Archive for July, 2016


EOS M3 ZM 35/2 : 125th@f/2.0 ISO 800

Last time I ended the post with a poll asking which lens I should review next and I was a little underwhelmed with the overall response rate. But a very clear winner emerged. The Carl Zeiss Biogon 35mm f2.0 ZM in Leica M mount was selected by a 2:1 margin.

I’ll have to start out with a little story about how it came to pass that I began using this Zeiss lens. I bought a Leica Summicron 35/2 that I wrote about on this blog a few months back. There are a great many things about that Leica lens that are advantageous to this Zeiss lens, including the fact that the 50-year-old Leica is quite literally half the size and 35% less weight. For me however, the problem was simply this: on the Canon EOS M3 for which I was using the Leica lens, the Leica focusing system was awkward for me. On a full size Leica M3 body it works fine, but the compact size and shape of the Canon proved troublesome. I missed some great shot opportunities in New Orleans where I failed to achieve sharp focus fast enough. It isn’t a fault in the Leica lens as much as an ergonomic issue with me and the combination of camera and lens. The Leica lens has a lot of collector value and I figured I could sell it to someone for its dual value of collectabilty and utility. So I did. I found myself with a void at the 35mm focal length and the Biogon started singing to me. I read several reviews that ranged from Ken Rockwell’s glowing review to some other reviews that meandered dangerously close to mediocre. I rolled the proverbial dice and bought one.


EOS M3 ZM 35/2 : 1/80th@f/2.0 ISO 1000

First off, and most important is that I am able to get faster, more precise focus with this Zeiss lens than I could with my old Summicron. That is anecdotal at best, but for me it is a critical fact. Lens sharpness means nothing if focus is off. Again the fault lay not with Leica but rather that particular lens on my EOS M3, my large hands, and my personal distaste for finger tab focus.


EOS M3, ZM 35/2 : 1/40th@f/2.0 ISO 800 Softened in LightRoom

After making numerous images with the Zeiss, I tend to side with Mr. Rockwell. This lens is superior to my version 1, Summicron and according to Ken, it is sharper overall than even the mighty Aspherical Leica at all f-stops other than wide open where it is comparable but not superior. Note that Ken Rockwell also loves the Version 1 Summicron. That aspherical Leica 35/2 is a $3,000 lens my friends, you can pickup up a Zeiss 35/2 ZM for under a grand brand new, and around $600-ish used.


EOS M3 ZM 35/2 : 1/125th@f/2.8 ISO 160

The three images I have scattered here are all quick snapshots, rather than premeditated images. The flowers had the most thought with all of maybe 15 seconds of deliberation. All are shot wide open save for the flowers which I think I shot at f/2.8.

The bokeh is pretty good, not too distracting but not the most creamy and delicious like that of some other lenses I have.


EOS M3 ZM 35/2 : 1/500@f/2.8 100 ISO

There are many qualities about a lens other than critical sharpness. The color rendition, bokeh, distortions, etc. This lens excels everywhere. This is a truly world-class lens. Of course Carl Zeiss doesn’t often let their name be used on anything less than outstanding, and this lens holds true to that idea.

In case however some of you feel the need to look at pixel counting sharpness, I don’t have a full frame Leica M9 or Sony A7 but the aforementioned Rockwell review does go there. I do have this last photo that certainly shows this lens is razor-sharp. The image is very tightly cropped more than 70% cropped away to show the detail in the bottom center of the frame. No sharpening is applied here, just a touch of exposure adjustment. This old rusty porch chair needs refinishing 😉


Relative size, shot with Canon S110

So there it is. If you want a 50-year-old lens that is statistically just as good as this lens but half the size and a third lighter, get the Leica Summicron Version 1 at around $900-$1800. If you don’t mind a little extra bulk and girth get this Zeiss lens for $600-$1000 and never look back.

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