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Reader Comments: Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar

See the review of the Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar in Guide to Zeiss.

Zeiss ZF.2 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar

Reader Roderick W writes:

I have now had a Zeiss 135 mm Apo Sonnar T* ZF2 for a week. Everything you say is true! Truly amazing!

Pictures taken have so much more surface texture detail of petals than expected from past use of the 100 mm Macro or various Nikkor Micro lenses. However the biggest shock was looking through the VF of my 800E. Focus was on, or not on, in a way I have not seen since film days. I use a magnifying eyepiece which probably helps but clarity at f2 is the key. Hand-held this is a joy as the lens sits so well in the hand for focussing.

I have only one concern, which I see you share – the weight on the camera flange in tripod use. Extra care is going to be needed in field use of which this lens is going to see a lot.

I am glad I ordered one before your reviews as I anticipate a waiting list following them. Your reviews kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to try the lens while shipping dates slipped by and there was no news. I read all of them so I could have saved my deposit if you had not liked the lens, but of course I did not have to!

DIGLLOYD: Yes, it is a rare and wonderful lens which might even be rightly called the best available for Nikon and Canon. I can’t name a better one, put it that way.

While the focusing screen in the Nikon D800E is far from ideal for manual focus, the exceptional contrast wide open of the 135/2 APO-Sonnar helps a great deal.

It is always a good idea to take care when mounting a heavy lens to any camera: the lever arm effect, so avoid swinging things around or pressing hard on the lens or similar things. One could mount the camera on the Really Right Stuff MPR CL II slider and then support the lens in front somehow, but I think it’s probably OK without, so long as the rig is treated with some care.

Adapted to the Leica M Typ 240, the lever arm effect is much more significant due to the greater offset from the lens mount, shown below is the MPR CL II in use to support the lens. It’s a bit awkward since the front of the lens rotates with focusing, but it gets the job done.

Zeiss ZF.2 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar on Leica M Typ 240 with Really Right Stuff MPR CL II rail

Florent C writes:

Roderick W. took the words right out of my mouth as it's my exact feeling after a few days of shooting with this lens.

Although I was expecting this based on your thorough report, I was astonished nonetheless by the clarity in the viewfinder, and how, consequently, it was easy to achieve precise focus even without any aid (no magnification eyepiece), and even on a distant subject.

I must say this is a totally new experience for me. I don't recall having felt the same when using the 100mm Makro Planar or any other lens.

To anyone unsure about acquiring the Zeiss 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar due to manual focus, you may want to rent it and see for yourself. See is the keyword here. However, you will regret to have to send it back, so buying it is simply the best solution.

Regarding the support of the lens when mounted on a tripod, it's a concern for me too, so I inquired at RRS a few weeks ago, and they came back to me with a much more intricate setup than the single MPR-CL II, comprised with four separate elements :
- FAS clamp
- CB-10 camera support bar
- CB-YS long lens support
- Suited plate for the camera you use

Looks like a bit of an overkill. I don't see any reason why the single MPR-CL II wouldn't work for that purpose, as your setup with the Leica M attests to that.

DIGLLOYD: I am comfortable with an unsupported lens on the Nikon bodies, but not so on an adapted setup as shown above.

As for focusing clarity, it is indeed exceptional.

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