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Zeiss 50mm f/2
Planar 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 50mm f/2 ZM

Zeiss 50mm f/2 C Planar ZM in silver (43mm filters, 7.4 oz./211g, about $781, 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

See also Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar.


Introduction         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations


Ritz Camera

I personally buy from Adorama, Amazon, Ritz, B&H, Calumet and J&R. I can't vouch for ads below.


The Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar ZM lens for LEICA is an excellent lens. Its performance is exceeded only by LEICA's own LEICA SUMMICRON-M 50mm f/2, and then, only slightly.

The biggest gotcha with this lens is its inappropriate 43 x 0.75mm filter thread, which is out of LEICA's program. 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, owning a lens with a one-of-a kind 43mm thread is a bad idea.

Zeiss ZM 50mm f/2.

Zeiss 50/2 Planar ZM. enlarge.




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 Minolta CLE, Zeiss Ikon and those dirty little 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.



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.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations


Zeiss calls this the Carl Zeiss C Planar 2/50 ZM T*.

Planar is Zeiss' trademark for normal lenses.

ZM means LEICA M mount.

T* is Zeiss' trademark for their multicoating.


Optics        top

Zeiss 50mm f/2 ZM internal diagram

Internal Diagram, Zeiss 50mm f/2 ZM. enlarge.

6 elements in 4 groups.

T* is Zeiss' trademark for their multicoating.


Diaphragm       top

Zeiss ZM 50mm f/2.

Front, Zeiss ZM 50mm f/2 at f/5.6. enlarge.

10 straight blades.

Stops down to f/22.

Third-stop clicks.


Angle of View        top

27º by 39º (47º diagonally).


Actual Focal Length        top

Warning: the actual focal length is a little shorter than 50mm, so expect looser compositions on-film compared to other 50mm lenses.

Zeiss specifies the diagonal as 47º for this lens, versus 45.7º for the 50mm f/1.5 ZM, which has about the same view as other 50mm lenses.

Unlike when comparing many 50mm lenses where differences in actual focal lengths are minor, this lens makes images that look like it might actually be closer to 45mm. (The 45mm f/2 Planar in the Contax G2 system is actually 48mm.)


Close Focus       top

0.7 meters (2.3 feet).


Maximum Reproduction Ratio        top


Area covered: 29 x 43 cm, rated.


Size        top

2.028" (51.50mm) diameter by 1.709 " (43.40mm) extension from flange, measured.


Weight        top

7.440 oz. (210.9g), measured.

8.1 oz. (230g), 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



Part Numbers        top

Black Lens: 1365-661.

Silver Lens: 1365-660.

Hood: 1365-667.


Scope of Delivery        top

You only get the lens, caps and fancy paperwork.

The hood is $85 extra.


Made in        top



Performance         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Overall   Bokeh  Diaphragm Calibration   Distortion  Ergonomics

Falloff   Filters   Finder Blockage   Focus    Lateral Color Fringes

Materials & Construction    Sharpness   Sunstars


Overall     performance   top

The Zeiss 50mm f/2 ZM is a classic design offering great performance at a reasonable price. LEICA's SUMMICRON-M is better optically and takes the correct 39mm filter size, but costs more, even used, and the optical difference is negligible.


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. The Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 is much better, if this is your thing.

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:


Diaphragm Calibration     performance   top

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


Distortion     performance   top

The Zeiss ZM 50/2 has a little barrel distortion. It's minor, but more than any other 50mm rangefinder lens except the 55mm f/2.8 Industar.

If you like to enlarge LEICA M9 files to 200% and drop rulers on them in Photoshop, use these coefficients to correct it in Photoshop's lens distortion filter:

10' (3m)

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.


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

Claimed Distortion, percent

Distortion, ZEISS 50mm f/2 ZM

Distortion, Zeiss 50mm f/2 ZM.


Ergonomics     performance   top

Zeiss ZM 50mm f/2.

Zeiss ZM 50mm f/2. enlarge.

Ergonomics are great, except for some minor finder blockage closer than 1.5m (5 feet) and taking completely the wrong size filter.

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 minor on a LEICA M9.

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

These were shot with no lens profile set in the M9; set a profile and you'll get different results.


Zeiss ZM 50mm f/2 falloff on full-frame M9 at infinity, no profile:


© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.



Illuminiation, ZEISS 50mm f/2 ZM

Zeiss' chart.


Filters, use with     performance   top

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 other LEICA lens uses 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.

I tried with a 39mm held over the front of this Zeiss lens, and it seemed to work fine, but I can't find any 43mm -> 39mm step-down rings.


Finder Blockage     performance   top

There is minor finder blockage at 5 feet (1.5 meters) and closer.


Focus     performance   top

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

Focus accuracy was fine 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.


Lateral Color Fringes     performance   top

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


Materials and Construction     performance   top

Rear, Zeiss ZM 50mm f/2

Rear, Zeiss ZM 50mm f/2. enlarge.

This Zeiss 50/2 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.



Matte silver anodized or semi-gloss black enamel.

The silver is a little bit brighter and whiter than the chrome of a LEICA M3.


Focus helicoids

Seem like brass.



Seems like chromed brass.



Engraved and filled with paint.


Blue index dot



Sharpness     performance   top

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

This Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar is almost as sharp as the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 50mm f/2, which is the world's standard for 50mm performance. In anything other than exacting, controlled comparison tests, I'd never notice any difference between these two lenses.

This lens is sharp at every aperture, all over the frame. What I'm reporting below is only visible under exacting and controlled conditions.


As tested on a LEICA M9 at infinity


Everything is pretty sharp, just not as sharp as it's going to get stopped-down.

The region with image height u=16mm is the softest part, and it's still sharp.



Everything is a little better than at f/2.

The region with image height u=16mm is still the softest part.



The center,and most of the image, is ridiculously sharp, and as sharp as any lens is going to get.

The farthest corners are excellent, and the r=16mm band is a little less sharp.



The corners and the r=16 band are even better.



Most of the image is slightly dulled by diffraction, while the r=16mm band improves a bit.

The only reason diffraction is visible is precisely because this is such a great lens.


MTF, ZEISS 50mm f/2 ZM

Zeiss's MTF curve for the 50mm f/2 ZM at f/2 (white light, 10, 20 ü. 40 c/mm).


MTF, ZEISS 50mm f/2 ZM

Zeiss's MTF curve for the 50mm 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 50/2 should make 10-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light.


Compared         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

This 50mm f/2 is almost as good optically as the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 50mm f/2, but it uses a weird filter size, making it hard to integrate into a complete system.

50mm lenses for LEICA

Voigtländer 50/1.1, LEICA 50/1.4, Zeiss 50/1.5, Zeiss 50/2, LEICA 50/2. bigger.

43 or 46mm
Finder Blockage
usually none
10 blades
12 blades
10 blades
10 blades
8 blades
Aperture ring clicks
half stops
full or half stops
third stops
third stops
half stops
Close focus
1m or 0.7m
Distortion, 3m
Price, 2/2011


* Actual measured.

See my even more detailed comparison chart in my LEICA SUMMILUX-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH review.


Recommendations         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Deployment   More Information

This Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar ZM is optically excellent, but since an optically and ergonomically superior used LEICA SUMMICRON-M doesn't sell for much more, I'm unsure who'd buy this Zeiss lens.

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 43mm filter thread and it's inferior distortion performance compared to used LEICA 50mm lenses.

For casual shooters who don't know how to use filters, by all means, this is an excellent lens.

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 50mm f/2.

Zeiss' technical data on the 50mm f/2.

Zeiss' glossy flyer about the 50mm f/2.

Zeiss' glossy brochure on the ZM lenses.


Help me help you         top

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The biggest help is when you use any of these links to Adorama, Amazon, eBay, Ritz and Calumet when you get anything. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source of support. eBay is always a gamble, but all the other places always have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

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Thanks for reading!

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

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