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Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar T*

50macro
Review Date: Apr 6, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp wide open, and sharp across the frame, excellent bokeh, excellent micro-constrast, great Zeiss color and 3-D imaging qualities, excellent build quality with super smooth, nicely-damped, focusing ring
Cons:
Very few, and even these are generally better than the competition, and nearly all 50mm lenses -- a touch of CA wide open, the last millimeter of the frame in the most extreme end of the corner soft until f8, distortion better htna most 50mm, but not a good as some macro lenses.

Probably the finest 50mm lens available. If you don't need f1.4 there is no reason to own any other 50mm lens. It's sharper close-up and at infinity with excellent bokeh (better than most 50mm lenses) Compared to the Zeiss ZF 50mm f1.4, it's better (contrast, detail, and 3-D) close-up and at least matches it at infinity, plus it has better bokeh -- of course, the ZF 50 Makro costs about twice as much as the standard ZF 50/1.4 but worth it. Produces crisp, clear, vivid images -- you'll want to use it all the time. Not cheap, but very good value -- you really get what you pay for. (prices have unfortunately, increased recently).

 
Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Distagon T*

25mm
Review Date: Apr 3, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $826.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Outstanding sharpness across most of the frame, Zeiss color, contrast and pop, wonderful bokeh and drawing style, high resistance to flare, wonderful look with close-focused subjects, low CA for a wide angle
Cons:
corners aren't perfect at large apertures on full frame sensor (due to some typical field curvature), modest (but typical) light falloff wide open

The ZF 25/2.8 quickly became one of my favorite lenses. I just love the way it draws, and love using it close-up and wide open. The resulting images are magical. Bokeh is wonderful, exceptional for a wide angle. Typical Zeiss qualities on clearly on display with this lens -- great contrast and color, and wonderful 3-D pop. Hard to make the lens flare and CA is well controlled for a moderately priced wide angle prime. The lens is exceptionally sharp in the center and across most of the frame, even wide open. On full frame sensors, the extreme most corner probably needs f5.6 to be sharp due to some typical wide angle field curvature. This is perhaps the only thing preventing me giving this lens a 10 out of 10. This aspect of performance is merely competitive and typical of competing product so it is really hard to fault it here relative to anything else. And all the other aspects of performance are exceptional. On a crop sensor, this disappears and the ZF 25/2.8 becomes an outstanding standard or walk around lens that you will love. Compared to the diamond standard of the Zeiss ZF/ZE 21mm Distagon, it's performance is perhaps off by a stop. the 21mm being better corrected is a little better in corner and CA performance. Of course the ZE 21mm is twice the price and bigger and heavier than the ZF25, and I find the ZF25's images to be more pleasing and less clinical than the ZE21. Accordingly, I find the ZF 25/2.8 to be an outstanding bargain, especially considering the excellent build quality. Start using this lens and get a feel for it and it will quickly become a favorite. It is seductive.

Finally, Zeiss has recently said that it is redesigning this lens. This worries me as the lens is such a wonderful image maker. the only way it could be improved is by adding further correct to get the corners a little better a large apertures on a full frame sensor, and maybe a little better correction for close focus (add a floating element?). However both these "improvements" while making the lens technically better on the MTF, could rob the lens of its wonderful drawing style, lovely bokeh, and seductive look. We'll just have to wait as see what they do. Message to Zeiss: Please don't ruin this lovely lens!

Get one of these lenses while you still can. You won't regret it. It get the highest of recommendations from me.


 
Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 Distagon T*

18mm
Review Date: Apr 2, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,240.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Excellent center sharpness, Zeiss color, contrast and pop, compact size, build quality, image characteristics consistent with rest of Zeiss ZF/ZF/ZK lenses.
Cons:
light falloff and corner sharpness at larger apertures.

Whether you like this lens or not depends on what you expect from it. It is a significant improvement over the older Zeiss 18mm f4.0 for Contax. However, it does not reach the exceptional standard reached by the ZF/ZE 21mm. It is not a wider version of the 21mm Distagon. Then again it is not designed to be. It is designed to be less expensive and more compact and therefore certain compromises were made. Like most ultra wide angles, it shows an average amount of field curvature -- not out of the ordinary for an 18mm lens, it's just not as corrected as the 21mm. It needs f5.6 or even f8 to get the extreme corners sharp -- but is fine to the edges of the frame. Light falloff could be better wide open -- probably a function of keeping the design small. It is, perhaps the smallest modern 18mm out there. It is dwarfed by the Nikon 14-24, the Zeiss/Sony 16-35 and the Zeiss/Contax 17-35 an the Canon 16-35 LII. It won't be as sharp into the corners as the Nikon 14-24, but many will find the typical Zeiss color and pop of the ZF 18mm to produce a nicer image. All in all, this is a very good lens, but not an exceptional one. It is not without flaws -- tradeoffs for price and size. If you like Zeiss lenses and their imaging characteristics in general, there is a good chance you will like this lens. One wonders if Zeiss might have been better designing a larger, more highly corrected, lens that would sell for $2000, rather than this compact tradeoff for $1240. I think there would be many that would prefer the later. Zeiss obviously thinks that this lens, as designed, will suit the needs of many other buyers -- sufficient to produce the lens. Which side of that design choice are you on? That will determine whether this lens is for you, or not.