Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ZE Canon mount lens review: Ultra-high performer

By Kevin Carter - Tuesday January 14 2014

Lens Review
Introduction | Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ZE Canon lens performance | Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ZE Canon versus competition | Conclusion

Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ZE Canon Versus Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T 100mm f/2 ZE

The 135mm focal length isn’t as popular as it once was thanks to the flexibility and image quality of lenses like the 70-200mm f2.8 and the 100mm f2.8 macros. However, Zeiss also happens to make the fastest 100mm macro currently available. At $1840, the Makro-Planar T* 2/100 is even less accessible but as it’s optimized for close distances, as you would expect, image quality while close isn’t quite on a par at mid and longer distances. As a result the 2/135 is slightly sharper in the lab. Both models have excellent uniformity with less than 3% variance in sharpness across the frame, and the two perform closely with regard to vignetting, distortion and lateral chromatic aberration. In the lab, control of CA across the field on 2/135 is quite remarkable.

Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ZE Canon Versus Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Versus Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM mounted on Canon EOS 5D Mark III: Slight advantage to the Zeiss

As with the Nikon mount version, the 2/135 ZE offering has to compete against a highly regarded rival, the Canon EF 135mm f2L USM. Besides offering very fast autofocus using an ultrasonic actuator the Canon is well known for its appealing image rendering and sharpness.

On the Canon EOS 5D Mk III the $1070 EF lens performs extremely well optically, though it’s still not quite a match for Zeiss. We’ve also compared the optical quality of the Canon EF 100mm f2 USM – a highly popular model for portraiture, and one that performs well. The two Canon models are well corrected with the 100mm coming close to the Zeiss in uniformity at wider apertures but it lacks the outright sharpness of the 135mm models.  

Note that the Canon EF 135mm can match the Zeiss wide open in sharpness, and certainly not in corner sharpness but it’s not far off from f4 onwards.