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Zeiss 18mm Comparison
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Zeiss 18mm ZE, Canon 16-35 II and Nikon 14-24mm

Zeiss 18mm, Canon 16-35mm L II and Nikon 14-24mm AF-S. enlarge. It helps me keep adding to this site when you use these links to Adorama, Amazon, B&H, Calumet, Ritz, J&R and eBay to get your goodies. Thanks! Ken.

 

December 2009       Canon Reviews   Nikon Reviews    Leica Reviews

More Zeiss Reviews  

Zeiss Manual-Focus Lenses for Canon 15 September 2008

 

Specifications

 
Filter
82mm
82mm
none
Length
2.4" (61mm)
4.4" (112mm)
5.2" (132mm)
Weight
18.1 oz. (513g)
22.4 oz. (634g)
35.3 oz. (1,000g)
Infinity focus stop
Yes
no
no
Close focus
0.3m
0.28m
0.28m
Depth-of-field scale
Yes
no
no
IR focus index
Yes
only at 16mm
no
Formula
13/11
16/12, 3 asph.
14/11, 3 asph.
Diaphragm blades
9
7
9
f/max
f/3.5
f/2.8
f/2.8
f/min
f/22
f/22
f/22
Price

 

Sharpness

Which is sharper? The Zeiss or Canon on a Canon 5D Mark II, or the Nikon 14-24mm AF-S on the Nikon D3?

Let's see.

 

Teknik

I shot these all in raw. I opened the files at the same size (6,144 pixels wide) in Photoshop CS4's Adobe Camera Raw at default settings.

These are all small crops from the equivalent of huge 40 x 60 inches (1 x 1.5 meter) prints.

Here we go.

 

Center, maximum aperture:

Nikon

Cnaon

Zeiss

 

Center, f/8:

nikon

Canon

Zeiss

 

Lower left corner, maximum aperture:

 

Lower left corner, f/8:

 

Analysis         top

 

Center

The Nikon is worst.

Nikon is at a disadvantage because Nikon makes no high-resolution full-frame DSLRs for under $8,000. Thus Nikon has to complete here with the 12MP D3 and D700, which is more of a limiting factor than the excellent 14-24mm lens.

At full aperture, the Zeiss and Canon 5D Mark II is clearly the winner, although the Canon 16-35mm II isn't much worse.

At f/8, the Canon 16-35mm II is a little better.

I'd call this a tie between the Zeiss and the Canon in the center.

 

Corner

All these lenses are sharp in the center.

What makes or breaks a wide lens is its performance in the corners.

Wide-open, the Nikon is almost as good as the Zeiss. The Nikon is plagued by some lateral color, which the Nikon's in-camera processing would probably remove. Photoshop's Adobe Camera Raw isn't smart enough to fix that automatically.

Wide-open, the Canon 16-35mm L II is horrible. This is why Canon shooters used to go to great lengths to adapt the great Nikon 14-24mm lens to shoot on their cameras. If you think this is bad, remember that the 16-35mm L II is a new, improved version of the original 16-35mm L, which was even worse.

Stopped down, the three are similar, with a slight edge to the Zeiss.

Nikon's lens is possibly superior, but it's hampered by Nikon's lower resolution cameras.

 

What about the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L?

I've compared the 17-40mm to the 16-35mm II before. It is about the same.

 

What about Nikon's fixed 18mm lenses?

Nikon's 14-24mm is the best ultrawide Nikon has ever made.

Thus I didn't bother pulling out an 18mm f/2.8 AF-D or 18mm f/3.5 AI-s to compare.

 

Recommendations

On Canon, I'd give this Zeiss lens serious consideration for nature and landscape use. It's a better lens than Canon's own zooms, but then again, if you're shooting in daylight or on a tripod at smaller apertures (like f/8), there isn't much, if any, optical difference.

I'd also consider Canon's TS-E lenses as alternatives to Canon's zooms.

I haven't tried this lens on Nikon.

I prefer the feel of Nikon's 18mm f/2.8 AF-D or 18mm f/3.5 AI-s when shooting Nikon. I doubt I'd get one of these for use on Nikon, even if performance might, or might not, be better. I wouldn't sweat it until Nikon makes a competitive 24MP DSLR where these difference might become apparent. Nikon's flaw here is that as of Decemebr, 2009, Nikon makes no DSLR with more than 12MP for less then $8,000, thus Nikon is a non-player in this market. The 24MP D3X would look much better, but at $8,000, it doesn't play here.

 

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Thanks for reading!

Ken

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