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Zeiss 35mm f/2 Distagon T*

35mm
Review Date: Apr 2, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: +Sharp and contrasty straight from f/2. +Vivid colors and a micro contrast that makes the images "pop" +Great build quality and finish +Almost free from flare
Cons:
-Heavy vignetting on FF at f/2-2.8 -Quite a lot of CA in the cornes, even well stopped down -"Color vignetting", giving a magenta cast to the corners -Barrel distortion; enough to make architecture troublesome

This is one of the best lenses I've owned (out of ~45). Probably THE best. But I'm not sure everyone would agree.

The overall image quality is stunning, with a sharpness and contrast that I've never seen any Nikkor produce. It's more about local contrast than pure resolution. I didn't really believe all the "3D" talk, but now I do. It's there and you don't get it from most other lenses.

But, there's a backside of the coin, that you seldom hear of. The lens vignettes really much on FF. Much more than the old Nikkor 35/1.4, which still is smaller. The Zeiss is better though, but apparently not in every respect.
With the vignetting there's also a peciliar color cast to the corners, mainly at large apertures. Most of the time it won't be seen, but if you shoot for example a white building, it will clearly be seen.
There's also red CA towards the corners. Not evenly distributed, so correcting it in ACR gives either over correction in the far corners or under correction in mid frame. Not a great problem though.

An important thing is bokeh. It's a bit on the harsh side, but not worse than most 35 mm lenses. It gets better close up, and/or stopped down a bit.
Even more important is the transition from sharp to unsharp, and I have never seen something like what the Distagon produces here. Oh, except for the 35/2.8 Biogon that I've got for my M8. Zeiss again. The plane of sharpness just "melts" away into a very silky sort of "nowhere land" before the blur discs can actually be seen. Hard to explain, but I can't imagine how anyone could dislike it.

About the price. This is a cheap lens for what you get. It'll last a life time and you will not get anything as good for the same money, if speaking of new lenses.