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Why MF Zeiss

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Mitchell, May 30, 2007.

  1. DrewC


    Jan 30, 2007
    Denver, CO
    i always get confused when i read MF... mostly because that was a term for "magic find" percentage in an old game i used to play... but also because it can mean "medium format" or "manual focus"...
  2. ultimind


    May 13, 2007
    Cleveland, OH
    I think Zeiss is trying to be oldschool as much as they possibly can.
  3. imageswest

    imageswest Guest

    Perhaps Cosina lacks the technology to build AF lenses...?
  4. The answer is simple . . .

    . . . because people will shell out a lot of extra dough for the Zeiss name, AF or not.

    Don't get me wrong, they're very nice lenses from what I've seen, and I actually prefer MF lenses--but they're not much better (if at all) than some of the existing Nikkor equivalents that are generally either available much less expensively or incorporate other useful features (i.e. AF).

    I have a hard time understanding why anyone would pay through the nose for a ZF 25/2.8 when they could get an AI-S 28/2 that's a better all-around lens (sure the Zeiss is slightly sharper in the center at f/2.8, but the Nikkor is sharper at the edges--in any case both lenses are very sharp and also the Nikkor has less CA, distortion and vignetting at f/2.8).

    So why would someone pay $900 for a Zeiss that is 2% sharper in the center of the frame at f/2.8 than a Nikkor that's better in pretty much every other way and can easily be found for $200 used? The name, that and claims of "Zeiss magic" that can't be quantified.

    I don't know if it's the same story with the ZF 35/2 versus either the AI-S 35/1.4 or the AF-D 35/2. Even if one or both of the Nikkors is comparable I'm sure plenty of folks will shell out the $900 for the name with this one as well.


  5. Sorry about my use of the MF abbreviation. It seemed clear to me, but then, I knew what I was talking about!

    I can see not needing autofocus for landscape type lenses. I was interested in using this lens for portaits where I find autofocus to be quite helpful.

    Here I have the D2Xs with it's wonderful CAM 2000 feature which would all be rendered useless with the addition of this lens. I just don't understand why they don't add autofocus to their lenses (like Sigma and Tokina).

    I'm all for old school, but this just seems ridiculous.
  6. Some folks prefer manual lenses . . .

    . . . me included. :p 

    I find photography with well-constructed, smooth focusing MF lenses to be far more enjoyable than when I shoot a modern AF lens. Now, if I had some professional reason to need AF I'd be all over it (e.g. sports photography, pj work, etc.)

    When I shoot portraits I almost always reach for one lens, the 75-150mm f/3.5 series E. So far I've been happy with it and its old-fashioned manual focus (and I have very bad eyesight, thanks to regular corneal erosions):


  7. DrewC


    Jan 30, 2007
    Denver, CO
    no apology needed! i just didnt have a good answer for you :rolleyes: 
  8. A quote from photozone.de:

    "Quality-wise the Zeiss Distagon ZF T* 35mm f/2 is a little superior compared to its its sister lens, the Distagon T* 25mm f/2.8, and it easily outperforms the corresponding Nikkor AF 35mm f/2. The resolution in the center is about as good as it gets on the Nikon D200. The borders are very good at large apertures but it takes till about f/4 before the quality gets excellent here. The level of vignetting is about average for a lens of this class. The lens shows a very slight level of barrel distortions whereas CAs are moderate. In the field the Distagon shined regarding its very strong resistance against flare. The bokeh is very smooth - see also the sample image above. The build quality of the lens is excellent. Typical for all ZF lenses the Distagon comes with a couple of handling penalties - it doesn´t offer AF and the aperture can only be controlled on the lens."
  9. weiran


    Jan 2, 2007
    Nottingham, UK
    Zeiss lenses are very much different from Nikons, it gives a different "optical signature" usually have very good bokeh.
  10. Zeiss magic

    That would be the invisible (at least to me) "Zeiss magic" that I referred to before.

    I would agree that most of the big aperture ZF lens image samples that I've seen look to have relatively nice looking boke though.

    I just want to gag every time some Zeiss freak tells me that there's a "special quality" or other such BS from these Zeiss (Cosina-made) lenses. I shot the ZF 50/1.4 briefly and apparently the magic was lost on me, because I just couldn't see it.

    I'm not against people paying extra for the brand name they like--I just want someone to show me the magic optical difference in some measurable way (e.g. the photozone review giving the ZF 35/2 super high marks for sharpness). I trust those simple quantifiable things more than I ever will the claims of special "optical signatures".

    To each his own though, if you like them and don't find the ~$900 price tag offensive I suggest buying them =)

  11. weiran


    Jan 2, 2007
    Nottingham, UK
    I can see the difference, but it's very slight. It's price way out of my range and I do like AF, so they're not for me either, but I do like seeing the photos they can produce.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 31, 2007
  12. The Zeiss folks are on record as saying that it's a patent issue, and that they were working on resolving it. How Sigma/Tamron/Tokina have resolved this is a matter for conjecture.
  13. It would be nice if people started doing more color range tests and histogram comparisons for looking at contrast shoulders. That's where you'll find much of the so-called "magic" in lenses that really makes absolutely no difference unless you want it to.

    Of course, this argument rings true for different lenses within the Nikkor system too. Since it's subjective, you can be a snob for whatever characteristics you like, but people who spend more money are somehow entitled to being "more" snobby.

    I liked the ZF lenses. However, the only good deal on them is the 85/1.4 Planar, which is cheaper here than the AFD Nikkor version, and I'm not an 85mm fan.

    Oh and the reason for not giving them AF. Could be a technology compatibility question, or a cost reason, but the reason I like is that manual focus lenses have better tolerances and feel better in-hand than autofocus lenses. You can't just "turn AF off" because the focus feel of AF lenses almost never approaches that of even worn-down manual focus lenses.
  14. This still doesn't explain how other companies such as Sigma, Tamron and Tokina are able to do this, seemingly without the cooperation that Zeiss feels is necessary.
  15. Chris101


    Feb 2, 2005
    Zeiss is targeting these lenses at film shooters with non-AF cameras. The fact that they work on AF cameras is just icing, and will probably be the factor that makes it possible to produce these lenses at a profit.
  16. davewolfs


    May 23, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: May 31, 2007
  17. vadimg


    May 23, 2007
    ny, ny
    Totally not worth it in my opinion. Also, isn't there a C-Y -> Nikon F adapter that you can buy? Then you can use the old Contax Zeiss lenses, which are much cheaper used and exactly the same optical formulas.
  18. weiran


    Jan 2, 2007
    Nottingham, UK
    They reverse engineer the AF spec, which is hit and miss. Sigma have had a lot of problems with their HSM everytime a new DSLR comes out with a sligthly different AF spec.
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