Images Feel Like They're
Jumping Right Off The Page
The photo quality and color hue the
Zeiss 18mm ZF wide-angle lens simply knocks the socks off a Canon 16-35 / 17-40 or Nikkor 17-35 / 16-35 lens for hue, pop and sparkle. By shooting the same scene using various lenses, you'll appreciate the differences tight on your LCD in the majority of situations. The Zeiss images feel like
they're jumping right off the page, as the colors are virtually luminous, and the sharpness and contrast appear to be National Geographic quality. Some photographers have expressed this as being a 3D effect, while others call it 'micro-contrast'.
You'll not shoot with any Nikon, Canon, or Pentax lens which gets close to matching this Zeiss lens for hue and burst (except the 300 f/2.8 type $4000 and above lenses). Now this is my personal opinion, and is founded upon my style of shooting and personal aesthetic viewpoint. I do not pretend to be a professional editor of images, also my thoughts are NOT not predicated upon detailed Optical and Scientific testing and comparisons. Sharpness, Contrast, control of Flare and distortion don't get any better
The Handling and Build quality resembles the 21mm Zeiss (which is the last word in reference wide angle) including layout and build quality, although it is more condensed (about a full inch shorter) and is more effortless to handle, carry. I have no love for walking several miles with a long lens that is front heavy and prone to bumping into obstructions. This lens very simple to carry since the barrel of the lens has quite petite diameter and it's well balanced on a D7000. Compared to a Nikon plastic hood, the metallic hood by it's self is worth over $100 in my opinion.
You have to get your hands on this lens to get a sense of how well it has been designed and engineered. The Nikon alternatives does not even come close, and as a matter of fact are not based in the same ballpark. The lens is a sensual enjoyment; I love the appearance, feel and the ergonomics of Zeiss lenses. The comparable Nikons have somewhat large
diameter barrel and are not fun to shoot. The 18mm Zeiss is ergonomically virtually perfect. The lens cap even functions quite well while the hood is installed (important to me).
There are a few downsides to this lens that you may wish to think about:
it's Manual focus only: it takes time to compose your shots as there's no autofocus, although it's easy to set the aperature at F8 and photograph at infinity with a wide lens such as this. You will walk away with your shots in a majority of the situations if you are aware. Focusing has a smooth and almost buttery feel, and a joy to shoot. The Nikon D7000 has green dot validation and you can get it right on if you do not rush.
To set up Exif data (image detail) for the manual focus lens setting on the Nikon D7000, go to the menu (for non-CPU lens) and setup the initial lens information (18mm, F3.5 etc). After this is done, you can then get exif information iusing Aperture priority (things like aperture, exposure compensation, shutter speed, etc.) The camera does not automatically recognize this lens. Additionally you must validate that you have set the camera to lens 1, lens 2 etc each time you mount a ZF lens. Or else your camera will display the wrong information. Additionally you must manually set the aperture on the body of the lens. Now Zf2 lenses automatically display exif data, but they cost a lot more.
The price for a prime lens is expensive, although (in my opinion) it is worth every cent if you care anything about photo quality, construction and build quality and can get along with shooting with manual focus. For a wide angle, just about everything is in focus past 6' feet anyway!
It is not any good for shooting events unless you are very experienced shooting manual focus (or just shoot at f/8 and infinity every time). It's ideal for interiors, landscapes, products and commercial work. You can photograph using flash but you'll probably need practice using the manual settings, use adapters to take care of the wide angle.
The Filter size is is a whopping 82 mm (most of the professional Nikon lenses are 77 mm). So you'll will have purchase expensive new lens filters to gain the full advantage of the Zeiss 18mm capabilities. Such as: Neutral density filters for stopping waterfalls and graduated filters for darkening skies etc.
Other lens alternatives: Also the Nikkor 14-24 is a fantastic lens for photo quality, nearly as good. Although it's bulky, accepts no filters, is not easy to carry around. The 16-35 Nikkor is most practical although the Voit 20 is better constructed and astonishingly compact (my number two choice).
To summarize, once you shoot with a Zeiss, there's no returning back to the old status quo. That's my experience. Colors are so vibrant and consistently much bigger than life, So, I am content to get along with the "negatives". The real test of any camera lens is how much and how often you actually shoot with it.
I highly recommended this lens those of you searching for the ultimate photo quality, color hue, 3D like jump out at you, beautiful behavior and 'craftsman style' timeless build quality. You'll know when you see, touch and use it, So if you have the money for it, get one now!
The Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 is available in Mounts for Canon (ZE), Nikon (ZF), Pentax (ZK), Leica & Zeiss(ZM), and Universal M42 Screw Mount (ZS) (See
availability information below) .
May 9, 2011 ✓