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Thursday, 21 March 2013


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Don't forget that you'd also probably love (quite a bit, I would wager) the wondrous little Fujifilm X10 or X20.

Either one, they're both quite loveable.

Enjoy. I have had a NEX-6 for two weeks. Great camera.

Are the copyright notices on your illustrations a new thing?

Mike, I too have a gx1 and really like it, but I have been eyeing the gx2 rumors. It supposedly have a built in view finder? Have you heard anything more about that rumor. I have the optional view finder as well but always worry about getting it broken when carrying it in a bag. Maybe just too over protective. Also have you thought about a flicker sight to post your test images that we could all view? That would be helpful as we lust over all these cameras.

There is no spring in Europe too. It's snowing in Cracow and we are going to have a chilly weekend (-10°C ).
Anyway, I would love NEX-6 with this pana pancake. This Zeiss lens just does not fit here. Sure, it is capable of doing some impressive stuff, but on a small camera I would prefer a 2.8 pancake, also because I am not a bokeh junkie.

Ahh, the 100mm Makro Planar ZF... It and a couple of siblings have been the primary lenses on my D800 for almost a year. As you point out, there is something about the Zeiss "look," a dimensionality that is hard to describe in technical terms. And if one cares to pixel-peep, they aren't slouchy in the sharpness category either. This series is simply superb with the D800 sensor.

That GX1 set up is a cutie- reminds me of what I thought a camera from the future would look like...

I'm sorry, Mike, about your lust for the camera you love and Zeiss lenses. But I just got my new Sigma 35mm f/1.4. Wow. Forget all the hype and lens reviews and comparisons to all the other great 35's. I put this lens on my my D600 and realized immediately that this is the sharpest lens I have ever experienced, just looking through the viewfinder and without taking one shot. It even feels and looks Zeiss-like. The best part is that it is Sigma priced. Is this a new trend? Cheaper is best?

You know that old saying..."if I could just live long enough..."

Well, I did.

Day by day we're supposed to climb a degree or two past freezing, but then we get a few inches of snow on the Wisconsin River and the temp drops to bitterness for half a week.

When we finally had some sunshine the other day, I drove up to Lacrosse to try out my new A99 with the two Zeiss zooms ...and got nailed by the wind chill between buildings.

You can only do so much through the necessary layering, which is why I gave up my fiddly Nex 5n to move to a full-size camera. Since my wife is from Australia, we're moving to Queensland!

But I'm going to get the Zeiss 24 f2 before I leave.


I look forward to more of the story, especially if more of these quality semi-digressions are included. I recently rented an OMD and NEX6 at the same time to help me decide which one I'd rather own. It didn't help.

"Sony and Zeiss, Up In a Tree" - I dunno.
Seems more like it should be:

Mike and Carl, up in a tree
First comes love.
Then comes marriage.
Here comes Mike with the baby carriage.

I learned that little ditty over fifty years ago. How is it I can remember that, but I can't remember what I opened the refrigerator door for?

Please tell me we're gonna get to see some D800 detail rich landscape/cityscape shots with that 85mm tilt-shift. With big ol' 3000px+ jpgs for us to explore. Pleasepleasplease.

The post must be subtitled "Ode to Zeiss Lenses" or something of the sort.

Yeah, Mike, poetry in prose. I probably have never been closer than 200 kms to a Zeiss lens but you make me want to change that, even just to hold one for 2 minutes.

Mike, I apologize that I was forced to use my Evelyn Wood speedreading talent above as I'm rushed, but I did not see you mention the horrendous, horrible, any adjective you wish, sensor dust showing up in the snow on the top pic. Unless my eyes deceive me, that's one of the worst pics I've seen as a result of that poo on the sensor.

Fun to see, particularly, the first image in the paean to Zeiss lenses. Having retired my darkroom a few years ago, I now use my Kodak Darkroom Graduate to measure milk for the morning Cappuccino. Some things find new uses.

That was a fun read. Thanks for that! Hope that the GX1 which you love makes it through to Easter...

The scarecrow shot is the best photo I've seen this year.

The "Zeiss Look". Sorry, Mike. I just don't see it.

What I see is a group of mostly competent photographers working in a similar style - wide open with an eye toward creamy bokeh and a well defined plane of focus. That's to be expected - they're posting to a photo group dedicated to shooting in that particular style with a particular lens; an $1800+ manual focus, metal barreled chunk of glass. This is not the Hoi Poloi Camera Club, shooting bugs and flowers with their plastic mount Canikon kit zooms. These guys are true believers.

This is not to disparage your affection for Zeiss lenses. We've all got our own preferences, and there's no accounting for taste. All I'm saying is that like the "Leica Glow", the "Zeiss Look" probably exists more firmly in the metaphysical world of emotion and intuition than it does in the physical world of quantifiable characteristics.

BTW - they make 'em to fit your D800 too... ;-)

Is it just me or does the Lumix in the picture look vaguely like a Koni-Omega?

[TOP] which I love. . . Luv it.

"Okay, I am lying."* Luv that, too. :-DDD

I also like Zeiss T* ZMs (and CV VMs)

*About braving sub-zero weather for our entertainment of which (sub-zero) I have no inkling.

That's all very nice, but the test I'm hoping you can write up is of Hartblei's 40mm Superrotator on your dragoon:


LensRentals doesn't have it, but maybe TOP world headquarters can arrange for a loan from the manufacturer. At more than twice the dragoon's cost, you probably wouldn't buy one even though it is your favorite focal length.

Seriously, that combination, if it works well, could be what replaces a 4x5 for me as age diminishes my carrying capacity. Please consider trying it out.

Just love that scarecrow picture. The red coat against that cool background is simply beautiful.

Please tell me what camera you used to take the scarecrow picture. I want a camera that takes good pictures like that* :)

*yes, it's a joke.

What a brilliant post, the cold weather has you on fire. Love the snowman shot too.

I think Jimmy Hoffa would have been more of a Mader's Sunday Brunch type of guy! ;-)

I too like Zeiss lenses. Now, if I could only afford them....
By the way, Dennis Ng, I believe Fotodiox makes an adapter which will allow you to use your Hassey V lenses on your Sony.

Yes. Yes. Oh, yes. And many more yes comments to your post. There is a certain look to different companies lenses. Canon, Nikon, Zeiss & Leica have all got a certain feel to them. Karen Nakamura in her page on the Contaflex IV at her delightful Photoethnography site ( http://www.photoethnography.com/ ) comments: "It makes sense that the "feel" of the Zeiss photos are similar to that of my Canon. According to one mythology I heard, Canon imitated the "feel" of Zeiss lenses while Nikon went for the feel of Leitz/Leica lenses. Even now, you can tell that they are just subtly differently flavored." I find I must agree having used and appreciated all four companies products.

The Contaflex remains a remarkably under-appreciated camera, yet the later versions have possibly the finest Tessar normal Zeiss has made. Sweet in a way that is difficult to describe and fast (for a Tessar) at f/2.8 - it just draws in that inimitable Zeiss way. I owned a IV for a while with it's long and wide lenses as well which were better than their reputations would suggest. But it was always the things shot with the 50 that I remember & go back to even now and say "Yeah, why did I sell that? Oh, yeah, to finance that Leica IIIf." I sometimes think the buyer of the Contaflex got the better of that deal even with it's quirks. If it hadn't been for the 50/2 Summitar I had on that Leica, I'd be sure of it. That however was the lens that made me understand at a visceral level (after owning 3 different Summicrons) that Leica really was as good as Zeiss, just different.

I have a Russian Industar 61/LD (55/2.8) that I use with an LTM adapter on my E-PL1. It's not a Zeiss by any stretch, but being a good Tessar clone it gets closer than many other lenses. One of these days I'll find a nice old M42 mount CZJ Tessar and be even happier - a nice old "zebra" would be a delight.

Of course, the Nikon 40/2.8 mentioned here the other day would be an even greater delight but given what they go for, alas, it won't be gracing my little digital camera anytime soon... but the delight of the cross fertilization of the the classic Zeiss design made to a Leica-esque set of parameters would be interesting to explore. Which set of grandparent's influences would win the day? :LOL:

That shutter button placement seems to be a Minolta trait that passed down to the Sony descendant. My KM 7D, a700 and a850 were all that way. The button is placed so that it's easier to press with the finger than the fingertip. That's by design, I imagine. Instead of stabbing down with a fingertip, you just squeeze the button with a smooth clasping motion. I like to think that this minimizes camera movement. Anyhow, it's one of the distinctive wrinkles that I appreciate about Sony, countering the many ways I see them taking the wrong direction these days.

Even though I grew up in Southern California I have spent several winters in Minn, Mn and the top photo really nails the word COLD. Just sitting in my warm room in Laguna Beach and staring at that photo I'm getting the chills. Yes that one is a keeper.

Mike, I am under the impression that you currently have a D800, a Pentax K-5, a GX1, an OM-D, and a NEX-6 in the house. If you had to make a snap decision, right now, on current knowledge, on which of those to use exclusively for the next year, which would it be? Just one camera and one lens.

Hi Mike,
If you're finding the GX-1 too small, hit up a camera store and try a G5. Bigger in the hand and ergonomically surprisingly different from the G3 it replaces. I couldn't adjust to the feel of the OMD, but the G5 feels like it was made just for me.

The 5-series doesn't have a standard hot shoe. That's enough to make the decision for me.

On mythology.
What I read long ago is that during WWII the axis partners had shared camera and lens making technology, and that Zeiss was paired with Nikon, Leitz with Canon. It is also part of the folklore that the treatment of micro contrast in Zeiss lenses was considered excessively "harsh" by Leica lovers. Whether Nikon and Canon have maintained these lens characteristics when they overtook their German godfathers in the early 1950s, I don't know.

Why the base plate on the GX1, I can't remember seing a GF1 with a base plate and I have a the grip and battery holder for the OM-D....feels nice enough and it is nice when I wanna more or less look the part, but having said that when I snap for fun (and yeps we are in the midst of winter here to so biking and snapping is not altogether fun)....I use it necked....

Greets, Ed.

Your comparison picture of the Nex and the Panasonic just did three things to me:

A) made me want a GX-1;
B) made me realize that the goofy NEX design (big lenses, tiny bodies) will prevent me from ever buying a NEX;
C) reminded me that the 20/1.7 in m43 is small, like the 35mm f/1.8 Nikkor-W I miss.

Maybe I need that 20mm . . .


That last piece about perusing through Flickr's justified view is indeed a very good piece of advice to get a sense of a lens rendering, or a camera/film.

I've been doing this for the last 2 months or so. I've found the 25mm MFT Panasonic Leica sure looks like a beautiful lens I should consider buying. I've been attracted by the Zuiko 12mm personality too but kind of repelled by the new 17mm zuiko...

When it's not for a lens, I've been totally amazed by a few Fuji X bodies photos. That X-Trans sensor works, I think. Hard to judge sharpness (FWIW anyway) on most reduced size pictures but there is such a clarity to them!

Lastly, I also found F pretty amazing to look at scanned film photographs, some gone forever. I've found that I'd repeatedly like the Kodak Portra & Ektor pretty much if I was involved in film (don't tell me they're discontinued)... Films among others, I'm looking forward to try soon a friend's mamiya 645 I'll be borrowing for a few weeks.

A shame that flickr is still rather messy & old school. That justified view really is the last thing working for me.

Looking forward to see more of your Zeiss shots.


Mike, I must admit I missed your winter wonderland photos (which I like) at first blush. Predictably, I zeroed in on your gear photos. The Konica 2.4/50mm L39 collapsible costs almost USD 1.5K ("buy it now") at breguetcamera, an HK-based eBay seller (they used to have 3 of them).

I presume you took the gear photos with the D800. Among aspiring enthusiasts, taking gear photos is problematic if you have only two cameras. Since your best camera can't take a self-portrait of itself, you have to take a picture of it with your second best. And usually, a newbie's first camera ain't much to brag about (mine is a p&s). My one (and only) "hit" thus far, was a gear photo of my GXR-M which I love, paired with a Zeiss 4/18 (27 mm-e) Distagon T* (which goes w/o saying). I posted it in a comment to a TOP gear post last year, and it got north of 2K views in a week! I took that photo with my Ixus (which I used to ~).

I have since bought another camera, a GRD-4 (which I really love). It and its bigger brother can take pics of each other which will do both justice. But if I have to take side-by-side pics of them beloveds, I'll have to use the Ixus.

Sorry for the double post.

I'm glad you're enjoying the NEX. Sony has taken a very different approach to the camera layout and not everybody is thrilled about it, but I have had more fun with my NEX 5N than almost any camera since I went digital. Here's a suggestion: flip the screen all the way out and use your thumb on the shutter button. I've found shooting as if it were a TLR has both improved the ergonomics and arguably made street photography more discreet. Using a strap and holding the camera against your body allows slower shutter speeds as well. I also like the results obtained by shooting from a slightly lower position (obviously not always appropriate), and it's very easy to bend down and shoot at ground level without changing your grip. Finally, with a manual-focus lens mounted you can move your thumb from the shutter button to the touchscreen to quickly zoom in on any part of the image to check focus, as focus peaking only gets you so far. And, of course, in this position you can see your lens to pre-focus, check the aperture, etc.
I would also note that while I am fond of Zeiss lenses and agree with all your points, I tend to prefer using lenses with lower image contrast on digital cameras.

Well Mike, I have to thank you for getting out of the car to take that picture of the scarecrow, because that is such a cool photograph. I have actually made it my wallpaper on my laptop. Great work!


RE: Cold...
After filming Fargo in Minnesota one of the Cohen brothers described the state as
"Siberia with family restaurants"..

I try to fend off "lens voodoo" too but there are three Zeiss lenses in my kit that I just love. They are a 50mm Distagon, 80mm Planar and a 250mm Sonnar.
These are all old enough to vote, heck they're old enough to be President but that doesn't seem to matter. All are wicked sharp and contrasty.
It doesn't hurt that they are all parked in front of some really swell old cameras.
At some point reason isn't so important. If the pictures look good and you're happy, what else do you need?

Hmmm. As a Nex 6 and Nex 7 user I think you've put your finances in danger by inviting the devil into your house. Granted, the Nex menu is...different, but after a few weeks you'll be unable to let go and buying eccentric lenses, willy-nilly. Oh wait, that's me.

Winter never really came to Austin. We've been lolling around in the 70's mostly with a mix of bright sun and soft rain. It's the time of the year that we delude ourselves into thinking we live in paradise. It's so we won't sell our houses and move before Summer. By then it's too late and we're mostly just trying to get from air conditioning to air conditioning with our shoe soles melting into the black top.

Silly me. I'm on a different tangent today. I held a Sony a850 yesterday and decided, last night at 10:30, that I must have one. There goes all that self control I've been working on. :-)

Love that scarecrow shot, even sans caption.

One of the best features of the NEX-6 is the built in WiFi. It's about time the exhausting use of cables be deemed as anachronistic, and not to mention the environmental benefit of fewer cables being manufactured.

New Zeiss lenses are on the way. 18/2.8, 32/1.8 and 50/2.8 macro.

- Dennis

Sal, Kipon just released an adapter for the NEX and Fuji cameras that allows tilt and shift that might interest you. It is, essentially, a scaled down copy of the adapter made by Mirex for putting medium format lenses onto DSLRS. Much as I'd like a 40mm Super-Rotator on a D800e you mentioned above, the little Sony with an older Nikon prime (or at least the few I've used to date with it) puts out a pretty good image. I wrote up my first impressions on my blog.

I actually bought the NEX7 to use with this adapter for tabletop work. I'm not sure I'll even buy a native lens for it.

The scarecrow shot is great, Mike.

Damn you sir for linking to the 100mm Makro Planar twice in one week!

On a serious note, there's a gent by the name of Jim Buchanan who makes a really nice grip for the NEX 6-7. It cured some handling issues on my 7 and even added an Arca Swiss style plate to the bottom. Works for my man hands anyway.


I got into serious cameras through my grandfather I had an Exa and we both had (and my uncle, his son) an Exakta VXIIa. Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f2, 35mm Zeiss Flektagon, a Schneider 90mm preset a trio of Steinheil Makro Quinars and, the Piece de Resistance a real live Zeiss 180mm f2.8 Auto Sonnar (Olympic Sonnar) Still occasionally put a roll through my Exakta jsut because of the lenses I only owned the 35mm Flektagon and 50mm Pancolar, the rest were family library lenses.

Went Hassy when pro for the Zeiss.

Now have a NEX7 and restarting the Zeiss path. While some were the best and some were not they all had a character and all made really good images no matter the optical bench test results.

Have Sony DSLR for the Zeiss, but downsizing. but using them on my NEX with the A-E adapter.

fun post.

think you'll like the NEX but the glass needs to come along, and thankfully, finally is.


Thx (I think), Mike, for the Zeiss-lens reminder. In my Canon 1Ds days, I had a 28mm/F2.8 Distagon-T* (manual) lens for it, and it was indeed my favorite lens, at least after I 'cured' its cool color balance (compared with my Canon lenses). Your note makes me want to buy a Canon 6D and Zeiss 21mm/2.8 ZE...only $3800! That'd replace the Samsung NX20 body and lenses, a competitor to the Sony NEX series, which I like much but don't use much.

Ha ha. Thought this apropos to your "I'm chilly" post: a how-to guide ... "How To Shoot A Polar Bear". Just found it in the junk drawer of my computy box.


How To Shoot A Polar Bear
and other cold weather subjects:
a photography How-to
by Robert Howell

Weds Aug 7 2003

The first thing that crossed my mind while talking with Michael was the wearing
of mitts. Here's how it went:

Invest in a pair of down filled over-mitts. These mitts are big enough to fit
over a gloved hand and provide a toasty atmosphere for your bony little
fingers. Come on, all fingers are bony. Not much insulation or circulation in
them to keep them warm. They freeze quickly and it's painful. So get the mitts.

Wear a thin pair of gloves, thin because you need to feel the controls on your
camera - they were made small because the camera was made small because you
wanted to pack it in a small space. Cause and effect and it's all your fault.
Don't worry, the down of the over-mitts will keep your hands very warm. Make
sure the gloves don't have any buckles or protrusions (usually at the wrist) on
them as they can catch on the mitt, rip it, and spill your feathers. Ugly. The
idea is to remove the over-mitt when you're ready to shoot and replace it right
after you're done. This is sometimes easier said than done as the over-mitts
are more often than not made of the most slippery, grip-proof nylon the
manufacturer could find. But with a little practice it'll happen. Yes, do try
it in the living room a few times before going out.

As for carrying the camera, have everything prepared and well practiced. Your
camera should have a minimum of controls. Point & shoots are best, especially
as they allow for one hand shooting. Keep the p&s slung in a pocket or holster
at the top left of your torso (over your heart) inside your jacket. Your jacket
should not only be well insulated but easy to open - the snaps and zipper
variety. Men's jackets are best regardless of gender as the wind flap (baffle)
is attached to the jacket on the left of the zipper allowing you to dig your
right (shooting) hand under it and snap it open with a minimum of fuss. If the
zipper tab is small, hang a woggle on it. You can weave one out of gimp. Ask a
Boy Scout. The idea is to have something sizeable to grip on to.

Ideally the camera sits in its holster at an angle convenient to your reach. It
faces outwards, that is the lens is pointing out toward the front. The camera
should come out cleanly with the three 'end' fingers and thumb gripping the
body while the index (shooting) finger is left free to hover over the shutter
release button. A wrist strap big enough to fit around your glove, and with
enough stiffness to stand up, is a very good thing. If you can hang the camera
from your wrist after getting it out of the holster your hand is free to zip up
again before shooting. I find it easier to use my right hand to grip the lower
part of my jacket and use my left (camera free) hand to pull up the zipper; the
camera flaps around or gets dragged over snaps on the jacket otherwise. If your
camera is small enough to fit in your palm then 'palm' the camera and use the
thumb and index finger of the right hand to zip up.

Never mind redoing the jacket snaps because you're going to be quick with this
next part. Flick back the lens cover, point, shoot, cover the lens, unzip,
replace the camera, rezip and snap the flap. All this should be done in a few
seconds. Now, while you're doing up your snaps take a look at what you just
shot (if you can see through the thick cloud of vapour your excited breath has
produced in front of you) and try to remember why you thought it was worth all
the trouble. This may take a while, but don't dawdle over the snaps. Remember
you have only a thin uninsulated glove on your shooting hand; get snapped up as
quick as possible so you can get the over mitt back on. Pump your fingers in
and out of a fist once the hand's safely back in its survival suit and it'll
warm up sooner.

Congratulations! You're now on your way to becoming a bona fide polar field

So there you are in the vast wasteland squinting at the horizon. Suddenly you
see something! You yank the mitt off your shooting hand and drop it in front of
you (you've been practicing), then unsnap your jacket's wind baffle with one
swift motion, woggle the zip, grab the box, zip the woggle, (never mind the
snaps), point, shoot, unzip, replace the box, rezip, snap-up and, another shot
in the can, put your mitt back on.

Now, what the heck was that? Guess we'll hafta wait until the film comes back.
Hope it turns out.

Nothing to contribute really, but I just wanted to say that the scarecrow shot is fantastic.

I'm not sure if you'd consider it too Internet-explosive, but I'd really be interested in a post that gave brief descriptions of the "looks" of different lens brands, designers, etc.

Like you, Mike, I've long had a real thing for Zeiss lenses. It started in college in my bacteriology classes, where I used an absolutely beautiful Zeiss oil-immersion phase-contrast light microscope. That thing was amazing; if you think quality optics are important in photography, they're even more important in microscopy. They took it from me briefly for service and gave me an Olympus to use, and it wasn't even close-I was happy to get my Zeiss back!

My only photographic experience with Zeiss lenses were with two point and shoots of all things. The first was the little Yashica T4Super, which used a Zeiss T* Tessar lens. This camera went with me as my only camera on two trips to Italy, and produced wonderful and memorable images.

The second was my Contax T3, which had an even more amazing Zeiss 28mm T* Sonnar lens. I was showing some Fuji Provia slides I taken with it to a friend who was currently using a Canon EOS 3 SLR, and he said "I think those are the sharpest images I've ever seen." But, you're right, there is something to the integrity, cohesiveness. the gestalt of how Zeiss lenses, as Sean Reid would say "draw a scene" that is truly wondrous.

The good news is that Zeiss is just about to release a series of autofocus lenses for in XF mount my Fuji X-Pro1! More Zeiss goodness to come...

I think Steven Scharf meant 35mm f2.8 T* Sonnar on the Contax T3. I know I would not have loved or used mine half as much if it had been wearing a 28mm.

I'm still looking for the digital equivalent of the T3. We're not there yet in terms of size, viewfinder and image quality!

Hi Mike,

thanks for your information here published.
but why do you prefer the GX1 in the m4/3 panorama?


[I'm afraid I don't understand the question. What panorama? --Mike]

Hi Mike,

thanks for your information here published.
but why do you prefer the GX1 in the m4/3 panorama?


[I'm afraid I don't understand the question. What panorama? --Mike]

Sorry, I mean in the range of m4/3 cameras.


[The GF1 with the 20mm was my most-used camera for about three years or so. I own an Olympus OM-D thanks to a generous reader who gave me a deal on it, and a GX1 which I bought because of its similarity to the GF1. Of the two, I most often use the OM-D because of its superior image quality, even though I've never cottoned to the controls and menus. Now they both share my scant shooting time with the D800. --Mike]

I sure HOPE the Zeiss-lens 'magic' is real; I just ordered that Canon 6D/24-105 kit and won on eBay a Zeiss ZE 21mm/2.8. Should have both by the middle of next week.

I-sure-hope #2--now that my worn-out knee has been replaced and is back to about 90%, that I get off my butt and USE those expensive toys.

Again, Mike, thx for the inspiration.

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