This is an old review being reposted after spending much more time with the lens.
First of all, a big thanks to www.popflash.com for loaning me the Canon 5D2 used for the review since the sample lens I received was a ZE version.
As stated before in my other reviews, this is an unscientific,unbiased and personal review from a users point of view. Although I tend to comment and provide feedback without dwelling into pixel peeping, this review does offer some pixel peeping. I just felt it was necessary to do so.
When I first received the lens from Zeiss, I immediately noticed the similarities to the 35mm f1.4. Although the two lenses are different in sizes, they still look very similar in form and cut. I snapped a few pictures the two side by side and front to front so you can see for yourself.
I am a large person at 6’2″ with fairly large hands and when I held this lens for the first time, it felt as is if it was designed to custom fit into my hands. I know this sounds a bit odd since we are concerned about more important aspects of the lens. But, it is worth noting that this lens should be the new reference standard for design and ergo. Outside of the Zeiss line up, there is no worthy contender to match up against this lens for build, look, feel and that feeling of you get what you pay for. Of course, if you are into the new plastic light weight lenses then that is a different story.
Ease of Use
Using the lens is straight forward. Manual focus, no switches to play with and smooth as you can imagine. The f2 yields a nice bright image in your viewfinder that makes focusing very easy. As you focus and hit that sweet spot, it just pops. It’s almost like an auto focus lens that stops right when it locked in. It’s really quite interesting, when you hit the focus, there is no doubt that the you are done. No back and forth to verify. I walked away from each shot feeling confident that my shots where in focus. Furthermore, focusing feels very smooth and snug. Not too tight or loose, It’s just right.
It’s near macro capabilities due to the close range focusing is superb. Shoot wide open and up close for some wonderful results.
Image quality is superb. You will see from some of the samples I post below what the lens can do. Between 5.6 and f11 this lens is leaps and bounds ahead of anything out there. Sorry Nikon and Canon aficionados. This may be a sensitive spot for some of you reading this. Although Nikon and Canon make great cameras and their new primes are really good, they still fall short of the the Zeiss. It’s not about sharpness or pixels peeping but the overall picture is just so much nicer from the Zeiss 25 f2. Of course this is just my opinion and you may feel totally different about this. But, I just love the way this lens renders.
Are portraits Sharp?
Hand held at f3.5 the colors and detail is just Jaw dropping sharp!
Vignetting is ok and better controlled than the 21mm when shot wide open. However, you will need to correct this in post processing as it is evident and does not really truly disappear until about f3.5 or higher.
Contrast and color
There is not much I can say here other than your typical Zeiss contrast and strong colors. No complaints what soever from me. It renders what I personally like and it does it well. Strong demarcation between tight parallel lines and snappy color!
Zeiss 25mm f2.0. ISO 200 at f2.8
What Chromatic Aberration?
CA / Purple Fringing is virtually non existent. The following quote from the Zeiss press release on the 25mm f2, “Selected types of glass and two aspheric surfaces prevent color fringes from appearing on high-contrast edges.” holds true and is evident in the following shot.
As you can see the 100% crop from a section of the full frame image below, there is virtually no visible CA. This was shot hand held at f2.8. Don’t pay too much attention to detail here. I was searching for an image that showed something dark against a bright background.
Just for comparison, Here is another shot with the Zeiss with a dark object against a bright sky. Notice the edges of the roof line and the rods. Then look at the same shot from the New Canon 24mm 1.4. Both of these are shot at f2.8
Bokeh is dreamy and creamy. When shooting wide open and even at f2 and f2.8, the out of focus areas are just drop dead gorgeous! Transition from in focus to out of focus is just phenomenal. These are shot at f2.
Zeiss 25mm f2.0 Distagon shot at f2 with a Canon 5D2
Zeiss 25mm f2.0 Distagon shot at f2 with a Canon 5D2
The Boring Ugly Photos
I will be adding some additional images that represent more real world scenarios rather than the following ugly photo you see below at different aperture settings.
These shots where done with a Canon 5D2 on loan from www.Popflash.com and the Zeiss 25mm f2. There are various shots of the same subject at different apertures so you can see for your self the difference.
Notice the clear separation of the power lines in the image above.
In this image, at f2.0 The corners do suffer but only because the main focus was at infinity and the corners fall within a close distance to the camera. Therefore this should not be considered a design flaw or distortion. None the less, by 5.6 and f11 this is corrected.
Overall, this is a great lens to work with. It has the ability to render beautiful images, its not too heavy or large and its competitively prices. I personally prefer using it for close up work because of the bokeh it renders. It is also very capable of landscape and just about any other kind of photography where a 25mm is required.
Zeiss 25mm f/2 ZF/ZE
For a comprehensive collection of images taken with the Zeiss 25mm f2 , please visit Zeissimages.com and browse by lens. http://zeissimages.com/lensbrowser.php?lenstype=539