Sample images from the new Zeiss Distagon 55mm f/1.4 lens

The guys from PCH were able to snap few images with the new Zeiss Distagon 55mm f/1.4 lens attached to a Nikon D800E during the 2012 Photokina show. The new high-end lens from Zeiss is specially designed for high resolution (over 30MP) full frame DSLR cameras like the Nikon D800 and D800E. Shipping is expected to start in September 2013 with a price tag around 3,000 EUR. As far as I know, those are the first Distagon 55mm f/1.4 samples available online:

100% crop from the above image:

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  • jason

    without AF, is this practical?

    unless working on still subjects…

    • AM


      • D4ve

        Seems pretty easy to understand. What’s your issue?

        • fifi

          Huh? Formula 1 cars don’t have ABS. Is it practical?

          • Mike


            Best. Reply. Ever. :]

            • Not Surprised

              Fail – even Formula 1 cars have Power Steering.

              AF needed. Now.

              Excellent images.

            • Big J

              @Not Surprised

              So? They also have wheels and techs also.

          • Fiatlux

            Not sure a F1 is a very practical car 😉

            • Pablo Ricasso

              Ho Ho Ho. A POWERSHOT in your stocking then.

          • Zaphod

            They used to have it, but it was banned in 1993. It was too good. A formula one car with ABS would beat the shit out of a one with out it. The ban is there to make the car perform not so good. I don’t see why a lens should try do the same.

            • karl

              “dude, I bought this friggin’ awesome lens for $4000, check this out – I focus manually – not like those losers with AF-S – how friggin’awesome is that?”
              “Wow, that’s cool, you’re so friggin’ cool photog, like a pro or sometin'”

          • T.I.M

            @ fifi
            My dirt bike have an electric starter, some say that it’s not a real dirt bike because it does not have a kick start, they spend alot of time trying to start the bike while….I’m riding mine

            Autofocus is great, always fast and acurate.

            People who think that manual focus is better, do they also use a hand crank to start their car ?

            • fifi

              I never said AF is bad but you can live without it. In some situations MF is better, especially in very shallow DoF situations when you have to choose where you want the focus. Yes, AF is fast and pretty accurate, but MF can be quite fast, too. Everything depends on your needs and preferences. Of course, for sports I’d choose AF lens.

            • AAron

              how do you focus such fast lens on person during documentary? Without rangefinder, without good viewfinder (even 1 digit nikons are worse then canon and sony)?
              Everybody saying that he can MF fast lens for important shooting on nonstatic subjects is internet troll. Zeiss sells no lenses. They make specialty lenses for those who buy it because it is Zeiss, not because it have any real world advantages.

            • fifi

              @AAron: and h.t.f. are cinematographers doing their job?????? You obviously belong to category of people who think this kind of lens is useless if they can’t afford it, don’t know it’s potential or simply don’t know how to use it. I know a few people who bought them, well, I’m not one of them, but I gladly rent them when I need them. these guys are not so stupid to buy them just to show off, they actually use them. So, yes, this lenses sell!

          • Nick

            No – they aren’t practical. they only drive about 10,000 miles in their lives, are serviced every 300 miles, if they make it that far between services, and there are probably fewer than 1000 people in the world who can make them go round corners.

            Plus there is nowhere to put your luggage…

            • T.I.M

              you forgot to mention that they burn 1 gallon gas every 2 miles !

            • Art

              Unless of course, you have an Ariel Atom — which has about enough extra space to put your sack lunch in the luggage compartment under the hood. (I totally want one…. Road legal, 0-60 in 2.8 sec — faster than an Enzo — it will be great for pulling into traffic on the freeway. Plus, it gets better mileage.)

            • Big J

              One of the best cars ever made the Atom. They have a “newer” model with a bigger engine, but I like the B16C engine in it, anything more is over kill for a such a speedy car. My second love is the Rinspeed Splash, amphibious car great for when living by the beach like in Miami with all the keys or jumping from island to island in the Canary Islands.

          • zoetmb

            When AF lenses were first produced, I thought they were the most silly invention ever. But there are three reasons why they are needed for digital cameras:
            – we tend to shoot far faster with high frame rates so there’s no time to focus in-between.
            – for us older photographers, our eyesight is getting worse
            – even if the two above items didn’t apply, the fact is that the groundglass in today’s DSLRs doesn’t lend itself to manual focusing. They need to return to split-image groundglasses so we can manually focus. If they did that, I would gladly return to using manual focus lenses.

            • Daniel

              Some pros claim they can shoot MF faster. If you’re using 1.4 yur DOF is so small that you have to focus on the eyes in portraits. But the camera just picks an AF field from many. Perhaps there is something to it.

              You can get ground glass focus screens. Look up Katz Eyes.

            • gsum

              I’m an old codger with failing eyesight and, whilst I’m in general agreement with your comment, manual focusing has its uses. I wouldn’t dream of using autofocus for macro photography for example, and it’s good to put those super-sharp old manual Nikkors to use too. Much cheaper than buying modern Zeiss glass.

            • Tooma

              I can manually focus better with a large viewfinder, no question. A skilled photographer is always better than a computer/machine. I can follow a man on a bike or a car racing by me while bursting and get every shot in focus. The real challenge is when things are coming straight for us in a hurry and AF also stinks at that. When you know your lenses, and all the variables it is like mastering a video game. All you guys that rely on AF hate MF b/c you’ve become too dependent on technology, you need to learn to trust your senses.

            • photoclimo

              +1 – totally agree about the ground glass

            • Jabs

              @zoetmb – Give me an F3HP with a ‘P’ or ‘M’ screen any day for fast manual focusing. Great points!

          • Jabs

            @fifi – Actually your humor is great but right now most race cars do use something more sophisticated than ABS for the same function too. There is more and better electronics on race cars than any basic street car = get up to speed in facts, but nice humor – lol.

            • fifi

              Yes, I know they have tons of electronics like traction control, start assist….. Well,they have more buttons on the steering wheel than old Minoltas. Only thing they don’t have is Ego Control and ABS. But I think you get my point. Wish you nice day and great photos (with or without AF)

    • kyoshinikon

      I shoot Sports with a Speed Graphlex… Is that Practical enough for you?

      • Eric

        Life Magazine photographer Bill Epperidge, who’s most famous photo is the one of RFK’s assassination, told me a story about his time at the j-school at the University of Missouri-Colombia, where he shot Mizzou football with a speed graphic. And at the time the darkroom at the stadium had a dirt floor.

        All you old timey film photographers will understand the implications of that. Imagine the amount of dust you would have on the negative! It boggles the mind. Even more than shooting football with a speed graphic and four sheets of 4×5 film! When I was at Mizzou shooting Big 8 sports for UPI, I would shoot six rolls in a half. And no dirt floor and dust still was an issue! 🙂

      • No… I highly doubt you do. Anyone who has one would know it’s called a Graflex Speed Graphic, etc. You wouldn’t get that wrong just the same way you’d know the brand and model of the car you’re driving.

        • Toad & Rack

          Whatever, you probably drive a Honda Sonata!

    • Midnight Runner

      AF?? Really… you still use it?

  • Can’t tell much from these images. Need to compare to similar lenses and shoot a few test charts as well.

  • Michel

    Thats a number one sharp lens

    • no, just Zeiss marketing works well.
      stopped down is every lens as good as this one

      overpriced, but if somebody wants it, all power to him. we smart ones in meantime will be making same moneys with “worse” equipment. 50/1.4AF-D in my case

      • zzzzzzz

        Harold, just look at the depth of field. These photos are wide open at f1.4 surely. The Nikkor is nowhere near as sharp wide open.

        • Michael

          Hi fren, 50 1.4 wide open won’t look like the second picture, the depth of f/1.4 50mm is only around 3mm at this distance. first picture is likely wide open. Second one I bet is f/4.

        • Roger

          2nd pic and 100% crop are F/5.6.

  • Joe Chuckwagon

    SNOOZEFEST!!! This falls in the category of who cares…no real shooters are going to waste their money on this. This for pixel-peepers with lots of money.

    • An annonimous photog

      Indeed. Zeiss lenses are wonderfully build and the quality is excellent too but I also wonder if even the Zeiss can show a CLEAR difference in relation to the competition on a D800E. might be that the edge contrast is a tiny better.

      Well we have to wait till some one who owns one shows that we are all wrong and that Zeiss 55mm is soo soo much better. 🙂

      • Sky

        Remind me which 50mm prime gets close to this? Cause Nikon doesn’t have any.

        • fifi

          nor does anybody else…. zeiss rules!

          • karl

            in the Apple vs everyone else theme, people like you are called iSheeps.

            • fifi


          • jhanken

            Sigma 1.4 is amazing and available for Nikon, and it has great, fast autofocus, very low vignetting if you care about that.

        • bert

          Well, just the F 1.8. It’s a magnificent lens.

          • Zaphod

            They should do a pro version though. Sealed, VR III and metal body.

    • fifi

      real shooters???? you mean those people who think 8 fps is not enough! and yes, no real shooters will waste their money on this lens, they will spend it!

    • Don

      Starts Shipping September 2013 – pfft , a day late a dollar short

    • Scorpius

      Landscape photographers will not be put off by the lack of AF.. personally i would hesitate to drop this much dough on a MF lens…

  • Shawn

    Where the hell is the 15mm f/2.8 we were promised would ship last March?

    • Joe

      At your favorite Zeiss dealer. Go and get one.

      • Shawn

        Has never shown up at NYC high volume shops. (I’m on the lists.)
        Out of stock in Zeiss Online Store.
        Have never seen one in the field.

        Figment of the imagination in N. America.

    • JC


    • Ben

      Got mine in April (live in germany, german retailer) — awesome lens!

  • St.

    for over $3k? Thanks!
    Until I don’t make money with high end studio work, I’ll pass this lens.
    I’m sure it’s ultra sharp, but so is my 85mm 1.4 on D800.
    Nikon’s 50mm are not ultra sharp, but 60mm 2.8 is.

    • Joe Chuckwagon

      ST, you are dead-on…the 60mm 2.8…doesn’t get any sharper than that lens or the previous version. Both are fantastic.

  • Worminator

    I doubt it is a “ZM” lens, this is the designation of a Zeiss lens in Leica M mount.

    The 15/2.8 looks like it will be formally announced in a few days. Events scheduled for Nov 6th.

  • Camaman

    Is it this sharp at f1.4?
    Or is this like f2.8?

    • RossF

      The first image looks wide open, the second (from which the 100% crop is taken) looks stopped down to some extent – you can see the aperture blades on some of the highlight circles in the background.

    • iamlucky13

      The Exif data says F/1.4 on the first image and F/5.6 on the second. Unfortunately, he didn’t provide a 100% crop of the first image, and of course on the second, it’s from the center of the field.

  • CJ

    For you doubters out there, the Zeiss is NOT for you, just get lost, be quiet…

    • Jonna

      Where are all negative comments coming from?

      Zeiss didn’t have most of you in mind when they design these lens.

      These lenses are dedicated to only a small group of Zeiss owners.

      You don’t qualify to criticize them until you owned one of Zeiss.

      • karl

        and you are who exactly, to tell us what to think about an overpriced Zeiss lens ?

        • bob2

          Pros with exacting standards. Similar to Leica lenses, designed for very high image standards, at similar prices. It’s only “overpriced” if you don’t need it. The lens is above your standards and clearly not intended for your needs.

          • Hans Walth


          • fifi

            couldn’t agree more!

          • karl

            yeah right, all 3 professional Zeiss shooters meet on NR

            • Zack Lee.

              Pics/ports/tear sheets or GTFO.

            • Mike

              Karl, you’re a douche. You obviously know this, but feel the need to simply prove it to us with each of your posts. Just because you have poor eyesight and can’t focus manually to save your life doesn’t mean we should have to listen to you go on and on about how much of a waste it is to buy exotic glass from Zeiss. We get it. You’re a douche and thats not really your fault. We’ll try our best in the future to take that into account before we reply to you. Sympathy for the hapless douche is a very Jesus like trait, if I do say so myself.

            • karl

              Mike, where did I mention I buy overpriced Leica/Zeiss stuff to show off ?

          • jhanken

            I would say anyone who purchases better Nikon, Canon or even Sigma lenses are in a position to comment on Zeiss and Leica lenses. All five companies have made stinkers and stars, and generally price is commensurate with quality, albeit with the German Leica and Hybrid Zeiss lenses garnering a slight brand-equity premium. It is all relative.

      • St.

        I do own Zeiss lens, so I can criticize those in your words.
        The negative comments come from the fact that Zeiss lenses, as Leica lenses, although extremely good, are also extremely overpriced.
        Plus I will tell you, that the best pictures I’ve seen are not made nor with Leica cameras or lenses, nor with Zeiss lenses. It happens to be almost every time a Nikon or Canon camera and lenses. Why?
        Because those high prices make that equipment not desirable even for the best photographers – I would say it’s equipment for “rich snobs” (most of the time, not saying every Leica/Zeiss owner is a snob).
        Almost all pictures taken from such photographers are stupid, non-sense pictures of objects, faces like those above. Which of those you liked?
        The studio and fashion photographers if want to jump over the regular full frame, go and buy Hasselblad, Mamiya, etc. At least they really get something more for their money – dynamic range, pixels, etc.
        So please stop hitting the drums if your mom and dad are rich and you can afford such expensive tools, because they DON’T MAKE YOU BETTER PHOTOGRAPHERS!!!!

        • Ben

          I agree with you but this here is not really an argument:
          “faces like those above. Which of those you liked?”

          Those images were not made with art in mind but to show the performance of the lens under these limited shooting conditions.

          And I’ve yet to see a really outstanding photo made at such an exhibition.

          • Rudi

            If you ask: I like the guy with the Canon strap best 😉

        • Mike

          Wow, talk about out of touch with reality. Go back to your 10MP DX and take some pictures of kittens or a spider web and leave the discussion about professional gear to those that actually have a clue whats going on in the world of cameras and technology. Your opinion is unimportant in regards to this gear. Move on.

          • BartyL

            Well, that’s a very “Jesus like” response Mike. Was Jesus a douche, or just his followers?

  • john

    I was at the PDN show and I pesonally got to test this with a d800.
    Let tell you there is a difference like night and day. Behind the table is a perfect subject, an arrangement of flowers. So with my nikon d800 I used a nikkor 50m 1.4, I shot the flowers than with the 55m distagon using exact same settings, same white balance at 1.4, same exposure only thing different was one is 50m and other 55m focal length.. took same picture. than we put cameras side by side on the table and zoomed into max. when comparing, the Zeis lens showed more sharpness, more detail and better color tonality, and the nikkor 50m was just blurry, I’m sorry to say the difference was like night and day. I was with 3 other friends and we all came to same conclusion. The price is overwhelming to say the least but if you need that sharpness and you need that rich color and detail the zeis delivers the goods. I’m not rich myself but I would not mind having a 55 zeis in my bag especially when I’m doing street photography or portraits. Granted you do have to take your time to focus in on the shot being its not AF but you must consider its a style of photography and a passion you must have, otherwise its just not for you. Its nice to have options and the zeis clearly beats out the nikkor 50m, way less CA, much sharper and colors pop.

    • iamlucky13

      I’d expect there to be less difference at smaller apertures, but really, for the price if this lens didn’t beat out the Nikon somewhere, I’d be severely disappointed my fellow humans who pay as much for it, and the Nikkor 50’s are unfortunately relatively soft at 1.4.

      • …iunno. I like my 50/1.4G wide open just fine. But I usually shoot a D700. Although I liked it wide open just fine on a D3x too. YMMV.

        • iamlucky13

          I’m not saying they’re bad wide open by any means, but the 50mm F/1.4G performs clearly better closed even just one stop down compared to wide open, and according to those who have actually measured it, peak resolution at somewhere around F/8 is about 3 times as good as wide open.

          It’s hard to complain about losing a bit of sharpness wide open in exchange for being able to shoot acceptably at F/1.4 on a $500 lens, or to shoot really well at F/2.8, and rare are the times that isn’t sufficient.

          It’s sweet though, that Zeiss seems to be producing a replacement for the old Noct Nikkor lenses to provide the absolute wide open quality for those who want it.

          A few folks apparently do. Go look for the 58mm F/1.2 on Ebay. It’s been selling for $3000-$4000 for a lens that hasn’t been produced in 15 years.

        • Scorpius

          Plus a 50mm 1.4G will be a fraction of the price of this Zeiss.. 400bucks vs at least 3000

    • Matt

      I tried it at PDN too. I was blown away!

    • jhanken

      Now THIS is a useful post, someone who actually tried it compared to something known and loved by many. I am eager to give this Zeissina lens a try, sound like it will produce results on par with the amazing Zeiss 35 f/2 I had a chance to use not too long ago.

      I think generally you will see an improvement in IQ if you go Zeiss over the medium quality of Nikon or similar lenses. I say, recognize that quality and price are related, and that buyers have an amazingly blessed range of options.

    • >I’m sorry to say the difference was like night and day.

      And this obvious difference was made using a non-calibrated LCD monitor on the back of your D800e on a trade show floor under mixed lighting?

      • karl

        it’s 8 times more expensive – so it must be 8 times better, right ?
        Status symbols are never cheap.

      • The colour calibration has nothing to do with how resolution is shown. Might want to read up on that.

        And even if it’s a bad LCD/monitor, it’s going to affect both lenses equally. So it’s a constant. Now that you can’t read up on because it’s common sense.

    • If the Nikon 50 was ‘blurry’ how do you know it was the lens? Maybe it was your poor technique? Maybe the lens wasn’t fine tuned for the body? Maybe your focus was off just a bit?

      Unless you used a tripod and focused using live view to compare the lenses I say your ‘test’ is flawed and essentially useless. The Zeiss may well be a great lens and better than the Nikon but this certainly isn’t the way to prove it.

      • kyoshinikon

        On the forums here it is proven that this issue runs in the line

        • Mike


        • I have plenty of sharp photos using my 50 f/1.8 on a D800. It is cheap, fast, sharp, and has AF. The Zeiss may be better, but you will certainly lose some shots because you don’t have AF. It’s also not worth the extra money over the 50 f/1.8 for the vast majority of shooters.

          I’m sure it will sell, but it will always be a niche product.

      • Pablo Ricasso

        Yah, it was his bad ability. He couldn’t focus it with the autofocus and couldn’t hold the camera steady with a 50mm lens on it.
        But when he had to put the heavier lens on and manually focused it his ability improved.
        Go figure.

  • RossF

    Does anyone have any info on where these lenses are going to be made? Given the price tag and the resemblance to the cinema lenses’ markings, I’d guess they’d be made in-house by Zeiss rather than sub-contracted out to Cosina?

    • Bob2

      I’d say Cosina.

      BTW, I don’t understand the prejudice against Japanese built goods–very high standards–the top Nikons and Canons are made in Japan. By way of comparison, the Leica M9 et al. are made in Portugal, with *final assembly* in Germany, whatever that means. Given the choice, I’d take Japanese construction over pretty much anything made in Southern Europe (can you say “Fiat”–fix it again Tony).

      • jhanken

        Agreed. Any reluctance I may fleetingly have to purchasing Japanese-made products is certainly not racially-based or resulting from questions of quality (Seriously? People in this world still question the quality of products based on their Japanese origin? Wow!) The only concern I may ever have is the chronic trade deficit the US has with Japan and how we fix that. Get real for a sec, where would we be as a global photographic community without the joint contributions of the Japanese and German engineers? Maybe we would be loading APS-C film into our 2 inch thick iPhones.

      • mikils

        Oh really.

        So I guess you’d buy anything made in japan rather than a Ferrari (surprise! surprise! it is owned by Fiat too!) or a Lamborghini or a Ducati bike, not to speak of furniture, Clothing, shoes and so on.

        Thank you Fred ( Can I call you Fred since you call me Tony?) for showing once again the power of blind prejudice and unnecessary generalisation

      • PhilK

        The issue isn’t “Made in Japan” – Japan is famous for building top-quality merchandise.

        The issue is “Made by Cosina” – a company which has a reputation for making mass-market, plasticky junk. (like the Nikon FM10, and a bunch of cheapo point-and-shoot cameras marketed under various names)

        Nikon never outsources production of their high-end products to Cosina.

        • That just goes to show that you haven’t even held a Zeiss lens.

          They’re are of excellent build quality, image quality aside. So you’re going by outdated information gathered back in the days of your prime ;D

        • RossF

          This is more what I was aiming at. I have no problem with whichever country a lens might be made in, I figure that in this day and age, manufacturing processes are going to be pretty well standardised between the different countries, so a Nikon made in Japan is gonna be every bit as good as a Nikon made in China, Thailand or wherever else.

          Having messed about briefly with the Cosina Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses, they’re certainly not bad by any means – certainly better than most modern plastic AF lenses that I’ve used… but they’re just not quite up to that same standard that most of the Zeiss Hasselblad lenses are.

    • Big J

      Hey RossF aren’t you that guy on flickr Ross Finnie? Was looking up image quality of an 80-200mm AFD on a D800 awhile back and a thread with a post of yours appeared.

      I have pretty good memory. It was a good thread. Thanks to it I stuck with the 70-200mm in the end for it.

      • RossF

        Yeah, that’s me. Thankfully the 80-200’s held together quite nicely again, but it’s never very good having to superglue parts of a lens back together!

  • PhilK

    Kind of a strange looking bokeh in that first shot.

    I think that there’s definitely a place for lenses like these for people who are looking for ultimate resolution. Who cares if they have AF or not, if I’m doing landscapes I generally turn the AF off anyway.

    Perfect lens to use live view with to focus far better than you could ever do with either manual focusing or automatic AF.

    You think that’s a pain, try a view camera with a focusing cloth sometime. 😉

  • KnightPhoto

    I’m not doing the type of photography where MF fits my style. Maybe someday Zeiss will reverse engineer AF like Sigma, Tokina, Tamron. Big lottery draw tonight, we’ll see 😉

  • Joseph

    I would LOVE to see this pitted against the venerable 50mm f/1.2 AIS.

    At f/2.8, on my D800E, it looks like the second image. Pixel-perfect sharpness, excellent contrast.

    Now at f/1.2 it is dreamy looking from spherical aberrations. So what. If the Zeiss is still sharp, well great, it’s just boring. I like the “look” of the 50/1.2 wide-open. Perfect sharpness means nothing, only the resultant image matters.

    • +1

      Exactly what I was thinking, while reading the comment complaining about Nikon’s 50mm lack of sharpness.
      I love mine and it’s “only” the Ai version. 7 blades, less 2 blades than Ais.

    • gsum

      “Perfect sharpness means nothing, only the resultant image matters”.

      Very true but it’s also important to be able to obtain the highest resolution when needed, otherwise there’s no point in using a very high resolution camera such as the D800.

      • Joseph

        What I am getting at, is I like the “look” from the 50/1.2 AIS at 1.2 through 2.0, which really is sharp, but dreamy from aberrations.

  • T.I.M

    Finally, it’s now possible to check if Americans landed on the moon, and with the D800E I’m sure we could see “made in china” written on the L.E.M eagle lander !

  • Not sure I agree with the comments claiming that Nikkor 50’s aren’t sharp. My 50 1.8G is very sharp and it costs bugger all.
    The samples of the Zeiss are very nice but I wouldn’t go too overboard on price for a 50.

    • St.

      Just go compare it with the 85mm 1.4 or 1.8 and 60mm 2.8 and then you’ll understand AND agree.

  • Big J

    It’s a great lens I bet. Although I don’t know why they don’t try incorporating at least a screwdriver motor in it. Or is it proprietary and that’s why they don’t do it? Guess focus trapping would make sense for street photography with it.

  • Ronan

    WHY waste your money? IF IQ is THAT important, then it’s digital medium format for you…

  • Reilly Diefenbach

    So, guys, if I put this magic Zeiss lens on my D800e, will it put out more than 7,360 × 4,912 pixels?

    • Ralph

      Not sure hats the right question. I think the Zeiss is likely to resolve all those pixels where some others may not. I tried one of my old lenses on my D800e recently, it was locked on a heavy tripod, MLU with delay on shutter in menu and cable released. The result was a picture that had all he pixels but the lens certainly didn’t resolve that many pixels. I compared he shot with the same frame but a 85f1.4 af-s and it was a lot different.

      It was an interesting exercise, I shot free hand with both lenses at 1/80s and I couldn’t see the same difference. Goes to show that to get full res you really need to take care.

      • N&D

        I bet you wrote this on a “smart” device. Right? 😉

      • “The result was a picture that had all he pixels but the lens certainly didn’t resolve that many pixels. ”

        One of the most interesting things I’ve read in a while. The “pixels” are going to be there whether you strap the camera down or toss it in the air while it’s taking a long exposure ROFL

        • Scorpius

          Not true.. Nyquist limits are at work.. if the glass can’t outresolve the sensor then some of the pixel’s are wasted…they may be “there” but they’re doing nothing..

  • I expect this lens to have stellar performance which will justify its price. What are those of us who shoot on the fly and need AF supposed to do?

  • FanBoy

    Holy Crap! The color looks exactly like the crap color of Nikkors.

  • Sahaja

    Umm.. .
    Admin, are you sure this is a ZM lens? ZM usually indicates Zeiss lenses for Leica M mount, whereas their lenses for Nikon F mount are usually called ZF or ZF2.

    I expect at this price (almost the same as that of Leica’s 50mm f/1.4 Summilux M Aspherical) this is one of their “Made in Germany” lenses.

    • You are correct – I copy and paste the wrong name, fixed now.

  • Brian

    Some of the sharpest images I’ve ever seen

  • Professional photographers using the D800 or D800E for product photography will require the sharpest lens to exploit the capabilities of the sensor. I use a 39MP Hasselblad for such work and I also own a D800E. The sensor, size for size is much better on the Nikon but the images from the Hasselblad are much sharper than anything that can be resolved with Nikon glass. This is because a medium format lens has such a large area of glass to transmit the image to the sensor compared with a 35mm system. That is what makes all the difference so any new 35mm lens that comes along that offers similar resolution to medium format glass will be welcomed and it will be the beginning of the end for bulky medium format systems. If you don’t do this type of photography with commercial demands such as these then these type of lenses are not for you.

    • Carsten

      Couldn’t agree more. Anyway, manual focus is really limited to this style of photography and there I would rather go for a PC lens (if the Nikkors weren’t so cumbersome)

      For other photography: What is the point in having the sharpest lens in the universe if the focus is off 19/20? There is nothing worse than focusing on the wrong spot

    • “This is because a medium format lens has such a large area of glass to transmit the image to the sensor compared with a 35mm system. That is what makes all the difference so any new 35mm lens that comes along that offers similar resolution to medium format glass will be welcomed and it will be the beginning of the end for bulky medium format systems.”

      You give “pros” a bad name. It’s not the amount of glass that produces a higher quality image. Don’t you know anything about how these things work?

      And anyone serious about table-top product photography wouldn’t use a conventional lens. They’d at least use a tilt-shift lens.

      • Scorpius

        It’s because the larger sensor(negative) puts less stress on the glass.. Bigger sensor of M.F is better for high res imaging…

      • Table top photography? Sounds professional doesn’t it. You are not a professional because you clearly think table top describes product photography. You are also wrong about a small surface area of glass being able to compete with a large area of glass. You also assume that all products photography use a tilt/shift lens. Although I have both Hasselblad and Nikon tilt mechanisms there is never a need for the shift function. Only about 10% of product photography uses the tilt function in any case because there is no need for it. Another reason is you are reducing what effectively is only a proportion of the surface area of the glass on a tilt lens to handle the image and now we are back to the same problem of reduced glass area. I will not stoop so low as to tell you my credentials in this area but I would question yours.

        Forums like these are intended to add benefit to those that visit, but people like you do nothing but use these platforms to be rude and pretend they have great wisdom. In a Specialist area such as product photography you should really know your business before you commit to making comments in writing. You clearly do not know this business, if indeed it is your business.

        • Do you seriously think that someone out there thinks that all products can be placed on a table? You need to get your head checked.

          Your Hasselblad tilt is junk. Only an idiot would pay that much of money to buy a piece of crap like that. And you’re completely clueless to think that using a smaller area of the image circle when using movements means using only a “proportion [sic] of the surface area of the glass” [sic]. In the time you’re parading your ignorance, you could’ve dropped me an email and learned something… I don’t even charge.

          Also your photo credentials don’t mean that you know the subject. At best it means you can sell yourself. From what you’ve said so far, I can see that however way you do it, I can do it better. So you better not let your clients/employers find out about me or this post.

  • Plug

    I would not buy it because the Nikon alternatives are excellent and have autofocus. However I have recently bought the 15mm f2.8 distagon. I admit that I am lucky in that I can afford to do so and the picture quality is awesome. There is no strong Nikkor prime in this focal length as far as I can make out, and with an ultrawide autofocus is of much lesser importance. It is nice to have the hyperfocal markers for sharp, back to front, landscapes.

  • Discontinued

    The 2.8 80 and 2.2 100 for Hasselblad’s H-System are both as “cheap” or cost even significantly less (the 80mm) than this lens …

    There is something wrong with that price. At least its is not for me. I guess I am a shitty cheap

    • Scorpius

      And the hasselblad’s also have leaf shutters…

    • RossF

      The Hasselblad H-System lenses aren’t Zeiss lenses though – the Zeiss lenses are only used on the V-System cameras. The H-System is actually a Fuji design, and all of the lenses for it are Fujinon lenses (although I don’t doubt they’re still excellent).

      • Scorpius

        If you can try the HC120mm macro mk11,it’s a superb piece of glass…

  • Trondster

    If you don’t “get” it, this lens is not for you.

    I am a previous owner of the Canon f/2.8 trifecta, as well as 135L, and sold them all for my current manual focus lineup – Samyang 14/2.8, TS-E 24/3.5 II, Zeiss ZE Makro-Planar T* 2/50 and Voigtländer SL APO-Lanthar 125/2.5 macro.

    The new Zeiss lens seems to have buttery bokeh and bitingly sharp details – I fear this could be a lens that could replace my 2/50, just like the SL 125mm replaced both my 135L and EF 100/2.8 macro, and my 2/50 in turn replaced my ZE 1,4/50.

    With good eyesight and an extra matte focusing screen, lenses like these are like joy to focus manually – the focusing ring is leagues beyond the already excellent focusing rings on Canons EF L-graded lenses.

  • I can’t believe how many people complain about the price of pro cameras, lenses and accessories. I mean really, for $30k-$100k, you can buy multiple bodies, lenses, lights etc. On average, these tools will be useful for many years. I would think this would be very affordable for any accomplished studio or wedding photographer. Within reason, just buy what you like to use and what will deliver the image quality level that is appropriate for your business model.

  • jake

    no doubt about it’s the best lens ever made for Nikon and Canon mount but it is a bit too expensive for me and I think I cannot afford it.

    3K for just a 50mm prime without Leica logo is too much , almost even ridiculous.

    • Big J

      I’ll charge you and extra $500 bucks for it and glue an authentic one on for ya, deal?

    • Scorpius

      Canon ef200 f2 is at the top of my list,this new zeiss looks good,but better than the 200mm f2?? thats a tough call…. you would have to test them both thoroughly to make a decision … of course they are intended for different situations.. both would be the ideal for me..

  • To all of you out there.
    i took those pictures on my D800E, difficult conditions, I was in a hurry, the Kina was crowded with people all over the place. So in these conditions it wasn’t easy for me, and my two friends wouldn’t co operate easily to take the pose.
    All the pictures are taken wide open @ f/1,4, this lens is very sharp wide open, way better than any Sigma or Nikon, and way more expensive too 😉

    • MB

      No you did not and you forget to remove EXIF data.
      Those were taken at F/5.6 and I really do not understand why lying?

      • Well spotted MB. Michel’s comments are misleading and therefore casts some doubt over how these very sharp images were arrived at. They have a sharpness similar to medium format glass and that is a terrific achievement if it can be believed. We will have to wait for the independent tests I fear.

      • Michel

        oops, I’m sorry, I took several pictures @ f/1.4. I do not want to lie to anybody, and I feel ashamed ! I just assumed that these were taken also at f/1.4 and I didn’t check them. The proof of me being honest is that I did not remove the exif because I wanted everybody to see these exifs. I’m really sorry for giving false information, it is pure distraction. But anyway, I can assure you that this lens is VERY good. Of course it’s expensive, but so are Leicas and Nikon D4, etc…..
        Once again my apologies to everyone

        • you have no credibility. what you say from here on is the same as lying. youre out!

        • I believe you did take them as your name is embedded in the exif data…”MICHEL FOURKAS”

          • no one said anything about him not taking them. the problem is he lied about the apertures he used with the photos.

            • Jon M. Puntervold

              take a chill pill…

            • Fred

              Calm down…you should be glad he has sample images. I swear…photographers are some of the biggest snobs on the planet.

      • Adrian B

        Nice spotted MB, but please… You know how hard it is to snap pictures at these events, and we are so lucky we have these two samples; thanks, Michel! And actually, you are not right either MB! The first picture (the dark hair guy) WAS made @ f/1.4, the second only was @ f/5.6. And BTW, you don’t need EXIF to tell you that, LOL. And comparing f/1.4 to f/5.6 is another ADVANTAGE now, as we can analyze sharpness and especially bokeh at both settings. Feeling better? 🙂

    • Adnan

      If you took these at 5.6 as stated later then try the Nikon 2.8 Ai-s at 2.8 it’s only $550 USD 🙂

  • Chuck N.

    overrated and overpriced

  • Plug

    No need to defend yourself, many of the contributors here are just jealous. The pure image quality of the latest Zeisses is just outstanding.

    • Big J


  • Nina

    Anyone complaining about no AF should sell their cameras and buy a whole bunch of tissues and diapers.

    F’n babies.

  • CJ

    The same bunch of naysayers would give you 101 reasons that Rolls Royce is not any better than those junky hyundais from korea !!!!

    • Jonna


    • karl

      and the reason to announce a new Rolls Royce on a site dealing mostly with compact cars would be ?

      • Pablo Ricasso

        So if they started a site called cool power shot pix rumors you would go away then?

        • eggzz

          + 1000


          Ricasso, you just made my day !!

        • I believe the comments section will dramatically improve next week after I implement Disqus. I already did that at LeicaRumors and PhotoRumors and I am very happy with the results.

          • AboutDiscus

            “Criticism and privacy concerns.

            Some commentators have noted the privacy issues inherent in the use of services like Disqus, which serve their content through third party JavaScript widgets.[10][11][12]
            As with other embedded web widgets such as like buttons, the Disqus widget acts as a web bug which tracks a users activities, even when they are not logged in, across different sites that use the Disqus commenting system. Information tracked by, which may be disclosed to 3rd parties, includes pseudonymous analytics data such as a users IP address, their web-browser’s version and installed add-ons, and their referring pages and exit links.[13] Although this data is referred to by Disqus as “Non-Personally Identifiable Information”, such data, when aggregated, has been shown to be usable for de-anonymizing users.[14]
            Users wishing to avoid these issues may opt to install a privacy-enhancing web browser extension, such as Ghostery or DoNotTrackPlus, which identify widgets such as Disqus as web-bugs[15][16], and allows them to be blocked; this renders Disqus-powered commenting sections unviewable.
            Disqus has also been criticized for publishing its registered users’ entire commenting histories, along with a list of connected blogs and services, on the publicly viewable user profile pages.[17]”


  • Nice

    That’s the sharpest 100% crop I’ve ever seen from a D800. Very impressed. Not at all surprised at the price tag, but I suppose if you want the very best…

  • Dear,

    Please stop highlighting photo contests which essentially steal our work. At least publish the terms when you mention the contest.

    Absolutely terrible terms and conditions for this National Geographic photo contest:

    PLEASE READ THE RULES BEFORE SUBMITTING AN IMAGE. You are giving a worldwide, perpetual, non-exclusive license to the groups involved.

    In other words they can use your images forever on posters, books, calendars, even the homepage (which I’ve seen Nat Geo do in the past using an image submitted to a contest.). These corporations will make money from your work and you never see a dime. The licensing fees for an amazing image can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars EACH time an image is published. This is what you are potentially giving up.

    Photo contests with crappy terms are the biggest scams in our industry (Adorama has one going right now with similarly horrendous terms).

    • MB

      What are you talking abut and how is this related to this blog topic?
      As for NG photo contest you can receive up to 10000$ of prize and in return you are giving the rights, you may think of it as selling your soul to the devil but those are the rules and if you don’t like them then just don’t participate.

      • Big J

        Think what he’s getting at is even if you don’t win they still use the images submitted without proper licensing fees. In my opinion though if you’re stuff is published, at least have them put your name on the bottom of it and be done with it.

    • What are you talking about?

    • Andrew

      If someone is holding a contest, they have every right to determine the terms. If you do not like their terms, you are free to not participate. This is what happens in a democracy/free market economy. Have you ever heard of the term “work for hire”? If you think the quality of your work is much higher than what they are willing to compensate you for, I assure you that someone else will be willing to do a competitive work for much less. If it is a photo contest, you are not obliged to submit your most cherished work. Who knows, they might find your work of much greater value than you would.

      Here is a different perspective. Companies like to hire a lot of employees. Maybe one of them may be super productive and earn them ten or twenty times more than what the average worker will. If you cannot easily envision what I am talking about, then think of a patent for an invention. A single valuable invention by a single employee may be worth tens of millions of dollars or more. Most employees would not see a substantial reward. But I know of an instance where a salesman made a $100+ million sale and his commission was in the millions. He quit his job!

      So instead of fighting the big bad companies, just realize that you have the freedom to start your own company and offer a contest with much better terms. Maybe you will be able to teach those companies a lesson or two.

  • Bob

    Nothing wrong with more options, even if i need to sell my kidneys to get it. If you are on a budget and want a different look over the nikon 50s, the voight 55 f1.4 is pretty good.

  • 12

    I almost beat my girlfriend as a result of this lenses announcement. She says she can get the sharp images on her d70 and a MF 50.. I said no and it got ugly…

    • Big J

      LOL, girls will be girls

    • fjfjjj

      You almost beat your girlfriend? And then I almost came over to your house and knocked you to the floor. Grow up, “12”

  • Distanted

    Haters gotta hate…Seems like whatever comes out on here, there’s no shortage of ‘experts’ willing to denounce it without having any personal experience with it or even a basic grasp of what it’s for. It is a tool for a very specific need. It costs 8 times as much because only a very small percentage of photographers will need a lens like this, but those who do will not moan about paying $3000 euro. If $460 buys you what you need, great. Not everybody shoots what you shoot and not everybody uses your standards when composing an image. I can’t afford this, but I’m sure it’s worth every penny to the right owner.

  • Tooma

    Nikon may be looking at changing their lens mount to manufacture an entirely new line of high MP camera & lenses. I know their smaller mount has impacted their design of an AF 50mm & 85mm 1.2. When nikon’s obsession with having everything backwards compatible ends we may see this. I can’t mention my source but they are in the industry.

    • Tooma

      This is the same guy that everybody doubted when i said the D800 would have better dynamic range than the D4, and here we are…


    • I agree completely. The Nikon mount is a severe limiting factor in taking their optics to the next level. Canon bit the bullet some years ago and increased the diameter of their mount to Allow the rear element to have a greater surface area. Up until now the difference has not been noticeable because sensor resolution was the weakest link in the chain. That is no longer the case with Nikon’s high res sensors. There should also be an improvement with vignetting if the mount can be increased in diameter. Maybe Nikon has something up it’s sleeve in terms of more accurately ground optics or more rare glass elements but then so will Canon and they will still have the larger rear glass on their side. I have felt for a long time that the mount should be changed on Nikon to an even bigger opening than on Canon’s and just use the existing mount for DX sensors.

      • The F mount’s diameter is not that much of an issue compared to the flange distance restrictions imposed by the mirror being there. Even on systems that don’t have a mirror, I haven’t seen a rear lens element that is larger than the diagonal of the imaging plane.

        Also, vignetting is not induced by the mount. So, having a larger mount doesn’t really solve that problem.

        I don’t think there’s an issue in the precision at which optics are ground. On the other hand, more use of aspherical elements would be good. As for using special types of glass, Canon has been ahead in this department for decades because of their use of CaF2 which has become even more heavy-handed in recent lenses. Nikon isn’t even playing catch-up… they only have one lens in their whole line-up with their own Super ED glass and it hasn’t been optically updated in a long time.

  • TeT

    Is this zeiss made or cosina? It looks really really good, as good as the zeiss compact primes. I wouldnt put it past cosina to make such a beast though, thay have a few amazing lenses in their line-up, both under zeiss and voigtländer brands.

  • thosh

    this performance at open aperture… awesome. who´s complainig about the price? best lens on the market –> hightest price. rules of capitalism

  • Disiderio

    I believe there are technical differences between a manual and autofocus lens that extend beyond simply a motor. The initial difference is the way the focus mechanism works, and the precision and throw of the ring. There is an art to the way the Zeiss and Leica lenses operate and I can understand the fascination and demand for them. Otherwise, I don’t see their application particularly useful for a lot fast paced photographers requiring good autofocus.

    Also, these kind of lenses rule supreme for video work on a nice rig where autofocus is not required, and a good manual focus ring is worth every penny. 🙂

    • Nathaniel Opgenorth

      Someones got some sense here!! DSLR users like my self need every advantage and if we can rent glass like this then we can shut up the people who complain about how Canon DSLRs don’t resolve 1920×1080…with a lens this sharp your getting more actual resolution that is right there and present. While I’m a fiend for super fast glass and this piece of glass is very fast I would more than likely stop down to say f/2.8 or f/4 to really get the sharpness. Allot of Epic/Scarlet owners will appreciate this too as it looks like this fine piece of glass is taking some tips from its bigger and badder brother in the cine glass department aka the Master Primes and what not. CP.2’s are great too. Glad to see still glass is getting better and better…my Canon EF mount glass will not be so outdated in the future now 😀

  • royl

    Lenses like this just don’t make sense. I suppose if you have unlimited resources it would be a fun item for awhile, but you cannot get enough extra in a photo to justify that price. It’s just bragging rights. A 50mm 1.4G is about 1/10 the price. Will your photo be ten times better with this lens?

    • fifi

      1.4G also makes no sense, it’s not even zoom! Get 15-55! It’s cheaper, too!

      • Scorpius

        1.4G makes a lot of sense if you want very shallow D.O.F or want to shoot in low light without a flash…..

        • fifi

          Sorry, I was just a little bit sarcastic! I’m well aware of fast lenses’ qualities.

          • Scorpius

            My mistake for not picking up on the humour.. 😉


        • The 55 1.4 Distagon makes sense if you want image quality in addition to what the 50 1.4G (or any other fast normal) offers at the maximum aperture.

          In the link below, see point #4 in the first section:

  • Larry Burrows

    It’s huge. Since when does a 50 have to be the size of a midrange zoom?


    • Meinrad

      It is huge, because the lens construction is that of a wideangle lens. Because the clearance required between the last lens element and the sensor is 38.05mm in the case of Nikon-F-mount (it is very similar for other makes of DSLRs), making a 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.2 lens poses challenges and forces compromises. Leica can afford (no mirror!) to bring the last lens element closer to the sensor. That way, in can design the f/1.4 lens with little compromise. DSLR makers do not have that freedom. For this reason, I think that the use of a retrofocus design for a normal lens is quite creative. However, Zeiss is not the first to do so: the Nikon 35mm Dx f/1.8 also uses this approach and did so, before Zeiss developed this Distagon.

      • Larry Burrows

        The Leica Summilux series, including the ASPH model with it’s floating element, are based on the Planar design, which is not restricted to a mirrorless camera design. The Summicron series is double gaussian. Both the Leica M and R versions of these lenses share identical or similar optical formulas. There are no retrofocus 50’s in the Leica stable.

        I don’t see the point in using a retrofocus design for a 55mm lens.

        But regardless, what’s the point? If the size is impractical, what’s the point?

        Zeiss should have just pushed a double gaussian or planar design, that would have resulted in a more compact design that was actually usable for shooting real life and not just test charts.

        • There are very good wide angle lenses and there are fantastic tele lenses but I haven’t seen a good fast normal lens on the 35mm format…. whether it’s a Planar or anything else.

          So what Zeiss has done here is they’ve taken a “non-normal” lens design that has superior resolution to what they (or anyone) can do with a conventional normal lens design and made it work for the 50-something focal length.

          For that, they can’t make a longer lens design (e.g. 85 1.4 Planar) shorter because even if they manage to clear the mirror, the image circle wouldn’t be large enough. So taking a wide design and making it at 50 is the way to go. It’d also give the “sweet spot” effect as well.

          • Larry Burrows

            >There are very good wide angle lenses and there are >fantastic tele lenses but I haven’t seen a good fast normal >lens on the 35mm format…. whether it’s a Planar or >anything else


            • Just means you have no standards and you most likely haven’t even touched a good lens in your life.

            • Larry Burrows

              I’ve been shooting for about 20 years, which means that when I started you were probably still in Kindergarten. 15 years 0f that have been with Leica and the best glass they make.

              For the same period I have also worked as a professional in high end imaging. We use lenses where a single prime costs as much as a compact car and delivers IQ that stands up to being projected on a 40ft screen. You have probably paid your $12 bucks many times over to see my work.

              What are your qualifications, besides picking up a few buzzwords on the internet and running an amateur blog out of your parents basement?

            • Ronald G.

              Agree, the guy is a full of himself for evidently no reason, he surely reads a lot reviews and comes with his own conclusinons pretty much most of the times without relation with reality.

        • Stick Float

          Surely the point is to have a lens that has enough resolving power to do justice to the sensor in the D800e. $4,000 is really not that much for a lens that can do that. Also they have to start somewhere, why not a 55 mm?

  • ron

    so what type of photographer would use this lens? not hating, just a beginner question.

  • Joel Benford

    My god those are gorgeous. Even the small pictures are gorgeous, the contrast and colour and bokeh and general character of the lenses are everything I want from glass.

    Manual focus… it’s hard enough with a 50/1.4 on my Contax film bodies, which blow away any DSLR optical viewfinder (with stock screen) I’ve ever seen, especially now I’m 46. I wonder how the Sony EVF with focus peaking will turn out for these. It might be quite a happy marriage.

  • Yawn. another 5omm

    I´ll get excited when they make a hi-res wideangle around 20/24mm or so.
    An improved 21mm Distagon without the moustache distortion would be the ticket for me. I have no use for a 50mm lens, ever.

  • ActionJunky

    I really these images are not a true test of the camera, but I have seen amazing images from a standard 50mm 1.4 and 85mm 1.4. I just cannot see myself ever considering this lens at this price.

    • ActionJunky

      …realize… (sorry)

  • bossa

    I had nightmares about this lens last

    Does anyone think there’s a chance Nikon will upgrade Live View on the D800 to include Focus Peaking? I’m also getting on (57) and am finding the rangefinder display not super precise with my Zeiss 21. There’s a bit of travel before it turns into an arrow either way and I’m not really sure how that affects the POF. I should do a few tests I suppose.

    • Not in this life. Focus Peaking is a feature of a fully contrast driven focus. This camera has a phase detection which is fast, but not as precise as color contrast. This is the reason why I use Live View when I need to be sure about my focus.
      You should fine tune your Zeiss 21 through the camera menu.

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