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Zeiss 35mm f1.4 Distagon ZE or ZF review

By Jorge Torralba

This is an unscientific,unbiased and personal review of this meteorite from the far reaches of the galaxy. Don't expect pixel peeping, charts and scientific mumbo jumbo. This review is simply from a users point of view and from a picture viewers point of view.


First impressions:

Before you take your first picture you actually hold the lens as you pull it out of the box. Having said that, I have been involved with photography for over 30 years. I have seen all sorts of equipment from cheap to high end. So, I have seen a lot to compare against. The Zeiss 35mm 1.4 ZF/ZE is like no other. It is the best built, best feeling, sexiest and best looking lens I have ever seen or held in my hands. It is simply in a league of it's own! Sorry Leica, Canon, Nikon and all others. They may have good lenses but if you were to judge a lens just by its build and looks, this lens would claim the first prize. Simply put, this lens is porn and should be featured in a full spread center fold. All this comes at a cost. It is heavy!

Ease of use:

As a tool (for pros and prosumers) or a toy (for those like me) this lens is a joy to use. It yields a really bright picture in your viewfinder which is a really nice benefit of the 1.4 aperture.

Focusing will require getting use to. At first, my photos did not look as sharp as I expected. I was a little shocked to see this. But, I was determined not to discredit this masterpiece of mechanical jewelry crafted by the Gods of Lenses and handed down to us so quickly. My perseverance and faith in Zeus, oh, I'm sorry, Zeiss paid off. For those of you jumping on this lens, keep this in mind. You will need to practice and get the hang of using the lens. However, once you do, the payoff is well worth it. Guaranteed entry into Valhalla.

The operation of the lens matches it's build quality. The focus is probably the smoothest and tightest I have felt. And when I say tightest, I don't mean difficult to turn. I mean it is firm and not loose. It is simply perfect.

Being able to focus up close to subjects is another great benefit form this lens. It lets you get right up to the subject and produce some stunning work.


Image Quality

As I expected, the image quality is everything I hoped for out of this lens. Keep in mind this is what I like and not necessarily what you would prefer. So I will detail my preferences so you know where I am coming from. I own a Nikon D3S so keep that in mind.

Contrast and color Strong contrast yields vivid colors that just shout at you. Good color separation in shade, clearly defined colors in bright areas and natural looking colors makes me love this lens even more.

Sharpness After you master focusing with this lens, the images are razor sharp! No let down there. Even shooting wide open, your focus point is right where you wanted it to be.

Bokeh is dreamy and creamy. When shooting wide open and even at f2 and f2.8, the out of focus areas are just gorgeous and place your subject against a wonderful backdrop when composed properly.

This lens is 99% perfect. The only negative about this lens is it's weight which is substantial. Paired with a D3S, it makes for a heavy camera and lens to travel with. However, don't be a wimp. It is what it is and the results are well worth it.

See some sample images below. These are all images from the ZeissImages.com gallery taken and posted by photographers using the Zeiss 35mm f1.4 Distagon.


http://www.zeiss.com/C125679B0029303C/GraphikTitelIntern/PI_0141-2010_1/$File/PI_0141-2010_1.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/4/med_U4I1306293784.SEQ.4.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/1534/med_U1534I1306251635.SEQ.0.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/4/med_U4I1306284111.SEQ.2.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/1091/med_U1091I1312769065.SEQ.0.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/1521/med_U1521I1312147299.SEQ.0.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/1534/med_U1534I1307204359.SEQ.2.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/1534/med_U1534I1307204359.SEQ.1.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/4/med_U4I1307062718.SEQ.5.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/4/med_U4I1307062716.SEQ.2.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/4/med_U4I1306293785.SEQ.5.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/4/med_U4I1304995987.SEQ.7.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/4/med_U4I1306102026.SEQ.7.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/748/med_U748I1305460967.SEQ.0.jpg

http://www.zeissimages.com/gallery/4/med_U4I1305420062.SEQ.4.jpg

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Mention ZeissImages.com when placing your order for special offers
www.popflash.com]http://www.zeissimages.com/logos/popflash_left.png

Replies

Reply from Nicholas Vendemia on 05-21-14 9:17 AM
magiclight, I have both the 35/2 and the 35/1.4, and I think they are very different lenses that compliment each other very well. The 35/2 is much better for street photography and rural landscapes where color and sharpness are usually what most of us are after. If it's fine detail you want though, like in cityscapes or product photography, the 35/1.4 wins hands down. The 1.4 has more micro contrast than the 2.0, so it renders fine detail better. The the macro contrast of the 2.0 obliterates a lot of fine detail, but it produces such 3-D dramatic images, especially black and whites, that it is a joy to use for almost street for sure. The weight and longer focus throw of the 1.4 makes it much more difficult for street or all-around use too. Hope that helps.
Reply from Dave Curtis on 11-5-11 7:01 PM
I have the 35/2 and also considering moving to the 35/1.4.

Has anyone shoot with both?

Reply from Wolf Rainer Schmalfuss on 11-3-11 5:33 AM
I can confirm this impressions, because I am still using the C/Y version! I've tried the new one also but I have not seen too much of an change, except the automatics etc. on my 5DII.
Reply from Antonin Dvorak on 11-1-11 1:04 PM
Thank you for great review. I am a happy owner of 35/2, which is a great lens, but after reading your review and looking at pictures I'm starting to dream about 1.4...
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