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September 2010

Off for some shooting fun

I’ll be traveling today through Oct 5 or so on a private photo tour and some goodies for testing.

A heat wave has hit California, making up for the pleasant summer, so I doubt I’ll see the awesome snowstorm of last year repeated, but weather can change fast.

SPOT personal tracker/beacon

Last year’s snowstorm — such fun!
SPOT personal tracker/beacon

Last year’s snowstorm — such fun!

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G off-center aberrations

Just added to my review of the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G in DAP is a study of the off-center optical aberrations, relevant to night shooting and similar. Aberrations and their mitigation are covered in depth in Making Sharp Images.

SPOT personal tracker/beacon

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G more examples

Just added to my review of the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G in DAP are examples at the Golden Gate Bridge.

SPOT personal tracker/beacon

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4

Compared! Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G to older Nikon AF 85mm f/1.4D

Just added to my review of the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G in DAP is a head-to-head comparison with the 85mm f/1.4D, its predecessor.

SPOT personal tracker/beacon
85mm f/1.4G compared to 85mm f/1.4D on Nikon D3x

FotoClave 1010 in San Jose, CA October 29-31

I’ll be giving two presentations at FotoClave 2010 in Milpitas, CA this October 29-31. See the Saturday schedule and download the PDF flyer for details.

Inspiring Your Photographic Creativity — In this session Lloyd will discuss how to challenge your creative thinking with a variety of approaches such as looking for natural patterns, considering perspective and size variance, using blur effectively, and exploring the possible variations within a single subject or a single subject or a fixed focal length for a day.

Digital Infrared Photography — You've seen those beautiful infrared photography images and wondered how to achieve the effect with a digital camera. Author of the highly rated Guide To Digital Infrared Photography, Lloyd takes the myth and mystery out of this subject. He will present an overview of how to get started with digital infrared photography with tips and techniques and things to consider when choosing a camera and lens.

SPOT personal tracker/beacon
Late fall Snowstorm in Patriarch Grove
Canon 5D Mark II infrared

Reviewed! Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G

Just published is the first installment of my review of the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G in DAP.

My review will be expanded, but already includes examples, and discussions of ergonomics, bokeh, MTF, color rendition vs the 85/1.4D, focus shift and color bokeh, a bokeh “movie” from f/1.4–f/16, distortion and vignetting series.

The new Nikon 85mm f/1.4G is surely one of the finest 85mm lenses on the market today, perhaps even the best of all, and I have no hesitation in giving it my highest recommendation. I’ve already committed to purchase my review copy, as I consider it a must-have lens.

Anyone claiming that the 85/1.4G is just an overpriced rehash of the older 85mm f/1.4D is thoroughly clueless. It’s not just one or two things; Nikon has improved everything with this lens. I am thrilled with what I am seeing with the 85/1.4G, though perhaps weaknesses could reveal themselves with further shooting, as no lens is perfect.

The 85/1.4G is an outstanding portrait lens, but it’s also great for wide aperture landscapes too! I’ve always enjoyed an 85mm for landscape work; the 85/1.4G is a great choice.

Get the new Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G for about $1699 at B&H Photo.

SPOT personal tracker/beacon
Avatar
Nikon D3x + Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G

SPOT GPS Messenger

SPOT personal tracker/beacon
SPOT personal beacon

Next week I’ll be heading to Yosemite and the White Mountains on a private photo tour. While this is a guided trip, I am usually alone when photographing in the mountains, and so I now always carry the SPOT GPS Messenger. The new model has several new functions, including an "OK", Custom and tracking button. But the reason I carry it is just in case I break a leg or similar: for the SOS feature, uploaded via GPS satellites.

The SPOT combines a margin of safety with fun stuff, like tracking and "OK" messages, and so for casual adventurers, it’s perfect. It also weights only 117 grams, far lighter than most PLB units, which range from 450 700 grams or so—heavy. The SPOT is light enough to be strapped onto one’s arm with the supplied strap.

A personal locator beacon (PLB) is a time-proven way to go, with a powerful transmitter, and should probably be the choice for those heading to seriously risky areas.

See my review of the SPOT GPS Messenger.

Photokina excitement?

There have been several interesting and worthwhile products announced at Photokina, but I’d say that Photokina has pretty much been average—no new flagship Nikon or Canon DSLR, no major breakthroughs like a true-color sensor or a DSLR without an AA filter or really good in-camera HDR. I’m hearing October/November for a possible new high-end DSLR from Nikon or Canon, so I guess announcements will have to wait.

Then again, the 40MP Pentax 645D DSLR pushes the medium format price point almost down into high-end DSLR range. With a 44 X 33mm CCD sensor that is 68% larger than a 35mm DSLR, and a 921K 3" LCD, it sounds quite promising (most MF backs have crappy low-res LCDs).

For me at least, the most exciting product announcement is the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, and I do have more material coming on it in my Guide to Zeiss ZF / Zeiss ZE Lenses. Also, the new Schneider-Krueznach tilt/shift lenses are something I’ll want to get my hands on.

But whatever you shoot, there is a lot involved to get the best quality, and how to do that is what you’ll find in Making Sharp Images.

How to Safely Transfer Data or Verify Backups

IntegrityChecker verify command
IntegrityChecker

Suppose that you are switching to a new system, and you want to know that the data you have transferred is intact and 100% identical to the files you started with.

Or you’re a photographer; some pro photographers burn DVD or BluRay discs containing files with IntegrityChecker support; these discs can be verified at any time. There are numerous such uses.

See my article How to Safely Transfer Data or Verify Backups.

Items of note at Photokina

Photokina is rolling, with lots of news emerging. So far, nothing exciting from Nikon or Canon, perhaps tomorrow will bring something.

Here are the items catching my eye (besides the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4).

Pentax 645D 40-megapixel medium format DSLR — This might be the best value yet in medium format, since the body will be priced at US$9999. For 40 megapixels, that’s about 40% of the price of the Leica S2, and thus far more accessible to many more photographers. Pentax lenses have a well-deserved reputation, so this will be an exciting development for some. With a 44 X 33mm CCD sensor that is 68% larger than a 35mm DSLR, and a 921K 3" LCD, it sounds quite promising.

Leaf Aptus II 80 megapixel medium format digital — Raising the resolution bar with a huge 53.7 X 40.3mm sensor, this new back has an aggressive price of $31,999. According to Leaf, the dynamic range is 12 stops, just slightly less than the Phase One P65+ at 12.5 stops. The kicker is the price: at US$31,999 it’s a hugely expensive back at a low price in this arena. Systems including the PhaseONE camera body and an 80mm lens are likely to run about US$35,995.

Fujifilm X100 compact retro camera, with a large APS-C sensor and 35mm-equivalent lens. A hybrid viewfinder with both optical and Live View features, really a nifty new capability in a large sensor camera. This looks like a great contender in the emerging small-camera-big-sensor category, not unlike the Leica X1. The MTF graphs for the lens look very promising, and Fuji is very capable of making high performance lenses.

Schneider-Kreuznach 50mm f/2.8 HM and 90mm f/4 HM (HM means “high modulation” or high sharpness). Very appealing is the tripod collar, which if positioned appropriately means that parallax-free shift-lens stitching could be done by moving the camera instead of the lens. Also promising is the 12mm of shift and 8° of tilt together. See also the Hartblei SuperRotator lenses, which have been available for some time.

Schneider-Kreuznach PC-TS Lenses
Schneider-Kreuznach PC-TS Lenses

More Zeiss 35/1.4 samples

Rich Schleuning of Zeiss has posted some images from the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon on his Flickr page.

Nikon rebates

Everyone has rebates these days, here are some Nikon rebates at B&H Photo for D300 and D700 kits. Does this mean that replacements are coming?

Carl Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon breathing

The short video below shows near-to-far focusing for the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon prototype, with the thought that it might be of some interest to video users concerned with “breathing”.

Note that the color is wrong (though not unpleasant), and quality is well below the original (courtesy of YouTube). You’ll want to set to 1080p and full screen to view comfortably, use the controls at lower right of the video.

Carl Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon bokeh (a few more)

I’ve added a few more examples. See yesterday’s discussion below.

Update! I’ve also added a vignetting series on the main page, along with distortion (low).

Here’s one more that that shows off the lovely blur gradient and color rendition and contrast of the 35/1.4. Shooting pseudo-macro 1:5 is great fun with the 35/1.4 Distagon.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4 violet / purple fringing
Sunflower forms
Canon 5D Mark II + Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4

Carl Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon bokeh

Just published in my Guide to Zeiss ZF / Zeiss ZE Lenses are a variety of examples at f/1.4 with the prototype Zeiss ZE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (I include the usual higher resolution versions as well). The bokeh is extraordinary. In fact, I judge it right up there with the 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar, and it’s even more striking to see this rendition in a 35mm focal length. Perhaps the lens is as large as it is in order to achieve Zeiss imaging goals.

My examples include a (human) portrait, which will not be shown in this public blog, but which I believe will make those looking for an ideal environmental portraiture lens impatient for the on-sale production version in 2011.

A resolution chart test of this lens would completely miss the point. This is no harsh-gradient design for garnering accolades on a resolution chart (though it’s very sharp). Zeiss clearly had something special in mind for this lens. Shoot it wide open, and savor—when it’s available; I’ll be very disappointed to have to return the prototype next week.

I’ve worked with so many top-grade lenses, including some of the world’s best, so I’ve learned to respect my instincts. My gut feeling is that the 35/1.4 Distagon is something highly unusual, and if its style appeals to you, sell whatever you have to so that you can afford the 35/1.4 when it’s available in early 2011. Go ahead and shoot landscapes at f/8 with it too if you like, but that’s missing the point.

Shown below are a few of my garden shots from a 30 minute shoot yesterday evening.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4 violet / purple fringing
Late-day honeybee
Canon 5D Mark II + Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4 violet / purple fringing
Three frogs
Canon 5D Mark II + Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4 violet / purple fringing
Winter Soup
Canon 5D Mark II + Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4 violet / purple fringing
Remains of a Feast
Canon 5D Mark II + Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4 violet / purple fringing
Blighted tomatoes
Canon 5D Mark II + Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4

Carl Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon initial impressions

Late in the day FedEx delivery along with some other obligations restricted my time with the new Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon today, but I am already forming some impressions based on the ZE prototype lens using my Canon 5D Mark II (I would have preferred the Nikon D3x, because the 5DM2 image quality interferes with the artistic effects delivered by the lens, particularly the noise and color).

The ZE 35/1.4 Distagon is a large chunk of glass and metal, and your neck will let you know this in short order, even when mounted on the relatively light weight Canon 5D Mark II. I think it would feel more at home mated to a Nikon D3x or Canon 1 series, but of course that’s purely a subjective feel thing, and then your neck would protest even more.

The first thing I noticed upon inspecting my initial shots is the color rendition, which is really gorgeous, especially so when combined with the crisp contrast. Classic Zeiss color. This is the very first shot I took, tomatoes from my garden picked that morning. I’m not thrilled with the 5D Mark II color rendition, and perhaps the small size doesn’t make things apparent (or JPEG), but it has something I like. This is a click-and-process example, nothing done to it.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4 violet / purple fringing
Morning’s harvest
Canon 5D Mark II + Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4

The next thing I noticed is a wonderful bokeh (out of focus rendition), and I had the unexpected feeling that I was looking at a medium format Zeiss lens, a very classic out-of-focus rendition. Though very sharp at f/1.4 with an apparently high level of correction, this is not a harsh-transition rendition as you’ll find with some designs; rather my instinctive reaction was that this is a real artist’s lens, one exceptionally well suited to “feel”, and a lens ideally suited for wide aperture landscapes, and portraits and anything of a thoughtful character. Get it for use (mainly) at f/1.4 - f/2.8 would be my advice.

The video folks are going to love it when they see the way the 35/1.4 renders, along with its silky-smooth focusing. A Zeiss CP.2 cine version of this is not planned though. I should have gotten the fish tacos, because the beef ones were awful.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4 violet / purple fringing
Fish Tacos
Canon 5D Mark II + Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4

You’ll find the usual amount of color bokeh and axial color as with every f/1.4 or f/2 design, so don’t expect any miracles (even the Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M doesn’t have any miracles to offer, and has far worse axial color). Fast apertures are always a compromise in some way.

The Canon 5D Mark II “green dot” focus assist was frequently in error, and could not be counted on for crisp results. I have not yet investigated this in any rigorous way, but I obtained a number of front-focused images, suggesting that there might be significant spherical aberration (a topic covered in Making Sharp Images). Or it could also be that the prototype is not “chipped” as it will be. I have no judgment to render on that point as yet.

Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S

As expected, Nikon today announced the new 35mm f/1.4G, available sometime in November. Specifications further below. I’ll be buying one (a must-have, so I pre-ordered from Amazon), and of course doing a full review in DAP.

I expect that the 35mm f/1.4G will be prone to the same focusing issues as the 24mm f/1.4G (since the 50/1.4G is also prone to the problem), but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

What caught my eye is the MTF chart (one of many topics covered in Making Sharp Images is a thorough explanation of how to interpret MTF charts).

This MTF chart is almost certainly a computed chart which shows theoretical best performance (as opposed to a real MTF test with a production lens). Remember, a lens has to be manufactured with exceptional precision to deliver its computed best— and this is NOT likely to happen consistently over at Nikon or Canon, based on my dismal experiences. But a prime lens has a better shot at it than a zoom.

Still, the chart shows exceptional performance wide open at f/1.4, which suggests to me that performance should be superlative by f/2. Remember though that this chart shows 10 and 30 line pairs per millimeter, not the 10/20/40 pairs of Zeiss charts.

The chart suggests that the 35mm f/1.4 will have a reasonably flat field and very good control of lateral chromatic aberration, with modest loss of performance in the corners. Without an MTF chart for stopped-down performance, it’s hard to say more, but it looks to me like the Nikon 35/1.4G will offer substantially higher performance than the aging Canon 35mm f/1.4L.

Furthermore, the performance at f/1.4 combined with pleasing bokeh could make this lens an extremely popular offering. Shoot it wide open perhaps, for wide aperture landscapes (see Landscape Photography at Wide Apertures in DAP).

MTF chart at f/1.4 for Nikon 35mm f/1.4G at 10, 30 lp/mm
MTF chart at f/1.4 for Nikon 35mm f/1.4G at 10, 30 lp/mm
Specifications
 
Focal Length: 35mm
Maximum Aperture: f/1.4
Minimum Aperture: f/16
Angle of View (DX-format):  63° full frame, 44° DX
Max Reproduction Ratio: 1:5
Filter Size: 67mm
Dimensions:  3.27" diameter X 3.52"  long (83 x 89.5mm) 
~Weight: 21.2 oz = 600g
Lens Case: CL-1118
Lens Hood: HB-59
Optical construction:  10 elements in 7 groups, 1 aspherical,
rear focus, Nano Crystal Coat Supplied Accessories LF-4 Rear Lens Cap LC-67mm Snap-on Front Cap HB-59 Bayonet Lens Hood CL-1118 Semi-Soft Case

Nikon D7000

The new Nikon D7000 shows promise, but finding lenses that can deliver to a sensor with 4.7-micron photosites should prove an interesting challenge, certainly not something likely with most consumer zooms, which is what Nikon shows the camera with in its marketing; having 16 megapixels is a token specification if the lenses cannot deliver. The new 35/1.4G (below) might be just such at lens, at least stopped down to f/2.8. Worth understanding is that diffraction will limit performance to f/5.6 with per-pixel performance quickly degrading at f/8 and beyond. See Making Sharp Images for more on diffraction. Of course, the video capabilities of the D7000 might be its main attraction, given the dearth of 1080p video on Nikon DSLRs, and for video, the diffraction issue is a non-issue.

You can pre-order the D7000 or the D7000 with 18-105mm kit.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G first impressions

MTF chart at f/1.4 for Nikon 35mm f/1.4G at 10, 30 lp/mm
f/1.4 — nicely sharp
but little depth of field

Just showed up courtesy of B&H Photo is the new Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (about $1699, and can be pre-ordered). A full report will follow in DAP over the next few weeks.

The 85/1.4G is a big lens, it looks and feels much larger than I had anticipated. With lens hood and front and rear caps, I weighed it on a gram-accurate scientific scale at 666 grams.

My first impressions are of very high quality wide open, with exceptional contrast for an f/1.4 lens, and very natural color rendition. Wide open, the images have a punch (high overall contrast) that is reminiscent of the 24/1.4G. I am looking forward to field shooting the lens.

The AF-S focusing makes a faint scratchy noise, just as with the 24/1.4G, apparently normal operation. Those who liked loud music in their youth probably won’t hear it at all.

Because both the 24/1.4G and 50/1.4G have clear front-focusing problems at distance, the very first shot I took with the 85/1.4G was a distance shot to check the 85/1.4G, which showed clear signs of front-focus error (using the central focus sensor on the Nikon D3x).

Canon doesn’t have this problem with its f/1.4 lenses, so I’m beginning to think it’s a fundamental design defect with Nikon AF. Whether the focus error is consistent, or whether it is flaky as with the 24/1.4G I don’t yet know. At close range, the 85/1.4G seems spot-on, just as the 24/1.4G was also spot on.

MTF chart at f/1.4 for Nikon 35mm f/1.4G at 10, 30 lp/mm
Focus error at distance; focus is well in front

The 85/1.4G has the violet fringing to be expected of any f/1.4 lens (axial chromatic aberration). There is nothing “wrong” here, this is to be expected. I go into axial chromatic aberration in detail in Making Sharp Images.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4 violet / purple fringing
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4

You’ll also get the usual magenta/green color bokeh, but this is also expected; even my Leica 75mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M exhibits such behavior. I also explore color bokeh in Making Sharp Images.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4

Sharpness and contrast are first-rate wide open at f/1.4; this is actual-pixels and I manually focused here, because AF couldn’t deal.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4 (manual focus by eye)

Making Sharp Images on the Apple iPad

Making Sharp Images
World Trade Center, NYC, Sept 18, 2009

I've gotten comments asking "why not for iPad?".

Making Sharp Images can be read very nicely on the iPad, with even the videos and special sequences operable, though not exactly the same as on a computer.

It's not an "app" (that's an entirely separate and high overhead effort), but it reads beautifully in Safari on the iPad, with only a few limitations:

  • Internet connectivity is required;
  • Special mouse-over sequences don't work exactly the same as on a computer.

Examples shown below are reduced size actual screen shots from the iPad. See more.

New York World Trade Center construction in progress  New York World Trade Center construction in progress
Actual screen shots on the iPad

Carl Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon prototype

Carl Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon
Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon
(ZE version for Canon EOS)

I’m anticipating arrival of the new Carl Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon tomorrow; Zeiss has graciously allowed me use of a prototype lens for a full week. You can bet that it will see some use. See my September 1 notes for details. Technical data such as MTF and so on will have to wait until late this year with production lenses.

I’ll be shooting a prototype; the 35mm f/1.4 Distagon won’t go on sale until next year (2011). And for that reason, all evaluation is preliminary.

A full review of the production version will of course be found in my Guide to Zeiss ZF / Zeiss ZE Lenses once I have a production units late in 2011, but I’ll be discussing and showing as much as I can using the pre-production lens, to the extent that Zeiss is comfortable with pre-production discussion. A lot will go into this blog, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, users looking for a top-flight prime lens kit should be getting the 21/2.8 Distagon, the 50/2 Makro Planar, and the 100/2 Makro-Planar. That gap is nicely filled by the 35/1.4 Distagon, but the 35/2 28/2 would also be a very nice choice. See my handy Zeiss list for Canon and Zeiss list for Nikon over at B&H Photo.

9/11 — Work in Progress

I took this photo last year. A moment to destroy, years to rebuild. Presumably the structure has moved along nicely towards completion.

Making Sharp Images
World Trade Center, NYC, Sept 18, 2009

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G coming for review next week

New Nikon lenses on the way for testing
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G

Courtesy of B&H Photo, I have the new Nikon 85mm f/1.4G on the way, to be reviewed in DAP, starting in about a week when it arrives.

See my August 25 comments on the 85/1.4G.

Certainly I want to see how this new lens compares to the original Nikon 85mm f/1.4D, but also the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar.

As I stated in my earlier comments, I have high expectations for this new lens, and so I hope I get a good sample.

Read more about good and bad lens samples in Making Sharp Images.

BTW, there are various Nikon specials in force at present.

NEW publication — Making Sharp Images

Making Sharp Images
Click to read about Making Sharp Images

It only took me 5 years or so.

Get it now, then save yourself 5 years by reading it.

New subscriber Al Leese says:

This is great stuff!! I started investigating my images more closely back in 2008 when I attempted to "AF Fine tune" lenses for my Nikon D3. I have been testing/elminating my lenses ever since. With this information, I can now understand some of the weird stuff I was seeing. — Al Leese

Canon instant savings

For a few days, there are Canon instant savings on a variety of lenses when purchased with a Canon EOS body, such as the $260 off the 85mm f/1.2L II (highly recommended). See also my Canon wish list.

Special offer for current DAP and Zeiss subscribers — ENDS Sept 7

I have a new offering, perhaps my most important work ever, but I am not yet releasing it to the general public or describing it here (some marketing and PR work remains).

DAP and Zeiss Guide subscribers can subscribe to this new offering at a special discount price through September 7, 2010 (was Sept 5, but I am extending it 2 more days due to the holiday I hadn’t thought about).

Login here, then click the link to the special offer as shown for MSI.

The discount is also available to new subscribers, or renewals.

Mac Pro 3.33Ghz 12-core, Upgrading Mac Pro CPU Speed and Cores, Handbrake video, Photoshop CS5 Speed Problems and more

A slew of new information is now online at my MacPerformanceGuide.com.

Read my review of the 2010 Mac Pro, now updated for the 12-core 3.33Ghz Mac Pro.

Software can be a limiting factor these days, and sadly, Photoshop CS5 is the worst offender I’ve yet found. Not only does it not run faster with 12 cores instead of 6, it suffers a big performance hit. Read Photoshop CS5 — Why More Cores Are Slower.

Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Nikon and Canon

The only disappointing note for the new Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon is the 2011 delivery date. I should have one slightly in advance of retail availability for testing and inclusion in my Guide to Zeiss ZF / Zeiss ZE Lenses; it will receive ample attention from me. MTF charts are not yet available.

Rich Schleuning of Carl Zeiss has posted some pictures with a prototype of the new 35/1.4. The bokeh looks very promising.

My observations:

  • The 35/1.4 Distagon is beefy at about 840 grams (29-30 ounces). By comparison, the 35/2 Distagon is about 530 grams, the 21/2.8 Distagon is about 600 grams, and Canon’s 35/1.4 is about 640 grams. So the 35/1.4 is not the lens for traveling light. My guess is that Zeiss oversized the 35/1.4 in part to achieve higher image quality. Its all-metal construction is also heavier than plastic.
  • At almost 5" (120mm) long, it’s not a compact lens dimensionally.
  • Close focusing to a magnification ratio of 1:5 means allows for creative versatility at close range. I really love that capability.
  • With 11 elements in 9 groups, element count is higher than the 9 elements in 7 groups, and the design appears to be quite different, and likely better corrected (higher performance).
  • Zeiss is calling out bokeh (blur effect) as “extraordinary”. The way a lens draws is a primary attraction for me, so I eagerly look forward to what this means in practice.
  • Compared to the excellent 35mm f/2 Distagon, the 35mm f/1.4 Distagon needs to prove itself. At f/2, the f/1.4 lens should show much less vignetting, and probably reduced axial color. I do hope that Zeiss has eliminated the traces of lateral chromatic aberration seen with the 35/2 Distagon.
  • The claim of “wide rotation angle” also known as focus throw is a welcome aspect for pinpoint focus. All the Zeiss lenses have far superior manual focus over AF lenses, but it’s unclear if the 35/1.4 is any better than, say, the 35/2 Distagon in this regard.
  • The 72mm filter size matches up with the 85/1.4 Planar, and it’s a common size for Canon and Nikon.
Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Nikon and Canon

See also the product flyer.

OBERKOCHEN, September 1, 2010 – A woman is sitting at the bar of a dimly-lit cafe. Lost in thoughts, she doesn’t notice the glass of wine the bartender places before her. From a distance, a photographer tries to capture her mood. He brings her face, which is leaning toward her phone, into focus. Everything around her becomes a blur, and the lights in the background coalesce into a wild “dance” of diffuse shapes.

This shot will only work with a fast lens with short focal length and harmonious bokeh. Carl Zeiss introduces a new lens for just such images: the Distagon T* 1,4/35.

By introducing the Distagon T* 1,4/35, Carl Zeiss is complementing the Planar T*1,.4/50 and T*1,4/85 lenses with a wide-angle lens that shares the same high speed. Crisp, sharp images work every time, whether at dusk or in the weak lighting conditions of a café, and without the need for a tripod. With its 35-mm, the Distagon T* 1,4/35 matches the classic and versatile standard focal lengths when used on cameras with APS-C sensor formats.

Due to the special bokeh effects in both the foreground and background areas, the Distagon T*1,4/35 opens up new creative possibilities, giving photographers more options to ‘play’ with focus. Thanks to its large focus ring, photographers can also create highly accurate, sharp pictures, even at maximum aperture opening. This also makes the lens an ideal addition to the filmmaker using DSLR’s for HD video capture. In addition, the optical construction of the lens guarantees high image quality across the entire image range. Furthermore, with one step less than the full aperture opening, the light fall-off toward the edges is just one f-stop.

With the ZEISS T*  anti-reflective coating, its sophisticated stray light reduction and the excellent flare control, the new Distagon also takes pictures of bright light sources without artifacts. The Distagon T*1,4/35’s extremely long-lasting and robust all-metal precision mechanics, for which Carl Zeiss is known, make this lens perfect for use on-the-go and for photo reports.

The Distagon T* 1,4/35 will be available in first quarter of 2011 at a recommended retail price of $1,843 USD.

Technical specifications 
Focal length                35 mm
Aperture range              f/1.4 - f/16 
Number of elements/groups 	11/9
Focusing area			    0.3 m - infinity
Angular field** (diag./horiz./vert.) 63/54/37 °
Coverage at close range 	18 x 12 cm (close-up)
Image ratio at close range	1:5 (close-up)
Filter thread			    M 72 x 0.75
Weight				        830 – 850 g
Length with caps		    120 – 122 mm
Diameter			        78 mm
Mounts 				        ZF.2 (F bayonet), ZE (EF bayonet)

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