Zeiss 25mm f/2
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.
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.
Für Canon: ZE
On Canon, focus confirmation lights work, as does auto exposure and EXIF data.
Für Nikon: ZF.2
Zeiss 25/2, Canon version. enlarge.
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."
11 elements in 10 groups.
Two aspheric surfaces.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Even with this correction, there is still some slight waviness left.
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 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:
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 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.
There are no lateral color fringes on a Canon 5D Mark II, which is excellent, and better than Canon's lenses.
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
Could be brass.
Engraved and filled with paint, as God Himself intended.
Engraved inside filter threads on front of lens.
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.
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.
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.
The straight 9-bladed diaphragm should beget marvelous 18-pointed sunstars.
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.
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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