more organised with packing my shoulder bag, as the bulk does affect the ease with which the lens can be quickly stowed or grabbed. I find the weight to be quite nice and appropriate. The focus is very smooth, and the narrower barrel around the focusing ring is especially comfortable and quick to adjust.


All in all, if you are in search of a wide angle prime lens, I would recommend this lens without reservation, so long as you are not in need of autofocus.


It is, again, the very nicest wide angle lens that I feel I have ever had the pleasure of using!


Mar 31, 2014
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Carles77
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Registered: Sep 19, 2012
Location: Spain
Posts: 0
Review Date: Mar 9, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: very sharp, nice colours, good corners
Cons:
weight, it's ugly :P, vignetting at f/2.8 but no matter.

I had the 16-35mm II and the 17-40mm. The 16-35II was the most used lens for me, I really love the 16-35II but I know it's not a perfect lens of course. Now with the Zeiss it's just amazing, really impresed for the moment, anyway I have to use it more to see what it can do. For the moment very very happy with it. No regrets, just that I will have to sell my 16-35II... Sad

Mar 9, 2014
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Simon Swales
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Registered: Dec 27, 2006
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 10
Review Date: Jun 21, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Colours, contrast, sharpness, resolving power, build quality, manual focus ring
Cons:
None

When one of these beauties surfaced on eBay in an auction I grasped the opportunity with both hands and I now count myself extremely fortunate to be its owner. Its hardly been off my 5DII since it arrived.

Its hefty because of its all metal construction (including the hood) and big glass lens elements (82mm filter thread) and its built like a tank. The fat manual focusing ring moves smoothly without play and feels like its damped when its turning. The focus distance marks in both meters and feet are engraved onto the lens barrel as is the depth of focus scale which is great for my preferred way of focusing to achieve maximum depth of field. Focusing manually is a real pleasure with this lens.

As for the quality of the final image. All I will say is believe all the hype surrounding this lens. Its that good. Its a landscape photographers wet dream.

My Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE set on Flickr


Jun 21, 2013
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Dpedraza
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Registered: Jan 8, 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 786
Review Date: Feb 3, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,450.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Build quality optics very sharp
Cons:

This was my first zeiss lens I bought and what a lens to buy. I bought it because I like to shoot landscapes and architecture a lot so I needed something fairly wide. this lens is insanely sharp and works exceptionally well on the Nikon D800. I bought it because of all the "hype" that surrounded it. I must say that it's an excellent performer. I know there are two things that put people off of this lens. 1. Price point and 2. Manual focus neither of which had a negative effect of my decision

Feb 3, 2013
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jamgolf
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Registered: Nov 30, 2012
Location: United States
Posts: 198
Review Date: Feb 2, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,850.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Details and clarity
Cons:
None

After using 24-70mm Nikkor on my D700/D800 for 4 years I decided to try something else. I have purchased Zeiss trifecta of Zf.2 100mm makro plannar, Zf.2 35mm f1.4 and Zf.2 21mm distagons. All three are very very good. But the 21mm is (for me) a lens that I wish I had purchased years ago.

I don't know if this is the best 21mm ever made or if its the reference lens for landscape photogs. I just know that it suits me perfectly. It has jaw dropping image quality and its a very versatile lens (which suits my personality). Its excellent with landscapes and its excellent for close subjects and exaggerated perspective shots. Get very close and it has an almost makro like quality as well - and its also very good for just general photography.

I think this lens encourages and rewards creativity and I have started really enjoying photography again after some time.

In short - if I was to ever lose this lens or damage it, I would buy another one in one second. I am also enjoying the 100mm and 35mm but this one is my favorite and the only one of the three that I truly love and think is worth the cost. In fact I think it cheap for what it offers me.

Here is a link to my Zf.2 21mm gallery: http://jawad.zenfolio.com/p578841430

Cheers!


Feb 2, 2013
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chmod
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Registered: May 18, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 65
Review Date: Jan 3, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: vibrancy,, sharpness, hard-to-define rendering quality
Cons:
lens cap is pathetic

My favorite landscape lens by a wide margin.

I do travel with it, but it can be a challenge to use due to the constraints associated with such a wide field of view. Another way of saying; if a person is careful this lens shines. If a person is not careful, the results can resemble a funhouse mirror in terms of outer edge geometry.

I love the way it renders color. I realize there are those who challenge this as some hallucinogenic mass psychosis (that of the Zeiss look) but I can only smile and nod. It does render colors better than my other non-Zeiss lenses.

The focus ring is a joy to use. Fat, smooth and zero play/slop.

I get anxious after shooting as the unexpected joys of the output make the process of rendering RAW files a treasure hunt.

I can't recommend this lens more highly.

Historically I have used this mostly with a 1Ds MIII, but am slowly introducing it to my 1Dx.

Some examples...

http://www.idyll.com/p119198532







Jan 3, 2013
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brimo
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Registered: Oct 28, 2005
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 80
Review Date: Jul 28, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Colour rendition, edge to edge sharpness even at F2.8, good close up ability....Has that Zeiss clarity.....
Cons:
None



Jul 28, 2012
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gullevek
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Registered: Oct 15, 2005
Location: Japan
Posts: 0
Review Date: Jun 25, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Excellent build quality, very low vignetting wide open, very low or no CA or color shift, beautiful contrast and color rendition.
Cons:
Mustache distortion (but can be fixed in Lightroom with the lens profile)

This is a picture perfect wide angle lens built in the same style as the old Zeiss Contax 21mm lens.

Besides the Zeiss typical mustache (waveform) distortion, which can be easily fixed in lightroom, this lens has no negative points for me. Even the manual focus is no problem, because with 21mm @f8 there is almost no need to focus at all anyway.


Jun 25, 2012
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Ulan
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Registered: May 14, 2008
Location: Belgium
Posts: 138
Review Date: Dec 23, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Well built. Sharp, sharp. Nice colors and contrast.
Cons:
Hood can be difficult to put or remove. Heavy. Expensive.

The lens has a nice design. Very elegant despite being built as a a tank. This doesn't mean you shouldn't be cautious with its manipulation : some scratches can easily appear on the black paint of the barrel. The focus ring is soft, pleasant to use and accurate. There is no autofocus, but a green light flashes when target is in focus. Had a problem with the hood as it remained blocked in the thread; fortunately the retailer managed to fix the issue.

Glass is amazing, especially contrast, color and sharpness. Very good for landscape photography. Purple fringe may occur, but not often. You can have flare if sun is at 10h-14h even with the hood on.


Dec 23, 2011
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Hudsons
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Registered: May 8, 2005
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 18
Review Date: Dec 22, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Only had this lens for a short while. Build quality superb, balances well on a 5DII, focus easy with viewfinder confirmation. Very sharp with rich colours.
Cons:
None so far.



Dec 22, 2011
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dimitris77
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Registered: Aug 28, 2005
Location: N/A
Posts: 535
Review Date: Dec 13, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Build quality, image quality, microcontrast, detail, sharp!
Cons:
Distortion, bulky hood.

I bought this to replace my 24 tsemkii and never regretted. Colors, contrast are better on this and consistent with the whole zeiss line. Distortion is pretty evident but I don't shoot architecture as much. Also while lens isn't too big its hood makes it a bulky lens. Impressive design and 16 elements tightly packed for a yummy landscape lens.

Dec 13, 2011
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Krosavcheg
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Registered: Apr 9, 2006
Location: Japan
Posts: 2715
Review Date: Sep 4, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Great build, high microcontrast, beautiful colour rendition, probably best width/distortion balance
Cons:
Soft corners, distortion, confusing hood mount

Severely disappointed with soft corners and distortion even when stopped down to f5.6 and below.
Hood is rather annoying to mount, since when mounted incorrectly it will obstruct the frame.
Great lens otherwise. Even considering negative aspects of rendition it still outperforms Canon EF 16-35/2.8 L by miles.


Sep 4, 2011
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brogala
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Registered: Jul 30, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 265
Review Date: Jul 16, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,819.00 | Rating: 5 

Pros: Great build and finish. Metal lens hood is a nicely designed and easy to attach compared to most Canon hoods I've used. In general, a wonderful lens with one little problem, at least this copy.
Cons:
The corners are not sharp.

Since I have a copy of the 21 f/2.8 CZ lens I decided to compare the two and it was an eye opener. The CZ is much better in the corners especially at f/2.8. Still quite noticeably better at f/5.6 and even f/8. I gave up there and decided to return the lens as it offers me no advantage over the CZ version. Hopefully it was just my copy but it would be wise to check the corners if you decide to purchase this lens.

Jul 16, 2011
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Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon T*

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
40 51306 Aug 7, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
98% of reviewers $1,566.56
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.98
8.62
9.7
21mm


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