Posts Tagged ‘Zeiss’

Nikon introduced their new Z6 and Z7 full frame mirrorless bodies and Canon shortly after did likewise with the EOS R. These new cameras from the “classic” makers are designed to take a bite out of Sony’s dominance in the FF mirrorless market. Canon has already quietly become the number one seller in the Japanese mirrorless market without a FF body in the mix. Now armed with a FF body they are poised to make a move on the global stage. Meanwhile Nikon has entered the field with an opportunity as well since they no longer have to deal with the antiquated Nikon F mount. Things are about to get very real in the space and this bodes well for all of us that shoot regardless of the brand we choose to use.

What does all this modern camera mirrorless introductions really mean? Simple, with every new mirrorless user another person will discover the joy of using old school vintage glass on a modern digital body. Mirrorless cameras have a shallow flange distance that allows easy adaptation to older lenses. Camera events like PhotoFair bring dealers from all over the region to trade and sell classic glass. Now with multiple choices in the full frame mirrorless space, a lot more users are likely going to be in the market for Leica M lenses, classic Zeiss and a variety of other cool adapted lenses like Petzval barrel lenses and such.

Mirrorless cameras are not without faults. They tend to be much harder on batteries and despite amazing technology in the electronic viewfinders, many pros still prefer the optical viewfinders of a DSLR. That said, the mirrorless cameras are substantially more compact, offer superior flexibility in the application of older lenses and are beginning to challenge to DSLRs in focus speed as well.

I have yet to decide whether I will buy a Canon EOS R. It is the logical choice for me in the FF arena since I have an enormous vested interest in Canon glass. I own the EOS M5 the current flagship of the Canon APS/c mirrorless line. It is small and compact offering amazing versatility and a solid design. The EOS R is nowhere near as small so if I do buy one, I think I’ll still keep the little M5. If I buy the EOS R it will in fact be the defacto replacement for my aging EOS 5D Mark III. So for me it is a choice between the amazing proven performance of the EOS 5D Mark IV or this new kid EOS R. The R model is a thousand dollars less expensive and that seems attractive. Canon has launched several amazing lenses unique to the EOS R including the fastest FF zoom lens ever made a 28-70 f/2! They seem to be serious about this. Canon is taking some heat for not using an in body stablization system. Honestly if the EOS R had it, I would own one already. The advantage to in body stabilizers as they can stabilize older glass. That is a big deal to me and many people like me that shoot vintage lenses. Nikon and Sony have this feature in their FF mirrorless bodies. Come on Canon, get with the program 😉

I am very excited about the direction of photography and it seems the three biggest players in the hardware game are ready to rumble!


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A Sonnet for my Sonnar

Several months back I bought a Zeiss 180/2.8 Sonnar in Y/C mount to use on my EOS SLRs and my M5. The lens is a bit on the chunky side and doesn’t have internal focus like its contemporary competitors, Nikon and Canon did. But it does have the magic, mystery, and quality of Carl Zeiss and that is nothing to scoff at.

You can find these Zeiss 180s for $300ish and they are well worth the cash. If you are patient you might find one online or at PhotoFair even less than that. I have heard of them selling under $200 every now and then. I think it is a fabulous lens. It is well made, and razor-sharp. I have heard some reports that suggest the Leica Elmarit 180/2.8 is better. That may be true, but you will not find one of those under $300 unless it is awful ugly. At the street price of $500 the Leica 180 is priced close enough to used Nikon AF and Canon AF models to make it unwarranted. The Zeiss gives legendary quality at a low price and who doesn’t want a little of that?

I used the lens on my 5D Mk III with wonderful results and had fun on my M5 using a focal reducer to yield a 130mm f/2. If you can get past the hefty weight and smooth but heavy focus, this lens is a gem. Some may find the 180mm focal length a bit out of sorts. But it isn’t really at all. It is close enough to 200mm to effectively work the same shot as a 200/2.8 Canon but offers a little more room to work for long portraits and tight head shots with an ultra shallow depth of field. I do wish the close focus was a bit tighter as 4.5 feet (1.4m) is just not enough sometimes.

The lens has excellent contrast, wonderful sharpness and again, that build quality is top shelf. These 1980s vintage Contax Zeiss lenses are not only extremely competent lenses, but for the most part, they are truly affordable. The mount is easily adaptable to Canon EOS cameras and of course will work fine adapted for any mirrorless body. The 85/1.4 is a notable exception as those still fetch King Midas prices, but most of the other Contax Zeiss SLR lenses from the 80s are reasonable.

It should be noted that Carl Zeiss is making many of those old Contax lenses in mounts for modern DSLR cameras like Nikon and Canon. The lenses are manual focus but offer a chip that gives focus confirmation and some electronic information in an EXIF file. Although that is awesome, those lenses are a lot more money than the older 1980s models in Contax/Yashinca mount.

I have owned a great many lenses from Carl Zeiss. Vintage, Modern, Classic, 35mm, Medium Format, Large Format the whole nine yards. In fact it is safe to say that other than Canon lenses, I have owned more Zeiss lenses than any other brand. I suppose that makes me a bit of a biased fanboy. Geez, I have four Zeiss lenses right now! What is it about Zeiss? Leica is legendary for lenses but more so for cameras. Leitz invented the 35mm still camera for heaven’s sake. But Zeiss was making lenses when Ernst Senior was still wetting his pants! Zeiss was founded in 1846. That is some serious experience right there friends.

Zeiss versus Leica aside, this 180mm lens performs well and can be found for affordable prices. If you are shooting a Canon and can afford to get an EF 200/2.8L or Nikon and can swing the coin for the AF 180/2.8 ED Nikkor those are both as good optically and offer internal focusing, auto focus and full compatibilty with your camera. There is no substitute for that. But if you are like me, and really enjoy a more nostalgic experience with a heavy build quality, manual focus and knowing that you are shooting a piece of glass that in its day was the crème de la crème of photography, then toss a few hundred in the basket and pick one of these up.

So along with this little review I’ll write a sonnet for my Sonnar.

I found you online at a bargain sale
You lovely machine of metal and glass
At thirty five you remain fresh not stale
Still you radiate quality and class,

I could sing to the world how sharp you are
I shall not for my voice is much too horse
The glass from Schott is such a shining star
Lenses for film and digital of course

From Germany you came to me from Zeiss
And some may think you are well past your prime
To me you are so much more than the price
To hell with them I’d buy you every time

This sonnet for my Sonnar is so nice
But this is line fourteen the final rhyme.

Clearly my poetry lacks, I did not follow the problem-resolution-solution method, Giacomo da Lentini may be rolling over in his grave.

All I can say is this:  “Life is short, Zeiss lenses are sharp, and being silly now again is good for the soul.”

I think Signore da Lentini will forgive me, English professors may not however 😉 Addio.

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