I own only two or three objects which I believe I could leave to my children. Most of my photo equipment won’t last more than a decade until the plastics and electronics fail. This is why when I had the chance to test drive a set of four Classic Carl Zeiss lenses I pictured myself passing them to my children and maybe them to my grandchildren.
The weight, the solid metallic construction and the softness and firmness of their handling definitely make you feel the high quality standards to which they were manufactured. Even the clicking sound of the lens shades is pleasing and precise.
25, 35, 50 and 85mm. I had them last october for a week. The idea was that I would document the traditional merchants and goods of the Tepetate market in Querétaro as part of a collaboration project with Carl Zeiss and the Queretan Center for the Image on which I alternated the loan of the lenses with other 15 photographers.
Mi 9 favorite images shot with the Carl Zeiss lenses on the X-Pro1.
Being the Tepe market inside the heart of a wild and popular neighborhood I feared robbery so I asked for an additional 32mm Zeiss Touit in Fuji mount to execute the commission with less risk and greater discression. The experience of using the 32mm Zeiss Touit will be reviewed in the next post.
The user experience of these 4 lenses was something distinct to what I’m used: being accostumed to the lightness and compactness of Fujifilm lenses, the Carl Zeiss optics mounted through a Nikon mount adapter affected the balance of the X-Pro1 and it was neccessary to use an Arca Swiss L bracket grip to hold it firmly.
The lack of electronic connection between the camera and lenses didn’t cause trouble: thanks to the hybrid electronic viewfinder of the camera and it’s focusing aids I was able to judge live and precisely exposure and sharpness. Other photographers had difficulties focusing with modern DSLR cameras which lack proper manual focusing screens.
Due to the conversión factor of the APSC sensor of the X-Pro1 the four lenses delivered a 50% narrower field of view: the 25 became 37.5, the 35 turned into 52.5, the 50 worked as 52.5 and the 85 narrowed to 127.5 mm.
These are my impressions having used the four optics during a short trip to the Sierra Gorda of Querétaro and during three days at home.
Zeiss Distagon T 25mm F2
Mechanically this lens was the best of the set, the travel of the focusing ring is super smooth and quite long, something proper to fine tune focus on distant fine details in a landscape. This is however the largest and heaviest lens of the group (570 gr) and definitely is best used with a tripod or mounted in a large dslr camera.
Sharpness is quite good all across the frame but the out of focus zones tend to be gosthly towards the image borders at wide apertures.
I tried to use this lens for street photography because the field of view resulted between 35 and 40 mm in my camera. Unfortunately size and weight were obstacles to comfortably work this lens in the street: the large heavy lens with it’s chrome ring in the front was all but conspicuous and the lens barrel obstructed a significative amount of the optical viewfinder on the camera.
Images shot with the 25mm
Zeiss Distagon T 35mm F2
The barrel of this lens looks comically long and narrow mounted on it’s adaptor on the X-Pro1 protruding 12.5 cm from the body. With this dimensions the lens not only calls attention as much as the 25mm; it blocks the optical viewfinder quite a bit getting in the way of my style of work.
n it’s normal field of view this lens is ideal for documentary or street photography but due to it’s lengthy constitution and high optical quality I would consider this more of a studio or commercial work lens.
In an APSC sized sensor camera the field of view turns out to be 52.5mm, practically the same as a versatile standard lens: it can do bust as well as environmental portraits, a bit of landscape or product and documentary work.
Images shot with the 35mm lens
Zeiss Planar T 50mm F1.4
This is a compact lens in comparison to the other three and it really suited my camera. I could comfortably take advantageof it’s normal field of view trhough a Metabones Speed Booster adapter as a versatile standard lens for street work and portraits.
The travel of It’s focusing ring is the shortest of the four but it’s still longer and smoother than anything from Nikon or Canon.
The image quality at F1.4 dissapointed me because of it’s ghostly and soft quality but improves vastly at F2. The color is natural yet very well contrasted, detail is sharp and bokeh is butter smooth (only beaten by the 85 mm)
In my camera the field of view of this lens turns out to be 75mm, proper for portraits and details shots.
Images shot with the 50mm lens
Zeiss Planar T 85mm F1.4
Curiosly enough this lens was my favourite despite the fact I’m not the kind of photographer who would have a practical use for it. The images it produces have an astounding sharpness, are free of distortions or aberrations and the bokeh may as well be the smoothest I have ever seen.
With the diaphragm completely ophen at F1.4 this lens impesses with the look of a chunk of solid glass but disappoints with very soft and ghostly images. Beyond F2 the problem is fully corrected.
Another detail to consider isthat because of it’s enormous front element, this lens is extremely prone to flaring yet the glints are completely neutral in color.
The equivalent field of view of this lens on an APSC sensor is 127.5mm, a bit difficult to use outside the studio or without proper support. The size and weight of this lens are also considerable if you are planing to hang the camera from your neck or wirst more than half an hour.
The lens is extremely easy to focus by hand even wide open thanks to the long and smooth travel of the focusing ring. The electronic aids in the viewfinder allow to use it quite precisely as long as the subject is still.
Images shot with the 85mm lens
By reading this review some could think that I didn’t like these lenses too much but I was really enchanted to borrow them… and a bit scared something bad would happen to them.
Mi complaints stem mostly of my working style: I’m a spontaneous situations photographer and for this I use a compact camera with small lenses, small sensor and a rangefinder style viewfinder.
I wasn’t able to use this lenses as I normally would because:
- The field of view equivalence in my camera, which can be solved with a Metabones Speed Booster adapter.
- The size and weight of the lenses which draw attention with their fancy chrome rings.
- The length of the lenses which obstruct the optical viewfinder on my X-Pro1.
Some of my more positive observations are:
- The great experience of manually focusing these lenses thanks to their construction quality and to the help of the focusing aids (such as focus peaking and focus point enlargement) in the electronic viewfinder.
- The precision of the depth of field scale marked on the lens barrels.