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Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 Lens for Nikon

Please note that this is a manual focus lens.The Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 lens is a bright and compact standard lens with a precise manual focusing mechanism and large rotation angle for precise control. The lens is designed for medium to long distances and provides high-performance wide open. When stopped down the performance of the lens improves even more.Brilliant images with excellent contrast and natural color rendition are the result of the lens construction which controls flare and ghosting artifacts. When mounted on a DSLR with a 1.5 crop factor, the lens becomes a compact, lightweight 75mm portrait lens.Precise Focusinglarge rotary angle for pinpoint focusingwide focusing rotation perfect for videographyhigh quality, smooth focusing mechanism without playimmediate display of changes in the viewfinderprecise engraving in meters and feetOptimum ResultsT* anti-reflex coating by Carl Zeissstray light reduction for rich colorsminimized reflection and color fringesoptimum distortion correctionstandardized color characteristics over all focal lengthsIdeal Aperture9 blades create an almost circular apertureadjustable in 1/ 2 f-stop intervalsaperture ring with easy-to-detect lock-in positions and precise photometric gradingMechanical durabilityall-metal mountspractical focusing and aperture setting ring in metalsturdy front bayonet and filter threadLens Mount: Nikon F Mount
Average Customer Rating:
3 / 5
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1 out of 1(100%)reviewers would recommend this product.
Customer Reviews for Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 Lens for Nikon
Review 1 for Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 Lens for Nikon
3 / 5
3 / 5
A fine lens overall, but not suited to all needs
PostedJanuary 22, 2013
from Chicago, Il
Age: 55-65
Gender: male
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It's really hard to review this lens because it's such a mixed bag of sometimes contradictory attributes. It's greatest strength in my view, isn't its optical performance as such, but rather the rock solid, precise machining that keeps everything exactly where it should be. As far as I can tell, this lens has a very flat field with an axis that always remains absolutely prependicular to the cameras sensor. This may not sound like much to brag about given that such accuracy was common even in cheap lenses thirty years ago, but many of the increasingly plasticky auto focus lenses out there now have enough play and wobble in their focusing and zoom mechanisms to have a serious impact on performance. A surprising number of them display a drastic tendancy to be considerably less sharp along one side, or in one corner. I find this most annoying with the Nikon 50mm "G" lenses, since the glass in them seems otherwise to be more or less on par with the Zeiss. The Planar's one weakness with respect to mechanics, is the unfortunate fact that the F stops at both ends of the range aren't accurate. A series of tripod mounted shots of the same subject at each stop will reveal the fact that this is not really an f1.4 lens at all, but rather something closer to an f 1.6 or 1.7. This can be demonstrated easily enough by taking a shot wide open at a sixtieth of a second, and another at f 2.8 at a fifteenth of a second. They should register the same density in the center of the frame, but they won't. The wide open shot will be about a half stop darker than the one taken at f 2.8. Similarly, one taken at f 16 will be nearly a half stop brighter than one shot at a commensurate shutter speed when set to f 11. So setting the lens at f 16 really gives you something closer to f 12.7 or 13. Even the cheaper Nikon lensed don't do this. But given most other lenses inability to maintain correct focus all the way across the field, this is a comparatively minor flaw.
To determine optical performance, I set up an entire wall with cameras, clocks, stereo equipment, microscopes and other brick a brack on shelves and cabinets. Everything was carefully arranged to fall into something very close to a plane. My Nikon D-800E was bolted down tightly to a heavy Gitzo tripod, and to make sure everything was "square", a tape measure was used to make certain that detailed objects in all four corners of the frame were the exact same distance from the camera. This was shot on a concrete floor, with the camera set to "mirror up", and the shutter was triggered without touching the camera by radio slave. Exact focus was determined by taking a series of shots in three ten-thousandth inch increments, verified with a machinists dial indicator reading directly off the front edge of the filter ring. Four Nikon lenses, three days, and some FIFTEEN HUNDRED (!!!!!) images of this same target later, I was able to determine that ...............(yes, lunatic fringe, I know)
Unlike the Zeiss, which with a little care and finessing could be consistently focused accurately on this target from one end of the frame to the other, the Nikon lenses, particularly the 50mm f 1.4G, and f 1.8G were nearly impossible to get everything exactly in focus at the same time. (the tripod and subject matter never moved) That's why it took so many frames to get a clear bead on exactly where things stand. Eventually, I just gave up on both of the "G" lenses. Though optically very good, they were just too flakey with their wobbly, sloppy plastic hardware. The older 50mm f 1.4 "D" lens at least, though a shade behind the others with respect to optical performance, was at least a little more solidly built and therefore easier to get "on target". If I were to rate both of these lenses on the one to a hundred scale, neither would really rate as as top notch, but I'd give the Nikon an 82, and the Zeiss an 84.
Just for giggles, I also compared the Planar to a manual focus Nikkor-H 50mm f 2.0 that was manufactured in 1966. The old lens, with its antquated "purple" coating, renders everything a bit yellowish because that coating reflects a slightly larger percentage of the blue light back in the opposite direction from the sensor. Wide open, the old Nikon was "poor" while the Planar rated a "fair". At f 2.8, the Zeiss was still a little less muddy than the Nikkor. But at f 4.0, the Nikon was so close to being diffraction limited, that I almost had to pinch myself to make sure that the Zeiss lens wasn't actually a little out of focus. It wasn't. A forty seven year old Japanese lens easily blew the doors off the Planar which was still struggling its way out of the pits of nasty coma and astigmatism. By f5.6, it was an absolute dead heat. Both lenses were blazingly sharp. At f 8.0, the Zeiss once again pulled very slightly ahead, but no sane person would want to have to try to prove it. The Zeiss remained slightly in the lead at f 11, but no comparison could be made at f 16 because the Zeiss simply won't stop down that far. So you tell me which of these is "better". Frankly, I'd still have to give the crown to the Zeiss on a technicality.
I've heard some partisan folks claim that the Zeiss Planar is diffraction limited by f 2.8. That would be nice if true, but this is sheer fantasy. All the wishful thinking in the world won't make a lens that tops out at f 6.3 or f 8.0 as this one does, diffraction limited at 2.8. And you can take that to the bank, and take it from someone who has taken over a thousand shots with the highest resolution camera on the planet to prove it. This lens seems to display only one blatant aberration, one that I've heard described as "vieled coma". This can be seen at wider apertures , particularly where sharp edged white objects meet black ones. There's kind of a "halo" of white that spills over a good distance onto the black. Sometimes, it's kind of like being inside a light fog, with a sharp core of detail visible right through the middle of it. This is diminished by f 2.8, and pretty much gone by f 4.0. Resolution at the edges is very similar to the Nikon lenses, but there may have been some minor inaccuracies that could have tainted that conclusion. There certainly isn't any important difference in this regard. Color rendition is coolish, or at least cooler than Nikon glass. I liked it better, but that's just a subjective observation that has little meaning in anyone else's world. This lens also seemed to be a little less prone to flare than the others, but I didn't really try to test for that. Same with Bokeh. I have too little past experience with this to make a valid comparison. Vignetting is pronounced wide open, but not as bad as the Nikon f 1.4 G which in this regard, rates a well deserved "poor".
Overall, I'd have to say that the the Zeiss Planar 50 mm f 1.4 beats all four of these Nikon pretenders by at least a narrow margin. One thing for gosh darn sure, The Planar when pressed to its limits, will yield its very best performance with relatively little hassle, in spite of not having auto focusing to fall back on. With the other lenses I tested, it's more of a turkey shoot where the vagaries of their indifferent construction might well work to your benefit in some instances, or possibly to your detriment in others.
Of course it's not really fair to pit a modern $700+ lens against one that sold half a centiry ago for probably about $89. And admittedly, comparing it to the D and G series lenses has kind of an apples and oranges aspect to it. Bottom line; the Planar is a very good lens, but so are many others, some of which can be had for $25. (my old Nikkor-H) So be your own judge, but don't be fooled into thinking that just because this thing is insanely expensive, that it's necessarily better than everything else.
Pros: fine construction, blazingly sharp at f 5.6 and 8, easy to focus in fine increments
Cons: "foggy" wide open, hardly better than inexpensive lenses
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