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  Reviews by: AiryM  

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Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar T*

Review Date: Jul 14, 2015 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very good in nearly all respects
never perfect. Dislikes backlighting.

This is my favourite 50mm lens, in terms of IQ and versatility. Initially I found it unnerving, now I like it a lot. Reasons are:

- Yes, it's macro, but 2:1 only and has some low barrel distortion;
- Yes, it's sharp, but there is some field curvature; stop down to f/4 if corners are an issue (which admittedly is seldom the case);
- Yes, it's f/2, but wide open and optometrically it looks more like f/2.5, and the vignetting is conspicuous (nice for portraits by the way);
- Yes, it's a 50mm, but it feels like a 85mm in terms of size and weight;
- Yes, it works OK against bright light, but better not stop down if you do not want an outrageous blue cast (seems peculiar to the ZF2 version, according to some reviewers);
- Yes, great colours and microcontrast, but you'll get a warmish cast (yellow), it is not that neutral.
- Yes, you get a long focus throw, but between 5m and infinity it is very short;
- Yes, it will deliver good night shots, but you'll get some coma.

On the other hand, there are also good news:
- No, it's not APO, but close to it (low lateral and longitudinal CA)
- No, I'm not an ace at photography, but this lens consistently makes me look like one Wink

It is not the best Zeiss in my lineup, but it is very, very good. Needless to say, this is Zeiss manufacturing quality, and withstood glaciers and geysirs (guess where).

For reference, my second best is the humble Nikkor 50/1.8G, which is more colour-neutral, flares less and has AF. Third is the 50/1.2 AI for its dual personality. The mere fact that the Zeiss got my preference should show that it is actually better than my rants would suggest.

Zeiss 35mm f/2 Distagon T*

Review Date: Jul 12, 2015 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Excellent work against bright light, plus what others have said already. Very good night performance (low coma, too)
Vignetting and distortion

My top performer for night shots, and also for shooting pipe organs in churches. Blazing sun shining through stained glass windows might fool your camera meter, but not the lens. I wish the 50/2 were half as good in this respect.

Vignetting is significant, but not ugly (no "clipped corners" effect). Distortion is easily corrected in post processing.

The Samyang 35/1.4 might outresolve this lens at f/2, but even so, the very high microcontrast makes the Zeiss pics look more attractive.

Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR AF-S Nikkor

Review Date: Jul 11, 2015 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Size, weight, even sharpness, no obvious aberrations, snappy AF
Dubious stabilization. Sharpness on D800 less convincing. Price.

This lens leaves me with mixed feelings. It is a good match for the Df in terms of size and weight. IQ is very good, despite a lower contrast than most other teles. This can easily be corrected in PP. Also, focus tracking in AF mode works excellently.

The stabilizer is more problematic. I'd use it at speeds > 1/250s for visual comfort, or squarely use manual mode and force 1/30s, in which case I get a very high % of sharp pics on fixed subjects. In between, results are unpredictable, despite the camera being a Df and the lens a later copy with updated firmware. Better use "quiet" mode and shoot several shots in a row. I have never seen that with the 70-200 for instance.

On D800, I used it only once or twice, and was not overwhelmed by the sharpness. I guess the sensor outresolves it.

Nevertheless it is a very useful lens. I nailed a few concert shots with it, although its main use is the capture of details of static subjects when tripods are not an option.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM "A"

Review Date: Jul 11, 2015 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, low aberrations, tolerable vignetting, close focus ability. Slow but precise AF. Low flare.
Slightly warmish colors. Weight and size. AF may need fine-tuning. MF handling not that nice.

A nearly faultless lens. It delivers very clean images, even wide open. Bokeh is rather good, except on close-ups (about 1:5 ratio is the limit).

You can get constrasty shots even wide-open and against the light. Wide open here means less DOF, period. On a 16MP camera center sharpness will be more than sufficient.

LoCA is there but unconspicuous (no "neon lighting"-style fringes), which for me is essential. For reference, the Nikkor 35/1.4 G was not acceptable for my taste.

Before you make your own opinion, make sure that the AF is properly calibrated. If not possible, use MF. MF is by the way not that nice: short throw, some dry friction feel, but it works OK.

note: if you do not need AF, the Samyang 24/1.4 is interesting to consider. It performs less well but IQ is still very good, and it is cheaper (same price/quality ratio, I'd say)