We have all read and heard by word of mouth, about the so-called “legendary” glass made by lensmakers, Leitz (Leica) and Carl Zeiss. (this is a gear-review and yet another gear-head blog. So for you artists, you may want to skip on and read this guy’s blog. 🙂 ).
For more than 35 years, I have shot various 35mm SLR/DSLR cameras and lenses. For the most part, I have found the better (“pro”) Nikon and Canon glass hard to beat, with good contrast, color, sharpness, and where applicable, bokeh. Occasionally, one of the third-party manufactures would rise to the top (I owned a Tokina ATX 300 f2.8 prime that I think goes head-to-head with its Nikon-equivalent; and a Sigma 14mm f2.8—likewise). But with the possible exception of my original Takumar 55m and 135mm lenses used with my Asihflex SLR, I have never owned (or even shot) any of the “legendary” glass.
All I can say is, “wow”!
I wasn’t born in Missouri (my younger sister was). But I lived there during my first 2 years of life (formative?). And I have always been “from Missouri” on these so-called “legendary” lenses. Could they really be that good? Could they really be that much better? The price tags certainly suggest that they “should be.” My friend and mentor, Ray Laskowitz, has been telling me how I would like the Zeiss glass and how I would probably relegate the other lenses I have already acquired for my Sony Nex-6 mirrorless camera to “paperweight” status. Since they weren’t particularly high-end (the Sigma 19 and 30 primes I reviewed recently), and not particularly expensive, I didn’t doubt that he was right—about their status.
These images are only “snapshots”
But in spite of the “hype,” what I did not anticipate was my near-visceral reaction to seeing the Zeiss-rendered images on screen! All I can say is: “wow“! On most of the illustrative images here, I did nothing more than to adjust the contrast slightly in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), and in only the case of the Redbud branch, selectively take the “brightness” down just a smidgeon. I also did moderate “capture” sharpening on all except the one labeled “unsharpened.” I have always been one to do some “cleanup” work in Photoshop and some selective sharpening and contrast adjustment and (yes, Al 🙂 ), boost saturation in many instances.
With these images I am finding myself resisting any changes to color, saturation and for the most part contrast. There was absolutely no saturation boost (other than the addition of some “local contrast” adjustment in ACR) to any of these images. And, they are sharp! The raw, unsharpened image of the Bradford Pear branch illustrates that (remember, it is at f2.8 and was taken handheld).
Equally impressive (and expected) is the soft, creamy bokeh of this lens. There is none of the unpleasant, circular out of focus areas I saw in the Sigma 30mm f2.8 when shot wide open. And, these images are pure snapshots. They are all handheld, taken quickly between trips to and from work during the week. I have spent but a few minutes with the lens, but cannot wait to get it out into the field and give it a real workout.
This lens is less than a week old to me, and yet, I am pretty sure I won’t take it off the camera very often. And, this is not even a “true” Carl Zeiss lens (though it is supposed to have all Zeiss optics). It is a co-venture with Sony and is marketed and badged as a Sony-Zeiss lens. It has the Sony e-mount and focuses fast and silently on the Nex-6. In ACR, the lens correction is found, not under the Zeiss category, but under the Sony category (threw me for a loop at first, until it dawned on me to search the database for Sony lenses).
I did not anticipate my near-visceral reaction to the Zeiss-rendered images
I have yet to do any “apples to apples” comparisons (if that is even possible). The images here are as close as I can get but are at least a week (maybe 2) apart and so the subjects have “moved on.” But it is enough to be convincing, in my judgment. In fairness, the Sigma image of the Bradford Pear is at f3.2 and the Zeiss, at f11 (I was out “snapshooting” and didn’t have the presence of mind to take an image at f11 with the Sigma. Maybe I will find the time later on to try some of those comparisons. But I don’t really think it’s necessary).
For anyone who, like me, thinks this is a first class lens worth splurging for, there is even better news. Zeiss announced this month that it will offer a series of lenses aimed squarely at the APS sized sensor, mirrorless, market (currently only for Fuji and Sony). These lenses will not be badged or co-ventured. They are pure Zeiss, but will be designed to mount on these cameras and be fully functional with the bodies, including AF. I am in, Zeiss!
Filed under: EQUIPMENT REVIEWS, PHOTOGRAPHY | Tagged: Andy Richards, Carl Zeiss, color, contrast, exposure, Light, LightCentric Photography, Michigan, PHOTOGRAPHY, Photoshop, sharpness, Sigma e-mount, Sony NEX |