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Tuesday, 18 September 2007


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I've compared the 35mm Zeiss to my Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 on my old Kodak 14n (the only FF Nikon I have in my possession), and the difference is clearly noticable. The Nikkor is no slouch, but in terms of corner to corner sharpness and image contrast, the Zeiss is clearly superior.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to sneak the Zeiss into my pocket fast enough and had to give it back.

"This lens will be of particular interest to people who shoot reduced-sensor DSLRs who want a normal prime lens of the highest quality."

Thanks for the heads up on the new ZF. The way I look at this, the new 28 is aimed more at full-frame. With a 50 and either 85 or 100 you've got the traditional three lens set.

I was planning to replace my pretty ordinary Nikkor 35/2 with the ZF equivalent but may rethink this now there's an alternative. This for a future D300.

Looking at the reported level of CA with the ZF 35/2, it doesn't look like a good match for a full-frame sensor though. The follow-on model from the D3 would really show this up. It used to be easy when you didn't have to factor in pixel density and sensor size.

I have an old manual Pentax 28/3.5 and while it is a very nice lens - very beautiful, understated rendering - I find that I prefer a slightly long normal, a 35/2, better on APS. It's hard to pin down why; when I do use the 28 I'm always very pleased with what I get, but I just find myself using the 35 a lot more often. Could be the relative difficulty of manual focusing an f/3.5 lens of course.

Carl Zeiss has quietly introduced a new lens into the lineup on its website, a 28mm ƒ/2 for ZF (Nikon F) and ZK (Pentax K) mounts.

I don't get this at all, why does Zeiss not include a Canon mount option? Is it a technical issue or ...? Given that Canon has gained at least a equal market place with Nikon and far out sells Pentax why would Zeiss cut it's revenue opportunity in half?

I know I could but this lens and get a nikon to Canon adapter, but why doesn't Zeiss simply supply a Canon mount?

Is Zeiss a business that wants to grow or....?


Robert Harshman,
According to most information I've seen, it's because Canon won't license the EF mount to Zeiss (or anyone) and Zeiss (unlike other 3rd party manufacturers) refuses to reverse-engineer the lensmount. This is "internet wisdom" AFAIK--I don't have it firsthand from a good source. I can ask, though.


It's interesting to see someone offering new manual-focus lenses.

The Pentax 31mm Ltd 1.8 is still available. Lighter, faster, and probably cheaper.

...Hmm... as much as I'm hotly anticipating the new A700. If Zeiss is still adding lenses to the ZF stable, anyone got an F100 they'd be willing to part with cheap? Or for that matter an FM3A? hehe. j/k

FM3As are pretty expensive, but F100's in near-new condition can easily be found on eBay for $300 or even less, thanks to the huge numbers of amateurs who bought them and then switched to digital. They're a superb used bargain if you want to shoot film.


It is very wise from Zeiss to show sample image of "f/2" lens shot in the middle of the day on the mountains, very wise...

Am I turning into a curmudgeon?

When I see these manual focus lenses, all they make me do is to miss my Pentax MX and Super Programs more and more. I sold all that to be compatible with my wife's EOS system and I never had an out-of-focus shot until I started using auto-focus cameras. I know it's operator error, but dammit I'm the operator and I think that machinery should make my life easier, not more difficult.

Nowadays I have an R1 and it's nice but I can't bring myself to love it or love using it. And now and then I somehow miss the fact that the damn lens focused on that branch in the foreground instead of what I wanted it to focus on. Am I just old maybe, and new ideas just aren't sinking in anymore?

Shouldn't the EF mount patents expire pretty soon?

For Zeiss to say, "Canon wont play nice, so we're going home" makes me wonder why all the other 3rd party guys even bother with Canon (it's not worth the effort according to Zeiss)!
Maybe, when the rubber hits the road, on that big "full-frame" sensor, Zeiss just looks like the proverbial FAT LADY!
Just a though.



A nice lens for film use if you have a Nikon or Pentax body but for digital (where the look of the results will be "adjusted" before the file even leaves the camera) why not just go for the much cheaper Sigma 28mm f1.8DG Macro? - available for Sigma, Canon, Pentax and Minolta/Sony.

Cheers, Robin

Are these lenses MF-only?

Chris, the reason why "3rd party guys even bother with Canon" is because Canon leads the DSLR market. It's economics.

Sort of like if someone was interested in writing a new RAW conversion software, it would be smart if it supported Canon files ...

I'd have thought most patents on the EF mount are expired. Anything that was on the original EOS system, launched in 1987, should have expired long ago. Patents generally last 20 years from filing, and it's been over 20 years now. Enhancements to the EF mount since then may still be under patent protection, but I'm sure none of those are necessary for simple primes.

I suspect that the Japanese third-party lens manufacturers are probably beneficiaries of patent cross-licensing deals between most Japanese optical firms, since I'm sure all of them have patents that the other guys need to use.

However, I'm sure Zeiss has patents as well, and could get a similar deal.

All this leads me to believe that patents are not the reason, unless Zeiss unwisely agreed to a cross-licensing deal that promised Canon not to produce an EOS-mount version of any Zeiss lens.

More likely, Zeiss does not have the electronics expertise or desire to reverse-engineer the EOS mount and produce their own version.

Exactly why this is so, I'm not sure. Japanese third-party lens manufacturers seem to make a profit producing EOS-compatible lenses.

Manual focus only, yes. (I don't like "MF" as an abbreviation because it also means medium format.)


These are mechanical lenses with springs, levers, cams, and helicoids. To make them fully compatible with any electronic mount system would require adding electronics, servos, and such.

They could make a mechanical EOS mount that would probably have to be used in stopped-down mode, like the short-lived Tamron Adaptall EOS mount, but that wouldn't be much of an improvement (if it is an improvement at all) over the ZS mount (M42 screw mount), for which there are adapters to many different camera systems, so I hope all these new Zeiss lenses come out in ZS mount, so I can consider them for my Canon FD cameras, C-mount Super-8 camera, and maybe an EOS camera, if I ever get around to getting one.

So far, the 50/1.4 and 35/2 have been announced in ZS mount.


You make a GREAT point!

> the reason why "3rd party guys even bother with Canon" is because Canon leads the DSLR market. It's economics <

This is why I'm at a loss to figure out why Zeiss won't offer the EOS mount too?

It appears Zeiss don't want to toe the line with the big boys, they seem unwilling to accept a potential spanking in the new 21mp arena!

Zeiss are shuffling around like an old prizefighter and picking their fights very carefully.......



Some of the Zeiss lenses are also made as ZA for the Sony Alpha. It is not unlikely that Sonys next camera model will be full frame, and that the main goal of Zeiss is to offer a high end line up for Sony flag ship full frame camera (also usable on Sonys lesser sensor cameras). A year ago (if I remember correctly), at a joint press conferense, Zeiss hinted vaguely at a future Sony full frame camera, and the Sony representatives did not deny it. They just smiled.

Having a cooperation with Sony may explain why it is not so urgent for Zeiss to make their lenses for EOS-mount.

Why doesn't Zeiss bother? I believe most non canon EF mount lenses are reverse engineered, and the probability of compatibility problems is not tolerable for the kind of market Zeiss aims to satisfy. And that only for present cameras, when you depend on reverse engineering the possible compatibility issues grow exponentially when you think of future Canon products with lots of new software and hardware quirks that were considered in older lens design because they have the complete mount specs.
That might be ok for a cheap zoom that will last probably less than the camera body you bought it with, but it doesn't make market sense for this kind of lens. This is too good and expensive to be attached to the normal digital camera life span. Just my opinion.

it maybe true that the other after market vendors are producing these lenses with cross licensing agreements.

Without such a licsensing agreement any lenses that Zeiss would offer that appeared to violate patents that are still in force would subject Zeiss to legal actions, legal costs and poor publicity.

As far as Zeiss is concerned any cross licensing that could be negotiated might be too costly to Zeiss in terms of what they get for what they give.

BTW Is it not wonderful though that Zeiss has produced a 35mm f2 lens that anyone with a PJ bent would so severly miss...whether they actually do PJ work or not?

My understanding is that Canon's mount is more dependent on electronic couplings than Nikon or others. It has happened once (maybe twice) that Canon upgraded their mount, and some Sigma lenses failed to work on certain Canon bodies. The affected Sigma customers had to send their lenses back to Sigma to get the lenses upgraded. I suppose Zeiss finds these factors to be unacceptable.

I’ve been looking for a fast “normal” for my Pentax DSLR. The Pentax 31 limited would be a nice option – but also a very pricy one. So I’ve just bought myself a Sigma 28/1.8 asph. II. This relatively compact and fast lens seems to be something of a forgotten jewel. According to the German “Fotomagazin” it’s optically better than for instance the Zeiss Biogon 28/2.8. I’ve only had it for a day, but can confirm that it’s very sharp, even wide open. I’m sure the build quality can’t match that of Zeiss, but it’s certainly not bad either. I paid the equivalent of 90$ for a used one in A+ condition.
I would certainly not mind owning a Zeiss 28/2. But my point is that because the K-mount is so very backwards compatible, there is already a vast amount of new and used wide-angle primes out there that you can mount on any Pentax DSLR. Keep your eyes open, and you can get some glass with a very favorable price/quality ratio.
As a Pentax user, I can only be happy about Zeiss now adding to the offerings. But I can’t help thinking they are into some tuff competition.

I have to say I love my Pentax AF 35mm F2. I find it ideal for low light people photography and on a APS dslr it is a neat combination of the FOV of a 50mm and the slightly more 'involved' look of a 35mm lens. Not expensive at $299 from b&h and it really is a super lens. I believe I actually read something from Mike singing it's praises a couple of years ago?

What, no love for the Canon 28mm f/1.8?

Yes, I love my Canon 28/1.8. On my 1-D series bodies, it has the FOV of a 35mm lens, and it's plenty sharp at f/2. Under available light it renders nice out of focus backgrounds, with smooth skin tones. One of my favorites, actually. (But I've always been a sucker for the 35-40mm focal length anyway.)

About the 35mm focal length, I'd like to share something that you might relate to. Each focal length has its own specific way of showing the dynamics of back to front movement, or first plane versus background. If you look through a lens while moving forward, things come at you at a very different pace depending on the focal length. That means each lens gives you a different way of manipulating subject relevance through distance. With telephotos, things seem to come at you at a very steady and slow pace from background to foreground. You can isolate a subject with a tele only if the background is distant (I'm talking about perspective relevance, not DOF manipulation through aperture, the strong point for teles). Wideangles allow the opposite, you can frame a close subject and it will be clearly relevant in comparison to objects a few feet away, because of the perspective given by the close range. When you walk towards stuff with an extreme wideangle everything looks like background, until you get close and suddenly things pop up in the foreground. The downside is you suffer from perspective distortion which you might not find flattering for lots of subjects. Any of you remember the first Mad Max movie? the moving car road shots were great, everything was a thin line in the horizon, and suddenly something came out of it at an amazing speed towards the camera.
Well, the thing with the 35mm lens for me is that it gives me some of the great perspective management capabilities of a wide angle but still retaining a lot of the "normal" feel. As if you were looking at a page and you underlined part of the text. It's still included in the page, you can see the whole thing, but you have stated your point of view in a subtle way. The 50 is already too long for that, shorter lenses show too much wide angle look. The 35 is special.
Oh, and yes, it's a wideangle after all, you can tell when you point it at the landscape and you can always find a way to fit everything you want to fit in the frame. And a 35/2 can also do shallow DOF. Perfect!

Oops, I forgot to mention everything I said in the previous post was in reference to a 35mm lens used on a 35mm film (or full frame digital camera, I guess). That's what I know, I still have to try a small sensor digital SLR for enough time to find out what would the 35/2 equivalent be in these quite subjective issues. With the compact digicams I feel completely lost. Not because they are not capable, but because my mind doesn't seem to get how they work in these respects.

I like your description of how the 35 mm lens shows us the world. I often use a 24 mm f/2.8 on a Canon 350D (Digital Rebel), and there the effect you described as "looking at a page" and "underlining" parts of the text, probably becomes much stronger, while the field of view is around 38 mm. This "underlining" is different from separating with depth of field (although DOF manipulations of course can be done in more subtle ways than the common practice of exaggerating the background bokeh). The balance between wide angle effects and "retaining a lot of the "normal" feel", is much harder to get on these sensors (1,5 or 1,6x, compared to full frame or film). Perhaps the above mentioned 28 mm is the closest you can get on these sensors, if you still want a relatively generous field of view (43 mm in this case, which, at least for some people, could settle the old dispute about 35 versus 50 mm FOV).

Feeling very smug about the Vivitar 28mm f2 that I picked up a few weeks ago for a mere $30... It's considerably smaller than the Zeiss offering too.

how much is the 35/2 or this one for a nikon f-mount? :) where can i buy one of these?

Hello evryone,

Is there any different in quality of the zeiss made in Japan and Germany ?

Long H.

"Hello evryone, Is there any different in quality of the zeiss made in Japan and Germany?"

Long H.,
Zeiss has stated in the past that the ones made in Japan are slightly better because the equipment there is newer and QC is slightly better. But that pertained to Kyocera-made Japanese Zeiss lenses. I'm not aware of any statement from them specifically regarding Cosina-made Japanese Zeiss lenses.

It's somewhat of a moot point anyway, since the Zeiss ZF and ZK lenses made in Germany are only made in Germany, and the ones made in Japan are only made in Japan--not like the situation with the old Contax lenses where some of the same lenses were made in both countries.

Mike J.

Thank's Mike,
The reason I asked because I saw the price is different between the one made in German and the one made in Japan. The one in Germanny is a little higher, that's why I just wonder. Where is a good place to purchase one you know ?

Thank you

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