This is my favorite lens, so I thought I’d write up some of the reasons why. If you want technical data there is plenty of it on lots of other photography review websites, like photozone.de, pcmag.com, slrgear.com etc…. I just want to describe my experience with it and show some more subjective strengths of the lens.
First of all, I love the build quality and feel of the lens. The solid metal construction feels very robust, and as much as I never want to scratch the sleek black coating, I’m not concerned about what will happen if I bump the lens. There is no dust sealing, so I wouldn’t have wanted this lens with me when I was in a dusty place, like Afghanistan for example.
The manual focus isn’t a bad feature. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I wish it was AF. Of course, my Canon 5DmkII isn’t that great at autofocus so maybe it actually is better this way. When I get a chance to upgrade to the 5DmkIII or whatever the future 1 series 20 megapixel+ camera is, then I will wish it was autofocus. I bought the EG-S precision focus screen and it does help quite a bit although it is dependent upon the accuracy with which you set your viewfinder dipoter. Using focus confirmation is accurate from f4 upward, at f2 and f2.8 I need a burst of photos to make sure I get one in focus if using focus confirmation. When possible I prefer to use live view at 10x to focus to ensure precision.
When the focus is precise, the images are very, very sharp. I love the detail I can get in a subject’s eyes when doing a tight shot on a face.
While this lens is a ‘Macro’ lens, it does perform well at infinity as well, the textural detail in the Epcot ball looks stunning at full size, you can almost ‘feel’ the brushed metal surface, and it looks even better in a large print where I can utilize the full resolution of the file:
And just for fun, here are some other shots that really capitalize on the detail rendered by this lens:
Note, the spider shot is pretty much at minimum focal distance, so this is as macro as it gets. I consider this lens an “environmental portrait” lens for bugs.
This lens does have some of that “Zeiss 3D pop”, although I’m not a fanatic enough to claim it is “magical”. In any case you can see it does well with the bokeh in creating a sense of depth:
Many complain that this lens is “too sharp” for portraits, which it definitely can be. At f2, wide open, the spherical aberration is uncorrected enough to get a little of that pleasing glow, but from f2.8 on, it is very sharp, revealing every defect in a subject’s skin.
This was f2, the skin looks fairly even toned, a little bit contrasty but not too bad, with a little softening in post production this would make most clients happy:
Here at f4, you can see every little skin flake and crusty around the little guy’s eyes.
There is a little longitudinal chromatic aberration. It can be very noticeable in high contrast photos taken at f2, or even f2.8 if the image is very high contrast. However, it isn’t too hard to correct in post processing, so don’t worry about that. I will probably publish a little guide on how to use photoshop to remove it soon.
If you are looking for a 50mm prime, I would highly recommend checking this one out, maybe try renting it at lensrentals.com first, but I think that it offers more than the majority of 50mm primes out there today.
- Zeiss 50mm f/2.0 Makro Planar ZE Manual Focus Macro Lens for Canon EOS SLR Cameras (eobkxq5h.wordpress.com)
- The best cameras for shooting video (roundup) (reviews.cnet.com)
- New video: How ZEISS helps make Nokia smartphone cameras the world’s best (conversations.nokia.com)
- Zeiss announces pricing and availability of Touit lenses for mirrorless cameras (dpreview.com)
- The Ten Sharpest Lenses (theonlinephotographer.typepad.com)