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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Well, I overreacted! But, I looked at your test of the summicron asph. in the Nokton review and the mantlepiece is perfectly straight. When I looked at the summarit-image I thought the mantle looked crooked, very similar to the CV 35 1.4 image.
I appreciate your real world testing Steve, it is much better than saying “the distortion is measured to be up to 2%”. Which to me, is hard to translate to a pictorial result. So, to me the photo above made me think the Summarit has pronounced distortion, but since I haven’t used it yet I stand corrected. Perhaps i shouldn’t have cancelled my order today…
Peter: The Distortion of the Summarit is not horrible. NOt even close to being horrible. In real photos you do not even notice it which is why I do “real world” reviews. In my summarit review you will not see any distortion in the “real” photos that were taken. In the shot of the mantle, it is ever so slightly worse than the Zeiss. Yea, it’s there and that shows it’s not = to the summicron in that regard but its also almost half the cost of the summicron. In real photos, distortion is not evident.
Jerry: No, the CV 35 1.4 has MUCH more distortion. Not even close. Again, with the CV you see it in real photos. It’s there. The summarit is so mild that you will not notice it in 98% of your photos. Unless you are shooting brick walls for a living I wouldn’t worry about it.
Thx for test!
Is the distortion of Summarit bigger than CV 35mm 1.4?
The distortion of the Summarit is horrible. Too bad, but there’s always the Summicron asph. I suppose.
Thanks Steve, I guess it would be a good move to go for the summarit as a low-cost Leica lense with great sharpness and color rendition (with the colder Leica colors). But if one hesitates for a summicron because he needs that F2 DOF then I guess itt coul be a good option. Would you agree that guys with the M8 might have better results on the cropped sensor but maybe in for a surprise if they ever upgrade to full-frame? Thanks for this, this may help to invest on the right stuff rather than saving a few bucks to gain half a stop on a lense that does not necessarily fit the bill.