Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZF lens (Nikon mount) now available for pre-order

The new Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZF lens was announced back in September of 2010. The lens is scheduled to be released in Q1 of 2011 and Adorama is already taking pre-orders. Once this Zeiss lens becomes available, I have planned a hands-on comparison with the new Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G.

Technical specifications:

Focal length: 35 mm
Aperture range: f/1.4 - f/16
Number of elements/groups: 11/9
Focusing range: 0.3 m - infinity
Angular field**
63/54/37 °
Coverage at close range: 18 x 12 cm (close-up)
Image ratio at close range: 1:5 (close-up)
Filter thread: M 72 x 0.75
Weight: 830-850g
Length with caps: 120-122mm
Mounts: ZF.2 (F bayonet)
ZE (EF bayonet)

Lens design:

Sample image:

Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZF sample

Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZF sample

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  • Looks nice. Too bad it’s not AF. I think in a lens like this AF is important because a 35 is used in fluid situations. When the lens is this fast, pre focusing does not work that well. Only “IMO”.

    • Mock Kenwell

      Ron, Zeiss isn’t concerned with AF. They’ve always been about lens build, quality and sharpness. Unfortunately, now that everyone has caught up with them glass-wise, not having AF makes them esoteric at best. I look forward to the head-to-head.

      • The Nikon 35/1.4 is way better than the Nikon 24/1.4; I suppose it might be sharper than the Zeiss 35/1.4 too, but I doubt too many people will look for that; below 50mm (or even 85) sharpness is not that important.
        I’d still like to point out the great OOF rendering; nicely blured (like you’d expect from a lens this fast) but still well defined. I like the coloured highlights near the light source borders; I wonder if they would’t be too faded in the Nikon version, which seems to aim more for a creamy bokeh, exactly like in a telephoto.

        • grumps

          It’s unfair the compare to different focal length lenses, but for arguement sake I know what you mean :p

          The sweet spot today are theses focal lenths, 35, 50, 85, 100, which perform amazingly well with AF. Most of todays major AF brands have indeed caught up like Mock Kenwell says. The difference and preference would be esoteric as he suggests.

          • If by „esoteric” you mean not based on sharpness graphs, then we agree. There are (at least) two other prongs 🙂 in what makes a lense unique: background rendering (even if I’m sick and tired of people discussing bokeh ’till the virtual ink runs dry) and, of course, the build. If you happen to preffer adjusting a lens manually, you almost can’t do it in current (electronic) designs. If you never used a Zeiss, my advice would be to get at least a single one (doesn’t matter which) on your camera, leave the cap on and simply turn the focus ring. I’m sure that the next time you’d meet a CaNikon engineer, you’ll be hard pressed not to punch him in the nose; it’s a real shame what passes today as acceptable handling…

            • Jim

              I agree. And mainly it’s the result of AF. They should also look at the distance the focusing ring travels from infinity to the closest focusing point. On AF lenses the focus range has been compressed (as well as the whole mechanism lightened) to help the with the focusing. Yes, AF has its place, particularly in action situations but thinking photographers appreciate good manual focusing lenses.

            • jack


              It is true that the manual focus is nicer, but when is the last time you had a camera with a viewfinder that matched the MF viewfinders in the old Nikons… having used the 50 f2 Macro and Voigt 58 (both of which I loved), I gave them up… the viewfinders in the new digital SLRs just aren’t good enough (d700).

              Manual focusing with the F3 is a dream, but AF in the new DSLR’s is so good now, I’m not sure why I would even try to manual focus exclusively–unless its studio, macro, or landscape, and a 35 f1.4 really isn’t necessary in any of these cases.

        • really?

          below 35mm sharpness isn’t important? I take it you don’t shoot landscapes often?

          • jack

            I think he’s talking about sharpness wide open… how many landscapes are you shooting at f1.4

            If you’re crazy about landscapes and spending this kind of money, get a 14-24 or, even better, a T/S lens.

    • Baked bananas

      @Ron scoobbee… you mean …with a manual lens this fast I can’t photograph unwilling chicks on the street just in time for me getting away by running from the cops when they call. Your site has such a weird wild kingdomnish feel to it. Adult human females species in their natural habitat. If I were a lion I would find it educational. I guess you have a tranquilizer scoped rifle (nikon makes GREAT scopes too you know), some duct tape, and some measuring tape in your backpack just in case?

  • Phil

    It would be nice to compare this optic to it’s Nikon equivalent. It appears that some technology Nikon is using to improve sharpness in their new high speed optics is coming at the expense of bokeh. The 85mm is the worst victim so far. It’s bokeh has been utterly destroyed, but it is sharper edge to edge in the principle point of focus.

    That’s no consolation as far as I’m concerned, however. So it would be interesting to see how this lens would compare to the equivalent focal length Nikkor.

    • danpe

      I think you confused the 85 mm with the 50 mm?

      • Phil

        Nope, the 85mm 1.4.

        • Um.

          We must be thinking of different Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF-S lenses or you have a bad copy or you’re referring to the pre-release bokeh samples that were a joke.

          • Phil

            Nope. Have a look at the review on this very site. Look at all the wide open shots. They all have the same shredded, stratified, banded-looking bokeh. Look at an earlier version of the optic and compare. No contest. To add insult to injury, the $300 Samyang 85mm f1.4 puts it to shame.

  • scurvyhesh

    thats a lot for a cosina lens.

    • oneANT

      and yet you still cannot afford it.
      The whole concept of licensed manufacturing is to reduce costs but if you would rather pay for a Zeiss worker in Germany on the same manufacturing cell as the machine in Japan then more fool you.

      • scurvy hesh

        HAHA what? Are you assuming I cant afford it? Its not that I cant afford it, I just refuse to. Anyways I’m just bringing up a funny point that a lot of people dont know. And for the price many of the people on here would be better served with the new Samyang 35mm which will probably be under 500 bucks. I’m sure this a great lens, but I really doubt it is going to be that much greater quality than the Nikkor. The fact that there is no auto focus option makes this not even worth it to me. maybe Luddites will like it, but I wouldn’t pay more than 1200 for this.

      • scurvy hesh

        Here is the MTF for the Samayng. Looks pretty good from my house http://www.miedema.dyndns.org/fmpics/Samyang-35mm-f14-AS-UMC-lens-mtf-graph-300×270.jpg

        Since this lens is going to be 500 or under I would ask yourself this. Is the Zeiss really going to be 1500 dollars better? Its possible, but I doubt it. As long as you take good quality pics, no one is going to say “hey thats shit because its a Samyang” they are just going to admire the picture.

  • Yay! Prizes!

  • texasjoe

    I use ziess lens wipes for my nikkor prime and zoom lens. I bought them at walmart for $2.97. That’s about what I’d pay for a ziess product, not $1800.

    • Scurvy hesh

      Fo’ real. I’d buy the Nikkor 35 1.4 afs over this any day.

  • I barely wait a comparison with Nikon AF-S. 😉

  • cirtap

    A Question….

    IS there a compatible ring with Zeiss Lens..to make it AF on a Nikon Camera?


    • Markus

      Nope and probable it isn’t possible.

    • Anonymus Maximus

      Kind of in principle yes,

      There is a 1,6 teleconverter that allows AF wiht Nikon mount manual lenses.
      However, I have never seen the image quality tested.
      Also your 35 1.4 becomes a 56 1.8.
      And so few were built, that I have never ever seen one in the used market.

      So practically no.

      • dudemanppl

        TC-16A? They’re everywhere dude, you must be blind or something.

  • Eric Calabros

    Quality of the model is more obvious 🙂

    • Discontinued

      Drinking habits?

  • Joe

    The question is: Is this lens worth upgrading my awesome Zeiss 35/2?

    Looking forward to see comparisons between these lenses, too.

  • Do you think that this lens, mounted on a D90, would use its autofocus motor?

    • Eric

      Which part of “manual focus” don’t you understand?

    • asdasd

      of course… when you hear the motor turning right. rotate lens barrel to left, and vice versa. works perfectly fine if you ask me.
      it gets little used to it to learn the noise, but otherwise, you can’t beat zeiss

    • Tomra

      you need adapter called Sony Alpha A850 and then you can buy Alphamount version of this one.
      as bonus you win 12 more megapixels

      • scurvy hesh

        and 1999 era noise

  • Kerni

    by the way, there is a fresh review of the new AF-S 35mm 1.4 at photozone.de.
    The lens seems to be pretty good.

    • RW

      The Nikon AF-S 35mm/1.4G has just been reviewed by LensTip.com as well. After I read this review, I decided I probably will not buy this lens but instead the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm/2.8, which received an excellent review on photozone.de and costs less. (I guess it always depends on what you are looking for in a lens. ) For the difference in price between the former and the latter I could still add the Nikon AF-S 35mm/1.8G, if I wanted.

  • This lens has got very good recommendation from the guy who runs LensRentals:

    • LGO

      Good link there. Thanks.

      That was a costly click for me too as I decided to pre-order one after reading the article. I have the Nikkor 200mm f/2.0 (wonderful companion to the Zeiss 100mm f/2.0) and think him very credible given his experience with hundreds of lenses over the years. He runs a good site too.

      I used the NR link to pre-order. NR deserves our support for work it does. Now, the inevitable wait!

  • I think the world is gone made (at least Nikon and Zeiss) selling simple prime lenses for close to two thousand dollars! It used to be primes were cheapish, zooms were more, and 2.8 zooms were the most expensive. It’s hard to see the difference between a 1.8 prime and a 1.4 when it’s almost 10x $ more for the 1.4.

    That said, I’m pleased to see Zeiss showing off how it renders out of focus stuff. That’s real important and some of their past modern lenses haven’t handled the out of focus stuff well. Their old stuff like tessar and planar were yummy at this and it’s been missing for a while.

    • I actually agree. The 50mm 1.4 isn’t really a lot better than the 1.8. If you care about sharpness, you can’t use 1.4 and be happy with your shot. In fact, when (if) I ever need to replace my 50mm 1.4, I’ll very heavily consider the 1.8 instead. It seemed like I could shoot the 1.8 wide open, where I have a hard time shooting the 1.4 at 1.8 with the same sharpness. It has been about a decade since I owned the 1.8, so I may be glamorizing the lens a bit in my memory.

      Nonetheless, it would seem that it’s more about the photographer, and less about the lens. The big camera companies know that the superfast lenses are as much a status symbol as they are a superior creative tool. No doubt the 1.4 lenses have an advantage or two. Double the price of the 1.8 counterpart? Sure. Four to five times?

      Are the lens makers really putting so much money into producing each superfast model, both in R&D and in low yield (due to minor imperfections), that they are justified in charging more to account for production costs alone? I’m not looking at the bottom line of Nikon, Canon, or Zeiss, but I’d be very surprised if the profit margins were roughly equal between the 1.8 lenses and the 1.4/1.2 models.

    • mshi

      You forgot how much Nikkor 35 1.4 was priced in 1970? It wasn’t cheap at all.

  • fiatlux

    I’m sure some will prefer the heft and feel of the MF Zeiss over the AF-S Nikkor, assuming comparable IQ.

    What will be interesting is how well the Samyang 35mm 1.4 will perform, as it will also offer a classic MF alternative to the AF-S Nikkor.

    • scurvy hesh

      I agree. they should also compare the Samyang as well.

  • Dan

    Hope it’s me

    • Anton

      What do you mean?

  • Reilly Diefenbach

    Lens fanatics: “that section of the photographic asylum where they keep the incurables.”

  • Primes are so much more reliable than zooms and manual focus only is by far a longer lasting lens design than AF. Don’t get me wrong I use my Nikon AF lenses a lot but those who don’t need AF appreciate a prime lens. In fact I have a hell of a lot of outstanding images shot on old Nikon primes, they render images just that bit more sharper!! Another consideration is that AF lenses won’t last anywhere near the time of a prime lens. So whether it’s a prime Zeiss or Nikon lens I will choose it over a zoom any day.

  • Common_Sense

    I doubt if any person with common sense would pay nearly $2000 for the manual focus lens, with very basic electronics, no distance chip, made by Cosina.
    I think Nikon coating is superior, Nikon design is more advanced ( “zeiss” is re-calculated old design) and I expect Nikon is sharper at f1.4

    • Joe

      Have you ever tried a Zeiss ZF(.2) 35/2, 50/2 or 100/2? Those lenses have an image quality that is simply amazing, IMO better than anything Nikon does. Images shot by these lenses have a very distinctive look 3D through their special Arri (T*) coating and many photographers swear by it.

  • D700guy

    It’s nice to know that Andorama has the Nikon 35mm 1.4 available. I have been waiting for ever for B&H to get the stupid thing in stock

  • D700guy

    Sorry, Adorama.

  • 10thNikon

    I’m pretty confident that this lens is aimed towards the budding DSLR cinema market. This is where smooth manual focus – over an extended rotation becomes very important – because the act of focusing is recorded ;^). Isn’t this part of the series which they also offer in canon & arri pl-mount?

  • Oh no! I was thinking about pressing the “Order” button when I realized that, like the new Nikkor, it doesn’t have an aperture ring. Bummer. Won’t buy a “G” lens… ever. The other ZF.2’s have aperture rings. Why not the 35mm?

    • Lio

      G lens ??? I’ve nearly missed it too.

      • LGO

        The Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 in photo is the ZE version. The Canon version does not have the aperture ring.

        The Nikon ZF.2 version retains the aperture ring. You can if you choose to still set the aperture using the ring though it would also be possible to set the aperture using the electronic aperture control on the camera body even with bodies such as the D40, D60, D3000, D3100.

    • Joe

      Indeed, I missed that too! Zeiss made AI-lenses only until 1 or 2 years ago, and now G? But what is your application of an aperture ring today, except old manual film cameras or extension tubes? Sure I would prefer to have one than not, but if I think about it it’s locked 100% of the time on all CPU-lenses I own.

      • Well, you call them old, but I still use film cameras. Also, I’d rather adjust the aperture on the lens than on the body, when shooting video. Then there is macro photography where there is no linkage to the lens.

    • oneANT

      HAHAHAHA …
      The lens shown is the Canon mount.

      A ‘G’ Zeiss
      HAHAHAHA …

      • The world revolves around Nikon

  • Adamz

    In love with this lens allready.

  • Though I’m sure it’s a great lens, I wouldn’t pay $1800 for a mf prime. I am looking forward to the comparison with the Nikon.

  • That sample (at unknown aperture) doesn’t appear to have anything over my Nikon 35/2, let alone the new AFS 1.4. Zeiss is great if you want a lens for your Sony or a microscope or a telescope or a rangefinder lens. Doesn’t really make sense on a Nikon SLR, unless you’re OCD about using high quality MF glass. But heck, my AF lenses have MF too. The gearing is good enough for video wide open.

    And I like the small size and weight of my 35/2. Really for $1800 it should come with a free camera or something. Even the Nikon is under $1800.

    • Tony

      Are you sure you own the 35/2.
      This lens would be wasted on you.

      The gearing …you dont have any.
      Focus pull gear is readily fitted to the ZF lenses, would be a giggle to fit it to an AF lens. You do need to know what you are talking about before you talk.

  • james

    considering how good the 35/1.4G is, and that the zeiss is just as expensive, i can’t imagine a lot of nikon users going for this.

    also considering that the excellent canon 35L is only $1300, i see even fewer canon users buying this.

    the zeiss might have some value at, say, ~$1100, but someone above put it well: the other makers are making glass that’s just as sharp, with AF and very rugged bodies. zeiss is going to have a hard time selling this lens at a whopping $1800.

    • scurvy hesh

      Thats what I am saying! Its the price that puts me off. Especially considering that there is not even a AF option!?! They could have done some double clutch mechanism that gives the feel of mf and the af when you want it. I’d pay 2 grand for that, well maybe not…..

  • FM-2 fan

    for those, who need a fast 24 and 30mm lens – forget the Zeiss, since you will reduce productivity when focussing manually …

    for those, who think the 24 is not necessary – well, it’s your choice, but getting really close is amazing

    • oneANT

      let me guess ..you have poor eyes. “Getting really close”, could this be the only time you can see anything?

  • chris

    does anyone here actually own any zeiss glass? because if you did the price increase would seem very reasonable to you…

    i own the zeiss 100mm f/2 and it produces images that make me want to sell all my nikon glass, and indeed when the 35/1.4 becomes available my 17-35 will be the first thing to go…

    im sick of everyone on here comparing sharpness and AF blah blah blah, sharpness is a blip in a sea of things that makes a lens great. the zeiss lenses just have a look to them that the nikons and canon’s cant match. i dont know what it is, maybe micro contrast or something, but the images produced by the zeiss are FREAKING GORGEOUS. the subject jumps off the paper, the bokeh is so beautifully rendered it feels like you could run your fingers through it, blacks are deep and whites are sparkly, the colors are rendered very naturally and almost delicately. the pictures feel like your there, like you could reach out and touch them. they’re magical.

    these arent your typical lenses. the best way i can put it is that my nikkor images feel “blunt” or almost cartoony compared to the zeiss images despite being almost as sharp. the zeiss just makes everything look sooo good.

    on another note, ive sent my 300mm f/4 AFS in to nikon 3 times now to replace the AF motor, my 17-35 was never sharp from the beginning and both of them are useless when it comes to manual focussing (not to mention the lack of a DOF scale on the 17-35, nikon what were u thinking?). my zeiss has been everywhere my nikkors have and handles like the day i bought it, thats more than i can say for my nikkors. zeiss lenses just have a level of craftmanship that is above and beyond, these are lenses i will give to my grandchildren, just as my uncle gave his zeiss lenses from the 50’s to me.

    now the zeisses arent perfect, they possibly make the worst lens cap known to man, but i can live with that considering the image quality they give..

    • scurvyhesh

      Yes I had a Hasselblad 503. A great camera, but too cumbersome for what I do. Ill agree with you on the lack of DOF scale, but the other characteristics you mentioned are purely subjective. The fact is that this lens lacks a simple crucial component (af coupling) Auto focus is awesome, and very helpful when needing to capture that decisive moment or track a moving object. For almost 2 grand I expect the option.

      I cant speak on your experiences with your lenses, but I know many people who swear by their 17-35s. I do know that afs and usm motors have been know to wear out over time. Taking that into consideration I use almost all mechanically coupled primes. Love my 300 f4 (non afs) built like a tank, sharp as a tack, and beutifal neutral colors. Is it as good as a Zeiss? maybe not in some ways, but it is just as good in many ways and better in others. I do know that I only paid $450.00 for a cherry copy. And no one looking at my pictures will give two shits what kind of lens I’m using. But hey to each his own right?

      • chris

        yah different strokes for different folks, but lack of AF has never been a crippling factor for what i do, and for the types of photography that i find are suited to the zeiss. i would gladly take a very nice MF ring over AF for what i shoot with the zeiss (street, landscapes, portraitry etc…). i dont see lack of AF as the crippling factor here, infact the great feel of the zeiss is a bonus IMO.

        known to wear out over time is a bit of an understatement, my 300 is only 4 years old, and its been to nikon 3 times for a broken AFS motor, my 17-35 is starting to squeak as well. for the amount i paid for these lenses, they should be good for atleast 10 years, i know my zeiss will be.

        ill agree that no one might care what lens you using, but they’ll care what your picture looks like, and the zeiss give me a better look in a photo.

        anyways my end point is that its not 100% sharpness, thats not my primary concern in this lens (especially for a 35mm f/1.4, we know its not going to be amazing at 1.4, not alot of lenses are) its how the lens renders the scene.

        • LGO

          Got the ZF 100mm f/2.0 too and this is my lighter and more portable version of the Nikkor 200mm f/2.0.

          I am really intrigue with this monster-sized prime lens. When one considers the size and weight of this prime lens which is very close to the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 and thus even heavier than the ZF 100mm f/2.0, all this weight and bulk cannot but hint at what this lens will be capable of. Theses, plus the endorsement of Roger Cicala of Lensrental, was enough for me to squeeze the trigger on this Zeiss 35mm f/1.4.

  • M

    Want a great 15mm? Get the Zeiss distagon 15mm f2.8. No autofocus? No problem, set it at f10 and everything is tack sharp. It a gorgeous lens and well worth the 2200 Euro I spent over it! No silent wave motor, AF motor, VR and other electronic marvels? You will regret having those in 10 or 15 years time when they start malfunctioning… my Distagon will still be working perfectly!

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