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Mini Review: Zeiss ZF/ZE 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar

Last updated January 12, 2010 - Send Feedback
Mini review of Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon

The Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro Planar is an outstanding lens of a symmetric design, which minimizes aberrations of many kinds, including color fringing. It has exceptionally beautiful background blur, and is highly versatile as a “normal” lens.

The f/2 maximum aperture is unique among ~50mm macro lenses for DSLRs. Outstanding flare control and color rendition round out its performance, which matches or exceeds that of other 50mm designs. Like all 50mm designs, there is some drop-off in sharpness to the extreme corners, but edge-to-edge sharpness sufficient for the 24MP Nikon D3x is delivered, even wide open at f/2.

Relatively large and heavy for a 50mm lens, the 50mm f/2 Makro Planar offers exceptional build quality consistent with its siblings. Its build quality and silky-smooth focusing helicoid distinguish the Makro-Planar immediately from autofocus lenses from Canon or Nikon. The focusing helicoid offers considerable “throw” and thus offers great focusing precision for close-ups. It is very easy to focus accurately.

The Zeiss Makro-Planar offers very low distortion (barrel), about half the distortion of the 50mm f/1.4 Planar (~1% instead of 2%). Its rendition is thus as true-to-life as you’ll find in a 50mm lens.

While the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar offers slightly higher contrast at distance, the 50/1.4 Planar also has field curvature; the 50/2 Makro-Planar offers a flat field out to the edges of the frame, which yields more “predictable” results.

Specifications

Canon and Nikon and Pentax versions are optically identical.

Note that the highest magnification is 1:2 (half life size), and that an extension tube is needed to get close (not necessarily recommended due to working distance). The 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar is a better choice for dedicated macro work for its longer working distance.

Technical Data
Focal length: 51.6mm
Aperture scale: f/ 2 – f/22 (1/2 stop clicks)
Focusing range: 0.24m – infinity
Angular field, diag./horiz. 45.5° / 38.5°
Coverage at close range: 48 X 72 mm
Image ratio at close range:            1:2
Number of elements/groups: 9 / 8
Filter thread: M 67 X 0.75
Weight:

534g
As weighed

Dimensions (with caps): 72mm, 65mm long
List price: $1283 street price

50/2 Makro-Planar Distortion

The distortion at 1% is about half that of the 50/1.4 Planar, but still surprising for a macro lens. The 100/2 Makro-Planar has much lower distortion. There is slightly less distortion at infinity than close-up.

Distortion — Zeiss 50/2 Makro-Planar
Distortion — Zeiss 50/2 Makro-Planar

Examples

Much larger and more numerous examples are found in the full review.

Three Frogs — Zeiss 50/2 Makro-Planar
Three Frogs — Zeiss 50/2 Makro-Planar

Background blur (bokeh) is extremely pleasing with the 50/2 Makro-Planar. The next two images are examples of that.

December Persimmons — Zeiss ZE 50/2 Makro-Planar
December Persimmons — Zeiss ZE 50/2 Makro-Planar
December Persimmons — Zeiss ZE 50/2 Makro-Planar
December Persimmons — Zeiss ZE 50/2 Makro-Planar
Frosted Roses — Zeiss 50/2 Makro-Planar
Frosted Roses — Zeiss 50/2 Makro-Planar
Frosted Pomegranate — Zeiss 50/2 Makro-Planar
Frosted Pomegranate — Zeiss 50/2 Makro-Planar

The 50/2 Makro-Planar is a very strong performer at infinity, even though it is a macro lens.

Windy Hill Snow, December 2009— Zeiss 50/2 Makro-Planar
Windy Hill Snow, December 2009— Zeiss 50/2 Makro-Planar

Conclusions

The Zeiss 50/2 Makro-Planar is a reference lens for the 50mm range. Extraordinarily versatile and well made, it’s a lens one can live with for a wide variety of applications.

You can get the 50/2 Distagon at B&H Photo for Canon or Nikon.

Learn more

Guide to Zeiss ZF/ZE lensesFor in-depth coverage to these Zeiss lenses for Nikon and Canon, please subscribe to our Guide to Zeiss ZF/ZE Lenses.

The Guide has numerous examples at much higher resolution, along with actual-pixels crops for each and every lens, in most cases several pages of examples per lens.

New material is constantly being added to the Guide, so don't wait, subscribe now!

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