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Reader Comment: Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon

See my in-depth review of the superlative Zeiss 15m f/2.8 Distagon in Guide to Zeiss.

Get the Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon at B&H Photo for about $2950.

Zeiss ZF.2 15mm f/2.8 Distagon

Kirk T writes:

I will start this email by trying to describe my initial thoughts about shooting with my newly purchased Zeiss 15/ 2.8 ZE. I think they were something along the lines of, "Ummmm - holy $hit is this lens unbelievable." I ordered the 15mm through your links to BH and I shot my first shots with it today, to test the performance in horrible lighting conditions, with all sorts of high-contrast edges, strong backlighting, etc. Unbelievable what this lens is able to control.

I often shoot vehicle interiors for investigation of motor vehicle collisions and this was one of my primary motivations for finally breaking down and spending the money on this lens. The tight spaces, small working distances and horrendous lighting (bright sunny day in a salvage yard, with the vehicle interior like a cave) all conspire to make shooting a detailed set of data in such conditions a nightmare. I have tried remote flashes in the interior (bounced off of the headliner to spread the light) as well as a Lupine Betty to get continuous and predictable light into the interior, but the lighting is too uneven for overall shots, and deep shadows hide potentially useful information - HDR imaging is a natural solution, but I would shoot with a Canon 15mm full frame fisheye and the images were distorted and peppered with fringing and color issues.

The Zeiss 15mm is a revelation. Attached is a quick HDR vehicle interior study - the first images I shot with the new lens, mounted to a 5DII.

All of the things that make images bad get even worse when you merge them to an HDR dataset. The 15mm ameliorates all of those problems, with a working distance that is perfect. This HDR data was shot handheld using LiveView to focus - 7 images 1EV spacing. The flare control makes shooting the severely overexposed shadow detail images a joy now, no purple shifting in the shadows from the flare that can result during such massive overexposure under contrasty lighting conditions. The tonemapped shadows are pure color now, so that the backpack and water bottle lid in the attached image are their actual colors, not tinted with a flare color.

No lens corrections were necessary. Just fantastic. The attached image was shot at f/5.6 - I could have stopped down to about f/11 and gotten focus extended into the immediate foreground but I wasn;t really too concerned about it, and 1/30s was starting to challenge my handholding limit (I suppose I could up the ISO, but then the noise creeps in).

Thanks again Lloyd for making your insight and detailed review and sample images available to me - they really helped me to justify spending the money on this lens. It is expensive for me but worth every penny.

DIGLLOYD: This sums it up pretty well: forget the resolution charts (where it’s a winner) and pay attention to total image quality under difficult conditions. The 15/2.8 Distagon is highly corrected in so many ways that it is a joy to use.

Nikon D3x + Zeiss ZF.2 15mm f/2.8 Distagon
Nikon D3x + Zeiss ZF.2 15mm f/2.8 Distagon
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