You will see endless reviews and samples of new Zeiss lenses from Sony as they start to trickle into the market place. We will read how one reviewer thinks it’s greatest thing since sliced bread while another thinks it’s overpriced. Let’s face it. Most of the reviews you will encounter on the web will be technical, boring and full of data the typical person viewing a photograph will not notice. Who gives a hairy rat’s ass if the corners are soft when you shoot a lens wide open? It’s supposed to be unless you are shooting a brick wall! And who the hell shoots brick walls anyway? Most photographic situations are 3 dimensional. This means that your focus point sits at a certain plane within the frame while everything else is in front or behind your focus point. Of course things are going to be soft at the corners when shooting with a large aperture lens. Needless to say, if you are stopping down you would expect good performance at the edges.
Now that we are past my little rant about other reviews, let’s move on. While this short narrative may mention some of the above hot topics of the day, I will mainly focus on what 1.4 can deliver as opposed to a 2.8 or 4.
First things first and to the point! Build quality is superb! It really is exceptional. Feel and focus is just perfect. Superfast auto focus plus smooth and tight manual focus yields a wonderful shooting experience. The aperture ring with de-click option is also great. I find myself adjusting the aperture with the ring rather than the dial. I just feel more connected and in control when doing it that way. I know the lens looks large and heavy but it is really well balanced and comfortable to use. Not that heavy at all. I have absolutely no issues with the size. It bridges the gap between too small or too large.
I am disappointed that a lens of this price is manufactured in Thailand. Nothing against the Thai people but one typically expects high priced high quality photographic items to be manufactured in Japan or Germany. The main reason for manufacturing in countries like Thailand, Vietnam, China or Indonesia is for controlling cost. However, the lower cost of manufacturing in these countries is rarely passed on to the consumer.
Color is typical of a Zeiss design, this lens renders beautiful high contrast images with amazing colors. No complaints there whatsoever you are getting exactly what you are expecting to see. Although, converting to B&W is also a fun task when the lens delivers on contrast. It just makes B&W pop.
Why should I get it
So why spend the extra dollars on this lens instead of just buying the 2.8 FE or the 2.0 Loxia? Three word. Bokeh, Rendering and Pop! Although the other two lenses are beautiful and yield wonderful images, the 1.4 delivers a level of subject separation and bokeh that the other two simply cannot. That 3D look you get with longer lenses really carries over to the 35mm 1.4. If you hit the right aperture, your subject seems to float just right in the frame to render that 3D look. Throw in some extra bright sunny day colors and it becomes magical. You simply cannot get these results with a 2.8 or F4 lens. Just look at the image of Freya photographed at F1.4 which clearly shows what 1.4 can deliver.
She was kind enough to let me take her photo before she licked the lens.
This particular photo has a little blur due to movement and shutter speed. But it illustrates the wonderful colors and contrast can be achieved with this lens.
Is it Sharp
Sharpness on focus point when shooting the lens wide open is stunning. Actually it is ridiculously sharp. I have not seen any other 35 with razor sharp high contrast like this new Distagon. No ghosting, blooming, bleeding or any kind of visible image degradation is seen. The detail is simply amazing considering you are shooting at the weakest point of the lens.
Find the focus point on the can and see what I mean.
The Bar Tender was kind enough to let me photograph her as I sat down for a drink tonight.
Forget about the stealthy approach on your subject if you are into street photography. No can do with this beast. It is simply too large to hide under your vest or pass by as a casual tourist snapping pictures. The lens will bring attention to you without a doubt. If you seek the stealth approach, I recommend the Loxia or the 2.8 FE. Those two lenses are much more suited for street photography. However, if you can engage with your subject directly or simply want the sharpest 35mm image at 1.4 with the most beautiful color, bokeh and contrast, then the 1.4 is what you need.
I do not consider the size to be a problem and the image result are very pleasing to the eye. As mentioned before, I am disappointed that this high priced lens is manufactured in Thailand instead of Japan. But this is just a personal feeling which does not reflect on the quality of the lens. If a month from now it starts falling apart then I can say I told you so.
And some where just alone ….