Friday, 8 June 2018

Mini Review - Zeiss ZF.2 T* 1,4/85 Planar

Faked Fenced 
D800,  Zeiss ZF.2 T* 1,4/85 Planar

The ZF.2 85 is a complex lens to review, and one that's driven most of my gear decisions of late.

In short, it's a brilliant but flawed lens that requires care and thought to get the most from it, but the end results are well worth it.

Fundamentally the design is an evolution of the 85/1.4 Planar from the Contax SLR system, with about 25 years of experience injected.

Wide open it's a little soft, especially at close focus distances, and subject to very noticeable CA. Stopped down it's sharp, with excellent contrast & resolution. It's in between the two where things get awkward.

Fundamentally it does have the classic Zeiss signature. Lovely colour, lots of microcontrast in the in-focus areas, a drop in microcontrast as you transition to the out of focus areas and the resulting 'Zeiss 3D' look.

But between f1.6 and f4, it suffers horrendously from focus shift. This is where the act of stopping down the lens to shooting aperture from wide open shifts the plane of focus away from its position wide open (which is focusing aperture on a DSLR). There's a couple ways to compensate for this, mostly in using DoF preview (awkward), using Live View (if your DSLR supports LV at shooting aperture) or simply adapting it to a Mirrorless camera and using the EVF & focus aids to get around focus shift (since you are always focusing at shooting aperture, most mirrorless systems don't suffer from focus shift).

That said, I do love the results when I hit focus. It's just brilliant. But I can't recommend it to folks shooting high-MP DSLR's due to focus shift. You simply have to stop it down to smaller than f4 so DoF covers the shift, and there's better options for slow lenses in this range.

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