Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2,0/135 ZF.2 (Nikon) mount lens review: Unsurpassed Moderate Telephoto

By Kevin Carter - Tuesday December 03 2013

Lens Review
Introduction | Prime and moderate telephoto Prime ranking | Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ZF.2 Nikon lens performance | Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ZF.2 Nikon versus competition | Conclusion

Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ZF.2 Nikon vs Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T 100mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon: Two outstanding performers

The Zeiss Makro-Planar is regarded one of the sharpest lenses from the firm and yet the Apo Sonnar T* has significantly higher sharpness that model. Both have good uniformity across the image field from the initial aperture but the Makro-Planar simply can’t match the sharpness of the Apo Sonnar T* at any aperture setting.

Both have similar transmission and negligible distortion in the case of the Apo Sonnar though that model also has slightly lower, softer looking vignetting and lower levels of chromatic aberration.

Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ZF.2 Nikon vs Nikon AF DC-Nikkor 105mm f/2D vs Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED: Superior sharpness from Zeiss

Although we’ve yet to assess Nikon’s highly regarded AF DC-Nikkor 135mm f2.0D model, we have analyzed the 105mm version. These lenses with their defocus control (DC) for blurring backgrounds were really high performers in their day and still perform well on high-resolution DSLRs today.

However, the Apo Sonnar T* is significantly sharper than the 105mm version and also outperforms Nikon’s latest AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8 IF-ED. The macro performs very well and has high corner sharpness at full aperture but like the Zeiss Makro model it can’t match the Apo Sonnar T* for peak sharpness at any aperture.

It also has rather high chromatic aberration and noticeable vignetting for a macro lens.  The Nikkor 105mm f2.0 DC has similarly low CA to the Apo Sonnar and it even has excellent illumination and transmission, but it doesn’t allow high-resolution bodies such as the D800 to reach their full potential.