Zeiss has announced its plans to offer a line of uncompromising high-end lenses for Nikon and Canon (with any luck that will be extended to Sony Alpha A mount, but that is only my speculation). The lenses are expected to be available in late 2013.
This is not a one-off approach, with three lenses already in development and more planned. It is the necessary and natural course of events given cameras like the D800, to which few lenses can do justice.
According to Zeiss USA, the F-mount version will retain a manual iris, like the Zeiss ZF.2 lenses. This a BIG DEAL because it allows using the lens not just on Nikon, but on Canon, Leica M240 Sony NEX and Olympus and Fuji— any camera that has an adapter for F-mount. It means that you can buy ONE LENS for all these brands. Which is why I have a lot fewer Canon EF mount Zeiss lenses— they are useless on anything but Canon, and another reason to go with Nikon.
The new Zeiss lens line will cost about ~3000 Euros each (about US$3800). But seen as a replacement for a $60K medium format camera system with a bulky body and no lenses starting at $25K on up, this will sound quite attractive to professional photographers. Another stress on those in the medium format sector.
The first planned lens is the Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Distagon, which will appear at the earliest opportunity in my Guide to Zeiss ZF / ZE Lenses.
Other details from Zeiss:
This is about lenses for full-frame (36 X 24mm) SLR cameras with manual focusing capability.
This family of lenses is geared towards delivering uncompromising image quality for demanding users. The lenses are perfect for high-resolution, full-format digital cameras with more than 30 megapixels such as D800. The combined performance approaches that of medium format systems. If you shoot with the largest aperture, cameras with smaller number of pixels also benefit from much better image contrast.
It will be its own family of lenses independent of our current ZE and ZF.2 lenses.
Currently, we are developing three prime lenses, with more in the planning stage. We are not ready to reveal them at this time.
Since the lenses are more demanding in terms of material selection and construction than our previous ZE and ZF.2 lenses, the price level will be higher. We are expecting prices around EUR 3,000.
For which bayonets will the lenses be available?
They will be available for EF bayonet (ZE) and F bayonet (ZF.2).
The lenses will be manufactured in Japan. They will be developed in close consultation with our longstanding global production network of trusted partners in the optical industry to ensure that the lenses’ actual performance corresponds to their theoretical optical design performance.
The new lenses will achieve extremely high image quality throughout the entire picture including edges even at maximum aperture. At the same time, chromatic aberration is extremely low.
Due to the high performance required, we were looking for a fresh approach for the 55/1.4. It is true that the Distagon type is predominantly found in wide-angle lenses. This is because wide-angle lenses also require additional design effort in terms of number and arrangement of lenses. Since we were aiming for the best possible imaging performance for the new family of lenses, we decided to manufacture the 1.4/55 as a Distagon. Due to the number and arrangement of lenses, this lens unit is slightly larger in size and weight but uncompromising in its performance.