Lest it was unclear, I want to emphasize that the previously-discussed performance of the Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar is shared in many ways by the Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar, used for the fireworks images in the July 4th entry. Both lenses are outstanding not just for macro work, but for work at infinity focus, something not always true of macro lenses that might be “optimized” for reproduction ratios of 1:2 through 1:10. First-class designs can perform well in both areas, and the Zeiss designs are absolutely first-class. Not so of the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro and 50mm f/2.5 macro, as I discovered recently when comparing images on outdoor scenes.
If the 100mm is too pricey for your budget, consider the 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar as a stellar all-around lens, and an absolutely superb portrait lens (some very satisfying personal images not shared here). On a Nikon digital body with a “DX” size sensor, 50mm has the field of view of 75mm, excellent for portraits. On the Canon EOS 1D Mark III, the 50mm has the field of view of a 65mm, slightly more intimate, and a focal length I prefer for portraits over 100mm (130mm).
If you find MTF charts instructive, here it is for the Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar at f/2—remember it’s at 10, 20, 40 line pairs/mm, not the 5, 10, 30 line pairs used by Canon, and the MTF is measured from a real lens, not computed. (Spectral distribution also matters, and it’s unclear how it might differ). Such performance is exceedingly rare, but more importantly, real images simply jump off the screen.
Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar MTF—exemplary
Zeiss, how about an apochromatic 200mm f/2.8 macro lens with similar performance?!