Dec 102014
 

Ten weeks with the Zeiss Loxia Planar 2/50 and the Sony A7r

by Dirk De Paepe

After ten weeks with the Zeiss Loxia Planar 2/50 I thought it was a good idea, to share my findings.

This Loxia Planar, as you probably already know, is the first one of the new Loxia series, that was put in the market by Zeiss right after Photokina, where the first two Loxias were launched. Being thrilled by Zeiss coming up with those lenses, dedicated to mirrorless cameras, I ordered both the Planar 2/50 and the Biogon 2/35 immediately, but the latter probably won’t be available before the end of the year.

Well guys and gals, I can tell you right away that in several domains this Planar offers even more than I expected – and I had really high hopes! But at the same time, in a few other fields, I had pictured something different. Luckily those don’t concern essential issues, so all in all I’m absolutely thrilled with this Loxia, to the point that it quickly became my absolute favorite lens. It’s the one that I always have on my camera when traveling, as my “ready-to-shoot-in-all-circumstances” lens. Before this Loxia, the ZM Planar 2/50 played this role. No surprise, since those two Planars are very familiar lenses in concept (click here to read the ZM Planar 2/50 review on this website). Where the ZM Planar is without any doubt an exquisite lens, the Loxia Planar is even better.

Planar versus Planar

In a former article that Steve published here, right after Photokina, I wrote about the Loxias and already explained the main differences between Loxia and ZM. (Click here to read this article.) So I’ll resume the additional Loxia features here: transmission of Exif data, shorter minimal focal distance (45 versus 70cm), automatic enlargement in the VF when turning the focus ring, de-click possibility of the aperture ring and last but not least improved optical performance for mirrorless cameras.

Optically both Planars are pretty familiar – to my eye, the produced images have the same character, the same color signature, the same clarity, the same detail, etc… As a matter of fact, it’s hard to tell which Planar took which picture, unless you do an A/B comparison. Of course I didn’t perform any measurements, since I’m a user, not a professional photo journalist, but still, in a direct comparison, it was immediately clear that the Loxia performs better in the corners. Although the ZM Planar files remain detailed until pretty far in the corners, I’d say Loxia diminishes the (already small) “vague zones” with at least three-quarters and also the vignetting is less. I have been thinking of publishing A/B pictures here to illustrate the corner performance, but abandoned this idea, since it’s only visible looking at full size, and I really never experienced this matter as a problem with my ZM. Like I said, although the ZM performs excellent, the Loxia just performs quite a tad better. I expect that their will be some improvements measured on other domains as well – we’ll probably read about it soon in different reviews.

But fact is that Zeiss really reworked the optics for Loxia, so this is absolutely no “adapted ZM lens“. It also shows by the field of view, that’s a tiny bit narrower (I reckon some 4%) with the Loxia Planar, compared to the ZM.

Maybe you wonder if this is sufficient to switch from the ZM Planar to Loxia, since the ZM already works so terrificly well on the A7x. Well, I have been wondering about this as well. But I made the move to Loxia, because first of all the wide angles (like the Biogon 2/35 that I tried at Photokina) will perform better with my A7r than most of the M-mounts, but also because I truly believe in FE-mount and Loxia will be totally dedicated to FE. Further it will offer the most modern MF applications, which simply will make me perform better as a photographer, and will be optically 100% developed for mirrorless bodies. I also saw it as a kind of statement: “Loxia is the way to go for manual focus with FE bodies!”. Loxia is dedicated to mirrorless indeed, so to me it feels right being dedicated to Loxia. And the fact that it’s Zeiss (my first and lifelong love in photography) that comes with this modern, all manual lenses for mirrorless generates only one spontaneous reaction in my mind: yes!

Now that I really own and use the Loxia Planar 2/50, I’m feeling for 100% that this was the right choice, and this feeling is even a lot stronger than I expected. The satisfaction and joy to experience this fully dedicated lens, it’s extra features, IQ, styling, and ergonomics is simply bigger than I expected. Yes, some of my reasons are subjective, only based on feeling, but subjectivity is a reality in life, so it’s something that has value to me. Maybe you will feel it differently, because this is partly a personal matter, but still there’s a lot of really objective criteria here as well.

Improvements

I love the shorter minimal focal distance a lot. Combined with the A7r, with its 36MP and its cropping power, it enables “near to makro” pictures. “European Money” is an example hereof. When looking at the 100% crop in the second picture (please remember that you can enlarge all pictures by clicking on them and that you get the real colors only then), you can see that lens and sensor are absolutely keeping up, with no real visible loss of IQ when looking at 100%. I think this indicates that Loxia probably can deliver at resolutions that are even a lot higher. I was pretty flabbergasted, when I looked at this detail. What I see here reminds me of what I get with the Otus 55 (although the Otus delivers exceptional in virtually all circumstances, and the Loxia needs be used with greater care to deliver at this level, for instance regarding choice of aperture). On my monitor, the real world dimensions are enlarged by 7 (the surface by 49), revealing details that aren’t visible with the bare eye. IMO the detail that is rendered here, is simply top-notch.

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But apart from this detail power, shooting at smaller distances further narrows the DOF, significantly increasing the bokeh abilities. The bokeh character is pretty much comparable with that of the ZM Planar, but by enacting its formation, it becomes the more clear that this is really a very smooth bokeh, in hind as well as in front focus. Its character reminds me of the Otus again, although I find the latter producing even an a tad more creamy bokeh. But bokeh is a matter of personal taste, so I let you judge for yourself. I’ve shot some wide open pictures, specially for this report, because I know that many followers of this site care a lot about shallow dof and bokeh. The pictures show bokeh in different combinations – front and hind with close and further focus – all shot wide open at f/2. Here they come.

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04. Jaguar headlight

07. Austin Healey Cockpit

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07B Getting in the mood for Christmas

When street shooting wide open, one needs to focus fast. If you do this manually, the modern manual focusing features of this lens/body combination do a terrific job. The two following pictures illustrate this. In the first, I focused on the cigaret smoke and only had a time frame of around two seconds to frame and focus. IMO, this is a typical shot to benefit from those modern manual focus features. I used the automatic VF enlargement here.

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Personally I like the front bokeh yet a bit more than the hind one. IMO, the latter sometimes can get a bit nervous, especially when a very detailed background is involved, like leaves, while the front bokeh always remains super creamy in all circumstances.

All-around

Although this is only a f/2 lens, I find it usable in very divers light conditions. In the White Ochid picture the backlight from the bright white sky made the flower almost transparent. With the focal distance at 45cm, I set the aperture at f/4, in order to obtain the desired dof and a very slight but subtile blur in the hind part of the flower. To provide the right exposure, the setting of the shutter time was very delicate, because 1/3 step away killed the transparency effect.

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In “Watershow”, the exposure and processing was delicate as well, to combine the obscurity of the people with the clarity of the water. The EVF is a great tool for shooting that kind of pictures – if you read any of my former articles, you’ll probably remember that I’m a big EVF fan.

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The chiaroscuro was even pulled a bit further in the B&W “Evening at the Efteling”. And in “Compelling Show” I think I proved that also with the A7r and an f/2 lens, shooting in near dark environments is possible. This was of course shot wide open, at ISO8000 and 1/30sec. Here are some more low light pictures.

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15. Liège by night

This lens really is a high quality all-around piece of equipment – not that much a “specialised shallow dof lens”. IMO it specially shines, when you want to apply blur in a moderate, delicate and precisely controlled way or when you want to apply zone focusing and even hyperfocusing. It’ll capture light terrificly well. It’ll provide a color richness that allows you to work in post production with the colors in any way you want. On the Sony A7x this lens feels perfectly in balance, allowing very fast, spontaneous and precise shooting. Here are some different kinds of pictures to illustrate this.

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The Loxia Planar 2/50 is a very fine lens. It produces almost no barrel distortion (IMO the distortion is negligible), making it very useful for architectural shooting. And combined with the A7r, you get enough pixels to perform some “substitutional tilt/shift” work in post production. I went to the beautiful Liege Guillemins train station (Belgium) to live it up.

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Considerations

I guess you wonder if this Loxia has been a windfall to me for 100%. Well, no. In a few domains I had hoped for something slightly different.

First of all size and weight. This Loxia Planar is really a category larger than the ZM Planar (adapter included) and it simply weighs more (some 75gr – I use the Novoflex adpater for the ZM). I feel like it puts the lens/camera combination really in the next category, regarding size and weight, the more when carrying a few lenses in your bag (I will need a larger bag!). It feels like regarding size and weight it’s more to be compared now with the Leica M as a system, where in the past there was a real gain in this department for the Sony. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty comparable with my old Canon A1 with (latest generation) FD lenses. Strange how our perception changes, since at that time the A1/FD was regarded as a full size system. Although this Sony/Zeiss combination is still working fine for me, I’d say: this is the limit, guys – don’t make it grow any further!

Compared to the NEX bodies, like my NEX-7, this combination (A7x/Loxia) allows a bit less stealth shooting, particularly when the lens shade is mounted (although I believe stealth shooting is mainly a photographer’s attitude, as long you don’t use a large DSLR). Seen from a distance, the shade gives this lens the look of a medium zoom lens. When you really want to perform discrete shooting, you need to take away the shade, bringing the size “back to normal”. This is a massive lens shade, that does a great job in its own, but it’s large. For transportation, its size doesn’t pose a problem though, since you can mount it the other way round on the lens, so that it doesn’t take extra space in your bag, because it’s no longer sticking out. So all in all it’s a great working shade, that you only need to remove when you want to shoot discretely.

But every downside has its upside. I have to admit that the extra mass ads to the shooting control. In one of his articles, Steve mentioned that he felt like the size and weight of the M-system offered the ideal combination of compactness/weight and handyness and I wonder if I don’t need to share his opinion here, now that I feel the A7x/Loxia combination is playing in the same league…
The lens is bigger than the ZM, this mainly means thicker. Less stealth (a bit) and more weight on the downside, but more feeling from the focus ring at the upside. With its large (but not too large) swivel range, it allows very precise focusing. The smoothness/resistance is absolutely perfect for “one finger operation”.
The larger diameter of the barrel also makes for a bigger lens cap – less “wobbly” than the ZM caps. And as far as I heard, Zeiss has the plan to provide all Loxias with the same diameter, which would economize on the filter budget. I hope this doesn’t result in a limited lens offer, because then I’d prefer buying a few extra filters! I wonder though if this diameter will allow for a super fast 85mm. I guess and hope they’ll come at least with an f/2 which I reckon must be possible with this diameter – but wouldn’t an f/1.4 in time be nice!…

To conclude about size and weight, I initially had hoped for a lighter, more compact Loxia. But I guess, when able to choose between the two, eventually I’d probably agree with Zeiss’ choice, since it handles better. I think they had the perfect “manual focusing machine for out of hand shooting” in mind, and I have to agree that they both (Zeiss as well as Sony) have come pretty close. Furthermore, the Loxia sure looks absolutely beautiful on the Sony body.

The build quality is very good. The barrel is all metal, which gives confidence. Both the rings feel like they’ve been engineered with the finest precision. Their operation is super smooth with the perfect resistance to give you the right feedback about what you’re doing. The finish, with both rings being perfectly integrated in the barrel surface of the lens, is perfect. The look and feel is wonderful. With one consideration.

What initially disappointed me, was the design of the aperture ring. It’s placed close to the body, where on the ZM you’ll find it at the end of the lens. The placement is a matter of habit, of course, so no comments here. But because of the aperture ring being perfectly integrated in the surface of the lens barrel, I had it more difficult to feel it and thus to find it anyway. It took me a while to find my way here, missing it quite often at first. After a while however, I started using just my thumb (no second finger) at the underside of the lens to turn it. It’s really easy to find the aperture ring in this way, because the body is your guide. Both the aperture and focus rings have small knurls that provide excellent grip and both have a wonderfully smooth action, that make it easy to operate them with one finger. With my thumb on the aperture ring under the lens and my middle finger on the focus ring on top of the lens, I find it very easy and adequate to set both rings at quasi the same time, making the setting of focus and dof easier and faster then ever. Zeiss needed to place the aperture ring close to the body, to make this happen. In this position, my index finger is supporting the body in a quasi symmetric position to the right hand, which provides and equal pressure on both sides of the body, when relaxing both arms, and as such creates a perfect balans, that enables shooting out of hand with exceptionally long shutter speeds as well as allowing very fast setting and shooting. I have been shooting out of hand up till 1/15sec (the night shot with the Coca-Cola umbrellas), without really paying special attention (well, in fact, I always kind of pay special attention when pushing the button) and when looking at 100% (visible at my flickr page) you’ll see that even the fishnets are sharp.

I have been wondering if Zeiss had this way of shooting in mind when designing the lens, because it’s exactly this design that directed me to this way of handling, opening up the most effective way of shooting with manual focusing lenses that I experienced up till now. I wouldn’t be surprised of it, since Zeiss is primarly a specialist of manual lenses and Loxia is developed for mirrorless, which, due to it’s compact size, is the most handy option for manual shooting. Still, up till now, this new way of holding and setting has not yet become an automatism to me. I need to initially concentrate on the way I hold and handle camera and lens. But when I do, it’s really working excellent and faster than with any other lens I know. I’m sure, eventually, I’ll get used to it and it wìll become an automatism. But I also fear that quite some people, who are less keen on experimenting with different ways of handling, will find this recessed aperture ring to be less convenient in action than the one on the ZMs. Too bad, since it really can help you to perform better than ever.

To finish this of, a word about the price. Looking online at the Zeiss lens shop, this Loxia costs 849.00€, which is 100.00€ more expensive than the ZM. Regarding the extra functions, I’d say it’s more than worthwhile. And when you buy the ZM plus a good adapter, you’ll be spending even more money. (The Voigtländer adapter, with close focus ability, even costs a good 300€!)

*pre-order the Zeiss Loxia lenses HERE*

Conclusion

Well, I hope I elucidated the pro’s as well as the con’s of this new Loxia, as far as I could pinpoint them, that is. All in all, to me, it’s the pro’s that prevail. Largely. It asked for a period of adjustment, regarding the handling of the aperture ring, but once I did it right, it allowed for the greatest manual shooting experience that I ever had.

Regarding IQ, this Loxia offers exceptional value for money, it sometimes it even makes me think of my Otus 55, regarding IQ, not regardin budget :-), without the size and weight and without giving in that much on IQ as the price difference suggests.

My “old” ZM Planar is a great all-around lens. The new Loxia Planar improves this concept on all domains where improvements were possible. For all those manual shooting enthusiasts: IMO Loxia is absolutely the way to go with mirrorless bodies – Sony today, other brands to come really soon, for sure.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures that I added, many of them were specially shot for this user report. I also placed them in a dedicated folder on my flickr page, where you can look at some of them in full resolution, to even better illustrate the IQ in all detail and where you can check full exif data of all pictures. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/sets/72157649262134498/)

All shots were taken out of hand, with the exception of the “European Money” and “White Orchid” pictures (tripod) and “Liege by Night (holding the camera against a tree). Of course shooting out of hand renders a bit less detail than when using a tripod. But I just love shooting out of hand, since this gives me more possibility to react to a moment’s. Some of the shots weren’t even possible to take with tripod, like the ones of the ceiling and tracks on the train station that I shot from a moving escalator.

Two pictures (Seagulls and Splashing Boat) actually were pretty heavy crops, to illustrate the A7r’s cropping power.

I leave you with a few extra shots now, taken at the beautiful Liege train station. Thanks for reading, guys! And I specially thank Steve and Brandon for their fabulous work on this site!

Dirk De Paepe

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Dec 082014
 

The Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon ZM (Leica mount) Lens Review

by Cemal Sagnak

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Many People belief, a Leica Camera needs native Leica lenses, although there are Alternatives by other German Companies like Carl Zeiss with a long optical history in making lenses and Rangefinder cameras. As a passionate Leica Photographer, I always search and look for high quality alternative lenses for my Leica M Typ 240.

One of my favorite lenses is the Carl Zeiss Biogon T* 2/35 ZM, a versatile documentary and Photojournalist lens with outstanding optical performance and my standard Lens on the M.

I was very tempted to read the announcement during the last Photokina in September about a new fast 35mm f/1.4 hoping this can match with my Biogon 35/2 in optical performance but with a fast f1.4 aperture.
I could not be happier when last week my Demo Lens arrived.

My initial impression was extremely good, although the Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is larger (lengths 87,3 49mm Filter, 381gr) vs. the Biogon T* 2/35 ZM (lengths 68mm, Filter size 43mm, 240gr) the finder blockage is still moderate. You get immediately a feel of the build quality, all metal finish, robust and made for the next generation, something I definitely expected from a Carl Zeiss Lens.

The Distagon is build with 10 Elements in 7 groups with and the10 blades can be set in 1/3 steps giving you a good haptic feedback, you can feel comfortably each click on the aperture wheel. The focus wheel is on the right spot, perfectly accessible and smooth in handling, Rotating is not to tight and not to loose, which is important for a fast lens shooting at f/1.4 to achieve precise results.

The lens is equipped with the T* anti-reflective coating to control flare we will see later how good it performs using the Distagon against strong sunlight. The Distagon is made to be used under low light condition or for a clear separation of the subject from the background, don’t be surprised to see many pictures shot at f/1.4.

The Data sheet is promising; with a relative distortion of less than -1% the Distagon beats the Summilux –M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH on paper. Lets see how it performs.

Non-Leica Users need to know that sharpness of a rangefinder lens is relative and depending on the skills and eyesight of the User behind the Finder.

Before I took the Lens out, I did some shots at home on a tripod to see if there is a focus shift or misalignment. One shot through the RF and one with the LCD of the M and no surprise, all was good, as you can see in the crop of the image taken through the RF.

BTW, I tried the EVF of the M240 but I come to the conclusion that I am better and faster with the optical RF and composing is much easier. I turn on the LCD just when I use a 21mm lens to control the frame. I maybe would use the EVF if someone puts me a Noctilux under the Xmas tree and for sure with Leica – R lenses. But coming back to the Distagon…

My first session was taken in my new hometown Cologne, known as the capital of German Photography and this is not because of the Photokina only.  Pictures are DNG files converted into jpg in LR 5.7 I took some random street shots including the Xmas market to get warmed up with the character of the lens.

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The Bicycle shot shows rich and contrasts colors with a nice background blur and a great sharpness on the flowers. I tried similar with people, I am glad my daughters share my passion so they are always great models to try new Gear.
My second opportunity using the Distagon was a fashion shooting with the lovely Dana, who is running a fashion blog and needs regular shots of her in the seasons dress-up.

A 35mm lens is not the first choice for Portraits and People. Still the results were highly satisfying, color and focus are as well. Flare is not always welcome but in this case I used it as an element. Unfortunately Zeiss did not deliver a Lens Hood with this demo unit. I recommend purchasing a hood with the Lens.

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Beside some lens flare, I identified chromatic aberration, which appears when shooting wide open. Nowadays nothing software cant fix and also visible in some of my Summilux pictures. The third part of my Test was the low light capability of the lens, using it in some urban lightning and using it for what it was made for, wide open in low light, I travel much, so taking a tripod with me is a hassle and 100% of my shots outside are handheld. Maybe this is the case for many Leica Users.

This leads me to the Part 3 of my test…. Paris! A perfect Place using a Leica Camera and going for a photo walk along the river Seine and visiting places where Grandmasters of Photography took many iconic pictures. The Zeiss Distagon performs well wide open and paired with the great ISO abilities and Dynamic range of the M240, you will be able to get extraordinary results shooting this combo in the dark.

Here one Bokehlicious shot from a brigde in Paris.

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After all, I am pretty impressed by this new lens. I have owned the Leica Summilux 35mm ASPH (pre-FLE) and use currently the Biogon 35/2 which are the natural competitors. Before I come to my personal conclusion here is a price overview (Prices in Euro )

LEICA SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH – 4200 Euros
CZ Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM – 2000 Euros
CZ Biogon T* 2/35 ZM – 1050 Euros

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Now my question before I started this lens test: is it worth to pay almost double the price compared to the Biogon 35/2 for one f stop faster? For me it is, not that everybody needs an f1.4 lens but if you like shooting fast lenses, this is the lens, which delivers the image quality sharpness and details starting from f1.4.

Please find below the comparison shot at f2.0 between the Distagon and the Biogon. The Distagon is clearly sharper, I plan some more shots for a detailed comparison. Is the Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM capable to compete with one of the best available lenses the Leica Summilux 35mm ASPH FL?

35 Biogon f/2 at f/2

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35 Distagon 1.4 at f/2

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Based on my experience with the Summilux , the Distagon is definitely worth to consider and not only because its half the price. Sharpness is on par between both lenses. I would like to do a lens comparison but I assume difference is very small and can be better measured in a LAB test rather then comparing pixel.

35 1.4 Distagon and then a crop

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The Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is announced to be ship at the end of 2014.

You can order the lens HERE at B&H Photo.

Cemal Sagnak

https://cemalsagnak.wordpress.com

Dec 082014
 

The Zeiss Loxia 50 f/2 on the streets of NYC 

By Tomer Vaknin

Dear Steve,

First let me say how much respect I have for you and the other members of your website, I have learned a lot by exploring the wonderful photos you all shared, equipment reviews and inputs. I would like to share my own personal experience with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* lens.

As a proud and very happy owner of the Sony Zeiss 55mm, I was hesitant to purchase the Loxia. However, after reading your positive impression of the lens in Photonika 2014 and as a huge fan of M mount lenses that I am, I simply had to try the Loxia.

Here are some photos I took with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* in Amsterdam streets, Marken village and Rennstrecke Zandvoort, during a holiday I took with my wife in the Netherlands. I hope these photos, along with my personal impression of the lens, will help some of undecided readers in making the right decision for themselves.

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My personal take on the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T*:

- Great 3D feel (Check the box shot that was -take on a bed)

- Wonderful Bokeh

- Lovely Creamy look

- Great character

- Great colors and contrast

- Very sharp!

Overall, The 3D look, the creamy bokeh and feel + the very nice tone and color makes it a winner. The shots taken with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* looks like they were taken with the Leica lens.

Altough the Sony Zeiss 55mm is an amazing lens and you can’t go wrong with it, I personally prefer the Loxia.

www.facebook.com/tomer.vaknin.5

Dec 032014
 

The Great Venice Beach Fire of 2014

By Huss Hardan

Hello Steve and Brandon,

The night of Saturday, October 25 started off like most in Venice Beach, CA. Tourists, drunks, drunk tourists. The usual motley crew including yours truly. But then things changed with the smell of smoke. Now this wasn’t the usual smoke smell that wafts through the neighbourhood – due to 90% of the population suffering from glaucoma – but an acrid smell that warned of more serious events afoot. Something was on fire, so the normal reaction was to grab a camera and go take a look.
It was easy to track down, as I just followed the plumes of smoke, and the sound of sirens. A storage facility was the culprit, one that required 365 firemen to be summoned!

More at : http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20141026/venice-storage-fire-burns-for-14-hours-injures-eight-firefighters

It was quite the scene with moments of absurdity mixed in. One that sticks with me is the dood cycling through the fire trucks holding his munchies, without a care in the world! Ahh, Venice, don’t ever change!

I used a Leica M-E with Zeiss ZM 50mm Sonnar 1.5. All shots were at 1.5 and ISO 1250 1/125 sec . The intense strobe lights from the trucks made the auto meter go nuts – exposure readings flickering from 1/4000 to 1/30 sec, so I set it manually and stuck with that. As the Leica has an optical view finder, the viewing image was constant, but I wonder how an EVF would have coped with the strobe lights.

Peace out

Huss

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Dec 012014
 

The Nikon Df with Zeiss Zf.2 Lenses

by Sebastian Bey Haut

Dear Steve,

I’ve been fortunate to have you publish my user report ( Fuji X-Pro1 / Zeiss Touit in Varanasi) in last February. I received very pleasing comments from your readers, which gave me enough confidence to submit my images more widely… As a result I recently exhibited my work in an important photo festival in France and got a few shots published in magazines. It has been highly motivating and made my interest for photography grow even more!

I still have my Fuji but enriched my gear list since my trip to India with a Nikon DF and two Zeiss ZF2 lenses, the 21mm 2,8 and 50mm 1,4.

I have always been attracted by manual focusing, but I did not want to do it via an EVF nor by manipulating a lousy focus ring made for autofocus (tried, and did not like it).

Photography is a hobby and I don’t need it to feed my family, I’m thus free to choose whatever gear I like without any technical constraints… Which is why I indulged my self with this new kit, starting with the lenses. The Zeiss ZF2 are 100% made for manual focusing: manipulating the focus ring is a joy, and their sturdy metal construction with almost no electronics will let me enjoy them for as long as there is a Nikon F mount camera on the market. It might be purely psychological, but this unlimited life time is really helping in the buying decision as I really see myself with my two Zeiss mounted on a DF 15 in 2034.

*The Ultimate Dream Zeiss Zf Lens kit for Nikon with case*

I’ll not discuss the technical merits of the lenses in details as there already are many reviews available. The only thing I want to emphasize on is the pleasure one has in using them during the “picture taking” process. It’s very easy to zone focus using their distance scale and there is no front / back focus to mess with. The 21mm is objectively superior to the 50mm in terms of pure image quality, but both have the same “Zeiss” color rendition and micro contrast that make your shots much more beautiful and alive.

After choosing the lenses then came the question of the body. The Df was a pretty obvious choice for me as I did not want to “waste” my money in buying a “pro” autofocus system and never use it because of the manual lenses… Much has been said about the Df which might be far from perfect on the paper… But once again what matters to me is the pleasure of using it, which is far superior than the one I have with my D300 for example. The small size, the D4 sensor, the dials, and (let’s be honest) the look make it the exact “fun” camera I was looking for.

I’ll mostly use it for street and travel photography: the old school “retro” design is very un-intimidating, even cheap looking for non connoisseurs. Manual focusing is very easy and the high iso capabilities allow to close the aperture to f8 to get enough depth of field for zone focusing in most of the lighting situations.

I matched it with a Gariz leather half case (perfect to get a bit of extra grip without adding too much bulk), a Roberu canvas strap, a Nikon DK17m magnifier to make focusing even easier, and cherry on the cake and absolute must have for any serious photographer: a soft release ! (the Nikon ebonite one – I fully assume my hipster tastes :) )

I had my first serious photo trip with the Df in NYC in October, here are the resulting images.

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More are available on my 500px: https://500px.com/Sebastien_Bey_Haut

Thanks for reading

Sebastien

Nov 252014
 

Crazy Comparison! Leica 50 APO, Sony Zeiss 55, Voigtlander 40 2.8

Hey to all! Happy Tuesday! Just a couple of days until the big Thanksgiving feast and I am lounging around my home relaxing an injured knee (which is improving and on its way to a full recovery). I have had quite a few emails in the past week asking me to compare the Leica 50 APO miracle lens to the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8. I have done this before but this time it is more controlled and using indoor natural light, which believe it or not was quite dim in reality. I had my blinds slightly cracked open to allow some light to come in and I snapped a basic image to test for out of camera color, sharpness, micro contrast, etc.

 THIS IS A “JUST FOR FUN” CRAZY COMPARISON!

Below is a quick size compare. All are smaller lenses that are fairly light and trouble free. The Sony is the largest but light. The 50 APO is compact but solid and the Voigtlander is small and light with the Jupiter being featherweight. NONE are large or cumbersome in any way.

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Yep, a $8300 lens vs a $999 lens and then I also threw in the $400 Voigtlander 40 2.8, which is actually a GREAT buy for a very nice lens. I also included the very cheap Jupiter 8 50mm f/2 just for fun. (and it is not bad at all I must say)!

I have been doing Crazy Comparisons since the first week my website went up, and they are always popular but sometimes controversial, which is understandable. ANY comparison that is done will always be controversial as those who own Lens B want to know why Lens A appears better. Those who have lens C will say I did the test wrong and I must have misfocused or those who own Lens A will argue about something. Just take it for what it is, a snap shot at the same aperture for the 50 APO and the 55 1.8 (f/2), Jupiter 8 and one at f/ 2.8 for the Voigtlander, which is wide open for that lens. ALL lenses were manually focused (The Sony was as well for critical correct focusing and to rule out mis focus).

To me, when I click on the images below I see a richer color in the 50 APO as well as MUCH more detail and micro contrast. The Sony/Zeiss flared a bit (no hood on the Sony and the APO did not have the hood pulled out, so no hood on either), was softer and had a less vibrant color. The Voigtlander shows its weakness here against these two lenses and is softer still with less contrast and color depth.

The 50 APO and the Sony A7s is pretty amazing. I mentioned it last week HERE but every time I use this combo I am thrilled with the results, and the cool part is that it is easier to obtain perfect focus on the A7s than it is on the Leica M itself.

Click the images below to see the larger versions with full 100% crops embedded. As it is, the Leica is the better lens. Better made, smaller, jewel like, better optics, better color and flare resistance..but it is 8X the cost of the Sony/Zeiss! EEK! $8300 vs $999. The Leica BETTER BE BETTER! I think the Leica, in the real world, is worth about $4500 but Leica being Leica..well..that will never happen. All I know is for me, Leica makes the best optics in the world. The 50 Lux, the 50 APO, the Noctilux..all special, unique and amazing 50mm lenses. Buying them all would set someone back about $24,000. I know of some towns in the USA where you can buy a house for $24,000 :)

When the Zeiss Loxia lenses come in I will pit the 50 f/2 against the APO, and I expect that one to be pretty close.  See my 50 APO review HERE, see my Voigtlander 40 2.8 review HERE and see many shots with the Sony 55 1.8 HERE.

CLICK THESE IMAGES FOR LARGER and 100% CROP! THEY ARE DIRECT FROM RAW!

The 50 APO at f/2

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Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 at f/2 – Manually focused 

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A Jupiter 8 50mm f/2

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Voigtlander 40 2.8 Heliar at 2.8

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Nov 202014
 

How I became a Zeiss fan

by Toni Ahvenainen

This article is closely related to my personal photography project called ‘Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography – http://www.yearofthealpha.com.

I have written about it here at Steve Huff’s website before, so I’m not going to repeat all the things I’ve written earlier. Instead I give you the short version: at 1st of January I started a year-long and Sony Alpha related photography project which focuses on creative photography taken with Sony Alpha cameras. Because the positive attention my project has gathered in social media circles I found out that the Zeiss was willing to support my project. They offered me two lenses from their Touit line up, Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M, if I would share my experiences about the lenses through my project. I have never shot with any Zeiss lens before, so I seized for it and the story I’m sharing today is based on my first Zeiss experience. To learn more about my project and its background, I recommend you to check these two articles which I have published here earlier:

Year of the Alpha by Toni Ahvenainen

First time with Zeiss by Toni Ahvenainen

Be sure also to check my website at: www.yearofthealpha.com 

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO1250, 1/60sec, f2.8, Raw

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After making an agreement with Zeiss, the lenses finally arrived one Friday afternoon with UPS delivery and I was of course very excited about it. I had read about Zeiss’s legendary reputation from many photography sites likes this, but never believed I would get opportunity to actually shoot with them. To me, like for many others, the most exciting lenses have always been something I can only see through a store display window.

For my photography this was a very unique opportunity and something of which I consider myself to be very lucky. If you haven’t yet become acquainted with the Touit line up before, it is the new family of Zeiss lenses which are targeted to mirrorless system cameras (Sony E-mount & Fuji X-mount). All the lenses have full autofocus capabilities and they represent a modern Zeiss design with black matte finish and more contemporary look – but most importantly they convoy the famous Zeiss optical quality for mirrorless system cameras.

The Touit 2.8/12 is an ultra wide-angle lens with a focal length of 12mm (equivalent of 18mm on a full frame system) and has a relatively large maximum aperture of f/2.8. Then the Touit 2.8/50M, being a macro lens, is kind of opposite with a focal length of 50mm (equivalent of 75mm on a full frame system) and 1:1 reproduction scale.

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO100, 1/400sec, f5.6, Raw (focus stacked)

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My first impression was really good regarding both construction and image quality. Right from the first photo walk with Touit lenses I could see a difference in images I took, but it was really hard to put in words. To be honest, I felt certain cognitive dissonance for the first four weeks, because I didn’t have right terms to conceptualize this difference in images to myself. Sometimes I even thought it was just a placebo and that I was just seeing what I was expecting to see, because of the almost mythical reputation that Zeiss has in many photography forums in the net.

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO100, 3,2sec, f7.1, Raw

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Now that I’ve used these lenses for longer period of time, I think I have finally gain better understanding of how good optics will affect the image quality and what one can expect of them in general. In terms of sharpness, both of these lenses do very well indeed. The Touit 2.8/12 is very sharp right from the start and the Touit 2.8/50M is also, perhaps unsurprisingly, also quite sharp wide open and gets very good after that. I could go on and describe how changing aperture size affects the overall sharpness, but truth to be told, I find most of the lens reviews putting too much emphasize on sharpness alone. Let’s just say that both are very much sharp enough. When it comes to high quality lenses, I would much more prefer to emphasize the contrast and colors, because it’s where the quality shows.

To understand where I’m coming from, you need to know that before these Zeiss lenses I was shooting with 18-55mm and 50mm Sony E-mount lenses (SEL1855 & SEL50F18). While the 50mm Sony is a pretty good lens, I was only rarely fully satisfied with my colors (very close but something was missing). While I couldn’t exactly put my finger on my definition of ‘good colors’, all the same I knew when I saw them and especially when I didn’t. Having shot over 30 000 shots with these Sony native E-mount lenses and worked with over 5000 raw-files, I can say for a fact that the Zeiss lenses deliver more contrast and better colors. Because I’m not an optical engineer I really can’t conceptualize my experiences with objective scientific language, but in my experience the better contrast shows with greater clarity while colors stand out better and have certain fidelity in them which makes, for example, the primaries look very pure and good. Together they form pictures that often have a deep colors, but retain their subtle nuances and natural look in overall image.

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO100, 1/2000sec, f5.6, Raw

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Before my Zeiss experience I had a preconception that minor color & contrast differences between lenses is insignificant and something that can be ‘fixed’ and ‘made better’ with computer and post processing. I guess this is still a pretty common conception and while images can and surely are made better with post processing, it is still just the perception of things what we are editing and the actual light signal digitized by the camera isn’t going to get any better (meaning more accurate colors for example). It is in my experience that the Zeiss lenses deliver better contrast than my Sony E-mount lenses. Now, I can try to adjust ‘contrast’, ‘clarity’, ‘curves’ or do some fancy tonal contrast thing with software x for the pictures taken with my Sony lenses and hope to make them as good as Zeiss. In practice I’ve seen that, while this might work for some pictures, most of the time pictures just get congested and stuffy before they reach same overall clarity. And it’s the same with colors. While in theory the usual HSL tab (hue, saturation, lightness) should open the entire color space for editing, in practice it’s often too cumbersome to touch the subtle textures and grading of natural colors. As I said, I’m no optical engineer, and the only way I can explain this experience to myself is to think that with the Zeiss lenses the contrast and colors are captured more accurately and that this accuracy transfers into final pictures as well.

This altered perception of clarity, contrast and colors was really an eye-opening experience for me. With these lenses I suddenly felt, for the first time, that I was actually pretty satisfied with the colors I was achieving. Not with every shot of course, but more and more I was amazed how good colors I could achieve with these lenses and some post processing. When looking some of my pictures taken with the Zeiss lenses I sometimes felt my old Sony Nex-5N had transformed into some other camera. In fact, I’m willing to say that this experience is the single most important thing which justifies the Zeiss’s legendary reputation in my eyes. However, I don’t want to claim that there is magic ‘Zeiss color’ or something similar. As much as I liked the colors, claiming something along those lines would just be essentialism and I think there is already enough mythical stories build around Zeiss (and other gear as well). To put it in plain words, I think Zeiss builds high quality lenses and when it comes to colors and contrast they certainly get it right.

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO800, 1/15sec, f14, Raw

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Through this experience I also came to appreciate that these two Zeiss lenses actually gave me a very good reference point regarding image quality. I’m not talking about ‘image quality’ in absolute terms, but as a valuable standing point where I don’t need to speculate if some other piece of gear would have provided me the result I was looking for. If I don’t get it with Zeiss it’s because of me, conditions or something else – and not because the lack of ‘right gear’. This sort of certainty which comes with more expensive high quality gear is something that is often less talked about aspect in gear reviews and forgotten when putting value for photography equipment. Personally to me, it has made my photography easier since I don’t need to worry if I have equipment good enough. Instead I can concentrate on particular situation, getting my images and feel good about it.

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO400, 25sec, f2.8, Raw

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Finally for the end of this article, I will try to expand the usual views how we taught to approach the photographic equipment we use. I’ve been talking a lot about sharpness, colors and other things that make up the image quality, and which is, in the end, something you would expect to get for your money when buying Zeiss lenses. However, there are other point of views as well which are often forgotten when approaching from a technical point of view. Zeiss has been manufacturing lenses for a long time, probably longer than any other of the current companies. This means tradition and maybe it’s because of this tradition Zeiss tends offers more information and history about their lenses than other companies. For example, the Zeiss staff scientist Dr Hubert Nasse has written excellent papers explaining the history of their designs like Distagon and Planar. Reading these I got the impression that Zeiss takes its tradition pretty seriously and tries to transfer it into their designs as well. Honoring the tradition and craftsmanship is similar to values which I believe many photographers share as well – at least ideally. Therefore I think using Zeiss is something that can also support one’s identity as a photographer.

I don’t know about others, but at least I enjoy using tools and equipment that are aesthetically, emotionally and intellectually pleasing to me. When I’m trying to capture ‘that moment’ which speaks to me about my life, time and being, I need to get away from all the technical discourses. Using something that I connect with, whether it is the rugged point&shoot, high-end camera or a shoebox with a hole, certainly helps me to see and feel these moments. In the end, I think the Zeiss succeeds very well in this and perhaps even better than most of other lens manufacturers. It is also the final reason why I became a Zeiss fan (might lead to expensive taste, though). Not only did I find that I could finally get the colors I was looking for, but I also found certain intellectual and aesthetic pleasure using Zeiss lenses. And I believe I’m not alone here, these kind of experiences shared by other photographers like me may eventually be the reason for the Zeiss’s high reputation.

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO800, 1/60sec, f13, Raw

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The definition of good photography is, of course, not related to equipment one uses and there are many paths to photographic success. Therefore I don’t want to say with my article that you should run to the nearest camera store and put your last money on Zeiss lenses – there are other ways to succeed as well. But if you already are on a verge and maybe considering the Zeiss, you should know that it’s really more than just ‘image quality’ if you open up to it. And while I can’t tell anyone that Zeiss lenses would be worth of their price for them, I can certainly say that their high quality shows in terms of image quality, construction and total shooting experience, and that they are not overpriced for what they offer.

As for right now, I have just entered into last phase of my photography project. With the ‘Season of Photographic Eye’ I will be discussing about the photographic eye, which is a particular way of seeing things and subjects, which is partly subjective and partly cultural. While I’m trying to explain why I approach the photography the way I do, I will also try offer some inspiration for others to contemplate their own photographic eye. If interested, be sure to check my project at: www.yearofthealpha.com

Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO800, 1/20sec, f2.8, Raw

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 Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO800, 1/80sec, f13, Raw

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Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO200, 1/60sec, f7.1, Raw

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Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO100, 1/500sec, f5.6, Raw

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Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO100, 1/2000sec, f5.0, Raw

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Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO160, 1/80sec, f13, Raw

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Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M, ISO100, 1/80sec, f2.8, Raw

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Nov 202014
 

A Zeiss Otus studio shoot

By Andrew Paquette – See his website HERE

I had been wondering what it would be like to shoot in a proper studio for some time. After buying the 55mm Otus, I had an excuse to do it. I arranged for a group of models, and then had the good fortune to have a couple of athletes ask if they could come by as well for some portraits. A couple of nights before the shoot I woke up at 4 AM with the realization that I should have a plan in mind before I got to the studio, so I stayed up for a few hours making sketches of things I could try. For the athletes, both of whom were basketball players, I wanted clean shots of some of the basketball juggling tricks they wanted me to shoot, but for the models, I wanted some humorous images that told a story.

For gear, the Otus was going to do most of the work, but I took a few other lenses, just in case. From Zeiss, I brought the 55mm Otus and the 135mm ZA (mounted on an A7R). I also brought the Nikkor 35mm and 85mm 1.4G lenses, to be mounted on a D800. In the end, the Otus did most of the work, the 85mm didn’t get used, the 35mm took one of the better shots, and the 135mm was used for some portraits of the basketball players. For me the big surprise was the 35mm Nikkor. I expected good shots out of the Otus and the other lenses, but worried the 35mm might be a little soft in comparison. It was used because it was the widest angle lens I had with me and the only one that could take the shot I wanted. Otherwise I would have used the Otus.

The first thing I found out is that it takes a long time to set up the lights for a shot. Instead of getting the fourteen setups I had made sketches for, I got three of the models and three of the basketball players. Also, unlike shooting on the street, I kept shooting the same thing over and over again until I thought I had what I wanted. On the street, I’d shoot as much as possible and hope that something decent was captured, but in the studio I could check on the spot and then make whatever modifications were needed to correct any errors. For this I wish I had brought my laptop because I could have shot tethered. That would have made it a lot easier to check the photos than looking at the screen on the back of the D800 or the EVF of the A7R, but I hadn’t known in advance that the studio would have the cables I needed to do tethered shooting (they did).

Working in a studio was a great experience, but it was also very expensive, so it isn’t something I can do every week. That said, now I want to shoot in a studio more often because the control over lighting is a fantastic thing to experience. In comparison to the cost of buying all the lighting gear that came with the studio for a day rental, it was pretty reasonable.
Below are some of the images from the shoot:

Waking up Fabienne, shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/8, 1/250 ISO 100

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Gust of wind, shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/6.3, 1/100 ISO 100

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Family portrait, shot with a Nikon D800, Nikkor 35mm 1.4G f/7.1, 1/200 ISO 100

Kieboom dressing room 001 (1 of 1)

Michael Evolution juggling, shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/7.1, 1/200 ISO 100

Michael overhead juggle (1 of 1)

Michael Evolution juggling, shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/7.1, 1/250 ISO 100

Michael side juggle (4 of 1)

Michael Evolution juggling, shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/7.1, 1/200 ISO 100

Ball levitate (1 of 1)

Michael and Galdino juggling with motion blur, shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/9, 1/6 ISO 100

Double Dribble (5 of 1)

Michael and Galdino in suits, shot with a Sony A7R, Zeiss 135mm ZA f/97.1, 1/200 ISO 100

Michael and Galdino corp (1 of 1)

http://www.paqart.com

Nov 142014
 

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The Sony A7 and Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Lens Review

by Tomer Vaknin

Dear Steve,

First let me say how much respect I have for you and the other members of your website, I have learned a lot by exploring the wonderful photos you all shared, equipment reviews and inputs. I would like to share my own personal experience with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* lens.

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As a proud and very happy owner of the Sony Zeiss 55mm, I was hesitant to purchase the Loxia. However, after reading the positive impression of the lens in Photonika 2014 and as a huge fan of M mount lenses that I am, I simply had to try the Loxia. Here are some photos I took with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* in Amsterdam streets, Marken village and Rennstrecke Zandvoort, during a holiday I took with my wife in the Netherlands.

I hope these photos, along with my personal impression of the lens, will help some of undecided readers in making the right decision for themselves.

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My personal take on the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T*:

- Great 3D feel (Check the box shot that was -take on a bed)

- Wonderful Bokeh

- Lovely Creamy look

- Great character

- Great colors and contrast

- Very sharp!

Overall, The 3D look, the creamy bokeh and feel + the very nice tone and color makes it a winner. The shots taken with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* looks like they were taken with the Leica lens.

Although the Sony Zeiss 55mm is an amazing lens and you can’t go wrong with it, I personally prefer the Loxia.

www.facebook.com/tomer.vaknin.5

You can order the Zeiss Loxia lenses at B&H Photo HERE

Oct 242014
 

The Zeiss 50 f/2.8 Macro Touit Lens Review. A cracking good lens for any occasion!

You can buy the Zeiss Touit 50 f/2.8 in Sony or Fuji mount HERE. 

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A few weeks ago B&H Photo asked me if I wanted to test out the Zeiss 50 2.8 Touit Macro lens for Sony E-Mount, and since I am always excited about any lens with the ZEISS name on it, I of course said “SEND IT MY WAY ASAP”! When it arrived I was so busy with other gear reviews that the lens sat in the box for a week or so before I even opened it up.

When I did open the box to check out the lens I saw that it was small, light and fit nicely onto my Sony A6000 and A7s. While this lens is an APS-C lens it will work on the full frame Sony’s using a crop mode. Overall the lens was a great size, not far off from something like a Leica 75 Summicron, but lighter and with auto focus. Coming in at under a grand, or to be more exact, $999., the Zeiss Touit 50 f/2.8 Macro lens is a lens that will bust a wallet but not break the bank, if you know what I mean.

When I started to use the lens I realized that I am not that big into macro shooting, at all. I will occasionally use a Macro lens but the last time I reviewed one was quite a while ago when I wrote about the fantastic Olympus 60mm Macro lens and while I loved that lens I never did buy it because I am just not a Macro shooter. With this Zeiss lens, it appears and looks like any normal lens so I wondered if it would be good for double duty and would be good for shooting any scene, not just macro.

So away I went, shooting it in many different lighting situations to judge the AF speed and sharpness. I was also curious if it would exhibit the famous Zeiss look (rich color, 3D pop, etc) and hold up to the other two Zeiss Touit lenses I reviewed, the 12mm 2.8 and 35 1.8.

So away I went with the Sony A6000 (which is a FANTASTIC camera, read my review HERE) and Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 Touit and shot whatever I cam across that looked interesting to me. When I go out to test a lens or camera I am not out looking to create works of art with the camera but instead I am looking for scenes that will test the lens or camera – maybe something to test low light, bokeh, color or other aspects of the lens or camera. With that said, I do try to at least bring interesting sample shots to the table ;)

The image below was shot at the AZ State Fair and this guy was the person in control of the “CreepShow” ride, a haunted house that was not scary in any way and lasted under 1 minute as a ride through. The funny thing is that I shot this same guy a year ago at the fair, operating the same ride. The Zeiss was set to f/2.8, wide open and it focused perfectly at this distance. The lens is a 50mm lens but on an APS-C it will give you more of an 75mm equivalent, so it has some reach. Even at f/2.8, which I consider to be on the slow side, the lens had no issues on the A6000.

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Zeiss lenses and color..two things that go together just as well as peanut butter and jelly. 

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Click for larger. I was testing to see how the lens would Auto Focus on the moving swing that was quite far from me. Being a Macro lens you would think the lens would be slower than normal to AF…and it is when comparing it to a normal 50mm lens. With that said, it was still pretty snappy on the A6000 and gave me the sharpness and color I was looking for. Click the image for larger view. 

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Still at the State Fair. I saw this guy doing a performance and lifted the camera and snapped. The lens nailed the focus and I was happy with the result. 

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This is a Macro Lens Steve! 

Lol, yes I know. So far I have shown a few images but none are using the lens as it was made to be used! Yes, this is a Macro lens but what I found is that it also made for a VERY nice 75mm equivalent lens as well! I did do some macro testing but I am horrible with Macro and have maybe shot 75 Macro images in my entire life so while I will talk about this later on, I feel this lens is a jackal and hyde, a lens that is very usable at any distance from you subject. Even for street style photos.

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One thing I found that was nice was the Zeiss color. I love Zeiss color. I see it in all of the Zeiss ZM lenses that they make with a Leica mount. Luscious and rich colors that would always POP from my screen, more so than when I used Leica lenses which render in a more cool way. I see Zeiss as rich, warm, and lush. I see Leica as cool, calm, collected. Both have their place and some feel Zeiss is too warm and rich. Others love and adore this look. Thinking about all of this reminds me from a time about 15 years ago when so many would swear there were no differences between lenses. The big photo forum at that time had people arguing almost daily about the Canon lenses and how the L glass was no different from the cheap lenses when it came to image quality. Today it is well-known and accepted that YES, the lens is what gives the character and look to the images and some lenses are spectacular and some are less that wonderful.

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For example, some lenses I have tested recently have had dull off-color and some have amazing color. Some are sharp, some are soft. Some have funky Bokeh and others have beautiful Bokeh blur. So lenses are the most important part of your kit when it comes to being a photographer. You are basically painting with light when taking a photo, and the lenses are pretty much your “brushes” and each one will give you a different result..or stroke if you will. Some will render with amazing character, some will be sterile and clean and others will be sloppy. So where does this Zeiss Touit fit in? Well, pretty much just where you think it would. It is clean, sharp across the frame and has the Zeiss punchy color. Nothing unique or magical, just a nice clean lens that will deliver a “correct” image whether you are shooting up close or far away.

Many will say “why isn’t this an f/2 lens”? Well, usually macro lenses are not built for speed. Instead they are built for performance up close and up close, you will want to stop down to f/8 to get some depth of field otherwise it will be tricky to nail the shot.

Zeiss Greens..

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below is a 100% crop of the image above..

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Lately I have been more about the PHOTOS than pumping out 10,000 words in a review. Usually my lens reviews average 2,500-3,500 words but sometimes they are super short and sweet at only 1,000 words. When a lens is so good at what it is built for there is really little to say and very little to knock down about it. Such is the case with this Zeiss Touit 50 2.8. It never failed me, never had an AF miss, and delivered sharp photos full of color and sharpness. Even B&W conversion look fantastic with this combo of A6000 and Zeiss lens. I even pit it against the Leica Monochrom recently in a just for fun poll. 

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The image below will give you an idea of the Bokeh at f/2.8…

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Finally..up close performance. As I said, I am no macro shooter but the lens will focus to about 6″ and give you a 1:1 ratio. Shooting six inches from your subject is pretty insane and this is when you need to take lighting into consideration as being so close will cause shadows, which is why many Macro shooters use ring lights and various lighting sources to brighten up the subject, extract more detail and avoid shadows. I shot enough up close to realize this lens really has no big weakness. If I had to complain about something it would be that the Auto Focus is a tad slow when shooting up close, but all macro lenses are like this so it is not a fault at all. Just how it works. :)

click images below for larger view and you can see the 100% crop in the 2nd image below. 

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My final thoughts on the Zeiss Touit 50 f/2.8 Macro Lens

So after carrying around this lens on my Sony A6000 for a couple of weeks I have to say that I really like this lens. If I was a macro shooter, it would be mine. If anyone out there is looking for a fantastic Macro lens for their Sony E-Mount camera, look no further than this guy right here. At $999 you get the Zeiss name, Zeiss performance and a small, light and well made lens. I tested it on my Sony A7s as well and it was just as fantastic as it was on the A6000 but with even richer color. It had to shoot in crop mode though because this is not a full frame lens. Even so, for APS-C Sony NEX or A series owners, this is a solid lens and I can not imagine anyone being disappointed in it.

Highly recommended if Macro is your thing, or if you want a nice 50mm f/2.8 for general use AND macro.

You can buy the lens in Sony E Mount or Fuji Mount at B&H Photo by clicking HERE.

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Oct 132014
 

My First time with Zeiss

by Toni Ahvenainen – His blog is HERE
About eight months ago I started my Sony Alpha related photography project called ‘ Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography‘. The aim of my project was to find my inspiration again for photography and gain better understanding of my own photographic eye. On top of that I decided to set up a photo blog, where I would share my images at least two images per week and hoped it would gain some interest plus convoy inspiration to other photographers like me. Right from the start I got lucky and my site had much more traffic than I ever believed would be possible. Because of this the project turned into something that has given me a lot of inspiration and energy, not only for photography, but for life in general. It is also partial reason why I am doing this story here today.

As I have already introduced my photography project here before and with greater length I won’t go anymore into details. You can find the earlier story about my project here.

Because of my photography project and the way it had drawn attention in social media circles, an unexpected opportunity came to me: Zeiss was willing to support my photography project and they would let me use two lenses from their Touit line up. If you haven’t yet become acquainted with the Touit line up before, it is the new family of Zeiss lenses which are targeted to mirrorless system cameras (Sony E-mount & Fuji X-mount). All the lenses have full autofocus capabilities and they represent a modern Zeiss design with black matte finish and more contemporary look – but most importantly they convoy the famous Zeiss optical quality for mirrorless system cameras.

So, at one Friday afternoon, after UPS delivery had brought me a parcel which I had opened with child-like enthusiasm, I had two Zeiss lenses in my hands that in real life would be very much out of my reach: Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M. I had of course read about the famous Zeiss from countless photography sites likes this, but never believed I would get opportunity to actually shoot with them. Like for many other photographers the most exciting lenses and their magical qualities were always something I could just see through a store display window. And while the Touit is not exactly an Otus (optically the most advanced DSLR lenses currently available, also build by Zeiss), for my photography it was a unique opportunity and something of which I consider myself to be very lucky. For return favor I would need to tell story of my experience with the Zeiss lenses.

Like any true and committed photography enthusiast, I was very interested to see how these lenses would affect my photography. What will be my first impressions? How will they fit into my shooting habits? How I will be using these lenses? What kind of optical qualities will they have and will I be able to find the famous ‘Zeiss look’, described with terms like Zeiss contrast, punchy colors and 3D-pop? In short, what will be my first time experience with Zeiss?

I will be exploring these and other questions as well for 10 weeks in my photo blog. The Zeiss lenses will accompany me with a theme called ‘Season of Touit’. With this theme I will move away from the standard focal lengths that I’ve used thorough the year so far and concentrate doing ultra wide and close-up photography which are, regarding the perception of the depth, kind of extreme ends. If you are interested, you are most welcome to follow my story through this season. Later on I will do a more complete story about my findings right here at the Steve Huff’s website where it will surely find the most friendly and kind audience one could ever hope. (Thanks for the opportunity, Steve!)

To give you some insight right now, I can already say I’m very impressed by colors and contrast the Zeiss Touit lenses convoy. At the first day, right after I had opened the parcels, I did a short photo walk and immediately noticed that the images looked a bit different from my cameras lcd. Maybe more vibrant and subtle regarding the overall look. Am I imagine things, is this just the placebo effect, I thought to myself. Even at home, looking pictures from computer screen, I felt certain anxiety because the pictures looked different and better, but felt that I didn’t have right terms to conceptualize this difference to myself. After using these lenses for about a month, I honestly feel they have trained my eyes for better understanding of how good optics will affect the contrast and colors.

I’ll show couple of examples here taken with Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M. Everything you see here has been post processed with my own regular methods and with a help of VSCO film pack 4. While the pictures in this state doesn’t offer a neutral starting point, if there even exist one, for detailed analysis of Zeiss look, they however represent the great results I’ve been able achieve with these lenses – and which I think are extraordinary regarding color & contrast. In future article I might also present images that will be better suitable for detailed analysis, if I find meaningful ways to do it.

Thank for reading my story and if interested you can follow it at: www.yearofthealpha.com. Also remember that within five or six weeks I’m going to do a longer story which I’m going to share right here at the Steve Huff’s website.

Toni Ahvenainen


Snap from the street – Didn’t do much of post processing with this snap, but immediately thought that nothing from my camera has looked so good before regarding colors & contrast. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/50M — ISO100, f/6.3, 1/400sec, raw)

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The Great Divide – Touit 2.8/50M doubles as a macro lens and let’s one approach the wonders of the macro world. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/50M — ISO250, f/10, 1/80sec, raw)

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Simple landscape – I just love how easy it to get great clarity and contrast with these Zeiss lenses. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/12 — ISO100, f/4.5, 1/200, raw)

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Unusual church ceiling – Relatively fast wide-angle lens like Touit 2.8/12 offers certain freedom in dim lighted interiors like churches. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/12 — ISO400, f/2.8, 1/25sec, raw)

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From Steve: Thanks Toni! If anyone would like to submit a user report or guest article, just click here for details!

Oct 092014
 

The CicLaVia ride to East Los Angeles

By Huss Hardan

A group of us just participated in the CicLaVia event. “What is CicLaVia?” I hear someone ask..

www.http://www.ciclavia.org/.org

Their website says it better than I can:

CicLAvia catalyzes vibrant public spaces, active transportation and good health through car-free streets. CicLAvia engages with people to transform our relationship with our communities and with each other.

CicLAvia makes the streets safe for people to walk, skate, play and ride a bike. There are activities along the route. Shop owners and restaurants are encouraged to open their doors to people along the CicLAvia.

Ciclovías started in Bogotá, Colombia, over thirty years ago as a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets. Now they happen throughout Latin America and the United States.

Connecting communities and giving people a break from the stress of car traffic. The health benefits are immense. Ciclovías bring families outside of their homes to enjoy the streets, our largest public space. In Los Angeles we need CicLAvia more than ever. Our streets are congested with traffic, our air is polluted with toxic fumes, our children suffer from obesity and other health conditions caused by the scarcity of public space and safe, healthy transportation options. CicLAvia creates a temporary park for free, simply by removing cars from city streets. It creates a network of connections between our neighborhoods and businesses and parks with corridors filled with fun. We can’t wait to see you at CicLAvia!”

Got that?! In practice what this means is that a route is chosen (this October it was about 12 miles in length) in Los Angeles where the streets are closed to vehicular traffic. Pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders etc are all welcome. Just no motos! The vibe is really neat, one of celebration and unification, taking advantage of the four-hour opportunity to see the city in a way that would not normally be possible.

My group chose bikes, and I shot while in motion on my bike. Like most people at the event we took the Metro train into downtown LA. My gear was simple – a Leica M5 with Zhou half case (more on this in a bit), a Zeiss Planar 50 (with ND filter), a Leica Summicron Asph 35 and one roll of Kodak Portra 400 rated at ISO 200. I shot one-handed while riding, and the Zhou case really helped as it has grips on the front and back of the case. I was able to focus with one hand as the Zeiss lens has a ribbed metal focus ring so I could turn that with one finger. I had to zone focus the Summicron as it only has a focus tab which I was not able to use while holding the camera with one hand. Oh yeah, one hand because the other one was steering the bike!

It was an unusually hot day – about 100 degrees – but it was a lot of fun. The next one is in December and I highly recommend it.

Peace out
Huss

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Oct 032014
 

Testing the Zeiss Loxia, ZM 35 1.4 and Otus lenses on the A7r

(some quick shots from Photokina)

by Dirk De Paepe

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Recapitulation of a Problem

Perhaps you look upon the Sony A7x series as the first full frame alternative to the Leica M: a compact, high quality full frame camera, that’s about perfect for manual shooting – although not without issues, but then, I’ve yet to see the first perfect camera. :-)

Today the A7s gets a lot of applause, not only for its high ISO capability, but also because it “fixed” some of the issues of the A7r: the shutter sound is one, but IMO the questionable compatibility with quite some M-mount wide-angle lenses is an even more important item.

For many photographers, the possibility of using the compact M-mount lenses on the A7x, via adapter, is one of the attractive features of those cameras. But particularly the corner problems that primarily the A7r poses, when used with (quite some) wide-angle M-mount lenses, are mentioned frequently as a set back, reducing the A7r owner’s choice regarding compact wide-angle glass. Not all M-mount wide angles pose this problem though: some of the Voigtländers work flawlessly. But most Leica M en Zeiss ZM wide angles render this purple/magenta color shift and smearing in the corners, which we really don’t want.

I own the Zeiss Biogon 28 ZM and have experienced it too. Although with certain apertures it’s possible to avoid almost all of the smearing and the color shift can most of the time easily be neutralized in Photoshop, still it limits the possibilities and ease of work. So I mainly use the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 (very compact M-mount) and some wider Canon FDs as WAs for now. For now, indeed, because I was pretty confident that a “solution” would be in the make. As a matter of fact, I hoped for some time that Sony would somehow fix this problem. But is it really Sony’s problem to fix? Well, recently I changed my mind about it…

The solution has a name: Loxia.

When Zeiss announced its new Loxia series for Sony’s FE mount and when I saw that those were based on the compact ZM series, I immediately wondered: what about the corners when shooting a Biogon wide-angle on the A7r? The so far published images (that I’ve seen) didn’t mention which A7-type was used (there was no Exif data available), or they were taken with the A7s, on which the WA M-mount glass poses no problems. So I was stuck with the question: how will the new Loxia Biogon 2/35 perform on my A7r?

The Loxia Biogon 2/35 on the A7r

Living at less than 2 hours from Cologne, I decided to make the trip to Photokina, to get the answer. I was there on Saturday, when the fairground was pretty crowded, with lots of people thronging at the Zeiss technicians counter, wanting to get answers to their questions and trying all kinds of Zeiss lenses on all kinds of cameras.

So I had to take my shots pretty fast and I had to take them all from the same spot: my position at the technicians counter. Sorry for that. But my goal was not to shoot nice pictures, my goal was to get answers. Does the Biogon perform well on the A7r?

Short answer: YES it does! Absolutely!

I first checked if there was any color shift at the corners, putting the aperture wide open – the most sensible setting. With a booth made from white/greyish panels, it was easy to check. It’s very clear: the Biogon produces no color shift what so ever! It was immediately absolutely clear, from the first shot, but I can add to that: in none of my shots, at whatever aperture, there was even the faintest glimpse of color shift to be noticed.

Pic 1. Loxia 3/35, f/2, &/500s, ISO200. No color shift whatsoever. I focused in the left upper corner, to check the corner detail at f/2. IMO a bit ridiculous to absolutely want perfect corners when shooting wide open, but since some people come up with this issue, I wanted to check it. Next picture gives a 100% view of that corner

01. Loxia2-35 f2 corner focus

And what about the smearing? Well, again when shooting wide open the image remained pretty clear and detailed in the corners, with only some loss of detail in the farthest reaches and (IMO) no smearing. Considering how deep in the corners I’m talking about, I’d say only a slight loss of detail in the corners. But let’s be honest, when you really want every spot of your picture to be clear, you don’t shoot wide open, do you… In general I was absolutely astonished with the level of detail this Biogon renders at f/2. Without ever getting razor-sharp, the amount of detail is pretty amazing, even when looking at 100% and shooting with a 36MP sensor. And also the vignetting is at a very low-level, IMO negligible.

Pic 2. 100% crop. In the farthest reaches of the corners, there is some loss of detail. Not too much, I’d say, because I can even read numbers there. I certainly wouldn’t talk of smearing. There is some difference in detail to be noticed, due to some items being positioned slightly out of focus, like in the text on the left box. Don’t be mistaken there. Anyway, I find the detail that this Biogon renders wide open to be really astonishing. 

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Pic 3. Loxia 2/35, f/2, 1/60s, ISO250. Also the vignetting is negligible, even wide open. Focusing in the center.

03. Loxia2-35_f2 center focus

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Pic 4. 100% crop (click to see full size).. Without being razor-sharp, all the detail is there. No added sharpness.

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Pic 5. Loxia 2/35, f/2, 1/60s, ISO250. No 2/35mm renders a spectacular bokeh. Still this one is pretty smooth and for sure renders a nice 3D separation.

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Pic 6. Loxia 2/35, f/4, 1/60s, ISO400. DOF is a bit larger, still with beautiful bokeh, also in front.

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Pic 7. 100% crop (click to see full size).. Even at f/4 focusing needs to be done with care on the A7r. I missed the focus on the watch here and placed it on the guy’s shirt, revealing all the shirt’s detail…

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At the more narrow apertures, those that are used when pursuing a wide dof, the detail is excellent all over. Is it absolutely perfect? Well, no. This is no Otus, but a three times less expensive Loxia. Still, IMO, the IQ is excellent, with clear detail all over, although still slightly soft when looking at 100%, but not at all to the extend that one can call this a weakness.

Pic 8. Loxia 2/35, f/11, 1/40s, ISO400. Only cropped horizontally.

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Pic 9. Loxia 2/35, f/14, 1/10s, ISO400. Only cropped horizontally.

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Pic 10. 100% crop (click to see full size)..

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This is absolutely not a lens test, so I won’t go into all lens characteristics. I couldn’t take enough different pictures, nor perform tests to do that. I’m sure there will be enough articles in the near future from professional photography journalist that will come up with all the details.

Still, what I also noticed is some fringing (diminishing with narrower apertures of course), which I always could correct with great ease in Photoshop. I didn’t check the distortion, but personally I don’t mind that too much, since this is also easily correctable. BTW, I understand that Zeiss also gave extra care in that department, so again, I have no worries here. Overall, I liked very much what I saw, also regarding the OOC color balance, dynamic range etc. – so I’m very confident that I won’t be disappointed in this Biogon and that it’ll render a typical Zeiss IQ – I expect it to be even slightly better than my ZMs.

Improved optics

When I told the technician that I was pleasantly surprised, after being worried when I noticed the great similarity between the Loxia and ZM Biogons, and that I wondered how Zeiss has solved the corner problems without considerably lengthening the distance between back lens and sensor, he told me that the two Loxia lenses are admittedly built after classic Zeiss concepts, but that the whole calculation has been redone, resulting in differences in the thickness of the glasses and the space between them, whereby the light approaches the sensor in different angles, thus avoiding the known problems of the older ZM lenses (lenses that were conceived for film cameras and Leica digital cameras, not for mirrorless sensors). Even the Planar, that in ZM version doesn’t pose any problem at all on the A7r (and is BTW my personal favorite lens) has been reworked and optimized with enhanced performance. Regarding the Biogon, even after a few shots, I can without a doubt state, that they did a great job. I leave it to the professional reviewers to determine exactly how great. But I’m impressed. And excited. There simply is not a shred of color shift in the corners and wide open there’s only a slight decrease of detail in the farthest corners, which I wouldn’t call smearing at (far from what we know from the ZM Biogons, when used on the A7r). What I also noticed was that this lens renders about the same detail wide open as it does stopped down (with the exception of the farthest corners, as I said), which was a véry pleasant surprise. There is some vignetting wide open (but really not much) and some fringing as well (always very easily removable in Photoshop). What did you expect. This is no Otus, it’s not perfect. It’s three to four times cheaper than Otus and still is an excellent lens. I’m sure future tests will confirm this.

General Loxia advantages for Sony’s A7x

So the Biogon is absolutely “good to go” on the A7r IMO, or in other words, it’s a great option to buy, if you’re into manual prime glass. You won’t be surprised that I placed my order for both Loxias. Also the Planar, which maybe will surprise you, since I own the ZM Planar that really is without issues on the A7r. But Loxia offers a lot more than ZM. First there is the better optical performance (reworked for E-mount), then there is the shorter minimal focal distance (30cm for the Biogon and 45cm for the Planar versus 70cm for both ZMs), further there is the transmission of full Exif info, which I applaud because after a series of shots with different lenses I tend to forget what lens I used for which shot, let alone what aperture. Often I can “see the lens in the shot”, but really not always with absolute certainty. And I find it very interesting to know the exact aperture afterwards. And finally, the last big advantage of Loxia over ZM is the activation (which is to be programmed on your A7x) of the automatic enlargement in the VF, by the slightest movement of the focus ring, which completes all means for performing “modern manual focusing” on the A7x. IMHO, all the focusing functionalities of the A7x/Loxia strongly outperform any optical viewfinder. OK, a range finder is something special, but personally, I don’t wanna do without the modern EVF functionality anymore. No way. They abundantly outweigh the range finder’s advantages (all IMO of course).

Pic 11. Left half: Loxia Planar 2/50, f/16, 1/40s, ISO1600. Right half: ZM Planar 2/50, f/16, 1/40s, ISO1600. Both picture were shot at minimal focal distance – Loxia at 45cm, ZM at 70cm and they were only horizontally cropped. Impressive difference. A big advantage of the Loxia. (The ZM picture was shot back home.)

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Personally, I’m really thrilled about Zeiss developing the Loxia line. There has been lots of reactions on it, with many complaining about the first two lenses being 50 and 35mm again. Why not chosing other focal lenghts that people miss right now? The answer is really simple. Loxia is for a totally different type of photographer, namely the typical manual shooter, like I am. As much as I admire the image quality of the AF Zeiss lenses, I’ll never buy them because I don’t feel good when the camera decides for me. The only “automation” that I use is aperture priority and still, I’ll determine the exposure with the compensation dial or by holding the release button halfway while reframing.

The core of any optical system is, no doubt, the lens. I think we can say that Zeiss plays in the same league as Leica. Both have passionate proponents. I guess it’s probably the kind of photography one practices, that make one belong to either camp. Personally, I’d mix both brands, if the Leica prices were at Zeiss level. But they aren’t. So I don’t buy Leica… a personal matter.
The core of the body is, without any doubt, the sensor. Sony, a leader amongst sensor manufacturers has an excellent position in this department. The rest of the body is functionality, in other words advanced electronic applications, and build quality. It needs no saying that Sony is an electronics giant and in many branches, and in general the Sony quality is legendary. I’m not saying there are never issues with Sony products, everybody makes “mistakes”, but this a giant and I believe that this giant is determined to succeed in photography. So the Sony/Zeiss combination has for sure a lot of things in its favor. Now, with Loxia, the glass is perfectly maching the body, adapter free, with transmitted Exif data, automated magnification in the EVF and a design and feel that perfectly matches the body.

I told you that I already placed my order, even for the Planar, while I’m owning an Otus 55 ànd ZM Planar 2/50. But the Planar is my all time favorite lens. Its compact size, ease of use and always reliable IQ grants it this status. This is the lens that I always carry on my camera, making it possible to carry a high-res/high-IQ camera with me whenever I want, wherever I go to, without ever being bothered by it. Now, with the Loxia Planar, my carry-all-time lens will match my body for 100% and add some functionality that I welcome very much.

Loxia is made for sensors of mirrorless cameras, Zeiss ZM (and Leica M) is made for film. In its digital M bodies, Leica corrects its lenses with software. The Zeiss Loxia doesn’t need to be corrected, because it’s optically designed for sensor. BTW, I wonder if Zeiss doesn’t think of making Loxias in M-mount, or at least come up with a new generation ZMs, that would have the Loxia optics. Makes sense IMO.

The Otus 85 on the A7r

With so many Otus lenses on their Photokina booth, ready to try out, of course I asked for the new 1.4/85. You probably already knew from a former article that I own the Otus 55 and believe that Otus is a great combination with the A7r. This top-level Zeiss line is developed for the latest (and future) generations of hi-res sensors, and Sony plays a leading role in this, with the A7r still leading the pack. So I pulled out my Novoflex adapter and mounted the Otus 85 on the body. The bystanders payed extra attention, when I then pulled a vertical grip out of my bag and mounted it with some swift moves on the A7r body.
My goal was in no way to test the lens on itself. Knowing the 55 and reading from all thrustful sources that the 85 is even a todd better (is it really possible?), I have not the slightest doubt that this lens will perform to its expectations. What I was curious about was how it felt in the hand, when mounted on the A7r, and I also wanted to get the “focus experience” at f/1.4, because already with the 55, focusing at 1.4 needs to be done with great care.
I immediately felt that the 85 is an even heavier and thicker beast than the 55. It’s a muscle trainer for sure. I don’t know how long I would be able to shoot continuously with it, I can only say that I felt it considerably more than when holding the 55. But I can’t tell if it’s only because the physical geometry is different and that it’s gonna be a matter of getting used to it, or if it really would tire me out faster. But what I can tell you for sure is, that, with the same way of holding it as I described in my Otus 55 article, this lens/body combination lies incredibly stable and well-balanced in the hand. I already said that the shots were to be made fast at the Zeiss technicians booth, so I took a fast picture of the gentle technician that was helping me. He was standing pretty close, at the other side of the counter. I focused on his eyelashes and took the shot at 1/25sec, which is in fact insanely slow for an OOH shot with a 85mm lens. But the total absence of motion blur proves the perfect balance of this lens/body combination, again indicating that the A7r is a body worth considering for use with the Otus 85, as it is with the Otus 55. That’s exactly what I wanted to know with my trial shots.

Pic 12. Otus 1.4/85, f/1.4, 1/25s, ISO100. Shooting at this shutter speed with an 85mm lens is only possible when the lens/body combination is in perfect balanse, which IMO is the case with the A7r + vertical grip. At the crowded Zeiss booth, this shot of a (very busy) Zeiss technician needed to be taken in seconds.

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Pic 13. 100% crop (click to see full size). What stroke me is the extremely shallow dof. I don’t know how this can be possible (maybe somebody can explain), but I have the impression that the Otus 85 produces an even more shallow dof than the Canon FD85 at f/1.2, that I also own. And if not, it must be véry close. But for sure, I’d swear it’s the Otus that wins this trophy. While the eyelashes are in focus, the eyeball is already out of focus. The eyebrow is only partly in focus. At this distance, I normally wouldn’t take this shot at f/1.4, because I’d surely want a somewhat larger dof. Still it’s nice to have the potential at hand and for greater distances it will surely do a great job.

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Focusing at f/1.4, for use at full size images with a 36MP sensor (or more in the near future), must be done with the greatest care. This was no surprise to me, with my experience with the Otus 55, it was just a confirmation. It’s odd that I have the impression that focusing the Otus 85 at f/1.4 requires even more precision than with my Canon FD85 at F/1.2. I even think to notice an even shallower dof with the Otus. It’s just an impression, a feeling. But a strong one. Maybe it’s because of the incredible detail Otus renders, combined with 36 megapixels. Again, I didn’t perform test procedures with this in mind, it’s just a feeling. BTW, I love the FD85/1.4.
Last thing about the Otus 85: I absolutely love the super creamy bokeh!

Pic 14. Otus 1.4/85, f/1.4, 1/20s, ISO100. Only horizontally cropped. Is this a creamy bokeh or what?…

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The ZM Distagon 1.4/35

By then, after shooting the Otus 85, the guys behind me were increasingly insisting to get a place at the counter. But still I managed to get the new ZM Distagon 1.4/35 for a few super fast shots. I simply wondered whether Zeiss, knowing of the problems that some of the ZMs have with modern hi-res sensors, would take this into account when developing new wide-angle ZMs. I quickly took two shots with the new ZM Distagon. In the first I just shot the grey-ish white wall, to check for color shift. The picture is absolutely dull, of course, but it was conclusive: no color shift.

In the second (and last) super fast taken shot, I focused on a guy in the upper left corner, to check for smearing. No smearing (although the picture isn’t perfect, with a tiny bit of motion blur, but no smearing). What I did notice in those shots was that, wide open, the vignetting and fringing was more prominent than with the Loxia Biogon. But then, this is a f/1.4 vs. the f/2 Loxia. So this is normal. And nothing that I couldn’t correct in Photoshop.

So I guess that future Zeiss ZM lenses will work perfectly on film bodies, Leica M bodies ànd fullframe mirrorless bodies – from Sony and other brands to follow.
And I’m very much looking forward for future new products in their new lines, Otus and surely Loxia. I’ve been having a soft spot for Zeiss for about 50 years now. I think this spot is only going to further grow in the years to come… :-)

Pic 15. ZM 1.4/35, f/1.4, 1/25, ISO100. A clearly more explicit bokeh than with the Loxia 2/35, but also more fringing (as well as vignetting, which this pic doesn’t show clearly) – though nothing that can’t be corrected, I guess.

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Pic 16. Defringed crop. I thought, since the shot was not really OK, it wouldn’t be fair to show the fringing. So I corrected it in Photoshop for this crop.

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Epilogue

IMO, the Loxia line, once it’s to be completed as yet, will definitely turn the A7x series into today’s superior compact system for manual shooting, offering a more modern concept than Leica. I can truly say that I don’t dream of Leica anymore. This Sony/Zeiss FE-system really is more desirable to me than the Leica M-system – outperforming it (again IMO) and… reasonably priced! My personal dream of today: owning both the A7r (for resolution) and A7s (for ISO) with a complete set of Loxias. But what I expect (of course I can’t be absolutely sure about it) is a future Sony sensor that will combine resolution and high ISO. I’m sure it will happen, maybe in some years time, but probably earlier than I expect. And it will be mounted in an FE-mount Alpha body! Thàt will be my next camera…

Dirk De Paepe

B&H Photo sells the Loxia lenses HERE, the OTUS is HERE and the new Zeiss 35 1.4 ZM is HERE

Sep 232014
 

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Jupiter 8: A cheap and lovely character lens for your Leica M or Sony A7 camera

The best $30 I have ever spent? This old, beat up, tiny 50mm f/2 Jupiter 8 Russian lens. Yes, I bought this lens on the cheap locally here in Phx AZ along with a Jupiter 9, which is an 85mm f/2 for $70 or so (though the 9 is a tad off with focusing on my M). I never owned a Jupiter though they have been around forever and what has kept me away from them is the fact that many say they are not very good lenses, will not focus correctly or are just plain cheap in construction. Well, taking all of that in to consideration I decided that $30 would be a no brainer way to test out the Jupiter 8 and I am glad I did as this is truly a “no guilt and no buyers remorse” lens. For $30, it could easily be resold if I did not like it, but again, at this kind of money, this lens will always be in my kit for when I want the character of this lens. I am a huge fan of classic Rangefinder lenses and many of them are better to me than modern-day pricey lenses.

Shot wide open at f/2 on the Sony A7s with the only purpose being to show the Bokeh. This was shot up at some trees and defocused

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I have always seen these lenses for sale on E-Bay for pretty cheap prices but samples online that show the softness, low contrast and strange rendering put me off on the Jupiter 8. While I am looking around for a decent Jupiter 3 now, the 8 has actually surprised me with just how sharp it can be, even at f/2. In addition, it has that classic Zeiss Sonnar rendering that I recognize. I will say though that an article on this very website is what really had me really wanting to give these lenses a shot. You can see that article HERE.

At f/2 focusing correctly on the Leica Monochrom. Yes, this lens focuses great on my MM. Click the image to see just how sharp it is, you may be amazed that a cheap lens such as this one can do this!

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…and it works just as well on the A7s, even for B&W :)

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Dreamy, Creamy and Classic

Basically what this lens will deliver is nothing like what a Leica Summicron or Summilux will bring you. I have talked any times about lenses being like the artist’s brush. Choosing a specific lens will help you create the vision you are looking for whether that is in the form of a Leica Noctilux, Canon Dream Lens, or a Zeiss 50 Planar. This Jupiter 8 reminds me most of the Zeiss 50 Sonnar but for 1/30th the price! While not as nice as the Zeiss in build, feel, or IQ, it has something unique about it that I can enjoy from time  to time. IN color on the Sony A7s it is gorgeous (for me) even though the Bokeh is a teeny bit nervous at times. Other times it is silky smooth.

These three test shots were taken to show the rendering and bokeh and color. All on the fantastic A7s. Click them for larger and better viewing experience! 

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Portraits

Some people use this lens for portraits due to its softer look when wide open (when compared to critically sharp lenses like a 50 Summicron or APO or 90 APO) and I tested it and found it to be lovely. The lens does feel cheap in construction but it has lasted this long so I assume to will last me many more years to come. At this price, the Jupiter 8 is a bargain of massive proportions. A fun lens to have around and mess with when you want a classic creamy look.

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So for anyone who wants to try out a new lens but you do not want to put a dent in your wallet, give a Jupiter 8 lens a try. It may surprise you. Many say that when being used on a Leica M that the lens may need shims to get it to focus correctly. My copy did not need this but I guess some do. It is a small, light, oddball lens but it works nicely for some applications. I will be using it again and again, and for Sony A7 shooters, using this lens with the Voigtlander close focus M to E adapter, it is lovely and a breeze to focus.

Highly recommended!

Steve

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Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

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If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

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Sep 192014
 

New Reviews on the Way! Leica X, Zeiss Touit 50 2.8, IBELUX 40mm f/0.85, more!

 

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Next week I should have a few new items in my hands for review. First up, the Leica X with the new 23 1.7 Summiulux ASPH lens. The X many of us have been asking for (though without the integrated EVF that we BEG for) with the faster glass and stunning Leica looks. How will it hold up? From early reports and images I think the image quality will be just as it always has been, pure Leica. Even the X1 and X2 have the Leica signature, so this one will have even more of it I think due to the lens. I will so a 1st look report as soon as it arrives to me.

Also coming in next week is the Zeiss Touit 50 2.8 for the E mount system as well as the Ibelux 40mm f/0.85 for the APS-C E-Mount system. Two lenses I am happy to test on my Sony A6000 as they are APS-C lenses.

The Ibelux 40mm f/0.85 for APS-C Sony E-Mount. What a killer lens for the Sony A6000! Click here to see more at B&H Photo on this lens. 

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Finally, the Lytro Illum is coming and that should be VERY interesting indeed. I reviewed the original LYTRO long ago HERE and was not a fan. I am hearing the new Illum is pretty good, but IMO, will still be very limited. Nice to see them pushing the technology though. Will report with a 1st look next week.

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I want to wish everyone here a happy weekend and be safe, be happy and get out there and shoot!

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