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Zeiss ZM 15mm f/2.8 Distagon T*

The Zeiss ZM 15mm f/2.8 Distagon (about $4600) is a super-exotic ultra-wide-angle rectilinear lens for the Leica M9/M8/M or Zeiss Ikon. You’ll also need the viewinder ZI 15mm.

Hand-built in Germany, the 15/2.8 Distagon utilizes exotic types of glass inlcuding barium dense flint with a high refractive index and fluor crown with anomalous partial dispersion, as well as aspheric lens elements. Zeiss went all out with this design, hence it is the most expensive lens in the ZM lineup.

A center filter is included with the lens, to provide even illumination across the field. Illumination (vignetting) is very consistent, with only modest change upon stopping down.

Shooting an ultra-wide lens with good compositions is a challenge with any camera!

View near real-time pricing and availability for Zeiss ZM an Leica M lenses on the Leica M gear page.

Focusing

This lens is not rangefinder-coupled; you'll have to use the distance scale, or estimate distance. For this reason, use at f/5.6 or f/8 is advised, to compensate for focus errors.

Guide to Leica

Image quality

Performance is crisp and contrasty, with richly saturated color and excellent detail across the frame: as good as it gets for a 15mm, please see the high resolution examples in my Guide to Leica.

There really is no need to stop down for image quality reasons, stopping down is really for depth of field, and to mitigate any focus error.

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Color

No suitable lens detection setting exists on the Leica M9, and so some edge/corner color cast is present. Please see the examples in my Guide to Leica.

Aperture ring

As with the other ZM lenses, the 1/3 stop click stops feel fantastic, and they are easy to see. I love this aspect of the ZM line, and it’s practical too: it allows fine-tuning exposure to 1/3 stop, something that can be of use with digital (“expose to the right”). The slight clicks they make offer excellent auditory and tactile feedback.

Composing

Focus first, then compose with the hot-shoe mounted viewfinder. Or vice versa. Such is life with the Leica M9/M8/M and any lens wider than 28mm.

Ergonomics

The ergonomics are excellent. The lens is relatively large and heavy, but it rests well in my hands, and the mass stabilizes the camera for low light results down to 1/15 second or so.

Specifications

Per Zeiss. See datasheet.

Zeiss ZM 15mm f/2.8 Distagon
Focal length: 15mm
Aperture scale: f/2.8 - f/22, 1/3 steps
Focusing range: 0.3m - infinity
Angular field, diag./horiz./vert 110/100/77 °
Coverage at close range: 43 cm x 65 cm
Image ratio at close range:            1:18
Number of elements/groups: 11 elements in 9 groups
Filter thread: M 72 x 0.75
Weight: 550g
Dimensions (with caps): ø 78 mm, length 92 mm

Distortion

Distortion is fairly strong barrel distortion over most of the frame, flattening and reversing to pincushion near the edges (“wave” distortion). This is typical for ultra-wide angle lenses.

Distortion of the Zeiss ZM 15/2.8 Distagon
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