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Reader Asks: Is There Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Lateral Chromatic Aberration?

David G inquires about the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon

After reading your thorough review of this wonderful piece of glass I am a little worried I may have a unit that has a defect. This is also might be because I don't fully understand the lens. I am seeing lateral Chromatic Aberration from 1.4 to 2.8, I know this is to be expected but it seems a little to much. I also might not have the settings on the camera correct when shooting the lens. What is your take on this? I also have the 100mm Makro F/2. I took multiple shoots of the same scene at F/2 with both lenses where there was a reflection and the LCA was very high on the 35mm. Your thoughts?


An added note, I am shooting on a D7000. Would this magnify the Purple
fringing that I am seeing?

DIGLLOYD: David G’s Nikon D7000 has a 16.2-megapixel 4982 X 3264 sensor crammed into 23.6 X 15.3 mm. That makes its pixels just 4.7 microns square. That pixel density scaled on a full-frame sensor would be a 37-megapixel full-frame camera, a subject I discussed recently. Color aberrations (and other aberrations) are increasingly troublesome on a per-pixel basis as the pixel size shrinks.

Most of the time when I get a question like this, there is confusion about lateral chromatic aberration (LCA) versus axial (longitudinal) chromatic aberration (ACZ). Both are covered in Making Sharp Images. I’m not sure that is the case here, but it seems like it.

LCA does not improve with stopping down. In fact, the reduction of other lens aberrations tends to make LCA appear more prominent at (for example) f/5.6 as compared to f/1.4 or f/2. If instead the color errors disappear as one stops down, other color aberrations are at work (there are many types of color aberrations).

There is no lateral chromatic aberration that I have observed with the 35/1.4 Distagon on the Nikon D3x or D3s, except perhaps at the sub-pixel level well away from the center of the frame (LCA is not entirely absent, but it is absolutely minimal). These small errors might show up on a 36-megapixel camera, or current tiny-pixel small-sensor-cropped-frame cameras.

Most of the time the claims of axial (longitudinal) chromatic aberration are more about focus error, or strong backlighting, where even ultra-costly Leica M glass can exhibit very strong violet fringing. The $10,500 Leica 50mm f/1.0 Noctilux-M shows this effect in a pronounced way, yet Leica took exotic measures to minimize it! Fact is, fast lenses become almost an order of magnitude harder to correct for some aberrations (e.g. an f/1.4 lens as compared to an f/2). Don’t expect miracles.

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