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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Why I Don't Like Zeiss Lenses (Reasons #457, 458, 459 and 460)

The February '06 Nippon Camera showed up the other day. I'll probably post more about it a bit later, but a couple of things really caught my attention in this issue.

For starters, there's a first look at the "new" 50/1.4 and 85/1.4 Zeiss Planars in Nikon and M42 mount. I say "new", because what's clear from the report is that Mike Johnston was right—these really are just warmed-over versions of the lenses previously available in Contax/Yashica mount.

This is not a good thing. The NC article includes a nice comparison showing image character for both of the new ZF lenses along with the corresponding C/Y MM lenses, using a test snap made at open aperture with a nearby subject and a distant out-of-focus backround. In this test the 50 in particular—new and old versions alike—produces spectacularly awful bokeh, an eye-popping cacophony of frizz. It's as though the photographer had inserted a huge piece of oddly-textured glass between the subject and the background. The 85 has the same flavor, though because of focal-length effects it's not quite so intense in this instance. Ugh.

But wait, there's more. The in-depth camera test in this issue covers the new Zeiss-Ikon rangefinder camera, along with the genuinely new 35 and 25 Biogon ZM lenses. The good news is that Zeiss did get off their collective rear and develop a new design for the 35 to replace the nasty 35/2 Planar offered for the Contax G cameras. The bad news is that the redesign just substituted one set of vices for another. In NC's standard open-aperture bokeh test snaps, both the 35 and the 25 show blatant ni-sen (double-line) effects in the background.

The Zeiss hype gets pretty old. They sure do have cracker-jack optical engineers who know their exotic glasses and can make a ray-tracing program sing. But they consistently make what I consider to be really bad design choices, going for bench-test bragging rights at the expense of pictorial character. Caveat emptor.

Posted by: OREN GRAD


Blogger SCHLOMO SHIRADY said...

you sound like you don't know what you're talking about buddy boy. Zeiss Rules

12:28 PM  
Blogger Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I hear you.
I have spent much of this evening researching the new Sigma 30mm F:1.4 lens. I paid a lot of attention to bokeh, for out-of-focus backgrounds are supposed to be soft and pleasant, not to attract attention.
Fortunately it seems this lens has nice bokeh.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Robert Meier said...

I have a Zeiss Planar 75mm f3.5 lens on my Rollei 3.5F that is an incredibly good lens in every way that you can measure and judge a lens. Is it, perhaps, Zeiss's lenses for 35mm cameras that you should be complaining about, and not all Zeiss lenses?

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think you are off in left field. I use the 35/2 G, and have never heard (or made) a complaint on the Bokeh. I also use the 50/1.4 planar. This was just such an odd article it is scary.

6:47 PM  

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