Manual Focus Zeiss Lenses in Nikon Mount
January 18th, 2006: Zeiss announces making lenses for Nikon cameras here.
Great, now we can get Zeiss quality on our Nikons without having to buy a new Hasselblad.
Or can we?
Unfortunately Zeiss is only making lenses with 1970s operational technology. They are manual focus only! See my page on the futility of using manual focus lenses on autofocus cameras. These replace the manual focus Nikkors I sold years ago.
Zeiss is only talking about a 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.4 manual focus today. More promised for February 2006, and I see two macro lenses in the press photo above.
This is great to have the choice of Zeiss lenses for my Nikons. Unfortunately I don't care because I haven't used manual focus lenses since the 1990s.
Yes I can use them on my D200, but if I'm going to fiddle with fixed focal length manual focus lenses I'm going to shoot a larger format camera like my Mamiya 7 instead, which will give worlds better results than these lenses on a digital or 35 mm camera.
See My Nikon D200 Compared to My 4 x 5" Camera. Regardless of how fantastic the lens, the 4 x 5 still wins over the digital camera. Easily.
Gotcha Number One
Zeiss and Nikon lenses are equally good optically. Zeiss makes fantastic lenses, and so does Nikon.
Zeiss makes no junk. Every Zeiss lens is excellent. Nikon makes a broader range and some lenses have only been so-so. When comparing similar lenses from each they will be quite similar. oddly the newest cheap Nikon zooms are unbelievably good while some of the old manual focus Nikkors weren't all that hot.
Nikon lenses are superior photographically because they are autofocus, which lets me make photos that I used to miss. Almost no one uses fixed lenses on 35 mm anymore. Zooms let me get the shots I used to miss while changing lenses.
20 years ago I also used to think my fixed focus manual lenses were better than my friends' AF zooms. 20 years later I realize that I missed a lot of great photos fiddling with gear, and that today the zooms are 20 years more advanced, have fewer ghosts and are sharper than the fixed lenses were.
These excellent Zeiss optical designs have been around for decades.
Gotcha Number Two
When photographers want quality they use larger format cameras, not 35 mm.
Gotcha Number Three
These are made in Japan at the Cosina factory which also makes the Nikon FM10 and many cameras and lenses for other brands.
These lenses are not made by Zeiss. They are made in Japan by Cosina for Zeiss.
The Japanese make great lenses. My 43mm f/4.5 for my Mamiya 7 is a Japanese copy of the Zeiss Biogon and it's spectacular.
Gotcha Number Four
The focus rings are solid metal, as all lenses were through the 1950s. Most other lens makers upgraded their focus rings with grippable rubber by the 1970s.
The German-made Zeiss lenses for Hasselblad have had rubber rings for years.
I want to try these, but more out of curiosity and nostalgia than practicality.
It reminds me of the last time I looked at a Leica catalog. Leica doesn't even make the two lenses most important to professional 35mm photographers: a 17 - 35 f/2.8 and 80 - 200 f/2.8.
Zeiss makes even fewer lenses for 35mm.
Even if the Zeiss lenses have better MTFs or less distortion than the old Nikkor manual lenses it doesn't matter. If I want quality I shoot a larger format.
Hat's off to Zeiss for trying. Everything they make is spectacular. What I really want them to make is their 38mm f/4.5 Biogon in a mount for the Mamiya 6 or a new 9 mm f/2.8 for my D200, not 30-year-too-late rehashes of designs brought out from the museum.