June 2009 Archives

My Next Lens Purchase

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I am now turning my attention to the mid-range primes. Bellow is a picture my old Super Contaflex and my old Tessar f/2.8. What a lens!

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Contaflex.jpgI had the Super Contaflex model that came out later - same looks. It was a consumer grade camera that competed very successfully against the pro and very expensive Leica M2 and M3.

The Contaflex was a very interesting camera and I believe the first of its kind. It had a leaf shutter and SLR without an up-and-down mirror. Therefore, only the front element could be interchanged. The advantages were a smaller and quieter SLR. The main disadvantage was that the lenses focal ranged from 35mm - 110mm.

The Zeiss Tessar 50mm f/2.8 is probably the best lens I ever had.  I used to blow the slides up on a massive screen and they never lost resolution.  On the other hand, when I "upgraded" to the Canon A1 and AE1 system, the photos taken with the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens,  projected on the same screen, lost resolution, they were not as sharp, and the color rendition was not the same. 
 
Thumbnail image for Zeiss 35.jpgI made up my mind. My next lens is going to be the Zeiss ZF 35mm f/2 Distagon T*. When? I have no idea! I really want my Zeiss lens back even though this one speaks German with a Japanese accent. I've waited for over 25 years; I can wait a 26th one.

After the 70-200 VR, I thought I was done, but it is no fun. It is always nice to have something to look forward to, but with time. However, I will not go over 12 lenses; any new one has to replace a present one. The lenses that could be replaced with only Zeiss lenses (the exception being the Nikon AI-s 50mm f/1.2) are:
  • Nikon AF-D 35mm f/2
  • Nikon AF-D 50mm f/1.4
  • Nikon AI 28mm f/2
  • Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4
The rest of my lenses are "lifers" and untouchables. However, I will look at and research one lens at a time. The ZF 35mm is fully researched and prioritized. After that, I do not have the slightest idea. The Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar as well as anything below the Distagon 25mm has been discarded from consideration.

My criteria for selecting mid-range primes is not according to focal length.  That is easy: 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and maybe 85mm.  However, the Nikon 24-70 is as good as any of the primes, if not better, and has all those ranges in one lens at f/2.8, at considerable less cost. My criteria for selecting mid-range primes is based on use. 

The 28mm is my "normal" lens for the D300 (42mm DX format) and the 35mm for the D700. The 50mm f/1.4 is for low light situations and as a portraiture lens for the D300.  I very seldom, if ever, go out with more than one lens - hate with a passion to change lenses in the field. If I ever reconsider the 85mm range, I'll get the Zeiss 85mm Planar f/1.4 T*.  However, it will be at the expense of the Tamron 17-35mm.

My biggest hurdle in selecting the ZF 35mm was that I believe that my copy of the Nikon AF-D 35mm is a very sharp. The ZF 35mm is a no-brainer, imho. On the other hand, what does it gain me? I do not think that it is much of an upgrade, besides being a manual lens - an important consideration. My problem is that I simply want a Zeiss lens and the 35mm is the right one to start out with. In other words, I "crossed that proverbial bridge."

One main reason for starting with the ZF 35mm is the obvious one - the multiple-role one. It gives me the 35mm focal range on the D700 and ~ 50mm effective focal range on the D300. It is also less costly than other Zeiss lenses ($826) and among their sharpest - better than either the ZF 25mm f/2.8 or the ZF 28mm f/2.

I really do not care for screw-driven lenses.  The turning barrel gets me all the time and no override.  I much rather have manual lenses. My plan is to go with fast prime lenses, f/2 or faster, and AI-s compatible, in the mid-range.  They have to be better, faster, and different from zooms. Manual lenses give me more control and they are more fun to work with.  I compare manual lenses to a manual transmission in a car;  I have enough "automatics."

My AI 28mm f/2 is almost untouchable.  If, and only if, the ZF 35mm is head and shoulders over the AI 28 in color rendition, IQ, and sharpness then I would go after the ZF 28 f/2. I love my 28mm and it will take some kind of a lens to displace it (I seriously doubt it.)

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for AI 28mm 1.jpgThumbnail image for Thumbnail image for AI 28mm 2.jpg


There is "talk" that Zeiss will announce a new line of consumer grade lenses, more affordable, with the same quality optics. In addition, there is "noise" about Zeiss the ZF 35mm Distagon with a workable f/1.4.  If so, it will change my plans for the 50mm - the 50mm Makro-Planar f/2 will become a viable alternative.  However, I do not know how much credence to give these rumors. 

I have another consideration or issue.  My eyesight is not what it used to be.  What am I doing, then, manual focusing in low light? Low light = D700 (not D300) = AF 50mm f/1.4 = Nikon AF-D 50mm f/1.4 or Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4 (I have not evaluated the AF-S version, yet.) Therefore, I'll start with the Zeiss ZF 35mm f/2 and take it from there - I cannot go wrong with the ZF 35.  In addition, my need and desire for a Zeiss lens would have been fulfilled.

Would it be nice to have all Zeiss mid-range primes? No question about it.  Why not go after them?  The short answer is D800 or D900.  I just do not have the resources to do everything.  I have no idea what the D900 would be like, for example.  It could be that this is the camera you mount on your head and control with your eyeballs :).  Only Nikon knows. Therefore, it becomes a choice between excellent mid-range primes and latest technology camera or  excellent+ mid-range primes and no latest technology camera.

In conclusion, I have run a whole series of scenarios with different combinations of the mid-range primes, they all have the Zeiss ZF 35 in it (I won't list them, for obvious reasons.) This is the process I go through before pulling the trigger on any new equipment. Therefore, I can safely state that it is not NAS.  On the other hand, my mind is very adept at coming up with convoluted reasons to justify a purchase and/or camouflage NAS. In all honesty and at this time, I really do not know. Regardless, once I create the need - it is not worth living without the ZF 35 - I also create the urgency - I cannot survive one year without the ZF 35.  This is bad, because I know that a week after getting the ZF 35 - my final purchase - another lens or equipment is in my sights and the process starts again.  These things are expensive and it is not like purchasing a pair of pants or shoes. In other words, once the need and urgency is there, I'm miserable for not fulfilling them. 

I will always be miserable then, because something else will be in my sights. One big reason why I fought tooth and nail against getting the 70-200, so soon - I lost. The ZF 35 will have to wait; my AF-D 35 is just as good. I have to be happy with what I have and thankful for having it.    

(This was a big effort being my first message.  This software is not that user friendly especially when posting images.  I will get better with time, but at least I started using it.)


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