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Zeiss 25mm f2.0 ZE Distagon Review
UNITED STATES torralba | 2011-11-25 | Viewed 40945 times | Bottom
First of all, a big thanks to Zeiss for loaning me this masterpiece of mechanical jewelry for review. 2nd, another big thanks to for loaning me the Canon 5D2 used for the review since the sample I received was a ZE version and I am a Nikon shooter.

As stated before in my other reviews, this is an unscientific,unbiased and personal review from a users point of view. Although I tend to comment and provide feedback without dwelling into pixel peeping, this review does offer some pixel peeping. I just felt it was necessary to do so.

First impressions

When I first received the lens from Zeiss, I immediately noticed the similarities to the 35mm f1.4. Although the two lenses are different in sizes, they still look very similar in form and cut. I snapped a few pictures the two side by side and front to front so you can see for yourself.

I am a large person at 6'2" with fairly large hands and when I held this lens for the first time, it felt as is if it was designed to custom fit into my hands. I know this sounds a bit odd since we are concerned about more important aspects of the lens. But, it is worth noting that this lens should be the new reference standard for design and ergo. Outside of the Zeiss line up, there is no worthy contender to match up against this lens for build, look, feel and that feeling of you get what you pay for. Of course, if you are into the new plastic light weight lenses then that is a different story.

Ease of use

Using the lens is straight forward. Manual focus, no switches to play with and smooth as you can imagine. The f2 yields a nice bright image in your viewfinder that makes focusing very easy. As you focus and hit that sweet spot, it just pops. It's almost like an autofocus lens that stops right when it locked in. It's really quite interesting, when you hit the focus, there is no doubt that the you are done. No back and forth to verify. I walked away from each shot feeling confident that my shots where in focus. Furthermore, focusing feels very smooth and snug. Not too tight or loose, It's just right.

It's near macro capabilities due to the close range focusing is superb. Shoot wide open and up close for some wonderful results.

Zeiss 25mm f2.0. ISO 200 at f2

Image Quality

Image quality is superb. You will see from some of the samples I post below what the lens can do. Between 5.6 and f11 this lens is leaps and bounds ahead of anything out there. Sorry Nikon and Canon aficionados. This may be a sensitive spot for some of you reading this. Although Nikon and Canon make great cameras and their new primes are really good, they still fall short of the the Zeiss. It's not about sharpness or pixels peeping but the overall picture is just so much nicer from the ZF 25. Of course this is just my opinion and you may feel totally different about this.

I do not have a direct comparison I can share with you but can only reference what I have seen on the net done by others. A landscape shot wide open at f2 yielded similar results at the extreme right edge of the frame to that of the competition stopped down to f2.8 at the center. Thats right let me repeat myself. At f2.0 the the extreme edge of the frame from the Zeiss appear to be equal or better than the center frame shot from a Canon 24mm 1.4 stopped down to f2.8.

I feel some clarification needed on the above statement. What I am saying is that I did not personally have a Canon lens to shoot with and directly compare to the Zeiss. I based the statement on other reviews on the net which showed samples images the Canon stopped down to 2.8

This photo is linked from and is showing the center section of various lenses at f2.8 The one on the left is from a Canon 24mm 1.4

Here is the entire url to their page.

Here is the Zeiss 25 f2 shot wide open featuring the extreme right edge of the frame.

Are portraits Sharp?

Hand held at f3.5 the colors and detail is just Jaw dropping sharp!

Full frame

Crop at the center

Vignetting is ok and better controlled than the 21mm when shot wide open. However, you will need to correct this in post processing as it is evident and does not really truly disappear until about f3.5 or higher.

Contrast and color

There is not much I can say here other than your typical Zeiss contrast and strong colors. No complaints what soever from me. It renders what I like and it does it well. Strong demarcation between tight parallel lines and snappy color!

Zeiss 25mm f2.0. ISO 200 at f2.8

What Chromatic Aberration?

CA / Purple Fringing is virtually non existent. The following quote from the Zeiss press release on the 25mm f2, "Selected types of glass and two aspheric surfaces prevent color fringes from appearing on high-contrast edges." holds true and is evident in the following shot.

As you can see the 100% crop from a section of the full frame image below, there is virtually no visible CA. This was shot hand held at f2.8. Don't pay too much attention to detail here. I was searching for an image that showed something dark against a bright background.

Just for comparison, Here is another shot with the Zeiss with a dark object against a bright sky. Notice the edges of the roof line and the rods. Then look at the same shot from the New Canon 24mm 1.4. Both of these are shot at f2.8

Zeiss at f2.8

Canon at f2.8

Bokeh is dreamy and creamy. When shooting wide open and even at f2 and f2.8, the out of focus areas are just drop dead gorgeous! Transition from in focus to out of focus is just phenomenal. These are shot at f2.

Zeiss 25mm f2.0 Distagon shot at f2 with a Canon 5D2

Zeiss 25mm f2.0 Distagon shot at f2 with a Canon 5D2

Zeiss 25mm f2.0 Distagon shot at f2 with a Canon 5D2

The Boring Ugly Photos

I will be adding some additional images that represent more real world scenarios rather than the following ugly photo you see below at different aperture settings.
These shots where done with a Canon 5D2 on loan from and the Zeiss 25mm f2. There are various shots of the same subject at different apertures so you can see for your self the difference.

The Full Frame

Right Edge at f2.0
Notice the clear separation of the power lines in the image.

Left Edge at f2.0

Bottom Left Corner at f2.0
In this image, at f2.0 The corners do suffer but only because the main focus was at infinity and the corners fall within a very close distance of the camera. Therefore this should not be considered a design flaw or distortion. None the less, by 5.6 and f11 this is corrected. The corners are not only intact but they retain amazing amounts of detail as you will see further down this page.

This dramatically improves as you will see further below.

Right Edge at f5.6

Left Edge at f5.6

Right Edge at f11

Left Edge at f11

Bottom Left Corner at f11
Look at the detail preserved in this shot. Focus was at infinity, yet the foreground and bottom left are amazingly sharp retaining detail in the leaves.

To view additional images click the following link
UKRAINE yuriylux | 11-26-11 2:29 AM | Top | Bottom
Thank JT for the first review, I've always felt that personal experience is more important
graphics and naked figures. A very useful review!
NETHERLANDS misterfolkertsma | 11-26-11 3:57 AM | Top | Bottom
Thanks for this review! Please do keep us updated with more shots.
GERMANY z-enthusiast | 11-26-11 4:24 AM | Top | Bottom
THX for the review,

but for me it makes no sense to got with this WA lens behind f/5.6! Behind that f/stop, the lens, like every similar WA glass, is loosing optical quality. For me personal, the most important part is the image quality at f/2.0, manual focused, not with AF! I don't trust any AF function with full open lens 1.4 - 2.0 anymore!
HONG KONG michaelsin | 11-26-11 5:02 AM | Top | Bottom
Thanks JT.
I have a question regarding the comparison on Zeiss 21mm F2.8 Vs Zeiss 25mm F2.0. Both are excellent lenses at similar wide angle view. How would you compare & choose between them?
Michael Sin.
UNITED STATES rickperry | 11-26-11 5:43 AM | Top | Bottom
Great review JT,

Thank you very much. I think you have demonstrated just what it is that makes these lenses so good! Far better than graphs and charts!

CANADA joecan | 11-26-11 7:11 AM | Top | Bottom
Good job JT. Looks to me a big step forward from the former 25/2,8 Zeiss. I had that for a while, but sold because did not make me happy. With the 25/2 from your review I found impressive some details (in the portraiture for example).
But now having the 21 and 35/2 I will not invest in other glass (at least not at the moment!).
Thanks JT for review.
UNITED STATES fromo1946 | 11-26-11 7:11 AM | Top | Bottom
Zeiss picked the right guy for this job; very well done. You gave the highlights along with the personal insights, I feel Zeiss has the best working glass.

CANADA zeissy | 11-26-11 11:50 AM | Top | Bottom
Good thoughts JT, thanks for lending your personal take on this. Really helps us more than some technical reviews. Carol
FRANCE philber | 11-26-11 1:29 PM | Top | Bottom
Thanks, JT! Very insightful! Lots of good information!
UNITED STATES torralba | 11-26-11 1:42 PM | Top | Bottom
I have added new photos to a collection I have created available here:
HONG KONG poyin | 11-26-11 5:28 PM | Top | Bottom
thanks for the useful review JT!
GERMANY petergruener | 11-26-11 10:26 PM | Top | Bottom
Thanks for that nice "quick" review. I really like them as they reflect more the reality rather than going into a lab and shooting test charts. With me being new to Zeiss lenses and the ability of loosing autofocus (yes, I do like this feature most of the time) I need to learn doing some of my photography differently.

AUSTRALIA oneant | 11-26-11 11:44 PM | Top | Bottom
michaelsin wrote:
Thanks JT.
I have a question regarding the comparison on Zeiss 21mm F2.8 Vs Zeiss 25mm F2.0. Both are excellent lenses at similar wide angle view. How would you compare & choose between them?
Michael Sin.

I look at them as wide for the 21 and close for the 25. I already use the 21 at close but the 24 would 'normalize' a bit more at the same distance. The bokeh is the feature of the 25 and the dof is the feature of the 21. I guess the differences depend on how big a deal wides are to you. They are for me and 35mm is my 'normal' and 50 is a mild-tele. The differences in FL might be slight but if you work at close quarters then the differences become more apparent. If you want a wide then the 21 is an easy choice and if you want somewhere in between 21 and 35 then its the 25 and I suppose this is an answer as well but depends on you alreading having the 21 and the 35 (grin).

You have the 28 don't you? I'd readily grab the 21 and regard it as more general use then the 25 would be. I'm waiting on the zf version of this 25 and see myself using it much as I would the 21 so for me it will normalize the perspectives and soothe my overuse of the 21. I owned the 28 but sold it to keep the 35 so that Id have a spread of 21/25/35/50/100. This was my street kit and now its becoming my studio kit as well.

Choosing between the 21 and the 25 is a choice but grabbing the 21 is a decision (grin).

Good luck, I hope you get the 21 and have as much fun as I do.

ɹǝpun uʍop puɐl ǝɥʇ ɯoɹɟ
NETHERLANDS jeroen | 11-27-11 3:15 AM | Top | Bottom
JT, thanks for the review.
Makes me want to have the 25, but the bank says "NO" (:
POLAND shapencolour | 11-27-11 10:00 AM | Top | Bottom
Thanks for sharing Jorge.Now I'll be pondering another Zeiss lens purchase)

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