This morning, I received the new Zeiss 135mm f2 Apo Sonnar from Zeiss for review. As always, unboxing is an exciting event as you look forward to what is in the box. Needless to say, I was not surprised when I opened the box and pulled out the lens. As in the past nothing has changed. Zeiss delivered another lens with the same quality, feel and looks of their other high end lenses. This lens is as solid as they come and when you hold it you feel like you are getting what you paid for. No plastic barrel, or cheesy hollow feel that we are seeing more and more of these days from other manufacturers. It is nice to see that some companies still value quality over cost in order to produce a product worthy of praise.
This lens feels wonderful in my hands. I am 6’2” and have large hands and the size of this lens fits my hands perfectly. It is solid and heavy but not too heavy. With the lens set at infinity, it measures approximately 4 inches from the camera to the front. Add the lens hood and you lens grows like Pinocchio’s nose by another 2 ¾ “. Although not huge, definitely is large and chances are that if it’s not sunny I won’t be using the hood. Lucky for me, I live in one of the most miserable parts of the country where we get 9 months of rain, 1 month of full overcast and 2 months of Sun. I knew eventually there would be a payoff to this God forsaken miserable weather of the Pacific Northwest. You see, now I don’t need the lens hood.
Earlier, I mentioned that this lens is not cheesy nor does it feel hollow like those new plastic lenses we see more of these days. Well, there is something to be said about those cheaper lenses. The Zeiss 135 is cold and takes a while to acclimate to the current environment. Furthermore, the knurled like grip of the focusing ring is not as easy to handle as something with a rubber grip. But in the end, this is just cosmetic and has no effect on the images.
Focus is tight and smooth. It feels s just like the 100 Macro and lets you focus with confidence. When the lens first arrived it was a little stiff due to the cold. But, once it acclimated the focusing was a joy to work with. You do give your hand a workout when going from minimum focus distance to infinity with a very long almost 270 degree turn to get from one extreme to the other. But, you do get the benefit of close focus down to 2.62 feet which is quite nice considering this not a macro lens.
Considering I am getting older and my sight is getting worse every day, I was amazed at how easy I was able to focus this lens. The big front element lets a lot of light in, which really helps with the focusing. Granted it’s not auto focus but for a manual focus lens it makes my old eyes work less at focusing.
The out of focus areas rendered by the 135 Apo are simply gorgeous. The transition from in and out of focus is smooth and dreamy. When shooting wide open with a varied color background, your subject is surrounded with wonderful colors, shapes and blurs that really paint a backdrop for your main subject. I can’t decide what I like more, the subject or the background. You really need to see for yourself on a large monitor or print to really appreciate it. Furthermore, the 9 blade aperture is a blessing for me. I personally hate those octagon blurry lights in dark scenes. The 9 blades generate beautiful spheres which are pleasing to the eye.