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Mini Review: Zeiss ZF/ZE 50mm f/1.4 Planar

Last updated 2010-02-09 - Send Feedback
Related: Nikon Standard, Canon, Nikon, Zeiss, Canon Standard, Zeiss 50mm

Meets or beats any other 50mm f/1.4 lens, with very high contrast and resolving power. The 50/1.4 Planar is the most compact and lightest of the Zeiss ZF / Zeiss ZE line of lenses, a perfect companion for a small-body camera, like the Nikon D700 or Canon 5D Mark II.

Beautifully built of metal and glass, it is a handsome example of beauty with utilitarianism, as are its siblings.

The 50/1.4 Planar is very sharp and contrasty by f/2.8. Stopping down to f/4 – f/8 results in outstanding image quality with exceptionally natural-looking results. Like all of the eight 50mm designs I’ve tested from Canon, Nikon, Sigma and others, it has a fair amount of wave field curvature. That’s the way it is for a 50mm f/1.4 lens.

Close-up, image quality declines somewhat because there is no floating element, but it is outstanding at the further distances for which it is optimized. Some care should be taken (as with most f/1.4 lenses) to understand focus shift, explored in more detail in DAP.

The ZF 50/1.4 offers what some will call ugly bokeh at f/1.4 (gone by f/2), but it’s also lively, and this author has made many very pleasing images at f/1.4 with it.

Specifications for Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar
Focal length: 51.7mm
Aperture scale: f/1.4 - f/16
Focusing range: 0.45m - infinity
Angular field, diag./horiz. 45.4° / 38.4°
Coverage at close range: 16 X 24cm
Image ratio at close range:            1:6.7
Number of elements/groups: 7/6
Filter thread: M 58 X 0.75


Dimensions (with caps): 66mm in diameter, 45mm long
List price: $725 street price
Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar distortion

The barrel distortion is about twice that of the 50/2 Makro-Planar. This is typical for a 50mm f/1.4 design.

Distortion — Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar

In practice, this amount of distortion is higher than I’d like, as it means that linear subjects such as architecture do not look natural. Choose the 50/2 Makro-Planar when distortion is a priority for a 50mm lens.

Distortion — Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar


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

Refuse — Zeiss 50/1.4 Planar

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

Flags — Zeiss 50/1.4 Planar
Shadows — Zeiss 50/1.4 Planar


The Zeiss 50/1.4 Planar is a gem. Imaging quality is exceptional, with tremendous contrast and color rendition.

You can get the 50/1.4 Planar at B&H Photo for Canon or Nikon.


Learn more

For 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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