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Zeiss 15mm 2.8 Distagon ZF / ZE Review
First things First. This lens is Da Bomb !
If you don't know what that means, look it up in the urban dictionary. Definition Number 2. http://www.urbandictionary.com/
Wow! Looks wise this lens is simply sexy! At first, its appearance resembles a smaller version of the Nikon 14-24 2.8. They both have that big bulky look with the front being very large. However, unlike Nikon, Zeiss put a 95mm filter thread on this beast. They even have a circular polarizer available for it. The lens weighs in at 730g in the ZF.2 mount. For such a large lens, it is much lighter than the smaller 35mm 1.4 which weighs in at 810g.
The lens is shipped with a gorgeous metal lens cover with felt lining on the inside. The cover slips over the front of the lens nicely with a snug fit. It is by far a major improvement from the regular plastic lens caps that ship with the other Zeiss lenses. I love Zeiss products but hate their lens caps so much that I just put filters on all my lenses and throw the caps back in the box. I wish they would reengineer their lens caps and make them worthy of the Zeiss name. There, I mentioned something negative about Zeiss You can’t say that I am a fan boy now. One note about the metal cap is that if you drop it or accidentally deform the metal, you may have difficulties slipping it on the lens. This has not happened to me (yet). But, I am just pointing out a personal observation.
When it comes to build, the Zeiss 15mm 2.8 ZF/ZE is in a league of its own. There is no question that the materials, machining and assembly of this lens is of the highest quality and it is visually evident. Again, this is one of those mechanical jewelry masterpieces which you just love to hold and admire.
Focusing is as smooth as can be. It is not as tight as the 35 or 25 and not as loose as the 21. The resistance felt while focusing this lens is about perfect. It lets you quickly adjust and retain your focus with confidence. Furthermore, the rotation range from minimum to infinity is very short and pleasant. You don't find yourself turning and turning to get your focus. The only problem I had as an old man without my glasses was that the objects in the viewfinder appear so small that it was difficult for me to focus. However, this will be the case with any super wide.
Architectural photographers will love this lens. It is rectilinear and curvature of straight lines is almost nonexistent even at close range. I see a lot of photographers on ZeissImages.com posting wonderful work taken with the 21mm of cathedrals, palaces, industrial areas and other subjects which require a wide angle. I can only imagine that once this lens is available, it may become their new standard for architectural photography. This could be the holy grail of wide angle lenses they have been waiting for.
Landscape photographer will surely appreciate the angle of view provided by this lens. And with the new Nikon D800 camera boasting a 36 megapixel sensor this lens will surely be put to use.
Street photographers will also get a kick out of this lens. It’s short focusing range with the ability to focus between 1.5 feet and infinity at f16 will give you the opportunity to shoot candid pictures with a wide field of view. At f8, you are within 2.5 feet and infinity. Note, these are estimates just by looking at the scale on the lens.
The pros and cons of using this lens for street photography will vary depending on your style. However, I photograph up close to get exaggerated perspectives and the only drawback I can think of with the 15mm is that you have to get very close to your subjects to achieve that result. I mean in your face close. In some of the sample you see below, I almost hit the subjects with the lens while taking their picture. This is just something you will need to get use to.
As always, image quality does not disappoint. You will eventually find reviews on line that show scientific data, MTF charts, LPM and much more pixel peeping. However, as with all my reviews and stated at the top of my reviews, I simply let you know what the end results look like from a photographer and a viewers point of view. Everyone will have to judge for themselves what they think. For me, the results are nothing short of exceeding my expectations and mind blowing for the type of work I do. Color, contrast, sharpness and even bokeh is there for you to appreciate. Also, Shooting at dark objects agains a bright background showed no signs of CA / purple fringing what soever. Pick any color you want out of the rainbow. I did not see it!
Now for some samples.
It has been a lousy week here in Portland. We are not out of those 9 months of rain yet and taking pictures outside has been a challenge. The worst part being that with such a great lens, you want to see some snappy bright days to liven up your photos. Needless to say, we don’t get many of those here in the Pacific Northwest. So, you will have to make do with the sample images I provide below for the time being.
Update, the sun did show up for a few minutes this morning and a managed to get some shots in better light. If I can persuade Zeiss to let me keep this lens a little longer, I would like to do some landscape work with the D800 which should be here next week. I will also be heading to Sunriver Oregon this weekend and if the weather permits, I will try out some astrophotography with it as well.
The following were taken on an overcast rainy day. Nothing to write home about ...
Closeup at f4
And the same at f2.8
These were taken this morning when the sun decided to tease us.
And some 100% crops ....
Now for a vertical version
And the 100% crops ...
And the 100% crops ...
And the 100% crops ...
Agggghhhh make it stop! Yet another great lens I must have!
JT, great shots. The General Store and crosswalk are my favorites. Really superb perspectives caught with that lens. Is it really going to be that expensive or will the street price be lower? I'm pondering a D800 as well btw.
That's a killer wide angle prime but at $3k who's going to buy it?
Thanks JT - looks really great and I will be interested to see some with the D800 as I am hoping to get the camera.