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Best Zeiss lens under $500?

  
 
jaygould
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


I am curios about trying out a manual focus Zeiss lens, due to (from what I've heard and read) their great rendering and "micro-contrast". I don't want to spend too much money so I'm limiting my budget to around $500. I am intending to use it on a Canon R6. I already have an EF to RF adapter. But can of course purchase another adapter if necessary.

Some of the ones I've looked at and am considering:


  1. 50mm Milvus f/1.4 ZE
  2. 50mm Milvus f/2 ZE
  3. 50mm Planar f/1.4 ZE T*
  4. 50mm Planar f/1.7 T* (for C/Y mount)
  5. 35mm Milvus f/2 ZE
  6. 35mm f2 ZE Distagon T*
  7. 28mm f2 ZE Distagon T*
  8. 21mm f/2.8 Distagon ZE


I don't really have a preference when it comes to focal length. I am well covered on these focal lengths already. What I really care about is a lens that is fun to use and to practice manual focus with, and that renders nice images with "character" and "3D Pop"/"Micro-contrast". Any recommendations? Other suggestions aside from the ones above are welcome as well.



Feb 28, 2023 at 12:38 PM
burningheart
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


You won't need another adapter. The EF to RF works great.

My suggestion 35mm f2 ZE Distagon. The Milvus 35/2 is essentially the same adds weather sealing and a slight change in lens coatings.

When I started my Zeiss journey I was using ZFs as I shot both Canon(my main camera) and Nikon. I had all FL from 18 to 100. The 35/2 gave me more memorable pictures than my favourite 50/1.4 Planar. The 35/2 had more POP shots than the other Zeiss lenses. I loved the colours and rendering it gave.

I don't use the 35/2 that much as I use the 35/1.4.

I downsized my ZF collection as I rarely shoot a Nikon body and added ZE lenses to use on my R5 and get exif info and the three green triangles focus confirmation.

We all in our photographic journeys occasionally might say they will have to pry that lens from my dead hands. Although I don't use the 35/2 that much anymore but I added a ZE 35/2 and kept my ZF35/2 for use on the Nikon.




Feb 28, 2023 at 01:57 PM
Valorin
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


I have the same experience. I used a lot of the ZF/ZE lenses (21/2.8, 25/2.8, 35/2, 50/2, 50/1.4, and 85/1.4), and the 35/2 was the best as far as pop and what I like about Zeiss rendering. The 21 was the other standout, although they were all great.


Feb 28, 2023 at 02:03 PM
jaygould
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


burningheart wrote:
My suggestion 35mm f2 ZE Distagon. The Milvus 35/2 is essentially the same adds weather sealing and a slight change in lens coatings.

The 35/2 gave me more memorable pictures than my favourite 50/1.4 Planar. The 35/2 had more POP shots than the other Zeiss lenses. I loved the colours and rendering it gave.

I don't use the 35/2 that much as I use the 35/1.4.


Thanks! So if the Milvus and the Distagon are the same price, then I may as well go for the Milvus?

So what makes the 50mm f1.4 Planar your favorite? Does it have nice pop to its images as well?

Lastly, are you using the 35/1.4 simply for the brighter maximum aperture? Or why use that one over the 35/2 if the latter has more "pop"?


Edited on Feb 28, 2023 at 03:05 PM · View previous versions



Feb 28, 2023 at 03:02 PM
jaygould
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


Valorin wrote:
I have the same experience. I used a lot of the ZF/ZE lenses (21/2.8, 25/2.8, 35/2, 50/2, 50/1.4, and 85/1.4), and the 35/2 was the best as far as pop and what I like about Zeiss rendering. The 21 was the other standout, although they were all great.


Very cool. So the 21 had this pop as well? Both the Milvus and the older/cheaper Distagon?



Feb 28, 2023 at 03:04 PM
Valorin
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


I only used the older non-Milvus 21 Distagon, but I'm under the impression that the Milvus version was very similar optically. It was my favourite wide landscape lens back when I was still shooting with a DSLR.


Feb 28, 2023 at 03:50 PM
akashyap
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


Iíd vote for the 35 f2 ZE as well, itís a great combination of general focal length, fast aperture, and good size. The fact that people regularly mention it as one of the most characteristic Zeiss lenses is an added benefit.

I hope you report back on what you think about Zeiss lenses. I was also curious and started my journey with a rented Batis 25, purchased Contax Zeiss 35-70 f3.4, and purchased Loxia 21. Since then, Iíve added a Batis 40, Batis 85, and tried out RX1Rii and ZM 35 f1.4 - needless to say, Iím hooked.




Feb 28, 2023 at 04:30 PM
 


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freaklikeme
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


There isn't a bad lens on the list, but I would add the ZE 25/2 to consideration, and my choice would be between that and the 35/2. Unless, of course, you happen on a killer deal for the ZE 35/1.4, which, while a bit bigger and heavier than the others, is a wonderful all-arounder.

Overall, I think sticking with the "classic" options is the better way to go. Even with the 35/2 being the same optically, the Milvus picks up some size and weight. I own the Milvus 18, which is a stellar lens, but the grip on the focus ring is a real dust magnet, so the old all metal bodies is my preference where available.



Feb 28, 2023 at 05:27 PM
burningheart
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


jaygould wrote:
Thanks! So if the Milvus and the Distagon are the same price, then I may as well go for the Milvus?

So what makes the 50mm f1.4 Planar your favorite? Does it have nice pop to its images as well?

Lastly, are you using the 35/1.4 simply for the brighter maximum aperture? Or why use that one over the 35/2 if the latter has more "pop"?


50mm is my favourite focal length. the 50 planar has a glow when shot wide open but not as sharp as the Makro 50/2. If you look in the Zeiss image thread there is a person that does closeups with flowers and he often uses the 50 planar.

35/1.4 has a different rendering, different colours and has 1.4 if I need it. The 35/1.4 is more muted.

Although the Milvus is weather sealed some prefer the feel of the focus ring on the classic ZE. The Milvus went with a rubberized focus ring.



Feb 28, 2023 at 05:34 PM
BokehBeauty
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


My absolute favorite is 28mm f2 ZE Distagon T*. So versatile and the outcome impresses me many times. The focal plane curvature is part of its uniqueness, but you need to like it. Itís focal length suits me much better than 35mm f2 ZE Distagon T*.

I would be very surprised if you would get any Milvus with this price limit.



Mar 01, 2023 at 08:09 AM
Sam_W
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


This one is a thorny question, partially because of the price cap (assuming US$500), and because that 3D pop is dependent on not just the lens' microcontrast/coatings/age, but also your shooting style and to a certain extent the sensor of the body.

Setting aside the latter bits, there's two categories to look at:

1. The more modern ZE/ZF.2 (or even Milvus if priced cheaply enough): I would generally avoid the Planars, except the Makro-Planar 2/50, which was pretty fantastic all-around, and had good micro contrast and pop. It's just often not below $500. The Distagon 2/35 is definitely good for 3D pop. The 28/2 and 25/8 (also, depending, the 2.8/25) Distagons are great, depending on your preference and how good of a deal you get. Note that you won't get consistent results with them, they have specific "zones" and styles in which they produce great 3D pop, vs just average lens performance. It'll be a learning experience to figure out the sweet spots.

2. The older C/Y lenses, which can often be had for a steal. You'll want to aim for the modern MMJ ones, as they'll have better/improved coatings, which help with microcontrast. Also, generally aim for serial numbers in the late 7mil or low 8mil. Good ones are the Distagon 2.8/28, which just delivers, and is super cheap. The 2.8/35 is pretty good, too, though not necessarily inspiring. While way out of your price range, even beat up, the Distagon 2.8/21 C/Y is fantastic for 3D pop and microcontrast. An important bit is roughly when the lens was designed - if it's late 80s to early 90s, you'll do well, but only a few were designed or updated during that time.

3. The probably-more-expensive-but-interesting area is the G lenses, which require a rehousing to get a mount change from Contax G (autofocus rangefinder) to something like Leica M, which you then further adapt to your R mount. Most of these are newer designs, have modern (as of the 90s) coatings, and can be found quite cheaply. You can even do the rehousing yourself via kits you buy with instructions, because you're basically popping out the entire lens assembly into a new helicoid.

Just some thoughts, probably ending up more confused by the end!



Mar 01, 2023 at 04:04 PM
theHUN
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


I don't have much experience with Zeiss lenses outside of the Hasselblad V system. One lens I had and enjoyed was the 2/28 Distagon ZF.2. f/2 and a small MFD made it quite versatile. But I was never happy with its LoCA, so I replaced it with a 28/2.8 Elmarit-R V2. Completely different budget and tradeoffs in aperture and MFD, but color correction is just spectacular, though perhaps too clinical for some.


Mar 01, 2023 at 09:08 PM
highdesertmesa
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


Sam_W wrote:
...

2. The older C/Y lenses, which can often be had for a steal. You'll want to aim for the modern MMJ ones, as they'll have better/improved coatings, which help with microcontrast. Also, generally aim for serial numbers in the late 7mil or low 8mil. Good ones are the Distagon 2.8/28, which just delivers, and is super cheap. The 2.8/35 is pretty good, too, though not necessarily inspiring. While way out of your price range, even beat up, the Distagon 2.8/21 C/Y is fantastic for 3D pop and microcontrast. An important bit is roughly when the lens was designed - if
...Show more

I second the recommendation for the older Contax Zeiss (CZ) lenses in the Contax Yashica (C/Y) mount. The 50 1.4 is incredible and would be under budget. Many of these lenses are identical to the "Classic" ZE/ZF versions that came after these and before Milvus.

But I would recommend the opposite of what was said above and choose the older AE versions Ė AEJ (Japan) or AEG (Germany) over the later MM versions Ė MMJ (Japan) or MMG (Germany) lenses. The MM lenses will all have haze or at some point will develop haze due to the grease Zeiss used for the MMs that they did not use for the AEs. The haze has usually been on these lenses too long to be removed. I actually bought several MMJ lenses, all of which were mint with box and had no haze when I received them. They had been stored in the dark and not exposed to heat, so when I started using them, they all developed haze after a few years. Fortunately a CLA got rid of the haze since it had not sat on the elements for too many years to cause permanent damage to the elements. An MM lens with permanent haze can have the elements polished by a reputable CLA person, but there only two or three people in the world that perform such a service, and you're left without a coating on the elements they had to polish.





Mar 02, 2023 at 04:12 PM
Doug Ball
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Best Zeiss lens under $500?


If you want to experience Zeiss lenses, and your budget is limited then take a good look at the Contax Yeshiva 50 mm 1.7. This was my first C/Y lens. It is extremely light weight, and inexpensive due to more plastic construction. I have compared it to my Leica APO 50 /2 and after 2.8 there is not much difference.
My second C/Y Contax was the 28 2.8 which again is very small but excellent.
I use these on a S1r with adapter. I prefer these to using Leica M lenses for one reason. You must open up the aperture to focus and then stop down. With the Contax the aperture increments are 1 stop vs 2 or 3 clicks per stop on the M's. With the Contax for example, 4 clicks get you to f8 or so, vs 8 clicks for the Ms.
The C/Y 85 1.4 is super sharp after f4. Also a great lens. These are all terrific bargains IMO.



Mar 03, 2023 at 09:15 AM







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