Zeiss Normal 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* Manual Focus Lens
Item Includes• Front & Rear Lens Caps
• Metal Lens Hood
• 2-Year Warranty
ReviewsPURE QUALITY, August 12, 2009
By Tom Verghese "Tom Verghese" (Emmaus, PA United States)
This review is for those who are looking to achieve the highest possible image quality in the 35mm format at an affordable price (for Nikon / Canon shooters) in the 50mm 'normal perspective' focal length. Some have called the Zeiss 50mm ZF the best standard DSLR lens in the world.
You can find technical details on the Zeiss website along with MTF charts. Reviews do not give you a physical sense for build quality. Once you hold one of these in your hand, you will probably fall in love ....and immediately sense that Nikon does not offer any competing (current) wide angle primes.
Nikon does offer Auto focus; the Zeiss lens is manual focus only. Therefore Zeiss does not allocate part of the budget to an expensive and bulky auto-focus mechanism. If event shooting is NOT the objective, this lens will work wonders for you. For the deliberative shooter, with time to compose and shoot, it is hard to imagine a better tool in the 35mm format.
What is so great about the images from the Zeiss 50mm? Some have described it as a '3D look'.
These images have a certain personality, a finesse and panache which is missing in the typical lens. To make a long story short, it produces images with a delightful visual palette which pops off from the page-- breathtaking colors, excruciating sharpness and detail, subtle tonal rendition, micro-contrast, variegated color, beautiful bokeh (above f2), resistance to flare, vignetting and distortion.
It is a very fast lens at F1.4 (extreme low-light capability). It is actually quite usable at this aperture unlike many other lenses which make this claim. With the D700 I could shoot in very dark conditions and still produce amazing results.
For those who are afraid of manual focusing, I suggest you invest in a third party split-prism focusing screen. I have purchased the Katz Eye screen (highly recommended) made by a tiny MA based company with excellent customer service. Granted, it is expensive at $ 105 for the Nikon D700. But it will make your focussing issues all but disappear; in fact I am having a lot of fun with deliberative shooting. Manual focus may not be fast enough for event shooting (weddings, graduations etc).... unless you have sufficient distance, are focussed at infinity and can blast away.
In fact, infinity + F8 will all but guarantee you fabulous results with this lens, as long as exposure conditions allow for F8. The D700 does display exif data if you set the menu up properly (for non-CPU lens data as 50mm etc.) In other words, if you set the aperture on the lens, the camera will calculate the appropriate speed in aperture priority mode. Caution--you have to make sure that you adjust exposure compensation based on your judgement.
Is there anything I do not like? The lens cap is awful, it is hard to put on and take off, as well it falls off into my camera bag on a regular basis. I cannot imagine how Zeiss / Cosina came up with such a fiddly design when they have designed such a superior lens and hood.
Minor quiblings aside, if you are looking for a compact, light, fast, all-MANUAL lens for deliberative shooting with a 35mm DSLR, I doubt you will find a better option than the 50mm Zeiss (except for the Zeiss 50mm F2 macro). Yes, I own the Canon and Nikon equivalents which are competent, but these lenses are simply not in the same class.
This is my absolute favorite lens (along with Nikon 24-70) & it is always my first option when conditions permit. To repeat, in my opinion, the Zeiss 50 f1.4 Planar lens can help you produce the absolute best possible images in the 35 mm format.
The Best Fast 50mm Lens Available to Nikon Film and Digital SLR Users, November 25, 2007
By John Kwok (New York, NY USA)
In collaboration with the Japanese firm Cosina, Zeiss has developed a series of Nikon F-mount lenses (which are also available, to a less extent, in Pentax Screw "S" and Bayonet "K" mounts) that are more than refined versions of its late, lamented Contax/Yashica-mount SLR Carl Zeiss lenses. The first lens issued in this collaboration, the 50mm f1.4 ZF Planar lens, is an updated version of the original Contax SLR 50mm f1.4 Planar, which, years ago, won ample praise from Popular Photography as the best 50mm lens currently available. It is heavier than its predecessor, with a slightly wider filter thread (58mm versus 55mm). But, like its critically acclaimed predecessor, it is a superb lens, and, quite possibly, the best fast 50mm lens currently available (While I have not shot with this lens, I am quite familiar with its predecessor, since I own - and have used for many years - a Contax 50mm f1.4 Planar.). This new 50mm Planar lens (just like its Contax predecessor) easily out-performs current and past 50mm f1.4 Nikkor lenses, especially wide-open at f1.4, showing substantially greater resolution and higher contrast. Anyone who owns a Nikon digital SLR camera that accepts Nikon manual focusing AI/AI-S lenses - as well as those who own manual focusing Nikon SLRs from the Nikon F onwards - should strongly consider adding this fine lens to their kit (The only major negative feature of this lens which may dissuade potential purchasers is that it does not come with a proprietary Nikon digital chip; Nikon did not give Zeiss permission to "chip" this lens.).
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