Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/1.4 ZF2: a premium Zeiss wide-angle lens put to the test

Tuesday September 27 2011

Lens Review
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/1.4 ZF2: a premium Zeiss wide-angle lens put to the test

Announced at PhotoKina 2010, the Zeiss 35mm 1.4 lenses for Canon and Nikon are arriving on the market and have now been tested on DxOMark.

With these new lenses, the German brand extends its already extensive line of fast wide-angle lenses such as the Carl Zeiss Distagon T 28mm f/2 ZE Canon and the Carl Zeiss Distagon T 28mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon.

The technical specifications of the Zeiss 35mm 1.4 are really impressive for a 35 mm lens. Only Rokinon and Samyang can offer similar lenses. The build quality is outstanding and the focus ring is amazingly precise. Unfortunately, this lens doesn’t have auto focus, which may limit its potential market. The price itself will also restrict this lens to very few potential buyers: $1843.

In term of optical performance, we expected a lot from such a lens at such a premium price, and we were a bit disappointed.

On a full-frame (Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Nikon D3x), these lenses achieved a DxOMark score of 26 (Canon) and 27 (Nikon). We noticed very close results for both versions for every measurement.

What we like:

  • Distorsion, transmission, and vignetting are well controlled even on a full-frame camera.

What we don’t like:

On an APS-C, similar to the full-frame tests, all the measurements are quite satisfying, with of course lower distortion and vignetting.

Zeiss 35mm 1.4 versus Samyang 35mm F1.4 on a full-frame camera

In this comparison on a Nikon D3x (full-frame), the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 is better than the Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/1.4 ZF2 in almost all respects, for a price 4 times lower. On a full-frame, the superiority of the Samyang is mainly due to its better homogeneity across the field.

Zeiss 35mm 1.4 versus Samyang 35mm F1.4 on an APS-C

In comparing these lenses on an APS-C, it’s interesting to note that with the smaller pixels of the APS-C sensor, the 2 lenses are much closer in term of performance. It will be interesting to see how these lenses behave on the new generation of 24-MPix APS-C sensors.

You can find all the Carl Zeiss lenses on DxOMark here, along with the previous reviews of Zeiss lenses here.