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Zeiss 35mm f/2
Biogon T* ZM (LEICA M Mount, 2004-)
© 2011 KenRockwell.com. This page best with Corporate S regular and bold activated.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM

Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon ZM in silver (43mm filters, 7.9 oz./224g, about $1,005, also comes in black). enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially these directly to it at Adorama in silver or in black, or at Amazon in silver or in black, or locally at OC Camera, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Here's the link to the optional hood at Adorama. It helps me keep reviewing these specialized lenses when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.

 

February 2011   Zeiss Reviews  LEICA   LEICA Lenses   Voigtländer   All Reviews

Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 Review

 

Introduction         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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The Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon ZM is superb. Its optical performance is better than the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 (1979-1996) and about the same as LEICA's newest LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH.

The biggest gotcha with this Zeiss lens is its incompatible 43 x 0.75mm filter thread, making it very difficult to use this lens as part of a system. You'll need to step it up to 46mm, or take your chances and step it down to 39mm to integrate into a LEICA system. Unless Zeiss is planning to introduce this lens in Nikon S mount that used 43 x 0.5mm filters, owning a lens with a one-of-a kind 43mm thread is a bad idea.

The other gotcha is that this lens always blocks your LEICA viewfinder somewhat, even without a hood. LEICA's SUMMICRONs are smaller due to their simpler optical designs, and rarely block the finder. This larger Zeiss 35/2 does block the viewfinder a bit, even without the hood.

The filter issue aside, this is a spectacular lens, significantly sharper than the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2, as sharp as the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH, and with less distortion than either!

There are very good reasons that this Zeiss lens is better optically than LEICA lenses: it uses a more complex 9-element design, and it's 25 years newer than the 7-element LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 and 8 years newer than the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH (7 elements including an asphere).

Zeiss has been an annoyance to LEICA since the 1930s, and this lens only makes it tougher to justify paying more for a LEICA lens.

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2.

Zeiss 35/2 Biogon ZM. enlarge.

 

Compatibility

Mount

This LEICA-M mount lens works perfectly on every LEICA M ever made, from the LEICA M3 of 1954 through today's LEICA M9.

It also works on every other LEICA M mount camera, like the Zeiss Ikon and those dirty little plastic Voigtländers.

LEICA lenses use 39mm filters, and sometimes 46mm filters for the larger lenses. This Zeiss takes 43mm filters, making it an odd lens to attempt to integrate into a practical system.

 

Metering

TTL meters in cameras like the CLE, Zeiss Ikon, Konica Hexar RF, LEICA M6, LEICA M6 TTL, LEICA M7, and LEICA M9 work fine with this lens.

 

Sharpness Compared to LEICA

Let's put this to rest right away.

Here are crops from the center of LEICA M9 DNG images at 100% as processed through Apple Aperture 3 at its default sharpening settings.

Printed full-image at this size, these would be about 52 x 35" (130 x 90cm) prints, at least as seen on most 100 DPI computer monitors:

The slight color blips on the branches are aliases, which are caused when the image formed on the sensor is so sharp at a light section is so small that it hits only single pixels at a time. The system creates a funny color, the alias, because by hitting only one CCD well, it is interpreted as being the color detected by that single well. The more color blips you see, the sharper the image.

The LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH is slightly sharper at f/2, while this Zeiss is much sharper than the LEICA at f/5.6.

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Name

Zeiss calls this the Carl Zeiss Biogon 2/35 ZM T*.

Biogon is Zeiss' trademark for reasonably symmetrical wide-angle lenses.

ZM means LEICA M mount.

T* is Zeiss' trademark for their multicoating.

 

Optics        top

Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM internal diagram

Internal Diagram, Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM. enlarge.

9 elements in 6 groups.

T* is Zeiss' trademark for their multicoating.

 

Diaphragm       top

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2.

Front, Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2 at f/5.6. enlarge.

10 straight blades.

Stops down to f/22.

Third-stop clicks.

 

Angle of View        top

38º by 54º (65º diagonally).

 

Actual Focal Length        top

The actual focal length is the same as all the LEICA 35mm lenses against which I compared it. The angle of view doesn't vary.

 

Close Focus       top

0.7 meters (2.3 feet).

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio        top

1:18.

Area covered: 43 x 65 cm (17 x 26"), rated.

 

Size        top

2.042" (51.84mm) diameter by 1.707" (43.35mm) extension from flange, measured.

 

Weight        top

7.918 oz. (224.5g), measured.

8.8 oz. (250g), specified.

 

Hood        top

The precision metal hood (part nr. 1365-667) isn't included, which is too bad, since it's very nice.

It sells for about $85 at Adorama.

This Zeiss hood bayonets and locks. The only way to get it off is by firmly pushing it towards the camera to unlock and then rotating. It is spring loaded so it will never fall off, unlike LEICA hoods.

 

Introduced        top

Announced at Photokina, 28 September 2004.

 

Shipping since         top

2005.

 

Part Numbers        top

Black Lens: 1365-659 or 30 82036.

Silver Lens: 1365-658 or 30 82035.

Hood: 1365-667.

 

Scope of Delivery        top

You only get the lens, caps and fancy paperwork.

The hood is $85 extra.

 

Made in        top

Japan.

 

Performance         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Overall   Bokeh  Color  Diaphragm Calibration   Distortion  Ergonomics

Falloff   Filters   Finder Blockage   Focus    Lateral Color Fringes

Materials & Construction    Sharpness   Sunstars

 

Overall     performance   top

The Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM is a newer, more complex and in many ways better optical design than any LEICA SUMMICRON 35mm lens.

This Zeiss is super-sharp, as good as LEICA's best SUMMICRON-M ASPH, and this Zeiss has less distortion than any 35mm LEICA SUMMICRON made since 1969.

The only bad thing about this incredible lens is its idiotic 43mm filter thread. Who wants to carry a second complete set of 43mm filters to support this lens?

 

Bokeh       performance     top

Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, is a little better than average. It's about the same to a bit better than the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 (1979-1996) and LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH to which I compared it directly.

Here are crops from the center of 100% LEICA M9 images, focused on a reference phase lattice at 3 meters (10 feet) with synthetic reference vegetation at 15 meters (50 feet). Printed full-image at this size, these would be about 52 x 35" (130 x 90cm) prints, at least as seen on most 100 DPI computer monitors:

 

Color Balance       performance     top

The color balance of this Zeiss is neutral.

By comparison, the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH is a little more red, and the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 is a little more green.

 

Diaphragm Calibration     performance   top

The calibration is right-on: the meter in my M9 tracks each full-stop perfectly throughout the entire range, even at the largest aperture.

 

Distortion     performance   top

The Zeiss ZM 35/2 has no distortion.

This Zeiss has significantly less distortion than the LEICA SUMMICRON 35mm f/2 (1969-1979), LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 (1979-1996) and much less than the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH.

If you like to enlarge LEICA M9 files to 200% and drop rulers on them in Photoshop, this Zeiss has no visible distortion at 3 meters as tested.

Here is Zeiss' claimed distortion curve, however Zeiss doesn't specify the distance at which it is measured.

 

Claimed Distortion, percent

Distortion, ZEISS 35mm f/2 ZMDistortion, Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM.

 

Ergonomics     performance   top

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2.

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2. enlarge.

Ergonomics are great, except for some minor finder blockage not present with the LEICA SUMMICRONs.

The numbers and their indices are easy to read in any light, except that the red footage markings on the black version are invisible in anything other than daylight. They are much clearer in these pictures than they are in practice. The silver lens is always easy to read.

Focus is silky-smooth, has no play, and slides with a fingertip. There is a raised metal nubbin on the bottom to help you focus with just one finger, as well as be able to set distance by feel in the dark.

The aperture ring also flicks with a fingertip. It has a detents at third stops, and the full stops aren't more deeply detented, so if you count clicks as I do, it can become confusing if you shoot LEICA lenses at the same time.

 

Falloff (darker corners)     performance   top

Falloff is visible at f/2 on a LEICA M9, and goes away at smaller apertures.

I've exaggerated this here, showing gray field shots against gray.

In the LEICA M9, there is no lens profile for this Zeiss lens. It works fine with any of the LEICA 35mm profiles, or with none at all.

These samples were shot with no lens profile, and then with the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 11 310 11 311 profile. Set different profiles and you'll get different results.

 

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2 falloff on full-frame M9 at infinity, no profile:

f/2
f/2.8
f/4
f/5.6

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2 falloff on full-frame M9 at infinity, 35/2 11310 profile:

f/2
f/2.8
f/4
f/5.6

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

Zeiss' claimed falloff performance:

Illuminiation, ZEISS 35mm f/2 ZMRelative Illuminance, from Zeiss.

 

Filters, use with     performance   top

43mm filters? Zeiss has got to be kidding. This is a serious drawback for serious use as part of a larger LEICA system: no LEICA lenses take 43mm filters, so with this lens, you've sentenced yourself to having to carry a duplicate set of 43mm filters.

Any 43mm filter (0.75mm thread pitch) works great, with no vignetting. It works great with thick rotating filters, too.

Sadly, 43mm is a unique filter size. No LEICA lenses use 43mm filters. Nikon's rangefinder lenses of the 1940s and 1950s often used 43 x 0.5mm filters, but since this lens doesn't come in Nikon S mount, this incompatible filter size is this lens' biggest drawback: you'll have to pack a second complete set of filters just for this Zeiss lens.

You can step it up to 46mm to be compatible with LEICA's larger lenses, but then you can no longer use Zeiss' hood, and you'll get more finder blockage.

It probably works fine if you could find a 43mm -> 39mm step-down ring, but I couldn't.

 

Finder Blockage     performance   top

There is minor finder blockage at all distances, even without a hood.

This is a drawback compared to LEICA's much small SUMMICRONs, which rarely block the finder.

 

Focus     performance   top

Focus is smooth. It's easy to move with a fingertip.

Focus accuracy was perfect on a LEICA M9 at f/2.

With rangefinder cameras, if you get too picky, you'll never be happy. They all vary a little from sample to sample, but this is rarely, if ever a problem with 35mm lenses.

 

Lateral Color Fringes     performance   top

There are no color fringes as used on a LEICA M9.

 

Materials and Construction     performance   top

Rear, Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2

Rear, Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2. enlarge.

This Zeiss 35/2 ZM is very well made. Leica has economized by using plastic for its focus tabs, while this Zeiss still uses solid metal for everything.

 

Filter threads and hood mount

Seem like chromed brass.

 

Barrels, aperture and focus rings

Seem like aluminum.

 

Finish

Matte silver anodized or semi-gloss black enamel.

 

Focus helicoids

Seem like brass.

 

Mount

Seems like chromed brass.

 

Markings

Engraved and filled with paint.

 

Blue index dot

Plastic.

 

Sharpness     performance   top

The more you know about photography, the more you know that lens sharpness doesn't matter.

This said, this Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon is among the sharpest 35mm lenses ever made.

The only LEICA lens which is as sharp is the current LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH.

 

As tested on a LEICA M9 at infinity in DNG

f/2

This Zeiss is already so sharp at f/2 in the center that it can excite aliasing on an M9!

At f/2, the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH is a bit sharper, while the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 is softer.

The Zeiss' corners are a bit softer. They are sharper than the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2, while the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH is sharpest.

 

f/2.8

Everything better than at f/2. The center is ridiculously sharp, even a bit sharper than the LEICA ASPH and certainly sharper than the SUMMICRON-M.

The corners are a little sharper than the SUMMICRON-M, but not as sharp as the ASPH.

 

f/4

The center is ridiculously sharp, much sharper than even the LEICA ASPH and the SUMMICRON-M.

The corners are about the same as the SUMMICRON-M, while the ASPH has by far the sharpest corners.

 

f/5.6

The center is ridiculously sharp, significantly sharper than the LEICA ASPH and certainly the SUMMICRON-M.

The corners are sharpest with the LEICA ASPH, while the SUMMICORN-M and this Zeiss ZM have softer corners.

 

f/8

The corners get sharper in this Zeiss ZM at f/8 than f/5.6.

The center is ever so slightly dulled from diffraction.

 

f/11

The corners get sharper in this Zeiss ZM at f/11 than f/8.

The center is dulled from diffraction. This is the first aperture at which this Zeiss 35/2 ZM probably won't excite aliases on a LEICA M9.

 

MTF, ZEISS 35mm f/2 ZM

Zeiss's MTF curve for the 35mm f/2 ZM at f/2 (white light, 10, 20 ü. 40 c/mm).

 

MTF, ZEISS 35mm f/2 ZM

Zeiss's MTF curve for the 35mm f/2 ZM at f/4 (white light, 10, 20 ü. 40 c/mm).

 

Sunstars     performance   top

With a straight 10-bladed diaphragm, the Zeiss 35/2 should make 10-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light.

 

Compared         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

I've been making comparisons throughout this review, especially my sharpness comparison above.

This Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM is as good, or better, optically than any LEICA SUMMICRON 35mm f/2, however this Zeiss' ergonomics are inferior due to a queer filter size and more finder blockage.

 
Dates
2004-
1996-
1979-1996
2008-
1958-1974
Filter
43mm
39mm
39mm
43mm
39mm
Length
43mm
34.5mm
26.4mm
29.8mm
29.0mm
Finder Blockage
minor-moderate
minor
none
minor
none
Optics
9/6
7/5 ASPH
7/5
7/5
6/4
Diaphragm
10 blades
8 blades
10 blades
10 blades
10 blades
Aperture ring clicks
third stops
half stops
half stops
third stops
half stops
f/min
f/22
f/16
f/16
f/22
f/22
Close focus
0.7m
0.7m
0.7m
0.7m
0.65m**
Sharpness
excellent
excellent
very good
excellent
good
Bokeh
OK-good
poor-good
poor-good
OK-good
 
Distortion, 3m
0.0
-1.5
-0.5
-0.8
<±0.25
Weight*
224g
254g
156g
178g
239g**
Price, 2/2011

$2,000 (used)

$650 used

* Actual measured.

** With auxiliary finder optimization optics.

 

Recommendations         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Deployment   More Information

This Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon ZM is optically superb, but its unique filter size makes it a bear to deploy as part of a larger system. It's also longer and blocks the finder more than any 35mm LEICA SUMMICRON.

I have a real problem with having to buy and carry a second set of 43mm filters to support this lens in actual shooting. I'd pass on this lens purely because of the oddball 43mm filter size, and it has more finder blockage than any of LEICA's 35mm SUMMICRONs.

For people who don't use filters, this is an excellent lens. The LEICA ASPH is sharper in the corners, while this Zeiss is sharper in the center than the ASPH, and has much less distortion than the SUMMICRON ASPH!

If you find the time I take to research all this helpful, my biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially these directly to it at Adorama in silver or in black, or at Amazon in silver or in black, or locally at OC Camera, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Here's the link to the optional hood at Adorama. It helps me keep reviewing these specialized lenses when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.

 

Deployment        top

Arrgh, I hate 43mm filters. I'd consider a step-up to 46mm or a step-down to 39mm, or honestly, I prefer the LEICA lenses purely on their standard 39mm filter size.

If you stay with 43mm filters, for use with color transparency film outdoors, I prefer a 43mm B+W 81A filter.

For B&W outdoors, you want a yellow filter standard, like the B+W 43mm #022.

For color print film or digital, you want a B+W 43mm UV filter for protection.

 

More Information

Zeiss' page on the 35mm f/2.

Zeiss' technical data on the 35mm f/2.

Zeiss' glossy flyer about the 35mm f/2.

Zeiss' glossy brochure on the ZM lenses.

 

Help me help you         top

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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

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