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Carl Zeiss announces ultra-wide ZE 21/2.8 Distagon for Canon EOS

Carl Zeiss today announced the ZE 21mm f/2.8 T* Distagon for Canon EOS [datasheet]. The ZE and ZF versions are optically identical.

Zeiss ZE 21mm f/2.8 Distagon T* (Canon EOS mount)
Zeiss ZE 21mm f/2.8 Distagon T* (Canon EOS mount)

I've been using the ZE 21/2.8 on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and sample photos from the ZE version are now available as part of Zeiss ZF/ZE Lenses (see below), along with all the previous material on the ZF (Nikon) version.

Carl Zeiss is proud to present the Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE, an ultra-wide-angle lens with EF bayonet designed specifically for such tricky shooting moments. Designed to fit all analog and digital EOS camera models, it is ideal for architectural, landscape and a wide variety of other applications. It is also ideally suited for shooting HD video due to its wide focus rotation, superb image quality and minimal breathing characteristics. Following the recent release of the Distagon T* 3,5/18 ZE, the new Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE is now the second Carl Zeiss wide-angle lens with EF bayonet on the market and the fourth lens in the ZE product range.

Photographers taking wide-angle shots often encounter image errors at the transition between bright and dark light as a result of lenses breaking the various wavelengths differently. The Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE’s ability to flawlessly correct color errors prevents color fringing and unwanted lack of focus that can result from chromatic aberrations. Thanks to these capabilities, the Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE is ideal for contrast-rich scenes and intense lighting angles. The lens’s floating elements design also guarantees high imaging performance, from close-ups to infinity. Thanks to the Carl Zeiss T* anti-reflex coating and meticulously-crafted lenses, the Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE is not affected by reflections or stray light. Capturing scenes with tough lighting conditions, such as the summer dusk in downtown Manhattan, works every time — even with wide aperture settings.

The Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE will be available in the Autumn of 2009 for a suggested retail price of $1,540.

Technical specifications:
Focal length: 21 mm
Aperture range: f/2.8 - f/22
Number of elements/groups: 16/13
Focusing range: 0.22 m – infinity
Angular field (diag./horiz./vert.): 90/81/59°
Coverage at close range: 19 x 12.4 cm
Image ratio at close range: 1:5
Filter thread: M82 x 0.75
Mounts: ZF (Nikon), ZE (Canon EOS), ZK (Pentax)
Lens hood included

I can personally attest (based on field shooting numerous images) that the claim that the 21/2.8 can “flawlessly correct color errors” is not hype. In fact, I’ve never seen a better-corrected ultra wide-angle lens.

ZE 21/2.8 Distagon for EOS

The ZE 21/2.8 is native Canon EOS mount, meaning that the camera knows the focal length, and controls the aperture in 1/3 stop increments fully electronically. The “green dot” focus assist also works just as with any EF lens. The ZE 21/2.8 Distagon is built of metal and glass to the highest standards, a welcome relief from today’s plastics. Focus is ultra-smooth and a joy to work with. On Canon EOS, the lens barrel is somewhat larger in diameter than the ZF Nikon version. Ergonomically, it balances and shoots very nicely.

My shooting over the past few weeks leaves no doubt that the new ZE 21/2.8 Distagon is the finest lens available today for Canon EOS in the ultrawide realm. It offers superlative image quality with corner-to-corner sharpness that delights with every image. Low-light shooting wide open at f/2.8 can be done without reservation; this is a lens that delivers excellence at every aperture. No haze, no blur, just outstanding image quality. Stopping down of course improves image quality, but wide open at f/2.8 the results are astonishing.

Canon users who’ve been waiting for an outstanding wide-angle lens need wait only a little longer for the ZE 21/2.8 to appear in stores (I’ll post an update when the lens hits the streets). In the meantime, see what it can do in Zeiss ZF/ZE Lenses.

Now if I could only persuade Zeiss to also offer an infrared version of the 21/2.8 Distagon!

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