Jan 262010
 

The Zeiss Biogon 35 F2 and the Leica 35 Summarit F2.5. Both great lenses and two that I have been shooting side by side on the Leica M9. I know, I know…I put up a comparison of these two already but I was not really 100% happy with that one as the shots were taken outside in the freezing cold, so user error could have played a part. Many Zeiss owners were thinking I was out of focus with the Biogon, so this time I spent 4 hours and re-did some tests in my living room on a tripod. I made 100% sure each lens was in focus. You will need to click on each image to see the larger size and  to see the 100% crops at 2.8 and 5.6 from each lens.

This test tells me that the Summarit is sharper than the Zeiss at 2.5, but the Zeiss has less distortion. It appears the Summarit has a bit more barrel distortion than the Zeiss. Also, these are right from the camera converted from RAW using ACR 5.6 with default settings. BTW, this time I did focus bracketing and chose the sharpest shots from each. I am against doing this and won’t do it again as this is not how you shoot out in the real world, but with so many of you saying my focus was off I wanted to make sure it wasn’t. Also, FYI, the sharpest of the bunch was the one that was accurately focused. The Zeiss is not off. Remember, this is on a full frame digital, not an M8.

Both were at F2.5, both were at ISO 160.

First, the Leica. Make sure you click the image to see the large size and 100% crops.

now the Zeiss…

Both lenses did great. Remember, the Zeiss is $1000. The Leica is $1695. $700 difference between these two. How about one more real world test? This time, handheld.

Leica M9 – Leica 35 Summarit Wide Open at 2.5 – ISO 400 – Straight from camera RAW conversion. Click for large view with 100% crop.

Now the Zeiss. Click for larger.

So there you go. Bottom line is the Zeiss is a little softer at 2.5 than the Leica. By F5.6 they even up. The Zeiss can give a more 3D presentation but the corners suffer a little on full frame. These were at F2.5. F2 on the Zeiss shows quite a bit of vignetting on the M9. This is most likely due to the fact that it is not coded and can not be corrected like the Leica can. When the Zeiss is set up as a 35 Summicron, the vignetting lightens up a bit. I could be happy with either of these but I prefer the Leica for its smaller size, better build  and I like its hood better as well :) Still, at $700 less, the Zeiss is a great buy for a Leica M shooter and even has less barrel distortion. Anyway, hope this was useful to some of you. Thanks for reading!


The Zeiss can be purchased at B&H HERE

The Leica can be purchased at B&H HERE

also, this lens which is another alternative is wonderful, but slower.


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Dec 172009
 

Zeiss 35 Biogon Review

Zeiss Zm 35 C-Biogon 2.8 Lens Review – Wow, it seems like it was just a couple of days ago that I posted my Zeiss ZM 50 Planar review (see it here). Wait, that WAS a couple of days ago! Ha ha. Well, it’s that time again and today I am writing about and testing the Zeiss ZM 35 2.8 C-Biogon. This is slower and smaller than the well reviewed and loved Zeiss ZM 35 F2 Biogon. I wanted to test out the F2 but Zeiss sent me the 2.8 instead. That is why I am wearing a T-Shirt today that says “I asked Zeiss for a 35F2 but all they sent me was this crummy 35 F2.8″. All joking aside, I am happy they sent me this lens as I have been hearing some good buzz about it lately. Plus, the fact is that the C-Biogon 2.8 is only $50 less expensive than the F2 version! Hmm. I wanted to know why. Finally, as hard as I looked I could not find any real reviews of this lens anywhere! Continue reading »

Dec 172009
 

I snapped this image today using the M9 and Zeiss C-Biogon 2.8 lens. I am hoping to have the review up later today or tomorrow at the latest. Until then, here is one that will be in the review. I could not  think of a name for this one, so it is untitled. Also, click on the image for a glorious 1500 pixel wide version. Goes to show you that you do not need crazy expensive glass to get good results with the M9 :)

M9 – Zeiss 35 C-Biogon at F4 – No sharpening – Converted to B&W with COLOR EFEX PRO

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I will also have a few full size out of camera samples from this lens in the review so be sure to check back!

Dec 142009
 

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UPDATED 2013: A new look at this lens on the Leica M 240 and Monochrom is HERE

Zeiss ZM 50 Planar Review: Well its about time! You guys have been asking for more Zeiss ZM love around here and I am continuing on with the 50 Planar test! I have had four of these Zeiss ZM lenses here for a month or so and have been so busy with the Leica Noctilux, Leica WATE, and various other things, that I am just now getting around to writing about these little Zeiss lenses. Last month I did the review (see it here)  for the Zeiss 25 2.8 and I really enjoyed that lens.

As many of you may know, Zeiss makes a line of lenses for the Leica M mount and they are MUCH less expensive than their Leica counterparts. For example, this Zeiss ZM 50 planar F2 can be found for around $690. It is a fast F2 Aperture 50mm and is comparable to the Leica 50 Summicron, which is also an F2 lens. The 50 Summicron is about $2,000 these days, so the Zeiss is less than half the cost. Sounds pretty damn good to me! But one thing to remember is that the Zeiss lenses are NOT made in Germany, but rather they are made in Japan. Leica glass is made in Germany at the magical Leica factory! Ha ha.

With the super $781 price, I was very curious about this Zeiss 50 planar. Its reputation on the forums and from those who shoot it is stellar. Users who shoot with it claim it is just as good, if not better, than the Leica 50 Summicron. So, those are some pretty big words. I do know that it has some big shoes to fill, as the 50 Summicron is one of those “legendary” Leica lenses. I shot with the Summicron years ago when I owned the Leica M7. It was great with film, and I had no complaints. But with the Leica M9 being such a high resolution camera, this would be more demanding on any lens, so I wanted to see if this Zeiss 50 would be sharp, have good color, and have pleasant bokeh.

Quick Stats: The 50 Planar has 1/3 stop clicks on the aperture dial with 10 blades for smooth and pleasing out of focus highlights. Zeiss also says it has a water resistant filter mount, but the lens itself is not water resistant (Neither are Leica lenses). It has an oddball 43mm filter size so it may be tough finding filters for it depending on where you look.

THE LENS ARRIVES

My quick video showing the size of the Planar next to the Noctilux

The lens arrived from Zeiss Germany with 3 other lenses. After opening the huge box of goodies, my 1st impression was “Man, this lens is LIGHT“! It was much lighter than my past Leica 50′s and almost felt hollow. I was a bit disappointed in the build because I remember the Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar being heftier, or more solid feeling. That Sonnar was a lens I really fell for and loved its dreamy almost Noctilux type of rendering. I hope to try it out again, but on the full frame M9 instead of the M8. While I remember the Sonnar being heavier, maybe it really wasn’t. Maybe I have just been so used to the heavy Noctilux that I got it mixed up. To find out, I pulled out my handy-dandy scale.

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The Zeiss Planar is indeed a light lens at 7.4 oz. But, just because it is light does not mean it will not take gorgeous pictures. Zeiss is known for their warm 3D “look” and some really love that look. These Zeiss ZM lenses are also hyped by Zeiss to have “high resolving power” and some have said that this 50 is about as good as it gets in the sharpness department. From what I have seen, I cannot disagree with that.

So after the weigh in, I put the lens on my Leica M9 and went out for some neighborhood shooting. I just wanted to check color, detail, and Bokeh during a sunny day walk.

All at F2 – click any image for larger version

“The First Shot” – M9 and Zeiss Planar at F2

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“Testing Bokeh” – F2

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So from my first walk I was pleasantly surprised. I saw that special Zeiss 3D pop, warm color, and smoothness. These shots are right from the camera, so no processing. I also snapped an image on my dining room table to see if focus was spot on with this copy before I headed out to shoot more. Not only did I see that the focus was perfect, I saw how sharp this sucker is! Man, for the price, this lens was looking like a giant killer. Click the image below to see the larger version with better color.

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and a 100% crop…

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Look at that color, smoothness, and detail! Wow! Yes, this lens supplies “smooth detail” as I like to call it. It’s smooth, not harsh, but  still provides plenty of sharpness. The contrast also looks really good here. As I browsed through my images taken not only with this lens, but the Zeiss 25 and 35 2.8 Biogons (another wonderful lens), I was saying, “Damn! These are really good”! The cost savings here can be huge when compared to the Leica lenses (which are going up in price yet again as of Jan 2010), and in this day and age that is important! One thing the lens also seems to excel in is color. The color really POPS with this lens. Some people who shoot this lens tell me they feel it almost puts out a little too much “pop”. The cool thing is that you can easily tone it down if it is a little overboard for you.

With Zeiss, you can get a 28 2.8, 35 F2 and 50 F2 for under $2500. That same setup in Leica land would cost you $6600 or so…more than double. Is the Leica glass double the quality? Well, MAYBE, just MAYBE in build they are. Like I said, this Zeiss felt a little on the cheaper side in the build department. Its focus ring was also a little stiff/sticky, but it is a well-used lens that has been sent around the world a few times to reviewers, so it could be a bit worn out or need a CLA.

Out of all of the Zeiss lenses I received though, this one was the  “stickiest” with its focus feel. The 35 2.8 felt really smooth and nice, as did the 28 2.8 and 85 F4. The aperture rings are all solid and feel great. For the cost, Zeiss did a great job overall designing these lenses.

So as I was at home messing with the lenses, I get a call from my mother who told me there was an auction going on and it may be a good place for some pictures. Nothing like a small town auction!

SOME REAL WORLD SHOOTING

It was kind of surreal walking around this tiny town, with a population of about 1000 with my M9 and Zeiss lens. I also had the Leica WATE with me. As I walked around and snapped I got the stares, mainly because no one knew who I was. Still, me and my son stuck around for a while and I tried to get a few shots.

“Looking for a Deal” – M9 and Zeiss Planar at F2

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Also in B&W to show you how good this lens does with B&W. The micro contrast of this lens is good, which always makes for good B&W conversions. Also, look at that 3D separation.

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“Bottles” – M9 and Zeiss Planar at F2

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“Box of Dolls” – Leica M9 and the Zeiss Planar at F2

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I can already hear it from some people who stumble here and see this review. “Why are you shooting only at F2″! True, I was shooting at F2 at this auction and the reason why I do that with these lenses is because if they are good at F2, they will be even better when stopped down. With most of these Leica M mount lenses, they will be superb throughout the F stop range. So if I shot at F4, or F5.6, then all it will do is give me a little more sharpness and more Depth of Field. From the looks of this Zeiss, it does extremely well, even when wide open at F2. Plus, if you are a regular reader of this site, you know I am a “real world” kind of guy, not a “test chart” guy.

Here are two more at with a crop but you have to click on the image to see the larger size to see the crop at 100%.

F2.8 with Crop – Direct from Camera

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F2 with Crop – Direct from Camera

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F2 – Direct from Camera – Click HERE for a full size out of camera file

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and a crop…

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Also, I did manage to get a shot off at F5.6 with the Zeiss Planar…It may have been F4, but I am almost positive it was F5.6. I also did some color tweaking on this one as the light was harsh and flat and the color was not right due to it being mid-day. So while this may have a heavily processed look, all I did was enhance colors, contrast, and upped the black level a bit, all in the RAW conversion. Look at how sharp it is. The Zeiss Planar has no issues with sharpness. So far this lens and the Zeiss 25 2.8 have been some of the sharpest lenses I have ever shot with.

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I also have to say that I am finding the Zeiss ZM line to be a notch above the Voigtlander line of lenses in all areas, and in many cases these Zeiss lenses are scary close or even equal to their Leica counterpart– for image quality alone.

Many of you reading this are probably trying to decided between the Leica 50 Summicron and this Zeiss Planar 50. I’m a huge fan of Leica lenses in general, though not a fan of their current pricing structure. I appreciate good engineering and design and I know what I like when I see it, and I love almost ALL Leica glass. I am also starting to grow fond of the Zeiss ZM line. The 50 Planar is a superb lens, and when you factor in the cost of under $800, it almost seems like a no-brainer. It’s contrasty, very sharp, and has that Zeiss 3D pop and warm color. Not everyone likes that look though, so it is up to you to decide just what look you are after. I have found that Leica lenses provide the more neutral, or realistic color. Zeiss pumps it up a bit with warmer and deeper color.

JUST FOR FUN

Just for fun, I did a side-by-side at F2 with my F1 Leica Noctilux. The Noctilux F1 is also a very warm lens, so the colors are closer to the Zeiss.

First the Noctilux at F2

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Now the Zeiss Planar at F2

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and just to show why I love the classic Noctilux so much, here is one at F1. This one has had the colors boosted just for fun.

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I must say I slightly prefer the rendering of the Noct at F2 over the planar, but a used Noct will run you $5000+ and this Planar is $700. But wow, look at that crazy F1 version!

As for the Planar vs Summicron I cannot say if the Planar is better than a Leica 50 Summicron because I have yet to shoot with one on the M9. I do know that on film the 50 Cron is spectacular, but I also have no doubt that the Zeiss would be as well.

I guess you have to ask yourself a couple of questions before buying one or the other. Like, “Do I want a wonderfully great 50 F2  lens for $700 or would I prefer to pay more for the Leica build and reputation”? Also, do you enjoy the “Zeiss Look”?  To me, the Zeiss is PLENTY good enough and I really found no weakness with it on the full frame M9. It’s a hell of a lens for a GREAT price.

It seems to me that if I were starting from scratch and wanted a 50F2 lens, I would take a SERIOUS look at this Zeiss 50 Planar. It’s a better lens than I expected and probably the best (technically) of the Zeiss ZM line that I have tried to date. These ZM lenses flat out ROCK! Here is my short PRO/CON list:

PROS OF THE ZEISS 50 PLANAR

  • It’s small and light.
  • The price is right! Under $800 for a stellar 50 F2.
  • Black or Silver color.
  • Plenty of sharpness, warm color and that Zeiss 3D look. Its all here!

CONS OF THE ZEISS 50 PLANAR

  • It does not come with any kind of case or hood.
  • The lens cap pretty much sucks.
  • Build quality not up with the Leica equivalents.
  • Focus on my test lens was kind of stiff/sticky

WHERE TO BUY

You can shop where I do! You can buy this lens at B&H Photo in BLACK or SILVER and AMAZON also has it, but only in silver. This is really a BANG FOR THE BUCK lens. Bravo Zeiss!

SUPPORT:

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links!

If you enjoyed this review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or facebook! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at the upper right of any page and be notified of when new reviews are posted! You can also subscribe via E-mail (also to the right). Thanks so much for reading!

One reason I shoot a Leica is to take advantage of all of these fast lenses that perform just as good wide open as they do stopped down. Therefore, the following images are pretty much all at F2-F2.8!

F2.8 – out of camera – An OLD coffin. Does not seem to me like it would give adequate protection from the elements!

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F2.8 – out of camera – notice the vibrant greens and blues

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F2 – This one has some processing and B&W conversion.
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F2 at minimum focus distance – out of camera.

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The color and detail is great, even wide open

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Nov 182009
 

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I’m on a roll! Here I am again with yet another Leica M mount lens review!  This time it I review the Zeiss 25 2.8 Biogon for Leica M mount. This lens came to me from lensrentals.com. This is the only online rental company that I know of renting Leica gear and yes, they also rent the M9 and M8.2! Pretty cool. You can browse their Leica items for rent HERE. It’s as simple as adding an item to your cart, paying and checking out. They send your lens and you have it 2 days later. They even send you a UPS label to ship it back with! I wanted to check out their process so I had the Zeiss 25 sent my way and I did in fact receive it two days later. Woo hoo! Continue reading »

Nov 112009
 

Took delivery of a Zeiss 25 Biogon today from the kind folks at lensrentals.com. Yes, they now rent Leica gear! Its so cool to be able to rent a leica lens online, especially since they are so expensive to buy. This way, you can try before you buy! Thumbs up to the guys at lensrantals.com! With that out of the way let me say that even though I have only shot this lens for a few images today I am sitting here looking at these images at 100% and my jaw is dropping.

This Zeiss ZM lens is one sharp mofo! It also is showing no issues (in the few shots I took today with it) or problems on the M9. Impressive. No need for an IR filter or coding with a wide lens on the M9. Anyway, I posted a couple of shots in my M9 diary earlier today from this lens and here is one more I will post but any others I shoot this week will be for my review. Continue reading »

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