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Zeiss 25mm f/2
Distagon ZF.2 (Nikon) & ZE (Canon)
© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon

Zeiss Distagon 25mm f/2, ZE Canon version (67mm filters, 21.327 oz./604.7g, about $1,700). enlarge. Also comes as Nikon ZF.2 version. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use any of those or these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.


December 2011    Zeiss Reviews    Nikon   Canon    All Reviews

Zeiss Manual-Focus Lenses for Canon


Introduction         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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This Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon is a full-frame, manual-focus-only, fully meter- and EXIF-coupled lens for Nikon or Canon SLRs.

Compared head-to-head at the test range, the Zeiss 25/2 is much sharper at large apertures than any of Canon's newest ultrawide zooms like the 16-35mm f/2.8 L II or 17-40mm f/4 L, or the Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM. If you're a Canon full-frame shooter who wants more sharpness than you're getting from Canon's ultrawide lenses, this is a significant step up if you don't mind manual focus with full exposure automation.

I had no Nikon version to pit against Nikon; I suspect it's about as sharp as Nikon's 16-35mm VR, but better made and four times as sensitive to light, but lacking AF and VR.

It is much better made mechanically other SLR lenses today.

This Zeiss lens is manual-focus only. It will not autofocus on any camera.


Compatibility       top

Für Canon: ZE

On Canon, focus confirmation lights work, as does auto exposure and EXIF data.


Für Nikon: ZF.2

This CPU and AI-s lens works perfectly with every Nikon SLR made from 1977 through today's latest DSLRs, from the D3X down to Nikon's cheapest D3100, so long as you don't mind focusing manually.


Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon

Zeiss 25/2, Canon version. enlarge.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations



Zeiss calls this the Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2/25.

T* "is Zeiss' trademark for its multicoating.

The Nikon AI-s mount with CPU is suffixed "ZF.2."

The Canon EOS EF mount shown in this review is suffixed "ZE."


Optics        top

11 elements in 10 groups.

Two aspheric surfaces.


Diaphragm        top

Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon

Canon version front, Zeiss 25/2 at f/2. enlarge.

9 straight blades.

Stops down to f/22.


Focal Length        top

Focal length: 25mm.

When used on a Nikon DX camera, sees about the same angle-of-view on DX as a 38mm lens sees on a 35mm camera.

When used on a Canon 1.6x camera, sees about the same angle-of-view on DX as a 40mm lens sees on a 35mm camera.

When used on a Canon 1.3x camera, sees about the same angle-of-view on DX as a 33mm lens sees on a 35mm camera.


Angle-of-View (on 24x36mm frame)        top

81º diagonal.

71° horizontal.

51° vertical.


Close Focus

10 inches (0.25m) from the image plane.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio



Minimum subject area (24x36mm image size)

219 x 144mm.


Filter Thread       top



Does not rotate.


Hood and Caps       top

The locking metal bayonet hood is included.


Size  (including caps)       top



2.80" (71mm) diameter x 3.74" (95mm) long, specified.



2.87" (73mm) diameter x 3.86" (98mm) long, specified.

73.85mm extension from flange without caps, measured.


Weight       top



Zeiss specifies 21.2 oz. (600g).



21.327 oz. (604.7g), measured.

Zeiss specifies 20.1 oz. (570g).


Scope of Delivery

Includes lens, metal hood, caps, and impressive paperwork.


Price, USA, December 2011         top

$1,700: Nikon AI-s mount with CPU.

$1,700: Canon EOS EF mount.


Performance         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Overall   Bokeh   Data    Distortion   Ergonomics

Falloff   Filters   Focus   Lateral Color Fringes

Mechanics   Sharpness   Sunstars


Overall       performance     top

This Zeiss performs better than any of Canon's ultrawide zooms or the Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM, but it's manual-focus only.


Bokeh      performance      top

Background bokeh is beautiful, if you're close enough to throw anything out of focus.

Bokeh is the character of out of focus areas, not simply how far out of focus they are.


Data       performance     top

This Canon-version makes files whose EXIF correctly reads the shooting aperture, and reads "25mm" for lens.

On Canon, from 1980s film EOS to today's digitals, everything seems to work perfectly.


Distortion       performance     top

There is very little distortion, thankfully. It's invisible at far distances, and becomes strong at the very closest focus distances.

Use these values in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove most of it:

3m (10')
1m (3')
0,25m (10")

Factor on full-frame


Even with this correction, there is still some slight waviness left.


Ergonomics        performance     top

Zeiss 25/2 ZE

Canon version, Zeiss 25/2 ZE. enlarge.

Unlike today's plastic zooms, this is all-metal. If you're used to plopping your Nikon and Canon plastic beauties down on your glass table or desktop, back off — you need to be careful with these heavy metal Zeiss lenses.

Thank goodness each version focuses in the same direction as do Nikon's and Canon's lenses.

Focus is stiff, slow and very damped. It wants two fingers to wrench it around; it won't just flick with a fingertip.

It is very dense.

The red footage engravings are too dark and not particularly visible. They stand out much more in these photos than in reality.

The EOS mount has no red index dot on the outside, as do Canon lenses. You have to look for the red dot on the back of the mount, which is a pain!

There is no "25" engraved on the side. You have to just know, or look at the front of the lens with no cap.


Falloff (darkened corners)       performance     top

Falloff is visible at f/2, and gone by f/4.

On Canon and Nikon, there is no profile available for automatic peripheral illumination correction.

I've greatly exaggerated the falloff of the Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon below by shooting a gray field and presenting it on another gray field:


Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon uncorrected falloff on 24x36mm at infinity.

1 2
3 4

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.



Filters, Use with       performance     top

The filter ring never rotates.

The filter size in generous. There is no problem with vignetting on the full 24x36mm frame, even with a Tiffen ND grad 0.6 in 67mm rotating mount (6.7mm combined ring thickness excluding rear threads).

You don't need any special thin filters.


Focus       performance     top

Focus is manual-only.

The focus ring is slow and very heavily damped. It won't flick end-to-end with a finger as will Nikon and Canon's lenses.



On Canon, hold the shutter halfway as you focus.

Look for the AF sensors to blink as you pass the point of perfect focus. Only the dot on the bottom of the finder will stay lit so long as you are in focus.

On older EOS cameras, look for the dot on the bottom of the finder as you hold the shutter. Their AF sensors may not light.

No big deal, see your manual, and with this lens, you never have to move a switch to select manual focus.



Use your split-image and microprisms as always.

On AF or digital cameras, look for the in-focus dot (or dots) in the finder.

Nikon's AF cameras are way behind Canon's for manual focus: Nikon's AF sensors never light in manual focus modes, so you have to look away from the images to the sides to look for Nikon's OK dots.


Lateral Color Fringes       performance     top

There are no lateral color fringes on a Canon 5D Mark II, which is excellent, and better than Canon's lenses.


Mechanics and Construction    Performance    top


Rear, Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon

Rear, Canon version, Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon ZE. enlarge.

This is a dense, tough all-metal lens.



Anodized aluminum, spring-loaded locking bayonet.


Filter Threads and Hood Bayonet Receiver

Chromed metal.


Barrel Exterior

Anodized aluminum.


Focus Ring

Anodized aluminum.


Focus Helicoids

Could be brass.


Depth-of-Field Scale







Dull-chromed brass.



Engraved and filled with paint, as God Himself intended.



Engraved inside filter threads on front of lens.


Serial Number

Engraved on front ring.


Dust seal at mount



Noises when shaken

Just a very little clicking, in Canon mount.

You're more likely to accidentally throw it while shaking it than you are to hear anything significant rattling, at least in Canon EF mount that uses electronic control for the diaphragm.


Made in


You want Made in Germany? It would cost $4,700 for exactly the same lens.



Easy-to-drop slippery metal.

Your hands will stick to it in freezing weather.


Sharpness       performance     top

Lens sharpness doesn't matter much, but it sure distracts amateurs who confuse lens sharpness with picture sharpness.

This Zeiss 25 2 is much better than Canon's ultrawide zooms or the EF 28mm f/1.8 USM.

This Zeiss is a little less contrasty in the center at f/2, getting better at f/2.8 and optimum by f/4.

The corners on full-frame are soft at f/2 and f/2.8, get better at f/4 and f/5.6, and are sharp by f/8.


Sunstars       performance     top

The straight 9-bladed diaphragm should beget marvelous 18-pointed sunstars.


Compared         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations


Zeiss 25mm f/2, Canon 28mm f/1.8, Canon 17-40mm f/4, and Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II. bigger.

This Zeiss is much better optically than Canon's ultrawide and 28mm f/1.8 USM offerings. I have not compared it to Canon's 24/3.5 TS-E II, which is a very different kind of lens.

No, this Zeiss lens is nowhere near as good as LEICA's lenses as shot on the LEICA M9. The LEICA lenses don't get soft in the corners or distort as all these retrofocus SLR lenses do. This Zeiss just gets less soft than Canon's own lenses.

This Zeiss is superior mechanically to Nikon and Canon lenses.

Since it's manual-focus-only, this Zeiss is much less convenient than any of Nikon's or Canon's AF lenses.

This Zeiss 25/2 is much smaller and more convenient than the behemoth Zeiss 21mm f/2.8.

I have not compared it to the Canon 24mm f/1.4; I didn't have one handy for a head-to-head comparison as I did these other lenses.

Maximum Aperture
Filter Size
Filter Threads
Diaphragm Blades
18 points
14 points
14 points
14 points
Instant manual-focus override?
AF/MF switch
slide switch
slide switch
slide switch
Made in
Price, 12/2011


Recommendations         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

This Zeiss lens is for people who want the best image quality on their full-frame Canon cameras, and don't worry about having to focus manually.

You tripod, HDR and pan-stitching guys are going to love this lens. It's reasonably priced, and smaller than any of the comparable zooms.

For Nikon, Nikon's 16-35mm is much slower, but about as sharp, so I wouldn't go gaga over this lens unless you're doing astronomy and need the fast f/2 speed. This Zeiss lens is worlds better at f/2 than Nikon's own 24mm f/2, but not as good as Nikon's 24mm f/1.4.


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